Javascript is currently disabled. This site requires Javascript to function correctly. Please enable Javascript in your browser!

Saint Teresa of Jesus

Saint Teresa of Jesus
  • Century: 16th Century
  • Patronage: Bodily ills, Headaches, Chess, Lace Makers and Workers, Loss of Parents, People in need of Grace
  • Feast Day: October 15th

Patronage – Bodily ills, Headaches, Chess, Lace Makers and Workers, Loss of Parents, People in need of Grace, People in Religious Orders, People Ridiculed for their Piety, Croatia, Sick People and Sickness, Spain

Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada was born in 1515 in Spain. She is also known as St. Teresa of Avila.  Her parents were both Christian, and her mother especially raised her as a pious Christian.  Teresa was fascinated by the accounts of the lives of the saints, and ran away at seven with her brother Rodrigo to find martyrdom among the Moors.  Her uncle stopped them as he was returning to the city, just outside the city walls.  She went on to become a prominent Spanish Mystic, a Saint, and entered the Carmelite Order.  She along with St. John of the Cross founded the Discalced Carmelites.  

As a Cloistered Carmelite Nun, she suffered greatly from illness.  Early in her sickness, she experienced religious ecstasy.  She claimed that during her illness she rose from the lowest stage, “Recollection”, to the “Devotions of Silence”, or even the “Devotions of Ecstasy”, which was one of perfect union with God.  During the final state, she said she frequently experienced a rich “blessing of tears”.  She realized the distinction between mortal and venial sin, and came to understand the awful terror of sin and the inherent nature of original sin.  She also became conscious of her own natural impotence in confronting sin, and the necessity of absolute subjection to God.  She began to inflict various tortures and mortifications of the flesh upon herself.  In 1559, she became firmly convinced that Jesus Christ presented Himself to her in bodily form, though invisible to others.  The visions lasted uninterrupted for more than two years.  In another vision, a Seraph Angel drove a fiery point of a golden lance repeatedly through her heart, causing an ineffable spiritual-bodily pain.  This memory served as an inspiration throughout the rest of her life.  

St. Teresa’s mystical thought throughout all her writings is the ascent of the soul in “Four” stages.  The first is “Mental Prayers”, devout contemplation or concentration, the devout observance of the Passion of Christ.  The second is the “Prayer of Quiet”, where the human will is lost in that of God by virtue of charismatic, supernatural state given of God, while the other faculties, such as memory, reason, and imagination are not yet secure from worldly distraction.  The third is “Devotion of Union”, not only a supernatural but also an “ecstatic” state.  Here there is also absorption of the reason in God, and only the memory and imagination are left to ramble.  This state is characterized by a blissful peace, a sweet slumber of at least the higher soul faculties, a conscious rapture in the love of God.  The fourth is “Devotion of Ecstasy or Rapture”, a passive state, in which the consciousness of being in the body disappears.  Bodily senses cease; memory and imagination are absorbed in God or intoxicated.  Body and Soul alternate between a fearful fiery glow, a complete impotence of unconsciousness, sometimes by such an ecstatic flight that the body is literally lifted into space.  She was said to have been levitating during Mass on more than one occasion.  

St. Teresa is one of the foremost writers on mental prayer, and her position among writers on mystical theology is unique.  In all her writings on this subject she deals with her personal experiences, which a deep insight enabled her to explain clearly.  Her definition was used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Contemplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time to frequently being alone with Him whom we know loves us”.  Throughout her writings, persistent metaphors provide a vivid illustration of the image of the mystic prayer as “watering a garden”.  

The last three years of St. Teresa’s life, she founded Convents at Andalusia, Palencia, Soria, Burgos, and Granada.  In total, she founded sixteen Convents, and as many men’s cloisters were due to her reform activity of twenty years.  Her final illness overtook her on her journey from Burgos.  She died in 1582, just as Catholic nations were making the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar.  Her final words 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”.  In 1622, forty years after her death, Pope Gregory XV canonized her.  Pope Paul VI in 1970, along with St. Catherine of Siena, was named “Doctor of the Church”, the first two women in the Church to receive this title.  St. Teresa is revered as the Doctor of Prayer.  Her mysticism in her works exerted a formative influence upon many theologians of the following centuries.  

Practical Take Away

St. Teresa of Jesus was a Carmelite Nun that was profoundly spiritual.  She along with St. Catherine of Siena became the first two women to be named “Doctor of the Church” by Pope Paul VI.  She is known as the Doctor of Prayer, and revealed a pathway for us to pray, in four steps.  The first being Mental Prayer, Prayer of Quiet, Devotion of Union, and the forth bing, Devotion of Ecstasy or Rapture.  She has many writings that walk us through the higher level of prayer, using her own experiences as an example for us to follow.  She went on and founded seventeen convents, and was a promoter of the faith until her death in 1582.