O glorious and most compassionate St. Teresa, who when on earth received from your Divine Spouse that wonderful promise that He would grant you whatever you ask, we beseech you, now that you are with Jesus in Paradise, to intercede for us, and obtain for us the special favors which we so earnestly desire, if it be for the glory of God and the good of our souls. Amen
The monastery of the Incarnation in Avila, Spain, was originally founded by a wealthy widow. When Teresa entered in 1535, there were some 40 nuns; five years later there were 120 who followed the established pattern of that time, where wealthy widows devoted their money and their estates to founding monastic institutions wherein they ruled as abbesses, maintaining control. Prestige and influence were social standards in the 16th century. Worldly values prevailed and Teresa was caught up in them.
Teresa had been a nun of the Incarnation monastery for 27 years and for 18 of those years she prayed with minimal effort. "I was more anxious for the hour of prayer to be over than I was to remain there. I don't know what heavy penance I would not have gladly undertaken rather than practice prayer." Distractions plagued her: “This intellect is so wild that it doesn't seem to be anything else than a frantic madman no one can tie down."
As she began to pray seriously again, God intervened. Teresa was given the grace to know that “mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else
than an intimate sharing between friends; it means frequently taking time to be alone with Him who we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything." It was during this time that Teresa began to have mystical experiences.
When she was about 43, Teresa began the reform of the Carmelite Order as she sought to return to the basics of a contemplative order. She wanted a simple life devoted to prayer. Her first monastery, in a string of 16 monasteries across Spain, was St. Joseph’s in Avila.
Teresa was very human in her approach to the spiritual life. She wanted an attitude of love, not strict rules. She believed in work, not in begging for alms or relying on dowries. Her three main virtues were love of neighbor, detachment, and humility. She writes of them extensively in her books The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle.
She believed that obedience to God’s will, not our own, required “determined determination” throughout one’s spiritual journey. Personal transformation, brought about by living the virtues, was Teresa’s way to true holiness.
The Church celebrates her Feast Day on October 15.