Inter Spinas: Novena 5

(Seville, Nov. 21, 1575)
The feast of the Presentation of our Lady in the temple

1. On the day the brief was presented, while I was anxiously waiting, I was all troubled and couldn’t even pray vocally. For they had come to tell me our Father’s life was in danger. It wasn’t allowed for him to leave the monastery and there were so many rumors. I heard these words: “O woman of little faith! Be calm, for things are going very well.”

2. It was the feast of the Presentation of our Lady, in the year 1575. I resolved within myself that if the Virgin would obtain from her Son that we see both our Father and ourselves freed from these friars, I would ask our Father for an indult that in all of our monasteries of the discalced nuns this feast could be celebrated with solemnity

3. When I made this resolve I didn’t recall what I had heard in the vision I’d seen, that the Father would establish a feast. Now in turning back to read this little notebook, I have wondered if the feast could be this one of the Presentation.

Saint Teresa of Avila
Spiritual Testimonies: 55

El día que se presentó el Breve, como yo estuviese con grandísima atención, que me tenía toda turbada, que aun rezar no podía, porque me habían venido a decir que nuestro Padre estaba en gran aprieto, porque no le dejaban salir y había gran ruido, entendí estas palabras: “¡Oh mujer de poca fe!; sosiégate, que muy bien se va haciendo”.

2. Era día de la Presentación de nuestra Señora, año de mil y quinientos y setenta y cinco. Propuse en mí si la Virgen acababa con su Hijo que viésemos a nuestro Padre libre de estos frailes, y a nosotras, pedir ordenase que en cada cabo se celebrase con solemnidad esta fiesta en nuestros monasterios de Descalzas.

3. Cuando esto propuse no se me acordaba de lo que entendí, que había el Padre de establecer fiesta, de la visión que vi. Ahora, tornando a leer este cuadernillo, he pensado si ha de ser ésta la fiesta.

Santa Teresa de Jesús
Las Relaciones: Capítulo 60
Sevilla, el 21 de noviembre de 1575


Teresa in Penance_Pernambuco PESSCA
Saint Teresa in Penance, João de Deus Sepúlveda, Oil on wood, 1760-1761, Igreja de Santa Teresa, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil


Matthew 14:22-32

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.


O most beautiful Flower of Mount Carmel,
Fruitful Vine, Splendor of Heaven,
Blessed Mother of the Son of God,
Immaculate Virgin,
assist me in this my necessity.
O Star of the Sea, help me and show me
herein that you are my Mother.

O Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Queen of heaven and earth,
I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart
to succor me in this necessity.
There are none that can withstand your power!
O help me and show me herein
that you are my Mother.

Our Lady, Queen and Beauty of Carmel,
pray for me and obtain my requests!
Sweet Mother, I place this cause
in your hands!


Novena citations taken from The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. 
ICS Publications Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars,
JUANdelaCRUZ - It is our anxiety IGsize
I would desire that you not be so solicitous for the temporal things of the house because God will gradually forget you and you will come to a state of great spiritual and temporal need; for it is our anxiety that creates our needs. Cast your care on the Lord, daughter, and he will sustain you [Ps. 55:22], for he who gives, and wants to give, the highest cannot fail to give the least. Be careful that you do not lack the desire to be poor and in want; for if you do, at that very hour devotion will fail you and you will gradually weaken in the practice of virtue. If previously you desired poverty, now that you are superior you ought to desire and love it much more. You ought to govern and provide the house with virtues and ardent desires for heaven rather than with worries and plans about temporal and earthly things. The Lord tells us not to be thinking about food or clothing or tomorrow [Mt. 6:31-34].


Letters: Letter 21 to Madre María de Jesús
The Collected Works of Saint John of the Cross, Revised Edition
Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D.
With Revisions and Introductions by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D.
ICS Publications
Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

Quote of the day: 28 April

The best thing to do is to put everything in the hands of God and await the outcome in peace and abandonment to His will.

I’m happy to see, my dear sister, that your little girl is your pride and joy. I, too, was so happy with my first child. To my eyes, there had never been a child like her. I hoped that it would go as easily for all the others. I was mistaken. What I’ll learn for another time is not to dream of lasting happiness, something quite impossible here below!

So, you can’t imagine how frightened I am of the future, about this little person that I’m expecting. It seems to me that the fate of the last two children will be his fate, and it’s a never-ending nightmare for me. I believe the dread is worse than the misfortune. When misfortunes come, I resign myself well enough, but the fear, for me, is torture. This morning, during Mass, I had such dark thoughts about this that I was very deeply moved. The best thing to do is to put everything in the hands of God and await the outcome in peace and abandonment to His will. That’s what I’m going to try very hard to do.

Saint Zélie Guérin Martin
Letter CF 45, excerpt to Madame Guérin (Céline Fournet Guérin)
28 February 1869

Read the full text of Letter CF 45 here

Illustrated Songs and Hymns for the little ones
Image taken from page 35 of ‘Illustrated Songs and Hymns for the little ones. Compiled by T. B. S. [i.e. Thomas Bywater Smithies.]’
British Library HMNTS 11652.g.32.
London, [1874.]
Learn more about this image and this book here

Marie Céline Martin was born on 28 April 1869, the seventh child of Saints Louis and Zélie Guérin Martin. Her two older brothers, Joseph Louis (20 September 1866 – 14 February 1867) and Joseph Jean-Baptiste (19 December 1867 – 24 August 1868) had both died in infancy. One can understand Saint Zélie’s emotions and admire her practice of heroic faith despite her fear.

