During her lifetime St. Teresa of Avila (1515–1582) captivated just about everyone she met by her wit, sanity, courage, intelligence, simplicity, humility, and charm. Today she continues to delight people by her wonderful combination of holy madness and huge common sense. In these pages, William Thomas Walsh has written a masterful biography of this remarkable woman, a mystic and foundress, the reformer of Carmel, a doctor of the science of divine love—and, as proclaimed in 1970, a Doctor of the Universal Church. Using her own writings and other original sources, this 600-page biography successfully describes her incredible spiritual drama, the prodigious activities of her life, and the historical setting in which she lived.
Walsh recounts St. Teresa's years of resisting complete self-surrender to God before finally entering with undivided will on the way of perfection; her terrible anguish over the Lutheran heretics falling into Hell and the grievous penance and sacrifices she undertook for their conversion; her many adventures in opening up house after house of cloistered contemplative nuns as places where God—"His Majesty"—could be served; her great love for poverty and asceticism; her dealings St. Peter of Alcantara, St. John of the Cross, King Philip II, and many other notable people of the day; the false and diabolical mysticisms current at the time, which brought down suspicion upon her own visions and revelations; her terrible uncertainties regarding her own mystical experiences; and the trials she underwent in finding confessors to understand and guide her soul. Walsh's account also describes her famous writings on prayer and on the spiritual life—which are of such surpassing clarity and energy that Pope St. Pius X wrote of her: "What the Fathers of the Church taught without system and confusedly, this virgin Teresa has reduced with such mastery and elegance into a body of doctrine."
In this book, Walsh's chief sources have been St. Teresa's Life, her Way of Perfection (both also available from TAN), her letters, her treatises, depositions of witnesses for her beatification and canonization, and the work of her contemporary biographers, especially Ribera and Yepes. Likely no hagiographer has ever had such command of the historical background of a saint. Altogether, Walsh has presented here a masterpiece and what is undoubtedly the finest life of St. Teresa of Avila ever written in English—a picture of one of the greatest saints of the Church and one of the most appealing women of all time.
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