The prioress should see to it that good books are available, especially The Life of Christ by the Carthusian, the Flos Sanctorum, The Imitation of Christ, The Oratory of Religious, and those books written by Fray Luis de Granada and by Father Fray Pedro de Alcántara. This sustenance for the soul is in some way as necessary as is food for the body.
Saint Teresa of Avila
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.
I asked Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus to write down what I called “her little way of trust and love,” which she did during her last retreat in September 1896, after having asked our Mother for permission. This letter is now a part of the printed manuscript (Manuscript B).
After having read these impassioned pages, I told her it was impossible for me to reach such heights.
It was then that she wrote me the letter dated 17th September 1896 (Letter LT 197), in which, amongst other things, she said:
“How can you ask me if it is possible for you to love God as I love Him?. . . My desires of martyrdom are nothing; I really feel that it is not this at all that pleases God in my little soul; what pleases Him is seeing me loving my littleness and my poverty, and the blind hope that I have in His mercy . . . .That is my only treasure”.
One day when she had prayed to obtain the twofold love of angels and saints, as Elisha had asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, (cf. 2 Kgs 2:9), she added,
“Jesus, I cannot fathom my request, I would be afraid of being overwhelmed by the weight of my bold desires. My excuse is that I am a child, and children do not reflect on the meaning of their words. However, their parents, once they are placed on a throne and possess immense treasures, do not hesitate to satisfy the desires of the little ones whom they love as much as they love themselves. To please them, they do foolish things, even to the extent of becoming weak for them. Well, I am the Child of the Church and the Church is Queen since she is Your Spouse, O divine King of kings. . . . O Jesus! Why can’t I tell all little souls how unspeakable Your condescension is? I feel that if You found a soul weaker and littler than mine, which is impossible, You would take pleasure in granting it still greater favors, provided it abandoned itself with total confidence to your infinite Mercy”.
Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus loved God ardently and thought about Him constantly. One day, I said to her, “How do you manage to always think of God?”
“It’s not difficult,” she replied, “we naturally think of someone we love.”
“If God were to say to me, ‘If you die right now, you will have very great glory. If you die at eighty, your glory will not be as great, but it will please Me much more,’ then I wouldn’t hesitate to answer, ‘My God, I want to die at eighty, for I’m not seeking my own glory but simply Your pleasure’”(Last Conversations, 16 July).
Recalling her memories of when she was five or six years old, she said:
“I loved God more and more as I grew older. . . I strove to please Jesus in everything I did, and I was very careful never to offend Him”(Ms A, 15v).
In the aforesaid letter written during her last retreat, this passage is also of note:
“Above all, O my beloved Savior, I would shed my blood for You, even to the very last drop. Martyrdom was the dream of my youth and this dream has grown with me within the Carmel’s cloisters. But here again, I feel that my dream is a folly, for I cannot limit myself to desiring one kind of martyrdom. To satisfy me, I would need all of them” etc.—
Note from the blogger . . .
Whereas the English translation of Sister Marie’s testimony provides written, in-text citations to her many references, we offer our readers the actual links to find the texts on the Archives website itself for the Carmel of Lisieux. Were Sister Marie to submit any portion of her deposition today in electronic format, she might include links to the various resources, also.
It is regrettable that Céline’s wonderful collection of words of advice and counsel that she gathered from her memories of novitiate, and which she later recorded in a volume called Conseils et Souvenirs, has not yet been translated into English. We will make an effort to share tidbits from her recollections in the month of October as time permits.
Since September 29 we’ve had a new Mother who would like me to write something again.
Echt, 5 November 1940
Just now I am gathering material for a new work since our Reverend Mother wishes me to do some scholarly work again, as far as this will be possible in our living situation and under the present circumstances. I am very grateful to be allowed once more to do something before my brain rusts completely.
Echt, 17 November 1940
I am going about my new task like a little child making its first attempts at walking.
Echt, 16 May 1941
Please, will Your Reverence also pray a little to the Holy Spirit and to our Holy Father John for what I am now planning to write. It is to be something for our Holy Father’s 400th birthday (24 June 1942)…
Echt, 8 October 1941
Because of the work I am doing I live almost constantly immersed in thoughts about our Holy Father John. That is a great grace. May I ask Your Reverence once more for prayers that I can produce something appropriate for his Jubilee?
Echt, 18 November 1941
… I am satisfied with everything. A scientia crucis [science of the cross] can be gained only when one comes to feel the Cross radically. I have been convinced of that from the first moment and have said, from my heart: Ave, Crux, spes unica!
Echt, December 1941
Dear Sister Maria,
… while working on this task it often happened when I was greatly exhausted that I had the feeling I could not penetrate to what I wished to say and to grasp. I already thought that it would always remain so. But now I feel I have renewed vigor for creative effort. Holy Father John gave me renewed impetus for some remarks concerning symbols. When I finish this manuscript I would like to send a German copy to Father Heribert [Discalced Carmelite provincial in Germany] to have it duplicated for the monasteries.
The only reason I write so little is that I need all the time for Father John.
Echt, 9 April 1942
My dear ones,
A [Red Cross] nurse from [Amsterdam] intends to speak today with the Consul. Here, every petition [on behalf] of fully Jewish Catholics has been forbidden since yesterday. Outside [the camp] an attempt can still be made, but with extremely little prospect. According to plans, a transport will leave on Friday. Could you possibly write to Mère Claire in Venlo, Kaldenkerkeweg 185 [the Ursuline Convent] to ask for [my] manuscript if they have not already sent it. We count on your prayers. There are so many persons here who need some consolation and they expect it from the Sisters.
In Corde Jesu, your grateful
Westerbork transit camp, 5 August 1942
Mother Antonia Ambrosia Engelmann, O.C.D. was elected prioress of the Carmel of Echt on 29 September 1940. It is to her that we owe a debt of gratitude for Saint Edith Stein’s ultimate volume, The Science of the Cross. Gelber and Leuven (1993) note that although it was her final work, the manuscript was published as Vol. I in Edith Steins Werke. When Edith and Rosa were arrested in August of 1942, the completed portions of her manuscript had already been sent to a typist. Unaware of the fate that awaited her, Edith asks to retrieve that manuscript as if to continue working on it while in prison.
Gelber L, Leuven R, and Stein E 1993, Self-Portrait in Letters 1916-1942, translated from German by J Koeppel, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
It struck me forcibly. You called it ‘The story of a little flower’. To me the will-power, courage, and decisiveness it showed made it seem more like the story of a piece of steel. Once you had chosen the path of complete dedication to God, nothing could stop you: not illness, nor opposition from outside, nor inner confusion and darkness.
I remember the time I was ill and sent to a sanatorium, in the days before penicillin and antibiotics, when death awaited pretty well anyone who was sent to the hospital. I was ashamed of myself for feeling a little afraid.
‘At the age of twenty-three,’ I said to myself, ‘Therese, who until then had been healthy and full of vitality, was filled with joy and hope when she first spat blood. Not only that—but when her health improved she got permission to end her fast with a diet of dry bread and water. And you’re almost trembling! You’re a priest! Don’t be silly!’
Reading it again, on the centenary of your birth (1873 to 1973), what now strikes me most is the way in which you loved God and your neighbor.
St. Augustine wrote: ‘We reach God, not by walking, but through love.’ You also called your road ‘the way of love’. Christ said: ‘No one comes to me unless my Father calls him’.
You were perfectly in tune with these words, feeling ‘like a bird without strength and without wings’, and seeing in God an eagle who came down to carry you off on high, on its wings. You called divine grace ‘the lifter’, which carried you to God swiftly and easily, since you were ‘too small to climb the harsh ladder of perfection’.
I said ’easily’, but let me make it clear: I meant it only in one way.
