St. Teresa of Avila,Virgin, Mystic, Doctor of the Church: Brief Bio and Favorite Quotes

St. Teresa was born in Avila, Spain on March 28, 1515, the third child of Don Alonzo Sanchez de Cepeda and his second wife, Doña Beatriz Davila y Ahumada. When Teresa was 15, her mother died, leaving behind ten children. Teresa was considered the “most beloved of them all.” She was beautiful and was described as being of medium height, large build, and well-proportioned. Teresa was extroverted, very affectionate, charming, with a wonderful sense of humor, adapting easily to all kinds of people and circumstances. She was exceptionally intelligent and skilled in the use of the pen, needlework, and household duties.

In 1531, following the marriage of her older sister, Teresa’s father entrusted her education to the Augustinian nuns at Santa Maria de Gracia. However, due to illness, she left at the end of 18 months and stayed at her uncle’s home to recover. While there, she read the “Letters of St. Jerome”, which led her to a religious vocation. When her father refused to consent to her vocation, she ran away from home and persuaded a brother to do the same so that they both might obtain the religious habit.

At the age of 20, Teresa entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation at Avila, where she received the habit the following year and made her commitment to a life of prayer and penance. Shortly after her profession, she became seriously ill and failed to respond to medical treatment of any kind. As a last resort, her father took her to a woman healer, who was famous throughout Castille, but Teresa’s health showed no improvement. She was then brought to the home of her Uncle Pedro in Cepeda to recover; however, instead of regaining her health, she grew increasingly worse and her father brought her back to Avila. (Even after partial recovery through the intercession of St. Joseph, her health remained permanently impaired.)

From this point forward, Teresa moved into a period in which she began to focus more acutely on Christ's passion and death. The visions the Lord gave her and the words He spoke to her gave her great strength in her trials. With these visions and locutions as her impetus, she was determined to reform her order, beginning with her attempt to master and perfect herself and her adherence to the rule. Gathering a group of supporters, Teresa worked to create an order that followed a simpler life of poverty, devoted to prayer and penance.

From 1560 until her death, she struggled to establish and broaden the movement of Discalced (shoeless) Carmelites – the new order she founded. 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, whom she enlisted to extend her reform into the male side of the Carmelite Order. Teresa established thirty - two monasteries, seventeen of which were convents for nuns.

Teresa died in 1582. She was beatified in 1614 and canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV, and was declared a Doctor of the Church on September 27, 1970.

The account of St. Teresa’s spiritual life contained in "Life written by herself" (completed in 1565, an earlier version being lost), in the “Relations”, and in the “Interior Castle”, forms one of the most remarkable spiritual biographies of our times and has been compared with the Confessions of St. Augustine.

"The chief among Teresa’s virtues was the love of God, which our Lord Jesus Christ increased by means of many visions and revelations. He made her his Spouse on one occasion. At other times she saw an angel with a flaming dart piercing her heart. Through these heavenly gifts the flame of divine love in her heart became so strong that, inspired by God, she made the extremely difficult vow of always doing what seemed to her most perfect and most conducive to God’s glory.” (Gregory XV in the Bull of Canonization)

St. Teresa is the patron saint of headache sufferers, sickness, people in need of prayer, people in religious orders, and people ridiculed for their piety. Her symbols include: a heart, an arrow, and a book.

My Favorite Quotes from St. Teresa of Avila:

"We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can - namely, surrender our will and fulfill God's will in us."

"The highest perfection consists not in interior favors or in great raptures, but in the bringing of our wills so closely into conformity with the Will of God that, as soon as we realize that He wills anything, we desire it ourselves with all our might."

"To converse with You, O King of glory, no third person is needed, You are always ready in the Sacrament of the Altar to give audience to all. All who desire You always find You there, and converse with You face to face."

"Do your best and the good Jesus will help you. Though he may sleep in the boat, when the storm increases he will quiet the wind. He wishes us to ask him."

"It is love alone that gives worth to all things."

“To have courage for whatever comes in life - everything lies in that.”

“What a great favor God does to those He places in the company of good people!”

“Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.”

"God has been very good to me, for I never dwell upon anything wrong which a person has done, so as to remember it afterwards. If I do remember it, I always see some other virtue in that person."

"To reach something good it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience."

"We shall never learn to know ourselves except by endeavoring to know God; for, beholding His greatness, we realize our own littleness; His purity shows us our foulness; and by meditating upon His humility we find how very far we are from being humble."

"There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers."

"The tree that is beside the running water is fresher and gives more fruit."

"Our body has this defect that, the more it is provided care and comforts, the more needs and desires it finds. "

"The most potent and acceptable prayer is the prayer that leaves the best effects. I don't mean it must immediately fill the soul with desire . . . The best effects [are] those that are followed up by actions-----when the soul not only desires the honor of God, but really strives for it. "

"I would never want any prayer that would not make the virtues grow within me."

"Vocal prayer . . . must be accompanied by reflection. A prayer in which a person is not aware of Whom he is speaking to, what he is asking, who it is who is asking and of Whom, I don't call prayer-----however much the lips may move."

"Mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us."

"You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him."

"One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to God, and many a time he is praying much more truly than one who goes away by himself and meditates his head off, and, if he has squeezed out a few tears, thinks that is prayer. "

"Suffering is a great favor. Remember that everything soon comes to an end . . . and take courage. Think of how our gain is eternal."

"Pain is never permanent."

"Truth suffers, but never dies."

"I am afraid that if we begin to put our trust in human help, some of our Divine help will fail us."

"Our greatest gain is to lose the wealth that is of such brief duration and, by comparison with eternal things, of such little worth; yet we get upset about it and our gain turns to loss."

"We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can - namely, surrender our will and fulfill God's will in us."

"Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world.Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world."

"Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you. All things are passing;God never changes. Patience obtains all things. He who possesses God lacks nothing: God alone suffices."



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