The Life of St. Teresa of Avila

ISBN: 1602060258
ISBN 13: 9781602060258
By: Teresa of Ávila David Lewis

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Reader's Thoughts


A Spanish classic - a must-read over there, apparently. I just wasn't a fan by the time I realized her "sins" were not as monumental as she kept saying. Nothing scandalous.


English transaltion of Santa Teresa de Ávila: Libro de la Vida by Mirabai Starr. I can only assume that this got higher ratings than it deserved because people confused the poor translation with the subject. The language of the translation is, indeed, fine. However, a translation is inevitably an interpretation and this one is, as one reviewer rightly wrote, "froofy." Ms. Starr is a spiritual seeker with a considerable gift of language, but seems to have transformed the life of her subject, Teresa de Ávila, into whom she needed her to be. Highly disappointing.


St Teresa's personality suffuses the Autobiography, and it's delightful to make her acquaintance. Read this book.


Teresa's Life is a brilliant example of the essential connection between mysticism and a life of active commitment to a holistic gospel (spiritual intimacy, evangelism and social justice). Her prayer life (knowing the heart of God) catapulted her out into the world in service to others. I am inspired by her firey passion and imagination.


This book is a wonderful read for anyone who is looking to improve and advance their prayer techniques. Saint Teresa outlines 4 different stages of prayer, which are very helpful if you wish to go deeper.

Layne Preau

I couldn't get throught this one! We were supposed to read it for book group but had to cancel due to lack of interest. I only got through the first 5 or 6 chapters but the whole thing was her talking about what a horrible person she was blah blah blah. She was sainted so how bad could she be?


Great book. Teresa of Avila was a woman of very modern sensibilities. Her love affair with God is an integral part of this extraordinary autobiography/confession. There are the usual markers of the narrow-mindedness of the contemporary culture in which she lived: the pervasive religious fascism and fanaticism--a fanaticism fostered and promoted by the Church's power through the mandate of the Inquisition, the fear of the Devil's power to overthrow one's soul and the Devil's association with Negroes (or Black-skinned races (Moors)), the intolerance for other religions (Lutherans), the abasement of women within the Church. Yet for all of this, it retains its sense of the modern, due in no small part to Teresa's extraordinary skill in psychological analysis, knowledge of Doctrine as well as Dogma, Scripture and supporting texts such as St. Augustine's Confessions, and her use of Church politics and hierarchy to criticize the ecclesiastical structure and its ruling elite. Despite her liberal sprinkle of self-deprecatory remarks, the reader will discover, I think, that St. Teresa of Avila was an ambitious nun, careful to hold herself apart from criticism by inviting it as a penance from God, while carefully courting the favor of powerful interests to lobby on behalf of projects or persons she identified as "true servants of God," eventually obtaining what she desired, enclosure in a stricter House, which she founded, and which was based upon poverty-the convent of Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Primitive Rule of St. Joseph at Avila. Readers may find her nested digressions excessive. Still, I think it was worth the effort to read about a woman who rose in prominence and influence at a time of great cultural and religious conservatism.

Brian Kubarycz

I love how whacked this book is. I read it as a contrast and antidote to the sober reasoning and cautious speculations of Descartes and his progeny. This Theory's other.


While the life of Saint Teresa is interesting, she could have used a good editor. The book is a rambling, unfocused mess. I could have even overlooked that, but the translation was a big problem for me. How can you translate a 16th century book by a nun and edit out almost all references to the devil? How can you translate "sin" as "missing the mark"? I don't care if the translator is a Jewish-Buddhist-New Age whatever. She ruined the book for me. While I was looking forward to reading other works by Spanish mystics, now I'll look for them in the original Spanish.

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio

When reading this in liberal arts school and participating in discussion based class sessions I drew great knee jerk, PC-er than thou, dogmatic insistence at tolerating all things with word 'religious' or 'spiritual' attached to them (besides red state Christian fundamentalism) type of reactions by calling Ms. Teresa a junky looking for her God fix. I stand by this assessment today. I found her writing to be an interesting read nonetheless but also felt sorry for her and her rejection of the present world in favor of 18 hours of praying per day focusing only on thoughts of the hereafter. She sought the rush of endorphins and called it spiritual ecstacy. She spoke of God as her lover. She expressed a vicious hatred for the present world with all of its imperfections. I do like that sculpture on the cover though. David Foster Wallace references it in Infinite Jest when describing the way Madame Psychosis (AKA The Prettiest Girl Of All Time, P.G.O.A.T.) feels when free basing cocaine: the Ecstacy of Saint Teresa of Avila.


Probably essential for anyone interested in mystic thought. The modern reader will be interested in the contradiction between her disdain for the flesh and her prayer ecstasies which sometimes read like descriptions of body orgasm.


Teresa is a very special woman. The story of her life as she wrote it is one of the great reads. To read this book is to make a friend for life. I like the one incident where she is tossed out of a coach into a muddy stream during a heavy rain and complained to God as she sat in the mud and water soaking wet. And God answered her and said this is how he treated his friends. Teresa was not one to be overwhelmed even by God and responded. "Well it is no wonder you have so few." A great book to read.

Stefan Garcia

It is difficult to read this book as a modern person because it is such a different one, even if one remains a Catholic. I would psychologize so much of the writing here, the visions in particular, but to do that would not do justice to what Teresa was saying. I found the visions part to be redundant. It is much less important than she believed. What did provide more inspiration was the beginning, her struggling in the spiritual life. That part was useful as a twisty road map for anyone who would like to embark on such a life.


I am always rediscovering Sta Teresa. She is the first of so many things in so many ways - first woman Doctor of the Church, first reformer of the Carmelite order, first woman to found an order of men, first "modern" (i.e. post-Inquistion) western mystic ... -, and each time I reread her, it's like the first time all over again, at a new depth and with a new dimension.I was wary about this translation because the introduction is, well, froofy and kinda new-age in a way that peeves me. In my ideal world, the translator is NOT an "I" presence in the work who tells you about her swami boyfriend-slash-guru or peppers her sentences with "I love this so much." I prefer a transparent translator, like an overlay that enhances and makes the translated text visible for my new reading. But in all fairness, Mirabai Starr's translation work of Sta Teresa's autobiography does precisely this - and she even brings up the subject of letting go of her "her-ness" in the introduction. You just have to wade through a lot of inclusive jargon that borders on post-modern hippiedom, in order to get to the searing glory of Sta Teresa's words, which have clearly inspired and transfigured Starr's.I have to pace myself because the book is like molten gold or very fine champagne. I don't want it to go to my head all at once. With a one-chapter-per-day limit, I am both eagerly devouring and luxuriantly savoring the timeless words. Gracias, Teresa.


I completely disagree with the characterization of St. Teresa as a " hysterically unbalanced" woman... She was a great woman OOD her time and for all times, a true feminist in and of the Church. Her struggle. To find God is the Struggle of many people when they find themselves in the desert of spirituality. I have read and re-read this book for over twenty years and still find new layers.

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