We must continually apply ourselves so that all our actions, without exception, become a kind of brief conversation with God, not in a contrived manner but coming from the purity and simplicity of our hearts.
Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection Spiritual Maxims, 7
Lawrence of the Resurrection, B 2015, Writings and Conversations on the Practice of the Presence of God, translated from the French by Sciurba, S, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
Mary, at the top of Calvary standing beside the Cross
To me you seem like a priest at the altar,
Offering your beloved Jesus, the sweet Emmanuel,
To appease the Father’s justice…
A prophet said, O afflicted Mother,
« There is no sorrow like your sorrow ! _ »
O Queen of Martyrs, while remaining in exile
You lavish on us all the blood of your heart !
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus Why I Love You, O Mary (PN 54, excerpt)
You should take care always to be inclined to the difficult more than to the easy, to the rugged more than to the soft, to the hard and distasteful in a work more than to its delightful and pleasant aspects; and do not go about choosing what is less of a cross, for the cross is a light burden (Matt. 11:30). The heavier a burden is, the lighter it becomes when borne for Christ.
St John of the Cross Counsels to a Religious, 6
John of the Cross, St 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
“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.
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.
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.
It is impossible to describe what took place between my soul and Jesus. I asked Jesus a thousand times that He would take me, and I experienced His dear voice for the first time. “Oh Jesus I love You, I adore You!” I prayed to Him for everybody. I felt the Virgin near me. Oh, how my heart expanded! For the first time, I experienced a delicious peace.
From that time, the dear Jesus spoke to me, and I spent entire hours conversing with Him.
That is the reason I enjoyed being alone. He went on teaching me how I should suffer and not complain and about intimate union with Him. Then He told me that He wanted me for Himself, that He would like me to become a Carmelite. Ah! Mother, you cannot imagine what Jesus was doing in my soul. At that time, I did not live in myself. It was Jesus who was living in me.
Saint Teresa of the Andes From her autobiographical writings at age 15
Explore our blog posts concerning Saint Teresa of the Andes here.
of the Andes, T 2003, The Writings of Saint Teresa of Jesus of the Andes: An Abridgement, translated from the Spanish by Father Michael D. Griffin, OCD, New Life Publishing Company,
Excerpts from the resolutions in captivity
drawn up by Blessed Hubert of Saint Claude
and his companions
They will never give themselves up to useless worries about being set free. Instead, they will make the effort to profit from the time of their detention by meditating on their past years, by making holy resolutions for the future, so that they can find in the captivity of their bodies, freedom for their soul.
If God permits them to recover totally or in part, this liberty nature longs for, they will avoid giving themselves up to an immoderate joy when they receive the news. By keeping their souls tranquil, they will show they support without murmur the cross placed on them, and that they are disposed to bear it even longer with courage and as true Christians who never let themselves be beaten by adversity.
From now on they will form but one heart and one soul, without showing distinction of persons, and without leaving any of their brothers out, under any pretext. They will never get mixed up in the new politics, being content to pray for the welfare of their country and prepare themselves for a new life, if God permits them to return to their homes, and there become subjects of edification and models of virtue for the people, by their detachment from the world, their assiduousness in prayer and their love for recollection and piety.
Blessed Hubert of Saint Claude (Jacques Gagnot) was one of three Discalced Carmelite martyrs imprisoned on the slave ship Les Deux Associés in the bay of Rochefort, France in 1794. His companions died on board in July, but Blessed Hubert survived the summer. When the plague broke out on the ship, those remaining disembarked on Île Madame, where Blessed Hubert died and was buried on 10 September 1794. Learn more here from Catholic News Service about the conditions on the slave ship and at Île Madame. “Compared to the hell of the ships, the island seemed a veritable paradise.”
It seems to me that the soul that is aware of its greatnessenters into the “holy freedom of the children of God” of which the Apostle speaks (Rom 8:21), that is, it transcends all things, including self.
The freest soul, I think, is the one most forgetful of self.
If anyone were to ask me the secret of happiness, I would say it is to no longer think of ourselves; well, love of God must be so strong that it extinguishes all our self-love.
St. Augustine says we have two cities within us, the city of God and the city of SELF (cf. De Civitate 14:28). To the extent that the first increases, the second will be destroyed.
A soul that lives by faith in God’s presence that has this “single eye” that Christ speaks of in the Gospel (Matt 6:22), that is, a purity of “intention” that seeks only God (Rusbrock l’Admirable 34); this soul, it seems to me, would also live in humility: it would recognize his gifts to it—for “humility is truth” (Interior Castle VI:10)—but it would attribute nothing to itself, referring all to God as the Blessed Virgin did.
Catez, E 2014, I Have Found God: General Introduction, Major Spiritual Writings, translated from the French by Kane, A, 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.
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.
We will be saints, with holiness like that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila and the Little Flower, when God comes to us no longer in divine radiance, but in the form of a crushing threat to our life. Such was the experience of Christ in his Passion.
Even if our human nature recoils in fear and trembling, we will be able to commune with God within the recesses of our soul through abandonment. There lies the key to God’s love and peace.
Père Jacques of Jesus, O.C.D. Conference 11: Hope and Abandonment 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.
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.
“I propose to have no other purpose in all my activities, either interior or exterior, than the motive of love alone, by constantly asking myself: ‘Now what am I doing in this action? Do I love God?’ If I should notice any obstacle to pure love, I shall take myself in hand and recall that I must seek to return my love for His love.”
