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About this commemoration
Teresa was one of two women declared a “Doctor of the Church” in 1970, primarily because of her two mystical contemplative works, The Way of Perfection and Interior Castle. She was a close spiritual and personal friend of St. John of the Cross.
Teresa was born near Avila. Even in her childhood, she took much pleasure in the study of saints’ lives, and she used to delight in spending times of contemplation, repeating over and over “For ever, for ever, for ever, for ever, they shall see God.”
In her autobiography Teresa tells that, following her mother’s death, she became quite worldly. To offset this, her father placed her in an Augustinian convent to be educated, but serious illness ended her studies. During convalescence, she determined to enter the religious life; and, though opposed by her father, she became a postulant at a Carmelite convent. Again, illness forced her to return home. After three years, she returned to the convent.
The easygoing life of the “mitigated” Carmelite rule distracted her from her customary prayer life, to which she returned. Taking recourse in two great penitents, Augustine of Hippo and Mary Magdalene, she became increasingly meditative. She began to receive visions—whether from God or the Devil she could not know—and struggled to reject them.
Teresa set out to establish a reformed Carmelite order of the “discalced” religious, who wore sandals or went unshod. Despite many setbacks she traveled for 25 years through Spain. Energetic, practical, efﬁcient, as well as being a mystic and ascetic, she established 17 convents of Reformed Carmelites. Even imprisonment did not deter her.
Despite the demands of her administrative and missionary work, Teresa found time to write the numerous letters that give us rare insights into her personality and concerns. She shows us a practical organizer, a writer of native genius, a warm devoted friend, and, above all, a lover of and the beloved of God.
Her death, following two years of illness, was peaceful. Her last sight was of the Sacrament brought for her comfort; her last words, “O my Lord! Now is the time that we may see each other.”
I O God, who by the Holy Spirit didst move Teresa of Avila to manifest to thy Church the way of perfection: Grant us, we beseech thee, to be nourished by her excellent teaching, and enkindle within us a lively and unquenchable longing for true holiness; through Jesus Christ, the joy of loving hearts, who with thee and the same Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II O God, by your Holy Spirit you moved Teresa of Avila to manifest to your Church the way of perfection: Grant us, we pray, to be nourished by her excellent teaching, and enkindle within us a keen and unquenchable longing for true holiness; through Jesus Christ, the joy of loving hearts, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Lessons: Song of Songs 4:12–16, Romans 8:22–27, and Matthew 5:13–16
Preface of Baptism
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
Also of interest
Link to a free digital edition of The Way of Perfection
Link to a free digital edition of Interior Castle
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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