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The Catholic Defender: Saint Teresa of Avila


Teresa of Ávila famous? St. Teresa of Ávila was the first of only four women to have been named doctor of the church. Her ascetic doctrine and Carmelite reforms shaped Roman Catholic contemplative life, and her writings on the Christian soul's journey to God are considered masterpieces.


In The Interior Castle Saint Teresa wrote that: "The Lord represented himself to her, just after she had received Communion, in the form of shining splendour, beauty, and majesty, as he was after his resurrection, and told her that now it was time that she consider as her own what belonged to him and that he would take


As a mystic, Teresa was bombarded with supernatural experiences and visions. Jesus once said to her in a vision, “I would create the universe again just to hear you say that you love me


St. Teresa of Avila is the patron saint of those who suffer from headaches and migraines, those who are ill, people ridiculed for their religious faith, and Spain. It is unclear why St. Teresa was chosen as the patron saint of those with headaches, since there are no records that she herself was afflicted with them.


Teresa's most famous miracle was the healing of her injured nephew. She performed a miracle after part of a building had fallen on the boy, crushing him and apparently killing him. He was brought to Teresa, and she prayed for him and held him in her arms. A few minutes later, he came back to life.


Teresa lived in an age of exploration as well as political, social, and religious upheaval. It was the 16th century, a time of turmoil and reform. She was born before the Protestant Reformation and died almost 20 years after the closing of the Council of Trent.


The gift of God to Teresa in and through which she became holy and left her mark on the Church and the world is threefold: She was a woman; she was a contemplative; she was an active reformer.


As a woman, Teresa stood on her own two feet, even in the man’s world of her time. She was “her own woman,” entering the Carmelites despite strong opposition from her father. She is a person wrapped not so much in silence as in mystery. Beautiful, talented, outgoing, adaptable, affectionate, courageous, enthusiastic, she was totally human. Like Jesus, she was a mystery of paradoxes: wise, yet practical; intelligent, yet much in tune with her experience; a mystic, yet an energetic reformer; a holy woman, a womanly woman.


Teresa was a woman “for God,” a woman of prayer, discipline, and compassion. Her heart belonged to God. Her ongoing conversion was an arduous lifelong struggle, involving ongoing purification and suffering. She was misunderstood, misjudged, and opposed in her efforts at reform. Yet she struggled on, courageous and faithful; she struggled with her own mediocrity, her illness, her opposition. And in the midst of all this she clung to God in life and in prayer. Her writings on prayer and contemplation are drawn from her experience: powerful, practical, and graceful. She was a woman of prayer; a woman for God.


Teresa was a woman “for others.” Though a contemplative, she spent much of her time and energy seeking to reform herself and the Carmelites, to lead them back to the full observance of the primitive Rule. She founded over a half-dozen new monasteries. She traveled, wrote, fought—always to renew, to reform. In her self, in her prayer, in her life, in her efforts to reform, in all the people she touched, she was a woman for others, a woman who inspired and gave life.


Her writings, especially the Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, have helped generations of believers.

In 1970, the Church gave her the title she had long held in the popular mind: Doctor of the Church. She and St. Catherine of Siena were the first women so honored.


Ours is a time of turmoil, a time of reform, and a time of liberation. Modern women have in Teresa a challenging example. Promoters of renewal, promoters of prayer, all have in Teresa a woman to reckon with, one whom they can admire and imitate.


The heart and the arrow are St. Teresa's symbols because she had a vision that a angel pierced her in the heart with a arrow . The book is also another symbol of saint Teresa of Avila because she is one of the doctors of the church.

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