“In the heart of the church I will be love” – Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus from the Office of Readings

From the autobiography of St Theresa of the Child Jesus, virgin

(Manuscrits autobiographiques, Lisieux 1957, 227-229)

In the heart of the church I will be love

Since my longing for martyrdom was powerful and unsettling, I turned to the epistles of St. Paul in the hope of finally finding an answer. By chance the 12th and 13th chapters of the 1st epistle to the Corinthians caught my attention, and in the first section I read that not everyone can be an apostle, prophet or teacher, that the Church is composed of a variety of members, and that the eye cannot be the hand. Even with such an answer revealed before me, I was not satisfied and did not find peace.

I persevered in the reading and did not let my mind wander until I found this encouraging theme: “Set your desires on the greater gifts. And I will show you the way which surpasses all others.” For the Apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing at all without love and that this same love is surely the best path leading directly to God. At length I had found peace of mind.

When I had looked upon the mystical body of the Church, I recognised myself in none of the members which St. Paul described, and what is more, I desired to distinguish myself more favourably within the whole body. Love appeared to me to be the hinge for my vocation. Indeed I knew that the Church had a body composed of various members, but in this body the necessary and more noble member was not lacking; I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I saw and realised that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everlasting.

Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.

Excerpts from the English translation of The Liturgy of the Hours (Four Volumes) © 1974, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved.

 

 

The Chaplet of St. Michael the Archangel – Discerning Hearts Podcast

ArchangelsOL

Chaplet of St. Michael the Archangel text and mp3 download

O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me. Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Then one ‘Our Father’ and three ‘Hail Marys’ are to be prayed after each of the following nine salutations

1. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Seraphim may the Lord make us worthy to burn with the fire of perfect charity. Amen.

2. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Cherubim may the Lord grant us the grace to leave the ways of sin and run in the paths of Christian perfection. Amen.

3. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Thrones may the Lord infuse into our hearts a true and sincere spirit of humility. Amen.

4. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Dominions may the Lord give us grace to govern our senses and overcome any unruly passions. Amen.

5. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Powers may the Lord protect our souls against the snares and temptations of the devil. Amen.

6. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Virtues may the Lord preserve us from evil and falling into temptation. Amen.

7. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Principalities may God fill our souls with a true spirit of obedience. Amen.

8. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Archangels may the Lord give us perseverance in faith and in all good works in order that we may attain the glory of Heaven. Amen.

9. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Angels may the Lord grant us to be protected by them in this mortal life and conducted in the life to come to Heaven. Amen.

Next, one Our Father is to be said in honour of each of the following leading Angels: St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael and our Guardian Angel.

Concluding prayers

A Saint Michael rosary.O glorious prince St. Michael, chief and commander of the heavenly hosts, guardian of souls, vanquisher of rebel spirits, servant in the house of the Divine King and our admirable conductor, thou who dost shine with excellence and superhuman virtue deliver us from all evil, who turn to thee with confidence and enable us by your gracious protection to serve God more and more faithfully every day.

Pray for us, O glorious St. Michael, Prince of the Church of Jesus Christ, that we may be made worthy of His promises.

Almighty and Everlasting God, Who, by a prodigy of goodness and a merciful desire for the salvation of all men, has appointed the most glorious Archangel St. Michael Prince of Thy Church, make us worthy, we beseech Thee, to be delivered from all our enemies, that none of them may harass us at the hour of death, but that we may be conducted by him into the August Presence of Thy Divine Majesty. This we beg through the merits of Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

 


ArchangelMichael1-217x300Prayer to St. Michael

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May GOD rebuke him we humbly pray, and do thou o’ prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of GOD cast into hell satan and all the evil spirits who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
A St. Michael Website

 

Gabriel-201x3001Prayer to the Archangel St. Gabriel

O God, who from among all your angels chose the Archangel Gabriel to announce the mystery of the Incarnation, mercifully grant that we who solemnly remember him on earth may feel the benefit of his patronage in heaven, with Jesus who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
A St. Gabriel Website

 

 

raphael11Prayer to the Archangel Raphael

Glorious Archangel St. Raphael, great prince of the heavenly court, your are illustrious for your gifts of wisdom and grace. You are a guide of those who journey by land or sea or air, consoler of the afflicted, and refuge of sinners. I beg you, assist me in all my needs and in all the sufferings of this life, as once you helped the young Tobias on his travels. Because you are the “medicine of God”, I humbly pray you to heal the many infirmities of my soul and the ills that afflict my body. I especially ask of you the favor
(name it) and the great grace of purity to prepare me to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A St. Raphael Website

St. Hildegard von Bingen Novena Day 4


Day 4img_69492-715x1024

St. Hildegard you have said:

Listen: there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around Him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honour. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground, and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I, a feather on the breath of God.

 

O glorious St. Hildegard, abbess of the order of St. Benedict and doctor of the universal Church, we now join in the prayer you taught us….

God is the foundation for everything
This God undertakes, God gives.
Such that nothing that is necessary for life is lacking.
Now humankind needs a body that at all times honors and praises God.
This body is supported in every way through the earth.
Thus the earth glorifies the power of God.

O God, by whose grace your servant Hildegard, kindled with the Fire of your love, became a burning and shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
St. Hildegard von Bingen, pray for us

For the Discerning Hearts 9-Day Novena to St. Hildegard von Bingen page

Musical excerpt: Ave generosa, by Hildegard von Bingen (1089 – 1179)
Laurence Ewashko, conductor
30 January 2000, St. Matthew’s Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
http://www.cantatasingersottawa.ca/listen.php

St. Hildegard von Bingen Novena Day 2


Day 2hlhildegard

St. Hildegard you have said:

These visions which I saw were not in sleep nor in dreams, nor in my imagination nor by bodily eyes or outward ears nor in a hidden place; but in watching, aware with the pure eyes of the mind and inner ear of the heart.

 

O glorious St. Hildegard, abbess of the order of St. Benedict and doctor of the universal Church, we now join in the prayer you taught us….

God is the foundation for everything
This God undertakes, God gives.
Such that nothing that is necessary for life is lacking.
Now humankind needs a body that at all times honors and praises God.
This body is supported in every way through the earth.
Thus the earth glorifies the power of God.

O God, by whose grace your servant Hildegard, kindled with the Fire of your love, became a burning and shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
St. Hildegard von Bingen, pray for us

Musical excerpt: Ave generosa, by Hildegard von Bingen (1089 – 1179)
Laurence Ewashko, conductor
30 January 2000, St. Matthew’s Church, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
http://www.cantatasingersottawa.ca/listen.php

DC41 St. Robert Bellarmine – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom w/ Dr. Matthew Bunson


Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times, and teachings of St. Robert Bellarmine

Born: October 4, 1542, Montepulciano, Italy
Died: September 17, 1621, Rome, Italy
Full name: Roberto Francesco Romolo Bellarmino
Feast: 17 September; 13 May (General Roman Calendar, 1932–1969)

From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI

From the General Audience on St. Robert Bellarmine

His preaching and his catechesis have that same character of essentiality which he had learned from his Ignatian education, entirely directed to concentrating the soul’s energies on the Lord Jesus intensely known, loved and imitated. In the writings of this man of governance one is clearly aware, despite the reserve behind which he conceals his sentiments, of the primacy he gives to Christ’s teaching.

St Bellarmine thus offers a model of prayer, the soul of every activity: a prayer that listens to the word of God, that is satisfied in contemplating his grandeur, that does not withdraw into self but is pleased to abandon itself to God.

A hallmark of Bellarmine’s spirituality is his vivid personal perception of God’s immense goodness. This is why our Saint truly felt he wasa beloved son of God. It was a source of great joy to him to pause in recollection, with serenity and simplicity, in prayer and in contemplation of God.

In his book De ascensione mentis in Deum — Elevation of the mind to God — composed in accordance with the plan of the Itinerarium [Journey of the mind into God] of St Bonaventure, he exclaims: “O soul, your example is God, infinite beauty, light without shadow, splendour that exceeds that of the moon and the sun. He raised his eyes to God in whom is found the archetypes of all things, and of whom, as from a source of infinite fertility, derives this almost infinite variety of things. For this reason you must conclude: whoever finds God finds everything, whoever loses God loses everything”.

