Saint Stories: Saint Teresa of Avila

Saint Teresa of Avila was born in Avila, Spain in 1515, two years before Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of All Saints' Church in Germany. Born to a strict, pious father and a loving mother, Teresa was shaped by each. It was from her mother, who died when Teresa was just 14, whereupon the future saint learned to love romance novels, which were strictly forbidden by her father. This created conflict in Teresa's inner struggle and turmoil.

When Teresa was seven, she convinced her brother Rodrigo to find martyrdom with the Moors outside Avila's city walls. It was their uncle who found the two children outside the city walls and brought them home unharmed. Her faith continued to be a strong influence as she grew older. At the point when she was asked to choose between marriage or a life with the church, she was conflicted. She observed that her mother suffered under a difficult marriage. Yet she thought a life as a nun would not be joyful. Yet, her choice to live a religious life was made to save her from the temptations of sin. She joined a Carmelite convent and learned the practice of mental prayer.

Teresa continued to be tempted, as the convent she was in allowed a more lenient lifestyle for nuns, and allowed Teresa to let her vanity take hold. When she later made plans to join a new convent that practiced a simple life of poverty devoted to prayer, her convent threatened an inquisition and the town started legal proceedings against her. After more years at her first convent, she finally felt it was time to spread her reform movement. She received a patent from the Carmelite general Rubeo de Ravenna to establish a new house in her order. In a time of religious turmoil, prosecution and reformation, Teresa was seen to point the way from outer turmoil to inner peace for herself and those around her.

Quick Facts about St. Teresa of Avila

Born March 28, 1515

Died October 4, 1582 at age 67

Venerated in the Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Church, Anglican Communion

Beautified on April 24, 1614 in Rome by Pope Paul V

Canonized March 12, 1622

Feastday: October 15

Symbol: A book and quill, and an arrow-pierced heart