Theresa, or Teresa, St
Theresa, or Teresa, St.
was born at Avila, in Castile, Spain, March 28, 1515. Her full name was Theresa Sanchez de Cepeda. From early childhood she was accustomed, with a favorite brother, to read the lives of the saints and martyrs until they both became possessed of a passionate desire to obtain the crown of martyrdom. When they were children eight or nine years old, they set off on a begging expedition into the country of the Moors, in hopes of being taken by the infidels and sacrificed for their faith. Disappointed in this, they resolved to turn hermits; but in this they were also prevented. Theresa lost her mother at the age of twelve, and in a few years became so worldly that her father placed her, at the age of sixteen, in a convent. Here her mind again took a religious turn, and when twenty years of age she obtained her father's consent to take the vow, and entered the convent of the Carmelites at Avila. For nearly twenty years, however, she says, she lived without feeling that repose for which she had hoped when she sacrificed the world. But at length while reading the Confessions of St. Augustine, she was led to pray with greater confidence, and her enthusiastic and restless spirit found peace. She remained in the convent in her native town till 1561, when she conceived the idea of reforming the Order of the Carmelites, into which several disorders had crept. In 1562 she laid the foundation of the new monastery at Avila, which she dedicated to St. Joseph, whom she had chosen as her patron saint. The branch of her order which she founded were the "Barefooted Carmelites," and also, after her, the THERESIANS SEE THERESIANS (q.v.). It was the principle of Theresa that the convents of the Carmelites, under her new rule, should either have no worldly possessions whatever, and literally exist upon the charity of others, or that they should be so endowed as not to require any external aid. This was a principle from which her spiritual directors obliged her to depart; and yet such was her success that at the time of her death she had founded seventeen convents for women and fifteen for men. During the latter part of her life Theresa found ample occupation ill traveling from one convent to another to promulgate her new regulations for the government of her order. In 1582 she was seized with her last illness in the palace of the duchess of Alva, but was, by her urgent request, carried back to her convent of San Jose, where she died a few days afterwards. She was beatified by pope Paul V, April 24,1614, and canonized by Gregory XV, March 22, 1622, her feast being fixed on October 15. Philip III declared her the second patron saint of the Spanish monarchy after Santiago, a decree solemnly confirmed by the Spanish Cortes in 1812. Her shrine is at Avila, in the -church of her convent. The ascetic treatises and letters of Theresa, in which she describes the internal struggles and aspirations of her heart, are among the most remarkable documents of the mystic literature of the Roman Catholic Church. Five of them are extant: Discurso ó Relacion de su Vida (1562): —El Camino de la Perfeccion, prepared in 1563 as a guide for the nulls of the reformed order El Libro de las Fundaciones, an account of convents founded by her: —El Castillo Interior, ó las Moradas (1577): —Santos Conceptos del Amor de Dios. The original MSS. of the first four works are preserved in the library of the Escurial, that of the last was burned by order of her confessor; but a copy had previously been taken by one of her nuns. The first complete edition of St. Theresa's Works appeared at Salamanca (1587), and a recent one by Ochoa at Paris (1847): —Letters (Saragossa, 1658). The abbé Migne edited a complete collection of her works in French (Paris, 1840-46, 4 vols.); and pere Marcel Bouix published a French translation from the original MSS. (Le Mans, 1852- 56,3 vols. 8vo). For Lives of Theresa consult those of Ribera (Salamanca, 1590), pere Bouix (Paris,'1865), Bollandist Vandermoere (Brussels, 1845), and Maria French (Lond. 1875). See Mrs. Jameson, Legends of the Monastic Orders, p. 415 sq.