Teresa of Avila

The Progress of a Soul

Cathleen Medwick



This biography has become one of my favorite books – I have read it more than once and given it to many people since first finding. Unfortunately, it found its way to the bottom of my “books to upload” pile, so I am only now getting it to you. I can almost hear Teresa saying, “Finally! Now let’s get on with it!” Medwick’s retelling of St. Teresa of Avila’s life is almost always from the perspective of how Teresa herself would have seen (or has written that she did see) the events around her. I love this, as it offers the utlimate in both historical accuracy and respect toward a very great woman who wove beatiful pathways toward salvation into a fabric of Western Civilization. Additionally, the author’s penning of the story itself has the readability of a good novel even as it conveys a mindset and circumstances that, outwardly at least, are so very different from what we commonly encounter in the modern world. I feel that Teresa is a woman for our time as much as she was a woman for her own time – and that this biography offers one of the best portraits of this person who we can all benefit by knowing better. Here’s a glimpse of what you will find between the covers of this book: From the time Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) entered a convent at the age of sixteen, she exhibited an independence of spirit not readily tolerated by the sixteenth-century Church or the sixteenth-century political community. Her expansive nature, intensity, and energy would fuel a lifetime of accomplishment, including most significantly the reform of Carmelite convents and the writing of a body of work that today is considered the cornerstone of Christian mysticism. In a finely wrought, multidimensional portrait of Teresa, Cathleen Medwick brings to life a woman of very human contradictions: a devoted daughter of the Church who bent the ruls – and barely survived the Spanish Inquisition – to achieve her goals; a practical, no-nonsense manager whose very personal brand of spirituality manifested itself in flamboyant, arguably erotic, raptures; a woman who, despite debilitating illness, traveled around Spain with the assurance (if not the authority) of a man to organize and strengthen Carmelite communities. There is much more that could be added, but you’ll have more fun if I don’t tell you every little thing. Do enjoy – this is truly a book for the heart.

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