Teresa of Jesus : Her Life
Teresa was born on March 28, 1515, in Avila, at the dawn of the Spanish Golden Age. It was a century of great American conquests and of development of faith and culture. Her parents were Don Alonso de Cepeda and Doña Beatriz de Ahumada. She was baptized on April 4th with the name: Teresa de Ahumada. Through her veins ran “Jewish blood,” and that fact deeply and positively affected Teresa’s life.
The desire for what “does not pass away” fascinated her since early childhood. At the age of seven, she and her brother Rodrigo ran away from home, seeking to “ go into the land of the Moors” in order to die as martyrs.
In 1528 her mother died in Gotarrendura. Finding herself unprotected, Teresa sought protection at the feet of the Holy Virgin, and she asked her to be her “mother”. When she was 21 years old, despite of parental opposition, Teresa entered the Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila. Her life in the monastery was given to prayer and meditation.
In her writings, Teresa describes her great struggle for attaining perfection. A life-changing event was an encounter with an image of Christ: “It happened that, entering the oratory one day, I observed an image that had been taken there to be kept. It represented Christ sorely wounded; and so conducive was it to devotion that when I looked at it I was deeply moved to see Him thus, so well did it picture what He suffered for us. So great was my distress when I thought of how ill I had repaid Him for those wounds, that I felt as if my heart were breaking. I threw myself down beside Him, shedding a flood of tears and begging Him to give me strength once and for all, so that I might not offend Him.” (Life, 9, 1) Thereafter Teresa felt that her life no longer belonged to her but to God, who was becoming ever more present within her.
Wounded by the internal division of the Church and with her eyes fixed on the evangelization of the new world, her response to these events was a complete gift of self to God: “I determined to do the little that was within me: Namely, to follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as I could, and to see that these few nuns who are here should do the same, confiding in the great goodness of God, who never fails to help those who resolve to forsake everything for His sake.”(Way of Perfection 1, 2)
In 1562 she founded the Convent of Saint Joseph of Ávila. Teresa later established another 17 monasteries.
Along with Saint John of the Cross, on November 28, 1568, she initiated the Foundation of the first Discalced Friars Carmelites in Duruelo.
Teresa has transmitted to each one of us, her daughters, her ideal of life, her way of perfection: A life of intimacy with God in order to serve the Church in a fraternal and joy-filled community. She knew how to live out her Passion for Christ and for the Church in a reality that is not very different from our own. The Spain of her time was a mosaic of different religious and cultural backgrounds, where the three great monotheistic religions co-existed .