December 18, 2008

Bl. Maria Candida of the Eucharist, Virgin, OCD

1884 – 1949 – Opt. Memorial - December 18th
Virgin, Professed Nun of the Order of Discalced Carmelites

Maria Barba was bMaria Barba was born on January 16, 1884 in Catanzaro, Italy, to Giovanna Florena, a noblewoman, and Pietro Barba, an appeals court judge. Maria was a lively, energetic child, very sensitive towards others. In addition to her schooling, she also took piano lessons and displayed an unusual talent for music. When Maria was 2 years old, she moved with her family to Palermo, Sicily.

Story of a Soul

Maria lived a "carefree" youth up until age 15, at which time she received a special grace of conversion, an immediate "change" in her character and interests: her only desire after this time was to love God with all of her heart, and she felt called to dedicate herself completely to him in the Religious life.

Her family, however, did not agree with Maria's sudden "whim" and believed she was simply overcome by an initial spiritual fervor. Their opposition to her religious vocation forced her to wait 20 years before she could enter a religious community.

These years of waiting were ones of deep interior sufferings for Maria and in the end bore witness to her remarkable strength of spirit and fidelity to God's call. Throughout this period of trial, she was constantly sustained by deep Eucharistic devotion, which became the center of her life.

During all these difficulties, Maria also found comfort in reading Story of a Soul, the inspiring autobiography of the Carmelite nun Thérèse of Lisieux (beatified on 29 April 1923 and canonized on 17 May 1925 by Pope Pius XI), which provided renewed impetus for the direction of her life and drew her ever more deeply into the Teresian spirituality, nurturing her own desire to become a Carmelite.

Entry into Carmel

Five years after the death of her mother on 16 April 1920, Maria entered the Monastery of the Discalced Carmelites of Ragusa and received the name "Maria Candida of the Eucharist". On 23 April 1924 she made her solemn, profession, and six months later she was elected prioress of the Monastery.

For the first three years, she also served as mistress of novices and took the formation of the young Sisters most seriously. It caused great suffering for Mother Candida to see some Sisters taking their Rule "lightly", and one day she said to one of the nuns: "My daughter, why do you insult the Lord like this? Don't you realize that humanity needs you? Why do you let yourself to go off the path?".

As a result, Mother Candida taught the Sisters to live faithfully and coherently according to their Rule, that of the great Carmelite reformer of the 16th century, St Teresa of Avila.

She was also directly responsible for the expansion of the Discalced Carmelite Order in Sicily and founded the Carmel of Siracusa. Furthermore, she helped to secure the return of the male branch of the Order to Sicily.

Building Eucharistic Spirituality

During the Holy Year of 1933, on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Mother Candida began to write a long and profound meditation on the Eucharist, fruit of personal experience and of the deepening of theological reflections based on those same experiences. In one of the most intense and profound pages of her work, Mother Candida wrote the following about the Blessed Virgin Mary, model par excellence of Eucharistic living:

"I want to be like Mary... to be Mary for Jesus, to take the place of his Mother. When I receive Jesus in Communion, Mary is always present. I want to receive Jesus from her hands; she must unite me with him. I cannot separate Mary from Jesus".

In 1947, Mother Candida was diagnosed with a tumour in her liver. After long months of painful suffering lived in resignation and peace, the Lord called Mother Maria Candida to himself on 12 June 1949. It was the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. She was beatified March 21, 2004.

Pope John Paul, II - presented Maria Candida as "an authentic mystic of the Eucharist … unifying center of the whole of life, following the Carmelite tradition."

"She was so in love with Jesus in the Eucharist that she felt a constant and ardent desire to be a tireless apostle of the Eucharist," he said.

Four years after her beatification (March 21, 2004) on June 17 the diocesan process on the presumed miracle, attributed to her intercession, closed in Ragusa, Sicily (Italy). The examination of the supernatural event, now submitted to the process of the congregation for the causes of saints in Rome, is in relation to the eucharistic charism of our blessed carmelite from Sicily: the multiplication of hosts so that the faithful would not go without communion.

To mark the closing of the diocesan process a mass was celebrated in the carmel by the local bishop at which the book ‘Viaggio dentro il cuore. Intinerario ecclesiale sulle orme di M. Maria Candida dell’Eucharistia’ [‘A journey into the heart. An ecclesial itinerary in the footsteps of Mother Maria Candida of the Eucharist’] was presented. The author, Mario Gullo, was present at the celebration, as were the writers Carmelo Mezzasalma and Alessandro Andreini, from the San Leonino community. During a sacred concert the two hymns composed by Cristiana of Jesus Crucified in honour of the Blessed Maria and the choir of the St. Cecila philharmonic association, from Agrigento, were sung for the first time. Blessed Maria Candida of the Eucharist’s popularity has gone beyond the walls of Carmel to touch the faith of the whole of Sicily.

December 16, 2008

Blessed Mary of the Angels

1661 – 1717 – Opt. Memorial - December 16th

In 17th-century Turin, Italy, there lived a very worthy count named John Donato Fontanella. He and his equally admirable wife, Mary Tana (a cousin of St. Aloysius Gonzaga), raised 11 children. No. 9 in their brood was Marianna, who became Blessed Mary of Turin (Blessed Mary of the Angels).

Marianna was highly intelligent, devout in attitude, and very promising. Like St. Teresa of Avila, she and one of her little brothers, already knowledgeable at six in the ways of the saints, decided to run away and become hermits in the desert. Fortunately, she overslept that morning!

But God definitely had Marianna in His eye. When she was eight, on recovering from a serious illness, she had her first vision, and from that time on she focused on works of self-denial. At nine, she made her first Holy Communion - quite early in those days. A strange thing occurred to her in these preteen years. One event in the Gospel that impressed her deeply was the blow that the servant of the high priest gave to Jesus on Good Friday. Once when she and her sisters were attending Benediction, a strange man kneeling at her side turned and slapped her smartly on the cheek. He then withdrew from the church and was never seen nor heard of afterward.

Marianna's call to the religious life was becoming stronger and stronger, but it would take her a good while to bring it into focus. (We must not think that saints are born with wisdom. They have to learn it, sometimes the hardest way.) When she was about 13, with the cooperation of the Cistercian nuns of Saluzzo, she ran off to their convent to try the religious life. This attempt to foil her mother was neither to her credit nor to that of the Cistercian sisters. Anyhow, she didn't like it at the convent, and soon returned home to keep house for her widowed mother.

In 1676, the family finally approved her joining the Carmelites of the monastery of Santa Cristina. At first she hated being at that place. She was homesick, was annoyed by the pattern of life, disliked the mistress of novices. But now she was beginning to learn how to deal with contrarieties. She stuck out the period of noviceship, and took her vows as a Carmelite, with the name "Sister Mary of the Angels."

After seven years in the cloister, Sister Mary experienced a period of great spiritual desolation and violent temptation. Fortunately, she had a very able Carmelite priest as her spiritual advisor. When left to herself, she was usually inclined to try types of mortification and penance that were extreme. (Some saints have acted thus, failing to balance piety with prudence. We must not think we have any duty to follow their example when prompted by unwise zeal. As a biographer of Blessed Mary wrote: "No one is asked to imitate these penances; no one is bound to admire them.")

Nonetheless, Sister Mary of the Angels became the recipient of many great spiritual gifts. Her prayers and wise counsel were sought by prince and pauper, and when it was proposed that she be transferred to another convent that she founded elsewhere in Italy, the people of Turin demanded that she stay there. They got their way.

Blessed Mary was an able administrator. She served long and well as the superior of Santa Cristina Monastery. (Holiness and shrewdness are not mutually exclusive!) When the time came, however, for her to be elected prioress for a fifth term, she felt that her physical weakness would henceforth prevent her from setting the best example of obedience to the rule. She therefore prayed that God would take her to Himself, if it was His will. He chose to answer her prayer. She died soon after.

Of the special gifts that God had given Bl. Mary during her life, one was the sweet odor emanating from her during the last twenty years of her life. An archbishop who experienced it said that this scent, which also attached itself to things that she touched, was "neither natural nor artificial, not like flowers nor aromatic drugs nor any mixture of perfumes." In our day, something similar happened in the case of the modern Capuchin stigmatist, St. Pio Pietrelcina.

God's message through scent: it can only be to draw attention to holiness as the object of His pleasure. In the Book of Sirach, He has Wisdom singing her own praise: "Like cinnamon, or fragrant balm, or precious myrrh, I give forth perfume, like the odor of incense in the Holy place." (24:15).

At the age of six, Marianna Fontanella, of Baldinero, Italy, precocious in her piety, persuaded her younger brother to join her in a scheme to run away from home to become desert hermits. The plan was thwarted when on the morning they were to embark upon their adventure, the two children overslept. As a young girl, Marianna was particularly drawn to meditate upon what Christ suffered when he was struck in the face by the temple guard (Jn 18:22). When a teenager, Marianna entered a Cistercian convent as a student of the nuns. But feeling uphappy there, she soon returned home, devoting her energies to helping her widowed mother with household chores. At the age of 15, Marianna entered Turin’s Carmelite convent of Santa Cristina, where after struggling with homesickness, she persevered to take her vows, assuming the religious name, Mary of the Angels. For three years she suffered the painful, purgative mystical experience known as the “dark night of the soul”, as the conclusion of which she attained a high state of prayer. She served four terms as prioress before succumbing to a fatal illness.

December 14, 2008

Saint John of the Cross, Priest & Doctor of the Church

1542-1591 – Solemnity - December 14th

Born in Spain in 1542, John learned the importance of self-sacrificing love from his parents. His father gave up wealth, status, and comfort when he married a weaver's daughter and was disowned by his noble family. After his father died, his mother kept the destitute family together as they wandered homeless in search of work. These were the examples of sacrifice that John followed with his own great love -- God.

When the family finally found work, John still went hungry in the middle of the wealthiest city in Spain. At fourteen, John took a job caring for hospital patients who suffered from incurable diseases and madness. It was out of this poverty and suffering, that John learned to search for beauty and happiness not in the world, but in God.

After John joined the Carmelite order, Saint Teresa of Avila asked him to help her reform movement. John supported her belief that the order should return to its life of prayer. But many Carmelites felt threatened by this reform, and some members of John's own order kidnapped him. He was locked in a cell six feet by ten feet and beaten three times a week by the monks. There was only one tiny window high up near the ceiling. Yet in that unbearable dark, cold, and desolation, his love and faith were like fire and light. He had nothing left but God -- and God brought John his greatest joys in that tiny cell.

After nine months, John escaped by unscrewing the lock on his door and creeping past the guard. Taking only the mystical poetry he had written in his cell, he climbed out a window using a rope made of strips of blankets. With no idea where he was, he followed a dog to civilization. He hid from pursuers in a convent infirmary where he read his poetry to the nuns. From then on his life was devoted to sharing and explaining his experience of God's love.

His life of poverty and persecution could have produced a bitter cynic. Instead it gave birth to a compassionate mystic, who lived by the beliefs that "Who has ever seen people persuaded to love God by harshness?" and "Where there is no love, put love -- and you will find love."

