St. Teresa of Avila
(Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, 1515-1582)
Description: Readers interested in basic Christian mysticism need look no further than Saint Teresa of Avila. The Spanish Carmelite nun’s autobiography provides a perfect entrance point to the world of “mental prayer.” She begins her story with tales of her childhood in the early 1500s—her pious parents, the death of her mother, and how she became a nun. She tells of the hardships of her life—illness and a period of “lukewarmness” during which she ceased to pray. St. Teresa also relates the visions and instructions she received from God later in her life. The book also contains St. Teresa’s writings on the four states of mental prayer. In the first stage, believers learn to pray. In the second, the prayer of quiet, they experience the supernatural aspect of prayer. In the third, deep prayer, the soul is bathed in the pleasure of God’s presence; and in the fourth, sense are abandoned in a sort of out-of-body experiences where the soul feels only divine union. This book also contains a series of “relations,” letters she sent to colleagues giving further thoughts on her beliefs. St. Teresa’s warm and personal descriptions of union with God provide a wonderful starting point for engagement in her life and theology of mysticism.

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