St.Teresa of Avila~Reformer of the Carmelites 


The first 40 years of Teresa’s life gave no clue to the rich depth and productivity of the second half of her life. Born Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada in central Spain, she spent her early years with her family, giving herself to the duties of extended family life. At age 21, against her father’s wishes, she professed vows as a Carmelite at the Spanish Convent of the Incarnation in Avila.
Still, according to her own account, she waffled spiritually. The convent was known for its leniency, for example, permitting relationships with those outside the convent and allowing worldly possessions within. Teresa, enjoying the convent’s indulgences, waned in her devotion. Then a serious, prolonged illness (and partial paralysis from an attempted cure) forced her to spend three years in relative quiet, during which time she read books on the spiritual life. When she recovered and returned to the convent she resumed what to her later seemed only a half-hearted spirituality. Of these years, she wrote in her Autobiography, “I voyaged on this tempestuous sea for almost 20 years with these fallings and risings.”

Then one day while walking down a hallway in the convent, her glance fell on a statue of the wounded Christ, and the vision of his constant love throughout her inconstancy pierced her heart. Gently but powerfully, she said Jesus began to break down her defenses and reveal to her the cause of her spiritual exhaustion: her dalliance with the delights of sin.

She immediately broke with her past, undergoing a final conversion. After this, she began experiencing profound mystical raptures, though these soon passed. For the rest of her life, she gave herself completely to her spiritual growth and the renewal of the Carmelite monasteries.

A spiritual legacy

Teresa dreamed of establishing convents where young women could pursue deep lives of deep prayer and devotion. She once wrote, “Whoever has not begun the practice of prayer, I beg for the love of the Lord not to go without so great a good. There is nothing here to fear but only something to desire.” Teresa spent days on end traveling the countryside establishing reformed (or “Discalced,” meaning “unshod,” that is, more simple) Carmelite convents. She convinced John of the Cross to join her in this work.

Her success as an administrator and reformer (she founded 14 monasteries) was due in part to her natural leadership gifts, her tenacity in the face of adversity (especially from older Carmelites who resented her reforms), and a keen sense of humor. Once when praying about her many trials and sufferings, she heard she heard Jesus say, “But this is how I treat my friends.” Teresa replied, “No wonder you have so few friends.”

Yet it is her gift of spiritual direction, practiced personally with nuns and publicly in her writings, for which she is known today.

She was hesitant to put her insights to paper and had to be ordered by her superiors to do so. Thankfully for later generations, she obeyed: her three works, Autobiography, Way of Perfection, and Interior Castle, contain some of the most profound insights into the spiritual life ever written.

To take one example, considered by many her masterpiece: Interior Castle describes the soul as a “castle made entirely of diamond or of a very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms.” Some are above, some below, some to the sides, “and in the very center and middle is the main dwelling place where the very secret exchanges between God and the soul take place.” Teresa wanted to teach her readers how to enter this castle, that is, how to pray, so that they might commune more intimately with God.

For Teresa, prayer is the source of Christian life and the wellspring of all moral virtues. Prayer is not everything, but without prayer, nothing else is possible. By prayer does the soul enter the Castle, and by prayer does the soul continue the journey. Under this umbrella of prayer, God works, in mysterious, often unpredictable ways, and the soul works strongly. Without the soul’s active compliance, God will not move (though human effort cannot do what God alone must do).

From the First Dwelling Place, where the soul begins to pray, to the Seventh Dwelling Place, where the soul, united to God, finds both perfect peace and deepest suffering, the person builds on prayer and the progressive disengagement from the things of this world. But unlike her partner in reform, John of the Cross, Teresa’s understanding of disengagement is not ascetic. On the contrary, for Teresa true suffering comes from being in the world and serving others. Spiritual progress is measured neither by self-imposed penance nor by the sweetest pleasures of mystical experiences but by growth in constant love for others and an increasing desire within for the will of God.

This love for her sisters and brothers and this union with the will of God compelled Teresa onward in constant efforts. To someone who encouraged her to rest, she once said, “Rest, indeed! I need no rest; what I need is crosses.” In her last years, her health suffered, as did her reputation with church authorities, who sought to restrict her influence. On yet another mission of service, her body exhausted, Teresa died reciting verses from the Song of Songs.