In another—well in the final months of your life your soul felt as if it was going down a kind of dark passage, seeing nothing of what it had once seen clearly. ‘Faith’, you wrote, ‘is no longer a veil but a wall’. Your physical sufferings were so great that you said, ‘If I had not had faith, I would have chosen death’.
In spite of that you kept saying to the Lord you loved, saying with your will alone, ‘I sing of the happiness of Paradise, but without any feeling of joy; I sing simply because I want to believe’. Your last words were: ‘My God, I love You’.
To the merciful love of God you offered yourself as a victim. All this did not prevent you from enjoying what was good and beautiful. Before your final illness you loved painting, and wrote poetry and short plays on religious subjects, taking some of the parts yourself and showing quite a talent for acting.
In the last stage of your illness, when you felt briefly better, you asked for some chocolates. You had no fear of your own imperfections, not even of having sometimes slept during meditation, out of weariness (‘mothers love their children, even when they are asleep’).
Loving your neighbor, you tried to serve others in small, useful ways, but to do so unobserved; and you preferred, if anything, to do this for people who irritated you, those you understood least. Behind their unlikeable faces you sought the beloved face of Christ.
And no one noticed these efforts of yours. ‘How mystical she was in chapel, and at her work’, the prioress wrote of you, ‘At other times she was very amusing, full of fun and making us laugh uproariously at recreation’.
Joy mixed with Christian love appears in the song of the angels at Bethlehem. It is part of the essence of the Gospel which means ‘good news’. It is characteristic of the saints. Joy may become perfect charity if it is shared, as in fact, dear St. Therese, you shared yours at recreation in the convent.
Therese, the love you gave God (and your neighbor for love of God) was really worthy of Him. This is how our love should be: a flame fed by all that’s great and fine in ourselves; a rejection of all that is refractory in us; and a victory that carries us on its wings and takes us as a gift to the feet of God.
These few lines certainly don’t contain the whole of your message to Christians, but they are enough to point out a few things to us.
Archbishop Albino Luciani Patriarch of Venice
This letter to St. Therese of Lisieux is one of the series of Illustrissimi letters that Archbishop Luciani wrote regularly in a column for the Messaggero di San Antonio magazine. They were published in 1976 and are still available from booksellers in Italian and several translations, including English. We thank the whitesmokeahoy blog for publishing this excerpt from the publication.
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.
Never have I understood so well that suffering is the greatest pledge of love that God can give His creatures, and I did not suspect that just such sweetness was hidden at the bottom of the chalice for the one who drank it to the dregs… it is a fatherly hand, a hand of infinite tenderness that metes out suffering to us. Oh, may we know how to go beyond the bitterness of that suffering to find our rest in it.
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity Letter 313 to Madame de Sourdon (excerpt) 18 September 1906
Elizabeth of the Trinity, S 2014, I Have Found God: Letters From Carmel, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
Your kind words did me a lot of good, I know what faithful sisterly love lies behind them. Every bulletin from Breslau reports a worsening. I must be prepared to hear the worst any day. The “Scimus, quoniam diligentibus Deum…” [cf. Rom 8:28] will surely apply to my dear mother too since she truly loved “her” God (as she often said with emphasis). And, with confidence in him, she bore much that was painful and did much that was good. I also think these last months when her life was constantly in peril were particularly grace-filled days—above all, the days since she no longer troubles herself about anything in her external life. And no one but the Lord himself knows what is happening in her soul.
That phrase I quoted from the Letter to the Romans afforded me the greatest comfort and joy during the summer of 1933, in Münster, when my future was still shrouded in total darkness. Never have I prayed the Divine Office of the Martyrs, which recurs so frequently during the Easter cycle, with greater fervor than I did at that time. Now it must be my support again. My mother was the strong bond that cemented the family together—four generations by now—for the common concern about her keeps us all bound to her, even the grandsons who are in far-off corners of the world. What will follow will be all the more difficult for those she will leave behind. For my whole life long I shall have to substitute for her [before God], together with my sister Rosa, who is one with me in faith…
In the love of Christ, your grateful
Sister Teresa Benedicta a Cruce, OCD
Letter 225 to Mother Petra Bruning, OSU Ursuline Sisters, Dorsten (excerpt)
Sr. Teresa Renata Posselt, OCD—Edith Stein’s novice mistress, later prioress, and first biographer—tells us how Frau Stein’s final illness and death affected the saint.
On 1 September 1936, Sr. Benedicta was able to put the finishing touch to the huge philosophical work that she had begun at her Provincial’s request immediately after her Clothing Ceremony. He gave the work his approval and Sr. Benedicta sought to arrange for its publication.
Meanwhile, her ailing mother’s condition became more and more serious. The year drew on to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, 14 September, a very important day in Carmel, since it marks the beginning of the fast that lasts until the day of Our Lord’s Resurrection. Also, in accordance with the seraphic Teresa’s instructions, all the members of the Order renew their vows. This was the third time that Sr. Benedicta took part in the ceremony, held at a silent early morning hour. Afterward, she said to one of her sisters who was especially intimate with her, “When it was my turn to renew my vows my mother was beside me. I felt her presence quite distinctly.” On that same day, a telegram came from Breslau with the news that Frau Stein had died—at the very time when her daughter was renewing her vows. This circumstance greatly consoled Sr. Benedicta, who bore up nobly even when the first waves of sorrow were sweeping over her.
Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite
Chapter 16, Joys and Sorrow of the Bride of Christ (excerpt)
Auguste Stein, known as Gustel, was born at Lublinitz, Silesia, Prussia, Germany on 4 October 1849. She was the fourth of the twelve children born to Solomon Courant and Adelheid Burchard. Her favorite brother was Eugen. Auguste married Siegfried Stein on 2 August 1871 and they had eleven children, four of whom died in infancy. For the first ten years of their marriage they lived in Gleiwitz, Prussia and Sigfried worked in the lumber business with his mother. In 1881 they moved to Lublinitz, Prussia where Sigfried established his own business in lumber and coal. In 1890 they moved to Breslau, Germany. Gustel was widowed in 1893 when Sigfried died very suddenly, her youngest child was not quite two. Gustel took on the lumber business and made a great success of it. She became much respected in the Breslau area. She was distressed in old age when her youngest daughter became a Carmelite nun and other children and grandchildren made plans to emigrate to escape the Nazi persecution. She died on 14 September 1936, two years before the import of the terror became clear to all on Kristallnacht (18 October 1938). [Source: Wikitree]
Visit Auguste Stein’s Wikitree page to see more genealogy details, family photos, and a photo of her gravestone.
Posselt, T 2005, Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite, translated from the German by Batzdorff S, Koeppel J, and Sullivan J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
Stein, E 1993, Self-Portrait in Letters 1916-1942, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
Here, at last, comes Sabeth to sit down by her dearest Framboise and visit—with her pencil! I say pencil, for the heart-to-heart communion was established long ago, and we are now as one.
How I love our evening rendezvous; it is like the prelude of that communion from Heaven to earth that will be established between our souls. It seems to me that I am like a mother bending attentively over her favorite child: I raise my eyes and look at God, and then I lower them on you, exposing you to the rays of His Love.
Framboise, I do not use words when I speak to Him of you but He understands me even better for He prefers my silence. My dearest child, I wish I were a saint so I could help you here below while waiting to do it from Heaven. What I would not endure to obtain for you the graces of strength that you need!
