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Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada
Born at Avila, Old Castile, 28 March, 1515
Died at Alba de Tormes, 4 October, 1582   

 

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St Teresa Prayer Card


The third child of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda by his second wife, Doña Beatriz Davila y Ahumada, who died when the saint was in her fourteenth year, Teresa was brought up by her saintly father, a lover of serious books, and a tender and pious mother.

After her death and the marriage of her eldest sister, Teresa was sent for her education to the Augustinian nuns at Avila, but owing to illness she left at the end of eighteen months, and for some years remained with her father and occasionally with other relatives, notably an uncle who made her acquainted with the Letters of St. Jerome, which determined her to adopt the religious life, not so much through any attraction towards it, as through a desire of choosing the safest course.

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Unable to obtain her father’s consent she left his house unknown to him on Nov., 1535, to enter the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at Avila, which then counted 140 nuns. The wrench from her family caused her a pain which she ever afterwards compared to that of death. However, her father at once yielded and Teresa took the habit.

Incorrupt arm of St Teresa

After her profession in the following year she became very seriously ill, and underwent a prolonged cure and such unskillful medical treatment that she was reduced to a most pitiful state, and even after partial recovery through the intercession of St. Joseph, her health remained permanently impaired.

During these years of suffering she began the practice of mental prayer, but fearing that her conversations with some world-minded relatives, frequent visitors at the convent, rendered her unworthy of the graces God bestowed on her in prayer, discontinued it, until she came under the influence, first of the Dominicans, and afterwards of the Jesuits.

Stone that St Teresa sat onMeanwhile God had begun to visit her with “intellectual visions and locutions”, that is manifestations in which the exterior senses were in no way affected, the things seen and the words heard being directly impressed upon her mind, and giving her wonderful strength in trials, reprimanding her for unfaithfulness, and consoling her in trouble.

Unable to reconcile such graces with her shortcomings, which her delicate conscience represented as grievous faults, she had recourse not only to the most spiritual confessors she could find, but also to some saintly laymen, who, never suspecting that the account she gave them of her sins was greatly exaggerated, believed these manifestations to be the work of the evil spirit.

The more she endeavored to resist them the more powerfully did God work in her soul. The whole city of Avila was troubled by the reports of the visions of this nun. It was reserved to St. Francis Borgia and St. Peter of Alcantara, and afterwards to a number of Dominicans (particularly Pedro Ibañez and Domingo Bañez), Jesuits, and other religious and secular priests, to discern the work of God and to guide her on a safe road.

 

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Her incorrupt body above the main altar in Alba de Tormes

 

The account of her spiritual life contained in the “Life written by herself” (completed in 1565, an earlier version being lost), in the“Relations”, and in the “Interior Castle”, forms one of the most remarkable spiritual biographies with which only the “Confessions of St. Augustine” can bear comparison.

To this period belong also such extraordinary manifestations as the piercing or transverberation of her heart, the spiritual espousals, and the mystical marriage.

A vision of the place destined for her in hell in case she should have been unfaithful to grace, determined her to seek a more perfect life.

After many troubles and much opposition St. Teresa founded the convent of Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Primitive Rule of St. Joseph at Avila (24 Aug., 1562), and after six months obtained permission to take up her residence there.

Items used by St Teresa

Four years later she received the visit of the General of the Carmelites, John-Baptist Rubeo (Rossi), who not only approved of what she had done but granted leave for the foundation of other convents of friars as well as nuns.

In rapid succession she established her nuns at Medina del Campo (1567), Malagon and Valladolid (1568), Toledo and Pastrana (1569), Salamanca (1570), Alba de Tormes (1571), Segovia (1574), Veas and Seville (1575), and Caravaca (1576).

In the “Book of Foundations” she tells the story of these convents, nearly all of which were established in spite of violent opposition but with manifest assistance from above.

Everywhere she found souls generous enough to embrace the austerities of the primitive rule of Carmel. Having made the acquaintance of Antonio de Heredia, prior of Medina, and St. John of the Cross (q.v.), she established her reform among the friars (28 Nov., 1568), the first convents being those of Duruelo (1568), Pastrana (1569), Mancera, and Alcalá de Henares (1570). 

A new epoch began with the entrance into religion of Jerome Gratian, inasmuch as this remarkable man was almost immediately entrusted by the nuncio with the authority of visitor Apostolic of the Carmelite friars and nuns of the old observance in Andalusia, and as such considered himself entitled to overrule the various restrictions insisted upon by the general and the general chapter.

On the death of the nuncio and the arrival of his successor a fearful storm burst over St. Teresa and her work, lasting four years and threatening to annihilate the nascent reform. The incidents of this persecution are best described in her letters.

The storm at length passed, and the province of Discalced Carmelites, with the support of Philip II, was approved and canonically established on 22 June, 1580.