St.Therese and The Murderer~The Incredible Power of Spiritual Motherhood 

The following took place in 1887, when Thérèse Martin was fourteen years old.


“One Sunday when I was looking at a picture of Our Lord on the Cross, I saw the Blood coming from one of His hands, and I felt terribly sad to think that It was falling to the earth and that no one was rushing forward to catch It. I determined to stay continually at the foot of the Cross and receive It. I knew that I should then have to spread It among other souls. The cry of Jesus on the Cross – ‘I am thirsty’ – rang continually in my heart and set me burning with a new, intense longing. I wanted to quench the thirst of my Well-Beloved and I myself was consumed with a thirst for souls. I was concerned not with the souls of priests but with those of great sinners which I wanted to snatch from the flames of hell.


“God showed me He was pleased with these longings of mine. I’d heard of a criminal who had just been condemned to death for some frightful murders. It seemed that he would die without repenting. I was determined at all costs to same him from hell. I used every means I could. I knew that by myself I could do nothing, so I offered God the infinite merits of Our Lord and the treasures of the Church. I was quite certain that my prayers would be answered, but to give me courage to go on praying for sinners I said to God: ‘I am sure You will forgive this wretched Pranzini. I shall believe You have done so even if he does not confess or give any other sign of repentance, for I have compete faith in the infinite mercy of Jesus. But I ask You for just one sign of his repentance to encourage me.’

“This prayer was answered. Daddy never allowed us to read any newspapers, but I thought I was justified in looking at the stories about Pranzini. On the day after his execution I eagerly opened La Croix and I had to rush away to hide my tears at what I read. Pranzini had mounted the scaffold without confessing and was ready to thrust his head beneath the guillotine’s blade when he suddenly turned, seized the crucifix offered him by the priest, and thrice kissed the Sacred Wounds.

“I had been given my sign, and it was typical of the graces Jesus has given me to make me eager to pray for sinners. It was at the sight of the Precious Blood flowing from the Wounds of Jesus that my thirst for souls had been born. I wanted to let them drink of this Immaculate Blood to cleanse them of their sins and the lips of my ‘first child’ had pressed against the Sacred Wounds! What a wonderful reply to my prayers! After this striking favour my longing for souls grew greater every day. I seemed to hear Jesus say to me what He said to the Samaritan Woman: ‘Give me to drink.’ It was a real exchange of love: I gave souls the Blood of Jesus and offered Him these purified souls that His thirst might be quenched. The more I gave Him to drink, the more the thirst of my own poor soul increased, and He gave me this burning thirst to show His love for me.” (From early in chapter 5 of Story of a Soul)

The Transverberation of St.Teresa of Avila 


The transverberation is a mystical grace wherein the Saint’s heart was pierced with a “dart of love” by an angel. St. John of the Cross, “It will happen that while the soul is inflamed with the Love of God, it will feel that a seraph is assailing it by means of an arrow or dart which is all afire with love. And the seraph pierces and in an instant cauterizes this soul, which, like a red-hot coal, or better a flame, is already enkindled. The soul is converted into an immense fire of Love. Few persons have reached these heights.”

“I saw an angel beside me toward the left side, in bodily form. He was not very large, but small, very beautiful, his face so blazing with light that he seemed to be one of the very highest angels, who appear all on fire. They must be those they call Cherubim…I saw in his hands a long dart of gold, and at the end of the iron there seemed to me to be a little fire. This I thought he thrust through my heart several times, and that it reached my very entrails. As he withdrew it, I thought it brought them with it, and left me all burning with a great love of God. So great was the pain, that it made me give those moans; and so utter the sweetness that this sharpest of pains gave me, that there was no wanting it to stop, nor is there any contenting of the soul with less than God”. (St. Teresa, Life…Chapter 19).


Jesus, You want your Spirit of Love to blaze like fire throughout the world; may we, like Saint Teresa, be instrumental in keeping that flame of love alight.

You sanctify Your friends and reveal to them the mysteries of Your heart; unite our hearts to yours in a friendship so close and intimate that we may experience the secrets of Your Love, proclaim it to others, and win them to you.

You blessed the pure of heart and promised that they would see You; purify our sight so that we may see you in all things, and through all things be close to You.

