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Saint Theresa of Jesus
Saint Teresa of Avila
Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Memorial
October 15th

Biography | Readings

 

Biography

Saint Teresa of Avila (Saint Theresa of Jesus)
Born in Avila, Spain March 28, 1515; died in Alba de Tormes, October 4 [15], 1582
Foundress of the Discalced Carmelites, 1560-62.
Canonized by Gregory XV, 1622; declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970.

One of the most charismatic of the Church's counter-reformation saints, Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada was born the daughter of a saintly and literate father, Don Alonso, and a pious mother. At fifteen, after her mother's death and the marriage of her oldest sister, Teresa was sent to be educated with Augustinian nuns, but after an illness she returned to live with her father and other relatives. An uncle acquainted her with the Letters of Saint Jerome, which led her to pursue religious life. At the age of 20 Teresa joined the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at Avila.

During the sixteenth century the early austerity and religious enthusiasm that had characterized religious orders when they were founded, had been lost, and "worldliness" of all kinds, and even moral corruption was widespread. (The Protestant Reformation began in 1519 in Germany, at first as a reaction to the pervasive corruption and lack of governance by Church authorities.)

Teresa's convent at Avila was no exception. Although she had been devout at first, she lost this fervor and embraced the lax life of her convent. After the death of her father, and several serious illnesses, however, she was led to reform herself through intense prayer, and began to have religious experiences which she, and the priests she consulted, thought were delusions.

Two Jesuit confessors, however, believed Teresa's experiences were genuine graces, and advised her to lay a firm spiritual foundation through private prayer and the profound practice of virtue. During this time, she had even more intense and extraordinary experiences of "heavenly communications" -- including "mystical marriage", or the "espousal" of her soul to the person of Christ -- and even bodily manifestations of her spiritual elevation.

Her confessors ordered her to write her experiences of the spiritual necessity for prayer, the practice of contemplative prayer, and its fruits. She wrote the Way of Perfection and Foundations for her nuns, and The Interior Castle, as a guide for all. It was principally for these writings that she was declared a Doctor of the Church four centuries later. Her writings are intensely personal spiritual autobiographies, based on her own experiences and insights, and are remarkably clearly written. They remain spiritual classics -- along with Saint Augustine's Confessions.

Inspired by a niece, who was also a Carmelite at Avila, she decided to undertake the establishment of a reformed convent that would be restored to the austerity and devotion of earlier times. This effort met strong opposition from several quarters. In 1562, Teresa received approval for a new foundation, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Primitive Rule of Saint Joseph, at Avila, which she began with with her niece and three other nuns. Several years later, while she was establishing a new convent in Toledo, she met John Yepes (later John of the Cross), and soon after made new foundations for men that were eventually placed under his care. Difficulties and opposition to the newly established reformed Discalced Carmelite foundations persisted. ("Discalced", literally "shoeless", refers to the austerity of the new foundations. The nuns and friars wore sandals instead of shoes).

Finally, in 1580, the separation of the Discalced Carmelites from the other Carmelites was recognized by the Holy See -- when Teresa was sixty-five years old, and in poor health. Teresa made seventeen foundations of the Discalced Carmelites, her last at Burgos in July, 1582. Instead of returning to Avila from Burgos, she set out for Alba de Tormes. It was a difficult trip and she was ill. Three days after reaching Alba, she died -- on October 4, 1582, and was buried there. The next day the Gregorian reform of the calendar was effected, which resulted in dropping ten days. Thus her feast is fixed on October 15.

 St. Theresa’s most popularly known writing is a brief poem is known as her “Bookmark”, because it was found in her prayer book after her death in 1582. It has been variously translated into English, and has been very widely circulated.

Original Spanish:

Nada te turbe,
nada te espante;
todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda.
La pacientia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene nada la falta:
solo Dios basta.

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

Readings

Collect:
O God, who through your Spirit
raised up Saint Teresa of Jesus
to show the Church the way to seek perfection,
grant that we may always be nourished
by the food of her heavenly teaching
and fired with longing for true holiness.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.

First Reading: Romans 8:22-27
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Gospel Reading: John 15:1-8
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.



St. Teresa's Bread
Pan De Santa Teresa

This dish, which makes a tasty breakfast or branch, is a first cousin to French toast, but with a flavor and texture all its own.

 

2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 good piece of lemon peel
12 slices Italian/French bread (a little stale) 1/2-3/4 inch thick
3 eggs
Pinch of salt
Cinnamon-sugar for sprinkling on the toast
Olive oil for frying

Combine the milk with the sugar, cinnamon, and lemon peel. Simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes, until the milk has become well flavored. Place the bread in a large flat dish or pan, and strain the milk over it.

Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl with a pinch of salt. With a spatula, lay the slices of bread in the egg, turning them to coat both sides. Beat additional eggs and salt together if necessary to finish coating bread slices. Fry the bread in the olive oil until it is browned and crusty on both sides.

Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.

Yield: 4-6 servings

from A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz, originally published by Harper & Row in 1995, now available in paperback from Ignatius Press.


Voices Young Writers Award, Eastertide 2005
St. Teresa of Avila - A Paragon of Faith & Virtue - Alex Macey

Pope Benedict XVI - GENERAL AUDIENCE
Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Saint Teresa of Avila
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Our catechesis today deals with Saint Teresa of Avila, the great sixteenth-century Carmelite reformer proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. Teresa entered the Carmel in Avila at the age of twenty. Maturing in the spiritual life, she embraced the ideal of a renewal of her Order and with the support of Saint John of the Cross she founded a chain of reformed Carmels throughout Spain. Her highly influential writings, which include the Autobiography, The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, reveal her profound christocentric spirituality and her breadth of human experience. Teresa considered the evangelical and human virtues the basis of an authentic Christian life. She identified deeply with Christ in his humanity and stressed the importance of contemplation of his Passion and of his real presence in the Eucharist. She presents prayer as an intimate friendship with Christ leading to an ever greater union of love with the Blessed Trinity. In her life and in her death Teresa embodied an unconditional love for the Church. May the example and prayers of Saint Teresa of Avila inspire us to greater fidelity to prayer and, through prayer, to greater love for the Lord and his Church, and more perfect charity towards our brothers and sisters.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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