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St. Teresa of Avila

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    Saint Teresa of Avila once said “I shall mention some things that are necessary… The first of these is love for one another; the second is detachment from all created things; the third is true humility… all must be friends, all must be loved, all must be held dear, all must be helped,” . A Doctor of the church, Saint Teresa of Avila greatly affected the Catholic Church. One of her major contributions is that she founded the Discalced Carmelites. Another is her teaching on prayer and books she wrote. One last contribution is that she reformed the Roman Catholic Church from within. Saint Teresa of Avila was a strong woman and she had very influential impacts on the Catholic Church.

    Teresa de Ahumada y Cepeda was born in Avila, Spain in 1515. The Protestant Reformation started two years after her birth (Catholic Online). She grew up under her strict father, and as a child she was convinced she was a horrible sinner. In her rebellious teenage years, she mostly cared about clothing, boys, and flirting. When she was 16, her father sent her to a convent, and although she hated it at first, she began to enjoy it because of her growing love for God and because it was less strict than her father. She eventually chose the religious life over marriage because she thought it was the only safe place for someone as prone to sin as she was. Teresa struggled to remain a spiritual life safe from sin. There were many parties with young men at the convent, and she was a very liked person, which caused her to be more involved in flattery, vanity, and gossip than spiritual guidance. Teresa had a seizure and was paralyzed for three years, and this imparity was her excuse to stop prayer completely for years, and she thought being a wicked sinner she didn’t deserve to get favors from God. She was convinced to go back to prayer when she was 41, but still found it difficult and was often distracted. God began to give her spiritual delights; sometimes her whole body was raised from the ground. When this would happen, she would call for the nuns to hold her down because she did not want God to give her any more favors in public. Finally, God told her “No longer do I want you to converse with human beings, but with angels,” and she finally had the freedom she needed and God always came first from then on.

    Saint Teresa of Avila had very important major contributions to the Catholic
    Church. A major need that she responded to was the Protestant Reformation. Her first major contribution was that she founded the Discalced Carmelites. When Teresa experienced her conversion, many people did not like what had happened to her, and some people even thought her visions were from the devil. She was determined to found a new convent that went back to a simple life of poverty and prayer. Many people started legal proceedings against her, however she continued her work. She founded over a dozen and her ideas soon swept through Spain and Europe. Her second major contribution was her spiritual teachings and writings. With the empowerment of Christ, she wrote four books on prayer and spiritual life. She wrote The Book of Her Life, The Way of Perception, The Book of Foundations, and The Interior Castle. In these is a power and strength to inspire the world. Teresa’s third major contribution was that she reformed the Roman Catholic church from within and strengthened the religious life of Spain. This was during the time of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Church was struggling. Her monasteries were places of faith standing for Christianity in the midst of the Church being torn apart by the Reformation. She did not intend to be a social reformer, but her nuns affected the change necessary in society by their faithfulness to prayer and to God (Campbell). Saint Teresa embodies the Church as Body of Christ. By professing her Christian faith and keeping the Catholic Church together during the Reformation, she helped the community of believers become the body of Jesus Christ on earth. She emphasized spiritual communion and brought together the community of grace in Christ.

    Saint Teresa of Avila, at an old age, grew weak and died on October 4, 1582. In Alba De Torres. She was beatified in 1614 and canonized in 1622 by Gregory XV, with her feast day on October 15. She is the patron of headache sufferers and her symbol is a heart, and arrow, and a book. In 1970, Teresa was declared a Doctor of the Church for her writing and teaching on prayer. She was the first of two women to receive this.

    Saint Teresa of Avila is important because she started the Discalced Carmelites. Her books and teachings of spiritual faith were very important then just as they are now. Also, she helped the church stand during the
    Reformation. Saint Teresa of Avila is inspiring to me because through all her struggles to refrain from sin and live a prayerful life in her early life, she eventually was able to overcome her problems and live according to Christ. With the grace of God, she was able to outgrow a sinful life and do so many great things for the Church.

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