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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Beautiful old prayer card of St. John of the Cross

Read St. John of the Cross' Works Online

 (St. John of the Cross imprisoned.)

A great site with the works of St. John of the Cross online:

LITANY OF ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS - for his Solemnity


Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us.
Queen and Beauty of Carmel, Pray for us.

Saint John of the Cross, Pray for us.
St. John, our glorious Father, Pray for us.
Beloved child of Mary, the Queen of Carmel, Pray for us.
Fragrant flower of the garden of Carmel, Pray for us.
Admirable possessor of the spirit of Elias, Pray for us.
Foundation stone of the Carmelite Reform, Pray for us.
Spiritual son, and beloved Father of St. Teresa, Pray for us.
Most vigilant in the practice of virtue, Pray for us.
Treasure of charity, Pray for us.
Abyss of humility, Pray for us.
Most perfect in obedience, Pray for us.
Invincible in patience, Pray for us.
Constant lover of poverty, Pray for us.
Dove of simplicity, Pray for us.
Thirsting for mortification, Pray for us.
Prodigy of holiness, Pray for us.
Mystical Doctor, Pray for us.
Model of contemplation, Pray for us.
Zealous preacher of the Word of God, Pray for us.
Worker of miracles, Pray for us.
Bringing joy and peace to souls, Pray for us.
Terror of devils, Pray for us.
Model of penance, Pray for us.
Faithful guardian of Christ's Vineyard, Pray for us.
Ornament and glory of Carmel, Pray for us.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world: Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world: Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world: Have mercy on us.

V. Holy Father Saint John of the Cross, pray for us:
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

O God, Who didst instill into the heart of Saint John of the Cross, Thy Confessor and our Father, a perfect spirit of self-abnegation, and a surpassing love of Thy Cross: grant, that assiduously following in his footsteps, we may attain to eternal glory. Through Christ Our Lord. R.  Amen.

Today is the Solemnity of St. John of the Cross

(St. John of the Cross painted by St. Therese's sister, Mother Agnes (Pauline)

Prayer to St. John of the Cross For His Intercession

O glorious St. John of the Cross, through a pure desire of being like Jesus crucified, you longed for nothing so eagerly as to suffer, to be despised, and to be made little of by all; and your thirst after sufferings was so burning that your noble heart rejoiced in the midst of the cruelest torments and afflictions. Grant, I beseech you, O dear Saint, by the glory which your many sufferings have gained for you, to intercede for me and obtain from God for me a love of suffering, together with strength and grace to bear with firmness of mind all the trials and adversities which are the sure means to the happy attainment of all that awaits me in heaven. Dear Saint, from your most happy place in glory, hear, I beseech you, my prayers, so that after your example, full of love for the cross I may deserve to be your companion in glory. Amen.

***This page,, has St. John of the Cross' full "The Living Flame of Love" online to read.

Favorite Quotes from St. John of the Cross

- If you do not learn to deny yourself, you can make no progress in perfection.
- Where there is no love, pour love in and you will draw love out.
- In detachment, the spirit finds quiet and repose for coveting nothing.

- To be taken with love for a soul, God does not look on its greatness, but the greatness of its humility.
- The Lord measures our perfection neither by the multitude nor the magnitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we   perform them.

- I wish I could persuade spiritual persons that the way of perfection does not consist in many devices, nor in much cogitation, but in denying themselves completely and yielding themselves to suffer everything for the love of Christ.
- Live in the world as if only God and your soul were in it; then your heart will never be made captive by any earthly thing.
- O you souls who wish to go on with so much safety and consolation, if you knew how pleasing to God is suffering, and how much it helps in acquiring other good things, you would never seek consolation in anything; but you would rather look upon it as a great happiness to bear the Cross of the Lord.
- In giving us His Son, His only Word, He spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word -- and He has no more to say ... because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son.
- God desires the smallest degree of purity of conscience in you more than all the works you can perform. 
- With what procrastinations do you wait, since from this very moment you can love God in your heart?