John left us many books of practical advice on spiritual growth and prayer that are just as relevant today as they were then. These books include: Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night of the Soul, and A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ.

Since joy comes only from God, John believed that someone who seeks happiness in the world is like "a famished person who opens his mouth to satisfy himself with air." He taught that only by breaking the rope of our desires could we fly up to God. Above all, he was concerned for those who suffered dryness or depression in their spiritual life and offered encouragement that God loved them and was leading them deeper into faith.

"What more do you want, o soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfaction and kingdom -- your beloved whom you desire and seek? Desire him there, adore him there. Do not go in pursuit of him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and you won't find him, or enjoy him more than by seeking him within you." -- Saint John of the Cross

In His Footsteps:
John of the Cross believed it was just as dangerous to get attached to spiritual delights as worldly pleasures. Do you expect to get something -- a good feeling, a sense of God -- from prayer or worship? Do you continue to pray and worship when you feel alone or dry?
Saint John of the Cross, in the darkness of your worst moments, when you were alone and persecuted, you found God. Help me to have faith that God is there especially in the times when God seems absent and far away. Amen

December 11, 2008

Saint Maria Maravillas de Jesus

1891-1974 – Memorial - December 11th

Maria Maravillas Pidal y Chico de Guzman was born in Madrid on 4th November 1891 and was baptized on the 12th of the same month in the parish of St. Sebastian. She was the daughter of Luis Pidal y Mon and Cristina Chico de Guzman y Munoz, the Marquess and Marchioness of Pidal. At that time her father was Spanish Ambassador to the Holy See, having been minister for Public Works as well as exercising other high positions and being decorated in acknowledgment. He was well noted for his efforts to help the Church and religious Orders. In such a religious environment the young Maria Maravillas received a conscientious education particularly from her maternal grandmother. She was confirmed in 1896 and made her first communion in 1902.

She was gifted with great natural qualities, among which stood out her clear and deep intelligence and a will directed always towards good. These qualities were brought to perfection by grace to which she faithfully responded.

She had a marked attraction to virtue right from childhood. She herself was to say many years laters that she was born with a religious vociation, and at five years of age, being as she was, she made a vow of chastity. As she was growing up, besides cultivating her life of piety and finishing her private studies in languages and general culture, she devoted herself to charitable, good works, helping many poor and emarginated families. Under the direction of Fr. Juan Francisco Lopez, SJ, her spiritual life unfolded and took shape.

Having come in contact with the works of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross, she decided to consecrate herself to the Lord in the contemplative life in the Carmelite monastery of El Escorial (Madrid). She was clothed in the Order's habit in 1920 and made her first profession in 1921.

God inspired her to found a Carmel in Cerro de los Angeles (Madrid), the geographical centre of Spain, where a monument to the Sacred Heart and the Nation was consecrated to the Sacred Heart on 30th May 1919 by King Alfonso XIII. On the 19th May 1924, Sister Maravillas and three other religious from El Escorial took up residence in a provisional house in the district of Getafe so that they could by close-by to attend to the building of the convent in Cerro.

She made her solemn profession in this house on 30th May, the same year. In June 1926 she was appointed prioress of the community and a few months after, on 31st October, the new Carmel in Cerro de los Angeles was inaugurated. This monastery was to become a place of prayer and penitence, for the spiritual good of the Church and Spain.

Very quickly it was filled with vocations and Mother Maravillas saw in this an invitation from the Lord to multiply "Our Lady's houses", as she liked to call her Carmels.

In 1933, at the invitation of the Carmelite Bishop, she made a foundation in Kottayam in India. From this Carmel in due time other foundations were made in India.

In July 1936, the Civil War broke out in Spain. The Carmelites of Cerro de los Angeles were arrested and taken to Gestafe. From there they were able to get to Madrid where they managed to set up in an apartment in Claudio Coello street. There followed fourteen months filled with privations and sacrifices, searches and threats. Yet the ardently hoped-for martyrdom desired by the group of Carmelities did not occur. In September 1937 Mother Maravillas managed to leave Madrid with the whole community, reaching the ancient and then abandoned "desert" of las Batuecas (Salamanca), which providentially had been acquired before the war began. Here she was able to found another Carmel, with some of her nuns, at the request of the Bishop of Coria-Caceres.

On 4th March 1939, with another group of nuns she was able to restore the convent of Cerro de los Angeles which had been completely destroyed. With immense effort and fatigue, they were able to restore common life by June the same year. No matter how hard the work she was always the first to be involved. Even in the midst of enormous deprivation, Mother Maravillas knew how to inject courage and happiness, being always an admirable example to her daughters.

From there she led an expansion of the Carmelites with houses in Mancera de Abajo, Salamanca in 1944, Duruelo, Avíla in 1947, Cabrera, Salamanca 1950, Arenas de San Pedro, Avíla in 1954, San Calixto, Córdoba in 1956, Aravaca, Madrid in 1958, Talavera de la Reina, Toledo c.1960, la Aldeheula, Madrid in 1961, and Montemar-Torremolinos, Málaga in 1964. To unite these and other far-flung houses, she founded the Association of Saint Teresa in 1972. The Carmel in la Aldeheula was hugely expanded with schools, a community of houses for the local poor, church, community halls and other structures in what effectively became a small town.

In all these works Mother Maravillas was known for her dedication for work and prayer, her humility and care of her younger sisters, and her dedication to the Rules and spirituality of the Discalced Carmelites.

4 November 1891 in Madrid, Spain

11 December 1974 in La Aldehuela monastery, Madrid province, Spain of natural causes

17 December 1996 by Pope John Paul II

10 May 1998 by Pope John Paul II in Rome

4 May 2003 by Pope John Paul II

December 8, 2008

Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Feast - December 8th

On this and the following eight days the Church celebrates, with particular solemnity, the immaculate conception of the ever-blessed Virgin Mary, who, from all eternity, was chosen to be the daughter of the heavenly Father, the spouse of the Holy Ghost, the Mother of the divine Redeemer, and, by consequence, the queen of angels and of men. The consideration of these prerogatives convinced the most enlightened fathers and teachers of the Catholic Church that she was conceived immaculate, that is, without original sin. It is very remarkable that among the shining hosts of saints who have, in every century, adorned the Church no one wrote against this belief, while we find it confirmed by the decisions of the holy fathers from the earliest times. Pope Pius IX, forced, as it were, by the faith and devotion of the faithful throughout the world, finally, on 8 December 1854, sanctioned, as a dogma of faith falling within the infallible rule of Catholic traditions, this admirable prerogative of the Blessed Virgin. It is, therefore, now no longer, as fomerly, a pious belief, but an article of the faith, that Mary, like the purest morning light which precedes the rising of the most brilliant sun, was, from the first instant of her conception, free from original sin.

In the Introit of the Mass the Church sings: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, and with the robe of justice He hath covered me, as a bride adorned with her jewels. I will extol thee, O Lord, for Thou hast upheld me: and hast not made my enemies to rejoice over me." Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Prayer: We beseech Thee, O Lord, to bestow on Thy servants the gift of heavenly grace, that, for those to whom the Blessed Virgin's maternity was the beginning of salvation, the votive solemnity of her immaculate conception may procure increase of peace. Through Christ our Lord, etc. Amen.

Epistle (Proverbs 8:22-35): The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His ways, before He made anything from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived, neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out: the mountains with their huge bulk had not as yet been established: before the hills I was brought forth: He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was present: when with a certain law and compass He enclosed the depths: when He established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters: when He compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when He balanced the foundations of the earth, I was with Him forming all things; and was delighted every day, playing before Him at all times; playing in the world, and My delights were to be with the children of men. Now, therefore, ye children, hear Me: Blessed are they that keep My ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth Me, and that watcheth daily at My gates, and waiteth at the posts of My doors. He that shall find Me shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord.

Explanation: This lesson is, in the literal sense, a eulogy on the divine and uncreated wisdom, which before all things was in God; through which all things were made, disposed, and preserved; which rejoices in its works, and calls upon all its creatures, especially on men, to render to it love and obedience. Most of what is here said is also to be applied to Mary, of whom it may with truth be said that, as the holiest and most admirable of all creatures, she occupies the first place in the heart of God. Therefore the Church also refers to her those words of the wise man: "I came out of the mouth of the Most High, the first born of all creatures."

Gospel (Luke 1:26-28): And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.

November 29, 2008

Blessed Denis of the Nativity & Blessed Redemptus of the Cross

1600 + 1598 - 1638 - Memorial - November 29

Denis of the Nativity (a.k.a: Dionysius of the Nativity), a priest, was called Pierre Berthelot in the world. He was born in 1600 at Honfleur, France.

Denis was a sailor from the age of twelve, then a pilot-in-chief, cartographer, and cosmographer to the king of Portugal, and to the French court.

He still was a member of the royal court when around the age of 35, Pierre realized that he was called to the religious life. He left all his possessions and he became a Discalced Carmelite in 1635 at Goa, India. With Blessed Redemptus of the Cross, he traveled as a missionary to the king of Achin.

He was ordained in 1638. That same year he was sent on an embassy to Sumatra as both pilot and Chaplin.

Pope Leo XIII beatified him in 1900.

Redemptus of the Cross was called Thomas Rodriguz da Cunha in the world. He was born in 1598 in Portugal. He made his profession in 1615 as a lay brother, with the Discalced Carmelites in Goa, India. With Denis of the Nativity, he traveled as a missionary to the king of Achin.

Pope Leo XIII beatified him in 1900.

While living in the Carmel at Goa, Denis & Redemptus met and formed a friendship. They spent several years together in Carmel and each developed their prayer life and spirituality. In 1638 Denis was asked to serve as pilot for a Portuguese diplomatic mission to Sumatra. After reaching Sumatra, they were both captured and told to deny their Faith. Both refused and were tortured to death on November 29, 1638 on the Malay Archipelago, giving the ultimate witness to their faith in Christ.

Pope Leo XIII beatified this pair of Carmelites in 1900.

November 19, 2008

St. Raphael Kalinowski, priest

Also known as Joseph Kalinowski
1835-1907 - Memorial - November 19th

Father Raphael of Saint Joseph Kalinowski, was born at Vilna, 1st September 1835, and at baptism received the name Joseph. Under the teaching of his father Andrew, at the Institute for Nobles at Vilna, he progressed so well that he received the maximum distinction in his studies. He then went for two years (1851-1852) to the school of Agriculture at Hory-Horky. During the years 1853-1857, he continued his studies at the Academy of Military Engineering at St Petersburg, obtaining his degree in Engineering, and the rank of Lieutenant. Immediately afterwards he was named Lecturer in Mathematics at the same Academy. In 1859, he took part in the designing of the Kursk-Kiev-Odessa railway.
In 1863 the Polish insurrection against their Russian oppressors broke out. He resigned from the Russian forces, and accepted the post of Minister of War for the region of Vilna, in the rebel army. On 24th March 1864, he was arrested and condemned to death, a penalty that was mitigated to 10 years hard labor in Siberia. With an admirable strength of spirit, patience, and love for his fellow exiles, he knew how to instill into them the spirit of prayer, serenity and hope, and to give material help together with a word of encouragement.
Repatriated in 1874, he accepted the post of tutor to the Venerable Servant of God, Augusto Czartoryski, living mostly in Paris. His influence on the young prince was such, that Augusto discovered his true vocation as priest and religious. He was received into the Salesians: by their founder: St John Bosco, in 1887. On the other hand, Joseph Kalinowski entered the Discalced Carmelites at Graz in Austria, and received the religious name of Brother Raphael of Saint Joseph. He studied theology in Hungary, and was ordained Priest at Czerna near Krakow, 15th January 1882.
Afire with apostolic zeal, he did not spare himself in helping the faithful, and assisting his Carmelite brothers and sisters in the ascent of the mountain of perfection.
In the sacrament of Reconciliation, he lifted up many from the mire of sin. He did his utmost for the work of reunification of the Church, and bequeathed this mission to his Carmelite brothers and sisters. His superiors entrusted him with many important offices, which he carried out perfectly, right until the time of his death.
Overcome by fatigue and suffering, and held in great respect by all the people, he gave his soul to God, 15th November 1907, at Wadowice in the monastery founded by himself. He was buried in the monastery cemetery, at Czerna, near Krakow.
During his life and after death, he enjoyed a remarkable fame for sanctity, even on the part of the most noble and illustrious of people, such as the Cardinals Dunajewski, Puzyna, Kakowski and Gotti. The Ordinary Process for his eventual beatification, was set in motion in the Curia of Krakow during the years 1934-1938, and later taken to Rome where in 1943 was issued the Decree concerning his writings. His cause was introduced in 1952. From 1953-1956 the Apostolic Process was carried out, and the Congregation proceeded to the discussion on his virtues.
Pope John Paul II, on the 11th October 1980, promulgated the Decree on the heroicity of his virtues. After the approval of the miraculous healing of the Reverend Mis, the Holy Father beatified Father Raphael Kalinowski at Krakow on 22nd June 1983.
As the fame of his miracles was increasing, the Curia of Krakow in 1989 set in motion the Canonical Process to investigate the extraordinary healing of a young child. The discussions of the doctors, theologians and cardinals, were brought to a happy conclusion. On the 10th July 1990, the Holy Father John Paul II, approved the miracle for the canonization.
In the Consistory of 26th November 1990, Pope John Paul together with the Cardinals, decided to canonize Blessed Raphael Kalinowski. They set the ceremony for Sunday, 17th November 1991.

1835 at Vilna, Russian Poland (modern Vilnius, Lithuania) as Joseph Kalinowski

15 November 1907 at Wadowice, Poland of natural causes

22 June 1983 at Cracow, Poland by Pope John Paul II

Canonized & presented him as a model to all Christians in the universal Church
17 November 1991 by Pope John Paul II

November 15, 2008

All Carmelite Souls

November 15 - All Carmelite Souls - Commemoration
(When November 15 falls on a Sunday the Commemoration is celebrated on November 16)

Today we remember all souls who have gone to their rest and belonged to the Carmelite family: those who wear the Scapular devoutly, third order members, brothers, sisters, nuns and friars. Please remember them in your prayers, that they may enjoy the Beatific vision in the company of Our Lady and the entire heavenly court. Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.
Remembering Our Departed Carmelites
I live without living in myself,
And in such a way do I hope,
That I die, because I do not die.
I live now outside of myself,
For I die of love,
Because I live in the Lord,
Who wanted me for himself;
When I gave him my heart,
I placed this sign on it:
I die, because I do not die.
This divine prison
Of love with which I live
Has made God my captive,
And my heart free.
And it causes such passion within me
To see God as my prisoner,
That I die because I do not die…
I wish to reach him, dying,
For so greatly do I love my beloved,
That I die because I do not die.

-- Vivo sin vivir en mí by St Teresa of Avila

"Lord, You are the glory of those who serve you. Look lovingly on our departed brothers and sisters, united in following Christ and His Mother by the waters of baptism and the bonds of Carmel. In your mercy grant them everlasting sight of you, their Creator and Redeemer."

From the works of St. Teresa of Jesus

All of us who wear this holy Carmelite habit are called to prayer and contemplation. This is what we were founded for. We are descended from those holy fathers of ours on Mt. Carmel, those who went in search of that treasure –the priceless pearl we are talking about –in such solitude and with such contempt for the world.
We must remember those holy fathers of ours who have gone before us, the hermits whose lives we are trying to imitate. We must remember our real founders, those holy fathers whose descendants we are. It was by way of poverty and humility, we know, that they came to the enjoyment of God.

On the subject of the beginnings of orders, I sometimes hear it said that the Lord gave greater graces to those saints who went before us because they were the foundations.

Quite so, but we too must always bear in mind what it means to be the foundations for those who will come later.

For if those of us who are alive now have not fallen away from what they did in the past, and those who come after us do the same, the building will always stand firm. What use is it to me for the saints of the past to have been what they were, if I come along after them and behave so badly that I leave the building in ruins because of my bad habits?

For obviously those who come later don’t remember those who have died years before as they do the people they see around them. A fine state of affairs it is to insist that I am not one of the first, and do not realize what a difference there is between my life and virtues and the lives of those God has endowed with such graces!

Any of you who sees your Order falling away in any respect must try to be the kind of stone the building can be rebuilt with –the Lord will help to rebuild it.

For love of our Lord I beg them to remember how quickly everything comes to an end, and what a favor the Lord has done in bringing us to this Order, and what a punishment anyone who starts any kind of relaxation will deserve. They must always look at the race we are descended from–that race of holy prophets. What a num- ber of saints we have in heaven who have worn this habit of ours! We must have the holy audacity to aspire, with God’s help, to be like them. The struggle will not last long, but the outcome will be eternal.

November 14, 2008

All Carmelite Saints

Feast Day - November 14th

Romans 8:28-35, 37-39; Psalm 23; Matthew 5:1-12

Today - we remember all those members of the Carmelite Family whose heroic lives have pointed the way to heaven for us and who have been recognised as saints and blesseds. Our first reading from the letter of St Paul to the Romans speaks of how God wants all people to become true images of his own divine Son. All those he intends for this are called and if we too believe then we too will be like them for we shall share his glory in eternity. The Gospel text from Matthew gives the account of the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. Those who live out the Beatitudes while here on earth will inherit the kingdom of heaven and enjoy eternal life as do the saints.

Prayer to Carmelite Saints

O God, May the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, and the prayers of all the saints of Carmel help us to walk steadfastly in their footsteps, and by our prayers and good works ever to further the cause of your Church. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. - Amen.

November 8, 2008

Bl Elizabeth of the Trinity, virgin

1880-1906 – Memorial - November 8th

By Brother Craig
"You will either be a terror or a saint," said Mrs. Catez to her daughter Elizabeth. She realized her daughter had a will of iron. The stubborn little girl who demanded her way had inherited the military spirit of her ancestors. She was quite a problem until the time of her First Holy Communion when she decided with her iron will to overcome her fault of stubbornness and become a saint! On November 25th, the Feast of Christ the King, 1984, the Holy Father beatified Elizabeth Catez, better known and loved as Elizabeth of the Trinity, one of the greatest mystics and spiritual writers of this century.

On the day of her First Holy Communion Elizabeth visited the Carmelite Nuns in her hometown of Dijon, France. The nuns, of course, had heard of this iron-willed child, this child who, of late, had determined to become a saint. They had heard that she played the piano brilliantly although her feet could not reach the pedals! During the visit the Mother Prioress explained to Elizabeth that her name signified "house of God".

At the age of fourteen Elizabeth decided to become a Carmelite Nun, having heard the word "Carmel" uttered in her soul one day after Holy Communion. Her mother was determined that Elizabeth would not enter until she was twenty-two. Elizabeth calmly obeyed. The next few years were spent increasing her growth in virtue and being a cheerful companion to her mother.

Prayer was her very existence; starting each day praying before daybreak. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Rosary, and the Way of the Cross were her special prayers. She did penance, even wore a hairshirt, and constantly mortified her will. Having asked to suffer the Crown of Thorns, she began to have terrible headaches. She suffered these for two years. They disappeared at the command of her spiritual director. She lived the following: "In order to have peace one must forget about oneself."

Elizabeth had a cheerful personality. She attended family gatherings and played the piano for the guests. Yet, during these distractions and even in the midst of conversation, she tells us that she remained recollected in prayer, saying, "I cannot be distracted from God." With her mother, Elizabeth visited Lourdes and was thrilled to receive Holy Communion at the Grotto. She loved the Grotto and said she could not tear herself away.

One day, Father Valee, a Dominican, had a two-hour conversation with Elizabeth. He explained to her that the Blessed Trinity dwelt in her soul. She was immediately inspired to live a life of praise and homage to God dwelling in her. Already, she began to live "in Heaven" by remaining recollected in the "Heaven of her soul." Noise reached only the surface. She desired to lose herself in the Blessed Trinity dwelling within her soul.

At last this "mystical child" entered the Carmelite Convent. There she was completely home. As a Carmelite she received the name of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity. She understood that a Carmelite lives a life of prayer and penance offered for souls. Elizabeth desired to suffer in order to save souls and offer reparation to God. During her novitiate she passed through the "dark night of the soul." She suffered from spiritual dryness and in this "night" her virtues were perfected like gold in a furnace. When se made her profession on the Feast of Epiphany, 1902, peace one again reigned in her soul.

From reading St. Paul, Sister Elizabeth discovered her vocation or mission. She would be a "Praise of Glory" or "Laudem Gloria" praising God dwelling within her offering a ceaseless "Sanctus". She simply could not understand how a person could carelessly leave God Who dwells within the soul in order to turn to the world and earthly things. "God dwells within you, do not leave Him so often", she advised. Even as she worked the sisters noticed her recollected attitude. She once wrote, "It is wonderful to recall that, except for the vision of seeing God, we possess God as all the Saints in Heaven do. We can surely be with Him always and no one can take us away from Him. He dwells in our souls!" Sister Elizabeth devoutly referred to the Blessed Trinity as "my Three."

Sister Elizabeth’s spirituality was not only Trinitarian. She was also very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Lady, especially to the Mother of Sorrows. She was always pleased when she could send an entire day in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the convent chapel. She once wrote that "nothing so reveals the great love of the Sacred Heart as the Holy Eucharist". Sister Elizabeth often prayed before the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows and once said, " I surely love the precious tears shed by the Blessed Virgin Mary." She taught others to trust in Our Heavenly Mother. She advised a friend that "there is a Motherly Heart in which you can go hide, Our Lady’s. It has been through every kind of heartbreak, every kind of laceration, and through it all remained calm."

Sister Elizabeth accepted suffering. She desired to suffer in order to save souls. She taught that suffering is so special that the Saints in Heaven must envy those still on earth who can suffer in order to save a great many souls. She offered her life as a "victim soul" and cheerfully endured her last illness that seems to have been Addison’s Disease. She taught others the value of suffering. She wrote, "there is nothing like the wood of the Cross for kindling in the soul the fire of love."

Early in 1906 it was noticed that Sister Elizabeth had become very weak. She made a retreat to prepare for the "Eternal Retreat." On August 31, 1906, Sister Elizabeth received an extraordinary grace. The Blessed Trinity was made manifest to her within her soul.

