Biography Of St Teresa Avila
St Teresa Avila
Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was a Spanish spiritualist, poet, and reformer in the Carmelite order. She was a powerful and significant figure in her time.
St Teresa (Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada) was born in Avila, Spain on 28th March 1515. Both of her parents were reverent Catholics and, in a way, helped their daughter engage in an oath of prayer. When she was a child, Teresa showed signs of an intensely religious character She would often fall to prayer in silence and loved offering alms to the needy. She was extremely close to her mom, as she was an uplifting contrast to the rigidity that her dad imposed on him. In her teens, her mother died and left the young Teresa feeling a sense of loss she felt. St Teresa was a teenager St Teresa tells of her sorrow and how she prayed to her Virgin Mary for comfort.
“I fell to my knees in desperation in front of an image depicting Jesus, the Mother of God. Through tears, I begged the Holy Virgin to be my mother right now. In the simple way of a child, my prayer was accepted. From that point until the present, I have did not pray to the Virgin Mary unsuccessfully.”
As she grew older, Avila lost some earlier devotion to God and religious zeal. She recalled how she began to become more interested in the world and enjoyed being in the company of many of her friends. She had a natural charisma and was easy to establish friendships with. She also enjoyed the friendships and compliments of her friends. But she wasn’t happy, believing herself as a miserable sinner Later, she would reflect back and feel guilty about her past. But this feeling that she was a “miserable sinner” was probably caused by a severe self-judgment that was fueled by her father’s strict moral standards. At the age of 16, her father made the decision that he would send Teresa to a religious to learn.
This rekindled in Teresa the desire to pursue an enlightened life, and after some thought, she decided to join the Carmelite Order. At the time, the rules of the convent were not too strict. It was more comfortable as opposed to living in the home of her father. The convent was able to accept many new members into the order, mostly due to reasons of money. The convent grew overcrowded, and the people were evaluated not on their spiritual strength but rather by the material things they owned. In this environment, Teresa struggled to find time to contemplate in silence however she did begin instructing people about the benefits of meditation.
After becoming a nun Teresa was struck by a serious illness (malaria) which put her suffering for a prolonged time. In the beginning, it was believed that the illness was so severe that she might not recover. But, in this time of physical pain that was intense, she began to notice spiritual visions and an inner feeling of calm. These experiences of inner peace and joy seemed to transcend the physical pain that the body endures. She expresses herself in the words of her mental state in these times of struggles and challenges:
“I was able to endure these trials with great calm and even with happiness, except for the first time when the pain became too great. The next phase seemed to be less. I was surrendered in the direction of God even if he had intended to burden me with this for the rest of my life… And the other women were amazed at my God-given perseverance. Without Him, I could not have been able to bear this burden and with such happiness.”
Biography Of St Teresa Avila
After feeling a bit better and feeling a bit better, she began her prayer with renewed energy. After telling people of her dreams and religious experiences, she had to be discouraged from exploring them further. Certain clergy believed that they were a figment of the Devil. In the end, for several years Teresa lost her confidence to practice her prayers and her spirituality was put on hold. But at the age of 41, Teresa aged 41 years old, she was able to meet an ordained priest who encouraged her to return to her prayer and ask God to bring her back. In the beginning, she was having difficulties sitting through the prayers.
She laughed as she remarked that at the end of the hour’s prayer didn’t arrive soon enough. In an epoch, she was immersed in deep meditation, where she was able to feel an ever-growing feeling of being one with God. At times, she felt overwhelmed by divine love. These experiences were so profound and at times she felt that the divine light of God would cleanse her soul. She was so enthralled by the divine contemplation that sometimes her body would suddenly lift. Teresa however was not a fan of the public display of “miracles’. If she sensed that something was happening, she would request others to sit next to her to prevent her from floating around.
Teresa was not simply a serene, tranquil saint. She was charming and had a natural look; her enthusiasm captivated and inspired those who were nearby. They loved her due to her appearance and her inner tranquility. However, at the same time the religious ecstasies she experienced resulted in suspicion and jealousy. Unfortunately, Teresa was born into the time during the Spanish Inquisition, during this time, any deviation from traditional religious beliefs was subject to scrutiny and strict surveillance. In one instance, Teresa was adamant to God about the treatment she received from various people. God replied by telling her “That is how I always treat my friends.” In good humor, St Teresa replied, “That must be why You have so few friends!” St Teresa struggled because only a few people were able to comprehend or acknowledge her inner joys. But, on the other side, she believed these experiences were more real than everyday occasions.
In her 40s, St Teresa decided she was ready to form an order that would adhere to the ideals of simplicity and poverty. She was determined to leave her convent which led to living a life of prayer more challenging. At first, her plans were met with a lot of opposition from the city of Avila. However, with the backing of the clergy, opposition decreased and she was permitted to establish her very first religious institution. St Teresa proved to be an effective leader and founder. The nuns she supervised, not solely through strict discipline but also by her love for God as well as common sense. Her approach was not one of strict asceticism and self-denial. Though she faced many hardships for herself, she also shared her experiences with others. she emphasized the necessity of experiencing God’s Love. She said:
“You know, I can no more govern as I did in the past. Love has everything. I’m not certain why that is, whether it’s since no one has reason to criticize her or because I’ve realized that things work better when they are that manner.”
“The most important thing isn’t to be thinking too much but to be in love and do what best causes you to feel love. The greatest joy is not in love, but a desire to be pleasing to God in all things.”
St Teresa devoted much of her remaining life to traveling across Spain and establishing new convents that were based on traditional monastic practices of the past. Her work and travels weren’t always met with enthusiasm. Many resented her reforms and implied criticism of the current religious orders. Her work was often met with criticism and even the Papal Nuncio who employed the somewhat evocative phrase “a restless disobedient gadabout who has gone about teaching as though she were a professor.” St Teresa also faced numerous challenges with the challenges of living in a difficult environment and fragile health. But she did not let these difficulties deter her from her mission in life. She died on October 4, at the age of 67. One of the sisters recalls the moments just before her death. St Teresa:
“She stood there in prayer with a sense of calm and great peace. Sometimes she would show a visible sign of shock or surprise. The entire thing went on in complete tranquility. It appeared as if the woman heard a voice, to which she replied. The expression on her face was so magically changed that it appeared to be the shape of a celestial body. So, engrossed in prayers, joyful and smiling she left this world to live forever.”
Biography Of St Teresa Avila
St Teresa of Avila was one of the greatest Christian mystics. In spite of physical problems and physical ailments, she was completely immersed in her dedication to God. According to the spiritual master Sri Chinmoy says:
“In Spain, Teresa of Avila provided the world with a profoundly mystical experience. Her mystical journey is the greatest triumphant conclusion of the divine union between the soul seeking to be free and Christ, the freeing Christ and it is there that man’s involuntary crying will and God’s all-powerful, all-filling Will embrace one another.”
Works of Teresa of Avila
In 1566, she composed the Camino de Perfection (Way to Perfection) in order to instruct the nuns on how to achieve their goals.
In 1580, she wrote the work that is considered to be her finest work known as her Castillo Interior/ Las Moradas (Interior Castle and The Mansions). It was a description of the different stages of spiritual development that eventually lead to prayerful recitation; she also wrote the Las Fundaciones (Foundations) between 1573 and 1582, so that they could recall the early history of the order.
Poetry of St Teresa Avila
St Teresa wrote several volumes of poetry, including her most well-known
“God alone is enough.”
Do not let anything upset you.
Do not let anything alarm you.
All things are possible;
God is not a changemaker.
Patience is the winner
All it wants.
Whoever has God
is nothing missing:
God by His power is all that is needed.
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