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity Letter 310 to Françoise de Sourdon
Catez, E 2014, Letters From Carmel, translated from the French by Nash, A, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
To Padres Luis de Guzmán, S.J. and Pablo Hernández, S.J. Toledo
I, Teresa of Jesus, prioress of St. Joseph’s in Avila, have received from the Most Reverend General, Master Fray Juan Bautista Rubeo, sufficient patent letters for founding and accepting monasteries of the primitive rule of the holy Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I have been informed that in the city of Toledo, moved by the grace of our Lord and aided by the Blessed Virgin, patroness of our order, some persons want to give this order an alms consisting of a house together with a church and four chaplains and everything else necessary for the divine service in the church. I am of the opinion that our Lord will be served and praised by this, and I therefore accept the offer as a work of charity and alms and sign my name below.
And if it should be necessary to negotiate certain matters regarding this agreement, as usually happens, I declare that if Father Superior [Luis de Guzmán] and Padre Pablo Hernández are willing to do me this charity of working toward an understanding in these matters, I will accept the obligation to fulfill all that they arrange. And if they themselves should not want to enter into these negotiations, I will accept whomever they appoint; we must not fail in reaching an agreement since my going to that city would please the Lord.
And because these things are my desire, I declare that I will carry them out and attest to this with my signature.
Valladolid, 7 December 1568.
Teresa of Jesus, prioress St. Joseph’s in Avila, Carmelite
Carmelite Prior General Giovanni Battista Rossi—who St. Teresa referred to as ‘Juan Bautista Rubeo’—died on this date, 4 September 1578 as a consequence of an accident in which he fell from his mule and broke his leg. Teresa was deeply saddened when she received the news:
I greatly grieved over the news written to me about our Father General. I feel deep sorrow, and the first day cried and cried without being able to do otherwise. (Letter 272, 15 October 1578)
Read a brief biography of Father Giovanni Battista Rossi here.
To protect the life of grace means to defend it against any influence that could extinguish it, such as loss of faith or sin. These, of course, endanger the child only when he arrives at the age of reason and freedom. Nevertheless, the child needs protection even before this, for poisonous matter can penetrate into the soul even before the life of reason has begun.
The child’s soul receives impressions from what he sees, hears, and touches; indeed, even experiences before birth can leave impressions upon the soul,and these impressions can have unpredictable consequences in later life. Therefore, the mother must keep pure the atmosphere in which the child is living.
Above all things, she herself must remain pure and faithful;she must try, as much as possible, to keep far from the children those people whom she cannot trust implicitly. Before the age of reason is reached, this nurturing of the flame of grace is ensured through the prayer of the mother, and it is also ensured because the child is thus confided to the protection of the Mother of God.
With the age of reason, direct influence becomes possible. The child must learn to know and to love the Father in heaven, the child Jesus, the Mother of God, and the guardian angel. With increasing understanding, a deeper and more extensive penetration into the world of faith is possible. The pure, uncorrupted child’s heart has no difficulties in this and asks for more and more.
The sources of grace provided by the sacraments must also be made accessible. They are the strongest nourishment of the life of grace and the most efficacious safeguard against the dangers which come about almost unavoidable in this very time when, in many instances, various and uncontrollable influences encroach upon the influence of the mother and of the strictest family circle.
Saint Edith Stein The Church, Woman, and Youth (25 July 1932)
On July 24 and 25 I attended a very enjoyable convention for young girls in Augsburg. At the leadership meeting, I had to give a talk on “The Task of Woman as Leader of Youth to the Church.”
Letter 120 (excerpt) to Sr. Adelgundis Jaegerschmid, OSB, 28 August 1932
Gelber L, Leuven R, and Stein E 1996, Essays on Woman, translated from German by FM Oben, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
Stein E 1993, Self-Portrait in Letters 1916-1942, translated from German by J Koeppel, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
He has chosen a very beautiful part for your daughter by calling her to Carmel. Know that she is happy, with a happiness no one can take away from her, for it is wholly divine…
On the 15th, I entrusted my best wishes to the Blessed Virgin and asked her, in going up to Heaven, to draw the very best from God’s treasures for my Mama.
I also asked her to reveal that sweet secret of union with God that makes us remain with Him through everything: it’s the intimacy of a child with its mother, of the bride with the Bridegroom; that is the life of your Carmelite; union is her brilliant sun, she sees infinite horizons unfold!
When you go to that dear little church, say a prayer for me, remember the time when we came and knelt together before the poor Tabernacle, remember that I am the prisoner of the divine Prisoner and that, close to Him, there is no distance at all.One day in Heaven, we shall be even closer still, since we are separated now for love of Him!
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity Letter 209 to her mother (excerpts) 21 August 1904
Nash, A, and Elizabeth of the Trinity, 1995, The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity volume 2: Letters from Carmel, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
I sacrifice my days of suffering for my parish and for those who are dear to me.
Blessed Georg Häfner Letter from the Dachau concentration camp
Blessed Georg Häfner was a priest of the Diocese of Würzburg and a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS). While he was the pastor of the parish at Oberschwarzach he came into conflict with Hitler’s agents, since he would never use the typical Hitler salute and always defended the doctrine and rights of the Church. He was arrested on 31 October 1941 and taken to the Dachau concentration camp on 12 December the same year. There, as a faithful priest he was exposed to all types of torture and injustice, yet always bearing up with a heroic attitude before each humiliation and maltreatment. His letters from Dachau show his deep faith and his capacity to pardon his executioners.
Learn more about Blessed Georg Häfner here and here.
Georg Häfner was born in Würzburg in 1900. From the time he was an altar boy, he was very close to the Carmelite nuns in Würzburg, where he joined the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS), taking the name of Aloysius of the Most Blessed Sacrament. He sang his first Mass on 21st April 1924, having been ordained on 13th April of the same year. After having carried out pastoral work in various parishes, on 12th November 1934 he was appointed Pastor of the Oberschwarzach parish; during this period Hitler was coming to power. Häfner soon came into conflict with Hitler’s agents, since he would never use the typical Hitler salute, and always defended the doctrine and rights of the Church. He was arrested on 31st October 1941 and taken to the Dachau concentration camp on 12th December the same year. There, as a faithful priest, he was exposed to all types of torture and injustice, yet always bearing up with a heroic attitude before each humiliation and maltreatment. His letters from Dachau show his deep faith and his capacity to pardon his executioners. One of his last phrases from the concentration camp was: “I do not want to curse anybody, nor take vengeance, I want to be good towards everyone.” Finally, exhausted by illness and, above all, by hunger, he died on 20th August 1942.
you chose the priest and martyr Blessed George Häfner
as a witness of your mercy
and you accepted his life’s sacrifice in captivity;
through his example may we recognize the love of the Redeemer,
love you and all people,
and forgive our enemies above all.
We ask this 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.
Wurzburg, 1. March 2011 + Friedhelm Hofmann Bishop of Wurzburg
Nota bene: Working translation only. Original texts here
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.
Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O & John of the Cross 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
A [Red Cross] nurse from [Amsterdam] intends to speak today with the Consul. Here, every petition [on behalf] of fully Jewish Catholics has been forbidden since yesterday. Outside [the camp] an attempt can still be made, but with extremely little prospect. According to plans, a transport will leave on Friday. Could you possibly write to Mère Claire in Venlo, Kaldenkerkeweg 185 [the Ursuline Convent] to ask for [my] manuscript [of the Science of the Cross] if they have not already sent it. We count on your prayers. There are so many persons here who need some consolation and they expect it from the Sisters.
In Corde Jesu, your grateful
Saint Edith Stein Letter 341 to Mother Ambrosia Antonia Engelmann, OCD, Echt
Drente-Westerbork Transit Camp, Barracks 36 5 August 1942
Who were “the Sisters” to whom Edith refers in her closing comment?
In Letter 340 to her prioress, Mother Ambrosia Antonia dated August 4, St. Teresa Benedicta states:
All the Catholics are together and in our dormitory, we have all the nuns (two Trappistines, one Dominican)…
In our Quote of the Day for 3 August 2019, the eyewitness Dr. Lenig identified that there was a Trappist priest who offered Mass in the Camp; “his six brothers and sisters who had all joined the same Order were with him.”
Based upon Sr. Judith’s journal from her years in Nazi internment, Steffen indicates that there were other religious in the camp, as well: “this group of religious also included a postulant from the Good Shepherd Sisters, a Sacred Heart Sister, Sr. Miriam of the Franciscans of Saint Joseph (who was dressed as a nurse), and the Polish-German doctor, Lisamaria Meirowsky,” who was a portress and doctor at the Trappistine Abbey (Steffen 2014, p. 423).
Further, Sr. Judith’s journal indicates that the two Carmelites and the two Trappistines kept to themselves in Barracks 36, creating a kind of cloistered environment of silence and seclusion, replicating their former way of life to every possible extent.
“The Trappistines (Hedwigis and Theresia Löb) and the two Carmelites (Rosa and Edith Stein) stayed in their barrack, though, just as they had previously stayed within the enclosure of their monasteries. They got up quite early the next morning, as they were accustomed to in their monasteries, but they were not allowed to leave the barracks. Later they did some cleaning in the barracks and then in the afternoon they had to line up again for roll call” (Steffen 2014, p. 424).
It was on the morning of August 5 that Edith, Rosa, and the Löb family learned their fate: they would all be sent to Auschwitz without reprieve.
The next morning, all the new arrivals had to report to the commandant. It was a really big group, and they all had to wait in a tiny little room until they were called, one by one, to go into the next room where they would find out whether or not they would be granted a reprieve or be put on transport. Many came out of that room disappointed, and there was already talk of all reprieves being rescinded. The Löb brothers and sisters were not granted a reprieve.
Edith Stein and her sister Rosa underwent the same fate as the Löbs. Sr. Judith saw Edith leaving the commandant’s small office: she looked “really pale but resigned, and she was still comforting her fellow sufferers.”Lucie Bromberg had contact with Edith Stein several times while they were in Westerbork and she regarded her as being really silent, calling her a “Pietà without a Christ”(Steffen 2014, pp. 424-425).
To Don Cristóbal Rodríguez de Moya, Segura de la Sierra
Avila, 28 June 1568
Our Lord has brought together in these housespersons who amaze me and leave me completely confounded, for those chosen must be persons of prayer, suited for our way of life. If they are not, we do not take them. God gives them ordinarily a joy and happiness so great that they seem to be in a paradise on earth.
This is a fact, as your honor can learn from many people,especially if any members of the Society of Jesus who have been here pass through. For they know me and have seen this.
They are my Fathers to whom, after our Lord, my soul owes every good it possesses, if it does possess any.
And one of the things that attracts me to those ladies and to serving you in every way I can, is that they have conversed with these Fathers. Not every spiritual person satisfies me as being suited for our monasteries,but those who have had these Fathers as confessors do.
Almost all those who are in our houses are their daughters—I don’t remember any that I have accepted who were not. They are the ones who suit us. For since these Fathers nurtured my soul, the Lord has granted me the favor of having their spirit planted in these monasteries.
And so, if you are familiar with their rules, you will see that in many things in our constitutions we are like them. For I received a brief from the pope to draw up constitutions, and when Our Most Reverend General came here, he approved them and gave orders that they be observed in all the monasteries founded by me.
And he ordered that the Fathers of the Society be preachers for the nuns and that no major superior could hinder them from doing so; and that if they wanted, they could be the nuns’ confessors. But the fact is that they have a rule forbidding this, and so, except on rare occasions, we cannot confess to them. Nonetheless, they frequently speak to us and give us counsel and do us much good.
I had the same desire that those ladies have, to submit the house to the direction of these Fathers, and I tried to do it.
I know for certain they will not accept a monastery, even were it the wish of the princess, for they would have to care for too many in the kingdom; so, it’s something impossible.
I praise God that like no other order we have a freedom to speak with them, a freedom that we are sure will never be taken from us….
