The Catholic University of America

  Final Examination of

Kevin M. DePrinzio, O.S.A.

for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy


Your Word Pierced My Heart, and I Fell in Love:

Teresa of Avila’s Reading of Augustine of Hippo’s Confessions


Director: Regis J. Armstrong, O.F.M.Cap., Ph.D.


In 1554, after twenty years as a Carmelite nun in the Monastery of the Encarnación in Avila and having begun to practice the Prayer of Recollection, as espoused in Francis of Osuna’s El Tercer Abecedario, Teresa of Jesus noticed a shift in her prayer before an image of the suffering Christ.  At that time, she was given a copy of Augustine’s Confessions, which had been newly translated into Spanish.  She writes, “As I began to read the Confessions, it seemed to me that I saw myself in them.  I began to commend myself very much to this glorious saint.  When I came to the passage where he speaks about his conversion and read how he heard the voice in the garden, it only seemed to me, according to what I felt in my heart, that it was I the Lord called” (Vida 9.8).

Teresian scholarship acknowledges a connection between Augustine and Teresa and recognizes the influence of his writings upon her.  Much has been done in the way of paralleling Libro de la Vida with the Confessions, especially in its autobiographical rendering.  However, this scholarship typically falls short in addressing just how the Confessions impacted her life.  

The Confessions speaks to various levels of conversion in Augustine’s life, all of which come together and culminate in the garden scene recorded in Book VIII.  Interestingly, one of these levels is how Augustine approaches texts and comes to appreciate language. A gifted rhetorician, Augustine himself will notice a shift in how he experiences texts and is invited to “take up and read” Scripture and encounter the living Word.  It is precisely this invitation that grabs Teresa’s attention and pulls her into the story of Augustine, and subsequently into her own story, that is worth exploring closely.  The Confessions enabled Teresa to see, read, and understand her experience(s) differently and deeply, helping her to develop a new mystical language.    In other words, Teresa’s reception of this text marks a conversion in itself, namely, in her relationship to books, in how she receives and reads them.  In effect, the Confessions serves as a bridge to understanding her mysticism.

Using the fourfold contemplative method of lectio divina, this dissertation examines Teresa’s reading of Augustine’s Confessions, which she describes as part of her own conversion experience, and, as a result, changes the ways in which Teresa reads, approaches, and reflectively writes of her own experience.


More about DePrinzio

Kevin M. DePrinzio, O.S.A., was raised in suburban Philadelphia.  Upon graduating from Saint Joseph’s University in 1998 with a BA in English, he entered the Augustinian Friars, Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova.  After professing vows in 2000, he studied at the Washington Theological Union in Washington, DC, and after graduating in 2004 with an MDiv and MA in Church History, he was ordained to the presbyterate.  From 2004 to 2007, he served in campus ministry at Merrimack College in North Andover, MA, and from 2007 to 2012, he served as his province’s vocation director, while also a campus minister at Villanova University.  In 2012, he began doctoral work in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at Catholic University.