Santa Teresa is a classic religious history biography by Alexander Whyte.
Santa Teresa was greatly blessed in both her parents. 'It helped me much that I never saw my father or my mother respect anything in any one but goodness.' Her father was a great reader of the best books, and he took great pains that his children should form the same happy habit and should carefully cultivate the same excellent taste.
Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada (28 March 1515 - 4 October 1582), was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun and author during the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer. She was a reformer in the Carmelite Order of her time and the movement she initiated, later joined by Saint John of the Cross, eventually led to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites, though neither she nor John were alive when the two orders separated.
In 1622, forty years after her death, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV, and on 27 September 1970 was 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 (trans.: The Interior Castle), are an integral part of Spanish Renaissance literature as well as Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practices. She also wrote Camino de Perfección (trans.: The Way of Perfection).
After her death, Saint Teresa was considered a candidate to become a national patron saint in Spain. A Santero image of the Immaculate Conception of El Viejo, said to have been sent with one of her brothers to Peru, Canonically crowned by Pope John Paul II on 28 December 1989 at the Shrine of El Viejo. Pious Catholic beliefs also associate Saint Teresa with the Infant Jesus of Prague with claims of former ownership and devotion.
Teresa of Avila was born in 1515 in Ávila, Spain. Her paternal grandfather, Juan Sánchez de Toledo, was a marrano (Jewish convert to Christianity) and was condemned by the Spanish Inquisition for allegedly returning to the Jewish faith. Her father, Alonso Sánchez de Cepeda, a successful wool merchant and one of the wealthiest men in Avila, bought a knighthood and successfully assimilated into Christian society. Teresa's mother, Beatriz de Ahumada y Cuevas, 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 town, having spotted the two outside the town walls.
When Teresa was 11 her mother died, leaving Teresa grief-stricken. This prompted her to embrace a deeper devotion to the Virgin Mary as her spiritual mother. Teresa was also enamored of popular fiction, which at the time was primarily medieval tales of knighthood, and works about caring for one's appearance. Teresa was sent for her education to the Augustinian nuns at Ávila.
In the monastery ("cloister" is an area where only monastics have access), 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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