Teresa of Ávila was born on 15 March 1515 in Ávila, Castile. She was the third child in a family of twelve. From her early childhood, Teresa showed a fertile imagination, projecting for her future the life of a martyr or a hermit. As a teenager, she developed a passion for chivalry novels and began to spend her time in the company of young admirers. Her father put an end to this by sending Teresa to the convent of Santa María de Gracia in Ávila in 1531.
Seriously ill, the young woman had to return to her father. After her convalescence, she managed to tell her father that she wished to take holy orders. Her father replied that he would never accept her while he was still alive. Teresa ran away from home in November 1533 to the Convent of the Incarnation in Ávila. The nun, called Teresa of Jesus, spent twenty-seven years in this community. Very critical of the religious practices of the order, she wanted to reform it.
By founding the monastery of Saint Joseph, Teresa of Jesus implemented more austere monastic rules by strengthening the vows of poverty and silence. As a final act of self-denial, she demanded that the men and women religious abandon their shoes for leather or wooden sandals. From 1562 onwards, no less than seventeen monasteries were built to accommodate those who were henceforth known as "Discalced Carmelites". But Teresa of Avila was not only a woman of the field. Her literary work is also important. Among other things, the nun published two great autobiographical accounts: "The Book of Life" and "The Book of Foundations". Her spiritual doctrine is based on oraison, a silent prayer.
St Teresa of Avila travelled all over Spain in poor health, ensuring that her reform was carried out before she died in 1582. She was beatified in 1614, declared patron saint of Spain in 1617 and canonised in 1622.
● Maria Antonia Sondermann: Theresa von Avila begegnen, Sankt Ulrich Verlag, 2007, 192 p.