Which Wounds Will Be Redeemed? The Role of Disability, Suffering, and the Resurrection in Teresa of Avila's Spirituality

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Theological Studies


Department of Religious Studies


Advisor: Jana Bennett


This thesis seeks to engage in an examination of redemptive suffering and Resurrected woundedness, especially for persons with disabilities through the interlocutor of the sixteenth-century saint, St. Teresa of Avila. Teresa of Avila, with her embodiment of suffering, provides a first-hand example of the spiritual tension experienced when living with a disability. From the perspective of Teresa, her body was physically limiting her from fully serving God; "que servía mucho más a Dios con la salud" ["I would be able to serve God much better if I were in good health"] (Autobiography, VI: 5). Thus, I explore the research question: does disability or woundedness hinder one's relationship with God? Teresa reveals that she wishes her body was healed in order to serve God in a greater way. The main aspect of this project is to present the tension between these two approaches to suffering happening within the same person with special consideration of her early modern European social context. After sharing a bit of my own experience of suffering in the convent, I combine the voice of Teresa of Avila with contemporary disability theologians to arrive at the present conversation in theological disability studies. I further emphasize the embodied limits model of disability, proposed by Deborah Creamer, as a lens to look at Teresa’s suffering in a spiritual context. My conclusion hinges on the terminology of redemptive suffering within the church. I suggest a renaming of the term, moving towards a more inclusive spirituality of suffering, especially considering persons with disabilities.


redemptive suffering, saints, chronic pain, spirituality, disability, Teresa of Avila, convent

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