“Let nothing trouble you, let nothing make you afraid. All things pass away. God never changes. Patience obtains everything. God alone is enough.”
Saint Teresa of Avila
Born at Avila, Old Castile, 28 March, 1515; died at Alba de Tormes, 4 Oct., 1582; canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV; proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.
Saint Teresa was born Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada. Her pious mother died when she was 14, leaving Teresa with her father, a holy man with serious intellectual interests.
On reading works of Saint Jerome, she decided to enter religious life, at the age of 20, believing it to the the safest path to salvation and not because she was particularly attracted to it. She compared the pain of seperation from her father to death, so intensely did it affect her.
She suffered a serious illness in her youth from which she never fully recovered her full health, and which caused her physical suffering for the rest of her life.
For her first twenty years in the convent, Teresa, in her own words, lived a mediocre prayer life. She said she had tried mental prayer but discontinued it because she could not tear herself away from the pettiness and worldliness of her conversations and desires, such as her desire to be held in good esteem by others.
However, an intense prayer experience before an image of Christ crucified helped her renounce such worldy attachments and, in her fortieth year, God began visiting her with tremendous “intellectual visions and locutions.”
The visions were so numerous and intense that it was thought they were the work of the devil. But on being examined by Saint Francis Borgia and Saint Peter of Alcantara, they were discerned to be God’s mystical action in her soul.
Her account of her spiritual life in her autobiography is extraordinary, even for a mystic. Her experience of intimate union with God manifested in her “spiritual espousals” and “mystical marriage,” and the “transverberation of her heart” (her heart was pierced as if by a surgeon’s knife while she was in prayer; upon her death it was discovered to have a scar – in an age when open heart surgery obviously did not exist – thus confirming what she recounted) took place during this time.
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