TERESA OF AVILA:(1515-1582) Institute for Carmelite Studies Publications
I recommend: THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ST. TERESA OF AVILA, Vol. 1: Book of Her Life & Interior Castle, Vol. 2: The Way of Perfection, Vol. 3: Foundations, and COLLECTED LETTERS OF ST. TERESA OF AVILA: Vol.1 and Vol. 2. The Study Editions are good too but I prefer the basic collection for reading without a pre-conceived opinion.
I suggest beginning with the Book of Her Life, and then reading the Collected Letters 1 & 2 to focus on a woman religious’ view of her life and world. She was quite familiar with the visitations and the inquisition. And her books were not always available, some being surpressed at times. She had relatives who were conversos, and thus eyed suspiciously by the inquisition. She is now a Doctor of the Church. Her letters and autobiography are, to me, of the most historical significance for understanding the time in which she lived.
To understand her advice to Abbesses, the Way of Perfection is the work she wrote for her nuns. She, who had mystical visions, was not one to be impressed by them. I love her practical advice to abbesses on how to manage a nun who was having visions.
Her book on prayer, Interior Castle, has been read and re-read by many, and I doubt anyone has plumbed the full depth of what she meant in it. It was one of her books most often supressed.
Foundations traces her work of founding Monasteries of both men and women religious, seeking to return to the ancient interpretation of the Carmelite order, thus founding the Discalced. I found it highly significant that she did not consider the Carmelite order she was in wrong, but that she wanted a stricter version than the softened version of her day. During the time she was abbess over her original order, she did not impose her Discalced rule, but instead urged them and guided them to live their own rule better. She was friends with Bishops who participated in the Council of Trent and I often wonder how much did she know of the documents created by that council.
I admire Teresa of Avila greatly. She shows how a woman of her time, with intelligence and ideas of her own, lived within the confines of her time and place.