Sick as Sister Elizabeth was, she never omitted prayer. Sitting in a chair by her bed she recited prayers until one week before she died. One night she was "tempted" to go back to bed so she immediately knelt down and continued to pray! As Father Philipon, O.P. said, "She belonged to the school of saints who seek rest and strength in sacrifice and suffering."

During the last week of her life, Sister Elizabeth’s stomach was very ulcerated, and yet she made frequent and lengthy visits to the Blessed Sacrament. On October 31, she received the last rites. On November 1st, she made her confession and received Holy Communion for the last time. On November 9th, Sister Elizabeth died. She desired to lose her sufferings in those of Our Blessed Lord. Her last words were the same as those of St Therese of Lisieux: "Oh, I love Him!" Would she have a mission in Heaven like St. Therese? Before she died, Sister Elizabeth proclaimed: "I believe that in Heaven my mission will be to draw souls to interior recollection by helping them to pray by going out of self to God. I’ll teach souls the necessity of a profound inner silence that will allow God to imprint Himself upon souls and transform them into Himself."

Theologians have studied the writings of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity for many years. Her letters and retreat notes have been studied and commended by a number of theologians, including Father Philipon, O.P. and Father Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Blessed Elizabeth’s ability to express theology and her talent for writing has been so acclaimed that some have said she "rivals St. Paul."

Blessed Elizabeth’s Prayer to The Most Holy Trinity

"O my God, Trinity Whom I adore, help me to become utterly forgetful of self, that I may establish myself in You, as changeless and as calm as though my soul were already in eternity. May nothing disturb my peace nor draw me forth from You, O my immutable Lord, may I penetrate more deeply every moment into the depths of Your Mystery. Give peace to my soul: make it Your heaven, Your cherished dwelling place. Your home of rest. Let me never leave You there alone, but keep me there all absorbed in You in living faith, adoring You, wholly yielded up to Your creative action.

"O my Christ Whom I love, crucified by love, would that I might be the bride of Your Heart; would that I might cover You with glory, and love You- until I die of very love! Yet I realize my weakness, and beg You to help me. Immerse me in Yourself: possess me wholly: substitute Yourself for me, that my life may be but a radiance of Your life. Enter my soul as Restorer and as Savior. O Eternal Word, Utterance of my God, I long to pass my life listening to You, to become docile, that I may learn all from You. Through all darkness, all privations, all powerlessness, I yearn to keep my eyes ever fixed on You and to dwell beneath Your great light. O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that I can no longer withdraw from Your radiance.

"O Consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, come down upon me, and reproduce in me, as it were, an incarnation of the Word, that I may be to Him another humanity in which He renews all His Mystery. And You, O Father, bend toward Your poor little creature, cover her with Your shadow, behold in her none other than the ‘Well beloved in Whom You are well pleased."

"O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I lose myself, I yield myself to You as Your child. Immerse Yourself in me, that I may be immersed in You until I depart to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your greatness. Amen."

November 7, 2008

Bl Francis Palau y Quer, priest

1820-1893 – Optional Memorial - November 7th

Born in Aytona, Lerida, on December 29, 1811, Blessed Francis Palau y Quer entered the Carmelite Order in 1832 and was ordained priest in 1836. Civil turmoil forced him to live in exile and outside his community. On his return to Spain in 1851, he founded his "School of Virtue" -- which was a model of catechetical teaching -- at Barcelona. The school was suppressed and he was unjustly exiled to Ibiza (1854-1860) where he lived at El Vedra in solitude and experienced mystically the vicissitudes of the Church. While in the Balearic Islands he founded the Congregations of Carmelite Brothers and Carmelite Sisters (1860-1861). He preached popular missions and spread love of Our Lady wherever he went. He died at Tarragona on March 20, 1872, and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1980.

Beatified: 24 April 1988 by Pope John Paul II

Canonized: pending

November 6, 2008

Bl Josepha Naval Girbes, Virgin

1820-1893 – Optional Memorial - November 6th

Josepha (Josefa) was born on December 11, 1820 in Algemesi, Valencia Province, Spain. Algemesi was a small agricultural village – 8000 inhabitants. Josepha was the first of five children of Francisco Navel and Josefa Girbes. She was baptized the day she was born and was named Josepha Maria, but her special name was Senora Pepa. Coming from a spiritual family, she had a Christian upbringing. She was confirmed in 1828 and made her First Communion a year later at the age of nine. Josepha had a basic education in reading and writing, even though there were no public schools. She also learned the skill of embroidery, which proved to be a way to educate and save souls for Jesus.
When she was thirteen, her mother died. The family moved to her maternal grandmother’s home. Since she was the oldest, she helped her father raise her younger brothers and sisters. As time went by, her love for Jesus and the Blessed Mother grew steadily in her adolescence. As a young adult, she received spiritual direction from Father Silvestre, a parish priest. It was through his influence and her commitment to God, that, at age 18, this Servant of God, consecrated herself to the Lord with the vow of perpetual chastity.
She dedicated herself to answer the call to be holy, serve the Church, and her neighbor. Because of this dedication to God and her spiritual experiences, she felt compelled to help others. She started to hold meetings at her home - meetings that evolved into embroidery instruction. During the needlework sessions, there were readings and spiritual conversations. “Under her care, women practiced needlepoint and learned the practice of virtues’. She touched many lives, teaching basic catechism, stressing the importance for prayer and mediation, preparing children for first communion, and encouraging participation in Church activities. She also prepared young women for their vocation a spouses, mothers or the religious.
Despite the fact that many documents and records were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War of 1936, there is evidence that Josepha entered the Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and of St. Teresa, but the date is not known. As a member of the Order, her lay Carmelite community was served by the Discalced Carmelite Fathers of the Province of Valencia. Further evidence shows that today, in Algemesi, there is a large picture of the Virgin of Carmel which was embroidered in gold and silk – made under the supervision of Josepha.
Eventually, Josepha’s health began to decline due to a heart condition. On February 24, 1893, at the age of 72 she died in her home at Algemesi, but not before receiving the last sacraments. At her request, she was buried in the brown tunic and white mantle of the Carmelite habit. She was surrounded by her faithful followers whom she nurtured and feed the word of God.
On October 20, 1946, Josepha’s remains were removed to the parish Church of St. James and placed in a beautiful metal and glass coffin for all to venerate. After careful investigation of her life and obtaining “fifteen sworn depositions”, His Holiness John Paul II proclaimed the Decree for her heroic virtues on January 3, 1987. On September 1, 1988 the proposed miracle for her Beatification was accepted. The Beatification ceremony was celebrated in Saint Peter’s Basilica on September 25, 1988. Her feast is celebrated on November 6th.
As Secular Carmelites, we have much to learn from Josepha Navel Girbes. Why is it important for the members of the Secular Order of the Carmelites to know her? Since we are all called to holiness in a secular world, full of distractions and attachments, we benefit from her example. She is a model of holiness, which guides us along the path of sanctity. “Sanctify yourself and sanctify others. That was her guiding principle – always and in everything to follow God’s desire in ordinary life circumstances and secular duties.” It was recognized that Josepha lived in the love of God and shared that love by extending herself to others.
Josepha was a person with a deep interior life. As a result, her prayer life was deep as well. Her repeated message was “prayer, prayer; pray for awhile each day, and life will be easier and bearable. Learn to speak with God without words and, in this way, practice the prayer of meditation. Be faithful and reverent before the Lord in the Holy Eucharist.”
“She lived and died in the world leaving after her a light, which continues illuminating those who, in secular society, look for Christian holiness. She walked the narrow road to holiness, leading others on the way.” Maybe we will do the same!

October 15, 2008

Saint Teresa of Jesus (of Avila) - Virgin & Doctor of the Church

1515-1582 – Solemnity - October 15

Saint Teresa of Jesus, was born in Avila, Spain, March 28, 1515. She died in Alba, October 4, 1582. Her family origins have been traced to Toledo and Olmedo. Her father, Alonso de Cepeda, was a son of a Toledan merchant, Juan Sanchez de Toledo and Ines de Cepeda, originally from Tordesillas. Juan transferred his business to Avila, where he succeeded in having his children marry into families of the nobility. In 1505 Alonso married Catalina del Peso, who bore him two children and died in 1507. Two years later Alonso married the 15-year-old Beatriz de Ahumada of whom Teresa was born.

Early Life. In 1528, when Teresa was 15, her mother died, leaving behind 10 children. Teresa was the "most beloved of them all." She was of medium height, large rather than small, and generally well proportioned. In her youth she had the reputation of being quite beautiful, and she retained her fine appearance until her last years (Maria de S. Jose, Libro de recreaciones, 8). Her personality was extroverted, her manner affectionately buoyant, and she had the ability to adapt herself easily to all kinds of persons and circumstances. She was skillful in the use of the pen, in needlework, and in household duties. Her courage and enthusiasm were readily kindled, an early example of which trait occurred when at the age of 7 she left home with her brother Rodrigo with the intention of going to Moorish territory to be beheaded for Christ, but they were frustrated by their uncle, who met the children as they were leaving the city and brought them home (Ephrem de la Madre de Dios, Tiempo y Vida de Sta. Teresa--hereafter abbrev. TV--142-143).

At about 12 the fervor of her piety waned somewhat. She began to take an interest in the development of her natural attractions and in books of chivalry. Her affections were directed especially to her cousins, the Mejias, children of her aunt Dona Elvira, and she gave some thought to marriage. Her father was disturbed by these fancies and opposed them. While she was in this crisis, her mother died. Afflicted and lonely, Teresa appealed to the Blessed Virgin to be her mother. Seeing his daughter's need of prudent guidance, her father entrusted her to the Augustinian nuns at Santa Maria de Gracia in 1531.

Vocation. The influence of Dona Maria de Brinceno, who was in charge of the lay students at the convent school, helped Teresa to recover her piety. She began to wonder whether she had a vocation to be a nun. Toward the end of the year 1532 she returned home to regain her health and stayed with her sister, who lived in Castellanos. Reading the letters of St. Jerome led her to the decision to enter a convent, but her father refused to give his consent. Her brother and confidant, Rodrigo, had just set sail for the war on the Rio de la Plata. She decided to run away from home and persuaded another brother to flee with her in order that both might receive the religious habit. On Nov. 2, 1535, she entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation at Avila, where she had a friend, Juana Suarez; and her father resigned himself to this development. The following year she received the habit and began wholeheartedly to give herself to prayer and penance. Shortly after her profession she became seriously ill and failed to respond to medical treatment. As a last resort her father took her to Becedas, a small village, to seek the help of a woman healer famous throughout Castile, but Teresa's health did not improve. Leaving Becedas in the fall of 1538, she stayed in Hortigosa at the home of her uncle Pedro de Cepeda, who gave her the Tercer Abecedario of Francis of Osuna to read.

"I did not know," she said, "how to proceed in prayer or how to become recollected, and so I took much pleasure in it and decided to follow that path with all my strength" (Libro de la Vida, the autobiography of St. Teresa--hereafter abbrev. V--4.6).

Instead of regaining her health, Teresa grew even more ill, and her father brought her back to Avila in July 1539. On August 15 she fell into a coma so profound that she was thought to be dead. After 4 days she revived, but she remained paralyzed in her legs for 3 years. After her cure, which she attributed to St. Joseph (V. 6.6-8), she entered a period of mediocrity in her spiritual life, but she did not at any time give up praying. Her trouble came of not understanding that the use of the imagination could be dispensed with and that her soul could give itself directly to contemplation. During this stage, which lasted 18 years, she had transitory mystical experiences. She was held back by a strong desire to be appreciated by others, but this finally left her in an experience of conversion in the presence of an image of "the sorely wounded Christ" (V 9.2). This conversion dislodged the egoism that had hindered her spiritual development. Thus, at the age of 39, she began to enjoy a vivid experience of God's presence within her.

However, the contrast between these favors and her conduct, which was more relaxed than was thought proper according to the ascetical standards of the time, caused some misunderstanding. Some of her friends, such as Francisco de Salcedo and Gaspar Daza, thought her favors were the work of the devil (V 23.14). Diego de Cetina, SJ, brought her comfort by encouraging her to continue in mental prayer and to think upon the humanity of Christ. Francis Borgia in 1555 heard her confession and told her that the spirit of God was working in her, that she should concentrate upon Christ's Passion and not resist the ecstatic experience that came to her in prayer. Nevertheless she had to endure the distrust even of her friends as the divine favors increased. When Pradanos left Avila in 1558 his place as Teresa's director was taken by Baltasar Alvarez, SJ, who, either from caution or with the intention of probing her spirit, caused her great distress by telling her that others were convinced that her raptures and visions were the work of the devil and that she should not communicate so often (V 25.4). Another priest acting temporarily as her confessor, on hearing her report of a vision she had repeatedly had of Christ, told her it was clearly the devil and commanded her to make the sign of the cross and laugh at the vision (V 29.5). But God did not fail to comfort her, and she received the favor of the transverberation (V 29.13-14). In August 1560 St. Peter of Alcantara counseled her: "Keep on as you are doing, daughter; we all suffer such trials."

Reformer. Her great work of reform began with herself. She made a vow always to follow the more perfect course, and resolved to keep the rule as perfectly as she could (V 32.9). However, the atmosphere prevailing at the Incarnation monastery was less than favorable to the more perfect type of life to which Teresa aspired. A group assembled in her cell one September evening in 1560, taking their inspiration from the primitive tradition of Carmel and the discalced reform of St. Peter of Alcantara, proposed the foundation of a monastery of an eremitical type. At first her confessor, the provincial of the Carmelites, and other advisers encouraged her in the plan (TV 478-482); but when the proposal became known among the townsfolk, there was a great outcry against it. The provincial changed his mind, her confessor dissociated himself from the project, and her advisers ranged themselves with the opposition. Six months later, however, when there was a change of rectors at the Jesuit college, her confessor, Father Alvarez, gave his approval. Without delay Teresa had her sister Juana and her husband Juan de Ovalle buy a house in Avila and occupy it as though it were for themselves (V 33.11). This stratagem was necessary to obviate difficulties with nuns at the Incarnation while the building was being adapted and made ready to serve as a convent. At Toledo, where she was sent by the Carmelite provincial at the importunate request of a wealthy and noble lady, she received a visit from St. Peter of Alcantara, who offered to act as mediator in obtaining from Rome the permissions needed for the foundation. While there she also received a visit from the holy Carmelite Maria de Yepes, who had just returned from Rome with permission to establish a reformed convent and who provided Teresa with a new light on the question of the type of poverty to be adopted by her own community. At Toledo she also completed in reluctant obedience to her confessor the first version of her Vida.

She returned to Avila at the end of June 1562 (TV 506-507), and shortly thereafter the apostolic rescript, dated Feb. 7, 1562, for the foundation of the new convent arrived. The following August 24 the new monastery dedicated to S. Jose was founded; Maestro Daza, the bishop's delegate, officiated at the ceremony. Four novices received the habit of the Discalced Carmelites. There was strong opposition among the townspeople and at the Incarnation. The prioress at the Incarnation summoned Teresa back to her monastery, where the Carmelite provincial Angel de Salazar, indignant at her having put her new establishment under the jurisdiction of the bishop, rebuked her, but after hearing her account of things, was mollified and even promised to help quiet the popular disturbance and to give her permission to return to S. Jose when calm had been restored. On August 25 the council at Avila met to discuss the matter of the new foundation, and on August 30 a great assembly of the leading townspeople gathered. The only one in the assembly to raise his voice against the popular indignation was Domingo Banez, OP. A lawsuit followed in the royal court, but before the end of 1562 the foundress, as Teresa of Jesus, was authorized by the provincial to return to the new convent. There followed the 5 most peaceful years of her life, during which she wrote the Way of Perfection and the Meditations on the Canticle.

Foundations. In April 1567 the Carmelite general, Giovanni Battista Rossi (Rubeo), made a visitation, approved Teresa's work, and commanded her to establish other convents with some of the nuns from the convent of the Incarnation at Avila. He also gave her permission to establish two houses for men who wished to adopt the reform. The extension of Teresa's work began with the foundation of a convent at Medina del Campo, Aug. 15, 1567. Then followed other foundations: at Malagon in 1568; at Valladolid (Rio de Olinos) in 1568; at Toledo and at Pastrana in 1569; at Salamanca in 1570; and at Alba de Tormes in 1571. As she journeyed to Toledo in 1569 she passed through Duruelo, where John of the Cross and Anthony of Jesus had established the first convent of Discalced Brethren in November 1568, and in July 1569 she established the second monastery of Discalced Brethren in Pastrana.

These foundations were followed by an interval during which Teresa served as prioress at the Incarnation monastery in Avila, an office to which she was appointed by the apostolic visitator, Pedro Fernandez, OP. This duty she was loath to assume, and she had much opposition to face on the part of the community. However, with the help of St. John of the Cross, who served as a confessor for the nuns, she was able to bring about a great improvement in the spiritual condition of the community. On Nov. 18, 1572, while receiving Communion from the hands of John of the Cross, she received the favor of the "spiritual marriage." At the request of the Duchess of Alba she spent the first days of 1573 in Alba, and then went to Salamanca to put things in order at the foundation there. At the command of Jerome Ripalda, SJ, she started her Book of the Foundations the following August. On March 19, 1574, she established a foundation at Segovia, where the Pastrana nuns had been transferred because of conflicts with the Princess of Eboli. This marked the beginning of a second series of fonndations. The next was made at Beas de Segura in February 1575. There Teresa met Jerome Gratian, apostolic visitator of the order in Andalucia, who ordered a foundation in Seville. The bishop objected, however, and Teresa sent Ana de S. Alberto to Caravaca to make a foundation there in her name on Jan. 1, 1576, and that of the Seville convent was delayed until June 3 of the same year.

Crisis Between the Calced and Discalced. The entry of the Discalced Brethren into Andalusia was forbidden by Rossi, the general of the order, who opposed Teresa and Jerome Gratian in this matter. The general chapter at Piacenza in 1575 ordered the Discalced Brethren to withdraw from Andalusia, and Teresa herself was ordered to retire to a convent. The general put Jerome Tostado at the head of the Discalced Brethren. While the conflict raged between the Calced and Discalced Brethren, Teresa wrote the Visitation of the Discalced Nuns, a part of The Foundations, and her greatest book, The Interior Castle. The nuncio Nicholas Ormaneto, a defender of the Discalced Brethren, died June 18, 1578, and his successor, Felipe Sega, was less favorably disposed toward them. John of the Cross was imprisoned in Toledo. Against Teresa's will the Discalced Brethren held a chapter in Almodovar on Oct. 9, 1578. The nuncio annulled the chapter and by a decree put the Discalced Brethren under the authority of the Calced provincials who subjected them to some harassment. The King intervened, and four were named to advise the nuncio, among them Pedro Fernandez, OP. Angel de Salazar was made vicar-general of the Discalced Brethren while negotiations were afoot for the separation of the Discalced from the Calced Brethren and the erection of a Discalced province.

Teresa then turned to visiting her convents and resumed the founding of new ones. On Feb. 25, 1580, she gave the habit to foundresses of the convent in Villaneuva de la Jara. The brief Pia consideratione, dated June 22, 1580, ordered the erection of a distinct province for the Discalced. On March 3, 1581, the chapter of the Discalced was held in Alcala, and Jerome Gratian, who was favored by Teresa, was elected the first provincial. Teresa's last foundations were: at Palencia and Soria in 1581, at Burgos in 1582; the most difficult of all, Granada (1582), was entrusted to the Venerable Anne of Jesus.

Teresa's body was interred in Alba. Paul V declared her a blessed April 24, 1614, and in 1617 the Spanish parliament proclaimed her the Patroness of Spain. Gregory XV canonized her in 1622 together with SS. Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Isidore, and Philip Neri.

Spiritual Doctrine. Among the writings of St. Teresa, three can be indicated as the depositories of her spiritual teaching: her autobiography, the Way of Perfection, and the Interior Castle. Readers must exercise some caution, however, and resist the temptation to hastily synthesize the doctrine in these books, because St. Teresa wrote from her personal experience at different stages of the spiritual life. For example, the doctrine of prayer found in the autobiography is not identical with that in the Interior Castle; more than a decade had elapsed between their composition, and Teresa had meanwhile attained a higher degree of spiritual maturity with its simultaneous expansion of experience. The autobiography, written primarily as a manifestation of her spiritual state for her directors, was later enlarged in scope and in audience. Chapters 11 to 22 inclusive--a later addition--are devoted exclusively to the discussion of prayer, although additional comments and examples are scattered throughout the remaining 28 chapters. Teresa depicts different stages of the life of prayer in metaphorical terms taken from the manner of securing water to irrigate a garden. The "first water" is laboriously obtained from a well and carried in a bucket to the garden; this is in reference to beginners who, liberated from the more flagrant mortal sins, apply themselves to discursive prayer of meditation, although they experience fatigue and aridity from time to time. After speaking at length of meditation in its stricter meaning, Teresa made a brief reference to "acquired" contemplation before beginning her discussion of the "second water." In this second stage, the gardener secures water through use of a windlass and bucket; here Teresa refers to the "prayer of quiet, a gift of God through which the individual begins to have a passive experience of prayer. The third method of irrigation is the employment of water from a stream or river; the application made by Teresa is to the "sleep of the faculties." Although Teresa considered this an important stage in the evolution of prayer when she wrote her autobiography, she later relegated it to a simple intensification of the "prayer of quiet" in the Interior Castle. The fourth method of irrigation is God given: the rain; Teresa employs this metaphor to describe a state of union in prayer in which the soul is apparently passive.

Her Way of Perfection Teresa addressed to her nuns, teaching them therein the major virtues that demand their solicitude, casting further light on the practice of prayer, and using the Pater Noster as a vehicle for teaching prayer at greater depth. This book is sometimes referred to as the apex of Teresa's ascetical doctrine. The Interior Castle is the principal source of mature Teresian thought on the spiritual life in its integrity. Chief emphasis is laid on the life of prayer, but other elements (the apostolate, for example) are also treated. The interior castle is the soul, in the center of which dwells the Trinity. Growth in prayer enables the individual to enter into deeper intimacy with God--signified by a progressive journey through the apartments (or mansions) of the castle from the outermost to the luminous center. When a man has attained union with God in the degree permitted to him in this world, he is "at the center" of himself; in other words, he has integrity as a child of God and as a human being. Each of the apartments of the castle is distinguished by a different stage in the evolution of prayer, with its consequent effects upon every other phase of the life of the individual.

