Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582)

Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582)

Patron of writers and those suffering from headaches

Feast day: October 15

Saint Teresa of Ávila was a mystic, a teacher of the art of prayer, a Spirit-filled leader of the Carmelite Order, a woman of great courage, and an individual who lived life to the full. Born in Spain, she was one of the 10 children of her father’s second wife. A beautiful, extroverted teenager, she lost interest in faith, instead falling in love with boys and books of chivalry. When she was 15, her mother died. Teresa was placed in the care of Augustinian nuns, where her love of God was rekindled.

At 20 she entered a Carmelite monastery. There she suffered repeated serious illnesses and struggled with prayer and a desire to be appreciated by others. In her 40s, she experienced transforming mystical visions of Christ and began her work as a reformer, establishing a new convent against much opposition.

She is recognized as a Doctor of the Church (someone whose writings have had a major impact on the Church) for the spiritual path she outlined in her writings, a path many have followed to holiness. Teresa spoke of prayer as an intimate sharing between friends, taking time frequently to be alone with God.

In her book The Interior Castle, she describes the union of our soul with God: “It is as if a tiny streamlet enters the sea, from which it will find no way of separating itself, or as if in a room there were two large windows through which the light streamed in: it enters in different places but it all becomes one.” (From The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth, Third Edition [Saint Mary’s Press])

(Image ©Vicki Shuck/Saint Mary's Press)