Feast Day: October 15th
Teresa of Avila was born in Avila, Spain. Despite this outer turmoil of when she was born (Protestant Reformation and Columbus founding America), Teresa pointed the way to inner peace. Growing up wasn’t always easy, her parents often put her in the middle. Her father was rigidly honest and pious to the extreme, while her mother often hid things from him and asked Teresa to lie for her. This led to her thinking that no matter what she did she was going to do something wrong. As a teenager, she only cared about boys, clothes, flirting, and rebelling. When she was 16, she was sent to a convent for being too out of control. At first she hated it, but grew to like it. Her love for God was growing. However. when it came time to choose between marriage and a religious life she struggled. Eventually she chose to become a nun and began to learn and practice mental prayers. This was how she prayed on and off for 18 years without feeling that she was getting results. Unfortunately, she found it too easy to slip into a worldly life and ignore God. Flattery, vanity, and gossip were overshadowing spiritual guidance. This changed once God told her, “No longer do i want you to converse with human beings but with angels.” After that God always came first. As she started to pray again, God gave her spiritual delights; the prayer of quiet where God’s presence overwhelmed her senses, raptures where God overcame her with glorious foolishness, prayer of union where she felt the sun of God melt her soul away. At 43, she became determined to found a new convent that went back to the basics of a contemplative order: a simple life of poverty devoted to prayer. However, she faced a lot of opposition and was threatened with the Inquisition. Her reaction? “May God protect me from gloomy saints”, and she went to run her first convent, St. Joseph’s. There she wrote about her life. When she was 51, she began to spread her reform movement. There were many obstacles, but she saw them as good publicity. She was right for soon she had postulants clamoring to get into her reform convents. Many wanted to learn about prayer from her and soon her ideas swept across Spain and Europe.
At seven, she convinced her older brother that they should go off to the land of the Moors and beg them, out of love of God, to cut off our heads there. However, they were caught by an uncle and were brought back home.
In 1970 she was declared a Doctor of the Church for her writing and teaching on prayer. One of two women to be honored this way.
When Teresa fell ill with malaria she had a seizure and everyone was sure she was dead. Four days later she awoke to learn they had dug a grave for her. Afterwards, she was paralyzed for three years and never fully recovered. Instead of turning to God, she turned away from prayer completely, until a priest convinced her to start praying again.
“For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything.”
“Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.”
“To have courage for whatever comes in life — everything lies in that..”