October 1, 2008

Saint Therese of Lisieux, Virgin & Doctor of the Church

The Little Flower, of the child of Jesus & of the Holy Face
1873-1897 – Feast - October 1

Therese Martin was the last of nine children born to Louis and Zelie Martin on January 2, 1873, in Alencon France. However, only five of these children lived to reach adulthood. Precocious and sensitive, Therese needed much attention. Her mother died when she was 4 years old. As a result, her father and sisters babied young Therese. She had a spirit that wanted everything.
At the age of 14, on Christmas Eve in 1886, Therese had a conversion that transformed her life. From then on, her powerful energy and sensitive spirit were turned toward love, instead of keeping herself happy. At 15, she entered the Carmelite convent in Lisieux to give her whole life to God. She took the religious name Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. Living a hidden, simple life of prayer, she was gifted with great intimacy with God. Through sickness and dark nights of doubt and fear, she remained faithful to God, rooted in his merciful love. After a long struggle with tuberculosis, she died on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24. Her last words were the story of her life: "My God, I love You!"
The world came to know Therese through her autobiography, Story of a Soul. She described her life as a "little way of spiritual childhood." She lived each day with an unshakeable confidence in God's love. "What matters in life," she wrote, "is not great deeds, but great love." She lived and taught a spirituality of attending to everyone and everything well and with love. She believed that just as a child becomes enamored with what is before her, we should also have a childlike focus and totally attentive love. Therese's spirituality is of doing the ordinary, with extraordinary love.

Therese saw the seasons as reflecting the seasons of God's love affair with us. She loved flowers and saw herself as the "little flower of Jesus," who gave glory to God by just being her beautiful little self among all the other flowers in God's garden. Because of this beautiful analogy, the title "little flower" remained with St. Therese.
Her inspiration and powerful presence from heaven touched many people very quickly. Pope Pius XI canonized her on May 17, 1925. Had she lived, she would have been only 52 years old when she was declared a Saint.
"My mission - to make God loved - will begin after my death," she said. "I will spend my time in heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses." Roses have been described and experienced as Saint Therese's signature. Countless millions have been touched by her intercession and imitate her "little way." She has been acclaimed "the greatest saint of modern times." In 1997, Pope John Paul II declared St. Therese a Doctor of the Church - the only Doctor of his pontificate - in tribute to the powerful way her spirituality has influenced people all over the world.

The message of St. Therese is beautiful, inspiring and simple.

Important Dates in the Life of St. Therese

1873. January 2. St. Therese born at Alencon.
1873. January 4. Baptized.
1877. August 28. Her mother's death.
1877. November. Arrives at Les Buissonnets, Lisieux.
1878. Her first confession.
1882. October 2. Pauline enters Carmel.
1883. May 13. Her miraculous cure by the Blessed Virgin.
1884. May 8. Her first Holy Communion.
1884. June 14. She is confirmed.
1886. October 15. Marie enters Carmel.
1887. May 29. Receives father's permission to enter Carmel.
1887. November 4-December 2. Pilgrimage to Rome.
1887. November 20. She speaks to Pope Leo XIII.
1888. April 9. She enters the Carmel of Lisieux.
1889. January 10. She receives the habit.
1890. September 8. She makes her profession
1890. September 24. She takes the veil.
1894. September 14. Celine enters Camel.
1894. December. She is ordered to write the story of her childhood.
1895. June 9. She offers herself as a victim to the Merciful Love of God.
1896. January 20. She gives Mother Agnes the first eight chapters of "A Story of a Soul."
1896. April 3. Her first hemorrhage.
1896. September 8. She begins to write chapter eleven of her autobiography—at the request of her sister Marie.
1897. June 3. Mother Marie de Gonzague orders her to continue her autobiography.
1897. July 2. She gives Mother Marie de Gonzague the rest of her manuscript.
1897. August 19. She Holy Communion for the last time.
1897. September 30. St. Therese dies.
1897. October 4. The Saint is buried.
1898. September 30. The first edition 2,000 copies, of "A Story of a Soul" is published.
1910. Rome authorizes the bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux to open the proceedings of the cause by examining the writings of St. Therese.
1911. September 6. The body of the Saint is exhumed from the ground of the Lisieux cemetery and placed in a vault.
1912. December 10. In Rome, her writings are approved.
1914. June 10. Pope Pius X signs the decree introducing the cause in Rome.
1921. August 14. Pope Benedict XV issues a decree stating that she practiced the Christian virtues in a heroic manner.
1923. February. Decree approving the miracles for the beatification. Sermon by Pope Pius XI.
1923. April 29. She is Beatified by Pope Pius XI.
1925. March 19. Decree approving the miracles for canonization. Sermon by Pope Pius XI
1925. May 17. She is canonized by Pope Pius XI.
1927. May 17. Statue of St. Therese is paced in the Vatican gardens.
1927. July 13. The Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus is extended to the Universal Church. Its date is October 1.
1927. December 14. By Pontifical Decree St. Therese is made equal Patron, with St. Francis Xavier of all Missions and Missionaries.
1929. September 30 Cardinal Charost Archbishop of Rennes and Papal Legate lays the foundation stone of the basilica of St. Therese in Lisieux.
1932. June 26-July 3. Theresian congress at Lisieux.
1937. July 7-11. National Eucharistic congress held at Lisieux.
1937. July 11. Opening and consecrating of the basilicas of St. Therese in Lisieux by the papal legate Cardinal Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII.
1944. May 3. Pope Pius XII makes St. Therese the secondary Patron of France equal to St Jeanne d'Arc.
1997. October 19. St. Therese proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II.

Prayer in the Life of St. Therese as a Carmelite

Regarding her becoming a Carmelite St. Therese stated that she was there to save souls and to pray for priests. She felt she should do this by suffering. The more she suffered the more she was attracted to it. Of course, prayer would give her the strength to suffer.
Since the life of a contemplative is a life of prayer and penance, in order to understand the prayer of St. Therese let us consider her penances and spirit of mortification. Before St. Therese entered Carmel she denied her will and did little penances or acts of mortification. In Carmel she spoke against extraordinary penances as not her way. Yet the penances and austerity she accepted and desired were quite great. She took the discipline (a little whip or scourge used to strike one's shoulders and back) and when it was discussed she said she wanted to feel as much pain as possible. She then "went on to tell Celine that although tears often came to her eyes she forced herself to smile in order, as she said, that her face might express the feelings of her heart—delight at suffering in unison with Jesus."
In Carmel St. Therese had much to suffer. Without complaining she accepted poor food, poverty, work and most painful of all, the cold. Some nights she never slept, she simply shivered the entire night. Her hands were covered with chilblains. In the summer she worked in an airless part of the laundry and this was by her own choice. Whenever she was mistreated, whether it was water accidentally splashed in her face in the laundry or the impatience of an elderly and sickly nun, St. Therese never complained. To this she added many hidden acts of self-denial that completely conquered her self-will and allowed God's will to reign in her, so much so, that during her last illness she could say that she had never done her own will.
It is necessary to understand that the prayer of St. Therese was coupled with a solid foundation of penance and mortification. Her prayer was one of a faithful soul, willing to carry her cross. Her prayer was the prayer of one who first accepted suffering, then desired it, then found peace and joy in suffering until she became a victim for reparation and the salvation of souls.
From her first days in Carmel St. Therese had much to suffer. Not the least of her suffering was dryness and aridity in prayer. This was especially acute during her retreats. Before her reception of the habit St. Therese made a retreat that was "in the desert" of dryness. During this retreat she wrote to Pauline of dryness and said that she was plunged in darkness. Yet she was glad for this darkness if, in making an offering of it, she could console Jesus. She found consolation in looking at the image of the Holy Face of Jesus. She advised Celine to gaze at His Holy Face and see His glazed and sunken eyes. She told her sister that then she would see that He loves us.
When St. Therese experienced painful dryness she considered it a trial to detach her from all that was not Jesus. When she seemed so poor and had nothing to offer God in prayer she offered Him little "nothings." Following St. Teresa of Avila St. Therese taught that when we have no wood to get the fire of our love going we can still cast on this fire a few straws. These acts of good intention are very pleasing to God. Then God will place much wood on the fire. St. Therese tells us that she experienced this.
After St. Therese received the habit her spiritual dryness became even worse. It became, as she said, her "daily bread." Yet she was quite pleased since this way all her desires for suffering were fulfilled. Even after receiving Holy Communion she was in this state of aridity and at that time she had the least consolation. This trial of aridity was, according to Father Jarmart, O.C.D., the author of "The Complete Spirituality of St. Therese," part of the Saint's Dark Nights. At first, he tells us, she was tried regarding the virtue of charity and later there was a more painful trial of her faith and hope, the other theological virtues. This aridity, along with other sufferings, especially her father's illness, seems to have made up the Dark Night of the Senses for the Saint.
Let us try learn at what "stage" of Prayer St. Therese was at during these years in Carmel, at least until her Dark Night of the Soul began. Later we shall consider her "offering" which was made during these years of dryness yet before the trial of faith began. Of course, it is not easy to state the stage of a soul's prayer and spiritual progress especially since we do not find in the Saint's writings a step-by-step description of her stages of prayer. We can guess that God lifted her to higher stages of prayer rather early in life.
St. Therese indicates by what she tells us about her prayer that from even before her entrance into Carmel and, surely during her first years there, she enjoyed what is called the Prayer of Simplicity, the prayer of Simple Regard, or rather the prayer of the awareness of the Presence of God. St. Therese simply spoke to God and lived in a state of prayer. She prayed with confidence and love. The prayer of St. Therese was a look of love, a gaze of adoration. Much of her prayer is of this nature. Later there will be what is called Ecstatic Prayer and then she will reach the heights of the Transforming Union. Yet even then her prayer has this characteristic of a conversation, of a gaze of love, of a child who allows its father to carry it.
Therefore, it seems that St. Therese lived constantly with an awareness of the Presence of God, not a "felt" awareness but rather one of faith and love. There is no indication in any of the Saint's writings that she read the treatise of Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, a French Carmelite who died in 1691 "Practice of The Presence of God" about the awareness of the Presence of God. It would seem, though, that, as a Carmelite, she would have read it. What is undeniable is that she lived this doctrine. Throughout her life St. Therese lived in a state of recollection. As the other French Carmelite nun, Blessed Elizabeth of the Blessed Trinity, lived adoring the Blessed Trinity within her, her "sister," St. Therese, lived with an awareness of being a child carried by God. Her heart and mind were constantly turned to God. This explains her statement that she had never gone three minutes without thinking of God. One of the other nuns once told the Saint that she was, as it were, "possessed" by God.

The Dark Night of the Soul

When her Dark Night of the Soul began St. Therese simply advanced along her spiritual journey. In darkness she continued to believe, pray, hope and live, aware of God. When God seemed to be hidden from her she never prayed less, she prayed even more. She preferred the darkness of faith, offering what she suffered so others could be given light. The Saint wrote that the clouds might cover the sun, yet not only does she not doubt the sun's existence, she continues to look, with a simple gaze of love, in the direction of the sun. She explains this to her sister Marie in a way that shows once again her great literary ability. St. Therese considers herself a "little bird" that has learned to look at the Sun (God) like the Eagles (the saints). She says she remains keeping her eyes fixed looking at the Sun, "deterred by no obstacle, storm and rain cloud-wrack may conceal its heavenly radiance, but I don't shift my view—I know that it is there all the time behind the clouds, its brightness never dimmed. Sometimes, to be sure, the storm thunders at my heart; I find it difficult to believe in the existence of anything except the clouds, which limit my horizon. It's only then that I realize the possibilities of my weakness; find consolation in staying at my post and directing my gaze toward one invisible light which communicates itself, now only to the eye of faith." The Saint understood her experience very well to be able to explain it so well. The above quotation from her letter to her sister Marie, which forms part of her autobiography, teaches that the "way of prayer" of St. Therese was essentially a gaze of love.
St. Therese, like a little child, spoke to God, listened to God, simply enjoyed being in the Presence of God and with love, gazed at God. This way of prayer developed until she reached the height of the Transforming Union. Yet before reaching this height the Saint was to enter the Dark Night, the Night of Faith. Here we are considering what the theologians call, "The Dark Night of The Soul." It seems to occur when the person leaves what is called the "Illuminative Way" and is about to enter the "Unitive Way." This Unitive Way is a name theologians give to the heights of holiness where the person is totally united to God. We know that the Saint said that this trial began just when she could suffer it. Sooner and she would, she said, not have been able to suffer this great trial. Her trial of faith, or Dark Night of the Soul seems to have begun instantly and the Saint was sure, right away, that it would last a long time. What was this darkness like? She told the prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague, that if she wished to understand her trial she must imagine that she (St. Therese) had been born in a country covered with a very thick mist; had never seen nature in her "smiling mood," but had heard of all these experiences ever since childhood and knew that the country in which she lived is not her native country. Yet her country cannot be seen. There is complete darkness. To understand how painful this trial was to St. Therese we must remember how much Heaven meant to her and how, before the Dark Night, she could easily think about Heaven. The darkness was all around her, complete, as she said, yet she tells us there was no darkness in her devotion to Our Blessed Mother.
In this trial St. Therese continued to be faithful and continued to believe. She tells us that she made more acts of faith during this time than during her whole life. She even wrote beautiful poems about Heaven, of what she "willed" to believe. She even said that her soul was blindfolded. There were rays of light, yet afterwards the darkness was blacker than ever, especially during her last illness. The darkness took on the voice of "the unbeliever" to disturb her, telling her that the "land of Light she believed in didn't exist and that death would bring a greater darkness. The devil also tried to disturb her. She asked for a blessed candle and holy water.
What was the purpose of this trial? It seems to have been twofold; first, to perfect the Saint and secondly, for an apostolic purpose—that by the blackness she suffered, unbelievers would receive light. The Saint was quite conscious of both aspects. Of the first she said that her desire for Heaven was being perfected, that all that was "natural" in it was being removed. She also understood that this trial had an apostolic value—to give light to others. She offered her trial for this intention. She continued heroically to pray and faithfully live the Carmelite life during this trial, which was to last until her last agony. She made acts of faith, prayed, showed great charity to others, great patience in her illness and even continued to find ways to practice mortification. She thought of others and not of herself. She continued her prayers and penances for missionaries. During this time the Saint did not pray less, she prayed more. She never omitted the two hours of mental prayer the nuns did each day, the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours and she continued her fervent prayers throughout the day. When prayer was especially difficult she would recite one "Our Father" or a "Hail Mary" for she said the prayers ravish her, they nourished her soul with a divine food. In the dryness of the desert, St. Therese continued to pray.

St. Therese's Last Illness

During the night of Good Friday, 1897, St. Therese received the first warning of her last illness. As she laid down on her cot blood rushed to her mouth. The next morning she looked at her handkerchief and saw that it was filled with blood. In May she was freed from all her duties. in July she was taken to the infirmary. In August she received Holy Viaticum. Through September she suffered greatly until on the 30th of September she died. During these months she suffered terribly from consumption, suffocation and, perhaps especially, from the treatment of cauterization. During this illness she suffered from privation regarding the reception of Holy Communion. She also suffered greatly from her trial of faith. Yet through these months with her heroic abandonment to the Will of God St. Therese continued to progress in the way of perfection and the way of prayer.
During these months of illness St. Therese not only prayed, she asked her sisters to pray for her. She asked that they pray not for healing but for strength to suffer. St. Bernadette had made this same request. St. Therese even prayed that the good of her medicines, which she took in obedience, would be applied not to her but to missionaries. The Saint continued to pray for others. When her sisters were working in the laundry, in the heat of the summer, she prayed that God would console them and that they would work in love and peace.
One can learn a great deal about prayer from the example of the prayer of St. Therese during her last illness. Important statements about prayer made by St. Therese during her last illness are found in a notebook kept by Celine who wrote; "I arose several times during the night in spite of her objections. On one of these visits I saw my dear little sister with hands joined and eyes raised to Heaven 'What are you doing? You should be sleeping.' I said. She answered by saying, "I can't sleep, I'm suffering too much so I'm praying.' Then I asked what do you say to Jesus?' She answered, 'I say nothing, I love Him."' Here we can see that the loving gaze of St. Therese has simplified even further. In the development of her prayer life we see that the gaze of love has simply become love. It is no longer looking with love. It is simply to love. Here we see the perfection of the mystical life and the spiritual life; the perfection of charity. Now for St. Therese it is no longer a question of "praying." It is a question of love. Now the soul of St. Therese is transformed completely into an act of love. Word's aren't necessary anymore, just love. Love will speak, love will pray.
During last agony, on September 30, suffering greatly and still in the Dark Night of the Soul, the Saint uttered many fervent prayers of love. She prayed much to Our Blessed Mother. In the afternoon her sisters were moving her slightly, her arms were outstretched like a cross. The clock struck; it was three o'clock. At six o'clock the Angelus rang. St. Therese looked at the statue of Our Lady. Celine put some ice on her lips and St. Therese gave her a very special look, a look that said to Celine, "Go, I will be with you." Then a few minutes past seven St. Therese asked the Mother Prioress if she was experiencing the last agony. When told yes but that it may continue for a few more hours she answered, "Well. all right, all right. Oh, I wouldn't want to suffer for a shorter time!" Looking at her crucifix, she said, "Oh, I love Him. My God, I love You!"16 With this last prayer of love uttered still in the Dark Night of the Soul St. Therese spoke her last words, her last act of love. Then for a moment or two, the space of a Credo, her sisters saw that St. Therese was no longer aware of them. She was in ecstasy. In this ecstasy she died. Yet it was when she was still in the Dark Night that she uttered her last prayer of love, "My God, I love You."

St. Therese's Act of Oblation to the Merciful Love of God

One of the most significant aspects of the prayer of St. Therese is her "Act of Oblation to The Merciful Love of God." From the beginning it is best to understand that the offering St. Therese made on the Feast of The Most Blessed Trinity was an offering to accept the Merciful Love of God—it was not an offering to suffer. The "Little Flower" surely was a real victim soul, a soul dedicated to suffering in reparation for sin and for the salvation of souls. Yet this is not what she is expressing in her "Oblation."
During the Mass of the Feast of the Most Blessed Trinity, St. Therese realized how much Our Savior; Jesus Christ wishes to bestow His love on souls and that there were very few to accept this love. After receiving permission from the Prioress; St. Therese and her sister Celine; kneeling before the statue of Virgin of the Smile and recited their offering. St. Therese wrote down the prayer and kept it in her book of the Gospels. Her offering begins with an act of love to the Most Blessed Trinity and her desire to save souls, to deliver souls from Purgatory and to work for the glorification of the Church. She then expresses her desire to fulfill God's Will perfectly and reach the exact degree of glory God has willed for her.
St. Therese expresses her desire to be a saint. Since she believes that she is not able to be a saint on her own she asks for God's holiness. She then recalls that the Infinite Merits of Jesus are hers and she asks God to look at her through the eyes of Jesus, to look at her in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She then offers the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saints and holy angels to God. She asks Our Lady to present her oblation to God. She expresses her desires with confidence. She asks that God take possession of her soul. She notes that she cannot receive Holy Communion as often as she would like so she asks that the Blessed Sacrament remain in her heart as in a tabernacle, between each of her receptions of Holy Communion.
St. Therese then expresses her desire to console God by reparation because so few are grateful. She prays that God will take away her freedom, which may cause her to displease Him. She adds that if she falls through weakness she asks God to heal and cure her of this fault instantly by His loving gaze. She then thanks God for all the graces she has received. She is especially thankful for having passed through the "crucible of suffering." She then states that "It is with joy that I shall look upon You on the last day, bearing the scepter of the Cross, since You have deigned to give me that most precious Cross as my portion. I hope to be like You in Heaven and see the Sacred Stigmata of Your Passion in my body."
St. Therese expresses her hope for Heaven yet professes that she is not working for merit but solely for love of God. Solely, she says to console "Your Sacred Heart and to save souls which will love You everlastingly." She says that, at the end of her life, she will appear without any merits; she, therefore, desires to be given God’s own justice and she trusts that in a single instant God can transform and perfect her soul. Now she expresses the actual offering. "To live in an act of perfect Love, I offer myself as a burnt offering to Your Merciful Love, calling you to consume me at every instant, while You let the floods of infinite tenderness within You flow into my soul, that so I may become a martyr to Your Love, O My God!...When that martyrdom has prepared me to appear before You, may it cause me to die and my soul hurl itself in that one instant into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love. At every heartbeat, O my Beloved, I wish to renew this offering an infinite number of times till the shadows retire and I can tell You of my love over and over again, looking upon Your face to face eternally."
Truly this offering is essentially an act of love by one who realized her vocation is love. It is interesting to note that the last words of this offering tell us a great deal about prayer, for eternity she wishes to tell God of her love.

