Teresa of Avila, the 16th-century Spanish Carmelite nun and mystic,may be best known for the Bernini sculpture Ecstasy of Saint Theresa ofAvila in the Cornaro Chapel on Santa Maria della Vittoria. The saint, pierced by dozens of arrows, is depicted in ecstatic union withher God.

In 1562 Teresa founded the convent of St. Joseph and, having written herautobiography, began work on "The Way of Perfection," a guidebook forher nuns. Remarkably, not a jot of Teresa's advice seems outmoded;today's readers need Teresa's guidance just as urgently--perhapsmore urgently--than did her sisters 450 years ago. Teresa's fourmain themes are contemplative prayer, love, humility, "the principlevirtue that people who pray must practice," and detachment from"created" things.

This new edition cannot replace Alison Peers's classic translation of"The Way of Perfection"--but its "mildly modernized" prose will, onehopes, introduce a host of new readers to Teresa of Avila. The Berninisculpture captures one side of Teresa's ecstatic mysticism--but "The Wayof Perfection" reveals the hard work of translating that moment ofepiphany into a life of serving God.