St Teresa of Avila, also known as St Teresa of Jesus, was a virgin Carmelite nun and Doctor of the Church.
She was born on March 28 1515 in Avila, Spain, and given the name Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada.
She died on October 4 1582 at the age of 67 in Alba de Tormes, Salamanca, Spain.
We celebrate her feast day on October 15 every year in the Catholic Church.
|Saint Teresa of Jesus (Saint Teresa of Avila) Biography
|Date of Birth
|March 28 1515
|Place of Birth
|Carmelite nun and author
|Place of Work
|Date of Death
|October 4 1582
|Place of Death
|Alba de Tormes, Salamanca, Spain
|By Pope Paul V on April 24 1614 in Rome
|By Pope Gregory XV on March 12 1622 in Rome
|Patron Saint of
St Teresa of Avila Life History
St Teresa of Avila’s father was Alonso Sánchez de Cepeda, a wealthy wool merchant in Avila and a Catholic Christian.
Her mother was Beatriz de Ahumada y Cuevas, a second wife of Alonso Sánchez de Cepeda. She raised Teresa in the Christian way and Teresa grew up with a fascination with the lives of the saints.
This fascination with the lives of the saints made Teresa and her brother Rodrigo run away from home at the age of seven years to seek martyrdom during the fight against the Moors. However, they were rescued by their uncle who saw them rudderless away from home.
Teresa’s mother loved to read romance novels, a habit that Teresa also adopted, and became an avid reader of the same literature and other books.
Beatriz de Ahumada y Cuevas, Teresa’s mother, died when she was eleven years and that grief made her become more devoted to the Virgin Mary.
During this time, she went to Our Lady of Grace Catholic School in Avila which was owned by the Augustinian nuns.
When she completed her education she was not so enthusiastic about joining religious life but her relatives endeared her to join.
At the age of 20, she joined the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation against her father’s will and made her profession on November 3 1537.
She took up the practice of mortification which made her ill such that she spent almost a whole year bedridden.
At one time, her fellow nuns saw as if she would die and started preparing for her funeral but Teresa suddenly recovered.
She thereafter began to experience moments of religious ecstasy. She would be seen levitating, falling into disarray, and laying still as if in a coma.
This intermittent sickness made her superiors partially release her from her daily routine of the cloistered community in order for her to convalesce.
From this extra time she got, she would weave fabrics of friendship which would make many people to be drawn to her. Teresa was loved by many people and she too loved to be loved.
Teresa struggled with the thoughts of the difference between mortal and venial sins. She came to know that she was a sinner and had little strength to avoid many sins that came her way.
She however got comfort from the writings of St. Augustine’s autobiography where she realized that St Augustine was also a sinner but eventually became a saint.
She practiced self-flagellation and other forms of self-mortification of her own flesh. She had visions of Jesus presenting Himself in bodily form for more than two years.
She also saw a vision of an angel of the Lord piercing repeatedly a sword through her heart, which inflicted her so much pain, a pain that was also sweet, and liked it.
The memory of this vision became the inspiration, that lasted her entire lifetime, of imitating the life and suffering of Jesus.
Teresa’s mystical thoughts are preoccupied with the four devotions namely Devotion to the Heart, Devotion of Peace, Devotion of Union, and Devotion of Ecstasy.
In the cloistered convent of the Incarnation where she lived, there were constant disruptions from prayer and contemplation by the numerous visitors who came around.
The more the people came to meet her the more she would feel that these people distracted her from prayer and personal meditation.
Her fellow nuns also received many disruptive visitors and also held parties in the cloistered community.
Teresa felt that she needed to do something to rectify the laxed and carefree way of life in the convent.
With the help of Peter of Alcantara, a Franciscan priest, Teresa resolved to found a reformed Carmelite convent.
She was helped financially by a wealthy friend called Guimara de Ulloa to kick-start the project. The convent was established in 1562 and named the Convent of San José (St. Joseph).
However, this new convent was bad-mouthed all over Avila by her detractors but several well-wishers including the area bishop prevailed upon the locals and converted their animosity to great approval.
One year after establishing the convent, Teresa’s initiative received the necessary approval mainly because of her principles of living in utmost poverty and non-ownership of material wealth.
She went ahead and wrote a constitution to guide and spearhead her plan of reviving and propagating the stricter monastic rules including self-flagellation, and living a poor and discalced (not wearing shoes) life.
After five years of prayer at the new convent, Teresa received a patent from the Carmelite General to establish other houses for her new order.
She travelled all over Spain and established houses in Alba de Tormes, Pastrana, Medina del Campo, Malagón, Salamanca, Toledo, and Valladolid.
She also established houses for men who were passionate about living under these strict reforms. She was helped by two Carmelite friars namely John of the Cross and Father Anthony of Jesus.
The first Discalced Carmelite brothers’ monastery was founded in Duruelo in November 1568.
Teresa also got help from a friend called Jerónimo Gracián to found more monasteries in Segovia, Seville, Caravaca de la Cruz, and Beas de Segura.
As her founding of new convents went by, some members of the original and unreformed Carmelite order began to persecute Teresa, her followers, and her convents.
The governing body of this order stopped any other founding of newly reformed convents and instructed her to go for retirement.
She obeyed but after seeking the help of King Philip II of Spain, all accusations against her and her followers were dropped, and her quest to found more convents and monasteries continued. She eventually founded many more convents for women and men.
St Teresa of Avila Death
Teresa became gravely ill during one of her journeys from the Burgos convent to the Alba de Tormes convent. She died in the Alba de Tormes convent.
The stated date of her death is October 4 1582 because of the slight confusion that ensued during the transition from the Julian calendar to the current Gregorian calendar that was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII.
The body of Teresa was buried at the Convento de la Anunciación in Alba de Tormes. After nine months, her coffin was opened and her body was found incorrupt. On November 25 1585, the body was exhumed again and found to be incorrupt.
The body still remains in Alba de Tormes, except for these parts:
- Right foot and part of the upper jaw are in Rome
- Right hand is in Lisbon
- Left eye and left hand are in Ronda, Spain
- Left arm and heart are in the Museum of the Church of the Annunciation in Alba de Tormes
- One finger is in the Church of Our Lady of Loreto, Paris, France
- One finger is in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain
Saint Teresa of Jesus was beatified by Pope Paul V on April 24 1614 in Rome
Saint Teresa of Jesus was canonized by Pope Gregory XV on March 12 1622 in Rome. On September 27 1970, she was conferred with the honour of Doctor of the Church together with St Catherine of Siena by Pope Paul VI. They became the first women to be awarded this honour.
St Teresa of Avila is the Patron Saint of
- Talisay City, Cebu, Philippines
- Spanish Catholic Writers
- Sick people
- Požega, Croatia
- People ridiculed for their piety
- People in religious orders
- Headache sufferers
St. Teresa of Avila Feast Day
We celebrate her feast day on October 15 every year in the Catholic Church.
St Teresa of Avila Prayer
👉Dear Saint Teresa, Holy Virgin, cherished partner of your crucified Lord, while on Earth, your love for God was intense and now in paradise, it burns even brighter and purer.
👉Please, get for me a small part of that sacred passion that will make me forget about the world, everything around me, and even myself. Just like you always wanted to see Him loved by everyone.
👉Help me focus all my thoughts, desires, and feelings on doing what God wants, whether I’m happy or going through tough times. God deserves to be loved and followed always.
👉Obtain for me this grace, you who are so powerful with God; may I be all on fire, like thee, with the holy love of God. Amen.
Saint Teresa of Avila Quote
Her last words before death were:
“My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may your will be done. O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another.” – St Teresa of Jesus
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