One Sunday, closing my book at the end of Mass, a picture of Our Lord on the Cross half slipped out, showing only one of His Divine Hands, pierced and bleeding. I felt an indescribable thrill such as I had never felt before. My heart was torn with grief to see that Precious Blood falling to the ground, and no one caring to treasure It as It fell, and I resolved to remain continually in spirit at the foot of the Cross, that I might receive the Divine Dew of Salvation and pour it forth upon souls. From that day the cry of my dying Saviour—“I thirst!”—sounded incessantly in my heart, and kindled therein a burning zeal hitherto unknown to me. My one desire was to give my Beloved to drink;I felt myself consumed with thirst for souls, and I longed at any cost to snatch sinners from the everlasting flames of hell.
In order still further to enkindle my ardour, Our Divine Master soon proved to me how pleasing to him was my desire. Just then I heard much talk of a notorious criminal, Pranzini,who was sentenced to death for several shocking murders, and, as he was quite impenitent, everyone feared he would be eternally lost. How I longed to avert this irreparable calamity! In order to do so I employed all the spiritual means I could think of, and, knowing that my own efforts were unavailing, I offered for his pardon the infinite merits of Our Saviour and the treasures of Holy Church.
Need I say that in the depths of my heart I felt certain my request would be granted? But, that I might gain courage to persevere in the quest for souls, I said in all simplicity: “My God, I am quite sure that Thou wilt pardon this unhappy Pranzini. I should still think so if he did not confess his sins or give any sign of sorrow, because I have such confidence in Thy unbounded Mercy; but this is my first sinner, and therefore I beg for just one sign of repentance to reassure me.” My prayer was granted to the letter. My Father never allowed us to read the papers, but I did not think there was any disobedience in looking at the part about Pranzini. The day after his execution I hastily opened the paper, La Croix, and what did I see? Tears betrayed my emotion; I was obliged to run out of the room. Pranzini had mounted the scaffold without confessing or receiving absolution, and the executioners were already dragging him towards the fatal block, when all at once, apparently in answer to a sudden inspiration, he turned round, seized the crucifix which the Priest was offering to him, and kissed Our Lord’s Sacred Wounds three times. . . . I had obtained the sign I asked for, and to me it was especially sweet. Was it not when I saw the Precious Blood flowing from the Wounds of Jesus that the thirst for souls first took possession of me? I wished to give them to drink of the Blood of the Immaculate Lamb that It might wash away their stains, and the lips of “my first born” had been pressed to these Divine Wounds. What a wonderful answer!
When Christ, in his sermons and his parables, described the Christian’s manner of behavior, he sketched for us a portrait of the face of She who was the daughter of light par excellence. Further, his deeds and his acts complete the refinement of Mary’s appearance.
To look at Jesus is, in a way, to look at his Mother. Didn’t she give him his human face at the same time that he fashioned her in the image of God? In this admirable exchange, the resemblance of these two beings was consummated.
Transformed in her Son, Mary has nothing of her own beyond this transparency, this limpidity that permits the soul of Jesus to be reflected in her with all his perfections, to imprint himself on her in a lively manner. To look at Christ living and praying, we learn to know his Mother better.
Father François de Sainte-Marie, O.C.D. Visage de la Vierge (Face of the Virgin)
Father François de Sainte-Marie was a prolific French Discalced Carmelite author and editor of the mid-20th century. He is best known for his tireless efforts to publish the critical edition of the autobiographical manuscripts of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux in 1957, which we commonly refer to as Story of a Soul.
A review of Father François’ publications in the library of the Teresianum in Rome is impressive, to say the least. Translations from the Latin, original works in French, German, and English all testify to the creative genius of this friar.
The blogger will contribute to the translation of his meditations for the annual Advent online retreat sponsored by the Discalced Carmelite friars of the Paris province.
Father François de Sainte-Marie’s fruitful ministry was tragically cut short by accidental death when he drowned in the Loire river 30 August 1961.
de Sainte-Marie, F 1948, Visage de la Vierge, translated from the French by Carmelite Quotes, Librairie du Carmel, Paris.
This English translation is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.
Without doubt, I am not distracted, but I cannot finish my brief prayer. I start to say the Our Father and I stop at these two words without being able to continue. I think: “Oh my God, You who are so great and so powerful, You are our Father. You in heaven and we are such small worms, ash, dust on earth! Today we are in this world and maybe tomorrow we are dead. And during this quick time of our existence, we dare to offend you. Oh my God, have mercy on us!” And then I lose myself, and I fall asleep.
Even if I want to say the Hail Mary, I stop at the first words: “I salute you Mary”. And I say to the Blessed Virgin: “You are so good, so good, oh my Mother! You, Mother of God, Mother of all men! And we are but poor sinners!”And I lose myself and I fall asleep. It is impossible to continue.
I really need to confess the fault that I cannot pray!
Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified Life and Thoughts of Mariam Baouardy (excerpt)
Nota Bene: Carmelite Quotes and the Elijah’s Breeze blog have been given exclusive rights to reprint and distribute the English translation of Francesco Zampini’s self-published biography, Life and Thoughts of Mariam Baouardy (2018). We are grateful to the Discalced Carmelite nuns of the Holy Land for extending to us the privilege of publishing and disseminating this excellent study of the life spiritual doctrine of St. Mary of Jesus Crucified, as well as the fine translation from the original Italian text by Cristina Leontini.