Born in Spain in 1542, John learned the importance of self-sacrificing love from his parents. His father gave up wealth, status, and comfort when he married a weaver's daughter and was disowned by his noble family. After his father died, his mother kept the destitute family together as they wandered homeless in search of work. These were the examples of sacrifice that John followed with his own great love -- God.

When the family finally found work, John still went hungry in the middle of the wealthiest city in Spain. At fourteen, John took a job caring for hospital patients who suffered from incurable diseases and madness. It was out of this poverty and suffering, that John learned to search for beauty and happiness not in the world, but in God.

After John joined the Carmelite order, Saint Teresa of Avila asked him to help her reform movement. John supported her belief that the order should return to its life of prayer. But many Carmelites felt threatened by this reform, and some members of John's own order kidnapped him. He was locked in a cell six feet by ten feet and beaten three times a week by the monks. There was only one tiny window high up near the ceiling. Yet in that unbearable dark, cold, and desolation, his love and faith were like fire and light. He had nothing left but God -- and God brought John his greatest joys in that tiny cell.

After nine months, John escaped by unscrewing the lock on his door and creeping past the guard. Taking only the mystical poetry he had written in his cell, he climbed out a window using a rope made of stirps of blankets. With no idea where he was, he followed a dog to civilization. He hid from pursuers in a convent infirmary where he read his poetry to the nuns. From then on his life was devoted to sharing and explaining his experience of God's love.

His life of poverty and persecution could have produced a bitter cynic. Instead it gave birth to a compassionate mystic, who lived by the beliefs that "Who has ever seen people persuaded to love God by harshness?" and "Where there is no love, put love -- and you will find love."

John left us many books of practical advice on spiritual growth and prayer that are just as relevant today as they were then. These books include:

Ascent of Mount Carmel
Dark Night of the Soul
and A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ

Since joy comes only from God, John believed that someone who seeks happiness in the world is like "a famished person who opens his mouth to satisfy himself with air." He taught that only by breaking the rope of our desires could we fly up to God. Above all, he was concerned for those who suffered dryness or depression in their spiritual life and offered encouragement that God loved them and was leading them deeper into faith.

"What more do you want, o soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfaction and kingdom -- your beloved whom you desire and seek? Desire him there, adore him there. Do not go in pursuit of him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and you won't find him, or enjoy him more than by seeking him within you." -- Saint John of the Cross

***This page,, has St. John of the Cross' full "The Living Flame of Love" online to read.

(St. John of the Cross with St. Teresa of Avila)

Early life and education

He was born Juan de Yepes y Álvarez[2] into a Jewish converso family in Fontiveros, near Ávila, a town of around 2,000 people.[3][4] His father, Gonzalo, was an accountant to richer relatives who were silk merchants. However, when in 1529 he married John's mother, Catalina, who was an orphan of a lower class, Gonzalo was rejected by his family and forced to work with his wife as a weaver.[5] John's father died in 1545, while John was still only around seven years old.[6] Two years later, John's older brother Luis died, probably as a result of insufficient nourishment caused by the penury to which John's family had been reduced. After this, John's mother Catalina took John and his surviving brother Francisco, and moved first in 1548 to Arevalo, and then in 1551 to Medina del Campo, where she  was able to find work weaving.[7][8]

In Medina, John entered a school for around 160[9] poor children, usually orphans, receiving a basic education, mainly in Christian doctrine, as well as some food, clothing, and lodging. While studying there, he was chosen to serve as acolyte at a nearby monastery of Augustinian nuns.[7] Growing up, John worked at a hospital and studied the humanities at a Jesuit school from 1559 to 1563; the Society of Jesus was a new organization at the time, having been founded only a few years earlier by the Spaniard St. Ignatius Loyola. In 1563[10] he entered the Carmelite Order, adopting the name John of St. Matthias.[7]

The following year (1564)[11] he professed his religious vows as a Carmelite and travelled to Salamanca, where he studied theology and philosophy at the prestigious University there (at the time one of the four biggest in Europe, alongside Paris, Oxford and Bologna) and at the Colegio de San Andrés. Some modern writers[citation needed] claim that this stay would influence all his later writings, as Fray Luis de León taught biblical studies (Exegesis, Hebrew and Aramaic) at the University: León was one of the foremost experts in Biblical Studies then and had written an important and controversial translation of the Song of Songs into Spanish. (Translation of the Bible into the vernacular was not allowed then in Spain.)

Joining the Reform of Teresa of Jesus

Statues representing John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, in Beas de Segura
John was ordained a priest in 1567, and then indicated his intent to join the strict Carthusian Order, which appealed to him because of its encouragement of solitary and silent contemplation. A journey from Salamanca to Medina del Campo, probably in September 1567, changed this.[12] In Medina he met the charismatic Carmelite nun, Teresa of Jesus. She was in Medina to found the second of her convents for women.[13] She immediately talked to him about her reformation projects for the Order: she was seeking to restore the purity of the Carmelite Order by restarting observance of its "Primitive Rule" of 1209, observance of which had been relaxed by Pope Eugene IV in 1432.

Under this Rule, much of the day and night was to be spent in the recitation of the choir offices, study and devotional reading, the celebration of Mass and times of solitude. For the friars, time was to be spent evangelizing the population around the monastery.[14] Total abstinence from meat and lengthy fasting was to be observed from the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14) until Easter. There were to be long periods of silence, especially between Compline and Prime. Coarser, shorter habits, more simple than those worn since 1432, were to be worn.[15] They were to follow the injunction against the wearing of shoes (also mitigated in 1432). It was from this last observance that the followers of Teresa among the Carmelites were becoming known as "discalced", i.e., barefoot, differentiating themselves from the non-reformed friars and nuns.
Teresa asked John to delay his entry into the Carthusians and to follow her.

Having spent a final year studying in Salamanca, in August 1568 John traveled with Teresa from Medina to Valladolid, where Teresa intended to found another monastery of nuns. Having spent some time with Teresa in Valladolid, learning more about this new form of Carmelite life, in October 1568, accompanied by Friar Antonio de Jesús de Heredia, John left Valladolid to found a new monastery for friars, the first for men following Teresa's principles. The were given the use of a derelict house at Duruelo (midway between Avila and Salamanca), which had been donated to Teresa. On 28 November 1568, the monastery,[16] was established, and on that same day John changed his name to John of the Cross.
Soon after, in June 1570, the friars found the house at Duruelo too small, and so moved to the nearby town of Mancera de Abajo. After moving on from this community, John set up a new community at Pastrana (October 1570), and a community at Alcalá de Henares, which was to be a house of studies for the academic training of the friars. In 1572[17] he arrived in Avila, at the invitation of Teresa, who had been appointed prioress of the Monastery of the Visitation there in 1571.[18] John become the spiritual director and confessor for Teresa and the other 130 nuns there, as well for as a wide range of laypeople in the city.[7] In 1574, John accompanied Teresa in the foundation of a new monastery in Segovia, returning to Avila after staying there a week. Beyond this, though, John seems to have remained in Avila between 1572 and 1577.[19]
Drawing of the crucifixion, by John of the Cross, which inspired Salvador Dali
One day at some point between 1574 and 1577, while praying in the monastery of the Incarnation in Ávila, in a loft overlooking the sanctuary, John had a vision of the crucified Christ, which led him to create his famous drawing of Christ "from above." In 1641 this drawing was placed in a small monstrance, and kept in Avila. This drawing inspired the artist Salvador Dali's 1951 work, Christ of Saint John of the Cross.

