Festivals/Seasons & Holy Days

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Peter Tyler

Teresa of Avila: Doctor of the Soul

ISBN: 9781 4411 8784 0

Bloomsbury, London, 2013 240pp, £18.99

Teresa of Avila, one of the outstanding figures of European Christianity, was born in 1515. As her anniversary is celebrated, we find ourselves being invited to enter more deeply into relationship with her and her teaching on prayer and Christian living. Peter Tyler’s book is a helpful contribution to this.

Along with other Carmelite saints, Teresa presents a way that embraces the whole of life: a way that is costly, embracing the dark and difficult, and which is deeply attractive, being full of life, enjoyment and love. She shows us how to live and locates growth in prayer, practical love of others, and poverty at the heart of life.

Tyler helps us to interpret this. He outlines the context in which she lived and wrote – sixteenth century Spain – and how this impacted on her teaching. He gives a brief commentary on the major works – The Book of the Life, The Way of Perfection, and The Interior Castle, before putting Teresa into conversation with two elements of our contemporary culture, Jungian psychology and mindfulness.

For me, some of the most useful parts of the book are his outlining of the difficulty of translating some of Teresa’s key terms into English. This is very helpful for reading other modern translations in a more fruitful and nuanced way.

In Teresa, the Franciscan and Carmelite streams refresh each other. Teresa’s praying and living was extremely influenced by Francisco de Osuna and Bernadino de Laredo and she was encouraged by Peter of Alcantara. She takes on their teaching, lives it out and passes it on to us in a uniquely attractive and passionate way.

Andy Delmege,

SSF Companion