She is the radiant Carmelite nun and prioress who was born at the beginning of the sixteenth century and died at the age of sixty-seven in the year 1582. Saint Teresa of Avila was one of twelve children. From reading the lives of the saints, when she was seven years old, she wanted to go and be martyred by the Moors. Her mother died when she was twelve. When she was eighteen she became a Carmelite. She has often been called “the greatest woman of Christendom.” She wrote three wonderful spiritual books: her Autobiography, telling of her visions and revelations; the Way of Perfection, for the direction of her nuns; and The Interior Castle, a study in mystical theology.
It was reading Saint Jerome that gave her her vocation. And after she became a Carmelite, it was reading Saint Augustine that drove her to the heights of perfection. She suffered dreadfully from physical sicknesses, and was constantly attacked by the devil. Our Lord once appeared to her, and asked her who she was. She replied, “I am Teresa of Jesus.” Our Lord then said to her, “I am Jesus of Teresa.” In the year 1558 her heart was pierced by the lance of an angel, which left her with a consuming love of God. Saint Teresa’s special patron in Heaven was Saint Joseph, the virginal spouse of Mary. Her spiritual friends and directors among the saints were: Saint Peter of Alcantara, a Franciscan, Saint Francis Borgia, a member of the Society of Jesus, Saint John of the Cross, a Carmelite, and Saint Louis Bertrand, a Dominican. She was also indebted for spiritual direction to a townsman of her own, Saint John of Avila, a very humble and worthy priest.
When Our Lord once appeared to Saint Teresa and told her to carry out a certain work, she asked Our Lord why He did not tell some learned theologian to do this. Our Lord replied to her: “Theologians will do nothing to enter into personal communication with Me. Repulsed by them, I must choose women to open to them My Heart and speak of My affairs.”
Saint Teresa’s motto was, “To suffer or to die.” She craved for martyrdom so that she could see God in the Beatific Vision. When she was dying, and Holy Viaticum was brought to her, she said, “O God, it is about time that we see each other.” The day she died, by dramatic arrangement, Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar to make allowance for the proper insertion of leap-year day. Ten days were dropped out of the calendar to commemorate one thing in one way, but to commemorate the going to God of the great Teresa of Avila in another, and though she died on October 4, her feast is on October 15. The day Saint Teresa died, she was welcomed into Heaven by the ten thousand martyrs of Mount Ararat, who were crucified there in 138 A.D., and to whom she had a great devotion all her life. These martyrs came to welcome her and escort her to the Beatific Vision. In 1970 Pope Paul VI declared her the first woman Doctor of the Church.