TERESA OF AVILA: AN ANCIENT MYSTIC WHO HELPED SHAPE TODAY'S SPIRITUAL FORMATION MOVEMENT
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An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement,
And still they told me my visions were the work of evil spirits! For six years, I was on trial . . . six years! So many prayers and masses said, I grew weary of them all! Yet still the trances and favors have become more violent and frequent . . . oh, I am in distress, such great distress. I am weary, and so tired . . . so very, very tired.—Teresa of Avila
Weary of the worldly things that had once given her pleasure, she made secret plans to escape to the Carmelite Monastery without consent from her father and pursue a serious life of prayer, as her uncle had been urging her to do. Teresa later wrote about receiving “favors” that the Lord granted her as she continued to practice her “mental prayer” and the prayer of quiet, two stages of mystical prayer.
As a child, Teresa was obsessed with the martyrs and saints. One day, when she was seven, she convinced her brother to become a martyr . Her plan was to go to the Moors and ask to be decapitated! They were just outside the town walls when their uncle found and stopped them.
When she was 14-years-old, Teresa's mother passed away, so she turned to the Virgin Mary as a spiritual mother.
Though she was devoted to her faith, the saints and the Virgin Mother, she was also interested in reading fiction and her father worried this was making her vain. To help Teresa remain holy, he sent her to the Augustinian nuns at Avila.
At the monastery, Teresa became extremely ill and experienced moments of religious ecstasy during her devotionals.
Teresa also practiced self-mortification, a common practice during that time. It was during one such occasion she received her first vision of Jesus. She continued to have visions for the next two years, which drove her to convert Spanish Jews to Christianity, to found convents, and to spend five years in prayerful seclusion.
Teresa eventually founded a religious order; the Discalced Carmelites. Many Carmelite religious live cloistered of poverty and prayerful contemplation even today.
As St. Teresa approached the end of her life, she expressed happiness that her hour has arrived. “My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may your will be done. O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another."
St. Teresa was beatified at April 24, 1614 and canonized on March 12, 1622.
Following her death, her body was exhumed several times, each time smelling sweet, feeling firm, and was unspoiled. Several relics of her body are currently on display at various holy sites around the world.
Her feast day is October 15.
- Born on 28 March 1515 in Gotarrendura, Ávila, Crown of Castile (today Spain)
- Died on 4 October 1582 (aged 67) in Alba de Tormes, Salamanca, Spain
- Venerated in: Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Church and Anglican Communion
- Beatified on: 24 April 1614, Rome by Pope Paul V
- Canonized 12 March 1622, Rome by Pope Gregory XV
- Major shrine Convent of the Annunciation, Alba de Tormes, Spain
- Feast celebrated on 15 October
- Attributes: Habit of the Discalced Carmelites, Book and Quill, arrow-pierced heart
- Patronage: Bodily ills; headaches; chess; lacemakers; laceworkers; loss of parents; people in need of grace; people in religious orders; people ridiculed for their piety; Požega, Croatia; sick people; sickness; Spain.