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After exhuming her body, they discovered a puncture wound in her heart.
St. Teresa of Avila is well known for her many mystical experiences, and achieved a union with God on this earth that is difficult to understand. She wrote down most of these experiences and recounts in her own words what they felt like.
One such experience is called the “transverberation” of her heart. She was so close to God that her heart was literally pierced with his love. St. Teresa describes it in her autobiography.
Our Lord was pleased that I should have at times a vision of this kind: I saw an angel close by me, on my left side, in bodily form. This I am not accustomed to see, unless very rarely. Though I have visions of angels frequently, yet I see them only by an intellectual vision, such as I have spoken of before. It was our Lord’s will that in this vision I should see the angel in this wise. He was not large, but small of stature, and most beautiful—his face burning, as if he were one of the highest angels, who seem to be all of fire: they must be those whom we call cherubim. Their names they never tell me; but I see very well that there is in heaven so great a difference between one angel and another, and between these and the others, that I cannot explain it.
I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it, even a large one. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.
During the days that this lasted, I went about as if beside myself. I wished to see, or speak with, no one, but only to cherish my pain, which was to me a greater bliss than all created things could give me.
While this was primarily a spiritual experience of ecstasy, later on it was discovered that her heart was also physically pierced. When St. Teresa’s body was exhumed in 1582, her body was found to be incorrupt with no evidence of decay. At one point her heart was removed from her body, and people were astonished to see an actual wound from the angel’s spear.
Her incorrupt heart is now on display in the town of Alba de Tormes in Spain, and some say they can still see the puncture of the spear in her heart.
St. Teresa reached the heights of sanctity in her lifetime and was able to receive the love of God in an extraordinary way. God wanted her to understand the depths of his love and gave her a little glimpse of it in the transverberation. It is a miraculous story, one that should give us hope one day to experience the bliss she received when we are united to God for all eternity.