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The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself Paperback – January 1, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Written at the command of her confessors, the books of this 16th century Spanish saint and mystic (a beloved friend to another great Spanish mystic, John of the Cross), St. Teresa's writings remain classics of Christian mysticism. Less abstract and theoretical than her friend, Teresa's works are no less noteworthy for the brilliance of their ability to convey with both warmth and rigor some flavor of this most extraordinary experience: union with God. Her autobiography may well be the best entry point into her work and into the great mystical literature of the Christian church. Here she describes her early life and education, the conflicts and crisis she underwent, culminating in her determination to enter fully into the path of prayer. Following a description of the contemplative life, which she explores in four stages, she returns to her own life in order to describe (in erotic language reminiscent of the Song of Songs) the ecstatic experiences given to her by God.

If the idea of mysticism seems hopelessly otherworldly to you, try a taste of St. Teresa, who can be as down to earth as Oprah--and sometimes just as amusing. --Doug Thorpe --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Spanish --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Digireads.com (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1420933965
  • ISBN-13: 978-1420933963
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,232,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The Life of St. Teresa of Avila is one of the world's greatest spiritual creations. Written at the command of her superiors, it is the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, a Spanish Carmelite nun, mystic, and religious reformer, in an age where women, mysticism, and political activism were considered bold and rare. I found it, at first, to be a difficult book - difficult because of its intensity, and difficult because of the level on which it is written - it comes out of the highest levels of communion and friendship with God. I could only read it in increments (it was too overwhelming). Later, I was able to reread it freely, because I had assimilated her language (a spiritual one) and point of view, and was familiar with it. Its greatness lies in her enthusiastic, attractive personality, her original and very holy spiritual insights, her adventurous path in her relationship with God, and the clear and amazing articulation of very high levels of prayer and action stemming from constant communion with God. Mysticism is very hard to articulate - THIS is why this book is great. It DOES articulate it. I think, of all her writings, it is the most amazing, clearest, and most insightful. Her nougats of wisdom on the spiritual life and life in the world have stayed with me, and I often think back to her - or to her preface - for both guidance and sustenance. It is not without cause that she was declared a doctor of the Catholic Church, and is looked upon as a very great saint in the Church. As she says, "Let nothing distress you, Let nothing disturb you, All things pass but God, Who alone is all. Patience will get thee, All that thou hast striven for. Cleave to God, and naught else will fail thee, for God alone is all."
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Format: Paperback
St. Teresa's autobiography records her life up to the age of fifty. She is a simple woman, her writing not being anything more that the thoughts that come to her mind. She states in the letter that accompanied this work to Friar Garcia De Toledo that "Some things...may be badly expressed, and others put down twice, for I have had so little time for the task that I have not been able to reread what I have written." In spite of this, St. Teresa reveals mystical and spiritual wonders in beautiful description. Rather than a history of her works and the events that determine her worldly life, this book is more of a spiritual autobiography. She recounts her childhood desires and the early yearning of her soul to be with God. She talks of her illnesses and how she came closer to God through them. St. Teresa gives her description of different levels of prayer, which appear in both the Way of Perfection and the Interior Castle. She tells of the ways in which God spoke to her, at first in subtle manners to more salient ones later in her life. She received an increased number of visions as she advanced spiritually. God also begins to speak to her more directly. All this comforted her and guided her as she established the convent of St. Joseph's at Avila. In the convent's establishment, St. Teresa describes the opposition that she faced and her financial worries. Endowed with a will to reject the things of this world, she pressed on, setting a rule of poverty for her Avilan sisters. Throughout The Life, she wanders from her main point to give her understanding of several spiritual matters. The book is also permeated with her humility and self-abasement. Reading through this autobiography will benefit anyone wishing to read the Way of Perfection or the Interior Castle, her two other most notable works.
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By A Customer on May 1, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Let me say right off that this was my first experience reading any of the writings of Teresa de Jesus (her chosen name) so I can't compare it to others.
Teresa's writing style was a mixture of the style of the time (full of disclaimers and self-deprecation) and the romantic language of the books of chivalry she loved as a child (she referred to God as "His Majesty", and used images such as castles and jewels). The result, flowing from her pen in an often (I should say usually) disorganized fashion, is fresh and touching. I particularly enjoyed her description of the soul as a garden: the Lord plants it, but we are to cultivate it in order that our Lord may take His delight in walking in it. She describes prayer as the water that nourishes that garden: first through great labor drawn from a well, but later as a free gift from God showering down from heaven. Her more developed description, covering four stages of prayer, is remarkable. HOWEVER, this does not make it the best starting place for beginners who want to learn how to approach contemplative prayer (they might do better with Brother Lawrence, Thomas Keating, or some of Thomas Merton's work).
I respect this translator, who included an excellent description on the decision-making process used in producing the translation, along with many footnotes referring to alternate interpretations and original Spanish text for concepts difficult to translate.
A personal quirk of mine which should influence no one (but I have to say it) -- I hated the cover art. While it communicates Teresa's vivacious personality, it is frankly ugly, and all who knew Teresa agreed that she was in fact physically beautiful.
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