St Teresa of Avila
(Mar. 28, 1515 – Oct. 4, 1582) known in religion as Saint Teresa of Jesus was born at Avila, Old Castile, Spain, and was a prominent Spanish mystic, Carmelite nun, and writer of the Counter-Reformation. She was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered to be, along with Saint John of the Cross, a founder of the Discalced Carmelites. Teresa’s mother was especially keen to raise her daughter as a pious Christian. Theresa was fascinated by accounts of the lives of the saints and ran away from home at age seven with her brother Rodrigo to find martyrdom among the Moors. Her uncle spoiled their plan! Leaving her parents’ home secretly one morning in 1534, at the age of 19, Teresa entered the Monastery of the Incarnation of the Carmelite nuns at Avila.
In the cloister, she suffered greatly from illness. Early in her sickness, she experienced periods of spiritual ecstasy through the use of the devotional book, Abercedario spiritual, published in 1537-1554. As the distinction between mortal and venial sin became clear upon her, she says she came to understand the awful terror of sin and the inherent nature of original sin. She also became conscious of her own natural impotence in confronting sin, and the necessity of absolute subjection to God. In the mid-fifteen hundreds, Teresa began a reformation of the Carmelite monasteries and the establishment of new monasteries throughout the country. With the help of John of the Cross and Anthony of Jesus two houses for Discalced Carmelite Brethren were opened. In 1576 a series of persecutions began on the part of the older observant Carmelite order against Teresa, her friends, and her reforms. The establishment of further convents was forbidden. The General condemned her to voluntary retirement. Finally, after several years, the persecutions stopped, and more convents were founded.
Teresa died in 1582. She was canonized forty years after her death and her feast day is October 15. In 1970, she became the first woman to be named a Doctor of the Church. Teresa of Avila is one of the foremost writers on mental prayer.
Her definition was used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Mental prayer is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”