The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself

“As I have been commanded and left at liberty to describe at length my way of prayer, and the workings f the grace of our Lord within me, I could wish that I had been allowed at the same time to speak distinctly and in detail of my grievous sins and wicked life.”

Teresa was a Spanish mystic born in 1515 in Avila, Spain.  Early on, she showed a zealously pious nature but in her teens she began to be pulled in by worldly temptations and could not find peace, considering herself a miserable sinner.  When her father sent her to a convent school to be educated, she began her contemplative life.  Sickly throughout her life, Teresa used her discomfort as a means of shedding worldly cares and drawing closer to God.

This autobiography delves into Teresa’s prayer life (the four stages of prayer), union and trance, visions, temptations, the founding of the convent of St. Jospeh and the mercies of God.

I honestly have very little to say about this book.  Uncharacteristically I found my attention wandering numerous times while reading.  Was it because I dislike mystics?  Not at all.  Was it because the vocation of a nun is tedious.  No.  Was it Teresa’s writing?  Well …. perhaps …….  When reading a book, I usually look for an author to connect with the reader.  Some author’s are more successful than others in this area, but there has to be some connection to bring the writing to life.  In this case, Teresa’s prose remained lifeless on the page and while I could read about her experiences, it was very difficult for me to enter into them with her.  Because of her rather solitary life, she appeared no only to have little contact with outside cares and people, she also actively renounced both.  It was very challenging to understand someone who often stood in judgement of others.  I’ve never felt this attitude from other religious figures whom I’ve read about and I found it off-putting.  I also found Teresa seemed to write for herself rather than anyone else, so again, it was problematic establishing contact and therefore, any interest.

In spite of this rather lackluster read, I would still like to read her Interior Castle, which I’ve had on my list for awhile.  I can only hope that I’ll enjoy it more than this one.

translated by J. Cohen (I’ve heard that E. Alison Peers is a better translation)