In the summer of 1591, a major meeting in Madrid showed up serious differences of opinion in the Teresian reform. John seems to have regarded some policies of the central government as unfairly harsh, and he objected strongly. While much is unclear, the fact is that John came out of the meeting without effective voice in the central running of the reform. Instead, he was on course for the mission in Mexico, ‘the Indies’. He asked for volunteers (significantly, ‘friends’) who would willingly go with him.
Some weeks later the volunteers’ signatures had been collected; but John’s own destination had changed. A letter of his to one of them (‘The letter consoled me immensely’) announces that John was embarking for ‘other, better Indies’, where the treasures are ‘eternal’, and was preparing his luggage for the voyage. He died later that year.
Iain Matthew, O.C.D.
The Impact of God, Chap. 10
Sixty years before John prepared to leave for Mexico, the Blessed Virgin appear to Saint Juan Diego
Matthew, I 1995, The Impact of God: Soundings from St. John of the Cross,Hodder & Stoughton, London.
Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
of the Holy Father John Paul II
On the consecrated life and its mission in the Church and in the world
The prophetic character of the consecrated life
84. The prophetic character of the consecrated life was strongly emphasized by the Synod Fathers. It takes the shape of a special form of sharing in Christ’s prophetic office, which the Holy Spirit communicates to the whole People of God. There is a prophetic dimension which belongs to the consecrated life as such, resulting from the radical nature of the following of Christ and of the subsequent dedication to the mission characteristic of the consecrated life.
The sign value, which the Second Vatican Council acknowledges in the consecrated life, is expressed in prophetic witness to the primacy which God and the truths of the Gospel have in the Christian life. Because of this pre-eminence, nothing can come before personal love of Christ and of the poor in whom he lives.
The Patristic tradition has seen a model of monastic religious life in Elijah, courageous prophet and friend of God. He lived in God’s presence and contemplated his passing by in silence; he interceded for the people and boldly announced God’s will; he defended God’s sovereignty and came to the defense of the poor against the powerful of the world (cf. 1 Kg 18-19).
In the history of the Church, alongside other Christians, there have been men and women consecrated to God who, through a special gift of the Holy Spirit, have carried out a genuinely prophetic ministry, speaking in the name of God to all, even to the Pastors of the Church.
True prophecy is born of God, from friendship with him, from attentive listening to his word in the different circumstances of history. Prophets feel in their hearts a burning desire for the holiness of God and, having heard his word in the dialogue of prayer, they proclaim that word with their lives, with their lips and with their actions, becoming people who speak for God against evil and sin.
Prophetic witness requires the constant and passionate search for God’s will, for self-giving, for unfailing communion in the Church, for the practice of spiritual discernment and love of the truth. It is also expressed through the denunciation of all that is contrary to the divine will and through the exploration of new ways to apply the Gospel in history, in expectation of the coming of God’s Kingdom.
Father Jesús Castellano Cervera, O.C.D. was one of the group of religious who served as experts and auditors at the 1994 Ninth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that convened in Rome from 2 – 29 October 1994. The topic of discussion among the synod members was “The Consecrated Life and Its Role in the Church and in the World”.
In 1995 at the international Encuentro for the Familia Teresiana of Saint Enrique de Ossó, Father Jesús Castellano shared a few of his impressions of the 1994 Synod from the Carmelite perspective. We are grateful to Father Iván de Jesús Mora Pernía, O.C.D. for transcribing Father Castellano’s remarks so that we might share them with our readers. The Spanish translation is our own.
We were able to note from within the Synod the presence of Carmel in the Church through the resonance of our figures who frequently were called exemplary witnesses and models of consecrated life in history. Thérèse of Lisieux was in first place among our most remembered saints. There were those who officially requested in the synod hall that she should be declared a Doctor of the Church. Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross and other saints of ours were named very frequently. From the patriarchs of the Eastern Churches came a word of thanks for the history of Carmel in their Churches and for the patient presence that is still alive in the regions of the Middle East such as Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt. The Secretary-General of the Synod at the end had a very special memory for St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, “that woman who has been an excellent witness of consecrated life in the mission of the Church” and made her famous texts resonate in the Synod hall: “In the heart of the Church I will be love”. John Paul II in the final homily of the Synod wanted to remember how our three best-known saints are present in the history of the holiness of the Church written by the religious: Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross at the time of the Protestant Reformation, and Thérèse of Lisieux, closest to us.
Before flying away to Heaven, dear little Sister Marie-Odile, I want to send you a little note from my soul, for I am anxious for you to know that in the Father’s House I will pray especially for you.
I am keeping a rendez-vous with you in the Furnace of love; my eternity will be spent there, and you can begin it already here on earth.
Dear Sister, I will be jealous for the beauty of your soul, for, as you know, my little heart loves you very much, and when one loves, one desires the best for the beloved.
I think that in Heaven my mission will be to draw souls by helping them go out of themselves to cling to God by a wholly simple and loving movement, and to keep them in this great silence within that will allow God to communicate Himself to them and transform them into Himself.
Dear little sister of my soul, it seems to me I now see everything in God’s light, and if I started my life over again, oh, I would wish not to waste one instant! He does not allow us, His brides in Carmel, to devote ourselves to anything but love, but the divine, and if by chance, in the radiance of His Light, I see you leave that sole occupation, I will come very quickly to call you to order; you would want that, wouldn’t you?
Pray for me, help me prepare for the wedding feast of the Lamb. Death entails a great deal of suffering, and I am counting on you to help me. In return, I will come to help you at your death.
