Pilgrim in the footsteps of Saint Teresa of Jesus, with great satisfaction and joy I come to Avila. In this city there are so many Teresian places, such as the monastery of Saint Joseph, the first of the “dovecotes” founded by her; this monastery of the Incarnation, where Saint Teresa received the Carmelite habit, made her religious profession, had her decisive “conversion” and lived her experience of total consecration to Christ. It can well be said that this is the shrine of the contemplative life, place of great mystical experiences, and the focal point of monastic foundations.
To contemplate so many cloistered religious today, I cannot help but think about the great Spanish monastic tradition, its influence on Spanish culture, customs and life. Isn’t it here where the moral strength dwells, where there is a continuous reference to the spirit of the Spaniards?
The Pope calls you today to continue cultivating your consecrated life through a liturgical, biblical and spiritual renewal, following the guidelines of the Council. All this requires a permanent formation that enriches your spiritual life, giving it a solid doctrinal, theological and cultural foundation. In this way, you will be able to give the evangelical response that so many young people of our time expect, who today also approach your monasteries, attracted by a life of generous surrender to the Lord.
In this regard I want to issue a call to Christian communities and their Pastors, reminding them of the irreplaceable position occupied by the contemplative life in the Church. We all must deeply value and esteem the dedication of contemplative souls to prayer, praise, and sacrifice.
They are very necessary in the Church. They are living prophets and teachers for all; they are the vanguard of the Church on the way to the kingdom. Their attitude toward the realities of this world, which they contemplate according to the wisdom of the Spirit, enlightens us about the last things and makes us feel the gratuitousness of God’s saving love. I, therefore, urge everyone to try to foster vocations to monastic life among young women, in the assurance that these vocations will enrich the whole life of the Church.
Daughters of Carmel: May you be living images of your Mother Teresa, of her spirituality and her humanism. May you truly be as she was and wanted to be called—and as I wish her to be called—Teresa of Jesus.
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.
The works of God are marked with silence. It is in the silence of prayer and retreat, in the silence of the desert and the forest, that great souls receive their message from God. Recall how Saint Bernard enriched the whole of Europe with silent monasteries. These were stricter still than [the Discalced Carmelites]. Their religious did not have the right to speak or to recreate; they kept total silence. In order to describe the beauty of silence, he used to say: “The oak trees of the forest have been my masters of prayer.” Silence is the great master. It speaks to the human heart. Silence is not an empty void; God dwells therein.
Père Jacques of Jesus, O.C.D. Conference 8: Silence Listen to the Silence – A Retreat with Pere Jacques
Bunel, J 2004, Listen to the Silence - A Retreat with Pere Jacques, translated and edited by Murphy F, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
On 2 August 1901, the cloister door of the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Dijon opened wide to admit 21-year-old Elizabeth Catez as a postulant. Mother Marie of Jesus, the prioress of Dijon who was also the foundress of the new Carmel of Paray-le-Monial, had desired to take the young postulant with her to the new foundation. Mother Marie had discussed it with Madame Catez toward the end of June, who promised the prioress that she would make the supreme sacrifice and permit her daughter to enter a Carmel in another diocese. Elizabeth, in an attitude of total abandonment to the will of God, was ready to accept all.
Biographer Conrad de Meester, O.C.D. notes that at the beginning of July, Mother Marie of Jesus began to prepare for the new postulant in Paray-le-Monial. Elizabeth would enter on the First Friday in August—August 2nd. The entire month of July was spent with a sense of certitude in the Catez household that Sabeth would be over 100 kilometers from home, not a mere stone’s throw away, not even within earshot as the nuns would sing the Sanctus after Madame Catez would take a brisk walk to morning Mass at the Carmelite monastery.
The postulant’s trousseau was already prepared in Paray-le-Monial when Madame Catez was overcome with regret. She confided in a friend. The friend advised her that she should take up the matter with someone of authority. God writes straight with crooked lines, they say; in this case, the line of authority ran directly from the Sister who was the monastery Portress and an old friend of the Catez family: Sr. Marie of the Trinity.
When Sister Marie learned how distraught Madame Catez had become at the prospect of losing her daughter to the Carmel of Paray-le-Monial, Sister had an idea:to have her own spiritual director, the esteemed Dominican friar Père Vallée, intervene with Mother Marie of Jesus. But first, Sister Marie needed to ascertain Elizabeth’s own sentiments in the matter. That was simple.
During the Diocesan Inquiry for the process of beatification, Sister Marie of the Trinity explained under oath that when Elizabeth next stopped by the monastery, Sister Marie quizzed her concerning her upcoming postulancy in the Carmel of Paray-le-Monial.
Do you have a special attraction for the city of the Sacred Heart?
Does a foundation there attract you?
I rather doubt it. The peace and silence of an established monastery like Dijon would attract me much more. And the distance would cost my mother.
Have you talked to Père Vallée about this?
No, I prefer to abandon myself and let the good God guide everything according to his good wishes.
Would you permit me to talk to Father about it?
Father de Meester writes that without the intervention of Sister Marie of the Trinity, the portress of Dijon, we would not even be speaking of Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity from the Carmel of Dijon; she would be known as Elizabeth from the Carmel of Paray-le-Monial.
De Meester also indicates that when the Dominican Père Vallée learned of the great emotional toll it would take upon Elizabeth’s mother, he urged Madame Catez to speak honestly with Mother Marie about her misgivings and her sincere desire to remain near her beloved daughter. That distance of 140 kilometers between Dijon and Paray-le-Monial could make visits to the monastery difficult and rare.
It was all a last-minute decision. On the 28th or the 29th of July, Madame Catez wrote to Mother Marie of Jesus, who was away at Paray-le-Monial. Father De Meester indicates that the prioress responded immediately and “with humanity and serenity.”
May the good God give you peace and joy in your great sacrifice. As far as I am concerned, I am happy to be able to contribute by leaving our dear child to [the Carmel of] Dijon and you can consider it as having taken place. I am writing to Dijon that they should prepare her little cell for the 2nd of August—if I am not there to receive her, our dear Mother sub-prioress Germaine of Jesus and Sister Marie of the Trinity—her guardian angel—will be there and I will find her when I return; I am really held back here. So console yourself right now, as well as my dear little Marguerite, Elizabeth will stay in Dijon.I really love Elizabeth because I feel that she loves Our Lord very much and that she will make a true daughter of Saint Teresa; if it is a sacrifice for me to lose her, it is a joy to give her to Dijon, of which I am still a mother and of which I will always be a daughter, the two convents will never be but one. I would like to write to Elizabeth, but I cannot do it tonight and I want to reassure you right away because it is painful for me to sense that you are in such anguish. Fear no more … I believe, dear Madame, that we are doing God’s will, and that’s all there is in this world.
MEESTER, Conrad de. Rien moins que Dieu : sainte Elisabeth de la Trinité (French Edition) . edi8. Kindle Edition.
Translations from the French are the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.
Dedicated to Cristhian, sine qua non.
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.
They could not sufficiently admire the genius of Madame Acarie
The people came in crowds to Notre Dame des Champs to see the Carmelites take possession of their monastery; distinguished persons also assisted in great numbers at this touching ceremony. All praised God for the new Order of religious that had been established, returned thanks to Spain for the present she had made to France in giving Saints for foundresses. After the Spanish religious had taken possession of the [priory], they examined the interior arrangements. They could not sufficiently admire the genius of Mme. Acarie, who had known how, in so small a space, to make all the proper arrangements, together with all that was necessary for a community. They then visited the new buildings which were on the other side of the church, and the way in which this intelligent woman had grouped them seemed to them equally admirable.
Marcel Bouix, S.J., editor (1806-1889) Autobiography of the Blessed Mother Anne of Saint Bartholomew
As prayer is one of the chief objects of the Order of Carmel, the Sisters are constantly called upon from far and near to give the assistance of their prayers in all kinds of spiritual and temporal necessities. The following incident will serve to show with what faith and confidence the people recur to the Community:
In the latter part of the year 1882, small-pox broke out in the city of Baltimore and it was feared that it would become an epidemic. Many persons requested the prayers of the Sisters to avert the calamity, and they chanted daily, in community, the hymn to Our Lady, for help in time of pestilence: “Stella coeli extirpavity” [sic].
In January of 1883, a secular newspaper published the following item: “The Mayor received yesterday a card, signed, ‘Our City,’ requesting the prayers of the good Carmelite Nuns for the small-pox sufferers.” On hearing of this petition, the Sisters redoubled their supplications and daily went in procession through the cloisters, carrying a statue of Our Lady and chanting the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, with appropriate versicles and prayers. Thus they continued to implore the mercy of God until the faith of the good citizens of Baltimore was rewarded and all danger was at an end.
Charles Currier Carmel in America: a centennial history of the Discalced Carmelites in the United States (p. 354)
Stélla caéli extirpávit Quae lactávit Dóminum Mórtis péstem quam plantávit Prímus párens hóminum. Ipsa stélla nunc dignétur Sídera compéscere, Quórum bélla plébem caédunt Dírae mórtis úlcere.
O gloriósa stélla máris A péste succúre nóbis: Audi nos, nam te fílius Níhil négans honórat. Sálva nos, Jésu!
Pro quíbus vírgo máter te órat.
The star of heaven, she who suckled the Lord, has uprooted the scourge of death which the first parent of mankind planted. That very star is now worthy to encompass the world, whose wars cut down the people with the sore of dreaded death.
O glorious star of the sea, save us from the scourge: Hear us, for the son, denying nothing, honors you. Save us, Jesus!
Let us praise the Lord and give Him thanks for the great favor He has bestowed on your little daughter. I have permission, and with God’s help, I will fly to the dear little dovecote on May 7.
My father gave me his permission last Sunday. Saint Joseph was the one who wrought this miracle. Yesterday, I went to Communion for the first time since receiving his permission. I assure you that I could not keep from weeping in the face of such a great favor from my dear Jesus. I am at the peak of happiness and pain. When I consider the favor Our Lord granted me and on the other hand, when I see my misery and unworthiness, I am filled with confusion. Then, I throw myself into the arms of the One who is all mercy and, casting myself there, remain completely surrendered to my celestial Bridegroom.
He does everything in me. All I do is love Him and this so imperfectly. I love Him and for Him I am going to give up everything. That everything, however, is such a small thing in comparison with the everything of His love.
Saint Teresa of Jesus of the Andes Letter 80
Read the Vatican biography of Saint Teresa of the Andes here
The Writings of Saint Teresa of Jesus of the Andes: An Abridgement
Edited by Barbara Haight Garcia, OCDS
Translated by Father Michael D. Griffin, OCD
New Life Publishing Company, 2003
MESSAGE FOR THE CENTENARY OF THE PROCESSION OF OUR LADY OF CARMEL Haifa, 5 May 2019
Fr. Saverio Cannistrà of the Sacred Heart, O.C.D. Discalced Carmelite Superior General
This year we celebrate the centenary of the procession of Our Lady of Carmel in Haifa. The first procession was held on April 27, 1919, Sunday in albis, and was organized to solemnly bring back to the sanctuary of Stella Maris the statue of Our Lady of Carmel, that in 1914 at the beginning of the First World War, had been transferred to the parish church in the city. The Vicar Father of Mount Carmel at that time, the Englishman P. Francis Lamb (1867-1950), writes in his memoirs that there was an extraordinary participation of the people and that the English authorities were struck by this manifestation of faith and devotion for the Mother of God in the Latin Catholic community of Haifa. It was linked to the end of the Great War and the desire to thank the Lord and Our Lady for the return of peace. The procession was repeated in the following years until it became the most important in the Holy Land after that of Palm Sunday in Jerusalem.
Here in Haifa, devotion to Mary is like a centuries-old tree with large branches and deep roots […]
The magistrates came to receive us half a mile outside the city. All the people arranged in procession welcomed us with demonstrations of most lively faith. The gathering was so great, and our entrance made with such solemnity, that we were unable to cross the threshold of our home until evening. There was reason to praise God in witnessing the devotion with which the inhabitants of Pontoise received this new foundation, and even now they retain the same sentiments. Our Lord has granted and ceases not to grant many favors to this city, owing to the prayers of the Sisters.
Witnessing all this, I experienced intense sorrow only at the thought that I was to be head of the monastery. I was like one condemned to death, and so mortified that it seemed to me the office of Prioress, in my case, was a disgrace, and that never in any other circumstances had I been weighed down body and soul by such ignominy. My whole being seemed but a worm of the earth; and that in truth is what I am. But I never saw it in so clear a light as on that occasion.
Being one day before the Blessed Sacrament, I begged our Lord that He, Himself, would be watchful for His glory, and that He would assist me, as I felt entirely alone. He said to me: “I am here; I consider you as the light of my eyes.”
Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew Autobiography of the Blessed Mother Anne of Saint Bartholomew
Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew, despite her fears and trepidation, became one of the great foundresses of the Teresian Carmel in France and Belgium. The Carmel of Pontoise was founded with the aid of Blessed Madame Acarie (Marie of the Incarnation), 15 January 1605, three months after the foundation of the Carmel of Paris on faubourg Saint-Jacques, 18 October 1604.
“I do not trouble myself at all about the money needed for the material building, but solely about the living stones which will build up the spiritual edifice.”
Blessed Mary of the Incarnation (Madame Acarie) The Beautiful Acarie
Learn more about Blessed Mary of the Incarnation in the biographic essay, The Beautiful Acarie by Fr. Robert P. Maloney, C.M., the 23rd Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission. He wrote the essay “in an attempt to revive her memory for the members of the family of Vincent de Paul. He knew and admired her, as did Louise de Marillac, whose uncle was one of Madame Acarie’s greatest devotees.”
If we see faults in monasteries of poor women, it is because they are poor against their will, and for no longer being able to, and no longer following the counsels of Christ; I simply do not praise poverty, but suffering with patience for the love of Christ Our Lord…