Written in Avila in the monastery of St. Joseph, 28 June 1568.
Your honor’s unworthy servant, Teresa of Jesus
Translator Father Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. notes: “Don Cristóbal, a wealthy widower, was trying to decide whether to found a Teresian Carmel or a Jesuit school. His two daughters and he wanted spiritual direction from the Jesuits. A Franciscan friend of Teresa’s interceded in favor of the Carmel. At this point, Teresa wrote the following letter, but in the end, Don Cristóbal decided in favor of the Jesuits. The authentic text of the letter is incomplete.”
The text that we present includes the first nine numbers of Letter 11, which “have undergone some decided tampering. Because some of the thought is still Teresa’s”, Fr. Rodriguez added these all-important paragraphs—long cherished by Jesuits and Teresian Carmelites alike—in an annotation to Letter 11.
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
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
With the Virgin, you can sing your “Magnificat” and leap with joy in God your Savior, for the Almighty is doing great things in you, and His mercy is eternal. . . . Then, like Mary, “keep all that in your heart,” draw your heart very close to hers, for this priestly Virgin is also the “Mother of Divine Grace,” and in her love she wants to prepare you to become “that faithful priest who is entirely according to God’s heart” of whom He speaks in Holy Scripture.
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity Letter 232 to Abbé Chevignard (excerpt) Around 25 June 1905
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity
Letter 300 to her mother
[ July 18, 1906]
J. M. + J. T.
Darling little Mama,
I’m expecting you on Saturday at the time we arranged; I will go to receive you on foot, without a cane. I’m delighted about it! I was expecting you today, and here I see my Master wants to unite mother and child in suffering, since your dear health is the reason for the delay of your visit; I love you too much to be sad about it, for I understand better than ever how much God loves us when He tries us. What a relief for me to think of you looked after by our dear Guite; let yourself be cared for by her, obey her completely, won’t you, little Mama.
The Blessed Virgin has not performed the miracle you desired. When, as you tell me in your dear, kind letter, you’re afraid that I might be a victim marked out for suffering, I beg you not to be sad about it, that would be so beautiful; I don’t feel worthy of it; think now, to have a share in the sufferings of my crucified Bridegroom, and to go with Him to my passion to be a redemptrix with Him. . . . Saint Paul says that those whom God foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. Rejoice in your mother’s heart when you think that God has predestined me and has marked me with the seal of the Cross of His Christ.
My legs, however, are getting better; I can walk without a cane. I’ve been given a very light robe, and this is what I wear when I make my little comings and goings, which consist in going out on the terrace and to the little tribune [small second-story prayer chapel overlooking the tabernacle]; can you imagine what a joy this is for my soul? Several times a day I make long visits to my Master, and I thank Him for having given me the use of my legs to go to Him. I am reading your dear book, which is magnificent; you’ve made me a very precious gift, my dear Mama; I have it beside me on the little table that is so useful to me. If you knew how well set up I am. . . . I think up something new every day, and my dear Mother smiles at my “comforts.” How she cares for me and anticipates my every need; I had told her I had a bad taste in my mouth and she got some new candy for me to bring me more relief, and it’s like that with everything; she has the intuitions of a mother. If you knew how she loves you; it was she who told me to write you right away, and I didn’t have to be begged, as you can imagine. We’ve had a very beautiful feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I’ll tell you all about it on Saturday. I’m giving you all my best wishes for my Guite; tell little Sabeth to give her this holy card and to kiss her for Tata. A Dieu, darling Mama, I gather all of you together to kiss you as I love you. Be very reasonable, listen well to your Guite to please me. Your daughter who loves you more than she can say.
M.E. of the Trinity r.c.i. 26 years old today.
This would be the last birthday letter that Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity would write to her dear mother, Madame Catez. Less than four months later, she would die of acute adrenal failure, directly attributable to her years-long battle with Addison’s Disease.