St. Teresa of Avila

October 15


Born at Avila, Castile, Spain, on March 28, the daughter of Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda and his second wife, Beatrice Davila y Ahumada, she was educated by Augustinian nuns but was forced to leave their convent at Avila in 1532 because of ill health. Long attracted to the religious life, she became a Carmelite at Avila in 1536, was professed the next year, left in 1538 because of illness, but returned in 1540. She experienced visions and heard voices, 1555-56, which caused her great anguish until St. Peter of Alcantara became her spiritual adviser in 1557 and convinced her that they were authentic. Despite bitter opposition, she founded St. Joseph Convent at Avila in 1562 for nuns who wished to live an enclosed spiritual life rather than the relaxed style so prevalent in convents of that time. In 1567, Fr. Rubeo, prior general of the Carmelites, gave her permission to establish other convents based on the strict rule followed at St. Joseph's; in time she was to found sixteen convents.

While establishing her second convent, at Medino del Campo, she met a young friar named John Yepes [John of the Cross], founded her first monastery for men [the first reform Carmelite monastery] at Duruelo in 1568, and then turned the task of founding Carmelite reformed monasteries over to John. She traveled all over Spain, tireless in her struggle to reform the Carmelites, but violent opposition from the calced Carmelites developed, and at a general chapter of the Carmelites at Piacenza in 1575 Fr. Rubeo put strict restrictions on her reforming group. For the next five years a bitter struggle took place within the Carmelites until in 1580, Pope Gregory XIII, at the instigation of King Philip II, recognized the Discalced Reform as a separate province. During these turbulent years, while traveling all over Spain, Teresa wrote letters and books that are widely regarded as classics of spiritual literature, among them her Autobiography [1565], The Way of Perfection [1573], and Interior Castle [1577]. One of the great mystics of all times, she was intelligent, hardheaded, charming, deeply spiritual, and successfully blended a highly active life with a life of deep contemplation. She died at Alba de Tormes, Spain, on October 4 [October 14 by the Gregorian calendar, which went into effect the next day and advanced the calendar ten days], and was canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV. She was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

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