Author of The Interior Castle, reformer of the Carmelite order, and pioneer of Christian mysticism, St. Teresa of Ávila is one of the most influential and inspiring saints in the realm of Christian spirituality.
Our team at Hallow also claims Teresa as our patron saint – she is an inspiration to us to help others get closer to God! We celebrate St. Teresa of Ávila’s feast day on October 15.
Born in 1515 at the brink of the Reformation in Ávila, Spain, Teresa has greatly influenced our contemporary understanding of contemplative prayer, what it means to have a personal relationship with God, and how we can engage in spiritual practices of monastic life when we might work and live in the secular world.
Read more about who St. Teresa of Ávila was, how she became one of the four female doctors of the Church, and learn about her influence on our understanding of intimate prayer in the modern world. We also included some of Teresa’s most popular prayers and quotes.
Table of Contents
- Who was St. Teresa of Ávila?
- What does St. Teresa of Ávila teach us about prayer?
- St. Teresa of Ávila prayers
- St. Teresa of Ávila quotes
- Related prayers and saints
Who was St. Teresa of Ávila?
A Carmelite nun and reformer
St. Teresa of Ávila, whose original name was Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, was born on March 28, 1515, just two years before the start of the Protestant Reformation began, in Ávila, Spain. At 20, Teresa entered the cloistered Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation in her hometown of Ávila against her father’s wishes. Teresa’s health began to decline only a couple of years into religious life. Over the next several years, Teresa suffered from physical and mental health struggles – her journey to God and sainthood certainly was not easy.
This journey ultimately led her to write one of the greatest spiritual guides known to us, The Interior Castle, in 1577, along with several other spiritual pieces. Teresa also became the key reformer of the Carmelite Order and founded a new branch of the Carmelites, known as the Discalced Carmelites; she aimed to renew the ancient Carmelite Order for the sake of both tradition and longevity. During her lifetime, she founded several convents and monasteries of this new Carmelite Reform, the first of which, St. Joseph’s, still stands in Ávila today.
Saint & Doctor of the Church
From her work in reforming the Carmelites to the many spiritual masterpieces she authored, Teresa was truly a pioneer in Church reform and contemplative theology, especially when considering the circumstances of her life.
Just a few decades after her death, Pope Gregory XV canonized Teresa of Ávila on March 12, 1622, alongside St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Frances Xavier, and St. Philip Neri – four truly inspirational saints in the realm of prayer, evangelization, and education! And canonizations in this period of Church history were exceptionally rare, as Fr. Roger Landry explains:
Even though the Council of Trent taught that the example and intercession of the saints was a great help to the faithful, it took 25 years after the close of the Council for anyone to be canonized. In fact, between 1492 and 1587, only three people had been canonized, one at a time. Pope Gregory changed that, canonizing at once four great saints of the Counter-Reformation, who were alive over the span of his own life, who not only symbolized what the Church is about but played major roles in helping her turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.Fr. Roger Landry
Centuries after her death in 1582, Pope Paul VI declared St. Teresa of Ávila a Doctor of the Church in 1970. Teresa was the first woman ever to be given this title! And just a week later, St. Catherine of Siena, another woman of prayer, authorship, and activism, was given the same title.
Today, there are only two other female doctors of the Church: St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Hildegard von Bingen. Many historians and theologians have written about these four inspiring women, and we encourage you to learn more about them!
Fun fact: 3 “Teresas”
Did you know St. Thérèse of Lisieux was named after St. Teresa of Ávila? And that Mother Teresa, formally known as St. Teresa of Calcutta, named herself after St. Thérèse of Lisieux when she became a nun?
What does St. Teresa of Ávila teach us about prayer?
Our souls are like castles in the Kingdom of God.
Teresa’s Interior Castle is filled with many insights about the power of contemplative prayer. While I highly recommend reading The Interior Castle in full at some point in your life, the overarching theme of the book leads you to see your soul as a castle created by God, reminiscent of His Kingdom. In prayer, you journey through the many room or “mansions” of your soul, ultimately discovering God at the center.
Prayer is really about becoming friends with God.
St. Teresa of Ávila famously wrote in her spiritual autobiography (The Book of Her Life),
When you think of your closest friends, these are often people you have spent a lot of time with at some point in your life; they are people you think about often, who you care deeply about and love to celebrate. Teresa encourages us to see God as our friend, too. To get closer to someone, to become their friend, you need to get to know them. With God, we do so in prayer, though this looks different for everyone!
More on Christian Mysticism
Many other saints and theologians have urged us to consider the power of intimate, contemplative communion with God. So many of them have been inspirational to our team at Hallow! These saints and writers are often called “mystics.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Christian mysticism, we recommend looking into St. John of the Cross, a friend of St. Teresa of Ávila, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Faustina, to whom Jesus revealed the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and Padre Pio. And these are just a few of the great Christian mystics – so many brilliant and creative authors, artists, musicians, and others have influenced this area of theology and spirituality.
St. Teresa of Ávila prayers
Teresa’s beautiful way of writing guides us to surrender ourselves to God. Turn to these two St. Teresa of Ávila prayers when you’re looking for God’s guidance in your life.
“Christ has no body but yours” prayer
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
“Lord, grant that I may always allow myself to be guided by You” prayer
Lord, grant that I may always allow myself to be guided by You,
Always follow Your plans,
And perfectly accomplish Your holy will.
Grant that in all things, great and small,
Today and all the days of my life,
I may do whatever You may require of me.
Help me to respond to the slightest prompting of Your grace,
So that I may be your trustworthy instrument, for Your honor.
May your will be done in time and eternity – by me, in me, and through me.
St. Teresa of Ávila quotes
For when you need some motivation for prayer or inspiration to give all of your worries to God:
“There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world.” – St. Teresa of Ávila
“We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can, namely, surrender our will and fulfill God’s will in us.” – St. Teresa of Ávila
On letting go and trusting God
“Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, all things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.” – St. Teresa of Ávila
“ .. It is presumptuous in me to wish to choose my path, because I cannot tell which path is best for me. I must leave it to the Lord, Who knows me, to lead me by the path which is best for me, so that in all things His will may be done.” – St. Teresa of Ávila
On the soul
“All things must come to the soul from its roots, from where it is planted.” – St. Teresa of Ávila
“I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions.” – St. Teresa of Ávila
Learn more about the spirituality and teachings of St. Teresa of Ávila from Dr. Gwen Adams in her sessions “A Place to Meet God” and “Exploring Your Inner Country.” You’ll find these sessions in Meditate > Guests on the Hallow App.
We’d also love to invite you to join us in praying the St. Teresa Novena on Hallow. Teresa’s Feast Day, October 15, is a great date to begin this novena, though you can start it anytime that works for you!
Related prayers and saints
- St. Jude Novena
- St. Michael Chaplet
- Mary, Undoer of Knots Novena
- How to Pray the Rosary
- Prayers to the Holy Spirit