Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, known universally as Saint Teresa of Ávila or Saint Teresa of Jesus, was born in Ávila on March 28, 1515 and became the first woman “Doctor of the Church”, not without difficulties.
From an early age he has a predilection for chivalric reading, the life of the holy martyrs and the conquest of eternal glory. So much so that, at the age of six, she secretly set off with her brother Rodrigo “to the land of the Moors” with the hope of dying for the faith. Frustrated departure because her uncle discovered and returned them home.
Despite this, Saint Teresa was “the enemy of being a nun” as she herself expressed, although as she grew older, her religious vocation became greater, until at the age of 20 she entered the Convent of the Carmelitas Calzadas de La Encarnación (despite her father’s opposition).
The conventual life that Saint Teresa would know, with a very open regime, urged her to want to live her religious dedication with greater rigor and perfection, leading her to promote the reform of Carmel. The first foundation of the new Order took place in 1562, the Convent of San José de Ávila, eventually founding 17 Convents in life. Currently there are about 750 Carmelite convents in more than 80 countries.
The connection of Saint Teresa of Jesus with the province of Jaén comes precisely because of her work to reform the Order of Carmel, where the Convent of the Discalced Carmelites of San José del Salvador in Beas de Segura became her tenth foundation and first in Andalusia .
“In the time that I have said, they sent me to go to Salamanca from the Incarnation, while a messenger came from the town of Beas with letters for me from a lady of that place and from its beneficiary and other people, asking me to go and found a monastery, because they already had a place for it, so they only needed me to go and found it ”. (…)
Book of Foundations, ch. 22.
Saint Teresa of Jesus would be in Beas for just 92 days, from February 16, 1575, when she arrived in the town, until May 18, when she set on the way to Seville, leaving Ana of Jesus as prioress, who eventually became the fundamental bastion of the reform of Carmel. Only three months of stay in Beas during which she was consolidating the structure of the new foundation, captivated and made a great impression on Saint Teresa of Jesus, as evidenced by the fact of the constant references to the town or the Jaén foundation in four of the chapters of the Book of Foundations and in nearly thirty letters of his Epistolary.
The Saint arrived in Beas to found the new Discalced Carmelo Convent promoted by Doña Catalina Godínez and Doña María de Sandoval, daughters of an important nobleman of the town, who, after death, left their properties to establish the new Monastery in their dependencies , later reaching the habit with the names of Catalina of Jesus and María of Jesus.
It is noteworthy that Saint Teresa arrived in Beas unaware that the town belonged to the Carmelite Province of Andalusia, and since the General of the Order had ordered her to found outside of Castile, she feared that she may not be able to found in Beas. Later she learned that, although civilly it belonged to Castile, ecclesiastically it depended on Andalusia, so everything was correct.
Saint Teresa of Jesus died in the Monastery of Alba de Tormes, on October 4, 1582, at the age of sixty-seven.
Literary production of Saint Teresa of Jesus
In the first place, we must highlight the fact that Saint Teresa embarked on the adventure of being a “writer” at a time when women barely had access to culture, which speaks of her strong will and personality. Undoubtedly, a woman ahead of her time, a fact that is exemplified in that, already in the twentieth century, Pope Pius XI himself refuses to declare Saint Teresa of Jesus a Doctor of the Church because of her condition as a woman: obstat sexus ( sex prevents it).
Literarily speaking, Saint Teresa is considered one of the three mystical writers with the highest quality, along with Fray Luis of León and Saint John of the Cross, in Spanish literature of the golden age.
An indefatigable reader from her childhood and adolescence of books of chivalry and the lives of martyrs, after beginning in the religious occupation she dived into great spiritual books, such as the Third Spiritual Alphabet of Fray Francisco de Osuna, which exerted a great influence on the Saint.
Elegant and unadorned in writing, with a colloquial and communicative tone, almost writing as she spoke, Saint Teresa of Jesus opened her life and experience to the reader, with the intention of guiding him on his spiritual path. She wrote with the intention of “engulfing souls so high” with a didactic purpose and as transparent as possible.
As a result of her literary expertise and her religious experience, Saint Teresa left us an important literary legacy that reaches 30 poems, where her mystical experience becomes a poem; her Epistolary, with about 400 letters where she brings us closer to her daily problems; she wrote works of great significance such as The Book of Life, the first she wrote and the most spontaneous and fresh, a true reflection of her personality and her human and supernatural experience; the Book of Foundations, where she recounts the events during the founding of her convents in life; Pathway to Perfection, a spirituality guide formally addressed to the nuns of the monastery of San José de Ávila; Inner Castle or de las Moradas, her most beloved and elaborate book that corresponds to a new treatise on prayer in 7 dwellings (compared to the four stages that she comments in the Book of Life); Accounts of Conscience, brief notes of a spiritual nature; The Constitutions, legislation for the ideal of the new Carmelite way of life; Meditations on the Songs, her first biblical commentary; or Exclamations of the Soul to God, where Saint Teresa openly dialogues with God.
Web Portal “Saint Teresa´s footsteps in Jaén”
Web Portal “Footsteps ofSaint Teresa”
Web Portal Monasteryof Saint Teresa of Jesus (Jaén)