Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘The Book of Her Life’ Category

Bernini's St. Teresa of Jesus

Bernini’s St. Teresa of Jesus

 

St. Teresa is best known for her love of God. Jesus Christ increased this virtue and many others in this saint. She experienced many visions and revelations from Christ. One time she saw an angel with a flaming dart piercing her heart. She explains this mystical experience in her autobiography, chapter 19:

“I saw an angel beside me toward the left side, in bodily form…He was not very large, but small, very beautiful, his face so blazing with light that he seemed to be one of the very highest angels, who appear all on fire. They must be those they call Cherubim…I saw in his hands a long dart of gold, and at the end of the iron there seemed to me to be a little fire. This I thought he thrust through my heart several times, and that it reached my very entrails. As he withdrew it, I thought it brought them with it, and left me all burning with a great love of God. So great was the pain, that it made me give those moans; and so utter the sweetness that this sharpest of pains gave me, that there was no wanting it to stop, nor is there any contenting of the soul with less than God”.

This heavenly gift, this flame of divine love in her heart, which penetrated her being and made her so strong that she vowed to always do what seemed to her most perfect and for God’s glory.

St. John of the Cross explains this fire of love in his work The Living Flame of Love:

“When he wills to touch somewhat vehemently, the soul’s burning reaches such a high degree of love that it seems to surpass that of all the fires of the world: for he is an infinite fire of love. Because the soul in this case is entirely transformed by the divine flame, it not only feels a cautery, but has become a cautery of blazing fire.”

“…it does not afflict it: rather, commensurate with the strength of the love, it divinized and delights it, burning gently.”

May God’s love transform our hearts and may our love of God grow, blazing like fire, burning gently.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

On the Feast of the Assumption the Lord showed St. Teresa in a rapture the Queen of Angels in her ascent into heaven and how she was received there with all solemnity and great joy. The effects St. Teresa received were “a deeper desire to undergo difficult trials” and she was also “left with a longing to serve our Lady”. (The Book of Her Life, Chap 39:26)

mary-angels2.211142909_std

Following all the many trials and persecutions St. Teresa received in setting up the first foundation, she fell into a rapture on the Feast of the Assumption. This time she was reflecting upon her many sins when the rapture occurred. In it she saw herself “vested in a white robe of shining brightness” but at first didn’t see who was clothing her in it. Later she saw that it was the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph that were putting this robe on her.

St. Teresa goes on to explain, “I was given to understand that I was now cleansed of my sins. After being clothed and while experiencing the most marvelous delight and glory, it seemed to me than that our Lady took me by the hands. She told me I made her very happy in serving the glorious St. Joseph, that I should believe that what I was striving for in regard to the monastery would be accomplished, that the Lord and those two would be greatly served in it, that I shouldn’t fear there would ever be any failure in this matter even though the obedience which was to be give was not to my liking, because they would watch over us, and that her Son had already promised us He would be with us, that as a sign that this was true she was giving me a jewel. It seemed to me she placed around my neck a very beautiful golden necklace to which was attached a highly valuable cross.” (The Book of Her Life, Chap 33:14)

Because of St. Teresa’s work and devotion, Carmelites strive to serve Our Lady and St. Joseph and to foster personal devotion to both of them. In a previous post, I mentioned how St. Teresa set St. Joseph at one door and Our Lady at the other in each of the foundations that she set up. She had great trust in their protection and intercession and we should too.

Read Full Post »

St. Teresa experienced numerous obstacles in setting up the monastery of St. Joseph’s. Additionally the nuns were treated unfairly before taking the habit. Before entering the new foundation, St. Teresa experienced a vision of Christ while she was at prayer. In this vision she saw Jesus placing a crown on her head and heard Him thanking her for all that she had done for His Mother.

