Through her letters historians gain a better knowledge of the chronology of events in Teresa’s life and how she related to the diverse people she had dealings with. A number of everyday particulars that compilers and editors of those times considered unimportant are today prized. Her worries, her troubles and triumphs, her expressions of sadness and joy, are all present here. With a compelling spontaneity, these letters disclose a Teresa in a complex variety of circumstances. The extraordinary gifts of grace bestowed by God on this Spanish Madre fortified her for a demanding ministry of service which entailed heavy responsibilities and that drew her contemplative soul into a whirl of activities. Because of the limited means of travel and communication in the sixteenth century, the organization of a reform like hers, with its unavoidable business matters, had to be dealt with chiefly through correspondence, a chafing duty that became one of Teresa’s greatest trials. She often repeated that letter-writing was her biggest burden, a wearisome task that cost her more than all the miserable roads and bad weather experienced on her journeys through Spain.
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Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) is Doctor of the Church and venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran Traditions. She lived her life in Spain, where she was a Carmelite nun, a mystic, and a theologian. She was cofounder of the Discalced Carmelites along with St. John of the Cross. Among her other works are The Way of Perfection and her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus.