9 Aha! Moments that blow Oprah off the Screen
1554: St. Teresa of Avila
Her father sent her to a convent in her hometown of Avila in Spain at the age of 16 because she was a wild-child obsessed with boys and clothes. Like St. Francis, she possessed a natural charm — and lived a life marked by severe illness. At one point, Teresa (depicted in the Bernini masterpiece to the right) fell into a malarial coma; given up for dead, her confreres dug a would-be grave. But she survived to endure years of paralysis and spiritual self-doubt until the age of 39, when she encountered a statue depicting the wounded Jesus.
Teresa underwent an ecstatic conversion that rendered her the first great female Catholic mystic. Her classic, The Interior Castle, has inspired modern self-help authors like Caroline Myss, while scholars put St. Teresa’s work on par with The Confessions of St. Augustine in Christian spiritual biography.
IN HER OWN WORDS, St. Teresa's Aha! Moment:
The angel appeared to me to be thrusting the spear of fire into my heart and piercing my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and left me all on fire with a great love of God.
He takes away the power of speech, and although occasionally the other faculties are retained rather longer, no word can be uttered. Sometimes the person is at once deprived of all the senses, the hands and body becoming as cold as if the soul had fled; occasionally no breathing can be detected. This condition lasts but a short while; I mean in the same degree, for when this profound suspension diminishes the body seems to come to itself and gain strength to return again to this death which gives more vigorous life to the soul.
This supreme state of ecstasy never lasts long, but although it ceases, it leaves the will so inebriated, and the mind so transported out of itself that for a day, or sometimes for several days, such a person is incapable of attending to anything but what excites the will to the love of God.
NEXT: Siddhartha Gautama, circa 600 BC