Having the permission of these two provincials, I now figured that nothing was lacking. We arranged that Father Fray John of the Cross would go to the house and get it ready so that, in spite of all, it could be lived in. For me, what was most urgent was that the friars begin, for I was very fearful lest some obstacle would come along our path. And this they did. Father Fray Antonio had already gathered some of the things necessary. Insofar as we could, we helped him; although our help amounted to little. He came to Valladolid with great happiness to speak to me and told me what he had collected, which was very little. It was only with clocks that he was well provided, for he had five of them; this greatly amused me. He told me they were meant as a help to follow the daily schedule, which he wanted well fixed; I don’t think he even had any bed yet to sleep in.
Although they had wanted to do a great deal with the house, not much time was required to prepare it because there was no money. When it was ready, Father Fray Antonio happily renounced his priorship and promised to observe the primitive rule. Although he was told to try the new way of life first, he did not want to. He went to his little house with the greatest happiness in the world. Fray John was already there.
Father Fray Antonio has told me that when he first came near the little place he felt a great inner joy, and it seemed to him that he was now through with the world by leaving it all and placing himself in that solitude. Neither of the two found the house unfit; rather, it seemed to them they were living in the midst of great pleasures.
On the First or Second Sunday of Advent (I don’t remember which of these Sundays it was), in the year 1568, the first Mass was said in that little stable of Bethlehem, for it doesn’t seem to me the house was any better.
Saint Teresa of Avila
The Book of the Foundations Chapter 14, excerpts
It was, in fact, the First Sunday of Advent, 28 November 1568 that the first Mass was offered in the new foundation of Discalced Carmelite friars. When St. Teresa obtained the formal permission from the Carmelite Prior General Giovanni Battista Rossi (Rubeo) in Rome, she exclaimed, ¡Bendito sea Dios que tengo para la fundación de mis descalzos fraile y medio! (Blessed be God that I have for the foundation of my discalced friars a friar-and-a-half!)
Kieran Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O, and Teresa 1976, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
The blessings gained through true poverty I think are many, and I wouldn’t want to lose them. I am often aware of a faith within me so great that I think God cannot fail anyone who serves Him. I know that there never is or will be any time in which His words will fail; for I cannot persuade myself otherwise, nor can I fear…
It seems to me I have much more compassion for the poor than I used to. I feel such great pity and desire to find relief for them that if it were up to me I would give them the clothes off my back. I feel no repugnance whatsoever toward them, toward speaking to or touching them. This I now see is a gift given by God. For even though I used to give alms for love of Him, I didn’t have the natural compassion. I feel a very noticeable improvement in this matter.
Spiritual Testimonies: 2, Nos. 3-4
Reflection by Fr. Emiel Albalahin, O.Carm.
According to Teresa, while interior development necessarily involves continued progress in self-knowledge and self-awareness, it is not egotistical, because it also encourages us to look beyond ourselves to God and to others. Thus progress in the spiritual life really authenticates itself in charity. God’s love, as the evangelist John tells us, is for all and is so profound that He sent His Son for our redemption. For those engaged in a life of prayer, we must also love with this Divine love. It is a transformative love that changes the way we see and approach our fellow men and women, as Teresa illustrates in the passage above.
May we, therefore, learn to love others with the love that God loves us, that our prayer may be truly perfected.
We pray together
Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be.
V. Holy Mother St. Teresa, pray for us:
R. That we may become worthy of the promises of Jesus Christ.
Let us pray:
by your Spirit, you raised up
our Mother Saint Teresa of Jesus
to show your Church the way to perfection.
May her inspired teaching
awaken in us a longing for true holiness.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Fr. Emiel Albalahin, O.Carm. is a friar of the Saint Elias Province and the pastor of Transfiguration Parish in Tarrytown, New York, U.S.A.
“Hail, Cross, our only hope!”—this is what the holy church summoned us to exclaim during the time for contemplating the bitter suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. The jubilant exclamation of the Easter Alleluia silenced the serious song of the cross. But the sign of our salvation greeted us amid the time of Easter joy, since we were recalling the discovery of the One who had passed from sight. At the end of the cycle of ecclesiastical feasts, the cross greets us through the heart of the Savior. And now, as the church year draws toward an end, it is raised high before us and is to hold us spellbound until the Easter Alleluia summons us anew to forget the earth for a while and rejoice in the marriage of the Lamb.
Our holy Order has us begin our fast with the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. And it leads us to the foot of the cross to renew our holy vows. The Crucified One looks down on us and asks us whether we are still willing to honor what we promised in an hour of grace. And he certainly has reason to ask.
