Written by Kelsey Weber, friend of Stella & Tide
Saint Teresa of Avila was born into a wealthy merchant family in Avila, Spain in 1515. From an early age, she was often considered to be the most beloved among her nine brothers and sisters due to her beauty and charm. However, Teresa was also strong-willed and courageous. At the tender age of seven, she convinced her older brother to run away with her and seek the crown of martyrdom. Her plan was eventually foiled as her uncle discovered the pair traveling on the edge of town and returned them home to their parents.
As she reached her teen years and beyond, Teresa’s zeal for Christ, coupled with her schooling by the Augustinians at Santa Maria de Gracia, pushed her to seek a life in the convent. Her father was greatly displeased with this decision and forbade Teresa from entering. As a result, strong-willed Teresa ran away from home and joined the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation. She was ready for a life of prayer and service, yet upon entering she discovered the monastery was rather worldly and relaxed. Teresa quickly fell into entertaining elite guests both at the monastery and in their homes, which led to years of struggling with pride and materialism during which she experienced spiritual decay. However, the urgings of a holy priest reignited her faith and renewed her prayer life and relationship with Christ.
After the renewal of her spiritual life, Teresa experienced visions of Christ and the Blessed Mother which left her feeling peace and joy, but also gave rise to great suspicion and jealousy among other nuns within her order. Ultimately, Teresa felt called to help other nuns amend their own spiritual lives and decided to start a new refromed Carmelite convent in her town of Avila, taking the name of the “Discalced (or “Shoeless”) Carmelites.” Though initially considered a scandal, her efforts for reform were eventually respected and approved by the town, the Carmelite General, and even the Pope himself.
Upon receiving official approval, Teresa began to travel around and establish new monasteries and convents, even partnering with St. John of the Cross to establish a reformed Carmelite house for men. Today, the Discalced Carmelites focus on contemplative prayer and forming a deep relationship with Christ through love. Teresa was named one of the first female Doctors of the Church due to her willingness to share God’s love with others. She wrote many books throughout the course of her life, and her words, which helped lead others closer to Christ, still hold true in today’s world.
While I came to admire Saint Teresa of Avila at a young age because of her strong-willed and fearless nature, it was not until later that I truly appreciated her life and teachings. She spoke of the way God always walks alongside us, through our highs and lows, with His steadfast love. God meets each and every one of us where we are on our journey; nothing is too great for Him to conquer, so long as we turn all our joys and fears over to Him. Whether we are lost and looking for a deeper relationship with God or just need that extra push to grow our prayer life, He will be there to meet us with a warm embrace.
Saint Teresa truly understood how beautiful a relationship with God could be. She opened her life to Him and willingly traded worldly comforts for inner peace. Saint Teresa was a light for her generation and can serve as a model for us today. Her devotion to God impacted many souls both in her time and beyond.
In a world that is becoming increasingly secular, may we look to the example of Saint Teresa of Avila as an encouragement to deepen our relationship with Christ, shedding our worldly desires and inspiring others around us to embrace the love of God.
". . . it is presumptuous in me to wish to choose my path, because I cannot tell which path is best for me. I must leave it to the Lord, Who knows me, to lead me by the path which is best for me, so that in all things His will may be done."
—St. Teresa of Avila