The Church celebrates today the life of Saint Teresa of Avila, also called St. Teresa of Jesus.
Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada was born at Avila, Old Castile, 28 March 1515. Her father, a Toledo merchant and her mother, a loving and pious woman raised Teresa in the Catholic faith. Her mother died when St. Teresa was only fourteen and soon after she was sent to join the Augustinian nuns at Avila, to complete her education.
She became ill and after eighteen months, she returned home into her father’s care. After reading the “Letters of St. Jerome”, she was keen to adopt a religious life and, in 1535, St. Teresa joined the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at Avila. This was without her father’s consent but after seeing her dedication, he decided to support her decision.
Her illness was back again and this time, after a long endurance of pain and bad medical treatment she was reduced to a pitiful state. Through the intercession of St. Joseph she made a partial recovery but her health remained precarious.
This moment is the beginning of her spiritual growth, of her increasingly ecstatic experiences, of her “intellectual visions and locutions”. The city of Avila will soon be troubled with her visions.
She began to inflict various tortures and mortifications upon herself. St. Francis Borgia, her confessor and other Dominicans and Jesuits assured her that she experienced divine graces and this knowledge is divine, not diabolical.
In 1560 the Franciscan priest Saint Peter of Alcantar became her spiritual guide and counselor and, believing that her current convent was too lax on in rule, she set herself to the reformation of her order. From 1560 until her death, Teresa struggled to create and broaden the movement of “Discalced” or shoeless Carmelites.
Between 1567 and 1571, reform convents were established at Medina del Campo, Malagon, Valladolid, Toledo and other locations. With the help of friends and loyal supporters to the cause, St Teresa was able to establish other convents at Duruello, Segovia, Beas de Segura, Seville and Murcia in 1576. She convinced John of the Cross to use his power as teacher and a gifted preacher to promote the spirit and knowledge of this movement.
From 1576 to 1579, the Inquisition persecuted St Teresa, her friends and her reform. Finally, her pleadings with the king of Spain, Philip II assured that all charges were dropt. She established seventeen convents in her reform work of twenty years.
Teresa’s writings stand among the most remarkable in the mystical literature of the Catholic Church. These works include the “Way of Perfection”, “Meditations on Song of Songs,” and the “Interior Castle”. She also left an autobiography, the “Life of Teresa of Avila”.
Her final illness overtook her on one of her journeys from Burgos to Alba de Tormes, were she died in 1582.
She was beatified in 1614, and canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV, her feast was celebrated, as today, on 15 October.
Pope Paul VI gave her the title of Doctor of the Church on September 27, 1970.
Saint Teresa of Avila is the patron saint of bodily ills, headaches, loss of parents, people in need of grace, people in religious orders, people ridiculed for their piety, Croatia and Spain.
“Let nothing trouble you, let nothing make you afraid. All things pass away. God never changes. Patience obtains everything. God alone is enough.” by Saint Teresa of Avila
Graciously hear us, O God our Savior, and grant that as we rejoice in the festival of blessed Teresa, Thy Virgin, so we may be nourished by her heavenly teaching, and grow in loving devotion towards Thee. Through our Lord.
Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal