St Teresa of Avila
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
Poems of St Teresa of Avila at Poetseers