You oppose the proud and give wisdom to the simple; make us humble of heart, so that we may receive Your wisdom for the sake of the Church. ~ Intercessions from the Carmelite Proper of the Liturgy of the Hours

Sr.Teresa Benedicta of the Cross~Carmelite Martyr of Auschwitz 


Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)Virgin and Martyr Edith Stein, born in 1891 in Breslau, Poland, was the youngest child of a large Jewish family. She was an outstanding student and was well versed in philosophy with a particular interest in phenomenology. Eventually she became interested in the Catholic Faith, and in 1922, she was baptized at the Cathedral Church in Cologne, Germany. Eleven years later Edith entered the Cologne Carmel. Because of the ramifications of politics in Germany, Edith, whose name in religion was Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was sent to the Carmel at Echt, Holland. When the Nazis conquered Holland, Teresa was arrested, and, with her sister Rose, was sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Teresa died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz in 1942 at the age of fifty-one. In 1987, she was beatified in the large outdoor soccer stadium in Cologne by Pope John Paul II. Out of the unspeakable human suffering caused by the Nazis in western Europe in the 1930’s and 1940’s, there blossomed the beautiful life of dedication, consecration, prayer, fasting, and penance of Saint Teresa. Even though her life was snuffed out by the satanic evil of genocide, her memory stands as a light undimmed in the midst of evil, darkness, and suffering. She was canonized on October 11, 1998.

Why All Souls Are Not Created Equal in Grace

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Jesus Explains to Saint Thérèse Why All Souls Are Not Created Equal in Grace

Thérèse often pondered the fact that there is such a disparity between souls, some of whom are blessed to live their whole lives as great saints, while others are deeply flawed and continuously fall along their journey. She wondered how the smaller, flawed souls could be assured of Heaven, since they were much weaker than the greater souls. This saint, who believed herself to be one of the deeply flawed souls, prayed fervently to be enlightened on the subject, and described her enlightenment in her autobiography: “[Jesus] opened the book of nature before me, and I saw that every flower He has created has a beauty of its own, that the splendor of the rose and the lily’s whiteness do not deprive the violet of its scent nor make less ravishing the daisy’s charm. I saw that if every little flower wished to be a rose, Nature would lose her spring adornments, and the fields would no longer be enameled with their varied flowers. “So it is in the world of souls, the living garden of the Lord. It pleases Him to create great saints, who may be compared with the lilies or the rose, but He has also created little ones, who must be content to be daisies or violets, nestling at His feet to delight His eyes when He should choose to look at them. The happier they are to be as He wills, the more perfect they are. “I saw something further: that Our Lord’s love shines out just as much through a little soul who yields completely to His Grace as it does through the greatest. True love is shown in self-abasement, and if everyone were like the saintly doctors who adorn the Church, it would seem that God had not far enough to stoop when He came to them … What delights Him is the simplicity of these flowers of the field, and by stooping so low to them, He shows how infinitely great He is. Just as the sun shines equally on the cedar and the little flower, so the Divine Sun shines equally on everyone, great and small.
Thus, though Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is one of the roses of Our Lord’s garden, her encouragement for all souls, especially the least, is of the greatest value to those of us who despair that we will never rise above our own lowliness. On the contrary, St. Thérèse teaches us that we should not dwell on our faults and imperfections, but instead recognize and rejoice in our smallness, for this condition will surely get us to Heaven if we persevere.

An Act of Holocaust as Victim of Gods Merciful Love

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An Act of Holocaust as Victim of
God’s Merciful Love
 

A prayer composed by St. Therese of the Child Jesus on June 9, 1895.This prayer was found after her death in the copy of the Gospels that she always carried close to her heart.

PRAYER

O my God! O Most Blessed Trinity! I desire to love Thee and to make Thee loved – to labor for the glory of the Holy Church by saving souls here upon earth and by delivering those suffering in Purgatory. I desire to fulfill perfectly Thy Holy Will and to reach the degree of glory Thou hast prepared for me in Thy Kingdom. In a word, I wish to be holy, but knowing how helpless I am, I beseech Thee, my God to be Thyself my holiness.

