Tag Archives: Carmelite

Saint Teresa of Jesus (Avila)

I was a bit more conscious of today’s feast being of the great Carmelite saint, founder and Doctor of the Church, Saint Teresa of of Jesus (Avila). She has a particular hold on me because of her honesty and her extraordinary attention to human experience. This is especially true when you heed what Teresa is saying about friendship and those distinctions between the human friendship that what is shared with the Lord. The Office of Readings provided for us by the Church –and herewith published with my emphasis– reminded me of something that’s been on my mind for some time: am I mindful of Jesus right now? The sacred Liturgy is most direct in reminding us that salvation is given to us today. We are not saved at some point in the future, but right now. Eternal life doesn’t only begin when we give up the ghost, but we live in the Eschaton at this moment of existence. Don’t be fooled: Christ uses our human experience to manifest the promise of our divine destiny. So I ask you, Are you mindful of Christ right now? If not, why? What is distracting you? If so, in what ways are you paying mind to Him?

St Teresa of Avila Vatican statue.jpg

Pay attention to what Saint Teresa is saying:

Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can
endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us.
He is a true friend. And I clearly see that if we expect to please him and
receive an abundance of his graces, God desires that these graces must come to
us from the hands of Christ, through his most sacred humanity, in which God
takes delight

Many, many times I have perceived this through experience. The
Lord has told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate
if we wish his Sovereign Majesty to reveal to us great and hidden mysteries. A
person should desire no other path, even if he is at the summit of
contemplation; on this road he walks safely. All blessings come to us through
our Lord. He will teach us, for in beholding his life we find that he is the
best example

What more do we desire from such a good friend at our side?
Unlike our friends in the world, he will never abandon us when we are troubled
or distressed
. Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him
near. Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul: it seems that no other name fell
from his lips than that of Jesus, because the name of Jesus was fixed and
embedded in his heart
. Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully
considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found
that they took no other path: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, Catherine of
Siena. A person must walk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God’s
. If God should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an
intimate and shares his secrets, we ought to accept this gladly.

Whenever we
think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many
graces and favors, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a
pledge of his love; for love calls for love in return. Let us strive to keep
this always before our eyes and to rouse ourselves to love him. For if at some
time the Lord should grant us the grace of impressing his love on our hearts,
all will become easy for us and we shall accomplish great things quickly and
without effort.

Saint Teresa of Jesus of the Andes

St Teresa of the Andes.jpgOn the liturgical ordo of the Carmelite Order today is the feast of the relatively unknown saint outside some circles (on the Roman ordo today’s saint is memorialized on April 12). Saint Teresa of Jesus of the Andes was born on July 13, 1900 and died on April 12, 1920 and having spent only 11 months as a Carmelite nun.

Baptized Juanita Fernandez Solar she took the name Teresa of Jesus of the Andes. Teresa of Jesus was the first Chilean to be canonized. She is today, a model for young people. The Church concerned for holiness proposes to us today this beautiful, young and “unaccomplished” saint as a perfect model for our journey.

The spiritual autobiography, if as compelling as the Little Flower’s, can have a profound influence on someone (think also of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross who was influenced by St Teresa of Avila), so much so that the young Teresa entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery of the Andes on May 7, 1919.
At Santiago de Chile Pope John Paul II beatified Teresa of Jesus on April 3, 1987 and the Pope later canonized her on March 21, 1993. Her brother Luis attended the beatification. Teresa is also the Discalced Carmelite nun to be canonized outside of Europe and the 4th “Teresa” of the Carmel Order to be canonized.
Read the Vatican’s biography of Saint Teresa of Jesus of the Andes.

Elizabeth of the Trinity: Always Believe in Love

We are made for others. The human heart naturally reaches out, even craves and depends on friendship. The truest desire of communion of heart, mind and body happens in the with God (or at least it ought to begin with God) and then there ought to be a communion with another human being as is found in marriage, friendship or religious life. From experience, we understand that man and woman are incomplete without some fulfilling relationship but the fulfillment comes not from any relationship; it comes from a place deep in the human experience, the correspondence of the heart. Christians exist in a companionship that has divine and human coordinates. Analogically, we say the same of God. Catholics are not Unitarians (though you would not know by the way they act and speak about God sometimes); Catholics believe in and relate to God who is a trinity of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We pray to God the Father through Jesus Christ under the power of the Holy Spirit. Further, Catholics say that the Trinity decided, because of their love, that the second person of the Trinity, would become man and open the gates of heaven so that humanity might know, love and serve God.

When it comes to the concrete, our faith in Christ as the Word made flesh indicates to us that we engage in reality precisely because the Lord entered into human history. But there are obstacles for a solid engagement of culture in an era that holds fast to a variety conflicting epistemologies that are contrary to the Gospel and orthodox theological reflection. Moreover, it may be difficult for some people to believe in and experience the reality of love: do we know that we fight to love and to receive love? Do we really accept that humanity is impoverished when love is absent or dysfunctional? Then there is the issue of believing that the intentions of a lover toward his (her) beloved are pure and oriented toward the good. Sadly, the idea that we ought to have affection for ourselves is often perceived as new news and met with no small amount of skepticism. One way of engaging life is having affection for ourselves -NOT egotism– but a genuine affinity for the self which opens the door to see life differently. Affinity for self and others can be another way of speaking about love, but the use of the word “affinity” gives us a new set of eyes and legs for engaging reality that is before us. Having affection for oneself means that we lean toward our destiny more seriously, intentionally and with wholesomeness so as to live a companionship desired for us by God.

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A recently published book puts our view of reality, love and God on end. Elizabeth of the Trinity: Always Believe in Love, edited by Marian T. Murphy, OCD (New City Press, 2009) is a wonderful collection of writings of this relatively unknown saint-to-be, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity. Elizabeth was a Carmelite nun who spent five years in a Carmelite monastery before dying at the age of 26. She is revered as a mystic with a profound understanding of the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, and that’s not only because her religious name in the convent acknowledges a fact after a spiritual experience. The book includes extracts from Elizabeth’s diary, letters, poems, retreat notes, a prayer, a chronology and a select bibliography among other things. This volume is my first introduction to the person and thought of Blessed Elizabeth save for Father Henry dropping her name in a homily or two. The holy and human attractiveness of Blessed Elizabeth confirms my suspicion that we want, need men and women to point the way to a deeper union with God: with Elizabeth (and countless others) there is no reason why Catholics have to search for mystical experiences in other faith traditions. What I came to realize is how profoundly centered on the love of the Trinity this young woman was, and how her mission to lead others directly to Christ was keen. What the Second Vatican Council asked us to do, that is, to reclaim to claim a personal holiness centered on the Incarnation, Elizabeth promoted in the 19th century by telling us: “Look at every suffering and every joy as coming directly from Him, and then your life will be a continual communion, since everything will be like a sacrament that will give you God.” There’s no separation from between life and God.  Do we live our lives with this conviction? Can we see this belief in our daily actions? One learns among many things in this volume that Pope John Paul II was influenced by Blessed Elizabeth and so made it his mission to make her known to the Church. At the foot of Elizabeth we realize ever more deeply that in being loved we can love.

As the editor Sister Marian said so very well in her excellent introduction: “The saints are God’s glorious palette, and without them, as Chesterton said: ‘we could lose the humanity of Christ’; for in them, we experience his rootedness in our ordinary lives. Their passionate, single-minded following of Christ fascinates us as we recognize the source of their, and our, true greatness.”

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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