Then at another time while all were at prayer in choir after compline she wrote: “I saw our Lady in the greatest glory clothed in a white mantle; it seemed she was sheltering us all under it. I understood how high a degree of glory the Lord would give to those living in this house.” (The Book of Her Life, 36:24)

A mantle is a large sleeveless cloak worn over clothes. It is usually used to cover or surround something else. Symbolically a mantle represents preeminence or authority.

cordoba.olmc

In this life there will always be opposition in our path as we strive to live a holy and good life. This image of being sheltered under Our Lady’s Mantle is a comforting one. I like to use this image in my own prayer asking the Blessed Mother to place me, and all of my family, under “her mantle” knowing that she will protect and guide me until I enter into eternal glory.

Read Full Post »

St. Teresa’s mother died when she was about twelve years old. Since her older sister married, it didn’t seem prudent for Teresa to stay at home without a mother; therefore, St. Teresa’s father placed her in a convent boarding school as a young teenager of about sixteen.

Her first week or so at the convent school were not happy ones, but soon she become content there and even more so than she was at her father’s house. (The Book of Her Life, 2:8)

The convent school was run by Augustinian nuns and the name of the school was Our Lady of Grace. St. Teresa was greatly influenced by the nuns there. She began “to return to the good habits of early childhood”. (The Book of Her Life, 2:8)

The title of Our Lady of Grace is originally of French origin. Images of Our Lady under this title usually show the mother and child in a tender embrace with their faces touching like in the icon below.

Mother and child in a tender embrace – how appropriate for St. Teresa at this time to be placed in the care of Our Lady under this title when she no longer had an earthly mother of her own, but was in desperate need of a mother! No longer receiving the tender physical embraces of her earthly mother, she now will receive the tender spiritual embraces of Our Lady of Grace. 

The motherhood of Mary is important to all the faithful. She helps to restore supernatural life into our souls, just like she did with St. Teresa. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the Blessed Mother’s role in our lives in paragraphs 968 -969:

“Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. “In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.”  “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation . . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”

And in paragraph 970 her function is further clarified:

“Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men . . . flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it.” “No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.”

Since Our Lady was able to help St. Teresa in her conversion, leading her back to her “good habits of early childhood”, then she will be able to help me in my ongoing conversion and growth in holiness!

Our Lady of Grace, pray for us!

Read Full Post »

During St. Teresa’s younger years she was quite ill and even crippled. After seeing how helpless the doctors were, she began to seek help from the saints in heaven that they might cure her. She writes in her autobiography that she took for her advocate and lord St. Joseph recommending herself to him with all earnest. It is to St. Joseph’s intercession that she was able to walk once again. She writes:

“I saw clearly that as in this need so in other greater ones concerning honor and loss of soul this father and lord of mine came to my rescue in better ways than I know how to ask for. I don’t recall up to this day ever having petitioned him for anything that he failed to grant. It is an amazing thing the great many favors God has granted me through the mediation of this blessed saint, the dangers I was freed from both of body and soul. For with other saints it seems the Lord has given them grace to be of help in one need, whereas with this glorious saint I have experience that he helps in all our needs and that the Lord wants us to understand that just as He was subject to St. Joseph on earth .  .  .  so in heaven God does whatever he commands.”  (The Book of Her Life)

Once she was in need when setting up a new monastery and did not know how she would pay the workmen. St. Joseph assured her that she “would not be lacking”. She hired the workers even though she did not have any money. The “Lord in ways that amazed those who heard about it provided for me.” Her brother, who was living in South America, sent her the money that she needed. In her letter to him on December 23, 1561, she acknowledges his gift and expresses her gratitude. (The Collected Letters of St. Teresa, Vol 1)

On another occasion she writes about the protection she received from this wonderful saint. In the midst of conflicts and exhausted, St. Teresa didn’t worry. Instead she “prayed to the Lord to protect me and to my father St. Joseph to bring me to his house, and I offered God what I would have to undergo.” 