In this text an echo of the famous contemplatio ad amorem obtineundum — contemplation in order to obtain love — of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola can be heard. Bellarmine, who lived in the lavish and often unhealthy society of the end of late 16th and early 17th centuries, drew from this contemplation practical applications and applied them to the situation of the Church of his time with a lively pastoral inspiration.

In his book De arte bene moriendi — the art of dying a good death — for example, he points out as a reliable norm for a good life and also for a good death regular and serious meditation that should account to God for one’s actions and one’s way of life, and seek not to accumulate riches on this earth but rather to live simply and charitably in such a way as to lay up treasure in Heaven.

In his book De gemitu columbae — the lament of the dove — in which the dove represents the Church, is a forceful appeal to all the clergy and faithful to undertake a personal and concrete reform of their own life in accordance with the teachings of Scripture and of the saints, among whom he mentions in particular St Gregory Nazianzus, St John Crysostom, St Jerome and St Augustine, as well as the great founders of religious orders, such as St Benedict, St Dominic and St Francis.

Bellarmine teaches with great clarity and with the example of his own life that there can be no true reform of the Church unless there is first our own personal reform and the conversion of our own heart.

Bellarmine found in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius recommendations for communicating the profound beauty of the mysteries of faith, even to the simplest of people. He wrote: “If you have wisdom, may you understand that you have been created for the glory of God and for your eternal salvation. This is your goal, this is the centre of your soul, this the treasure of your heart. Therefore consider as truly good for you what leads you to your goal, and truly evil what causes you to miss it. The wise person must not seek felicitous or adverse events, wealth or poverty, health or sickness, honours or offences, life or death. They are good and desirable only if they contribute to the glory of God and to your eternal happiness, they are evil and to be avoided if they hinder it” (De ascensione mentis in Deum, grad. 1).

For more visit Vatican.va

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and a senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints, and Catholic culture. He is the faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia, and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

IP#305 Dr. Peter Kreeft – I Burned for Your Peace on Inside the Pages with Kris McGregor

Peter Kreeft
These are indeed good days for book lovers because we are so blessed to have yet another Christian spiritual classic broken open for us by Dr. Peter Kreeft!  In “I Burned for Your Peace: Augustine’s Confessions Unpacked“, Dr. Kreeft gives us a  guided tour through one of the finest works in all Western literature.  In our conversation, we discuss how St. Augustine, in many ways, is the everyman and why is life is so important for us today. Written in a personal dialogue with God, the saint’s “Confessions” is more than an autobiography or a book of theology, it is, in the end, a living prayer.   It is one man’s compelling witness that is, as  Dr. Kreeft will say, astonishingly contemporary.  St. Augustine looks at himself, so honestly, we can’t help but see ourselves in the reflection.  “I Burned for Your Peace” is the must have book to accompany you on this spiritual journey, especially if your heart is a restless one.  So plan your pilgrimage now!  Get the Frank Sheed translation of the “Confessions” as mentioned by Dr. Kreeft in our conversation and grab this book today

I_Burned_for_Your_Peace.inddYou can find the book here

“Two teachers we all know and trust enter into a dialogue to bring forth a Confessions for our day.”
— Fr. David Meconi, S.J., Editor, The Confessions of St. Augustine

“Kreeft is always brilliant, and in this book he is even more astonishing than ever. If I were allowed only one book on the Confessions, this would be it.”
Joseph Pearce, Author, Catholic Literary Giants

“Kreeft illustrates the truth of Augustine’s comment that God is more intimate to us than we are even to ourselves. Only when we realize that we are loved into being by the Triune God, will we experience the profound peace that sustains the pilgrimage to eternal life.”
Fr. Matthew Lamb, Professor of Theology, Ave Maria University

 

“O Eternal Truth, True Love, and Beloved Eternity” – Saint Augustine of Hippo from the Office of Readings

From the Confessions of St. Augustine, bishop

(Lib. 7,10,18; 10,27: CSEL 33,157-163,255)

O eternal truth, true love, and beloved eternity

Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance into the inmost depth of my soul. I was able to do so because you were my helper. On entering into myself I saw, as it were with the eye of the soul, what was beyond the eye of the soul, beyond my spirit: your immutable light. It was not the ordinary light perceptible to all flesh, nor was it merely something of greater magnitude but still essentially akin, shining more clearly and diffusing itself everywhere by its intensity. No, it was something entirely distinct, something altogether different from all these things; and it did not rest above my mind as oil on the surface of water, nor was it above me as heaven is above the earth. This light was above me because it had made me; I was below it because I was created by it. He who has come to know the truth knows this light.

O Eternal truth, true love and beloved eternity. You are my God. To you do I sigh day and night. When I first came to know you, you drew me to yourself so that I might see that there were things for me to see, but that I myself was not yet ready to see them. Meanwhile you overcame the weakness of my vision, sending forth most strongly the beams of your light, and I trembled at once with love and dread. I learned that I was in a region unlike yours and far distant from you, and I thought I heard your voice from on high: “I am the food of grown men; grow then, and you will feed on me. Nor will you change me into yourself like bodily food, but you will be changed into me.”

I sought a way to gain the strength which I needed to enjoy you. But I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who is above all, God blessed for ever. He was calling me and saying: I am the way of truth, I am the life. He was offering the food which I lacked the strength to take, the food he had mingled with our flesh. For the Word became flesh, that your wisdom, by which you created all things, might provide milk for us children.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

 

Excerpts from the English translation of The Liturgy of the Hours (Four Volumes) © 1974, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved.

 

 

BTP#31 St. Bernard and the 12 Steps to Humility and Pride – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles

BTP#31 St. Bernard and the 12 Steps to Humility and Pride  – The Mystery of Faith in the Wisdom of the Saints.  In this episode, Dr. Lilles begins the discussion on St. Bernard of Clairvaux and his teachings found in “The 12 Steps to Humility and Pride.”

Dr. Lilles offers 4 key points we should keep in mind as we move forward in this series

1.    The Search for God
2.    Listening to God – Lectio Divina
3.    Conversion to God – Conversatio Morum
4.    Living with oneself and letting God fashion one into His image

 

THE TWELVE DEGREES OF HUMILITY

XII. A permanent attitude of bodily; and spiritual prostration.
XI. The speech of a monk should be short, sensible and in a subdued tone.
X. Abstinence from frequent and light laughter.
IX. Reticence, until asked for his opinion.
VIII. Observance of the general rule of the monastery.
VII. Belief in and declaration of one’s inferiority to others.
VI. Admission and acknowledgment of one’s own unworthiness and uselessness.
V. Confession of sins.
IV. Patient endurance of hardship and severity in a spirit of obedience.
III. Obedient submission to superiors.
II. Forbearance to press personal desire.
I. Constant abstinence from sin for fear of God.

THE TWELVE DEGREES OF PRIDE TAKEN DOWNWARDS

I. Curiosity, when a man allows His sight and other senses to stray after things which do not concern him.
II. An unbalanced state of mind, showing itself in talk unseasonably joyous and sad.
III. Silly merriment exhibited in too frequent laughter.
IV. Conceit expressed in much talking.
V. Eccentricity attaching exaggerated importance to one’s own conduct.
VI. Self-assertion holding oneself to be more pious than others.
VII. Presumption readiness to undertake anything.
VIII. Defense of wrong-doing.
IX. Unreal confession detected when severe penance is imposed.
X. Rebellion against the rules and the brethren.
XI. Liberty to sin.
XII. Habitual transgression.

For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony Lilles

 

Here is the bibliography that Dr. Lilles spoke of in this episode:

The Mystery of Faith in the Wisdom of the Saints

Saints, other figures, dates and bibliographic information

 

St. Benedict of Nursia  – b. 480 –  d. 547.

St. Benedict.  The Rule.  Edited by Timothy Fry, O.S.B.  New York: Vintage Books, Random House, 1981, 1998.

 

St. Bernard of Clairvaux – b. 1090 – d. 1153

St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Selected Works. Trans. G.R. Evans. Classics of Western Spirituality.  Mahwah, NY: Paulist Press, 1987.

Read more

DC41 St. Teresa of Avila pt 2– The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom w/ Dr. Matthew Bunson


Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times and teachings of St. Teresa of Avila

  1. Born: March 28, 1515, Gotarrendura, Spain
    Died: October 4, 1582, Alba de Tormes, Spain
  2. Nationality: Spanish

For more on St. Teresa of Avila and her teachings visit her Discerning Hearts page

From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI

From the General Audience on St. Teresa of Avila

It is far from easy to sum up in a few words Teresa’s profound and articulate spirituality. I would like to mention a few essential points. In the first place St Teresa proposes the evangelical virtues as the basis of all Christian and human life and in particular, detachment from possessions, that is, evangelical poverty, and this concerns all of us; love for one another as an essential element of community and social life; humility as love for the truth; determination as a fruit of Christian daring; theological hope, which she describes as the thirst for living water. Then we should not forget the human virtues: affability, truthfulness, modesty, courtesy, cheerfulness, culture.

Secondly, St Teresa proposes a profound harmony with the great biblical figures and eager listening to the word of God. She feels above all closely in tune with the Bride in the Song of Songs and with the Apostle Paul, as well as with Christ in the Passion and with Jesus in the Eucharist. The Saint then stresses how essential prayer is. Praying, she says, “means being on terms of friendship with God frequently conversing in secret with him who, we know, loves us” (Vida 8, 5). St Teresa’s idea coincides with Thomas Aquinas’ definition of theological charity as “amicitia quaedam hominis ad Deum”, a type of human friendship with God, who offered humanity his friendship first; it is from God that the initiative comes (cf. Summa Theologiae II-II, 23, 1).

Prayer is life and develops gradually, in pace with the growth of Christian life: it begins with vocal prayer, passes through interiorization by means of meditation and recollection, until it attains the union of love with Christ and with the Holy Trinity. Obviously, in the development of prayer climbing to the highest steps does not mean abandoning the previous type of prayer. Rather, it is a gradual deepening of the relationship with God that envelops the whole of life.

Rather than a pedagogy Teresa’s is a true “mystagogy” of prayer: she teaches those who read her works how to pray by praying with them. Indeed, she often interrupts her account or exposition with a prayerful outburst.

Another subject dear to the Saint is the centrality of Christ’s humanity. For Teresa, in fact, Christian life is the personal relationship with Jesus that culminates in union with him through grace, love and imitation. Hence the importance she attaches to meditation on the Passion and on the Eucharist as the presence of Christ in the Church for the life of every believer, and as the heart of the Liturgy. St Teresa lives out unconditional love for the Church: she shows a lively “sensus Ecclesiae”, in the face of the episodes of division and conflict in the Church of her time.

She reformed the Carmelite Order with the intention of serving and defending the “Holy Roman Catholic Church”, and was willing to give her life for the Church (cf. Vida, 33,5).

A final essential aspect of Teresian doctrine which I would like to emphasize is perfection, as the aspiration of the whole of Christian life and as its ultimate goal. The Saint has a very clear idea of the “fullness” of Christ, relived by the Christian. At the end of the route through The Interior Castle, in the last “room”, Teresa describes this fullness, achieved in the indwelling of the Trinity, in union with Christ through the mystery of his humanity.

For more visit Vatican.va

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and a senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints, and Catholic culture. He is the faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia, and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

DC40 St. Teresa of Avila pt 1– The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom w/ Dr. Matthew Bunson


Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times and teachings of St. Teresa of Avila

  1. Born: March 28, 1515, Gotarrendura, Spain
    Died: October 4, 1582, Alba de Tormes, Spain
  2. Nationality: Spanish

For more on St. Teresa of Avila and her teachings visit her Discerning Hearts page

From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI

From the General Audience on St. Teresa of Avila

St Teresa, whose name was Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, was born in Avila, Spain, in 1515. In her autobiography she mentions some details of her childhood: she was born into a large family, her “father and mother, who were devout and feared God”, into a large family. She had three sisters and nine brothers.

While she was still a child and not yet nine years old she had the opportunity to read the lives of several Martyrs which inspired in her such a longing for martyrdom that she briefly ran away from home in order to die a Martyr’s death and to go to Heaven (cf. Vida, [Life], 1, 4); “I want to see God”, the little girl told her parents.

A few years later Teresa was to speak of her childhood reading and to state that she had discovered in it the way of truth which she sums up in two fundamental principles.

On the one hand was the fact that “all things of this world will pass away” while on the other God alone is “for ever, ever, ever”, a topic that recurs in her best known poem: “Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices”. She was about 12 years old when her mother died and she implored the Virgin Most Holy to be her mother (cf. Vida, I, 7).

If in her adolescence the reading of profane books had led to the distractions of a worldly life, her experience as a pupil of the Augustinian nuns of Santa María de las Gracias de Avila and her reading of spiritual books, especially the classics of Franciscan spirituality, introduced her to recollection and prayer.

When she was 20 she entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation, also in Avila. In her religious life she took the name “Teresa of Jesus”. Three years later she fell seriously ill, so ill that she remained in a coma for four days, looking as if she were dead (cf. Vida, 5, 9).

In the fight against her own illnesses too the Saint saw the combat against weaknesses and the resistance to God’s call: “I wished to live”, she wrote, “but I saw clearly that I was not living, but rather wrestling with the shadow of death; there was no one to give me life, and I was not able to take it. He who could have given it to me had good reasons for not coming to my aid, seeing that he had brought me back to himself so many times, and I as often had left him” (Vida, 7, 8).

In 1543 she lost the closeness of her relatives; her father died and all her siblings, one after another, emigrated to America. In Lent 1554, when she was 39 years old, Teresa reached the climax of her struggle against her own weaknesses. The fortuitous discovery of the statue of “a Christ most grievously wounded”, left a deep mark on her life (cf. Vida, 9).

The Saint, who in that period felt deeply in tune with the St Augustine of the Confessions, thus describes the decisive day of her mystical experience: “and… a feeling of the presence of God would come over me unexpectedly, so that I could in no wise doubt either that he was within me, or that I was wholly absorbed in him” (Vida, 10, 1).

Parallel to her inner development, the Saint began in practice to realize her ideal of the reform of the Carmelite Order: in 1562 she founded the first reformed Carmel in Avila, with the support of the city’s Bishop, Don Alvaro de Mendoza, and shortly afterwards also received the approval of John Baptist Rossi, the Order’s Superior General.

In the years that followed, she continued her foundations of new Carmelite convents, 17 in all. Her meeting with St John of the Cross was fundamental. With him, in 1568, she set up the first convent of Discalced Carmelites in Duruelo, not far from Avila.

In 1580 she obtained from Rome the authorization for her reformed Carmels as a separate, autonomous Province. This was the starting point for the Discalced Carmelite Order.

Indeed, Teresa’s earthly life ended while she was in the middle of her founding activities. She died on the night of 15 October 1582 in Alba de Tormes, after setting up the Carmelite Convent in Burgos, while on her way back to Avila. Her last humble words were: “After all I die as a child of the Church”, and “O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another”.

Teresa spent her entire life for the whole Church although she spent it in Spain. She was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1614 and canonized by Gregory XV in 1622. The Servant of God Paul VI proclaimed her a “Doctor of the Church” in 1970.

Teresa of Jesus had no academic education but always set great store by the teachings of theologians, men of letters and spiritual teachers. As a writer, she always adhered to what she had lived personally through or had seen in the experience of others (cf. Prologue to The Way of Perfection), in other words basing herself on her own first-hand knowledge.

Teresa had the opportunity to build up relations of spiritual friendship with many Saints and with St John of the Cross in particular. At the same time she nourished herself by reading the Fathers of the Church, St Jerome, St Gregory the Great and St Augustine.

Among her most important works we should mention first of all her autobiography, El libro de la vida (the book of life), which she called Libro de las misericordias del Señor [book of the Lord’s mercies].

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Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and a senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints, and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.