Graces of Prayer

That St. Therese's spiritual life was without extraordinary phenomena compared to other saints has been stated by authors quite often. This basically is correct if we understand that what is meant is that "compared to other saints" she did not experience many of the mystical phenomena they experienced and that St. Therese's way of spirituality is a way that does not exclude, yet does not "require," extraordinary graces. Yet, it must also be remembered that there were some extraordinary graces in her life.
The first extraordinary grace in the life of St. Therese was the vision she had as a child of her father's future illness when she saw a man in their yard, with his face covered, who then disappeared. And she was miraculously cured when she saw Our Lady smile. During prayer St. Therese received other special graces. Even before she entered Carmel she experienced, she tells us, while she prayed on summer evenings, the flights of the spirit described by St. Teresa of Avila. This, of course, is a very extraordinary grace.
As a Carmelite she received similar graces. In 1889, while praying in the grotto of St. Mary Magdalene, she was blessed with a state of what is called "Quietude" which lasted for a week. She described this by saying that something like a veil had been put over earthly things. She knew it was a supernatural state and found it difficult to describe. In keeping with Carmelite tradition the Saint refers to this grace as "mystical," that is, caused by the Holy Spirit and not by her own doing. She understood that the purpose of this grace was to make her more detached.
On the Friday after her Act of Oblation, St Therese received a very extraordinary grace, the "wound of love." She was praying the Stations of the Cross when she felt pierced as it were by a dart of fire. This experience was so ardent that she thought she would die. She couldn't explain it. She felt plunged in fire, a fire full of sweetness. This lasted only a moment. Then she returned to her state of aridity. St. John of the Cross-in "The Living Flame of Love" teaches that not many souls are granted this favor. God gives it mainly to those who have followers. To these followers they transmit their virtue and spirit. Surely St. Therese was to have many followers of her Little Way!
Another grace of prayer St. Therese received was that, very often, she would receive inspirations or, as she called them: "lights." These lights were about understanding Sacred Scripture or the spiritual life. She said also that God inspired her, with what to say and do; she received these lights just when she needed them. They were especially helpful in instructing the novices. During the last months of her life these lights, which inspired her, were even prophetic. During this time she made many prophetic statements regarding her mission, her autobiography, the shower of roses and that she would be a saint!

St. Therese's Devotion to The Most Blessed Virgin Mary

Since St. Therese was a member of the order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel I'll begin considering her devotions by discussing her Marian devotion. St. Therese was, throughout her entire life, a child of Mary. Let us consider now the special character of St. Therese's devotion to Our Blessed Mother. St. Therese was especially devoted to Our Lady as the Mother of Jesus during His hidden years at Nazareth. She liked to contemplate the simplicity, poverty and prayerfulness of the Holy Family. In this the Saint was completely faithful to the Carmelite tradition. For the town of Nazareth is not far from the mountain of Carmel and the Carmelite life is a hidden life of prayer and work.
As a very small child St. Therese had great devotion to Our Lady. In the first essay she ever wrote she told of the Blessed Virgin Mary going to the temple as a child that she was remarkable among her companions for her piety and for her angelic sweetness. She related how everyone loved the child Mary, especially the angels, who regarded her as their little sister. St. Therese explained that she herself wanted to be a very good girl, that Our Lady was her dear Mother and that children usually resemble their mother.
After Pauline entered Carmel little Therese became very ill. She was delirious and suffering from hallucinations. One day during a severe crisis Marie knelt in prayer before a statue of Our Lady in Therese's sick room. Leonie and Celine joined in prayer Therese too, understandingly, turned toward the statue. She prayed with all her heart to her Mother in heaven, that she would have pity on her. All at once, Therese tells us, she saw the Virgin Mary smile upon her. She was instantly cured. The statue, from then on, became known as the Virgin of the Smile. St. Therese was to have this statue with her in the Carmel. Today it is above her remains in her shrine in the Carmelite chapel in Lisieux.
As mentioned earlier, on the day of St. Therese's First Holy Communion she was pleased to be chosen to recite the Act of Consecration to Our Lady. "That afternoon, it was I who recited the act of consecration to Our Lady; it was fitting that I, who had lost my earthly mother so young, should talk to my heavenly Mother in the name of the rest. And that is what I tried to do, talk to her; give myself up to her, like a child throwing its arms round its mother and asking for her protection I think she smiled down at me from Heaven, unseen; hadn't she smiled down visibly at me, and given life to the little flower that seemed to be fading away? And now she had brought her own Son to birth in me."
St. Therese also sought entrance into the Sodality of the Children of Mary. "The Blessed Virgin, too, kept good watch over the little flower that was dedicated to her; she didn’t want to see it tarnished with the stains of earth, so she took care to plant it high up, in her own mountain air, before it faded. That happy moment hadn't yet arrived, but already my love for my heavenly Mother was growing all the time; and I now went out of my way to prove...Soon after my first Communion I took a further step, and a new ribbon announced that I had become an 'aspirant' to fuller dedication as a Child of Mary; only I had to leave school before I actually joined the association And now, as I hadn't finished my schooling at the Abbey, I found I wasn't allowed to enter it on the strength of being an 'old girl.' That wouldn't have worried me much, only all my sisters had belonged, and I wanted to have the same right to call myself Our Lady's child as they had. So I pocketed my pride, and asked if I might join the Association at the Abbey. The headmistress didn't like to say no, but she made the condition that I must come round two afternoons in the week, so that they could judge whether I was worthy to be admitted...Well, if I went to the Abbey, it was only for Our Lady's sake. Sometimes I felt very lonely."
After her pilgrimage to Paris and Rome her fondest memories were the visit to Our Lady of Victories in Paris and to the home of the Holy Family, the Holy House of Loreto. "There was only one of them [the sights of Paris] that really took me out of myself and that was Notre Dame des Victorires. I can't describe what I felt, kneeling in front of the statue; I was so full of gratitude that it could only find its outlet (just as on my First Communion day) in tears. Our Lady gave me the assurance that she really had smiled at me, really had effected my cure; I knew that she really was watching over me, that I was her child—I began calling her 'Mamma,' because 'Mother' didn't seem intimate enough. Oh, I prayed so hard that she would go on looking after me and would make my dream come true before long by taking me under the protection of her stainless robe. I'd wanted that, from my earliest years and as I grew up I'd come to realize that, for me, Carmel was the only place where that shelter could be found."
After entering the Carmelites St. Therese's devotion to Our Lady increased. The day the Church celebrates Our Lady's Nativity, September 8, was chosen for the Saint's profession. She was very pleased about this choice. She prayed that Our Lady would instruct her in the way of perfection. She prayed especially for inspiration in guiding the novices. St. Therese placed the statue of the Virgin of The Smile next to her cell, in a small oratory. Often she brought her novices there to counsel them, in the presence of Our Lady. St. Therese encouraged her missionary "brothers" (the two priests in the foreign missions whom she prayed for and encouraged with letters) to entrust their apostolate to Our Lady. Before beginning a task St. Therese would pray to Our Blessed Mother. She prayed before writing her autobiography that it would be written according to the wishes of Our Lady.
St. Therese said that to pray to the Mother of God is very special. She explained this by saying that when we pray to the saints they make us wait awhile, they have to go and present their requests to God. Yet when we pray for something, asking Our Lady to intercede for us—we do not have to wait. The Saint added that in her troubles and anxieties she quickly turned to the Virgin Mary—and she always helped her.
During her last illness St. Therese's devotion to Our Lady was especially fervent. She said she knew how greatly the Virgin Mary had suffered. She asked Our Blessed Mother how to benefit from her sufferings. One day she told a novice that she liked to hide her pains from God to give Him the impression that she was always glad. But hid nothing from Our Lady; to her, she told everything. When she was suffering from her trial of faith St. Therese prayed to Our Blessed Mother. Regarding her last illness St. Therese prayed to Our Lady that little Therese would not be a burden to her sisters. One day Mother Agnes of Jesus (her sister Pauline) said death was distressing to those who had to look upon it. St. Therese spoke of Our Lady. She referred to how the Blessed Virgin held Jesus, after he died, in her arms. He was covered with so many wounds. St. Therese marveled that Our Lady could endure such suffering.
When St. Therese's suffering was very acute she turned to the statue of the Virgin of The Smile and prayed. She once said she could not pray but could only look at the Blessed Virgin Mary and say, "Jesus." Here we can see the spirituality of St. Therese. She looks at the statue of Our Blessed Mother and says the Holy Name of Jesus. In remembering Our Lady she does not forget Jesus and in remembering Jesus she does not forget Our Lady. For St. Therese it is simply Jesus and Mary.
One day she told her sister Pauline that she had prayed much to the Blessed Virgin during the night, thinking that Our Lady’s wonderful month of May was about to begin. During her last illness St. Therese turned to Our Lady. In the book known as the "Last Conversations" we read many Marian statements that the Saint made during these days of suffering. Several are quoted here. "I asked the Blessed Virgin that I be not so tired and withdrawn as I have been all these days; I really felt that I was causing you pain. This evening she answered me."
"I would, however, like to have a beautiful death to please you. I asked this from the Blessed Virgin. I didn't ask God for this because I want Him to do as He pleases. Asking the Blessed Virgin for something is not the same thing as asking God. She really knows what is to be done about my little desires, whether or not she must speak about them to God. So it's up to her to see that God is not forced to answer me, to allow Him to do everything He pleases." And, "However, I do want to go! I've told the Blessed Virgin so and she can do what she pleases with my little wish."
St. Therese believed that Our Lady who didn't have a Blessed Virgin Mary to love is therefore less happy than we are. One day St. Therese said, regarding having entrusted some intentions to Our Lady, "The Blessed Virgin really carried out my messages well; I'll give her some once more!" And another time she said, "When I think of how much trouble I've had all my life trying to recite the Rosary!" St. Therese asked Celine, her infirmarian, to pray much for her to Our Lady. St. Therese, who tried to offer everything she did in a spiritual way told Pauline, "Sometimes I wanted to have a real dinner and I took a grape, then a mouthful of wine [She could consume very little nourishment during her last illness] and these I offered to the Blessed Virgin. Then I did the same thing for the Child Jesus and my little dinner was finished."
Pauline recalls, "she was showing me the picture of Our Lady of Victories, to which she had pasted the little flower Papa had given her on the day she had confided her vocation to him; the root was detached from it and the Infant Jesus seemed to be holding it, while He and the Blessed Virgin smiled at her: [the Saint said] 'The little flower has lost its root; this will tell you I'm on my way to Heaven." Pauline tells us 'after gazing a long time on the statue of the Blessed Virgin [St. Therese said] 'who could ever invent the Blessed Virgin?’" Also from Pauline we learn of the following. One day, "when the Angelus was ringing [the Saint asked]: 'Must I extend my little hands?' I answered: 'No, you're even too weak to recite the Angelus. Call upon the Blessed Virgin by simply saying: 'Virgin Mary!' She said,. 'Virgin Mary, I love you with all my heart.’"
"I [Pauline] was telling her she suffered less during the silence [the Saint said,] 'Oh! just the opposite! I suffered very much, very much! But it's to the Blessed Virgin that I complained.’" St. Therese prayed, "O good Blessed Virgin, come to my aid!"40 In her time of her sickness and great suffering the Saint turned to her Mother. During her last agony St. Therese prayed to Our Lady and at six o'clock in the evening when she heard the bell for the Angelus looked toward the statue of the Virgin of the Smile. Some time before, in one of her poems, St. Therese had made the request that Our Blessed Mother would be with her at the eventide after her life and would once again smile at her.
It is therefore quite correct to say that St Therese's prayer was Marian, dedicated to the Mother of Jesus at Nazareth and Our Lady of Sorrows at Calvary. She also had a special devotion to The Virgin of the Smile. All through her life St. Therese remained a Child of Mary and prayed to Our Lady with childlike faith and confidence. The last words she ever wrote explained, in words written to Our Blessed Mother, that if she, Therese, were the Queen of Heaven and Our Lady was little Therese—she would want Mary to be the Queen of Heaven.