Lenten Lectures on
St. Teresa of Ávila &
St. John of the Cross
During Lent of 2016, Chris James commenced a series of lectures at our Wednesday Agape gathering evenings on the life and teachings of St. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) and St. John of the Cross (1542-1591).
We were not able to record the first or the fifth lecture. The other lectures may be streamed below.
LECTURE 2 (February 23, 2016)
LECTURE 3 (March 9, 2016)
LECTURE 4 (March 16, 2016)
LECTURE 6 (April 6, 2016)
The following biographical sketch of St. Teresa by Mark Browning is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
Born in Ávila, Spain, on March 28, 1515, St. Teresa was the daughter of a Toledo merchant and his second wife, who died when Teresa was 15, one of ten children. Shortly after this event, Teresa was entrusted to the care of the Augustinian nuns. After reading the letters of St. Jerome, Teresa resolved to enter a religious life. In 1535, she joined the Carmelite Order. She spent a number of relatively average years in the convent, punctuated by a severe illness that left her legs paralyzed for three years, but then experienced a vision of “the sorely wounded Christ” that changed her life forever.
From this point forward, Teresa moved into a period of increasingly ecstatic experiences in which she came to focus more and more sharply on Christ’s passion. With these visions as her impetus, she set herself to the reformation of her order, beginning with her attempt to master herself and her adherence to the rule. Gathering a group of supporters, Teresa endeavored to create a more primitive type of Carmelite. From 1560 until her death, Teresa struggled to establish and broaden the movement of Discalced or shoeless Carmelites. During the mid-1560s, she wrote the Way of Perfection and the Meditations on the Canticle. In 1567, she met St. John of the Cross, who she enlisted to extend her reform into the male side of the Carmelite Order. Teresa died in 1582.
St. Teresa left to posterity many new convents, which she continued founding up to the year of her death. She also left a significant legacy of writings, which represent important benchmarks in the history of Christian mysticism. These works include the Way of Perfection and the Interior Castle. She also left an autobiography, the Life of Teresa of Avila.
The following biographical sketch of St. John of the Cross by Mark Browning is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
St. John of the Cross stands as one of the most important mystical philosophers in Christian history. The son of a rich merchant, John was born Juan de Yepes y Alvarez in Fontiveros, Spain in 1542. John’s father died when the boy was quite young, leaving his mother, a member of a lower social class, to raise him alone. After gaining employment in a plague hospital, John, at age 18, began to study with the Jesuits. He entered the Carmelite Order in 1563, continuing his studies at the University of Salamanca, where he began to teach while still a student. After being ordained in 1567, John met St. Teresa of Avila, another of the great mystics of the Christian tradition.
Following Teresa’s lead in attempting to reform his Order, John, in 1568, initiated a very severe form of monasticism in a tiny farmhouse. These monks went so far as to go barefoot, indicating their commitment to poverty, lending to them the appellation of “Discalced” or “shoeless.” Over time, a rift arose between the traditional Carmelites and John’s Discalced Carmelites, leading in 1576 to John’s arrest and imprisonment. During this period of imprisonment, John wrote much of the poetry that would provide his greatest contribution to later generations.
Eventually, the rights of the Discalceds were recognized, and John took on various roles of leadership within the order. After some fifteen years of leadership, he died in 1591, leaving behind a number of remarkable works of Christian mysticism: Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night of the Soul, and the Spiritual Canticle of the Soul.