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Online Learning

Course Number: CH 676
Course Title: St. Teresa of Avila: Life, Writings and Method of Prayer
Term: Fall 2014


Dr. Kristina R. Olsen

1. Course Description

This course will explore the life, writings and spirituality of St. Teresa of Avila. Teresa's method of prayer and her reform of the Carmelite way of life to foster closeness with God will be emphasized. Her major writings will be studied, including The Book of Her Life, The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle. The historical period of 16th c. Spain will be included in order to understand Teresa's work and life from within her context.

2. Envisioned Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the life and work of Teresa of Jesus, and the historical context in which she lived.
  2. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the major writings of Teresa of Jesus, primarily the Book of Her Life, The Way of Perfection and Interior Castle.
  3. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the Carmelite reform, why Teresa viewed reform as necessary, and how she used work, prayer and a return to the original Rule to establish foundations which were conducive to growth in the contemplative religious life.
  4. Students will reflect on and be able to describe how Teresa’s approach to prayer, work and the spiritual life might be incorporated in our world of today, from the perspective of either religious life or secular life.

3. Course Schedule

Week 1: Introduction: Teresa of Avila – Her Life and Times

Lectures: PowerPoint, Week 1.

Readings: BIL-CITY (14 p); LIFE: Introduction and chronology (36 p); (For explanations of abbreviations, see section “5. Required Readings and Resources”, below.)

Activities: Discussion posting 1; Your initial reflections are due Friday; responses to others are due Sunday. This is true for all discussion postings.

Week 2:  Teresa’s Youth and Life at the Incarnation

Lectures: PowerPoint, Week 2.

Readings: LIFE: Ch. 1-4 (17 p), Ch. 5-9 (30 p)

Activities: Discussion posting 2 (Your reflections by Friday; responses by Sunday)

Week 3:  Method of Prayer; Union and Rapture; Spiritual Directors

Lectures: PowerPoint, Week 3.

Readings: LIFE: Ch. 11, 20 (17 p), Ch. 23, 26 (18 p)

Activities: Discussion posting 3 (Fri/Sun), Reflection Paper 1. Identify topic for paper.

Week 4:  Visions, Discernment, and Challenges of First Foundation

Lectures: PowerPoint, Week 4.

Readings: LIFE: Ch. 28-29 (19 p), Ch. 32-33 (20 p)

Activities: Discussion posting 4 (Fri/Sun), Reflection Paper 2.

Week 5:  Foundations and Final Years; Teresa’s Approach to Prayer

Lectures: PowerPoint, Week 5.

Readings: LIFE: Ch. 35, 36, 40 (28 p); KK-WAY: Introduction (15 p).

Activities: Discussion posting 5 (Fri/Sun), Reflection Paper 3.

Week 6: Teresian Prayer: Themes and Development

Lectures: PowerPoint, Week 6.

Readings: KK-WAY: Part I, Ch. 1-5 (41p).

Activities: Reflection Paper 4. (No discussion this week.)

Week 7:  Way of Perfection: Detachment, Humility and Love

Lectures: PowerPoint, Week 7.

Readings: WAY: Introduction (20 p), Ch. 19-20 (26 p), Ch. 26 (12 p).

Activities: Discussion posting 6 (Fri/Sun), Reflection Paper 5.

Week 8: Way of Perfection: Vocal and Mental Prayer, Recollection

Lectures: PowerPoint, Week 8.

Readings: WAY: Ch. 21-24 (41 p).

Activities: Discussion posting 7 (Fri/Sun), Reflection Paper 6.

Week 9: Interior Castle: Introduction and Overview

Lectures: PowerPoint, Week 9.

Readings: CWS-IC-INTRO: Introduction (Paulist Press Interior Castle) (29 p); IC: Introduction (Study Edition) (22 p)

Activities: Discussion posting 8 (Fri/Sun), Reflection Paper 7.

Week 10: Interior Castle: 4th Dwelling Place: Consolations and Delights

Lectures: PowerPoint, Week 10.

Readings: IC: Fourth Dwelling Place, Ch. 1-3 (48 p).

Activities: Discussion posting 9 (Fri/Sun), Reflection Paper 8.

Week 11: Interior Castle: 5th Dwelling Place: Kinds of Union, Silkworm Analogy

Lectures: PowerPoint, Week 11.

Readings: IC: Fifth Dwelling Place, Ch. 1-2 (25 p).

Activities: Work on research paper. (No discussion or reflection paper this week.)

Week 12: Carmelite Reform and Foundations

Lectures: PowerPoint, Week 12.

Readings: BIL-REFORM (44 p).

Activities: Discussion posting 10 (Fri/Sun), Reflection Paper 9.

Week 13: Rule of St. Albert

Lectures: PowerPoint, Week 13.

Readings: CARM-RULE: All (6 p).

Activities: Reflection Paper 10. (No discussion this week.)

Week 14: Synthesis and Reflection

Lectures: PowerPoint, Week 14 (first part).

Readings: Review all readings.

Activities: Research paper due. General online discussion.

Week 15: Synthesis and Reflection

Lectures: Review for exam, wrap up Week 14 PPT.

Readings: Review readings in preparation for Final Exam.

Activities: Final Exam due Friday.


Discussion Postings (20%):

Each week (during most weeks) a discussion topic will be posted, with questions related to the week’s readings. By Friday, midnight, each week, you are to post a reflective and thoughtful comment about the readings for that week including clear references to the readings (i.e., where in Teresa's writings you found the idea(s) you are commenting on), and by Sunday, midnight, each week, you are to post responses to at least two other students’ posts. Postings are to be timely, thoughtful and substantial  (i.e., not just, “I agree,” but “I agree, and here’s why . . .” followed by a sentence or two. Also they should be respectfully and calmly worded, even if there is disagreement.

Additional activities, such as viewing an online video, podcast, or PowerPoint presentation, or researching additional online materials and reporting what you find, may be requested in the weekly discussion conferences.

One-page structured reflection papers (50%):

Each week (during most weeks) a one-page reflection paper is due as an assignment, on the week’s readings. Structure: It should consist of three paragraphs. The first paragraph describes the reading itself (with references in parentheses) and briefly states some of the important points. The second paragraph considers Teresa's context. Try to put yourself into that world and comment on what you think, feel, and imagine about what it must be like for her in her world. The third paragraph discusses what value you find in what you read, what points you would take away for your spiritual life today.

To recap:

      Paragraph 1: The ideas in the writings themselves, with quotes (referenced) from the writings.

      Paragraph 2: The ideas in Teresa's context.

      Paragraph 3: The ideas for us today.

For format requirements see Research Paper, below, and recommended links under “Academic Honesty Policy,” below. These papers are due on Sunday before midnight.

Research Paper (20%):

By Week 3, identify a topic on which you want to write a 10-12 page paper, with a minimum of five scholarly sources over and above Teresa's own writings (no wiki sources), on some aspect of the writings of St. Teresa. It could be related to her methods of prayer, her challenges with regard to reform, or her life history relative to her religious vocation. It is expected that you will use many references from Teresa's own writings, because we have studied her writings in significant depth throughout the course.

The paper is due on Sunday, Week 14, at midnight. Construct a well-organized 12-14 page paper on this topic, according to the specifics of the Holy Apostles style sheet. Papers must be submitted electronically in MS Word format. Also see recommended links under “Academic Honesty,” below.

Final Exam (10%):

The final exam will be open book and will give you a chance to synthesize the material learned throughout the course. There will be questions related to Teresa’s life, historical context, major writings, methods of prayer and the Carmelite reform. It is due on the date specified in the schedule, by midnight. No late final exams will be accepted.

Late Policy:

Late assignments are not accepted, generally. A student may request an extension on an assignment due to serious issues. If an extension is granted, it will be a one-time-only exception, and a reduction in grade will apply, one-half letter grade per calendar day. No late final exams will be accepted.


NOTE: The first three items - LIFE, WAY and IC - may be any version you would like. The only book besides these three that you need to get is Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh's Teresa of Avila: The Way of Prayer, which is fairly short and a great addition to your library. See below: a number of the readings will be posted on Populi and need not be purchased.


Teresa of Avila. The Book of Her Life. Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D., and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2008. ISBN: 0872209075, $13.30.


Teresa of Avila. The Way of Perfection: A Study Edition. Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D., and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2000. ISBN: 0935216707, $18.95.


Teresa of Avila. The Interior Castle: A Study Edition. Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D., and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2010. ISBN: 0935216804, $22.64.


Kavanaugh, Kieran, O.C.D. Teresa of Avila: The Way of Prayer. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2003. ISBN: 156548181X, $12.56.


Rule of St. Albert. (Available online at


Kavanaugh, Kieran, O.C.D. “Introduction.” In The Interior Castle, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D., and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D., 1-29. New York: Paulist Press, 1979. (This is from the Classics of Western Spirituality series by Paulist Press.) ISBN: 0809122545, $18.11. (Also posted on Populi, with permission.)


Bilinkoff, Jodi. “The City of Saint Teresa.” In The Avila of Saint Teresa: Religious Reform in a Sixteenth-Century City, 1-14. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989. ISBN: 0801480523, $23.70. (Both Bilinkoff chapters are also posted on Populi, with permission.)


Bilinkoff, Jodi. “Saint Teresa of Jesus and Carmelite Reform, 1560-1580.” In The Avila of Saint Teresa: Religious Reform in a Sixteenth-Century City, 108-151. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989. (ISBN same as above.)


Overview of additional resources (optional):

Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD: This five-minute YouTube video is a short introduction to Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh, in which you can get a feel for this Carmelite priest and scholar, and hear him describe his work on the writings of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. He also describes the origin of the Institute for Carmelite Studies, which publishes many Carmelite works.’s offering of the St. Teresa of Avila mini-series starring Concha Velasco. It’s a series of episodes dramatizing the life of St. Teresa, and is very well done. The entire set contains 3 discs and runs for 450 minutes.

This St. Teresa of Avila tribute movie is a 7 minute “tribute” to St. Teresa. It has chant in the background and shows some of the famous places and art associated with St. Teresa. It’s a good video to put you in the mood to study St. Teresa. Not much information about her is presented.

This Saint Teresa of Avila Autobiography video is the first video of a series of 59 videos. The entire autobiography of her Life  is narrated, in English. The claim is made that the text is full and complete, but I have not independently verified this. Which translation is used is not stated. Each video is about 14 minutes long.

Prayer of the Heart and St. Teresa of Avila (six-part series), by “Sis. Donna.”

Here is Prayer of the Heart and St. Teresa of Avila Part 1

Each video segment is about 8 minutes long. Sister Donna describes Teresa, her life and her writings. It seems like a good general overview of Teresa’s life and methods of prayer.

This St. Teresa of Avila (Holy Repentance) video is part of the “Saints Speak” collection. This video is about 5 minutes long, and after the dramatic intro, we hear in Teresa’s words, her views on sin and repentance. It’s narrated in English by a nun or an actress dressed as a nun. It’s a dramatic portrayal and it is emotionally moving.

This Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila video contains are some passages from the Interior Castle displayed in English as a series of slides, in a slow, meditative rhythm. The video is about 8 minutes long. The translation used is not mentioned.

The Interior Castle (1 of 3) video is a 3-part series of 15 minutes each, on the Interior Castle. It’s a teaching module presented by Christian McCabe, a pastor in the Bahamas. It’s geared toward a parish or church community, and there are a few slides accompanied by Pastor McCabe’s comments.

This Discovering our Saints – St. Theresa of Avila video is an introduction to St. Teresa from CCTN, the Catholic Community Television Network. This video is a 2 minute introduction to St. Teresa. It’s a good, short introduction to the life of St. Teresa and her ultimate elevation to the position of Doctor of the Church.

This Saint Teresa of Avila – The Interior Castle Pt1of12 video is Part I of a 12-part series that narrates the Interior Castle in English. It’s not clear whether this is complete and unabridged, or what translation is used.


This is a set of mp3 files available from a Carmelite site. Teresa, John of the Cross and others are listed on the Meditations from Carmel website.

The Carmelites Notting Hill website contains some encouraging podcasts from the Carmelite sisters in the United Kingdom.

The Learn Out Loud website contains a podcast of Teresa’s autobiography. The translator is mentioned. The entire work is considered to be in the public domain. (Once I started this, it was hard to get it to stop – leaving the page did not end it. I finally ended it by killing the task in “Task Manager.”)

This TalkShoe recording is a podcast of a meeting held on St. Teresa’s feast day in 2009, between two sisters and an author of a new translation of St. Teresa’s Life.

Videos in Spanish:

This Santa Teresa de Jesús video part one of an introduction to Teresa of Jesus, by a Carmelite friar in Spain.

This S. Teresa y P. Tomas Alvarez video is one of many interviews with Fr. Tomas Alvarez, a leading Carmelite Teresian scholar who currently resides in Spain. There are a number of these interviews posted on YouTube, from the First Teresian Congress in Avila, Spain, in August, 2010.



A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73 60-69; F 59 and below


The following rubric will be used to evaluate your papers.

A- The paper articulates a clear thesis which asserts your view on an issue and engages both the text and your own experience outside of the classroom.  This thesis is supported by a logical outline and appropriate use of material from the text, all serving to develop and forward the academic argument presented in the thesis. All quotations and paraphrasing are cited accurately and the paper contains few, if any, grammatical and spelling mistakes.

B- The paper expresses a position through an accurate and distinguishable thesis. The paper follows an outline and utilizes appropriate material from the text. However, the argument could be developed more substantially. All quotations and paraphrasing are cited accurately and the paper has minimal grammatical and spelling mistakes.

C- The paper has a basic thesis which it supports with a basic structure, but may have minor flaws in logic or organization; however, the argument is not fully developed and the use of material from the text, though cited accurately, may not connect directly to the thesis or may be too long. This paper may have frequent typographic and grammatical errors.

D- This paper lacks a thesis, or the thesis does not reflect the text accurately. There is little logic or organization to the paper. Citations tend to be long or disconnected from the meaning of the text and may be inaccurate or poorly constructed. This paper demonstrates little attention to grammar or spelling.

