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The Convent of St. Teresa is a testament to the Spanish's nun reform, asceticism

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 12th, 2011
Catholic Online (

The Convent of St. Teresa is one of two main destinations for Catholic pilgrims to Ávila in Spain. The 17th-century convent was built after the canonization of St. Teresa over the house where she was born. It contains her relics in a small museum.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A major figure in the Catholic Church, Saint Teresa was born into a noble family of Ávila on March 28, 1515. Teresa was fascinated by the lives of the saints as a young girl and often ran away several times to seek martyrdom at the hands of the Moors.

In 1534, at the age of 19, Teresa joined the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation in Ávila. It was here that Teresa began practice severe asceticism and legendary mystical contemplation.

Finding the Carmelite order to be "too worldly," she worked as a reformer of the order for much of her life. In 1562, she founded a new convent in Ávila called St. Joseph's, and moved there in 1563.

St. Teresa devoted herself entirely to spiritual contemplation and mysticism during her first five years at St. Joseph's. St. Teresa experienced many visions and mystical ecstasies, the most famous of which is the "transverberation of the heart," which she described in her Autobiography:

"The angel appeared to me to be thrusting the spear of fire into my heart and piercing my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and left me all on fire with a great love of God."

Teresa's writings during this period include her Autobiography and the "Camino de Perfección" or "Way of Perfection."

Teresa began making long journeys throughout Spain, reforming old convents and founding new ones. She founded 16 new convents during her 20 years of reform activity.

St. Teresa died from illness on one of her journeys from Burgos to Alba de Tormes on October 4, 1582.

St. Teresa has been highly revered within Catholicism ever since. In 1622, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV at the same time as Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier. In 1817, the Cortes declared St. Teresa the patron saint of Spain. In 1970, Pope Paul VI gave St. Teresa the honorific title "Doctor of the Church." She was the first woman in Catholic history to receive that title.

The Convent of St. Teresa remains an active convent and much of it remains closed to visitors, but pilgrims can visit the site of Teresa's birthplace, now an elaborate chapel within the Baroque church. The chapel is decorated with scenes of the saint demonstrating her powers of levitation.

The Sala de Reliquias contains the relics of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross. The exhibit of St. Teresa's relics includes a finger from her right hand, the sole of one of her sandals, her rosary beads and a cord she used to flagellate herself.

St. Teresa's incorrupt heart and arm are enshrined and displayed at the Carmelite convent in the nearby town of Alba de Tormes.

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