St. Teresa, old and broken in health, made further foundations at Villnuava de la Jara and Palencia (1580), Soria (1581), Granada (through her assiatant the Venerable Anne of Jesus), and at Burgos (1582).

She left this latter place at the end of July, and, stopping at Palencia, Valldolid, and Medina del Campo, reached Alba de Torres in September, suffering intensely. Soon she took to her bed and passed away on 4 Oct., 1582, the following day, owing to the reform of the calendar, being reckoned as 15 October.

After some years her body was transferred to Avila, but later on reconveyed to Alba, where it is still preserved incorrupt. Her heart, too, showing the marks of the Transverberation, is exposed there to the veneration of the faithful. She was beatified in 1614, and canonized in 1622 by Gregory XV, the feast being fixed on 15 October.

St Teresa incorrupt heart

St. Teresa’s position among writers on mystical theology is unique.

In all her writings on this subject she deals with her personal experiences, which a deep insight and analytical gifts enabled her to explain clearly.

The Thomistic substratum may be traced to the influence of her confessors and directors, many of whom belonged to the Dominican Order.

She herself had no pretension to found a school in the accepted sense of the term, and there is no vestige in her writings of any influence of the Aeropagite, the Patristic, or the Scholastic Mystical schools, as represented among others, by the German Dominican Mystics.

She is intensely personal, her system going exactly as far as her experiences, but not a step further.

 

Room where St Teresa died

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for January 26, 2020

External devotions are useless if we do not cleanse our soul...

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January 26

 

External devotions are useless
if we do not cleanse our souls from sin.

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Sts. Timothy and Titus

Timothy's grandmother, Lois, was the first to become Christi...

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Sts. Timothy and Titus

Timothy and Titus were two of St. Paul’s favorite and most trusted disciples.

Timothy had a Greek father and a Jewish mother named Eunice. His grandmother, Lois, was the first to become Christian in the family. Timothy was a convert of St. Paul around the year 47 and later joined his apostolic work. He is the recipient of St. Paul’s Epistles to Timothy in the Gospel. He was with the great Apostle when the church of Corinth was founded and worked with him for fifteen years.

St. Paul sent Timothy on difficult missions, often to face disturbances at churches he had just established, and was installed by Paul as his representative to the church of Ephesus.

Timothy was relatively young for the work he was doing as we read in Tim. 4:12, “Let no one have contempt for your youth,” and that he suffered with his health when we read in Tim. 5:23 “Stop drinking only water, but have a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”

Timothy was with St. Paul in Rome during his house arrest, and at some point was in prison himself. Around the age of eighty he tried to halt a pagan procession and was beaten and stoned to death.

Titus was Greek and a convert from paganism; he is mentioned in several of the Pauline epistles. He is seen as a peacemaker, administrator and great friend of the Apostle Paul. When St. Paul was having trouble with the community at Corinth, Titus was the bearer of his severe letter and with tact, firmness and charity succeeded in smoothing things out, which gave St. Paul great joy.

St. Paul charged Titus with the administration of the Christian community in the Isle of Crete and instructed him to organize the faithful, correct abuses and appoint presbyter-bishops. There is no record of his death.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

Many centuries ago, three young nuns lived together in a con...

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Our Lady and the Three Dresses

Many centuries ago, three young nuns lived together in a convent. Day after day, they took their meals together, they went to chapel together, and they prayed and sang together.

One day, their priest-confessor advised them that, as a preparation for the feast of the purification of Mary, they should recite the whole Rosary every day for forty days. The three nuns obediently complied.

On the night before that holy feast day, the Heavenly Mother appeared to the three nuns as they gathered in the choir. To the first of these three sisters she handed a rich garment, embroidered with gold. Holy Mary thanked her and blessed her.

She then handed to the second nun a much simpler garment, and also thanked her. Noticing the difference in the two garments, the second sister asked, "Oh Lady, why have you brought my sister a richer garment?" Mary Most Holy lovingly replied, "Because she has clothed me more richly with her prayers than you have done."

Mary then approached the third nun with a canvas garment. Being an observant young lady, this sister at once asked pardon for the half-hearted way in which she had prayed her rosaries.

A full year had passed when all three fervently prepared for the same feast, each saying her Rosary with great devotion. On the evening preceding the festival, Mary appeared to them in glory, and said to them: "Be prepared, for tomorrow you shall come to paradise."

The following morning dawned, full of promise. Each nun wondered if this would be her last day in this vale of tears. When evening came, would they retire to their modest cells once more, or did Holy Mary have something else in store for them?

The sisters related to their confessor what had occurred, and received communion in the morning. At the hour of compline (evening prayers) they saw again the most holy Virgin, who came to take them with her. Amid the songs of angels, one after the other sweetly expired.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

Many centuries ago, three young nuns lived together in a convent. Day after day, they took their meals together, they went to chapel together, and they prayed and sang together.

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