About: Teresa of Avila
Posted by Colleen Solorio on
Patron Saint of: Spain, sick people, people in a religious order, people mocked for their piety, suffering from headaches
Feast Day: October 15
Teresa's mother was deeply religious but passed when Teresa was 11. She developed a deep devotion to Our Lady as her spiritual mother. After debating her vocation, she joined the Carmelite Convent in Avila, Crown of Castile (Spain) at age 20. She fell ill and became bedridden after joining and nearly died. She attributed an intercession of Saint Joseph to her recovery.
Her spirituality was founded upon writings on contemplative prayer and abstinence from worldly pleasures by Francisco of Osuna, Peter of Alcantara, Ignatius of Loyola, and Augustine of Hippo. Augustine's writings helped her realize that every great saint was once a sinner.
The Carmelite convent she joined in Avila was seemingly lax. Although they were supposed to observe cloister, daily visitors were allowed in the convent. Teresa found it difficult to achieve the contemplative prayer she desired. With the guidance of Peter of Alcantara, her spiritual director, she established a new convent called St. Joseph's in 1562. She founded the convent on the principles of poverty, abandonment of property ownership, and strict monastic rule. She remained in seclusion for the first five years to focus on prayer and writing. In 1567, she received approval from the Carmelite General to establish more convents of the reformed Carmelite order. She opened monasteries for men and was assisted by John of the Cross in this endeavor.
Unreformed members of the Carmelite order persecuted her. Her efforts were misrepresented to the Carmelite general and she was prohibited from founding additional convents. She was forced into "voluntary" retirement, to which Teresa obeyed. John of the Cross was also imprisoned. She sent letters to King Philip II of Spain, who admired her greatly, and he had the Holy Inquisition drop the cases of heresy against her so she could continue the reform. The new Carmelite order also received a decree from Pope Gregory XIII granting independent jurisdiction.
After facing years of illness, she died in 1582. Her date of death is debated. The calendar changed from Julian to Gregorian, which removed the dates from October 4 through 15. She either died before midnight on October 4 or early on the morning of October 15, but the liturgical calendar places her death on the 15th.
In total, she founded 16 convents and several other men's monasteries. She was canonized 40 years after her death in 1622. Saint Teresa of Avila was the first woman to be declared a doctor of the church. This means her writings have special doctrinal authority. Her spiritual writings are among the most read. Although she faced lifelong struggles - from illness and suffering to being misunderstood and misrepresented in her reform efforts - she always remained a woman "for God".
You may see items featuring Saint Teresa of Avila HERE.
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