Today we remember St. Teresa of Avila, Spain. Born on March 28, 1515, she lived until October 4 or 15, 1582 (depending on whether the Julian or Gregorian calendar was in effect.)
She is noted as a mystic, reformer of the Carmelite order of nuns, author and theologian of the contemplative life. She left behind a number of books, including perhaps her most famous, The Devotions. In it, she posited four stages of the evolution of prayer. First is mental prayer and contemplation. Second, human will surrenders to God’s will. Third is absorption in God. Fourth, consciousness of being in the body disappears.
Her reforms resulted in 17 new convents and monasteries of the Discalced (shoeless) Order of Carmelites. She was aided in this work by St. John of the Cross, who joined her in pressing reforms.
St. Therese of Lisieux became a follower of hers. And she served as a role model for Descartes, and for Thomas Hardy in his novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
After her death, parts of her body were dispersed to Rome, Lisbon, Ronda (Spain), and two museums in Spain (Alba de Tormes and Sanlucer de Barramuda). These relics were thought to aid the faithful in their prayers to her.
Her writings are still read by many of the faithful today. They have been characterized as work of sublime beauty bearing the ineffable hallmark of genius.
Let us give thanks for the life and works of St. Teresa of Avila.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington