Quote of the day: 2 December

To the King Don Philip II

Avila, 4 December 1577

The grace of the Holy Spirit be with your majesty, amen. I strongly believe that our Lady has chosen you to protect and help her order. So, I cannot fail to have recourse to you regarding her affairs. For the love of our Lord, I beg you to pardon me for so much boldness.

I am sure your majesty has received news of how the nuns at the Incarnation tried to have me go there, thinking they would have some means to free themselves from the friars, who are certainly a great hindrance to the recollection and religious observance of the nuns. And the friars are entirely at fault for the lack of observance previously present in that house. The nuns are very much mistaken in their desire that I go there, for as long as they are subject to the friars as confessors and visitators, I would be of no helpat least not of any lasting help. I always said this to the Dominican visitator, and he understood it well.

Since God allowed that situation to exist, I tried to provide a remedy and placed a discalced friar in a house next to them, along with a companion friar. He is so great a servant of our Lord that the nuns are truly edified, and this city is amazed by the remarkable amount of good he has done there, and so they consider him a saint, and in my opinion, he is one and has been one all his life.

When the previous nuncio through a long report sent him by the inhabitants of the city was informed of the things that were happening and of the harm that the friars of the cloth were doing, he gave orders under pain of ex-communication that the confessors be restored to their house (for the calced friars had driven them from the city heaping abuse on them and giving much scandal to everyone). And he also ordered that no friar of the cloth under pain of ex-communication go to the Incarnation for business purposes, to say Mass, or hear confessions, but only the discalced friars and secular clergy. As a result, the house was in a good state until the nuncio died. Then the calced friars returnedand so too the disturbancewithout demonstrating the grounds on which they could do so.

And now a friar who came to absolve the nuns caused such a disturbance without any concern for what is reasonable and just that the nuns are deeply afflicted and still bound by the same penalties as before, according to what I have been told. And worst of all he has taken from them their confessors. They say that he has been made vicar provincial, and this must be true because he is more capable than the others of making martyrs. And he is holding these confessors captive in his monastery after having forced his way into their cells and confiscating their papers.

The whole city is truly scandalized. He is not a prelate nor did he show any evidence of the authority on which these things were done, for these confessors are subject to the apostolic commissary. Those friars dared so much, even though this city is so close to where your majesty resides, that it doesn’t seem they fear either justice or God. I feel very sad to see these confessors in the hands of those friars who for some days have been desiring to seize hold of them. I would consider the confessors better off if they were held by the Moors, who perhaps would show more compassion. And this one friar who is so great a servant of God is so weak from all that he has suffered that I fear for his life.

I beg your majesty for the love of our Lord to issue orders for them to set him free at once and that these poor discalced friars not be subjected to so much suffering by the friars of the cloth. The former do no more than suffer and keep silent and gain a great deal. But the people are scandalized by what is being done to them. This past summer in Toledo, without any reason, the same superior took as prisoner Fray Antonio de Jesúsa holy and blessed man, who was the first discalced friar. They go about saying that with orders from Tostado they will destroy them all. May God be blessed! Those who were to be the means of removing offenses against God have become the cause of so many sins. And each day matters will get worse if your majesty does not provide us with some help. Otherwise, I don’t know where things will end up, because we have no other help on earth.

May it please our Lord that for our sakes you live many years. I hope in him that he will grant us this favor. He is so alone, for there are few who look after his honor. All these servants of your majesty’s, and I ask this of him continually.

Dated in St. Joseph’s in Avila, 4 December 1577.

Your majesty’s unworthy servant and subject,

Teresa of Jesus, Carmelite

 


In early December 1577, St. John of the Cross was abducted from his chaplaincy at the monastery of the Incarnation in Avila. Sanjuanist scholars disagree on the exact date.

Translator and editor Father Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD indicates that “on the night of December 2, 1577, a group of Carmelites, laypeople, and men-at-arms broke into the chaplain’s quarters, seized Fray John, and took him away” (Kavanagh 1991, Introduction).

Saint Edith Stein, for example, writes, “on the night of December 3, 1577, several of the Calced with their accomplices broke into the living quarters of the nuns’ two confessors and took them away as captives” (Stein 2002, Introduction).

Teresianum professor and Sanjuanist authority Father Iain Matthew simply states this about John’s arrest: “On a cold night in early December, his chaplaincy in Avila was raided. The young man was taken away for interrogation and chastisement. Then he disappeared” (Matthew 1995, p. 9)

Whatever the date may have been, nine long months of physical and psychological torture followed with hardships that most would have found unbearable. Yet out of this darkness emerged the most profound and exquisite poetry that John of the Cross ever wrote.

 

Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
You fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.

 

 

Silhouelk Mark Gunn Flickr 27703036162_53bc7c3800_o
Mark Gunn / Flickr

 

 

John of the Cross, St. 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Matthew, I 1995,  The Impact of God: Soundings from St. John of the Cross,  Hodder & Stoughton, London.

 

Stein, E 2002, The Science of the Cross, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 24 November

I remember that when my mother died I was twelve years old or a little less. When I began to understand what I had lost, I went, afflicted, before an image of our Lady and besought her with many tears to be my mother. It seems to me that although I did this in simplicity it helped me. For I have found favor with this sovereign Virgin in everything I have asked of her, and in the end she has drawn me to herself.

Saint Teresa of Avila

The Book of Her Life, Chap. 1

 


On 24 November 1528 Doña Beatriz Dávila Ahumada y de las Cuevas—better known as Doña Beatriz de Ahumada—made her last will and testament. Scholars such as Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Joseph Pérez indicate that it is believed she expired soon after she made and signed her will, dying in her palace at Gotarrendura, Avila. From there, her body was taken to the city with all due ceremony where she received a burial with honors in the Church of San Juan in Avila.

Spanish Wikipedia editor CrisDC has done a fine job creating and editing a small biography for Doña Beatriz drawing upon the research of Pérez and others, as well as consulting the Cepeda genealogy.

Father Kavanaugh discusses the “image of our Lady” in his notes to St. Teresa’s Life:

According to an old tradition, she is referring to a statue of Our Lady of Charity that was venerated in the hermitage of St. Lazarus, outside the walls of the city, near the river Adaja. After the destruction of the hermitage in the nineteenth century, the statue was moved to the cathedral where it is venerated today.

This statue of Our Lady of Charity is found in the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows (Capilla de la virgen de la piedad o de los dolores) in the Cathedral of Avila. You can learn more about the chapel here on the cathedral website and see a better photo of the chapel here on Wikimedia Commons, which includes the statue of Our Lady of Charity.

Finally, thanks to Flickr members javiolano for sharing his photo of the stunning autumn colors along Camino Río Arbillas in Avila in November 2016 and to juanobe for his photo of the famous “image of our Lady” who received the tears of a grief-stricken child named Teresa.

 

Virgen de la Caridad Cathedral of Avila Juan NOLLA BENAGES Flickr 6037499941_a7cf838ff2_o
Virgen de la Caridad, Cathedral of Avila | juanobe / Flickr

 

 

Kieran Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O, and Teresa 1976, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Quote of the day: 2 November

To King Don Philip II, Madrid
Seville, 19 July 1575
Jesus.

The grace of the Holy Spirit be always with your majesty. While much afflicted and praying to our Lord about the affairs of this holy order of our Lady and considering the great need there is that these initiatives God has taken in its regard not crumble, it occurred to me that the best safeguard for us would be that you realize what giving a solid foundation to this edifice entails; even the calced friars would benefit from the increase in numbers.

I have lived among them for 40 years

and, considering everything, I know clearly that if a separate province is not made for the discalced friarsand soongreat harm will be done, and I think it will be impossible for them to move ahead. Since this lies in your hands and I see that the Blessed Virgin, our Lady, has chosen you to support and protect her order, I have dared to write and beg you that for the love of our Lord and his glorious Mother you give orders that this separate province be formed…

Your majesty’s unworthy servant and subject,

Teresa of Jesus, Carmelite

 


 

Teresa Enters the Convent MetMuseum DP310147
Vita B. Virginis Teresiae 
Plate 4: Teresa Enters the Convent 
Adriaen Collaert (Netherlandish, 1560-1618) Engraving, 1613 
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

On the 2nd of November 1535, Saint Teresa entered the Carmelite monastery of the Incarnation at Avila when she was twenty years old. The Lord had been preparing her for that moment by a long and circuitous route; even after she said “yes” to Him, there was no straight path to her goal:

My fondness for good books was my salvation. Reading the Letters of St. Jerome so encouraged me that I decided to tell my father about my decision to take the habit, for I was so persistent in points of honor that I don’t think I would have turned back for anything once I told him. So great was his love for me that in no way was I able to obtain his permission or achieve anything through persons I asked to intercede for me. The most we could get from him was that after his death I could do whatever I wanted. I was afraid of myself and my frailty and of backing down; and since I could not wait so long, I tried to do it by another way… (Book of Her Life, 3)

Her “other way” was so secretive, one would think that St. John of the Cross had her story in mind when he wrote the first stanza of his poem, ‘The Dark Night’:

One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
– ah, the sheer grace! –
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

Indeed, Teresa went out unseen from her house, or rather, from her father’s house:

I remember, clearly and truly, that when I left my father’s house I felt that separation so keenly that the feeling will not be greater, I think, when I die. For it seemed that every bone in my body was being sundered. Since there was no love of God to take away my love for my father and relatives, everything so constrained me that if the Lord hadn’t helped me, my reflections would not have been enough for me to continue on. In this situation, He gave me such courage against myself that I carried out the task. (Book of Her Life, 4)

Teresian scholar Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. notes that her father did, in fact, come to “accept it all with resignation, gave her a dowry that was more than substantial, and acquired for his daughter a private room of her own in the monastery.” (Book of Her Life, Introduction)

Exactly one year later, on the 2nd of November 1536, Saint Teresa received the habit of our Lady of Mount Carmel. Father Kavanaugh notes that the prioress was Doña Mencía Cimbrón, “a distant relative of Teresa’s”.

The lessons that Saint Teresa learned on November 2 can serve us well:

As soon as I took the habit, the Lord gave me an understanding of how He favors those who use force with themselves to serve Him (…) When I recall this, there is no task that could be presented to me, no matter how hard, that I would hesitate to undertake. For I have already experienced in many ways that if I strive at the outset with determination to do it, even in this life His Majesty pays the soul in such ways that only one who has this joy understands it. (Book of Her Life, 4)

Saint Teresa of Jesus, pray for us.

 

TERESA signature Blogfeatureimage
Signature of St. Teresa conserved in the general archives of the City of Burgos

 

 

Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 25 October

Teresa is writing a letter. If you could see the faces she’s making while writing you would be delighted. However badly our fortunes go I don’t allow them to tell her anything. Today is January 30.

Saint Teresa of Avila

 


Discalced Carmelite translator, editor, and scholar Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh tells us that this autograph fragment from a letter, presumably written in 1578 to Padre Jerónimo Gracián from Avila, gives us an intimate glimpse inside the tender relationship between Teresa and her niece, ‘Teresita’, Sr. Teresa de Jesús Cepeda.

This is a little scene in which Teresa watches as Teresita, about eleven years old, makes some first attempts at writing. This fact in itself is significant. In 1935, the international literary quarterly Books Abroad invited the famed Ecuadorean writer, Víctor Manuel Rendón, to write an article on Ecuadorean literature. His topic of choice was ‘Women Writers of Ecuador’ and in it, he made a bold claim:

Who was the first woman writer of Ecuador? Teresa de Jesús Cepeda (1566-1610). Her father was a brother of Santa Teresa de Jesús. She was born in Quito but was taken at an early age to Spain and educated in the Carmelite Convent over which her glorious aunt presided. The latter said of her: “She has the disposition of an angel, and is a brilliant conversationalist; she tells stories of the Indians and of the sea better than I could tell them.” All that we have of Teresa de Jesús Cepeda is her letters; but they are written with consummate grace and in the purest Castilian, abounding in profound ideas in which discretion, strength, modesty, and piety vie with one another, like reflections of the divine intellectual gifts of the Saint of Avila.

Discalced Carmelite historian and blogger Father Iván Mora Pernía places Teresita’s date of birth as 25 October 1566, relying upon the research of Teresian biographer Father Salvador de la Virgen del Carmen, OCD.

Father Mora recalls the words of St. Teresa’s brother and Teresita’s father, Lorenzo; when he presented his daughter Teresita to the nuns at the Carmel of St. Joseph in Avila, he reportedly said, “I’m giving you the best gift I brought back from the Indies.”

 

Sister Teresa de Jesús Cepeda (1566-1610), portrait by fray Juan de la Miseria

 

Rendón, V 1935, 'Women Writers of Ecuador', Books Abroad, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 380-382.

 

Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 11 October

O Eternal Father! How much this humility deserves! What treasure do we have that could buy Your Son? The sale of Him, we already know, was for thirty pieces of silver. [Mt 26:15] But to buy Him, no price is sufficient. Since by sharing in our nature, He has become one with us here below—and as Lord of His own will—He reminds the Father that because He belongs to Him, the Father, in turn, can give Him to us. And so He says, “our bread.” He doesn’t make any difference between Himself and us, but we make one by not giving ourselves up each day for His Majesty.

Saint Teresa of Avila

The Way of Perfection: Chap. 33

 

glitzy wounded cristo pendant yang-jing-_lQJUdNpOr0-unsplash
Photo by Yang Jing on Unsplash

 

Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 5 October

The Apparitions of St. Teresa

As told by Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew

 

Teresian expert Father Kieran Kavanaugh reminds us that “on September 29 the Madre went to bed never to rise again. She had suffered a hemorrhaging from which it was understood that she would die.”

Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew was constantly at her side throughout those final days. She herself writes, “I did not leave her for a moment. I begged the religious to bring me what was necessary for her. I gave it to her. It was a consolation to her for me to do so.”

On 3 October, her condition worsened; the doctor administered a painful cupping treatment, Father Kavanaugh explains. On 4 October, the feast of St. Francis, Fr. Kavanaugh says that “she remained in prayer, in deep quiet and peace, without speaking or stirring throughout the whole day.”

Poor Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew, who had virtually no respite for hours, was ordered by Father Antonio of Jesus (Heredia)St. John of the Cross’ companion in the first foundation of Discalced Carmelite friars at Duruelo“to go and get something to eat. But Teresa began looking about, and when Antonio asked her if she was looking for Sister Ana, she gestured affirmatively.”

Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew hurried back to St. Teresa’s cell. . .

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Panel from the great reliquary of Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew in Antwerp depicts the death of St. Teresa in her arms | Tijl Vereenooghe, erfgoed / Flickr

 


As soon as she saw me, she smiled at me, showed me such condescension and affection that she caught me with her two hands and rested her head in my arms. I held her thus in my embrace until she expired.

As the Saint loved me so much, I had begged her to console me, and to ask of our Lord for me perfect liberty of spirit, without attachment for anyone whomsoever. I was naturally affectionate, and I loved the Saint more than anyone could love her, also the other religious whom I saw advanced in perfection and loved by the Saint.

I loved them very much, and sometimes the Saint told me this attachment for friends was not good for my soul, and I must overcome it for my spiritual welfare; but until that hour when God called her to Himself, I had not succeeded.

It was she who obtained this grace for me, for from that time I was free and detached and it seemed to me that I had a yet greater love for the religious, loving them without any mixture of self-love; and, for the rest, it was as if I were alone in the world. I love all my Sisters in God and for God.

I received such strength of soul to prepare the body of the Saint for burial, that I did it with as much calmness as if her death had been a matter of indifference to me.

I wished to remain in that convent, but neither the Superior nor the religious of the Monastery of Avila, to which I belonged, would give their consent. They sent for me in haste. I felt some perplexity of soul. But the Saint appeared to me and said: “My daughter, obey the command given you, and depart!”

From the time of my return to the Convent of Avila, I prayed to the Saint and recommended myself to her. I spoke of this to my confessor. He told me it was wrong to recommend myself to a Saint who was not yet canonized and commanded me not to do it.

That same night whilst asleep, the Saint appeared to me most glorious and resplendent. She said to me: “My child, ask of me anything you wish and I will obtain it for you.”

Awakening, then, I said to her: ‘I ask of you the Spirit of God, that it may always dwell in my soul.”

She disappeared, leaving me in perfect certainty of the opinion I had formed of her sanctity. The command of my confessor, however, did not fail to cause me pain, for he had told me not to pray to her as a Saint. Even had not the signal favors granted her by God, and which proved that He loved her, led me to think her such, the consideration alone of the love with which she had endured for God so many labors, of which I was witness, and in which I had taken some part, would cause me to state as a certainty that she was a real Saint.

From the time in which she appeared to me in such great glory, as I have already narrated, I earnestly desired that her holy body should be brought back to Avila. One day, occupied with this thought, and believing that they feared to remove the holy body because they knew not in what condition they would find it, I fervently begged of our Lord to make this known to me.

Immediately I entered into a spiritual slumber, and angels carried me to the sepulcher; they opened it and showed me the body; it was entire, having the same color as when later they brought it forth from the tomb, and it exhaled the same odor and perfume.

The angels showed me two sleeves on her arms, also entire and in the same condition as when I placed them there. They said: “Are you satisfied? Do you wish anything more?”

I replied yes, that I would be more satisfied if I saw the Saint in her own convent at Avila, but that the Duke of Alba would never consent to it.

They said to me: “Do not make any account of the opposition of the Duke of Alba. It is the king who will decide; this matter depends on him alone.”

 

alba tormes corazon 01
The heart of St. Teresa is preserved in a reliquary  above the altar of the Carmel of Alba de Tormes | Photo credit: annabelfrage.com

 

The Duke and Duchess of Alba died soon after, and the king, to please his heirs, was unwilling that the holy body should be transferred to Avila. Before this happened, the Order earnestly desired the translation of the holy body from Alba to Avila.

My tender affection for the Saint led me to recommend the affair to God with great fervor. Our Lord said to me: “Do not be troubled; the holy body will return to this house.”

Continuing with importunity, I asked our Lord when this would take place, because I was eager to know. He replied: “It will be on the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin.”

There was still almost a year to wait; but on the day fixed the thing was accomplished; they took the body of the Saint from the house at Alba and transferred it to that of Avila.

It was received there with the liveliest transports of joy. The number of lights burning was so great the convent seemed like heaven. The Saint gave a thousand proofs of tenderness towards her children; in whatever part of the convent they might be, she appeared to them and consoled them.

 

Apparition in Segovia Cuzco artist Patrimonio Catolico Pero
One of St Teresa’s many apparitions to her nuns is captured in this 18th c. Peruvian oil painting by an unidentified Cuzco artist | Photo credit: PESSCA Archives

 

Anne of St. Bartholomew, M; Bouix, M 1917,  Autobiography of the Blessed Mother Anne of Saint Bartholomew, inseparable companion of Saint Teresa, and foundress of the Carmels of Pontoise, Tours and Antwerp, translated from the French by anonymous, H. S. Collins Printing Co., Saint Louis.

 

Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 4 October

The Death of St Teresa

As told by Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew

 

The day of her death she was unable to speak from early morning; in the evening, the Father who was attending her (Father Anthony of Jesus, one of the two first Discalced Carmelites) told me to go take some nourishment.

But scarcely had I left than the Saint became restless; with an anxious air she looked from one side to the other. The Father asked her if she wished me near her. She answered yes, by signs.

They called me; I hastened back.

As soon as she saw me, she smiled at me, showed me such condescension and affection that she caught me with her two hands and rested her head in my arms. I held her thus in my embrace until she expired, being more dead than the Saint herself; for, as for her, she was so inflamed with love for her Spouse that she sighed for the moment of parting from her body in order to be with Him.

As our Lord is so good and saw how little patience I had to bear this cross, He appeared to me at the foot of the Saint’s bed in all His Majesty, accompanied by His blessed ones who came to seek her soul.

This glorious vision lasted the space of a Credo, giving me time to exchange my pain and grief for a great resignation, to ask pardon of our Lord and say to Him:

“My Lord, even should Your Majesty wish to leave her for my consolation, I would ask you, now that I have witnessed your glory, not to leave her one moment in this exile.”

Scarcely had I uttered these words than she expired, and this blessed soul soared like a dove to enjoy the possession of her God.

 

Death of St Teresa - Madrid San Jorge
Death of St. Teresa
Polychrome wood
Church of San Jorge, Madrid

 


Saint Teresa of Avila died in the arms of her nurse and companion, Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew, at 9:00 in the evening on the 4th of October in the year 1582 in the Carmel of Alba de Tormes.

But why was St. Teresa in Alba de Tormesnot in Avila? Translator and editor Fr. Kieran Kavanagh explains:

Antonio de Jesús [Heredia], who was acting as vicar provincial while Gracián was in Andalusia, came to Medina with the news that the Mother Foundress must go to Alba de Tormes because of the election of a prioress that was to take place there and because the Duchess of Alba wanted to see her. Still weak from her lingering illness, longing to get back to Avila, Teresa fell into a deep sadness. The vicar provincial’s orders and their effect on the Madre remained fixed in mind. This incident became for the devoted infirmarian a key example of Teresa’s virtue.

In our quote of the day for 3 October, we had read Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew’s testimony of the exhaustion of Teresa at their arrival in Alba de Tormes. Blessed Anne’s own words provide a resume of the situation: “from Burgos to Alba the route was one chain of sufferings for the saint.”

Father Kavanagh continues the account:

As for the election of a prioress in Alba, it seems there was little that was edifying in the community. No doubt Father Antonio thought Teresa’s presence would inspire better behavior and change some attitudes. In a previous letter, dated August 6, to the founding benefactress, Teresa Layz, Madre Teresa indicated some of the problems of the Alba community and bluntly states her displeasure over the conduct of some of the nuns. She worries that no prioress will want to stay there very long since so many are trying to get out of the office. “If the nuns are what they ought to be,” the Madre writes, “what will it matter to them who the prioress is? But these are childish ways and reveal attachments that are far from being appropriate for discalced nuns, nor are they found in other houses.” This is the community in which Teresa was to end her days.

Father Kavanagh also mentions that another visitor to Our Holy Mother, “perhaps on September 28, was her sister Doña Juana de Ahumada to whom Teresa manifested her desire to move on to Avila. But on September 29 the Madre went to bed never to rise again. She had suffered a hemorrhaging from which it was understood that she would die. Doctors who have studied the remaining descriptions of her last illness believe that the actual cause of Teresa’s death was cancer of the uterus.”

Another medical detail mentioned by Kavanagh:

On October 3, in the morning, the barber-surgeon put the Mother Foundress through the painful ordeal of cupping, a remedy that was prevalent in those times and meant to facilitate the excretion of certain liquids and humors.

For centuries, we have heard the story that her last words were en fin soy hija de la Iglesia… “Finally, I am a daughter of the Church.” But there are more details to share that Carmelite scholars like Father Kieran Kavanaugh can reveal. We will let him tell the rest of the story:

In the testimony given by witnesses, there is a general agreement concerning the themes of the prayers spoken aloud by Teresa on the eve of her death before and after receiving the Eucharist and after receiving the Sacrament of the Sick. On the one hand, she revealed her intense feelings of sorrow at being a sinner, repeating pleas for mercy from God. This she did through verses taken from a psalm and spoken in Latin as she had learned them through choral recitation of the prayer of the Church. On the other hand she revealed her awareness of approaching union with Christ her Bridegroom and her urgent longings for that moment. The words denote an active surge of loving energy and searching rather than an attitude of passive waiting. “Now the hour has struck.”

Further, in her thankfulness for being a daughter of the Church, she rejoiced in the thought of her Mother the Church, where she found the deposit of revelation, the norm of faith, the administration of the sacraments, the Christian family; this Church was now to offer her the Blood of Christ, the grace of redemption.

The following day, the feast of St. Francis (the little poor man of Assisi), her face was aglow, and with a crucifix, in her hands, she remained in prayer, in deep quiet and peace, without speaking or stirring throughout the whole day. In the evening, a couple of hours before she died, Padre Antonio told Blessed Ana [Anne of St. Bartholomew] who had been continually at her foundress’s side to go and get something to eat. But Teresa began looking about, and when Antonio asked her if she was looking for Sister Ana, she gestured affirmatively.

When Ana returned, Teresa smiled and with tender love took the humble Sister’s arms and placed her head in them. In this manner, the saintly Madre remained until she died between nine and ten that evening. She was surrounded by all the nuns in the community. Her niece Teresita, Blessed Ana, Padre Antonio de Jesús, and Padre Tomás de la Asención were also present.

After her death, her countenance turned as white as alabaster and being freed of every wrinkle took on an extraordinary beauty. A powerful and pleasing fragrance began to flow from her body and spread through the entire house, indeed as the truths of her profound writings would one day spread through the world. Hers had been a life unexplainable without God and without the grace that comes through Jesus Christ.

When Pope Gregory XIII issued the papal bull Inter Gravissimas in February 1582 to reform the Julian calendar, King Philip II decreed that Spain and all Spanish territories would observe the change in the calendar specified by the Vatican. Therefore, Thursday 4 October on the Julian calendar was followed by Friday 15 October on the newly reformed Gregorian calendar.

 

Death of St Teresa - Cathedral of Almudena
Death of Saint Teresa
Sr. Isabel Guerra, O.Cist. (Spanish, 1947 – )
Oil on canvas
Almudena Cathedral, Madrid 

 

Images of the death of St. Teresa from the churches of Madrid are courtesy of the Iconografía Teresiana pages on the website of the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Alba de Tormes.

 

Anne of St. Bartholomew, M; Bouix, M 1917,  Autobiography of the Blessed Mother Anne of Saint Bartholomew, inseparable companion of Saint Teresa, and foundress of the Carmels of Pontoise, Tours and Antwerp, translated from the French by anonymous, H. S. Collins Printing Co., Saint Louis.

 

Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Quote of the day: 21 September

Tarde de tormenta en Úbeda
Tarde de tormenta en Úbeda | Juan de la Obra / Flickr

 

To Doña Ana del Mercado y Peñalosa

Jesus be in your soul, my daughter in Christ

I received here in La Peñuela the packet of letters the servant brought me. I greatly appreciate your concern.

Tomorrow I am going to Ubeda for the cure of a slight bout of fever [probably erysipelas]. Since it has been returning each day now for more than a week and does not leave me, it seems I shall need the help of medicine. Yet I plan to return here immediately, for I am indeed very happy in this holy solitude. And thus in regard to what you said about being careful not to accompany Padre Fray Antonio, be sure that in this matter and in all else that may require it, I shall be as cautious as possible.

I am very happy to know that Señor Don Luis [Doña Ana’s brother] is now a priest of the Lord. May he be so for many years and may His Majesty fulfill the desires of his soul. Oh, how blessed a state this is for leaving aside cares and speedily enriching the soul! Congratulate him for me. I dare not ask him that he might some day remember me at the sacrifice of the Mass, and I as a debtor will ever remember him. Even though I am forgetful, I will not be able to forget him, since he is so close to his sister whom I always remember.

Greetings in the Lord to my daughter Doña Inés [Doña Ana’s niece]. And may both of you pray God to prepare me that he may bring me to himself. I cannot think of any more to write now and I am also closing on account of the fever, for I would like to write at greater length.

From La Peñuela, September 21, 1591
Fray John of the Cross

You say nothing about the lawsuit, whether it is being tried or still to come up.


Letter 31 to Doña Ana del Mercado y Peñalosa, the “sister whom I always remember”, is the laywoman and directee for whom St. John of the Cross wrote the Living Flame of Love. This would be his last letter to her.

 

Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O & John of the Cross 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 12 September

Saint Teresa treats of the foundation of the monastery of the glorious St. Joseph made in the city of Toledo in 1569
The Book of the Foundations, Chapter 15

For some days we had no more than the straw mattresses and the blanket, and even that day we didn’t have so much as a stick of wood to make a fire to cook a sardine. And I don’t know who it was the Lord moved to leave a little bundle of wood in the church to help us.

The nights were quite cold; but with the blanket and the woolen mantles we wore, we kept ourselves warm, for these mantles often help us. It will seem impossible that though we had stayed in the house of that lady who loved me so much, [Doña Luisa de la Cerda] we had to enter the new foundation in so much poverty. I don’t know the reason, except that God wanted us to experience the good that lies in this virtue. I did not ask for help, because I don’t like to be a bother; and she perhaps wasn’t aware. Moreover, I am indebted for what she was able to give us.

The experience was very good for us; the interior consolation and happiness we felt were so great that I often think about what the Lord keeps stored up within the virtues. It seems to me this lack we experienced was the cause of a sweet contemplation.

But this poverty did not last long, for soon [the principal benefactor] Alonso Alvarez himself, as well as others, were providing us with more than we needed. And, true to say, my sadness was such that it resembled that of discovering that many gold jewels in my possession were taken away and I left poor.

Thus I felt sorry that they were bringing our poverty to an end, and my companions felt the same. Since I saw they were sad, I asked them what troubled them, and they answered: “What else could it be, Mother, for it no longer seems we are poor.”

From then on my desire to be very poor increased. And I felt freedom in having so little esteem for temporal goods, for the lack of these goods brings an increase of interior good. Certainly, such a lack carries in its wake another kind of fullness and tranquility.

 

Teresa-vagabonda-statue_full-length
The famous statue of the ‘vagabond’ Saint Teresa in front of the Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila, Spain | Photo credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

 

Teresa of Avila 1976 The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, Translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

 

Avila_San Jose de Avila antique postcard 01
Antique postcard of the Discalced Carmelite monastery of Saint Joseph in Avila, Spain | Photo credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

When everything was ready the Lord was pleased that on St. Bartholomew’s day the habit was received by some and the Blessed Sacrament was reserved and with all due authority and power our monastery of our most glorious father St. Joseph was founded, in 1562.

Saint Teresa of Avila
The Story of Her Life, Chap. 36

 

 

Kieran Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O, and Teresa, 1976, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Jesus be in your soul.

Although I have sent a letter by way of Baeza concerning the outcome of my journey, I am happy that these two servants of Señor Don Francisco are passing because of the opportunity it affords of sending these lines, which I am more certain will reach you.

I mentioned in the other letter how I desire to remain in this desert of La Peñuela, where I arrived about nine days ago and which is about six leagues north of Baeza. I like it very much, glory to God, and I am well. The vastness of the desert is a great help to the soul and body, although the soul fares very poorly. The Lord must be desiring that it have its spiritual desert. Well and good if it be for his service; His Majesty already knows what we are of ourselves. I don’t know how long this will last, for Father Fray Antonio de Jesús threatens from Baeza that he will not leave me here for long. Be that as it may, for in the meanwhile I am well off without knowing anything, and the life of the desert is admirable.

This morning we have already returned from gathering our chickpeas, and so the mornings go by. On another day we shall thresh them. It is nice to handle these mute creatures, better than being badly handled by living ones. God grant that I may stay here. Pray for this, my daughter. But even though I am so happy here, I would not fail to come should you desire.

Take care of your soul and do not confess scruples or first movements or imaginings in which the soul does not desire to be detained. Look after your health, and do not fail to pray when you can.

I already mentioned in the other letter, though this one will reach you first, that you can write to me by way of Baeza since they have mail service there. You can address the letters to the Discalced Fathers in Baeza; I have notified them to send the letters on to me.
Regards to Señor Don Luis and to my daughter, Doña Inés.

May God give you his Spirit as I desire. Amen.

From La Peñuela, August 19, 1591
Fray John of the Cross

[Letter 28 to Doña Ana del Mercado y Peñalosa]


Saint John of the Cross wrote Letter 28 to Doña Ana “about nine days” after he arrived from Segovia. Translator and editor Father Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. notes that it was for Doña Ana that John of the Cross wrote The Living Flame of Love. Read more about Saint John’s stay in La Peñuela here.

 

pasture near La Peñuela dehesa jiennense rufo_83 flickr
Pasture near La Carolina at the El Centenillo junction, near the location of the desert of La Peñuela | Dehesa Jiennense | rufo_83 / Flickr

 

Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O & John of the Cross 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 17 August

To Padre Jerónimo Gracián, Madrid
Avila, 21-22 August 1578

I tell you that ever-present to me is what they did with Fray John of the Cross, for I don’t know how God bears with things like that; even you don’t know everything about it. For all these nine months he was held in a little prison cell where small as he is, he could hardly fit. In all that time he was given no change of tunic, even though he had come close to the point of death. Only three days before his escape the subprior gave him one of his shirts. He underwent harsh scourges, and no one was allowed to see him.

I experience the greatest envy. Surely our Lord found in him the resources for such a martyrdom. And it is good that this be known so that everyone will be all the more on guard against these people. May God forgive them, amen.

An investigation should be conducted to show the nuncio what those friars did to this saint, Fray John, without any fault on his part, for it is a pitiful thing. Tell this to Fray Germán; he will do it because he’s quite mad about this …

Teresa de Jesús


Saint John of the Cross escaped from his prison cell in Toledo during the night of 17-18 August 1578. We share the following editorial notes from Father Kieran Kavanaugh:

“These are two fragments from one letter. They reflect Teresa’s first impressions on learning of St. John of the Cross’s escape from his prison cell in Toledo and of what he suffered there.”

The nuncio at the time was the Italian Archbishop Filippo (Felipe) Sega. Father Kavanaugh’s editorial note is too tantalizing to excerpt, so we present it in its entirety.

Born in Bologna, he became Bishop of Ripa and nuncio to Flanders before being appointed nuncio to Spain in 1577 as successor to Ormaneto. He entered Spain with a bias against Teresa and her reform, the source of which was Cardinal Buoncompagni, a relative of his and nephew of the pope. But the entire conflict that had developed in Spain among the Carmelites was so complex that he had little inkling of what he was getting into. He supported Tostado who was seeking to put into effect the decisions of the chapter of Piacenza. It was he who called Teresa “a restless, gadabout woman.”

Sega considered the discalced friars who took part in the chapter of Almodóvar in 1578 delinquents and rebels, never listened to their defense, and imprisoned their leaders in different monasteries of the observant Carmelites.

Through the intervention of the king, an investigating committee was set up, and the friars as a result were placed under the care of Angel de Salazar, a former provincial of the observant Carmelites in Castile. Salazar dealt with the matter gently and promoted greater peace between the two groups of friars. Sega then mellowed somewhat and acquiesced when the discalced formed a separate province. After leaving Spain, he served in Portugal, Germany, and France. He was made a cardinal in 1591 and died in Rome.

Finally, we share Father Kavanaugh’s note concerning Fray Germán: “Fray Germán de San Matías was a confessor for the nuns at the Incarnation along with John of the Cross. He was taken prisoner at the same time as John, but very soon afterward broke free from his captors.”

 

Filippo_Sega nuncio who jailed Juan
Cardinal Filippo Sega (1537-1596) | Wikimedia Commons

 

Kieran Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O, and Teresa, 1976, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

St. Teresa’s near-death experience

Then the feast of our Lady in August came.

The torment had been going on since April, but it was worse during the latter three months. I hastened to go to confession, for I always liked to confess frequently. They thought I was afraid of dying, and so that I would not become troubled my father would not allow me to confess. Oh, love, too excessive, springing from flesh and blood; even though from so Catholic and prudent a father (for he was every bit of this, and his action did not arise from ignorance), it could have done me great harm!

That night I suffered a paroxysm in which I remained for four days, [15-19 August 1539] or a little less, without any feeling.

 

Concha Velasco anointing
The great Spanish actress Concha Velasco appears in the starring role in Spain’s 1984 RTE television miniseries drama, Teresa de Jesús.

 

At this time they gave me the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, and from hour to hour or moment to moment they thought I was going to die; they did nothing but recite the Creed to me, as if I were able to understand them. At times they were so certain I was dead that afterward I even found the wax on my eyes.

The sorrow my father felt for not having let me confess was great — many outcries and prayers to God. Blessed be He who desired to hear them! For after the grave in my convent was open for a day and a half awaiting arrival of the body, and the funeral rites were already celebrated at a monastery of our friars outside the city, the Lord allowed me to return to consciousness.

 

Concha Velasco comes back to life
Concha Velasco is surrounded by her co-stars as she portrays Saint Teresa ‘returning to life’ after four days in a near-death experience.

 

Immediately I desired to confess. I received Communion with many tears, though it seems to me these tears were not caused by sorrow for having offended God, which would have been sufficient for salvation, but for the mistake I made on account of those who told me certain things were not mortal sins, which I afterward clearly saw were.

The pains that remained were unsupportable — the contrition imperfect, although the confession was integral, including, in my opinion, everything I understood to have been an offense against God. For among other favors His Majesty has given me since my first Communion, there is this one: that I never fail to confess what I think is a sin even though venial.

But without a doubt it seems to me that my salvation would have been in jeopardy if I should have then died since on the one hand my confessors were so poorly educated and on the other hand I was wretched, and for many other reasons.

Truly and certainly it seems to me that I am so startled in arriving at this part of my life and in seeing how apparently the Lord raised me from the dead that I am almost trembling within myself.

I think it was good, O my soul, that you beheld the danger from which the Lord delivered you. And if out of love you do not give up offending Him, may you do so out of fear lest on any other of a thousand occasions He might let you die in a more dangerous state.

I don’t believe I’m adding much by saying “any other of a thousand,” although I may be scolded by the one who commanded me to be moderate in telling about my sins; and they are being really beautified.

For the love of God I beg him not to cut out anything having to do with my faults, for this is where the magnificence of God and what He endures from a soul is seen more clearly.

May He be blessed forever. May it please His Majesty that I die rather than ever cease to love Him.

 

Teresa-de-Jesus_statue museo Santa Clara Borja
Santa Teresa de Jesús, José Ramírez de Arellano and studio, Polychrome wood, ca. 1850-1900, Museo Santa Clara, Borja Spain | E. Lacleta / museodesantaclaraborja.blogspot.com

 

Kieran Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O, and Teresa, 1976, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
Crossroads between Centenillo and La Carolina, Jaen, Andalucia 14513925649_9c136c4e49_o rufo_83 Flickr
This dehesa, a type of pastureland or meadow typical of the Iberian peninsula, is located near the road that leads from La Carolina to Centenillo in the province of Jaén. It was in this region where the convent of la Peñuela was located at the time of St. John of the Cross. | rufo_83 / Flickr

 

God desires the least degree of obedience and submissiveness more than all those services you think of rendering him.

Saint John of the Cross
Sayings of Light and Love, No. 13

 

On 10 August 1591 Saint John of the Cross transferred from the friars’ convent in Segovia to the solitude of La Peñuela, where at last he was relieved of all offices in the order; once again he was a humble friar, forgotten, despised, and neglected… as he had always desired.

His superior was the Provincial, Father Antonio de Jesús, with whom he had begun the reform under the guidance of Saint Teresa many years earlier in their humble abode in Duruelo.

Although John was able to pray gloriously in the solitude of rocks and forest, difficulties lay ahead; within weeks he would develop erysipelas, a skin infection on his foot that would lead to septicemia. By December, consumed by penances, trials, and his disease, Saint John of the Cross would be dead.

[Source: El médico interactivoEfemérides Carmelitanas]

 

Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O & John of the Cross 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 9 August

Passion Sunday, 26 March 1939

Dear Mother, please, will Your Reverence allow me to offer myself to the Heart of Jesus as a sacrifice of propitiation for true peace: that the dominion of Antichrist may collapse, if possible, without a new world war, and that a new order may be established? I would like it [my request] granted this very day because it is the twelfth hour. I know that I am a nothing, but Jesus desires it, and surely He will call many others to do likewise in these days.

Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, O.C.D.

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
A stained glass window in Eindhoven, Netherlands seems to offer a fitting tribute to Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein. Her lifelong journey with God from the family’s Jewish hearth to the heart of God by the path of total immolation for Christthrough the bonds of the Teresian Carmelprovides a stirring witness to the Church today. May we be inspired by her example and aided by her intercession. | pedrocaetano / Flickr

 

Edith Stein addressed Letter 296 to her prioress in the Carmel of Echt, Mother Ottilia a Jesu Crucifixo, O.C.D. (Maria Margaret Thannisch) on Passion Sunday, 1939. In her letter, we see profound continuity with Teresian spirituality; we offer for your reflection a few salient points.

Obedience

Edith’s obedience to her prioress prompts her to seek permission to make this solemn offering, rather than to enter into such a life-changing commitment by herself, a decision that could have consequences for her entire community.

Obedience is a cornerstone of all Carmelite life, beginning with the Rule of St. Albert of Jerusalem, which states, The first thing I require is for you to have a prior, one of yourselves, who is to be chosen for the office by common consent, or that of the greater and maturer part of you; each of the others must promise him obedience — of which, once promised, he must try to make his deeds the true reflection…” (Rule, 4)

St. Teresa of Avila takes up the refrain when she writes, “in matters touching on obedience He doesn’t want the soul who truly loves Him to take any other path than the one He did: obediens usque ad mortem” (Ph 2:8). (Foundations, 5:5)

 

Notting Hill Profession 2019
On 4 August 2019 Sister Sarah of Notting Hill Carmel made her First Religious Profession, and pronounced her vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience during Mass, in the presence of witnesses of the Church. This photo shows her pronouncing her vows as she kneels before her prioress, who receives them as God’s representative. | Photo: Carmelite Nuns in Britain / Facebook (used by permission)

 

Self-Offering

In comparison with the Discalced Carmelite martyrs of Compiègne and St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus who preceded Edith in choosing a life of radical, holocaust offering to God, we note the following similarities and differences:


🞧  The Discalced Carmelites of Compiègne made their offering after their prioress proposed making an act of consecration “by which the community would offer themselves in holocaust to appease the wrath of God and to obtain that, through the sacrifice of their very selves, peace may be restored to the Church and to the State.” (Sr. Marie de l’Incarnation 1836, p. 67)

 

🞧  St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus was motivated by “ardent desires… to save souls” when she made her holocaust offering to merciful love on 9 June 1895. (CJ, 30 Sep 97) She wrote, 

“O My God! Most Blessed Trinity, I desire to love you and make you loved, to work for the glory of Holy Church by saving souls on earth and liberating those suffering in purgatory. I desire to accomplish your will perfectly and to reach the degree of glory you have prepared for me in your kingdom… In order to live in one single act of perfect love, I offer myself as a victim of holocaust to your merciful love, asking you to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within you to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of your love, O my God!” (Pri 6)

 

🞧  St. Teresa Benedicta offered herself to the heart of Jesus, a gesture of self-immolation in the furnace of the infinite love of Christ. Like St. Thérèse of Lisieux and Blessed Thérèse of Saint-Augustine, the prioress of Compiègne, St. Benedicta understood that a holocaust is consumed in the flames that spring forth from the Sacred Heart, echoing the sentiment of Thérèse: “O my Jesus! let it be me this happy victim, consume your holocaust through the fire of your Divine Love.” (Ms A, 84r)

Further, the propitiatory nature of St. Benedicta’s self-offering aligns with the consecration of the proto-martyrs of Discalced Carmelite nuns, Blessed Thérèse of Saint-Augustine and her companions “so that peace may be restored to the Church and to the State.” (Sr. Marie de l’Incarnation 1836, p. 67)

 

Adoration_of_the_Kings_Cologne Cathedral window_Robyn Fleming Flickr
This stained glass window depicting the adoration of the three kings in the Cathedral of Cologne would have been familiar to Edith Stein; the cathedral holds a reliquary which, according to tradition, contains the bones of the magi, seen here. Did Edith see her self-sacrificial offering in reference to the gold, frankincense, and myrrh offered by the travelers from the East? | Robyn Fleming / Flickr

 

Nothingness

“I know that I am a nothing,” Edith wrote. This is an ancient tune in the Teresian Carmel, beginning with St. Teresa of Avila herself: “I realized I was a woman and wretched and incapable of doing any of the useful things I desired to do in the service of the Lord.” (Way, 1:2)

Blessed Thérèse of Saint-Augustine counseled abandonment as a remedy to her daughters and directees: “I’m speaking of perfect abandonment to the divine wishes of our good Master. We are in his hands like children in the arms of a tender Father, who knows well what we need” (Letter 4 from Blessed Thérèse of Saint-Augustine to Mademoiselle de Grand-Rut, Holy Thursday, April 1790). (Sr. Marie de l’Incarnation 1836, p. 137)

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, immersing herself within her own Carmelite identity“of the Child Jesus”through spiritual childhood,  explores the frontier of nothingness through love. While she stated in Manuscript A that it is “the property of love… to lower itself,” (Ms A, 2v) in her magisterial Manuscript B, she plumbs the abyss: “So that Love may be fully satisfied, it must lower itself, lower itself all the way to nothingness and transform this nothingness into fire.” (Ms B, 3v)

Are these three Carmelite martyrs exaggerating? No, insists the Discalced Carmelite friar who is the foremost expert on the theology of the saints, François-Marie Léthel, OCD—professor of the same at the Pontifical Theological Faculty “Teresianum”. His teaching is crystal clear:

It is “a rule in the theology of the saints: the saints never exaggerate, but simply tell the truth in dimensions that always seem exaggerated to us as they do for all those who aren’t yet saints!” (Léthel 2011, p. 144)

 

Star Cluster NGC 6611 Hubble star clusters NASA Hubble Flickr
This collection of dazzling stars is called NGC 6611, an open star cluster that formed about 5.5 million years ago in the well-known Eagle Nebula (or Messier 16). It is a very young cluster, containing many hot, blue stars, whose fierce ultraviolet glow make the surrounding Eagle Nebula glow brightly. Astronomers refer to areas like the Eagle Nebula as HII regions. This is the scientific notation for ionized hydrogen from which the region is largely made. Extrapolating far into the future, this HII region will eventually disperse, helped along by shockwaves from supernova explosions as the more massive young stars end their brief but brilliant lives. In this image, dark patches can also be spotted, punctuating the stellar landscape. These areas of apparent nothingness are actually very dense regions of gas and dust, which obstruct light from passing through. Many of these may be hiding the sites of the early stages of star formation, before the fledgling stars clear away their surroundings and burst into view. For more information, visit: http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/potw1101a/ |ESA/Hubble & NASA / Flickr

 

Divine Will

St. Teresa Benedicta minced no words when she declared her firm belief that God was calling her to make this radical self-sacrifice: “Jesus desires it.”

St. Thérèse was more poetic:

Divine Word! You are the Adored Eagle whom I love and who draws me! It is you who, soaring toward this land of exile, willed to suffer and die in order to draw souls into the heart of the Eternal Home of the Blessed Trinity. It is you who, ascending once again to the inaccessible Light, which will be henceforth your abode, still remain in this vale of tears, hidden beneath the appearance of a white host.

Eternal Eagle, you desire to nourish me with your divine substanceme, poor little creaturewho would return to nothingness if your divine gaze did not give me life each and every moment.

O Jesus, in the excess of my gratitude, let me tell you that your love is crazy. Given this craziness, how can you not want my heart to soar to you? How can my trust have any limits? 

Ah! For you, I know, the saints have done some crazy things, they’ve done some great things because they were eagles… Jesus, I’m too little to do great things… and my own craziness is to hope that your Love will accept me as a victim… My craziness consists in begging the Eagles my brothers, to obtain for me the favor of flying toward the Sun of Love with the Divine Eagle’s own wings… (Ms B, 05v)

For Blessed Thérèse of Compiègne, the divine inspiration to make the act of consecration came to her during mental prayer, those moments in the life of every Discalced Carmelite nun where even in the midst of dryness and darkness, she communes with God alone.

Mother Thérèse shared an apartment with the most senior members of the monastic community in Compiègne city after they were expelled from their cloister by the secularizing legislation of the French revolutionary government. It was to these most mature members of the community that one morning she first proposed a community act of holocaust consecration (probably in 1792); but their immediate reaction was to recoil in fear.

Historian William Bush notes that their reaction startled the prioress and she immediately regretted the proposal. Yet, after an entire day of contemplation, here were “two tearful 76-year-old nuns coming to ask forgiveness of their prioress for their lack of courage.” (Bush 1999, p. 107)

Again, what did Edith say? “Jesus desires it.”

 

Ratgeb martyrdom of the Carmelites
“Deus Vult” (God wills it) was the rallying cry associated with the Crusades, in particular the first crusade in the 11th century. The first Carmelite hermits, for whom St. Albert of Jerusalem wrote his Rule of Life, were believed to be crusaders who chose to lead a life of penance and prayer on the Mediterranean slope of Mount Carmel, rather than return to their homes in Europe. Ultimately, many of them gave their lives as witnesses to Christ when they were martyred at the hands of the Saracens in 1291.
Martyrdom of the Carmelites
Jörg Ratgeb (German, 1480-1526)
Wall painting, 1517
Carmelite Cloister, Frankfurt

 

Universal Call

When Blessed Thérèse of Saint-Augustine proposed the act of consecration to the entire community, she reminded her nuns in Compiègne to “note well, my Sisters, that we didn’t enter religious life except to put ourselves to work on our sanctification through the total immolation of our selves, which are so precious to us.  It shouldn’t cost us much to do this.” (Sr. Marie de l’Incarnation 1836, p. 67)

With her typical audacity, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus dared to ask this of the Lord: “I beg you to lower your divine gaze upon a great number of little souls. I beg you to choose a legion of little victims worthy of your love!” (Ms B, 5v)

Yes, St. Thérèse begged for holocaust victims; and, St. Benedicta felt certain that Christ would call others to follow such a rugged path that she trod: “surely He will call many others to do likewise in these days.” (Stein, E 1939, Letter 269)

 

OLMC Haifa 2019 Procession photo OCDinform 01
Thousands of pilgrims accompanied the Pilgrim Virgin statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the slow, arduous climb from Saint Joseph Latin Catholic Parish in the City of Haifa up to the Stella Maris Church and Monastery of the Discalced Carmelite friars on the promontory of Mount Carmel on 5 May 2019. It was the 100th anniversary of the procession, which began as an act of gratitude for the liberation of the city from Turkish rule at the end of the first World War. | Discalced Carmelite General Curia / Facebook (used by permission)

 

“In these days…”

In our time, self-sacrifice and courage never must be lacking. “Jesus desires it” still today. What time is it now? Is it still “the twelfth hour”? Are we too late to respond to his call? In the words of a meditation written for the Elevation of the Holy Cross, 14 September 1939, Saint Edith Stein still speaks to us today:

The world is in flames. Are you impelled to put them out? Look at the cross. From the open heart gushes the blood of the Savior. This extinguishes the flames of hell. Its precious blood is poured everywhere—soothing, healing, saving.

The eyes of the Crucified look down on you—asking, probing. Will you make your covenant with the Crucified anew in all seriousness? What will you answer him?

“Lord, where shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.”

Ave Crux, Spex unica!

 


Reference List

Agnès of Jesus, 1897, The yellow notebook of Mother Agnès, Archives du Carmel de Lisieux, viewed 8 August 2019, <http://www.archives-carmel-lisieux.fr/english/carmel/index.php/carnet-jaune/2385-carnet-jaune-septembre>.

Albert of Jerusalem, c. 1206-1214, The Rule of St. Albert, Carmelnet, viewed 8 August 2019, <http://carmelnet.org/chas/rule.htm>.

Bush, W 1999, To Quell the Terror: The True Story of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Foley, M., & Teresa. 2012, The book of her foundations: a study guide, Institute of Carmelite Studies, Washington, D.C.

Gelber, L, Linssen, M & Stein, E 1992, The Hidden Life: Hagiographic Essay, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O & Teresa 2000, The Way of Perfection, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Léthel, F-M 2011, La Lumière du Christ Dans le Coeur de l’Église: Jean-Paul II et la théologie des saints, Éditions Parole et Silence, Les Plans-sur-Bex.

Marie de l’Incarnation 1836, Histoire des religieuses carmélites de Compiègne conduites a l’échafaud le 17 juillet 1794, Ouvrage posthume de la soeur Marie de l’Incarnation, Thomas-Malvin, Sens.

Stein, E. 1993, Self-Portrait in Letters, 1916-1942, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Discalced Carmelite, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face 1895, Manuscript A 02v, Archives du Carmel de Lisieux, viewed 8 August 2019, <http://www.archives-carmel-lisieux.fr/english/carmel/index.php/02-10/02/02-verso>

Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, 1895, Manuscript A 84r, Archives du Carmel de Lisieux, viewed 8 August 2019, <http://www.archives-carmel-lisieux.fr/english/carmel/index.php/81-86/84/84-recto>.

Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face 1896, Manuscript B 03v, Archives du Carmel de Lisieux, viewed 8 August 2019, <http://www.archives-carmel-lisieux.fr/english/carmel/index.php/b03/b03v>

Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face 1896, Manuscript B 05v, Archives du Carmel de Lisieux, viewed 8 August 2019, <http://www.archives-carmel-lisieux.fr/english/carmel/index.php/b05/b05v>

Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, 1895, Prayer 6 from Thérèse of Lisieux, Archives du Carmel de Lisieux, viewed 8 August 2019, <http://www.archives-carmel-lisieux.fr/english/carmel/index.php/pri-6>.

 


Sine qua non

The blogger wishes to acknowledge the invaluable guidance, instruction, example, encouragement, and friendship of the following Discalced Carmelites:

Bishop Silvio José Báez, Auxiliary Bishop of Managua
Sister Marie Josephine Fagnoni, Carmel of Haifa
Father Emilio José Martínez González, Pontifical Theological Faculty “Teresianum”
Father François-Marie Léthel, Pontifical Theological Faculty “Teresianum”
Sister Thérèse Wilkinson, Thicket Priory

Quote of the day: 26 July

While reading a book on the life of St. Anne, the child, when a little more than twelve years old, became very devoted to the saints of Carmel. For the author of the book says that St. Anne’s mother — I believe her name is Merenciana — often went to speak to those saints. The effect this reading had on the girl was one of great devotion to the order of our Lady, for she then promised to become a nun in that order and also made a promise of chastity.

Saint Teresa of Avila
The Book of Her Foundations, Chap. 26
Commenting on the vocation of Beatriz de la Madre de Dios

 

Joachim and Anne, Cuzco artist, Convento de Sta Teresa, Arequipa Peru
The young Virgin with Saints Joachim and Anne
Unidentified Cuzco Artist (Peru, 18th c.), 
Oil on canvas, 18th c.
Convento de Santa Teresa, Arequipa, Peru

 

Jacob did not become less a saint for tending his flock, nor Abraham, nor St. Joachim. When we try to avoid work, everything tires us. That’s the way it goes for me, and for this reason God wills that I be always loaded down with many things to do.

Saint Teresa of Avila
Letter 172 to her brother, Don Lorenzo de Cepeda
2 January 1577

 

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, Inc.

His heart an open wound with love

Stanzas applied spiritually to Christ and the soul

 

1. A lone young shepherd lived in pain
withdrawn from pleasure and contentment,
his thoughts fixed on a shepherd-girl
his heart an open wound with love.

2. He weeps, but not from the wound of love,
there is no pain in such affliction,
even though the heart is pierced;
he weeps in knowing he’s been forgotten.

3. That one thought: his shining one
has forgotten him, is such great pain
that he bows to brutal handling in a foreign land,
his heart an open wound with love.

4. The shepherd says: I pity the one
who draws herself back from my love,
and does not seek the joy of my presence,
though my heart is an open wound with love for her.

5. After a long time, he climbed a tree,
and spread his shining arms,
and hung by them, and died,
his heart an open wound with love.

 

Sacred Heart adored by angels_Andrés López 1785
The Sacred Heart of Jesus adored by angels
Andrés López
Oil on copper, 1785
Peyton Wright Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
See a larger work here on a similar theme by Andrés López in the sacristy of the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

 

Poetry: Poem 7, 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.

Marie du jour: 4 May

Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me. What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you. Do not engage yourself in something less or pay heed to the crumbs that fall from your Father’s table. Go forth and exult in your Glory! Hide yourself in it and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your heart.

Saint John of the Cross
Prayer of a Soul Taken with Love
Sayings of Light and Love, No. 27

LONGHI Madonna and Chilld
Madonna and Child
Barbara Longhi (Italian, 1552-1648)
Oil on canvas, about 1580-1585
Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields
This small Madonna is one of the few known works by Barbara Longhi. Daughter of the Mannerist painter Luca Longhi, her work was praised by contemporaries, including Giorgio Vasari, for its “purity of line and soft brilliance of color.”
The subject of the reading Virgin was a popular one in the Renaissance. It exalts a feminine ideal, embodied by the Virgin, in which the ability to read is exercised in the service of prayer. On another level, the book held aloft by the Virgin can be seen as a symbol of the Word. This meaning is reinforced by the figure of the infant Christ, resting his arm against the globe of the world and raising his hand in blessing.
Learn more here

 

Sayings of Light and Love, 27
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: 7 April

At another time while I was at prayer, my spirit was carried off to where it seemed to be in a large field in which many were in combat, and those belonging to this order were fighting with great fervor. Their faces were beautiful and very much aglow. They conquered many, throwing them to the ground; others, they killed. It seemed to me this battle was against the heretics.

Saint Teresa of Avila
The Book of Her Life: Chapter 40

Cole, George Vicat, 1833-1893; The Summons to Surrender (An Incident in the Spanish Armada)
The Summons to Surrender (An Incident in the Spanish Armada) | George Vicat Cole (1833–1893) | Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery

 

The second expedition of Discalced Carmelite missionary friars, composed of Fathers Pedro de los Angeles, Sebastián de S. Andrés, Bartolomé de S. Miguel, Luis de S. Pablo, and a lay-friar left Lisbon on this date in the fleet that went to the Portuguese colony of Angola. Off the Cape Verde coast, the ship on which the missionaries were sailing was left behind, which was then trapped by four English galleons captained by privateers. Father Pedro de los Apóstoles, the superior of the friars, exhorted the Portuguese to fight and die for the Catholic faith against the anti-papist English; while he was carrying on, an English sailor slashed his neck with a knife to make all the captive Spaniards and Portuguese fear for their lives; thank God, the wound was not deadly. Thus began the dispossession of the missionaries. The English took everything the priests had brought of value — books, chalices, vestments, etc. — and they roundly mocked the friars; the privateers locked the Carmelites in the galleon’s dungeon, which was a veritable portrait of hell. They continued like this for three days in the virtual belly of the whale, eating but a few crusts of hard bread dipped in seawater. The English were going to torment everyone. But seeing the so-called Spanish “heretics” — the Discalced Carmelites — singing for joy at the opportunity to suffer for Christ, the English galleon abandoned them on one of Cape Verde’s secluded islands. Fr. Sebastián de S. Andrés died on the island. The other four friars took advantage of a Spanish ship to return to Seville. So, the second expedition to Africa failed. [Source: Efemérides Carmelitanas]

The Book of Her Life: Chapter 40; The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila 
Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. (unless otherwise noted)
Published by ICS Publications, Washington DC 
Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

 

Quote of the day: 31 March

Well, my soul now was tired; and, in spite of its desire, my wretched habits would not allow it rest. It happened to me that one day entering the oratory I saw a statue they had borrowed for a certain feast to be celebrated in the house. It represented the much wounded Christ and was very devotional so that beholding it I was utterly distressed in seeing Him that way, for it well represented what He suffered for us. I felt so keenly aware of how poorly I thanked Him for those wounds that, it seems to me, my heart broke. Beseeching Him to strengthen me once and for all that I might not offend Him, I threw myself down before Him with the greatest outpouring of tears.

Saint Teresa of Avila

The Book of Her Life, Chap. 9, No. 1
The account of her conversion, Lent 1554

The Second Conversion of Saint Teresa Cuzco School 1694
The Second Conversion of Saint Teresa
Unknown artist, Cuzco School
Oil on canvas, ca. 1694
Convento del Carmen San José, Santiago, Chile

View more images from the life of Saint Teresa here

 

The Book of Her Life: Chapter 9; The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila 
Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. (unless otherwise noted)
Published by ICS Publications, Washington DC 
Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

 

 

 

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