Saint of the Day for 15 October: St Teresa of Avila
St Teresa of Avila: the mystic who inspired the world
Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda Dávila y Ahumada
Virgin and Doctor of the Church
28 March 1515, Gotarrendura, Spain
04 October 1582, Alba de Tormes, Spain
24 April 1614, Rome, Pope Paul V
12 March 1622, Rome, Pope Gregory XV
O seraphic Virgin Thérèse, beloved spouse of the Crucified, You who on earth loved Your and my God so much, and now in heaven love Him with purer and greater love: You who have always wished to see him loved by all men, impose, I beseech you also for me the spark of this holy love, that it may make me forget the world, creatures, and myself, and may make all my works always be employed in executing, amidst delights or amidst sorrows, the will of that supreme Good, who deserves to be infinitely obeyed and loved. Deh! obtain for me these graces You who can do so much for God, that I may be partaker of Him with You in the eternity of Paradise. So be it. Gloria Patri.
Patron saint of
Naples, Inveruno, Berzano di Tortona, Santa Teresa Gallura, Gesturi
Cordaires, orphans, people in religious orders, people seeking pardon, people ill in body, people ridiculed for their piety, writers
Memory of St Teresa of Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church: she entered the Carmelite Order in Ávila, Spain, and became mother and teacher of a very strict observance; she arranged in her heart a path of spiritual perfection under the aspect of a gradual ascent of the soul to God; for the reform of her Order she endured many tribulations, which she always overcame with an invincible spirit; she also wrote books pervaded with high doctrine and charged with her profound experience.
The Saint and Mission
St Teresa of Avila, a woman with an enterprising and deeply contemplative soul, embodies a missionary dimension that has spanned the centuries, still resonating in the lives of many believers today. Her mission, intricate and complex, winds its way through the meanders of a spirituality that becomes practical, that becomes a life lived, becoming a beacon for those seeking God in the maelstrom of daily challenges.
In Teresa’s heart, mission is not separate from the depth of her inner life. On the contrary, it is her deep love and intimacy with God that drives her outwards, in an unceasing desire to see souls draw closer to divinity. Teresa does not remain recluse in her own ecstasies and mystical experiences; rather, she uses them as a source from which to draw strength and inspiration to guide and encourage others on their spiritual journey.
St. Teresa’s mystical experience is not a refuge, but a driving force that propels her to found new monasteries, write and travel, despite her poor health and the many difficulties she encountered. Her missionary vision is not so much to travel to foreign lands to evangelise, but rather to go deep into the human soul, exploring and illuminating its darkest recesses with the light of divine love.
Teresa teaches that the mission begins from within, from personal conversion, from an authentic encounter with the living and risen Christ. Only those who have experienced this encounter can become authentic missionaries, because they know what it means to be touched, transformed by Love. Her mission is therefore that of a constant return, of an ever new deepening of the encounter with God, in order to be, in and through her own frailties, an effective instrument of his saving love.
Teresa writes, she dialogues, she founds, not to realise any of her own dreams of greatness, but to give space to God, to allow Love to flow through her and reach souls. Her mission thus becomes a continuous becoming, a journey in which the search for God and the search for man meet and merge, in an embrace that does not exclude, but, on the contrary, includes frailties, fears, resistances.
In the mission of St Teresa of Avila, words and deeds are the ripe fruit of a heart that has allowed itself to be touched and shaped by God. It is an invitation for every Christian to abandon his or her own securities in order to embark on a journey of profound union with God, experiencing that the true mission does not come from one’s own abilities, but from the willingness to let oneself be moulded by Love, becoming a channel through which Love itself can reach and transform the hearts of others.
The Saint and Mercy
St Teresa of Avila, mystic and reformer, navigated the deep waters of divine mercy, finding in them not only the refuge of her own soul, but also the inexhaustible source from which to quench the thirst of a world thirsting for authentic love and compassion. Mercy, for Teresa, was inextricably intertwined with the experience of God’s transcendental love, a love which, in her writings and actions, she wished to spread in a tangible, embracing, and uninterrupted manner.
Teresa’s journey, marked by a peculiar mystical union with the divine, was not without obstacles and suffering. Yet in every trial, Teresa found in the infinite divine mercy the lifeblood to advance, to rise up, to forgive and to offer herself in a sacrifice of love. For her, mercy was both a bulwark that supported her in moments of weakness and the guide that illuminated her path towards ever greater conformity to the divine will.
In founding her convents and writing her works, Teresa of Avila’s mercy did not remain an abstract concept or a mere object of contemplation. Rather, it became praxis, a way of living and interacting with one’s neighbour, a way of looking at the other not only with human eyes but with the gaze of God himself. It translated into a sincere and disinterested acceptance of the other, into a forgiveness that did not count the cost, into a love that did not set conditions.
Her encounter with the merciful face of Christ could not but push her towards a practical love, made up of concrete gestures and choices. How many times in her writings did Teresa speak to us of that face, the mirror of divine love, which invited her to tread new and sometimes impervious paths, to be a living witness of God’s mercy in the midst of her brothers and sisters!
St. Teresa’s approach to mercy was as profound as it was practical: her spirituality was imbued with an ardent and industrious charity, which translated into tangible works on behalf of her neighbour, in an open and honest dialogue even with those who were far from her positions. At a time marked by tensions and contrasts even within the Church, Teresa lived and promoted a path of reform that, while requiring firmness and determination, was always permeated by a merciful and inclusive love, which looked upon the other not as an enemy to be defeated, but as a brother to be loved and a soul to be led towards the source of true Life.
St Teresa of Avila, therefore, once again reveals herself as a teacher not only of the inner life, but also of that active and creative charity that, drawing from the inexhaustible source of divine mercy, makes itself close to suffering humanity, offering not only words of comfort, but hands ready to welcome, to support, to lift up.
S. Teresa of Jesus was born in Avila (Spain) on 28 March 1515, of a noble and ancient family. Teresa distinguished herself as a child by a great love for reading good books, and especially Holy Scripture. Reading to one of her little brothers the deeds of the Martyrs, both of them were inflamed with holy ardour to die for the name of Jesus, and one day, unseen, they fled to go among the infidel Moors: “In this way, they said, we will fly straight to Paradise! Wonderful naivety! But an uncle of theirs led them back to their father’s house. Then they thought they would lead a solitary life and…