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In she entered the Convent of the Incarnation and remained there for twenty-eight years until she founded her own reformed convent. Life in the Convent of the Incarnation was not particularly difficult or demanding. Reading St. Founding Convents. Seven years after these visions she left the convent to create a new one.

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Teresa argued that she had been told to do so in her visions. In her new convent, established with permission of the Pope, she and the other Carmelite nuns kept a much stricter observance. Fasting, silence, and limited contact with outsiders characterized the new order. Now calling herself Teresa of Jesus, she went on to found one convent a year for the next fifteen years, as per the command of the Roman Catholic authorities. Teresa also founded monasteries for Carmelite friars.

Despite her fruitful efforts, not everyone was supportive of Teresa. Some Church authorities asserted that her visions might be a sign of witchcraft. As if her spiritual experiences were not sufficiently threatening, the inquisitors were further alarmed by Teresa establishing convents and venturing into the unwomanly financial world. She was threatened with the Inquisition but was never charged. Her four major prose works touched upon prayer, the dimensions of spiritual and mystical growth, and founding convents. She also wrote poetry and letters. She died in Gillian T.

Spanish mystic and religious reformer. Teresa of Avila trans. Press, ; Victoria Lincoln, Teresa ed. Spanish mystic and monastic reformer, influential writer on spirituality, founder of the Discalced Carmelite order of Roman Catholic nuns, and canonized saint, who was the first woman to be proclaimed a Doctor of the Church. Professed as a Carmelite sister ; experienced the Transverberation ; founded reformed convent of St. Joseph at Avila ; founded 16 additional reformed convents in other Spanish cities —82 ; beatified ; canonized ; proclaimed Doctor of the Church The woman whom Roman Catholics the world over would one day venerate as St.

Traditionally, Teresa's birthplace is given as Avila, a walled city high on Spain's central plateau to the northwest of Madrid, but there is evidence that it was really the nearby village of Gotarrendura, location of the Ahumada family estate. In any case, it was in Avila that Teresa grew to womanhood and it was there that she spent most of her life, although during her later years she traveled extensively throughout Spain directing the work of her religious reform movement. Founded in the 11th century, Avila was originally a fortress on the frontier between the Christian-controlled northern part of the Iberian peninsula and the Muslim-controlled southern part.

As such, it played an important role in the Reconquista, the centuries-long war to restore all of Spain to Christian rule. The city's imposing system of defensive walls stands today as a reminder of its former strategic importance, but long before Teresa's time Avila was already in decline as a military center.

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By , most of the south had been reconquered and incorporated into the two major Christian kingdoms, Castile and Aragon. The marriage in of Isabella I , queen of Castile r. Unification promised an era of internal peace, as did the completion in of the process of territorial consolidation when Ferdinand and Isabella captured the last remaining Muslim stronghold at Granada.

By the early 16th century, Avila's importance was no longer military but economic. The city's location in a principal sheep-raising area assured it a major role in the rapidly expanding woolens industry. Once a sleepy provincial town, Avila quickly emerged as a bustling center of trade and manufacture, attracting newcomers from less prosperous regions of the country.

Many of these immigrant artisans and merchants were known at the time as conversos , or New Christians, meaning that they were former Jews who had converted to Christianity. Frequently, such conversions were made only for reasons of convenience, especially after when the Catholic Monarchs ordered the expulsion of Spain's Jewish population. Many conversos were sincerely devoted to their adoptive faith, but many more continued to practice Judaism in the privacy of their homes.

All New Christians were subject to prejudice and legal disabilities, and all were vulnerable to accusations of apostasy, an offense which lay under the jurisdiction of the Spanish Inquisition, established in to impose religious unity on Spain's diverse population of Christians, Muslims, and Jews. I look down upon the world as from above and care very little what people say or what is known about me.

Many privileges in society, such as the holding of public office and entry into religious orders, were legally open only to Old Christians, whose blood was supposedly free of the "impurity" of Jewish or Muslim descent.

The Life of St. Teresa of Avila

Money had the power to cleanse, however, and, like many other wealthy conversos , Teresa's father purchased his way to acceptance and respectability. The story of Teresa's Jewish ancestry has been known for some time.

Traditional Catholic writers generally omit it, but it is important to any understanding of this remarkable woman, who, although endowed with great talent and intelligence, was born into a world in which she was doubly marginal. Teresa was a female in a male-dominated society, but she was also a social upstart in a city whose civil and ecclesiastical establishments were still dominated by an Old Christian aristocracy which traced its origin to the early days of the Reconquista.

