Teresa was born Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada near Avila, Spain. Teresa was the third of nine children. Her childhood was happy and ordinary.
When Teresa was thirteen, her mother died. Her father decided that Teresa would be sent to be educated at the Augustinian convent. Almost two years into her education at Agustinian Teresa became ill and returned to her home in Toledo.
At that time, there were only two life-choices for women: marriage or religious life. Teresa chose religious life, but her father refused to give permission to become a nun. When she secretly left home to join the local Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation, her father finally gave his permission.
This Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation community was a large one with 140 nuns. The nuns prayed together and privately each day, but the community was very busy. Each nun had a set of rooms (a bedroom, a small kitchen, and a guest room). Their guests could come and go freely, and nuns could leave the convent at any time for long visits to friends or relatives. The nuns were also allowed to have personal maids!
Teresa made her solemn profession as a Carmelite nun, and for the next twenty years she lived at the convent. But in the busy convent, she found meditation and prayer difficult.
Her attitude toward her own life and toward God changed in 1555, when she was praying before a statue of the wounded Christ. She began to meditate upon Christ's sufferings. At thirty-nine years of age, Teresa discovered the price Christ paid for love, and began to want to return that love as best she could.
She began to realize that the environment of the convent of the Incarnation kept her from a serious life of prayer. She began to dream of a small, poor, and fervent Carmelite monastery where the nuns could support one another in their common love of God. The Carmelite reform began.
With four companions who shared her views, Teresa founded the Carmel of San José (Saint Joseph), and the Order of Discalced Carmelites was on its way. The word discalced means "shoeless."
Teresa founded sixteen monasteries of women. To do this, she traveled long journeys by donkey through every kind of terrain and weather. She became known to the people of Spain as "the roving nun." Teresa had always enjoyed people, and many came to her or wrote to her for her advice. On feast days, she played the tambourine so that the nuns could sing and dance. Teresa wrote several books. Her teachings were based on her own lived experience, and were rooted in the Scriptures, especially the Gospels.
Celebrate St Teresa of Avila with Children
Celebrate the Feast Day of St Teresa of Avila with a printable resource for the primary students in your religious education classroom. In this Saint Teresa of AvilaPrimary Activity, children will reflect on Teresa's work to establish monasteries and then choose six people they can pray for.
François Gérard [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons By Creative Commons -Creative Commons, Public Domain,Link