More than ever the cross is a sign of contradiction. The followers of the Antichrist show it far more dishonor than did the Persians who stole it. They desecrate the images of the cross, andthey make every effort to tear the cross out of the hearts of Christians. All too often they have succeeded even with those who, like us, once vowed to bear Christ’s cross after him.
Therefore, the Savior today looks at us, solemnly probing us, and asks each one of us: Will you remain faithful to the Crucified?Consider carefully! The world is in flames, the battle between Christ and the Antichrist has broken into the open.
If you decide for Christ, it could cost you your life. Carefully consider what you promise.
Taking and renewing vows is a dreadfully serious business. You make a promise to the Lord of heaven and earth. If you are not deadly serious about your will to fulfill it, you fall into the hands of the living God…
Ave Crux, Spes unica!
The world is in flames. The conflagration can also reach our house. But high above all flames towers the cross. They cannot consume it. It is the path from earth to heaven. It will lift one who embraces it in faith, love, and hope into the bosom of the Trinity.
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.
Make your heart free by the faithful fulfillment of your vows;then the flood of divine love will be poured into your heart until it overflows and becomes fruitful to all the ends of the earth. Do you hear the groans of the wounded on the battlefields in the west and the east? You are not a physician and not a nurse and cannot bind up the wounds. You are enclosed in a cell and cannot get to them. Do you hear the anguish of the dying? You would like to be a priest and comfort them. Does the lament of the widows and orphans distress you? You would like to be an angel of mercy and help them.
Look at the Crucified. If you are nuptially bound to him by the faithful observance of your holy vows, your being is precious blood. Bound to him, you are omnipresent as he is. You cannot help here or there like the physician, the nurse, the priest. You can be at all fronts, wherever there is grief, in the power of the cross. Your compassionate love takes you everywhere, this love from the divine heart. 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, Spes unica!
We present excerpts from the meditation for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a fervorino that Saint Teresa Benedicta wrote for the prioress to deliver to the nuns of the Carmel of Echt, Holland on 14 September 1939, her first opportunity to renew her vows as a Discalced Carmelite in her new community.
Edith mentions that “our holy Order has us begin our fast with the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.” Here she makes a direct reference to the Carmelite Rule of St. Albert of Jerusalem, No. 16:
You are to fast every day, except Sundays, from the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross until Easter Day, unless bodily sickness or feebleness, or some other good reason, demand a dispensation from the fast; for necessity overrides every law.
For centuries, Discalced Carmelite nuns have renewed their vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity—the order in which Edith presented the vows in her meditation—on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Although the Discalced Carmelite friars renew their vows and the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order members renew their Promise at Easter or during the Octave of Easter, the 1991 Constitutions of the Discalced Carmelite nuns indicate that they shall renew their profession twice each year:
“In order to give common witness to religious consecration in following Christ, every year the sisters will renew their religious profession during the Easter Vigil or the octave of Easter, and on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, using the formula given in the Ritual. The communities may repeat this renewal on other occasions in order to strengthen their commitment to this way of life.”
No matter what legislation Discalced Carmelites may observe, the essential purpose is clear: “to strengthen their commitment to this way of life.”
Stein, E 2014, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, translated from the German by Stein W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
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.
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…
None of the brothers must lay claim to anything as his own, but you are to possess everything in common; and each is to receive from the prior — that is from the brother he appoints for the purpose — whatever befits his age and needs.
Saint Albert of Jerusalem
The Carmelite Rule, Chapter 12
In 1229 Pope Gregory IX forbade the Carmelites to possess properties, houses, land, or income of any type so that they might be less distracted by such concerns and more easily devoted to the life of contemplation. He confirmed Pope Honorius III’s approval of the Rule of Carmel with the Brief Ex Officii Nostri.
With the greatest zeal, therefore, seek those things which draw you to the ardor of my love, such as the precepts of my law, and those things which I urged on you above, namely poverty and the crucifixion of bodily desires, obedience and the renunciation of your own will, continence and the solitude of the desert.
St Peter Thomas The Ten Books on the Way of Life and Great Deeds of the Carmelites, I:7
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
I trust you, let me not be disappointed;
do not let my enemies triumph.
Those who hope in you shall not be disappointed,
but only those who wantonly break faith.
Lord, make me know your ways.
Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
for you are God my savior.
In you I hope all day long
because of your goodness, O Lord.
Remember your mercy, Lord,
and the love you have shown from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth.
In your love remember me.
A soul ordinarily needs instruction pertinent to its experience in order to be guided through the dark night to spiritual denudation and poverty. Without this instruction a person, even without wanting such things, would unknowingly become hardened in the way of the spirit and habituated to that of the senses, in which these communications are partly experienced. The spiritual father should instead proceed with much kindness and calm.
The Ascent of Mount Carmel: Book Two, Chapter 22
O St. John of the Cross
You were endowed by our Lord with the spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
Obtain for us the grace to follow your example
that we may come to the eternal vision of the glory of God.
O Saint of Christ’s redeeming cross
the road of life is dark and long.
Teach us always to be resigned to God’s holy will
in all the circumstances of our lives
and grant us the special favor
which we now ask of thee (mention your request).
Above all, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance,
a holy and happy death and everlasting life with you
and all the saints in heaven.
Continues on the same subject: the foundation of this house of our glorious father St. Joseph. Tells of the means the Lord provided by which holy poverty would be observed in it, the reason why she left the lady she was staying with and returned, and of some other things that happened to her.
His Majesty had already given me great desires for poverty. Thus I didn’t doubt that poverty was the best thing for me, because for a long time I had been desiring that it would be possible for me to go begging for love of God and not have a house or anything. But I feared that if the Lord didn’t give the others these desires, their lives would be unhappy. I also feared that poverty would be the cause of some distraction since I observed certain poor monasteries in which there wasn’t much recollection. I failed to reflect that this lack of recollection was the cause of their being poor and that it was not the practice of poverty that caused their distraction. For distraction won’t make monasteries richer; nor does God ever fail anyone who serves Him. In sum, I had weak faith, which was not true of this servant of God.
I had weak faith
Since I consulted in all things with so many, I nonetheless found almost no one with this opinion, neither my confessor nor the learned men with whom I dealt. They brought out so many reasons against poverty that I didn’t know what to do. Since I knew it was in the rule and saw that observing poverty would be more perfect, I couldn’t persuade myself that the monastery should have an income. And if sometimes they had me convinced, when I returned to prayer and contemplating Christ on the cross, so poor and so naked, I couldn’t patiently accept the idea of being rich. I tearfully begged Him to ordain things so that I would see myself poor, as He was.
I couldn’t persuade myself that the monastery should have an income
At this time, since this lady hadn’t seen the holy Friar Peter of Alcántara, the Lord was pleased through my entreaties that he come to her house. Because he was a true lover of poverty and had practiced it for so many years, he knew well the riches that lay within it; so he helped me a great deal and ordered that I should by no means fail to go through with my plan. With this favorable opinion from one who could give the best opinion since he had known about poverty through wide experience, I made up my mind not to go looking for other opinions.
Who will be able to say of himself that he is virtuous or rich? For at the very moment when there is need of virtue one finds oneself poor. No, Sisters; but let us always think we are poor, and not go into debt when we do not have the means with which to repay. The treasure will have to come from elsewhere, and we do not know when the Lord will want to leave us in the prison of our misery without giving us anything. True, if we serve with humility, the Lord in the end will succor us in our needs; but if this poverty of spirit is not genuinely present at every step, as they say, the Lord will abandon us.
Keep in mind that holy poverty is our insignia and a virtue which at the beginning when our order was founded, was so esteemed and well kept by our holy fathers. For I have been told, by someone who knows, that they did not keep anything for the next day. If exteriorly we do not carry out this practice so perfectly, let us strive to do so interiorly. Life lasts but a couple of hours; exceedingly great will be the reward. If we should do nothing else but what the Lord counseled us to do, the pay of just being able in some way to imitate Him would be great.
Believe me, my daughters, that for your good the Lord has given me a little understanding of the blessings that lie in holy poverty. Those who experience them will understand, though perhaps not as much as I.
I read in a book that it was an imperfection to have ornate paintings. So I didn’t want to keep one I had in my cell. Even before I read this it seemed to me a practice of poverty not to have any other images than paper ones. And since it was after I had formed this opinion that I read the above, I had no longer kept any other kind. And having forgotten about this, I heard the following: that what I wanted to do was not a good mortification (what was better, poverty or charity?); that since love was the better, I shouldn’t renounce anything that awakened my love, nor should I take such a thing away from my nuns; that the book was talking about the many carvings and adornments surrounding the picture and not about the picture itself…
True poverty brings with it overwhelming honor. Poverty that is chosen for God alone has no need of pleasing anyone but Him. It is certain that in having need of no one a person has many friends. I have become clearly aware of this through experience.
You should realize that if it depended on me I would not want to see any of the houses now founded in poverty to have an income. For I understand and see it now, and it will always be so: the communities that do not fail God will prosper most.