Since Thou hast loved me so much as to give me Thine Only-Begotten Son to be my Savior and my Spouse, the infinite treasures of His merits are mine. Gladly do I offer them to Thee, and I beg of Thee to behold me only through the Eyes of Jesus, and in His Heart aflame with love. Moreover, I offer Thee all the merits of the Saints both in Heaven and on earth, together with their acts of love, and those of the holy Angels. Lastly, I offer Thee, O Blessed Trinity, the love and the merits of the Blessed Virgin, my dearest Mother – to her I commit this Oblation, praying her to present it to Thee.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus
St. Therese of the Child Jesus

During the days of His life on earth, her Divine Son, my sweet Spouse, said to us: “If you ask the Father anything in My Name, He will give it to you.” Therefore I am certain Thou will fulfill my longing. O my God, I know that the more Thou dost wish to bestow, the more Thou dost make us desire. In my heart I feel boundless desires, and I confidently beseech Thee to take possession of my soul. I cannot receive Thee in Holy Communion as often as I would like, but O Lord, art Thou not all-powerful? Abide in me as Thou dost in the Tabernacle – never abandon Thy little Victim.

I long to console Thee for ungrateful sinners, and I implore Thee to take from me all liberty to sin. If through weakness I should chance to fall, may a glance from Thine eyes straightaway cleanse my soul and consume all my imperfections – as fire transforms all things into itself.

I thank Thee, O my God , for all the graces Thou has granted me, especially for having purified me in the crucible of suffering. At the Day of Judgment I shall gaze on Thee with joy as Thou bearest Thy scepter of the Cross. And Since Thou has deigned to give me this precious Cross as my portion, I hope to be like unto Thee in Paradise and to behold the Sacred Wounds of thy Passion shine on my glorified body.

After earth’s exile, I trust to possess Thee in our Father’s Home. But I do not seek to lay up treasures in Heaven. I wish to labor for Thy Love alone – with the sole aim of pleasing Thee, of consoling Thy Sacred Heart, and of saving souls who will love Thee throughout eternity.

When the evening of life is come, I shall stand before Thee with empty hands, because I do not ask Thee, my God, to take account of my works. All our works of justice are blemished in Thine eyes. I wish, therefore, to be robed with Thine own Justice, and to receive from Thy Love the everlasting gift of Thyself. I desire no other Throne, no other Crown, but Thee, O my Beloved! In Thy sight, time is naught – “One day is a thousand years.” Thou can, in a single instant, prepare me to appear before Thee.

In order that my life may be one Act of perfect Love, I offer myself as a Victim of Holocaust to Thy Merciful Love, imploring Thee to consume me unceasingly, and to allow the floods of infinite tenderness gathered up in Thee to overflow into my soul, so that I may become a very martyr of Thy love. O My God, may this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear in Thy Presence, free me from this life at the last, and my soul take its flight – without delay – into the eternal embrace of Thy Merciful Love!

O my Beloved! I desire at every beat of my heart to renew this Oblation an infinite number of times, “till the shadows retire,” and everlastingly I can tell Thee my love face to face. Amen.

Carmelite Martyrs of Compeigne~They sang all the way to the Guillotine

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In the choir of virgin-martyrs, who forever sing the praises of the Lamb of God whom they followed unto the very end of sacrifical love, are our Carmelite Nuns of Compiengne, France. The cultural and civil conflicts of their time were centered in the time of the French Revolution which began in July of 1789, with the fall of the Bastille. The new governmental Assembly of anti-religious hostility was the beginning of this great “Reign of Terror” as this time in world history is often referred to.

The community of Carmelite Nuns at Compiegne had been established in 1641, a daughter house of the monastery of Amiens. The community rapidly flourished and was renowned for its fervor and fidelity to the spirit of St. Teresa of Jesus, the Mother of the Discalced Carmelite Order. From its beginnings it enjoyed the affection and esteem of the French court, until the fatal turn of the French Revolution, when they then became, along with all other religious groups, the object of hatred and scorn. The anti-religious views of the new regime was proved by their proclaiming the vows taken by religious as null and void. Despite growing hostility, the nuns of Compiengne continued to live their religious life and refused to abandon their religious habit. Rumors of riots and orgies taking place in Paris continued to reach the nuns, which warned them of the growing and dire situation at hand. Officials of the newly appointed local government visited the Carmelite monastery of Compiengne with the intention of inspecting the monastery grounds and interviewing each of the nuns, while soldiers kept guard outside. The nuns were offered full freedom from the ‘so called vows’ with a suitable pension should they wish to leave the convent. They one and all refused this offer.

