Teresa of Avila, writing in the 16th century when ideas of holiness often excluded women and
lay people, developed a radically inclusive understanding of holiness as friendship with
Christ. Her idea also allowed for degrees of holiness, from those who completed only the
necessary church requirements of confession and absolution all the way up to those who had
a friendship that was modelled upon the relationship in the Song of Songs. It was a definition
of holiness applicable to men and women, clergy, members of religious orders, and lay people.
In addition, her understanding of holiness did not distinguish the holiness of ordinary lay
people from that of the great saints of previous generations, for friendship with Christ was
open to all.