Religious and political turbulence was everywhere; Europe was a dangerous place.
That one single woman who could easily been accuses of witchcraft but for being under the protection of the Church could have made so many changes in the Carmelite Order which would have far-reaching effects even into the 21st Century is nearly a miracle in itself. What makes Teresa's life even more fascinating is the fine mind she harbored, honed and disciplined with extraordinary introspection.
From her autobiography, it is clear that Teresa was rather bull-headed even at a young age. She was creative, intelligent and active; many of the ingredients for engagement of troublemaking, in which she indulged for a while, much to her later dismay. She loved books, especially those based upon saints and martyrs, which were plentiful in her house, being regularly read by her father. She developed such a passion for these stories that once, around age six or seven, she and her brother Roderigo plotted to run away to be beheaded by the Moorish people so that they could be martyred. This plan was interrupted when a family member intercepted them and brought them home.
Going the other imaginative route, Teresa and her playmates engaged in building little nunneries in the garden and Teresa dreamed of being in charge of one. She later admits, though, that to actually be a nun wasn't the main goal.
The death of her mother dealt a blow to a 14 year old Teresa; when she was able to comprehend the loss of her mother and what it meant, she took herself to a statue of the Holy Mother and uttered a tearful, heartfelt prayer asking the Virgin to be her mother.
It would appear that these are the beginnings of an extraordinary life for a girl born in the 16th Century of Spain, where two options for women existed: arranged marriage or the convent. Early on, Teresa was well aware of her impending future and didn't care for either choice, but after a period of time engaging in typical teenage less than desirable behaviour, she was sent to an Augustinian convent school by her father, where she could mend her ways and get educated.
While she immensely enjoyed the company of the good nuns, Teresa still didn't want to become one. She did, however, learn how to engage in meaningful prayer and focus on goodness and devotion to God. She was decidedly happier in the convent than in her father's house, but inwardly she still didn't love God as much as she loved her father. It appears that Teresa did not easily change her loyalties under peer pressure even then. The iron will was beginning to take form; maturity would have to catch up with it.
After a year and a half in the convent, Teresa fell ill, and was taken to her sister's house in Catellanos to recover. This was a pivotal time for her, as she was forced into rest and prayer, developing the traits that would serve her so well in future tribulations.
It was during this period of recovery that Teresa began reading the letters of St. Jerome (b. approx 335, died 420). Before we