St Teresa of Avila was born on 28 March 1515 in what is now Spain and was baptised as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, She was well educated at home by her parents and she found the stories of the saints – particularly the martyrs – very exciting. When she was just a child, she attempted to run away with her brother Rodrigo so they could be martyred in the battles between the Christians and Moors. Her uncle found the two children on their way out of town, turned them around, and brought them back home. Looking back on this event later in St Teresa’s life, many thought that it was an early sign of the zealous nature for which she would come to be known.
When she was fourteen, St Teresa’s mother died. As a result, she developed a great love for the Blessed Mother. However, in the following years, St Teresa of Avila’s interests turned to clothes, friends, her looks, and rebelling against her father’s wishes. When she was sixteen her father decided she was out of control and sent her to live at a convent. Though she was not happy with this decision at first, she grew to love it there – due largely in part to her growing love for God.
At 17 her father resisted her entry into religious life, so she left without informing anyone and entered a Carmelite house. After taking her vows she became ill there and spent many years in prayer. She experienced visions that were pronounced true by St Francis Borgia. Though never fully recovering her health, she worked tirelessly to reform and found the convents of St John of Avila.
Saint Teresa is best known for her extensive writings on the Counter Reformation and prayer life. Her books Interior Castle and Way of Perfection have helped many believers since their publication. The symbols related to her are a book, a heart and an arrow.
She is the patron saint against headaches, against sickness, for lace makers and the patroness of Spain. Her feast day is 15 October.