This module is a brief introduction to some important themes in the writings and life of Teresa of Avila.  It would be helpful if you have some knowledge of Teresa’s life to place these themes on context.

We shall look at five themes:

  1. Teresa as a writer – to give you the background to her writing and the difficulties she faced as a woman writing in sixteenth century Spain.

  2. An introduction to Teresa’s teaching on prayer – a summary of the framework of the journey of prayer as she experienced it which will prepare you for any further study of this.

  3. Teresa and asceticism – a consideration of Teresa’s attitude to renunciation and penance and its place in the spiritual life.

  4. Teresa and the humanity of Christ – a brief survey of Teresa’s teaching on this looking at some of the images she chose to express her understanding of the humanity of Jesus.

  5. Teresa’s sense of Church – her worries about dangers to the Church of her day and her sense of mission though prayer.  At the end of this unit we shall look at the significance of Teresa for us today.

Where possible I will include Teresa’s own words in these units.  Here are the abbreviations used in quotations form her works:

L = the Book of her Life

W = The Way of Perfection

IC = The Interior Castle (the reference is given e.g. 6M 4:6 (6th Dwelling Places Chapter 4 paragraph 6)

F = The Foundations

In unit 3 the Constitutions have the number of the point in brackets.

M = Meditations on the Song of Songs


  1. Williams, Rowan, Teresa of Avila (London: Contiuum, 2003) – this book not only looks at Teresa’s life but gives excellent reflections on the Life, The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle.

  2. Du Boulay, Shirley, Teresa of Avila (London: Hodder and Stoughton,1991) – there are lots of good biographies of Teresa, this one gives a very readable narrative and also adds some comment, but many other biographies would also be useful.
  3. The Complete Works of Teresa of Avila translated and introduced by Kevin Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (Washinton DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies,1980-87) - This is an up to date translation to dip into.  It has excellent introductions to each volume with background information and summaries of the texts.  Borrow it from a library if you can – all tree volumes would be quite expensive.

Module Tutor: Sheila Grimwood

The module is divided into 5 units of input and, at the end, you may complete a Questionnaire, write a Learning Journal, or write an Assignment .

Once posted online, each unit will be available until the end of the module. The dates on which each of the units, and the other material for this module is available in the calendar in the Student Section.



Unit 1

Unit 2

Unit 3

Unit 4

Unit 5


Learning Journal

Essay titles


Please click HERE to access the STUDENT SECTION for module start and end dates

From the date corresponding to the relevant Monday (see main web page of, you can click on the relevant unit to access it. Each module includes links to other internet sites of various kinds related to the material being covered.

    Once you have successfully accessed and studied the material in each module and received the Essay titles and the questionnaire, pleace complete either the Questionnaire, write a Learning Journal, or write an Assignment based on one of the titles given, and return it to to the course administrator: [email protected]


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