My BFF is a 16th century nun, Teresa of Avila

Blog Published: October 12, 2009
By Sister Julie

The feast of Saint Teresa of Avila is just around the corner on October 15. I am delighted because Teresa is such an important person in my life. I never had any idea that someone who lived in the 16th century could become a close companion in my own life today. It underscores the power and presence of the Communion of Saints.

In honor of Saint Teresa, I am devoting this week’s posts to her. What follows is a piece I wrote last year for VISION, the Catholic Religious Discernment Guide sponsored by the National Religious Vocation Conference and published by TrueQuest Communications.


As a 21st century nun ministering in the digital world, I try to stay on top of the latest technology so that I can best serve the people who visit my website, But when it comes to living religious life, I’m old-school. One of my greatest mentors is Teresa of Avila, a 16th century Carmelite nun from a small town in Spain. Teresa is best known for her writings on prayer and reforming the Carmelite order. She is venerated today as a great saint and Doctor of the Church.

Personal Connection to Teresa

My first encounter with Teresa was in grade school, when I needed to take a saint’s name for Confirmation. Teresa seemed as good a saint as any. I chose her name and then pretty much forgot about her.

But Teresa did not forget about me. Over the years Teresa remained with me, waiting, it seemed, for me to come by her convent cell and chat awhile.

That day came one Fall morning in a graduate theology class in which I was introduced to Teresa’s writing. I took an immediate liking to Teresa. She wrote of ordinary, everyday stuff and of profound theological truths. I discovered that Teresa was a wise woman from whom I could learn much about the spiritual life. At that time, I had no idea how important Teresa would be for me in the months and years ahead, when my world would be turned upside down by the possibility that maybe, just maybe, God was calling me.

I first read Teresa’s classics, Interior Castle and Way of Perfection, because I needed to write a paper for a class. But soon I began to realize that Teresa’s words were there not just for me to study. I felt a personal connection. Through her writing Teresa was alive to me. She gave me insights not only into our shared Catholic faith but into my own self and how I was living the Gospel.

Later in my studies, when I began considering religious life, I returned to Teresa. I wanted not to study her writings, but to see what she was like as a nun. I wondered if Teresa had any of the same questions as I now had. Did she know for certain that God was calling her to religious life? Did she resist or doubt or panic at the thought? Hoping to get a glimpse into how Teresa realized her call from God, I turned to her more autobiographical work, The Book of My Life.

To be continued tomorrow … Teresa of Avila’s desire to give her life to God

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How is Teresa of Avila present in your own life? What would you like to know about Teresa?

Archived Comments

Sr. Liza October 12, 2009 at 9:35 am

Teresa of Avila is a very special friend of mine as well. When I lived in Costa Rica, I was able to read her writings in the “old original Spanish” of her day. Challenging, but beautiful. My first contact with her was when channel 13 aired a recent movie that had been done about her life in the 1980s. I would watch it every Wednesday, 7pm. It was such an excellent movie…I just could not wait for the next episode.

It was later as in high school that I was able to come across her writings. At such a young age, I was not able to understand her depth, but I still liked reading her stuff.

Life went on…I became my mother’s care giver. My mother actually passed away on her feast day. I felt as if St. Teresa was right there with me, consoling me…helping me with my every step through the pain of my loss. I truly felt Teresa’s strength surround me.

Today…I have to say that she continues to be very close to me as a religious. I can also say I am the proud owner of the famous movie I saw of her as a teen. It is the best movie ever. It is in Spanish, but with English subtitles. It is a VERY long movie, but worth every moment. It is called “St. Teresa of Avila”. It was put out by Ingatius Press. Filmed in Spain, Spanish actors, and they also used the old Spanish. Incredible acting!!!

Sr. Teresa October 12, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Congratulations for your NCNWR presentation! You made us all want to become blogging nuns… but we may not be as techie or committed as you are. We are praying for you and your ministry!

Teresa comes from the wonderful XVI Century… with the rest of the Counter-Reformation saints… like Ignatius of Loyola! They helped bring the Church into a different time period of Church life altogether!

Sister Julie October 12, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Glad the presentation was helpful. It was a delight to be with you all.

Lisa Burke October 12, 2009 at 5:44 pm

She’s been a companion for me, too, at times more obviously, at other times more subtly. In any case, I think that we can also hail her as Teresa of the Ecclesial Renewal (Renaissance), not forgetting the important presence of John of the Cross in her life, too.

Marie October 13, 2009 at 5:49 pm

I think that St Teresa can serve as a model for how we desire to fulfil our reason for being in today’s world. In our daily newspaper The Oregonian, today the lead editorial was on the seriousness of climate change. We have to change our way of living with and relating to our fellow inhabitants living and non-living on planet Earth. This has been my passion as well as many others’ passion for many years. One way I began the change was to start reading from many sources. If we read about Pope Pius XII and his 1943 encycylical, he was one who opened the door to biblical-historical scientific scholarship. That opened the door to joint research and writing which compels us to rethink some basic Christian assumptions. That is a starting point for rethinking Christianity. Funk and his associates book The Acts of Jesus is a good starting point for those who are interested in taking this journey.

Sister Julie October 13, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Hi Marie, Thank you for writing. It’s so interesting to realize that a saint from the 16th century, a pope from the early 20th century, and myriads of “oldies but goodies” can give us insight on today’s issues. Climate change is definitely a big issue and you’re right, the usual way of thinking about things has to shift. Back in theology school, I did some reading from Funk and the Jesus seminar folks. It does give us a different way to look at things. Haven’t read much recently but you’ve rekindled my curiosity!

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