My Master urges me on, He speaks to me of nothing but the eternity of love. It is so grave, so serious; I wish to live each moment fully.
A Dieu, I don’t have the strength or the permission to write at length, but you know Saint Paul’s words: “Our conversation is in Heaven” [Phil. 3:20].
Beloved little sister, let us live by love so we may die of love and glorify the God Who is all Love.
“Laudem gloriae,” 28 October 1906
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity
Letter 335 to Sister Marie-Odile
Carmel of Paray-le-Monial
Elizabeth of the Trinity, St 2014, I have found God, Complete Works II - Letters from Carmel, translated from the French by Nash, A, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
I am asking Him that you may be not only a good missionary but a saint all on fire with the love of God and souls; I beg you to obtain also for me this love so that I may help you in your apostolic work.
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
Letter 198 to Abbé Maurice Bellière 21 October 1896
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, thou who hast been rightly proclaimed the Patroness of Catholic missions throughout the world, remember the burning desire which thou didst manifest here on earth to plant the Cross of Christ on every shore and to preach the Gospel even to the consummation of the world; we implore thee, according to thy promise, to assist all priests and missionaries and the whole Church of God.
Pope Pius XI through an Apostolic Brief issued 9 July 1928 accorded a partial indulgence of 300 days once a day and a plenary indulgence, on the usual conditions, if this prayer is devoutly said every day for a month.
There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.”
Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with me? My time hasn’t come yet.”
His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
The Mother of the Lord shows us the way: whatever he tells you, do it. Do what he says, put his gospel into practice, make it a body in motion, of flesh and blood. The huge, empty water jars in your heart will be filled — he will transform your life, from empty to full, from dull to happy.
The attitude of Mary must be our attitude as a Church: trust-filled but active.
This involves not only Jesus’ action but it involves our action, as well. “Truly, a New Covenant is pledged at this wedding. And a new mission is entrusted to the servants of the Lord, namely, the entire Church: ‘Do whatever he tells you’. To serve the Lord means to listen and to put his Word into practice. It is the simple, essential recommendation of Jesus’ Mother. It is the program for a Christian’s life” (Pope Francis).
I convened a chapter in Lisbon; I sent friars to the Congo to convert the Blacks, they made great gains. The first group was drowned; the second group was denuded, robbed by the Lutherans; until the arrival of the third group and they have borne much fruit.
Servant of God Jerome Gracián Efemérides Carmelitanas
On 10 April 1582, the third expedition of Discalced Carmelite friars departed from Lisbon bound for the Congo, where they safely landed and converted many people. The missionary friars were Fathers Diego of the Blessed Sacrament, Diego of the Incarnation, and Francisco of Jesus the Unworthy; they baptized thousands of Congolese.
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
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]
Just as the grain that dies in the earth is the beginning and origin of many others, in the same way the death of the first missionaries to the Congo in the ocean was the cause of many religious who offered themselves to the Father Provincial, with letters full of urgent pleading to go and take their places in the Congo.
Six months before her death, Saint Teresa of Avila sent the first Discalced Carmelite friars on a mission to a foreign shore. On 5 April 1582 King Philip II of Spain went to the port of Lisbon to personally bid farewell to the missionaries on board the Portuguese carrack (não) San Antonio headed to the Congo. The king himself gave the signal to the ships to cut the moorings and hoist the anchors at 6:00 in the morning. Tragically, the San Antonio sank and all on board perished.
Today we continue the novena to St. Joseph. Joseph is so silent in the Gospels, so ordinary, that it took many years for the Church to give him due importance. St. Joseph is special because he reflects in a unique way the love of the Eternal Father for his only begotten Son.
Reading Matthew 2:13-15
13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
Jesus must live in exile and anguish. Persecution begins with his birth and will follow him until his death. Mary and Joseph are partners with Jesus’ sufferings and saving mission.
What is my contribution to make Jesus known?
Lord God, in your loving providence you chose St. Joseph to be the spouse of your holy Mother, grant that we may be worthy to have him for our intercessor in heaven whom on earth we venerate as our holy patron, Amen.
Hymn to St. Joseph
In Joseph’s care were Jesus
And Mary guarded well,
Provided for and cherished,
As all the stories tell;
And when he died, his spirit
Went forth from them in peace;
Within their arms so loving,
He found his soul’s release.
The patron saint of the missions is from your region. From Lisieux, Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face has radiated her missionary ardor in the world. Her spiritual teaching, of a luminous simplicity, continues to touch the faithful of all conditions and all cultures. It is right that we should ask her to help the Catholics of France to follow her way of holiness and to develop their solidarity with their brothers in Europe, Africa, and other parts of the world to share the gifts received from Christ, our salvation.
Saint John Paul II Ad Limina address to bishops from western France 14 February 1992
Although separated by an immense ocean, we are no less children of the same family. Our holy Mother Teresa of Jesus watches undoubtedly over you in a special manner, and deigns to cast an eye upon you from her place in Heaven, where her charity and her ardent zeal for the propagation of the faith in those countries which you inhabit are so efficacious before the throne of her Divine Master.
Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Riom, Auvergne Letter to the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Baltimore, Maryland, 1838
She helped me… it is a very particular aspect of the spiritual wealth of the Virgin, the Mother of Christ, for her Carmelite mission, which begins on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land and is linked to a garment. This garment is called the holy Scapular. I owe much in my youth to this Carmelite Scapular.
Saint John Paul II Remarks to the parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Rome 15 January 1989