Images of Our Lord, by Joan Carroll Cruz,
published by TAN Books and Publishers
(1993) Used with permission.
Ecce Homo of St. Teresa of Avila
Teresa was a prayerful
as a child, but her fervor languished during her adolescence due to her fascination
with the romantic literature of her day. After a serious illness, however, her
devotion was rekindled through the influence of a pious uncle. She became interested
in the religious life and entered the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation in
Avila in the year 1536.
a relaxed rule, the nuns of this convent were permitted a great deal of socializing
and other privileges that were contrary to the original rule. During the first
17 years of her religious life, Teresa tried to enjoy both the delights of prayer
and the pleasures of the secular conversation. Finally, one day in the year
of 1553, she had what one writer calls a "shatterring experience."
The Saint tells us of her experience in Chapter IX of her autobiography:
that, entering the oratory one day, I saw an image which had been procured for
a certain festival that was observed in the house and had been taken there to
be kept for that purpose. It represented Christ sorely wounded; and so conductive
was it to devotion that when I looked at it I was deeply moved to see Him thus,
so well did it picture what He suffered for us. So great was my distress when
I thought how ill I had repaid Him for those wounds that I felt as if my heart
were breaking, and I threw myself down beside Him, shedding floods of tears
and begging Him to give me strength once for all so that I would not rise from
that spot until He had granted me what I was beseeching of Him. And I feel sure
that this did me good, for from that time onward I began to improve (in prayer
Saint progressed rapidly in virtue following this experience and she soon began
enjoying visions and ecstasies.
the relaxed atmosphere of the convent in opposition to the spirit of prayer for
which she felt Our Lord had intended the Order, she began reforming its laxities
in 1562 at the cost of count-less persecutions and difficulties. Her good friend
and advisor, St.John of the Cross, aided her in this endeavor and extended the
reform to the friars of the Order.
the rigorous interpretation of the rule, she attained the heights of mysticism,
enjoyed countless visions and experienced various mystical favors. There seems
to be no phenomenon peculiar to the mystical state that she did not experience,
yet she remained a shrewd businesswoman, administrator, writer, spiritual counselor
Never a healthy
woman, the Saint died of her many afflictions on October 4, 1582 at the convent
at Alba de Tormes. Canonized in 1622, she, as well as the Discalced Carmelite
Order, was honored when Pope Paul VI officially annexed her name to the list of
Doctors of the Church. She is the first woman to join this distinguished group.
image of the suffering Christ, that proved such an inspiration to the Saint, remains
at the Convent of the Incarnation in Avila.