Saint Teresa of Ávila inaugurated the reform of the Carmelite Order. It was the most authentic of all possible reforms because it began with the most valid of origins: a personal reform of her own life. She was not a crusader for reform, nor did she envision herself as a reformer: it was a role that was thrust upon her. But in the process of recasting her own life in the way she felt the Lord was leading her, she returned the Order to its original ideal. “We are of the race of those holy fathers of Mount Carmel,” she stated emphatically [Cf. The Interior Castle, V.1.2.].
Teresa must also emerge from the sixteenth century as one of the most interesting and intriguing saints the Church has ever produced. A woman of compelling physical beauty, she was a warm, appealing, witty person, outgoing and immensely attractive. She was also profoundly spiritual, a mystic, and a woman of intense prayer. Her writings, hastily composed during odd moments in her busy and energetic life, remain as permanent Christian classics. She had an unbelievable capacity for attracting and influencing people, and has the unique distinction of being the only woman in the history of the Church ever to reform an order of men. And this urgent task of renewal and reform was carried on to its successful conclusion mainly on the strength of her enormous personality.
Peter-Thomas Rohrbach, O.C.D.
Chapter V, The Reform
Rohrbach, P 1966, 2015, Journey to Carith: The Sources and Story of the Discalced Carmelites, ICS Publications, Washington DC.