Teresa of Ávila

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Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, (March 28, 1515 – October 4, 1582) was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, and writer of the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer. She was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered to be, along with John of the Cross, a founder of the Discalced Carmelites.

Forty years after her death, she was canonized, in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV, and in 1970 named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. Her books, which include her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus, and her seminal work, El Castillo Interior (The Interior Castle), are an integral part of the Spanish Renaissance literature as well as Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practices as she entails in her other important work Camino de Perfección (The Way of Perfection) [4].

Contents

Early life

Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada was born in 1515 in Gotarrendura, in the province of Ávila, Spain. Her paternal grandfather, Juan de Toledo, was a marrano (Jewish forced-convert to Christianity) and was condemned by the Spanish Inquisition for allegedly returning to the Jewish faith. Her father, Alonso Sánchez de Cepeda, bought knighthood and successfully assimilated into Christian society. Teresa's mother, Beatriz, was especially keen to raise her daughter as a pious Christian. Teresa was fascinated by accounts of the lives of the saints, and ran away from home at age seven with her brother Rodrigo to find martyrdom among the Moors. Her uncle stopped them as he was returning to the city, having spotted the two outside the city walls.

In the cloister, she suffered greatly from illness. Early in her sickness, she experienced periods of religious ecstasy through the use of the devotional book "Tercer abecedario espiritual," translated as the Third Spiritual Alphabet (published in 1527 and written by Francisco de Osuna). This work, following the example of similar writings of medieval mystics, consisted of directions for examinations of conscience and for spiritual self-concentration and inner contemplation (known in mystical nomenclature as oratio recollectionis or oratio mentalis). She also employed other mystical ascetic works such as the Tractatus de oratione et meditatione of Saint Peter of Alcantara, and perhaps many of those upon which Saint Ignatius of Loyola based his Spiritual Exercises and possibly the Spiritual Exercises themselves.

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