St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), a woman of passion and prayer, was a catalyst for change at a time when the Catholic Church needed change to keep up with the explosion of Protestantism.
The patron saint of Spain, she wrote about how the power of meditation and prayer brings the soul to oneness with God.
"All the way to heaven is heaven," she wrote. She taught human love and compassion, believing that perfection could only be achieved through prayer.
Teresa entered the Carmelite Convent in 1535 and struggled with her vocation until she experienced a religious awakening in 1555, which she wrote about in her autobiography, Life (1562).
In seeing the risen Christ, she experienced a mystical transverberation, which she described as the piercing of her heart by an angel. She called this spiritual union with God, her "mystical marriage."
She compared the mystery of the soul to an Interior Castle with many secret chambers and celebrated faith's sorrows and blessings... And the endless power of God's love. "Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you, all things pass, save God—hold Him."
Teresa worked tirelessly to reform the Carmelite order. Her nuns were called Discalced, "shoeless," because they wore sandals and rough brown habits. At the time of her death, she had founded 16 convents.
She was canonized in 1622 and in 1970, Pope Paul VI declared her the exalted title of Doctor of the Church (title given to theologians of outstanding merit and holiness), for her writing and teaching on prayer.
"Our Lord does not care so much for the importance of our works as for the love with which they are done," she said.
There is no greater guide than love.