Saint Teresa of Avila
Saint Theresa of Avila
Virgin, Doctor of the Church
Feast Day: October 15
Patron of: Head-ache sufferers
Symbol: Heart, arrow, book.
Many people think that centuries ago, girls and women were not educated or allowed to make contributions to the Church and society. The story of Saint Teresa proves that this was not the case.
Saint Teresa was born in Spain. She loved to read, especially stories about saints. She also played games with her little brother - one of their favorites was playing 'hermit' in the back yard. Teresa was a friendly little girl, who loved people and having friends.
When she was twelve and nearly grown up for those times, her mother died. Her father decided that the best place for Teresa to live was in a nearby convent of Augustinian nuns. Teresa liked living in the convent, it was a happy and peaceful place. She saw that joining a convent was a good way to serve God and grow closer to Him. When it was time for her to leave the Augustinians and return home to her father, she had already decided that she would become a Carmelite nun.
She made her profession at the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation when she was 19 years old. This, of course, is not the end of the story. Teresa was disappointed that being a nun was not as easy and peaceful as she had expected. She found it hard to pray. There were many distractions. Even when she tried, she found it hard to concentrate. Since she liked having friends and being among people, it was difficult to spend time in prayer.
Finally, after many trials, and years of trying, Teresa received the grace she prayed for. God became her best friend. She wanted spend all her time with Him. She found the peace and happiness she had been looking for with God in her heart.Inspired by the Holy Spirit and her new friendship with God, she began to reform her Order. At that time, the Carmelite's allowed women other than nuns to live in the convent. These women had parties and visitors, they didn't work, or pray, or try to live a life of poverty.
Teresa knew that this made it hard for the nuns to concentrate on following God, so she started to re-organise the order. She founded several new convents all over Europe that followed a stricter, simplier rule. She wrote letters to her sisters, and books about prayer and spiritual life that the Popes of the time considered to be great additions to the knowledge and tradition of the Church.
She died after having a vision of Jesus and many saints waiting to welcome her to her Heavenly home.
Saint Teresa was born on March 28, 1515 in Avila, Spain. When her mother died, her father placed her in a convent of Augustinian nuns. Teresa turned to the Mother of God to be her mother, and began to consider a vocation among the nuns. After several years, Teresa returned home to her father determined to enter a convent herself. She entered the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation near Avila and made her profession in November of 1534.
For many years Teresa led a good religious life, though there was nothing remarkable about her. She experienced difficulty removing herself from the world and concentrating on God, in part because of the atmosphere of the convent, and in part because of her own faults and weaknesses. She continued to persevere in prayer and other devotions and finally achieved the grace she so earnestly sought. She began the long journey towards perfection and sainthood that we all attempt.
Conditions at her convent that had made it so difficult for her to find the peace of God still existed. Inspired by the Holy Spirit and guided by advisors, mentors and confessors, she undertook to reform her order. She was denounced as hysterical, glory-seeking, wrong-headed, stubborn, and welcomed as enlightened, wise, inspired and sincere. It must have been very difficult to maintain a sense of balance and humour amidst the trials and tribulations Teresa of Avila underwent, but her sense of humour and wit are still remembered. Perhaps the most famous of her sayings was in response to God's "But this is how I treat my friends, Teresa." "Well, then, no wonder You have so few of them!"
Despite many set-backs and some outright hostility, she succeeded in establishing the Reform of the Discalced Carmelites, both for brethren and sisters of her Order. She established thirty two monasteries, seventeen of which were convents of nuns. Her greatest legacy is her writings; letters, lectures and books on Prayer, Mystical Theology and Spirituality that have made a significant contribution to learning in the Church.
She died in 1582 and was declared a Doctor of the Church on September 27, 1970.
For an excellent profile of Saint Teresa of Avila. please refer to the Catholic Online Saints entry, written with an obvious love and devotion to this remarkable saint.
God, You raised up Saint Therea by Your Spirit so that she could manifest to the Church the way to perfection. Nourish us with the food of Heaven, and fire us with a desire for holiness. Amen.
|Book related to this story ...|
The Life of Teresa of Jesus: The Autobiography of Teresa of Avila by St. Teresa of Avila, E. Allison Peers (Editor)
The image at the beginning of the article is from the Catholic Online entry about Saint Teresa of Avila.