On October 15th the Church celebrates the holiness of St. Teresa of Avila, a doctor of the Church and a master of the Christian spiritual life.
Teresa was born in the year 1515 and her life spanned the great tumult and upheaval of the historical epoch known as the Reformation: the tenuous unity of a fractious Europe, called Christendom, had been divided by the Protestant movement and suspicion of heresy kept the Church on the defensive. Spain was rising as a world power and its monarchy would not permit religious rancor and debate to curtail their ambitions for a global empire.
And yet, the Church was in need of reform. The faithful were under-catechized and beleaguered by theological debates. Some of the great monasteries and religious houses seemed far too worldly in their concerns.
Teresa had accepted a vocation as a vowed religious and lived this vocation as a member of the Carmelite Order. These communities of men and women accepted the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, but also sought to live them in great austerity and simplicity of life. Through the extremity of their asceticism, the Carmelites would become living images of Christ who emptied himself of Divine Glory and accepted a human nature with all its limitations and sufferings. This was the Carmelite ideal.
Teresa discerned that the Carmelite ideal of austerity and simplicity was being subverted by many men and women in her community. She burned with a passion to live the Carmelite way as she believed it had been intended at its beginning...