St. Teresa of Ávila (28 March 1515 – 4 October 1582) was a prominent Spanish mystic, Carmelite nun, writer of the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer. She was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered to be a founder of the Discalced Carmelites along with John of the Cross.
Her books, which include her autobiography (The Life of Teresa of Jesus) and her seminal work El Castillo Interior (trans.: The Interior Castle) are an integral part of Spanish Renaissance literature as well as Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practices as she entails in her other important work, Camino de Perfección (trans.: The Way of Perfection).
Works by St. Teresa of Ávila:
The Interior Castle/The Mansions (pdf)
St. Teresa of Avila wrote Interior Castle as a spiritual guide to union with God. Her inspiration for the work came from a vision she received from God. In it, there was a crystal globe with seven mansions, with God in the innermost mansion. St. Teresa interpreted this vision as an allegory for the soul’s relationship with God; each mansion represents one place on a path towards the “spiritual marriage”–i.e. union–with God in the seventh mansion. One begins on this path through prayer and meditation. She also describes the resistance that the Devil places in various rooms, to keep believers from union with God. Throughout, she provides encouragements and advice for spiritual development. Beyond its spiritual merit, Interior Castle also contains much literary merit as a piece of Spanish Renaissance literature. A spiritually challenging book, Interior Castle stands on par with other great works of this time, such as Dark Night of the Soul.
Way of Perfection (pdf)
Although she designed her book for her fellow sisters of the Carmelite Order, St. Teresa’s Way of Perfection remains accessible to modern readers. In it, she sets out to lead others along the way to union with God through prayer, silence, and meditation. A few of the book’s 42 chapters could be called a collection of rules, but the majority of the book more rightly fits the description of advice. As she suggests ways for readers to seek self-perfection, her words are practical, heartfelt, and drawn from personal experience. Not only this, but because of the book’s less formal and less poetically obscure nature, it offers up a more direct articulation of St. Teresa’s theological views than do her autobiography or her most famous work, The Interior Castle.
The books The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection, taken collectively, are practical blueprints for “seekers” who want to really understand prayer as mystical union with God.