Luis Bertran


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St Teresa of Ávila (1515—1582) Spanish Carmelite nun and mystic


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Dominican priest, apostle, and patron of Colombia. Born at Valencia, he joined the Dominican Order in 1544 and was ordained priest in 1547 by Thomas of Villanova. A man of profound prayer and austerity, Luis was appointed novice-master. This office was of critical importance in the current reform of his Order: Luis held it, on and off, for about thirty years. He also became a famous preacher and counsellor. One who asked and followed his advice was Theresa of Avila. Luis advised her to continue her plans to reform Carmel and prophesied that her discalced nuns would become very famous after fifty years.

The main work of his life was as a missionary in Latin America. In 1562 he landed at Cartagena, where his Order already had a priory. Preaching to the Indians in Spanish and using an interpreter, he baptized many thousands in only six years at Tubara, Cipacua, Mompos, and Santa Marta, all on the mainland. He then preached with equal apparent success in the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and the Windward Islands. He insisted much on the fear as well as the love of God: his preaching, according to the canonization bull, was helped by tongues, prophecy, and miracles. The numbers and the circumstances of his apostolate recall those attributed to missionaries in Europe in the early Middle Ages.

He was one of the first to criticize the cruelty and rapacity of many Spanish adventurers, from whom he tried to obtain redress when he was recalled in 1568. He now devoted the rest of his life to training preachers for the missions. In this task he insisted on the importance both of prayer and of works that match the preaching. In 1580 he preached his last sermon in Valencia cathedral. He was taken ill immediately but lived for a further eighteen months. He was canonized in 1671. A fine painting of him by Zurbaran can be seen at Seville. Feast: 9 October.

Early Life by his disciple V. J. Antist, for which see AA.SS. Oct. V, 292–488; others by B. Wilberforce (1882) and R. R. Luch (1960); see also B.L.S., x. 57–8;Bibl. SS., viii. 342–8.

Subjects: Christianity.

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