St. Teresa of Ávila

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Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582), also called Saint Teresa of Jesus was born Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada and was a Spanish noblewoman who was called to convent life in the Catholic Church. A Carmelite nun, prominent Spanish mystic, religious reformer, author, theologian of the contemplative life and of mental prayer, she earned the rare distinction of being declared a Doctor of the Church.  Against the background of the Protestant Reformation sweeping over Europe and the Spanish Inquisition asserting church discipline in her home country, Teresa became active in the Catholic Counter-Reformation and she started to work on reforming the Carmelite Orders of both women and men.  The movement she initiated was later joined by the younger Spanish Carmelite friar and mystic John of the Cross. It led eventually to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites. A formal papal decree adopting the split from the old order was issued in 1580.

Her written contributions, which include her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus and her seminal work The Interior Castle, are today an integral part of Spanish Renaissance literature. Together with The Way of Perfection, her works form part of the literary canon of Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practice, and continue to attract interest from people both within and outside the Catholic Church.  Catholic tradition holds that Saint Teresa was personally associated with devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague, a statue she may have owned.  Since her death, her reputation has grown, leading to multiple portrayals. She continues to be widely noted as an inspiration to philosophers, theologians, historians, neurologists, fiction writers, psychologists and artists, as well as to countless ordinary people interested in Christian spirituality and mysticism.  Forty years after her death, in 1622, Teresa was canonized by Pope Gregory XV.  She has since become one of the patron saints of Spain. On 27 September 1970 Pope Paul VI proclaimed Teresa the first female Doctor of the Church in recognition of her centuries-long spiritual legacy to Catholicism.


  • The Life of Teresa of Jesus
  • The Interior Castle
  • The Way of Perfection

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