Teresa of ÁvilaTeresa of Ávila, born Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus (28 March 15154 or 15 October 1582), was a Spanish noblewoman who chose a monastic life in the Catholic Church. A Carmelite nun, prominent Spanish mystic, religious reformer, author, theologian of the contemplative life and mental prayer, she earned the rare distinction of being declared a Doctor of the Church over four centuries after her death. Active during the Counter-Reformation, she reformed the Carmelite Orders of both women and men. The movement she initiated was later joined by the younger Spanish Carmelite friar and mystic, John of the Cross. It led eventually to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites. A formal papal decree adopting the split was issued in 1580.
Teresa, who had been a social celebrity in her home province, was dogged by early family losses and ill health. In her mature years, she became the central figure of a movement of spiritual and monastic renewal borne out of an inner conviction and honed by ascetic practice. She was also at the centre of deep ecclesiastical controversy as she took on the pervasive laxity in her order against the background of the Protestant reformation sweeping over Europe and the Spanish Inquisition asserting church discipline in her home country. The consequences were to last well beyond her life.
Forty years after her death in 1622, Teresa was canonized by Pope Gregory XV. At the time she was considered a candidate for national patron saint of Spain, but lost out to St. James the Apostle. She has since become one of the patron saints of Spain.
Her written contributions, which include her autobiography, ''The Life of Teresa of Jesus'' and her seminal work ''The Interior Castle'', are today an integral part of Spanish Renaissance literature. Together with ''The Way of Perfection'', her works form part of the literary canon of Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practice, and continue to attract interest from people both within and outside the Catholic Church.
However, not until 27 September 1970 did Pope Paul VI proclaim Teresa the first female ''Doctor of the Church'' in recognition of her centuries-long spiritual legacy to Catholicism.
Other associations with Teresa beyond her writings continue to exert a wide influence. A ''Santero'' image of the Immaculate Conception of El Viejo, said to have been sent by her with a brother emigrating to Peru, was canonically crowned by Pope John Paul II on December 28, 1989 at the Shrine of El Viejo in Nicaragua. Another Catholic tradition holds that Saint Teresa is personally associated with devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague, a statue she may have owned. Since her death, her reputation has grown, leading to multiple portrayals. She continues to be widely noted as inspiration to philosophers, theologians, historians, neurologists, fiction writers, artists as well as countless ordinary people interested in Christian spirituality and mysticism.
Speaking to pilgrims from Avila in October 1981, Pope John Paul II said: "It is necessary for the rich legacy left by Teresa of Jesus to be deeply reconsidered so that it can effect a renewal of the inner life of your nation and thereby influence the renewal of life in the entire church in all its aspects. The giant figure of the Great Teresa should act as a strong encouragement in that direction not only on a local or national scale but also on a universal scale". Provided by Wikipedia
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