Her family name was Teresa de Ahumada. Saint Teresa was the daughter of Alonso Sánchez de Cepeda, from the city of Toledo, and Beatriz de Ahumada, from the city of Olmedo. They settled in Avila, where Teresa was born, on 28 de marzo de 1515 in a large family: “we were three sisters and nine brothers”, she remembers in the “Book of Life".
Her family had a big fondness to letters and culture, so Teresa learns how to read and write at a really young age.
In Teresa’s life, you can find three big stages:
She lives at her parents’ house until the age of 20 years; Teresa child, teenager and young, assist successively to her mother’s death, to the departure of some of his brothers to the Indies, and to the process of slow dissolution of the home.
When she was 20 she took the religious life, despite her father. In her biography she says that she fled from her house one morning to enter to the monastery of Carmelites of the Encarnación. There she lived for 27 years, with a big religious community formed by almost 180 nuns, bearing and overtaking the trauma of a serious disease, what will mark her physic condition for the rest of her life, and taking her to go deep into the spiritual life. Around her 40 years, Teresa feels the call of what has been known as “mystic experience”, that not only changes the course of her life, but also defines her and gives human and Christian density to her person.
When she was 47 years, Teresa starts a third stage, because she leaves the convent of the Encarnación, to found the Carmel of San José, and short after she starts her task of restless founder. Her trips are in wagon or in the back of a mule to Medina and Valladolid, Alba de Tormes, Salamanca, Beas, Seville, Soria and Burgos, to rest finally in her deathbed in Alba de Tormes, the 4 October 1582.
During the last years, her visual and spiritual horizon expands, not just thanks to the geographical crossword of her adventures as a founder; but for her reborn sensibility towards the problems of Europe and the occidentals Indies, her keen interest towards the things of the Christianity and the Church, her knowledge about the social structure of that Spain, jumble of glories and miseries. These are the years where Teresa starts a lot of friendships and human relationships at all levels and stratums of the society.
A woman of opened and communicative character, of extreme sensibility and with an immense personal sympathy, she reunited an energetic mettle that allowed here to front the bigger contrarieties. She was passioned, intrepid and willful. In definitive, her biographers define her as a woman of action that knew how to be strong despite of the adversities. She acts between the idealism and the practices.