Her father's money and connections guaranteed Teresa access to the prestigious circles of Avila's high society, but as a young woman she must always have been aware of the precarious nature of her claim to social standing. Later, a rejection of snobbery and aristocratic pretense would become a central feature of Teresa's monastic reform program. As a girl, Teresa was bright, impetuous, and strong-willed, and she was much influenced by tales of chivalry and the lives of saints, both of which were in her day common intellectual fare in conventional households.

In her autobiography, Teresa tells us that the stories of holy martyrs so captivated her that, at the age of seven, she and her favorite brother Rodrigo dreamed of running away from home to invite beheading at the hands of imaginary Muslims in some unspecified neighboring province.

The Life of St. Teresa of Avila | EWTN

According to some accounts, the children did actually depart on their gruesome errand but were intercepted on the road out of Avila by a relative, who returned them safely to the care of their parents. In , when Teresa was 13, Beatriz de Ahumada died, leaving her husband with ten children from two different marriages. In her autobiography, Teresa describes the loss of her mother with great emotion, telling us that she fell to her knees before an image of Mary the Virgin to beseech the Mother of God to become her mother as well.

Teresa is candid in her admission that this was no more than a routine response to personal tragedy, in keeping with the pious conventions of the day. In fact, as she matured into womanhood, the spiritual life was the furthest thing from her mind. By all accounts attractive and flirtatious, Teresa enjoyed the worldly company of other young people, especially some cousins of hers who lived nearby. At the age of 16, she began a clandestine romance with a man whose identity we do not know. Some writers state that during this period she lost her virginity, but the evidence is inconclusive.

Teresa herself deals with the episode so circumspectly that it is clear only that her behavior, had it become public knowledge, would have been an embarrassment to her and her family.

Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582)

Although Teresa tells us frankly that "at that time I had the greatest possible aversion from being a nun," she eventually settled into the monastic routine, remaining in the cloister for some 18 months until she became ill and was forced to return home for treatment. It is not clear at what point Teresa began to consider taking the religious state for life. Certainly her experience among the Augustinians had some influence, but it is also possible that becoming a nun seemed to her simply a fate preferable to spinsterhood, or to marriage to the kind of husband her father's money would be able to buy.

With both her ancestry and her virginity open to question, and herself at 18 already past the customary age of matrimony, Teresa's stock would not have been high on Avila's marriage market. The nuns were not cloistered and they were not expected to keep the rule of poverty, so they were free to come and go as they pleased and to enjoy private incomes and luxurious personal belongings. Rather than a genuine spiritual community, such a convent was in reality a genteel place of retirement for unmarried women of a certain social class and economic standing.

Membership required not only an acceptable family tree, if only a partially fictive one as in Teresa's case, but also a dowry to provide for the new sister's maintenance. Religious life in the convent was limited largely to group vocal prayer for the souls of noble benefactors. These aristocrats provided generous endowments in return for the perpetuation of their proud family names through privileged places of burial in the convent chapel, ostentatious displays of their likenesses and armorial bearings, and the regular repetition of masses in their memory. At first, Teresa appeared to thrive there.

Allowing for frequent absences for various reasons, Teresa resided at the Carmelite convent off and on for about 20 years. During this period, however, she became increasingly dissatisfied with her surroundings. Rather, it took place over a number of years and was marked by several crucial events, encounters, and conversion experiences. In , during a prolonged absence from the convent due to illness, Teresa received from a devout relative a copy of Francis of Osuna's Abecedario espiritual Spiritual Alphabet, This book provided her introduction to the so-called Devotio Moderna, a movement for spiritual renewal within the Church which had its roots in Christian humanism.

Advocates of the Devotio Moderna criticized the empty formality of ritual observances, such as rote vocal prayer, which were the staple of Western religious life.

Instead, they urged private reflection and mental prayer with the purpose of achieving a mystical union between the individual worshiper and God. The other nuns were preoccupied with mundane daily concerns, and Teresa found it difficult to resist being caught up in them herself. What was worse, attempts to discuss her own spiritual growth with her confessors met with neither understanding nor sympathy. Teresa's sense of personal frustration must have been overwhelming.

Sometime in the s, she began to experience visions which she took at first to be divine revelations, although they sometimes frightened her, causing her to question whether they might not be the work of the devil instead. About , these disquieting doubts led Teresa to entrust her spiritual welfare to two well-respected Avila clerics, Fathers Gaspar Daza and Francisco Salcedo, the latter of whom was related to her family by marriage.

Initially convinced that the troubled nun's case was indeed one of demonic possession, Daza and Salcedo turned for guidance to the fathers of the Society of Jesus , a decision which proved crucial for Teresa's future career.