Theresa of Avila/visions/Lutherans

Hi everyone- Help me out here…I do believe the mystics had visions…I am intrigued with Theresa…but I don’t necessarily believe she (or others) interpreted their visions correctly…she was a woman of her time, I know her views of heretics were “of” her time…I know she experienced Hell…but Im just not sure about this claim of hers of all the "Lutherans " she saw…and I’m very sceptical about any Saints discussing how many people they “see”…then again, I have a VERY high view of Gods ability to take most of His children home…this is a thorny topic, so non-snarky comments please! :blush:

Hi Maragal. What exactly did she say about Lutherans? Not everybody on the forum has read her writings and we may be at a loss on what you mean. Have a nice day. :slightly_smiling_face:


Keep in mind that the Spanish of her time had just thrown off Moslem rule at the time and were in no mood for any more “other” religions (of course it was a lot more complicated than that, but on a nutshell)


The fact is heresy and schism–sins of separation–if persisted in until death, exclude from salvation. The Lutherans of her time would have deliberately separated from the Catholic Church and were therefore more likely to have been mortally guilty of these sins. They would not be like Lutherans today who are born into those communities and therefore a lot less likely to have made the deliberate choice to separate or remain separated.

Still, as the Lord says, “many are called, but few are chosen,” and when it comes to making one’s election sure, professing a non-Catholic religion is not a plus.


I’ve had an experience of Hell… Can’t speak for Lutherans, but it wasn’t empty…

You’re not obligated to believe private revelations, even where the Church has declared the person a saint. So if you don’t want to believe it, then don’t. If someone else wants to believe it, they can. No further discussion required.


Do you have a spiritual director you could discuss this with, or your Priest. It sounds like the focus of your point is on salvation.

In her autobiography (Chapter XXXII), she mentions a vision/experience she had of Hell. Soon afterwards she makes this comment:

“This vision, too, was the cause of the very deep distress which I experience because of the great number of souls who are bringing damnation upon themselves – especially of those Lutherans, for they were made members of the Church through baptism.”

It is not clear if this mention of Lutherans was based on something she actually saw in the vision or is simply her stating her personal worry about them.


Thanks for all the replies!

Tisbearself, please see my original post…I actually explained I believe she WAS a mystic, but I’m looking at the nuances, at private revelations vs private interpretations…I think it’s really interesting to discuss !

JSRG good point…did she actually “see” Lutherans or did she simply “assume” (given her world view)…

Mauriac, in a book I’m reading (he’s so good) points to the mystics whose visions of Hell made them lament for mankind, and offer themselves up for any amount of suffering to save anybody…such as Therese herself offered…he contrasts this with Pascal…who (while he admires on one level) critiques severely for Pascals ability to love a God who saved him personally without much seeming care for the rest of the world… Mauriac far more taken with those led to lament and suffer for others. I guess that’s what made them saints!

Ah, just 're read the passage…it seems that she didn’t necessarily “see” Lutherans…after her visions she is lamenting what she thinks the fate of the Lutheran to be…interesting.

Sounds to me like the first generation reformers themselves. I find it hard to argue with that.

As to that first generation, there were many vowed religious who were seduced by a certain man’s theology into breaking their vows. One of them left the religious life and married the chief reformer. Breaking a vow made to God and being seduced, not only by man’s theology but by a man himself does not seem to bode well for salvation. But, that “salvation” taught that sin has no effect on our relationship with God. Who is it that would incite such easy salvation?

Far worse, methinks, the fate of the man who concocted that peculiar theology.

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John Paul Jackson was not a Catholic, and I would not recommend his work to any Catholic.

It’s also not the job of a Catholic to be re-interpreting the visions of a Catholic saint. One can strive to understand such visions and the saint’s own interpretation better within the historical and biographical context of the vision. But one wouldn’t say, “I think St Teresa interpreted her vision all wrong. In my opinion it means XYZ.”

I think all Saints are human, and it’s clear (after 're reading her passages) that Saint Theresa of Avila didn’t per se “see” lutherans as she “assumed” lutherans…and given her time, place, outlook, reading, etc., that “assumption” for her makes sense.

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She lived in Spain, which was far and away from what was going on where the Protestant reformation was happening. I believe the information she had was from sources that were available to her in a society that was censured and the information that she had was vague and partially inacurate.