Read more correspondence from the family and friends of Saint Thérèse here

Quote of the day: 17 April

I sought relief in the scriptures

You will find that the reading of sacred scripture is a great and powerful remedy against bodily suffering and depression of mind. In my opinion, there is no other writing, no matter how eloquent and stylish it may be, that can bring such peace to our minds and so thoroughly dissolve our cares as sacred scripture can.

I speak from personal experience: for there have been times when I was beset with anxieties, the worst of which came from the experience of my own weakness, and if on such occasions I sought relief in the scriptures, the hopes and desires that led me there were never disappointed. The word of scripture proved to be a solid bulwark against my anxieties and a relief to my troubled spirit.

Blessed Baptist Spagnoli of Mantua
From the treatise of Blessed Baptist Spagnoli “On Patience”

Photo by Johannes Plenio on

Born in Mantua on April 17th, 1447, as a youth Blessed Baptist Spagnoli joined the Carmelites of the Congregation of Mantua at Ferrara. He made his religious profession in 1464 and served in many positions of responsibility in the community; he was vicar general of his congregation six times, and in 1513 was elected prior general of the whole Order. In his own time, he was a renowned humanist ‘who brought his richly varied poetry into the service of Christ’. He used his friendships with scholars as an opportunity of encouraging them to live a Christian life. He died in Mantua on March 20th, 1516.

Quote of the day: 19 February

These last two days our dear invalid has grown considerably weaker, and this morning she wasn’t able to get up to take Holy Communion. Our beloved Sister is in a state of weakness, oppression, and anxiety which leads us to think that the end cannot be far off.

She was most touched by your parcel, but she eats so little now that she only tasted it. She has asked us to convey her gratitude for this kind gesture which moved her deeply.

Letter from Sister Marie-Louise de Gonzague Vétillart, V.H.M. to Saint Zélie Martin
19 February 1877

I’m enclosing a letter I just received a moment ago which doesn’t leave us any more hope, as you can see. Last week I sent some roasted goose to my sister since she’d wanted to eat some cooked in our house. I also sent her a pound of gumdrops and a dozen cakes, but Pauline wrote Marie that she gave almost all of them to her.

Finally, I think her death is imminent, and it makes me very sad. But on the other hand, I want my poor sister to be freed as soon as possible.

Letter from Saint Zélie Martin to her sister-in-law Céline Fournet Guérin
20 February 1877

Garden of the Visitandines Rouen, edhal on flickr
Garden of the former Visitation monastery, Rouen | Edhral / Flickr 
alone worry sad fear facepalm grief_ayo-ogunseinde-202302-unsplash
Having trouble praying?
St. Teresa of Avila had that problem, too!
Just before she took the 𝗯𝗶𝗴𝗴𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗽 𝗼𝗳 𝗳𝗮𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿 to found St Joseph’s Monastery she couldn’t pray! “Interiorly I was extremely restless and I couldn’t practice prayer,” she recalled.

Novena to Saints Louis and Zélie Martin – Day 5

True happiness is not of this world.
We waste our time looking for it here.


April 14, 1868

Your last letter made me very happy. I was so eager to hear from you, and I still am because I’d like to know how little Jeanne is doing, as well as all of you.

I see you’ve already had many concerns about your dear little girl. But, my dear sister, you mustn’t worry unnecessarily; children always have a few problems. I’m so used to it with mine that I just accept it.

However, I’ve had plenty of reasons to be anxious over the youngest one, who was very sick three weeks ago. The wet nurse arrived, sobbing, to tell me that there was no hope, that he was sick exactly like his little brother. The fear of seeing him die in her home frightened her so much that she wanted to return him to me. The doctor went there right away and saw he had bronchitis. We took care of him as best we could, and now he’s completely cured.

We went to see him today. He smiled at his father and me as if he knew us. I feel so deprived not having him with us, and I’m longing for the moment when he returns, although I already fear the extra problems his return will bring us because we’re so overworked here. If I had three times less work, I’d still have so much that I’d rarely have a free moment. But it’s such sweet work to take care of little children! If I only had that to do, it seems to me I’d be the happiest of women. But it’s quite necessary that their father and I work to earn money for their dowries. Otherwise, when they’re grown, they won’t be very happy with us!

In my last letter, I forgot to thank you for the beautiful box of candy you sent home to us with my father. He gave us a charming account of little Jeanne’s baptism. He was truly impressed.

Everyone here is in good health, but my poor Léonie took a bad fall and has two very large and deep cuts on her forehead. This is the third time she has cut her forehead, and the marks from the first two times are very noticeable. I’m sorry about that. But on the other hand she has the best nature you could imagine. She and Pauline are charming; little Hélène is very cute as well. Marie has a very special and determined nature. She is the prettiest, but I’d like her to be more obedient. When you write to me, don’t mention what I say to you about this child, other than being so gifted. My husband wouldn’t be happy; she’s his favorite!

I hope to receive news from you soon. Will you tell me if the pharmacy is doing well, if my brother still worries and if he’s sad? I’d like you all to be happy, but true happiness is not of this world. We waste our time looking for it here.

From Mme Martin to Mme Guérin CF 31 – April 14, 1868


R/.  Be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
V/.  So that you may be able to discover what is God’s will,
what is good, pleasing and perfect.

O God,
who gave to Saint Louis and Marie Zelie
the grace to lead a life of holiness
as Christian spouses and parents,
grant that, through their intercession and example,
we may be able to love and serve you faithfully,
living worthily our own vocation.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Discover more from the letters of Saints Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin on the website of the archives of the Carmel of Lisieux

Powered by

Up ↑