Saint Teresa of Avila

Teresa’s family claimed they were of pure blood, that is, no mixture of Moorish or Jewish blood (reflecting the prejudice of the time instilled by the hundreds of years of Moor domination); but there are those authors who say that Teresa’s grandfather was a converso. He was brought before the Inquisition, forced to accuse himself of judaizing1 and, as punishment, had to process in the streets, seven Fridays in a row, wearing the humiliating sanbenito3. Reconciling with the Inquisition, out of expediency, Teresa’s grandfather moved, with his family, to Avila. In 1514, the year before Teresa was born, Pope Leo X granted an indulgence to those donating money toward the building of a new Basilica in Rome, St. Peter’s. Although the indulgence called for the usual conditions of penance and contrition, it became highly controversial. The year Teresa was born, 1515, Martin Luther was to attack the very Foundations of the Catholic Church using the selling of indulgences as a tool. As a result of this act, not only would the Catholic world never be the same, but the very essence of Christianity would change for all time. Opening the door to more conflicts to this very day, this one act of disobedience was to lead to the scandal of over 3000 splinters of the Cross of Jesus. What with disobedience building on disobedience, and dissension building on dissension, the unity Jesus commanded, “as I am one with the Father,” has instead become Christian against Christian, brother against brother. And how our Beloved Lord weeps. Again, we come to Christ and how He defends His Church. We would be foolish to believe it was merely a coincidence that Teresa was born the very year Martin Luther came out with his dogma of salvation through grace alone. Whereas Luther, troubled by the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit, addressed his dilemma by embracing the good things of the world, Teresa was to live a radical life of obedience, often under the worst of conditions, choosing the Lord of all, rather than the all. Teresa, always calling herself a sinner, was to do penance throughout her life in reparation for what she considered this evil brought about by Luther. Teresa was born on March 28, 1515, in Avila, in the Castillian region of Spain. She came from a large family, with three children by her father’s first marriage and nine by his second to Teresa’s mother whom he had married after the death of his first wife. St. Teresa spoke of her family in the following way, “I had parents who were virtuous and feared God....I never saw my parents favor anything but virtue.”

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