12 April 1920
The death of St. Teresa of the Andes
“There is an interchange of love that takes place only on the Cross,” Elizabeth of the Trinity had written only 14 years before our Chilean Carmelite Sister entered Carmel. Those words are the law of following Christ who said of His own sufferings and death: “Is it not fitting that the Son of man should suffer and thus enter into His glory?” Sister Teresa fully believed and cherished these words as well as another saying of Elizabeth’s, “It is on the Cross that He gives me life.”
Now, Sister Teresa of the Andes is about to experience the full truth of those words as well as the mystery and reality of being totally configured to Christ.
During Lent, 1920, the young novice, one of the “white veils” as Carmelite novices are referred to, was taking to heart the moving lessons of that solemn penitential season. She was careful to remain recollected, careful to keep her thoughts centered on her crucified Lord and on the great needs of His Church. She poured her life into her vocation and into the graces of the holy penitential season.
Sister Teresa remained absorbed in the sufferings of her Spouse throughout Holy Week of 1920. But she also began to sense that something was wrong. She did not feel well. And, indeed, something was wrong, terribly wrong. The ardent young novice had contracted typhus, a fleaborne disease for which there was then no cure. […] The sufferings that accompany this disease are simply unbearable.
[L]ate on Good Friday, the Novice Mistress first noticed how ill Sister Teresa was and immediately ordered her to bed. Sister Teresa was running an abnormally high fever.
The doctor was summoned immediately but was unable to reduce her fever. His prognosis was very unfavorable. Sister Teresa had to admit to him that she had not been feeling well for several weeks. Mother Angelica had Sara Urbistondo telephone Señora Lucía to advise her of her daughter’s condition. She, in turn, dispatched her personal physician, Doctor Diaz Lira, to care for Sister Teresa.
The grieving community loved their novice and kept constant vigil by her bedside. Everything possible was done to help her, but the doctors admitted that it was already too late. Her case had passed beyond the limits of medical science, beyond the capabilities of human help.
On Monday, April 5, 1920, she requested the last Sacraments and received them with the greatest joy and comfort. Because of high fever, she was in and out of fits of delirium. The community feared the end was near.
During a period when Sister Teresa was not delirious, Mother Angelica suggested to the young novice that she make her religious vows in the Carmelite Order. It took place shortly after midnight. According to the ancient practice of the Church and in accord with the norms of canon law recently promulgated in 1918 by Pope Benedict XV, Sister Teresa was allowed, although still a novice, to make her Profession in the Carmelite Order.
Those who were present assure us that she made her Profession with great joy. Then she prayerfully repeated the formula three more times with great emotion, and then thanked all the Sisters for having allowed her to make her Religious Profession.
She was now fully living what she had previously written of: “the victim of love must ascend Calvary with her Lord.”
Later that day she was given Holy Viaticum. In 1917, she had offered herself to any kind of death the Lord would permit. She even offered to suffer “the abandonment of Calvary.” God accepted her offering. Her mystical purification continued, especially that Saturday night. She felt some of the abandonment Christ suffered on the Cross. There were moments of doubt and of mortal anguish.
During her delirium, she told those present that she felt abandoned by God and condemned for not having responded faithfully to the graces the Lord gave her. Despite these feelings, she remained abandoned into God’s merciful arms and in the deepest depths of her heart she knew she was safe and secure.
On Monday, April 12, at 7:15 P.M., she sweetly fell asleep in the arms of God. Her earthly life was ended. She had passed through the portals of death and was taken into eternal, everlasting life with her Lord.
She had never feared death. Previously she wrote, “To die is to be eternally immersed in Love.” Now she was with the risen Jesus. Her Spouse has taken her into that reality and fullness of Love, and she forever beholds the Face of the living God, the God who is Infinite Joy.
When death overtook her she was only 19 years and 9 months old; she had not yet reached her 20th birthday. She had lived in the Monastery of Los Andes 11 months and had been a member of the Discalced Carmelite Order for 6 months, since she had taken the habit of the Order in October 1919. She made Profession only 5 days before leaving this mortal life. During her 5 days as a professed religious she lived that profession in union with her Spouse in transforming suffering and love.
Michael D. Griffin, O.C.D.
Griffin, M D and Teresa de los Andes, 2021, God, The Joy of My Life: A Biography of Saint Teresa of the Andes With the Saint’s Spiritual Diary, ICS Publications, Washington DC.