Tag Archives: Carmelite saints and blesseds

St Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila (1515–1582), has fascinated me for years. I often feel unworthy in saying that I follow her apostolic, contemplative zeal and desire for God. And yet, her powerful witness has educated me through the years. She was a strong and important female woman of the Church. St. Teresa of Avila was named the first female Doctor of the Church.

Teresa’s own history reveals her experience and motivations in the monastic life when she speaks of a mediocre prayer life, lax discipline and a loss of zeal for redemptive penance caused by too much socialization with visitors. The Lord in His infinite Wisdom called Teresa to give Him her heart and a desire to live differently through an intense experience of prayer experience to renounce worldly attachments and enter deeper into a life of prayer. An experience, not a discourse, moved her to making this a way of life and a teaching. It is reported that she was being encouraged by a mystical vision of her place in hell if she was unfaithful to God’s graces. 

The mystical life of contemplation became a source of trouble for Teresa as many didn’t understand the new horizons she had embraced. What she wanted was to reform her own life for the sake of the Kingdom. How much can we learn from her on this score? Too often we give into sin and mediocrity, we give ourselves “a pass” to excuse us from the right path, and we settle for gravel instead of silver and gold.

Read her works the Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection. Pick up a good biography. Ask Saint Teresa of Avila for intercession before the Throne of Grace.

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

The Latin Church observes the liturgical memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, known in history and professionally as Edith Stein. A woman of great import for us today.

Stein was born a Jew and was killed at Auschwitz because she was a Jew.

She was a brilliant philosopher, studying phenomenology with Husserl. One of her academic accomplishments was making a translation into German John Henry Newman’s works, which the young Ratzinger brothers read at seminary after the war. After studies and a period of teaching and research, Stein became a Carmelite nun because she read the life of St. Teresa of Avila. Leaving Germany she fled with her sisters to the Netherlands.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross died as a Christian Martyr because of retaliation against the Church in the Netherlands, which opposed Nazi racist attacks against Jews and other minorities. As one said, “She is a bridge between Jews and Christians and our faithful opposition to fascist racism then and now.”

Ora pro nobis, on this your feast, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

edith steinSaint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (in history she is known as Edith Stein). The Church honors her with the title of  Virgin and Martyr due to her vocation as a nun and one killed for belief in Christian faith.

Stein was born on October 12, 1891, in Breslau, Poland. Her family was Jewish. By 1922, after reading the saints, in particular, Saint Teresa of Avila, and on matters in the Catholic faith, she was baptized at the Cologne Cathedral. Eleven years later she entered the Carmelite Order in Cologne before being sent to the Carmel in Echt, Holland. With her sister Rose, Teresa was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. There she died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz in 1942 at the age of fifty-one. Stein was beatified in 1987 and canonized on October 11, 1998.

It is said that she made a claim about Husserl that “Whoever seeks truth seeks God, whether he knows it or not.” Professor Husserl was not one to speak about his religious faith because he wanted to maintain a separation between faith and reason. Yet, we know from experience, that faith and reason go hand-in-hand. Catholics ought to take a lesson here: a person who claims Christian faith faith can not be diffident reading the same. One can say with a degree of certainty that Stein’s philosophical research was one of a constant quest for God. Saint Teresa Benedicta’s witness is that whoever seeks truth through philosophy seeks God, because God is Truth. We therefore hold that that whoever seeks truth is, in fact, seeking God. There is a primacy of faith and reason in the Catholic mind.

Blessed Titus Bradsma

Titus BradsmaPray for us!

Saint John of the Cross

Juan de la CruzToday, we mark the liturgical memorial of a magnificent saint (all saints are magnificent!), the 16th century Carmelite friar, John of the Cross.

A friend posted the following on contemplation:

“Contemplation is nothing less than a secret, peaceful and loving infusion from God. The road of contemplation is where God himself feeds and refreshes the soul directly, without the soul’s help or meditation.

There is a remarkable transformation of the heart’s desires as a result of surrendering to God in our soul’s center. Our desire and God’s desire now join in a consonance of desire.

The nature of love is to be united, linked up with and at one with the object of its love. Only love unites and cements the soul with God. The soul lives in that which it loves.

Prayer, by its nature, involves a sense of incompleteness and thus of longing in truth.

The more God wants to give us, the more He makes us desire–even to the point of leaving us empty in order to fill us with goods. Be careful that you do not lack the desire to be poor and in want.

In following Christ in the contemplative way, without laying down one’s own ground rules and conditions, we grow into dimensions of the reality of God’s love which lie beyond what we can comprehend, experience or place in any systematic order. We are stripped of all guarantees which are rooted in the self, and we begin to live on the faith, trust and love that we have for God. We now experience God more as he is–as sheer Mystery.

Prayer ultimately leads us to go beyond anything that can be known. We travel unknowing into an unknown land and we learn how to stay there, knowing naught.”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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