Realizing the gravity of this situation in which they were now in, their dynamic and discerning Prioress, Mother Teresa of St. Augustine, read the signs of the times accurately and was inspired to prepare the community for the supreme sacrifice should the need arise. They then sent in a formal document to the District Directory, stating that they wished to live and die as professed Carmelite nuns. As a community, in Easter of the year 1792, the nuns of Compiengne (numbering 21 at the time) offered themselves to God as a holocaust “to placate the anger of God, so that divine peace brought on earth by His Beloved Son would return to the Church and to the state.”

Hearing of the eviction of many religious from their monasteries, Mother Teresa decided to make preparations for a similar emergency. She rented rooms in friendly houses and paid for them in advance. She also obtained secular outfits for the nuns in case they were obliged to discard their religious dress. These precautions were taken none too soon as on September 12, 1792, local officials systematically searched the house and took whatever valuables they could find. On September 14, the property was confiscated and the nuns forced to adopt secular dress.

With apartments rented in four houses, the community divided into four separate groups, where they did their best to remain faithful to the Carmelite life in the situation in which they found themselves. Secretly they were provided with a new chaplain in the person of Fr. de la Marche, S.J. Dressed in disguise, he would meet the nuns secretly at the parish church and offer Holy Mass for them. The Mass, more than anything else, prepared them for their personal sacrifice in union with the Crucified Savior.

In July of 1794, sixteen nuns of the Community of the Carmel of Compiegne were arrested and brought to Paris in carriages, which proved to be mere carts while the floors were covered with dirty straw. They travelled in discomfort all day and all night on the evening of July 13th which was a Sunday. In Paris the group was imprisoned in the Conciergerie, nick-named the ‘Morge,’ since no one remained there for long. One of the aged nuns of the community, unable to descend from the cart, was roughly handled by attendants and fell heavily to the ground. After lying for some time motionless on the ground she was helped to her feet, her face covered with blood. Turning to the attendants she assured then that she bore them no ill-will and would indeed pray for them. After spending two nights in the Conciergerie, on July 17th, the nuns were brought to trial and condemned to be executed a few hours later. The reason given by the judge was this: “You are to die because you insist on remaining in your convent in spite of the liberty we gave you to abandon all such nonsense.” “We have now heard the true reason for our arrest and condemnation,” one nun spoke out. “It is because of our religious beliefs that we are to die. . . .”

In the interval between their condemnation and execution the nuns asked for a pail of hot water to wash their soiled clothing. They removed their civilian garb and put on their religious habits which was to give witness to their religious profession. With a roll of the drums the cart bearing the condemned nuns to execution emerged from the prison courtyard. As they awaited the guillotine, each Sister knelt before the Prioress and asked her permission to die. They kissed her scapular and a little statue of Our Lady which she held out to each one as they renewed their vows for the last time on earth. Then they began chanting the Laudate Dominun, the Salve Regina, and the Magnificat.

Each of the Sisters, one by one, beginning with the youngest willingly placed themselves on the block of the scaffold, making an offering to God of their lives on behalf of the people and in union with the Sacrifice of Jesus. The Prioress was given the option of being the last to die. After she had encouraged each of her community and received their vows she knelt down and renewed her religious profession in a clear voice and kissed the statue of Our Lady as the others had done. With heroic courage she mounted the scaffold chanting the Salve Regina until her voice was silenced on earth . Then began the eternal canticle in heaven!

Within ten days of the execution of the Carmelites, many of those who had sat in judgement of them and had them condemned to death were themselves brought before a tribunal and sentenced to death. By the end of August the reign of the guillotine had come to an end. Without a doubt it was the victorious offering and martyrdom of the Carmelite nuns of Compiegne which ended this “Reign of Terror.” As Mother Teresa of St. Augustine was wont to say: “Love will always be victorious. The one who loves can do everything.” The feast of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne is celebrated on July 17th, the day of their martyrdom.