2016-06-30
Teresa of Avila, the 16th-century Spanish Carmelite nun and mystic, may be best known for the Bernini sculpture Ecstasy of Saint Theresa of Avila in the Cornaro Chapel on Santa Maria della Vittoria. The saint, pierced by dozens of arrows, is depicted in ecstatic union with her God.

In 1562 Teresa founded the convent of St. Joseph and, having written her autobiography, began work on "The Way of Perfection," a guidebook for her nuns. Remarkably, not a jot of Teresa's advice seems outmoded; today's readers need Teresa's guidance just as urgently--perhaps more urgently--than did her sisters 450 years ago. Teresa's four main themes are contemplative prayer, love, humility, "the principle virtue 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, one hopes, introduce a host of new readers to Teresa of Avila. The Bernini sculpture captures one side of Teresa's ecstatic mysticism--but "The Way of Perfection" reveals the hard work of translating that moment of epiphany into a life of serving God.

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