St. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) was a Spanish Carmelite Catholic mystic whose frank autobiography was criticized by the American psychologist and philosopher William James. However, this work along with The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection are widely regarded as literary and spiritual classics.
St. Teresa was a profound mystic and convent organizer. She spoke of degrees of purity, detachment from the world (to include one’s relatives) and various graces encountered by those seeking spiritual perfection and God.
For St. Teresa, God’s love was experienced as a kind of spiritual water for which she was ever thirsty.
In keeping with the general motif of the Dark Night of the Soul, in her autobiography she spoke of terrible “dry” periods where grace was lacking. During these moments she neither enjoyed this world nor a heavenly one, “as if crucified between heaven and earth, suffering and receiving no help from either.”
St. Teresa apparently levitated. This made her uncomfortable because she didn’t want to draw attention to herself.
Perhaps her most enduring saying is “God alone suffices.”
In 1622, forty years after her death, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV, and on 27 September 1970 was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI.¹
While St. Teresa’s autobiography is inspiring for contemporary readers, it doesn’t really address some of the problems that modern (and postmodern) mystics must face.
If I remember right, there’s no mention of systemic corruption in the Church. And there’s certainly no commentary on how we are to survive amidst ever growing technologies and their potential misuse by creaminals, creeps and scallywags. So although extremely worthwhile in my younger days, I had to take heed but respectfully move past hers and several other Christian classics to pave my own road to salvation.