Autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila (1515 – 1582)
Nearly four centuries have passed since St. Teresa began to write, and, both in herÂ own country and abroad, her fame is still widespread and still growing. Her purelyÂ human qualities and gifts, the saintliness of her life by which they were illuminedÂ and overshadowed, the naturalness and candour of her manner and style — theseÂ are some of the reasons why her name is not only graven upon the enduring marbleÂ of history but taken on the lips of generation after generation with reverence andÂ love.
She is a mystic — and more than a mystic. Her works, it is true, are well known inÂ the cloister and have served as nourishment to many who are far advanced on theÂ Way of Perfection, and who, without her aid, would still be beginners in the life ofÂ prayer. Yet they have also entered the homes of millions living in the world andÂ have brought consolation, assurance, hope and strength to souls who, in theÂ technical sense, know nothing of the life of contemplation.
Devoting herself as sheÂ did, with the most wonderful persistence and tenacity, to the sublimest task givenÂ to man — the attempt to guide others toward perfection — she succeeded so well inÂ that task that she is respected everywhere as an incredibly gifted teacher, who hasÂ revealed, more perhaps than any who came before her, the nature and extent ofÂ those gifts which the Lord has laid up in this life for those who love Him.
In past ages, of course, there had been many writers kindled with Divine love to whom HeÂ had manifested His ineffable secrets, but for the most part these secrets had goneÂ down with them to the grave. To St. Teresa it was given to speak to the world, inÂ her diaphanous, colloquial language and her simple, unaffected style, of the work ofÂ the Holy Spirit in the enamoured soul, of the interior strife and the continualÂ purgation through which such a soul must pass in its ascent of Mount Carmel andÂ of the wonders which await it on the mountain’s summit.