St. Teresa of Avila
St. Teresa of AvilaSt. Teresa of Avila

Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul. –St. Teresa

Born to a noble family on March 28, 1515, Teresa was on of nine children born to Alonzo Sanchez de Cepeda. When she was twelve years old, her mother died. An oft told story about her is that at the age of seven, desiring martyrdom, she ran off to find the Moors, who, she hoped, would cut off her head, thereby granting her wish. Later, she imitated the anchorites by building hermitages in her family’s garden.

“Great sins” awaited her: reading novels, flirting and frivolous chatter–the common practices of the young.

Not common, however, for Teresa. By age sixteen, she boarded at an Augustinian convent and remained there for eighteen months. Later, after a conversation with an uncle, she embraced her vocation to be a nun.

In 1534, Teresa took her vows at the Carmelite convent in Avila. She was allowed to receive guests there, and for twenty years, she tried to enjoy both the delights of prayer and the pleasures of secular conversation. But something was amiss: the gift of her whole self to God had not yet been realized. When it was given, her life consisted in prayer, apparitions of Christ, sufferings, and ecstasies.

27 September 1970
She has since become one of the patron saints of Spain. However, not until 27 September 1970 did Pope Paul VI proclaim Teresa the first female Doctor of the Church in recognition of her centuries-long spiritual legacy to Catholicism.

The artifact is a rare reliquary containing two relics  of St. Teresa of Avila  including the shroud in which she was buried and her signature.

It measures 44 X 37 mm in a frame.

The reliquary almost certainly dates from the era of her canonization in 1622.

This is a valuable addition to the Papal Artifacts’ Collection.  

In 1562, Teresa set out to reform the Carmelite order. This resulted in innumerable persecutions and sufferings. She established convents in Avila, Toledo and many other sites in Spain. Teresa and three ducats and God are sufficient to make a success of everything, she said, while attempting with meager means to open a convent in Toledo while having next to nothing.

Teresa was aided by St. John of the Cross and Father Jerome Gratian who helped her reform all branches of the Carmelite order.

St. Teresa is one of the most universally admired of women. Her intelligence and charm, her chivalrous spirit, her talent as a writer, and her experience with mystical connections to God have won her a privileged place in the hearts of many.

She died in ecstasy at the convent of Alba, her head supported by Mother Anne of St. Bartholomew, her eyes fixed on the crucifix, on the night of October 4-5, 1582.

In 1970, Teresa of Avila was made a Doctor of the Church, along with St. Catherine of Siena.

Yet it is as a mystic that she is best remembered.

Papal Artifacts  has an item connected to Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew, the secretary to St. Teresa; it is featured here on the Saints & Blesseds pages.

St. Teresa of Avila and Blessed Anne, pray for us!

Ávila, Spain is celebrating 50 years since its patron saint was named a Doctor of the Church. 

It’s doing so with this in-person and on line conference.

To conclude it, Pope Francis has sent this nearly 13-minute long video message. 

He urged the faithful to imitate the example of St. Teresa, who lived in a rapidly changing world much like today.

“There is a strong temptation to give in to disillusionment, to resignation, to the dismal and unfounded feeling that everything will go wrong. It’s a fruitless pessimism. The pessimism of people incapable of giving life.”

“Instead, prayer opens us up. It allows us to see God’s greatness, that He is on the other side of the horizon, that God is good, that He loves us, and that history has not slipped through his fingers.”

Pope Francis recalled that the “audacity, creativity, and St. Teresa’s excellence as a reformer” were the fruit of her friendship with the Lord. 

Last December, the bishop of Ávila, along with a delegation from the city, traveled to Rome. They invited the Pope to visit Spain in 2022 for the 400th anniversary of St. Teresa’s canonization. 

Pope Francis did not give them an answer, but from his message it is clear that he admires this historic saint.

Avila, Spain: Walled City