She always celebrated his feast day with as much solemnity as possible. Since she has experienced so much good from this saint, she has done much in promoting devotion to him. “I have not known anyone truly devoted to him and rendering him special service who has not advanced more in virtue.” And who wouldn’t want to advance in virtue? St. Teresa is convinced that he will benefit souls in a powerful way – all they have to do is to recommend themselves to him. “For some years now I have asked him for something on his feast day, and my petition is always granted.”

St. Teresa also says that St. Joseph is someone who persons of prayer should attach themselves. Since he was so good and assisted the Blessed Mother and the Infant Jesus, she is convinced through her own experience that he will not fail to assist anyone who is devoted to him and entrusts themselves to him.

 “Those who cannot find a master to teach them prayer should take this glorious saint for their master, and they will not go astray.” 

Ask St. Joseph to help you pray and recommend all your cares and concerns to him. Perhaps there is a virtue that you need. If so, ask St. Joseph for this, today on his feast day.

!!-St.jo-statue

Read Full Post »

God gives gifts without measure. However, we often measure how much we will receive. Prayer changes all this. Prayer changes everything. It opens up our capacity to receive, to receive the gifts God wants to give us.

We are the ones who break friendship with God. It is so ingrained in our nature to dodge His demands. God wants to work in us, but we don’t want it; we have “other interests” or else we want to control God and so the conflict begins. A divided heart settles within and we resist and rebel. 

But our God is a God of Mercy. He only interacts with us as Mercy, yet we want to turn and run from so great a gift! 

All we ever have to do is to turn to Him, a simple lifting up of the heart . . . a whispered prayer. . . “Father!”, and then the Reckless Mercy begins. It washes over us, pours into our soul, penetrates the heart, fills it with blessings and makes us new. And the good news is that He never tires of doing this.

“Souls should remember His words and see what he did with me; before I grew tired of offending Him, His Majesty began to pardon me. He never tires of giving, nor can He exhaust His mercies. Let us not tire of receiving. May he be blessed forever, amen. – and may all things praise Him.” (St. Teresa, Book of Her Life 19,15)

St. Teresa was overcome by the mercy that God showered on her. She discovered in His presence mercy both for herself and for all sinners. God is merciful and His mercy is reckless and this is beautifully expressed in the following prayer by St. Teresa.

O my God! Source of all mercy! I acknowledge Your sovereign power. While recalling the wasted years that are past, I believe that You, Lord, can in an instant turn this loss to gain. Miserable as I am, yet I firmly believe that You can do all things. Please restore to me the time lost, giving me Your grace, both now and in the future, that I may appear before You in “wedding garments.” Amen.

Read Full Post »

St. Teresa was no stranger to the experience of illnesses. She suffered some severe physical torments especially at the beginning of her adult life. At one point her illness at this time had become so intense that she remained insensible for four days. Everyone was expecting her to die, so she received the last Sacraments. They had even dug a grave for her in the monastery grave yard! However, she did recover from this and writes that she gained many graces from this particularly: patience in dealing with the illness, bearing with all of it without complaining, and the will to confess what she had done wrong, even venial sins.

sicknessShe then began to live a distracted life even while still suffering a variety of different illnesses, some severe others not so. She had given up prayer. Her father believed that the reason she had not been praying was because of her sicknesses. However, she writes in her autobiography that, “I saw clearly that there is no excuse for giving up prayer.” She told her father that it was all she could do to keep up with the choir duties. But she says, “ this was not sufficient cause to set aside something for which bodily strength is not necessary but only love and a habit; and the Lord always provides the opportunity if we desire.”

 Sometimes there are occasions or sicknesses which will prevent us from being able to have free hours for the solitude necessary for prayer. Nevertheless, “there is no lack of other time when we have the health for this.” She expounds further that a soul that loves can offer the sickness up, accepting what is happening and conforming the will to God’s. This is an act of love. “Prayer is an exercise of love, and it would be incorrect to think that if there is no time for solitude there is no prayer at all.” So even our illnesses can become prayer and transformed into an act of love.

There is never a good excuse for giving up prayer.

(The Book of Her Life, St. Teresa of Avila, ch 7)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »