Saint Teresa of Avila

Saint Teresa of Avila

Born: 1515. Died: 1582.


- God dwells within the soul.

- The soul travels within herself to night with God.

- One image for the soul is an interior castle with many mansions.

- By practicing mental prayer, the soul enters the interior castle.

- The first three mansions correspond to the purgative way, where the beginner works to cultivate virtues and imitate Jesus Christ.

- The first manifestation of supernatural prayer, which is called passive recollection, marks the transition from the purgative way to the illuminative way of the fourth and fifth mansions.

- With the increased quieting of the senses and faculties in the fourth mansions, the soul experiences the Prayer of Quiet.

- As the soul becomes more passive with respect to God in the fifth mansions, her prayer is called the Sleep of the Faculties.

- The sixth mansions, which is the Spiritual Betrothal, is the transition to the unitive way.

- The soul experiences the plenitude of unitive love in the Spiritual Marriage of the seventh mansions.


Born in Avila, Spain, on March 28, 1515, St. Teresa was the daughter of a Toledo merchant and his second wife, who died when Teresa was 15, one of ten children. Shortly after this event, Teresa was entrusted to the care of the Augustinian nuns. After reading the letters of St. Jerome, Teresa resolved to enter a religious life. In 1535, she joined the Carmelite Order. She spent a number of relatively average years in the convent, punctuated by a severe illness that left her legs paralyzed for three years, but then experienced a vision of "the sorely wounded Christ" that changed her life forever.

From this point forward, Teresa moved into a period of increasingly ecstatic experiences in which she came to focus more and more sharply on Christ's passion. With these visions as her impetus, she set herself to the reformation of her order, beginning with her attempt to master herself and her adherence to the rule. Gathering a group of supporters, Teresa endeavored to create a more primitive type of Carmelite. From 1560 until her death, Teresa struggled to establish and broaden the movement of Discalced or shoeless Carmelites. During the mid-1560s, she wrote the Way of Perfection and the Meditations on the Canticle. In 1567, she met St. John of the Cross, who she enlisted to extend her reform into the male side of the Carmelite Order. Teresa died in 1582.

St. Teresa left to posterity many new convents, which she continued founding up to the year of her death. She also left a significant legacy of writings, which represent important benchmarks in the history of Christian mysticism. These works include the Way of Perfection and the Interior Castle. She also left an autobiography, the Life of Teresa of Avila.

Major Works of Saint Teresa of Avila

- Book of the Foundations, 1573-1582
- El Camino de Perfeccion (Way of Perfection), 1565-1579
- El Castillo Interior (Interior Castle), 1577
- Exclamaciones
- The Life of Teresa of Jesus, 1565

Quotes from Saint Teresa of Avila

- "Our true friend, Whom alone we can trust, is Jesus Christ. When I depend upon Him, I feel so strong that I think I could stand firm against the whole world"


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