F- The paper shows little effort to summarize or present a cogent thesis. There is no organization or logic to the structure of the paper. There may be quotations from the text, but they are inappropriate or too long and do not show comprehension of the material. Frequent grammatical or spelling mistakes are found throughout, which should easily have been caught in a process of revision.

Participation in Online Discussions:

Online discussion questions will be posted with a completion period of about a week (time may vary). Below are guidelines for posting comments and responses.

Timeliness: Posts made early in the assignment period are preferred because they provide more opportunity for further discussion. Posts made in the last few hours or minutes of the period will receive partial credit, but not as much credit as earlier posts. Posts made after the assignment period has concluded will receive no credit.

Thoughtfulness: Posts do not need to be "right" to receive full credit, but they should be thoughtful. Thoughtful posts acknowledge and respond to the work of other students, make connections between concepts discussed in the assigned readings and assignments, and demonstrate an engagement with lecture material and class discussions.

Thoroughness: Posts should thoroughly respond to discussion board topic. For example, rather than a five-word post such as "Yes, I agree with Pat," a thorough post will state "Yes, I agree with Pat, and here's why," and proceed with a few sentences of explanation.


Holy Apostles College & Seminary is committed to the goal of achieving equal educational opportunities and full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities who qualify for admission to the College. Students enrolled in online courses who have documented disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact Bob Mish, the Director of Online Student Affairs, at or 860-632-3015. In all cases, reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to course materials in a mode in which they can receive them. Students who have technological limitations (e.g., slow Internet connection speeds in convents) are asked to notify their instructors the first week of class for alternative means of delivery.


Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.

Avoiding Plagiarism

In its broadest sense, plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas, presented or claimed as your own.  At this stage in your academic career, you should be fully conscious of what it means to plagiarize. This is an inherently unethical activity because it entails the uncredited use of someone else's expression of ideas for another's personal advancement; that is, it entails the use of a person merely as a means to another person’s ends.


  • Should identify the title, author, page number/webpage address, and publication date of works when directly quoting small portions of texts, articles, interviews, or websites.
  • Students should not copy more than two paragraphs from any source as a major component of papers or projects.
  • Should appropriately identify the source of information when paraphrasing (restating) ideas from texts, interviews, articles, or websites.

Consequences of Academic Dishonesty:

Because of the nature of this class, academic dishonesty is taken very seriously.  Students participating in academic dishonesty may be removed from the course and from the program.


Even though you are not required to be logged in at any precise time or day, you are expected to login several times during each week. Because this class is being taught entirely in a technology-mediated forum, it is important to actively participate each week in the course. In a traditional classroom setting for a 3-credit course, students would be required, per the federal standards, to be in class three 50-minute sessions (or 2.5 hours a week) and prepare for class discussions six 50-minute sessions (or 5 hours) a week. Expect to devote at least nine 50-minute sessions (or 7.5 quality hours) a week to this course. A failure on the student’s part to actively participate in the life of the course may result in a reduction of the final grade.


An Incomplete is a temporary grade assigned at the discretion of the faculty member. It is typically allowed in situations in which the student has satisfactorily completed major components of the course and has the ability to finish the remaining work without re-enrolling, but has encountered extenuating circumstances, such as illness, that prevent his or her doing so prior to the last day of class.

To request an incomplete, distance-learning students must first download a copy of the Incomplete Request Form. This document is located within the Shared folder of the Files tab in Populi. Secondly, students must fill in any necessary information directly within the PDF document. Lastly, students must send their form to their professor via email for approval. “Approval” should be understood as the professor responding to the student’s email in favor of granting the “Incomplete” status of the student.

Students receiving an Incomplete must submit the missing course work by the end of the sixth week following the semester in which they were enrolled. An incomplete grade (I) automatically turns into the grade of “F” if the course work is not completed.

Students who have completed little or no work are ineligible for an incomplete and must receive the grade that they have earned. Students who feel they are in danger of failing the course due to an inability to complete course assignments should withdraw from the course.

A “W” (Withdrawal) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the first week of a semester to the end of the third week. A “WF” (Withdrawal/Fail) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the third week of a semester and on or before the Friday before the last week of the semester.


 KOlsen.jpgDr. Kristina R. Olsen holds a Ph.D. in Spirituality from Catholic University of America, an M.A. in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, and Master’s Degrees in Business (MBA, U. of MT) and Computer Science (Northwestern University). She also has a B.A. in Music (Classical Guitar) and a B.Ph. in Liberal Studies.

Dr. Olsen worked in telecom R&D at Bell Labs (AT&T/Lucent) for over 15 years, in all phases of software project mgt., engineering and development. Prior to that she taught music and performed as a classical guitarist.  She currently teaches courses in IT, Business, and Theology in the Washington DC area and online.

(860) 632-3010