Pope Francis hails St Teresa of Ávila as exemplar of courage and spiritual motherhood

Pope Francis has hailed St. Teresa of Ávila as exemplar of courage and spiritual motherhood in a letter marking fifty years since the 16th century Spanish mystic was declared the first female Doctor of the Church.

Apr 17, 2021


By Courtney Mares

Pope Francis has hailed St. Teresa of Ávila as exemplar of courage and spiritual motherhood in a letter marking fifty years since the 16th century Spanish mystic was declared the first female Doctor of the Church.

“Despite the five centuries that separate us from her earthly existence, the flame that Jesus lit within Teresa continues to shine in this world that is always in need of brave witnesses, capable of breaking any barrier, be it physical, existential or cultural,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter.

The pope’s letter to Bishop José María Gil Tamayo of Ávila was read aloud at the inaugural Mass for an international congress on St. Teresa that is taking place in Ávila, Spain and virtually via livestream April 12-15.

St. Teresa of Ávila was “‘an exceptional woman,’ as Saint Paul VI defined her,” Pope Francis said.

“Her courage, her intelligence, and her tenacity to which she united a sensitivity for the beautiful and a spiritual motherhood toward all those who approached her work, are an exemplary example of the extraordinary role that women have played throughout history in the Church and society.”

Pope Paul VI declared St. Teresa of Jesus a Doctor of the Church on Sept. 27, 1970. The title Doctor of the Church denotes recognition of the importance of a saint’s writings and teachings for Catholic theology.

Since St. Teresa, three other female saints have been declared Doctors of the Church. St. Catherine of Siena was recognized with the title one week after St. Teresa. And St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Hildegard of Bingen were declared Church doctors by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI respectively.

In his letter, Pope Francis said St. Teresa of Ávila “continues to speak to us today through her writings and her message is open to all.”

“Having her as a friend, companion and guide in our earthly pilgrimage confers security and peace to the soul,” he added.

St. Teresa was a Spanish Carmelite reformer and mystic. She was born in the Castilian city of Ávila during the year 1515, the third child in a family descended from Jewish merchants who had converted to Christianity during the reign of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.––CNA

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