As I said above:

This seems to be what you are doing.

This is different from the spiritual new age interpretation mumbo-jumbo of somebody like John Paul Jackson.

I don’t recall ever reading about St Teresa of Avila having an experience of hell… Not sure where that came from. Perhaps I missed it.

As far as the Lutherans, the reformation had just begun and St Teresa lived in that time when people began to question the authority of the Church. It was the time of the Spanish Inquisition after all, and even St Teresa herself, was brought before the Ecclesiastical Court.

Her main focus was interior prayer and union with Christ. The politics of her time were ruled by the King and Queen. In other words, it was a difficult time to be alive, never mind come up with a method of prayer that was lost over the centuries and revived, thanks to St. Teresa and St John of the Cross.

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Hi JimR - yep Theresa definitely had mystical visions of Hell…it’s in her autobiography…it leads her to a desire to do absolutely anything to save even one soul from Hell…

I’m not sure where the above discussion of John Paul Jackson came from (I have no idea who he is lol)…I’m wondering if it’s meant to be on another thread? It seems unrelated?

I agree with the above poster who said we need to be able to discuss things! My worry about CAF is people seem to get so contentious, so fast…not sure what that’s about? I really want a place to discuss in a spirit of good will. Someone above (I think in goodwill) suggested I speak to my confessor about the topic of this thread, and while ofcourse it’s always good to speak to ones confessor, I’m really looking for stimulating and kind discussion lol! Not spiritual advice and support…


A poster in the thread brought him up and recommended that you read his works. The original post was flagged for promoting non-Catholic teaching as the guy is a New Age spiritualist of some sort, and may have been deleted by the mods.

OK a vision of Hell, but not an experience of Hell where she would feel the pain of being in hell.

I agree with what you say. Well put.

Her experience of hell for info : "A long time after the Lord had already granted me many of the favors I’ve mentioned and other very lofty ones, while I was in prayer one day, I suddenly found that, without knowing how, I had seemingly been put in hell. I understood that the Lord wanted me to see the place the devils had prepared there for me and which I merited because of my sins. This experience took place within the shortest space of time, but even were I to live for many years I think it would be impossible for me to forget it. The entrance it seems to me was similar to a very long and narrow alleyway, like an oven, low and dark and confined; the floor seemed to me to consist of dirty, muddy water emitting foul stench and swarming with putrid vermin. At the end of the alleyway a hole that looked like a small cupboard was hollowed out in the wall; there I found I was placed in a cramped condition. All of this was delightful to see in comparison with what I felt there. What I have described can hardly be exaggerated.

 "What I felt, it seems to me, cannot even begin to be exaggerated; nor can it be understood. I experienced a fire in the soul that I don't know how I could describe. The bodily pains were so unbearable that though I had suffered excruciating ones in this life and according to what doctors say, the worst that can be suffered on earth for all my nerves were shrunken when I was paralyzed, plus many other sufferings of many kinds that I endured and even some as I said, caused by the devil, these were all nothing in comparison with the ones I experienced there. I saw furthermore that they would go on without end and without ever ceasing. This, however, was nothing next to the soul's agonizing: a constriction, a suffocation, an affliction so keenly felt and with such a despairing and tormenting unhappiness that I don't know how to word it strongly enough. To say the experience is as though the soul were continually being wrested from the body would be insufficient, for it would make you think somebody else is taking away the life, whereas here it is the soul itself that tears itself in pieces. The fact is that I don't know how to give a sufficiently powerful description of that interior fire and that despair, coming in addition to such extreme torments and pains. I didn't see who inflicted them on me, but, as it seemed to me, I felt myself burning and crumbling; and I repeat the worst was that interior fire and despair. 

 "Being in such an unwholesome place, so unable to hope for any consolation, I found it impossible either to sit down or to lie down, nor was there any room, even though they put me in this kind of hole made in the wall. Those walls, which were terrifying to see, closed in on themselves and suffocated everything. There was no light, but all was enveloped in the blackest darkness. I don't understand how this could be, that everything painful to see was visible." 

[Source: The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, Volume 1, Chapter 32: paragraphs: 1,2,3. Published by Institute of Carmelite Studies Publications, Washington, D.C.]

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