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St. Teresa of Jesus (of Avila)

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During the 16th Century, Spain was the ruler of the largest empire that the world had yet seen, and all but master of the world. During these years of outward glory, a child was born who would witness by her life that a person’s greatest good is within and won “by giving up everything”. This child became St. Teresa of Avila.

On March 28, 1515 Teresa de Ahumada was born into a wealthy family of Avila, Spain, where she received an excellent upbringing within her pious family. She was a beautiful and lively child, and the favorite of her father. A natural leader, Teresa one day persuaded an older brother to escape from home in order to seek martyrdom from the Moors. Fortunately they were met by an uncle who was riding on horseback into Avila. But the family’s remonstrances didn’t stop her or her enthusiasm for religion and she then got her brother to help her build hermitages from stones.

Eventually, Teresa did escape from home to enter a Carmelite Monastery. She did this with great anguish as she deeply loved her widowed father, yet she felt that she must enter as she felt that that was the best place for her in order to save her soul. Teresa had yet to learn that doing things for love is a higher motive. Yet God did bless her good intention by giving her much joy in her new life. However after some time she felt that she wasn’t serving God enough; she felt He was asking more of her. The Community she entered was very numerous, with much going on. She wanted a poorer, simpler life, where more time would be available for prayer and recollection, where she and a few others would live together with warm charity. She thought that since Our Lord has so few friends she wanted to console him by living her vows truly and with great love; then by thus pleasing Him to ask of Him those graces that would make the leaders of the Church holy. She believed that theologians and priests of the Church are in the forefront of the battle of the Church in the world, and they need many graces in order to defend the Church and lead the people to holiness of life.

Without realizing it, Teresa was being inspired to renew the Carmelite Order, both for the Nuns, and then for the Friars. God gave her an abundance of mystical graces whereby He blessed this work He inspired in her. This reform eventually came to be called the Discalced Carmelite Order.

St. Teresa was asked by her confessors and spiritual directors to write her about her life and her spiritual experiences. She obeyed, and displayed a rare talent for writing - profound, human, warm and witty. She thus bequeathed to the Church a number of great books: the book of her Life, the Foundations, The Way of Perfection, and the Interior Castle. So deeply did she grasp the ways of God and prayer that she has been called Mater Spiritualium (Mother of Spirituality). Teresa was canonized on March 12th, 1622. On September 27th, 1970, Pope Paul VI declared her a Doctor of the Church.

Her feast day is celebrated on October 15th.