Saint Teresa of Ávila
, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, (March 28, 1515, at Gotarrendura (Ávila), Old Castile, Spain – October 4, 1582, at Alba de Tormes, Salamanca, Spain) was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, and writer of the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer. She was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered to be, along with John of the Cross, a founder of the Discalced Carmelites.
Forty years after her death, she was canonized, in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV, and in 1970 named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. Forty years after her death, she was canonized, in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV. The Cortes exalted her to patroness of Spain in 1617, and the University of Salamanca previously conferred the title Doctor ecclesiae with a diploma. The title is Latin for Doctor of the Church, but is distinct from the papal honor of Doctor of the Church, which is always conferred posthumously and was finally bestowed upon her by Pope Paul VI in 1970 along with Saint Catherine of Siena making them the first women to be awarded the distinction. Teresa is revered as the Doctor of Prayer. The mysticism in her works exerted a formative influence upon many theologians of the following centuries, such as Francis of Sales, Fénelon, and the Port-Royalists.
Her books, which include her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus, and her seminal work, El Castillo Interior (The Interior Castle), are integral part of the Spanish Renaissance literature as well as Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practices as she entails in her other important work Camino de Perfección (The Way of Perfection) .
El Camino de Perfección (trans.: The Way of Perfection
) is a method for making progress in the contemplative life written by St. Teresa of Ávila for the sisters of her reformed convent of the Carmelite Order (Discalced). St. Teresa was a major figure of the Catholic Reformation in 16th Century Spain, and eventually was named the Doctor of the Church, while her work became classic text in Christian spirituality, mysticism, especially in the realm of prayer in Christianity, and Spanish Renaissance literature.
St. Teresa called this a "living book" and in it set out to teach her nuns how to progress through prayer and Christian meditation. The first 18 of the 42 chapters discuss the rationale of being a Carmelite, the rest deal with purpose and approaches to spiritual life.
The title was inspired by The Imitation of Christ (1418), and had become a favourite expression of Teresa much before she wrote this work as it appeared at several places in her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus. Like her other books, The Way of Perfection too was written on the advise of her counsellors to describe her experiences in prayer, during the period when the Reformation was spreading through Europe. Herein she describes, ways of attaining spiritual perfection through prayer and its four stages, as in meditation, quiet, repose of soul and finally perfect union with God, which she equates with rapture.
Eventually the book meant as spiritual instruction for her nuns, offered her views on Christian theology and spiritual direction in more direct and accessible than her more famous works, like The Interior Castle and The Life of Teresa of Jesus, her autobiography.
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