The Catholic University of America

Final Examination

Kristina R. Olsen

for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Friday, January 31, 2014

2:00p.m., Caldwell Hall, Room 125



Work in the Spirituality of Teresa of Avila


Director: Rev. Raymond Studzinski, O.S.B., Ph.D.


This dissertation explores the theme of work in the life and writings of St. Teresa of Avila, the 16th-century Spanish Carmelite mystic and reformer. It examines Teresa's approach to work in religious life during a time of global expansion, socio-economic change and religious reform in Spain, and it seeks to discover how Teresa's approach to work may be reconciled with contemplative Carmelite spirituality. This study of Teresa's approach to work sheds light on her innovations as a reformer and leader. Her innovations encouraged equality among nuns, which went against the existing culture of aristocratic honor and a highly structured social classes, and she led from within, maintaining an intense life of prayer while engaging in a highly active life of reform and writing activities well into her later years. We first introduce Teresa's writings on work, followed by a description of her context, and then we examine the three major periods of her life to explore how her own development with respect to work led her to implement her reform and write her spiritual masterpieces with such courage, dedication and intensity.