Tag Archives: Carmelite saints and blesseds

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Edith SteinSaint Teresa Benedicta said: “love will be our eternal life.” She also said, “As for what concerns our relations with our fellow men, the anguish in our neighbor’s soul must break all precept. All that we do is a means to an end, but love is an end in itself, because God is love.”

This Carmelite saint of the 20th century  was killed for her love, for her abiding affection and love for her Divine Lover, Jesus Christ.

We know from experience that the measure of the person is recognized not by words, but by the actions one does in the face of diminishment, exhaustion, laziness, and persecution. Seeing ourselves in action is crucial for growing in our personal mission given to us by the Holy Spirit. Do we know what our mission is in this life?

We also know from experience based on regular self-reflection and discernment that what can sustain our hearts is the love we have for our Creator,  the Infinite, and the concern we have for the salvation of others. Of course, this concern is first based on acceptance that are saved by Grace. The concern for the destiny of others, hence, is the exact same as what Jesus had for the 12 Apostles, the disciples, and for each of us.

All this leads me to think of the ways I am a mature Christian. Recall that Saint Paul talks about the goal of Christian is to be mature in his or her relationship with Christ and neighbor, even when it we meet immaturity in the other person; to be mature in living as faithful members in the Church. We have to admit that some days this can be difficult and only the reasonableness of faith Christ and honest friendship makes this possible and beautiful. This is why Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is a beautiful and reasonable witness: she understood the goal: eternal life. Can we follow her as she points to Jesus?

Blessed Titus Brandsma

Titus BrandsmaThe Church’s liturgical calendar has a rather interesting friar, priest philosopher and martyr who is honored today:  Titus Brandsma, O.Carm., the Dutch Carmelite friar opposed to Nazi ideology and who actively worked against it at the time of the Second World War; his last days were spent at the infamous Dachau concentration camp. Brandsma died on 26 July 1942, from a lethal injection administered by a German nurse of the SS, as an experiment. He was beatified as a martyr of the faith in November 1985 by Saint John Paul II. His feast day is observed within the Carmelite Order on 27 July.

The Blessed entered the novitiate of the Carmelite friars in Boxmeer, Netherlands, on 17 September 1898, where he took the religious name Titus (to honor his father) by which he is now known, and professed his first vows in October 1899. Ordained priest in 1905, Brandsma was a scholar of Carmelite mysticism and was awarded a doctorate of philosophy at Rome in 1909. Beginning in 1916 Brandsma’s scholarly work was to translate the works of Saint Teresa of Ávila into Dutch.

One of the founders of the Catholic University of Nijmegen (now Radboud University), Father Titus Brandsma was a professor of philosophy and the history of mysticism at the school in 1923; he later served as Rector Magnificus. As a teacher he had the reputation of being accessible. In 1935, Brandsma lectured on Carmelite spirituality in the US.

Blessed Brandsma’s studies on mysticism, particularly that of the Carmelite style, was the basis for the establishment in 1968 as the Titus Brandsma Institute in Nijmegen. If you are interested you can search for his biography The Man behind the Myth.


Saint Teresa of Jesus

Santa TeresaFor the liturgical memorial for Saint Teresa of Jesus (Avila) the Church puts on our lips for the entrance antiphon the famous line from Psalm 42: Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God; my soul is thirsting for God, the living God.

One of my favorite saints is Teresa of Avila. Her humanity, humor and intense desire to be a friend of God is attractive. Real holiness attracts. She gives good example of what it means to be attentive to the interior life. Hence, today’s gospel pericope nicely coheres with the Teresa’s remembrance: don’t pay more attention to exterior than to the interior things. The spiritually immature Christians worry more about the outside of the cup than the inside. Formalism will not lead to fruitfulness and friendship with God. The spiritually mature Christian is truly thirsting, a longing for the Divine.

Saint Teresa shows how not to be enslaved by a dysfunctional Christianity but that we are made for joy, for Eternal Life, in communion with God.

Saint Thérèse, the Little Flower

The little Thérèse, that of the Child Jesus (1873-1897), a daughter of the Great Teresa, of Jesus, is honored today by the Church. In the right perspective, both women of the Carmelite order, Thérèse and Teresa, are magnificent witnesses to another way of living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church. Liturgically, we have Avila’s feast on October 15. If we understand nothing more today, know that it was the Lord who was Thérèse’s certainty, He alone her guide (cf. the entrance antiphon).

The Mass Collect identifies the central focus of Saint Thérèse: a little way. What is the little way? The little way taught by Saint Thérèse is see one’s life from a perspective of humility, that of a child (cf. Mt 18:3), that the force of love becomes a reality; the language and method of the little way is that of love, of mercy.

The Catholic Information Service (Knights of Columbus) publishes a handy booklet that you can order, or you read it as a .pdf, “The First Steps on the Little Way of Saint Thérèse Lisieux.” I can’t recommend this text enough!

Saint Thérèse, a child of the Martin family which was quite devoted: several sisters entered religious life, her parents are on the road to sainthood. She was educated by the Benedictines before entering the Carmelite.

Saint Thérèse’s autobiography, The Story of a Soul, I find a compelling narrative of going deeper but that’s only after dealing with my prejudice of seeing the autobiography as saccharine; the depth contained therein is remarkable.

Saint Thérèse Lisieux is one of the the patron saints (with Saint Francis of Xavier) of the missions. John Paul declared her a Doctor of the Church.

Let’s pray for missionaries and for a deeper understanding of Thérèse’s little way.

Saint Simon Stock

St Simon receives scapular.jpg

Saint Simon was the English Carmelite Superior General of the Carmelite Order (†1265) who is most remembered for receiving from the Blessed Virgin the brown scapular with a promise that one is not lost at death if wearing the scapular. Stock was a hymn writer, a good leader and a man of sanctity, whom the Church recognized soon after his death. The liturgical offices were approved by the Church in the 15th century.

It is said that Simon heard the Mother of God say,

Hoc erit tibi et cunctis Carmelitis privilegium, in hoc habitu moriens salvabitur.

(This shall be the privilege for you and for all the Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall be saved.)

The bestowal of the scapular was given to the Carmelite friars alone but now any priest can bless and enroll someone in the scapular. The brown scapular is associated with the Carmelite friars with the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The brown scapular is one 18 approved scapulars worn in devotion.

There is a lot of pious legend about today’s saint, but there are some things that we are reasonably sure about. The Bollandists write the following of Saint Simon Stock:

Saint Simon Stock was born of one of the most illustrious Christian families of England, at the castle of Harford in 1164. Certain prodigies marked him, while an infant in the cradle, as a soul chosen by the Mother of God for Her own. Not yet one year old, he was heard to say the Angelic Salutation distinctly, before he had reached the age to learn it. As soon as he could read he began to recite the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, and he would never cease to do so daily. He read Holy Scripture on his knees at the age of six. He became the object of the jealous persecution of one of his brothers, and at the age of twelve determined to leave and go to live in a forest.

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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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