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Teresa of Jesus, better known as St. Teresa of Avila, was born on March 28, 1515 and died on October 15, 1582, four hundred years ago tomorrow. By any human standards this sixteenth century Spaniard was an extraordinary woman. Despite the restrictions placed on the education and the lifestyle of women in her time Teresa, who entered the cloistered religious Order of Mount Carmel at the age of twenty-one, not only achieved superlatively the ideals of the life she had chosen but virtually single-handedly reformed the feminine branch of the Carmelite Order and cooperated with St. John of the Cross in the reformation of the masculine branch. While carrying out the arduous work of reformation, including the founding of new houses, the governing of local communities, and the administering of the affairs of the Reform, Teresa managed to write more than most professionals of our day produce in a lifetime and to serve as spiritual director for some of the most religiously talented people of her time, including her young collaborator John of the Cross. Teresa was formally declared a Saint by Pope Gregory XV on March 12, 1622. By the example of her holiness, the influence of her writings, and the life and work of the members of the Order she refounded, Teresa of Avila remains an important spiritual force in the contemporary world.

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