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.
Without (poverty) the religious is a Pharisee – a gentleman in the monastery dressed like a poor man, but without a true love for poverty…. The poor are of us, but we do not wish to be of them. We thereby make ourselves ridiculous before God who accepted our vows.
1 Lord God, you are my Savior. I have been praying to you day and night. 2 Please pay attention to my prayers. Listen to my prayers for mercy. 3 My soul has had enough of this pain! I am ready to die. 4 People already treat me like a dead man, like someone too weak to live. 5 Look for me among the dead, like a body in the grave. I am one of those you have forgotten, cut off from you and your care. 6 You put me in that hole in the ground. Yes, you put me in that dark place. 7 Your anger presses down on me like a heavy weight. It’s like one wave after another pounding against me. Selah
8 You made my friends leave me. They all avoid me like someone no one wants to touch. Like a prisoner in my house, I cannot go out. 9 My eyes hurt from crying. Lord, I pray to you constantly! I lift my arms in prayer to you. 10 Do you do miracles for the dead? Do ghosts rise up and praise you? No! Selah
11 The dead in their graves cannot talk about your faithful love. People in the world of the dead cannot talk about your faithfulness. 12 The dead who lie in darkness cannot see the amazing things you do. Those in the world of the forgotten cannot talk about your goodness. 13 Lord, I am asking you to help me! Early each morning I pray to you. 14 Lord, why have you abandoned me? Why do you refuse to listen to me? 15 I have been sick and weak since I was young. I have suffered your anger, and I am helpless. 16 Your anger covers me like a flood. Your attacks are killing me. 17 They surround me on every side. I feel like a drowning man. 18 You caused my friends and loved ones to leave me. Now darkness is my closest friend.
MEDITATION The Science of the Cross, Chapter 22
The Doctrine of the Darkest Path
The darkest path is the most secure. This doctrine from The Dark Night is stressed with great emphasis in spiritual direction: “Since your soul finds herself in this darkness and void of spiritual poverty, you believe you are lacking everything, and that everyone has abandoned you. Of course, that is no wonder since you even think God has forsaken you. However, nothing is missing. . . . Whoever seeks God and nothing else is not wandering in darkness no matter how dark and poor you think you are. Whoever does not walk in presumption and does not follow her own tastes whether in what concerns God or creatures, and does not insist on her own will, whether internally or externally, will not stumble now. . . . Let us live on earth like pilgrims and the poor, like the banished and orphans, in dryness, without a way, and without anything else, but always in hope.”
(Cf. Letter 19 to Doña Juana de Pedraza)
Lord, God of our fathers,
you brought Saint Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the cross
at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with that same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you, the supreme truth,
and to remain faithful until death
to the covenant of love ratified in the blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Born in Bolsward (The Netherlands) in 1881, Blessed Titus Brandsma joined the Carmelite Order as a young man. Ordained a priest in 1905, he earned a doctorate in philosophy in Rome. He then taught in various schools in Holland and was named professor of philosophy as Rector Magnificus. He was noted for his constant availability to everyone. He was a professional journalist, and in 1935 he was appointed the ecclesiastical advisor to Catholic journalists. Both before and during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands he fought, faithful to the Gospel, against the spread of Nazi ideology and for the freedom of Catholic education and of the Catholic press. For this, he was arrested and sent to a succession of prisons and concentration camps where he brought comfort and peace to his fellow prisoners and did good even to his tormentors. In 1942, after much suffering and humiliation, he was killed at Dachau. He was beatified by Saint John Paul II on Nov. 3, 1985.
From the Common of One Martyr, except the following:
Office of Readings
THE SECOND READING (Alternative 1)
Introduction to Het lijden vergoddelijkt
From the writings of Blessed Titus Brandsma
The mysticism of the Passion
Jesus called Himself the head of the Mystical Body, of which we are the members. He is the vine, we are the branches. He laid Himself in the winepress and Himself trod it. He handed us the wine so that, drinking it, we might lead His life, might share His suffering. Whoever wishes to do My Will, let him daily take up his cross. Whoever follows me has the light of life. I am the way, He said. I have given you an example, so that as I have done so you may do also. And when His disciples did not understand that His way would be a way of suffering, He explained this to them and said, “Should not the Christ so suffer, in order to enter into His glory?”
Then the hearts of the disciples burned within them. God’s word had set them on fire. And when the Holy Spirit had descended on them to fan that divine fire into flame, then they were glad to suffer scorn and persecution, whereby they resembled Him Who had preceded them on the way of suffering.
The prophets had already marked His way of suffering; the disciples now understood that He had not avoided that way. From the crib to the cross, suffering, poverty and lack of appreciation were His lot. He had directed His whole life to teaching people how different is God’s view of suffering, poverty and lack of human appreciation from the foolish wisdom of the world. After sin, suffering had to follow so that, through the cross, man’s lost glory and life with God might be regained. Suffering is the way to heaven. In the cross is salvation, in the cross is victory. God willed it so. He Himself assumed the obligation of suffering in view of the glory of redemption. St. Paul makes it clear to us how all the disasters of this earthly life are insignificant, how they must be considered as nothing and passing, in comparison with the glory that will be revealed to us when the time of suffering is past, and we come to share in God’s glory.
Mary, who kept all God’s words in her heart, in the fullness of grace granted her, understood the great value of suffering. While the apostles fled, she went out to meet the Savior on the way to Calvary and stood beneath the cross, in order to share His grief and shame to the end. And she carried Him to the grave, firmly trusting that He would rise.
We object when He hands us the chalice of His suffering. It is so difficult for us to resign ourselves to suffering. To rejoice in it strikes us as heroic. What is the value of our offering of self if we unite ourselves each morning only in word and gesture, rather than in thought and will, to that offering which we, together with the Church, make of Him with whom we are in the one body?
Jesus once wept over Jerusalem.
Oh, that this day you had known the gift of God!
Oh, that this day we might realize the value God has placed on the suffering He sends: He, the All-Good.
R/. God forbid that I glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, * by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. V/. We preach Christ crucified, to others a stumbling block and a folly, but to us the power and the wisdom of God, * by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Lord our God, source and giver of life,
you gave to Blessed Titus the Spirit of courage
to proclaim human dignity and the freedom of the Church,
even in the throes of degrading persecution and death.
Grant us that same Spirit
so that in the coming of your kingdom of justice and peace
we might never be ashamed of the Gospel
but be enabled to recognize your loving-kindness
in all the events of our lives.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
On 7 May 1919, Saint Teresa of Jesus of the Andes entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery of the Holy Spirit in the township of Los Andes, roughly 90 kilometers from her family in the capital of Santiago, Chile.
Years later, her brother Luis testified for her process of beatification and canonization:
“Juanita chose the poorest Monastery of Los Andes out of the spirit of poverty. She could have entered a Carmelite cloister in Santiago which, while austere, had more comforts and a better appearance. Nevertheless, Juanita preferred the poorest one.
“Juanita entered religious life at the age of eighteen. The whole family traveled with her to Los Andes and was present when she entered the convent. Juanita bade farewell to each of us in the midst of a huge electrical storm. The rain was exceedingly heavy. She said goodbye to me last, hugged me and whispered in my ear, ‘God exists, brother, and never forget that.’ At this point, my sister, Rebecca, was so upset that she fainted.”
The Writings of Saint Teresa Of Jesus of the Andes: An Abridgement
Edited by Barbara Haight Garcia, OCDS
Translated by Reverend Michael D. Griffin, OCD
Published by New Life Publishing Company, 2003
Featured photo: Peregrinación de Santa Teresa de Los Andes
Km 19, Cerro Chacabuco
Benjamín Mejías / Flickr