The height of Carmelite tensions

The years 1575-77, however, saw a great increase in the tensions among the Spanish Carmelite friars over the reforms of Teresa and John. Since 1566 the reforms had been overseen by Canonical Visitors from the Dominican Order, with one appointed to Castile and a second to Andalusia. These Visitors had substantial powers: they could move the members of religious communities from house to house and even province to province. They could assist religious superiors in their office, and could depute other superiors from either the Dominicans or Carmelites. In Castile, the Visitor was Pedro Fernández, who prudently balanced the interests of the Discalced Carmelites against those of the friars and nuns who did not desire reform.[20]

In Andalusia to the south, however, where the Visitor was Francisco Vargas, tensions rose due to his clear preference for the Discalced friars. Vargas asked them to make foundations in various cities, in explicit contradiction of orders from the Carmelite Prior General against their expansion in Andalusia. As a result, a General Chapter of the Carmelite Order was convened at Piacenza in Italy in May 1575, out of concern that events in Spain were getting out of hand, which concluded by ordering the total suppression of the Discalced houses.[7]
This measure was not immediately enforced. For one thing, King Philip II of Spain was supportive of some of Teresa’s reforms, and so was not immediately willing to grant the necessary permission to enforce this ordinance. Moreover the Discalced friars also found support from the papal nuncio to King Philip II, Nicolò Ormanetto, Bishop of Padua, who still had ultimate power as nuncio to visit and reform religious Orders. When asked by the Discalced friars to intervene, Ormanetto replaced Vargas as Visitor of the Carmelites in Andalusia (where the troubles had begun) with Jerónimo Gracián, a priest from the University of Alcalá, who was in fact a Discalced Carmelite friar himself.[7] The nuncio's protection helped John himself avoid problems for a time. In January 1576 John was arrested in Medina del Campo by some Carmelite friars.

However, through the nuncio's intervention, John was soon released.[7] When Ormanetto died on 18 June 1577, however, John was left without protection, and the friars opposing his reforms gained the upper hand.

Imprisonment, writings, torture, death and recognition

On the night of 2 December 1577, a group of Carmelites opposed to reform broke into John’s dwelling in Avila, and took him prisoner.

El Greco's landscape of Toledo depicts the Priory in which John was held captive, just below the old Muslim Alcazar and perched on the banks of the Tajo on high cliffsJohn had received an order from some of his superiors, opposed to reform, ordering him to leave Avila and return to his original house, but John had refused on the basis that his reform work had been approved by the Spanish Nuncio, a higher authority than these superiors.[21] The Carmelites therefore took John captive. John was taken from Avila to the Carmelite monastery in Toledo, at that time the Order's most important monastery in Castile, where perhaps 40 friars lived.[22][23] 
John was brought before a court of friars, accused of disobeying the ordinances of Piacenza. Despite John's argument that he had not disobeyed the ordinances, he received a punishment of imprisonment. He was jailed in the monastery, where he was kept under a brutal regimen that included public lashing before the community at least weekly, and severe isolation in a tiny stifling cell measuring ten feet by six feet, barely large enough for his body. Except when rarely permitted an oil lamp, he had to stand on a bench to read his breviary by the light through the hole into the adjoining room. He had no change of clothing and a penitential diet of water, bread and scraps of salt fish.[24] During this imprisonment, he composed a great part of his most famous poem Spiritual Canticle, as well as a few shorter poems. The paper was passed to him by the friar who guarded his cell.[25] He managed to escape nine months later, on 15 August 1578, through a small window in a room adjoining his cell. (He had managed to pry the cell door off its hinges earlier that day).
After being nursed back to health, first with Teresa's nuns in Toledo, and then during six weeks at the Hospital of Santa Cruz,[26] John continued with reform. In October 1578 he joined a meeting at Almodovar del Campo of the supporters of reform, increasingly known as the Discalced Carmelites. There, in part as a result of the opposition faced from other Carmelites in recent years, they decided to demand from the Pope their formal separation from the rest of the Carmelite Order.[7]

At this meeting John was appointed superior of El Calvario, an isolated monastery of around thirty friars in the mountains about 6 miles away[27] from Beas in Andalucia. During this time he befriended the nun Ana de Jesús, superior of the Discalced nuns at Beas, through his visits every Saturday to the town. While at El Calvario he composed his first version of his commentary on his poem, The Spiritual Canticle, perhaps at the request of the nuns in Beas.
In 1579 he moved to Baeza, a town of around 50,000 people, to serve as rector of a new college, the Colegio de San Basilio, to support the studies of Discalced friars in Andalucia. This opened on 13 June 1579, and he remained there until 1582, spending much of his time as a spiritual director for the friars and townspeople.

1580 was an important year in the resolution of the disputes within the Carmelites. On 22 June, Pope Gregory XIII signed a decree, titled Pia Consideratione, which authorised a separation between the Calced and Discalced Carmelites. The Dominican friar, Juan Velázquez de las Cuevas, was appointed to carry out the decisions. At the first General Chapter of the Discalced Carmelites, in Alcalá de Henares on 3 March 1581, John of the Cross was elected one of the ‘Definitors’ of the community, and wrote a set of constitutions for them.[28] By the time of the Provincial Chapter at Alcalá in 1581, there were 22 houses, some 300 friars and 200 nuns in the Discalced Carmelites.[29]

Saint John of the Cross' shrine and reliquary, Convent of Carmelite Friars, Segovia
Reliquary of John of the Cross in Úbeda, Spain
In November 1581 John was sent by Teresa to help Ana de Jesus in founding a convent in Granada. Arriving in January 1582, she set up a monastery of nuns, while John stayed in the friars' monastery of Los Martires, beside the Alhambra, becoming its prior in March 1582.[30] While here, he learned of the death of Teresa in October of that year.

In February 1585, John travelled to Malaga and established a monastery of Discalced nuns there. In May 1585, at the General Chapter of the Discalced Carmelites in Lisbon, John was elected Provincial Vicar of Andalusia, a post which required him to travel frequently, making annual visitations of the houses of friars and nuns in Andalusia. During this time he founded seven new monasteries in the region, and is estimated to have travelled around 25,000 km.[31]

In June 1588, he was elected third Councillor to the Vicar General for the Discalced Carmelites, Father Nicolas Doria. To fulfill this role, he had to return to Segovia in Castile, where in this capacity he was also prior of the monastery. After disagreeing in 1590-1 with some of Doria's remodeling of the leadership of the Discalced Carmelite Order, though, John was removed from his post in Segovia, and sent by Doria in June 1591 to an isolated monastery in Andalusia called La Peñuela. There he fell ill, and traveled to the monastery at Úbeda for treatment. His condition worsened, however, and he died there on 14 December 1591, of erysipelas.[7]


The morning after John’s death, huge numbers of the townspeople of Úbeda entered the monastery to view John’s body; in the crush, many were able to take home parts of his habit. He was initially buried at Úbeda, but, at the request of the monastery in Segovia, his body was secretly moved there in 1593. The people of Úbeda, however, unhappy at this change, sent representative to petition the pope to move the body back to its original resting place. Pope Clement VIII, impressed by the petition, issued a Brief on 15 October 1596 ordering the return of the body to Ubeda. Eventually, in a compromise, the superiors of the Discalced Carmelites decided that the monastery at Úbeda would receive one leg and one arm of the corpse from Segovia (the monastery at Úbeda had already kept one leg in 1593, and the other arm had been removed as the corpse passed through Madrid in 1593, to form a relic there). A hand and a leg remain visible in a reliquary at the Oratory of San Juan de la Cruz in Úbeda, a monastery built in 1627 though connected to the original Discalced monastery in the town founded in 1587.[32]

The head and torso was retained by the monastery at Segovia. There, they were venerated until 1647, when on orders from Rome designed to prevent the veneration of remains without official approval, the remains were buried in the ground. In the 1930s they were disinterred, and now sit in a side chapel in a marble case above a special altar built in that decade.[32]

Proceedings to beatify John began with the gathering of information on his life between 1614 and 1616, although he was only beatified in 1675 by Pope Clement X, and was canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726. When his feast day was added to the General Roman Calendar in 1738, it was assigned to 24 November, since his date of death was impeded by the then-existing octave of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.[33] This obstacle was removed in 1955 and in 1969 Pope Paul VI moved it to the dies natalis (birthday to heaven) of the saint, 14 December.[34] The Church of England commemorates him as a "Teacher of the Faith" on the same date. In 1926, he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI.

Editions of his works

His writings were first published in 1618 by Diego de Salablanca. The numerical divisions in the work, still used by modern editions of the text, were introduced by Salablanca (they were not in John's original writings), in order to help make the work more manageable for the reader.[7] This edition does not contain the ‘’Spiritual Canticle’’, however, and also omits or adapts certain passages, perhaps for fear of falling foul of the Inquisition.

The ‘’Spiritual Canticle’’ was first included in the 1630 edition, produced by Fray Jeronimo de San Jose, at Madrid. This edition was largely followed by later editors, although editions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries gradually included a few more poems and letters.[35]

St. John of the Cross

Literary works

St. John of the Cross is considered one of the foremost poets in the Spanish language. Although his complete poems add up to fewer than 2500 verses, two of them—the Spiritual Canticle and The Dark Night of the Soul are widely considered masterpieces of Spanish poetry, both for their formal stylistic point of view and their rich symbolism and imagery. His theological works often consist of commentaries on these poems. All the works were written between 1578 and his death in 1591, meaning there is great consistency in the views presented in them.

The poem The Spiritual Canticle, is an eclogue in which the bride (representing the soul) searches for the bridegroom (representing Jesus Christ), and is anxious at having lost him; both are filled with joy upon reuniting. It can be seen as a free-form Spanish version of the Song of Songs at a time when translations of the Bible into the vernacular were forbidden. The first 31 stanzas of the poem were composed in 1578 while John was imprisoned in Toledo. It was read after his escape by the nuns at Beas, who made copies of these stanzas. Over the following years, John added some extra stanzas. Today, two versions exist: one with 39 stanzas and one with 40, although with some of the stanzas ordered differently. The first redaction of the commentary on the poem was written in 1584, at the request of Madre Ana de Jesus, when she was prioress of the Discalced Carmelite nuns in Granada. A second redaction, which contains more detail, was written in 1585-6.[7]

The Dark Night (from which the spiritual term takes its name) narrates the journey of the soul from her bodily home to her union with God. It happens during the night, which represents the hardships and difficulties she meets in detachment from the world and reaching the light of the union with the Creator. There are several steps in this night, which are related in successive stanzas. The main idea of the poem can be seen as the painful experience that people endure as they seek to grow in spiritual maturity and union with God. The poem of this title was likely written in 1578 or 1579. In 1584-5, John wrote a commentary on the first two stanzas and first line of the third stanza of the poem.[7]

The Ascent of Mount Carmel is a more systematic study of the ascetical endeavour of a soul looking for perfect union, God, and the mystical events happening along the way. Although it begins as a commentary on the poem ‘’The Dark Night’’, it rapidly drops this format, having commented on the first two stanzas of the poem, and becomes a treatise. It was composed sometime between 1581 and 1585.[7]

A four stanza work, Living Flame of Love describes a greater intimacy, as the soul responds to God's love. It was written in a first redaction at Granada between 1585-6, apparently in two wToday is the Solemnity of St. John of the Cross seeks,[7] and in a mostly identical second redaction at La Penuela in 1591.

These, together with his Dichos de Luz y Amor, or "Sayings of Light and Love," and St. Teresa's writings, are the most important mystical works in Spanish, and have deeply influenced later spiritual writers all around the world. Among these can be named T. S. Eliot, Thérèse de Lisieux, Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), and Thomas Merton. John has also influenced philosophers (Jacques Maritain), theologians (Hans Urs von Balthasar), pacifists (Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan, and Philip Berrigan) and artists (Salvador Dalí). Pope John Paul II wrote his theological dissertation on the mystical theology of Saint John of the Cross.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

May all have a blessed and fruitful Advent!

Advent - 3rd Day

"As the deer longs for the source
of living water.
So to you, Lord, I fly and I'm coming."

Monday, December 3, 2012

"Say Merry Christmas" - Don't shop at stores that don't say "Merry Christmas" or try to erase Christ from Christmas!!

Download your FREE Sheet Music at and together we can make 'Say Merry Christmas' the biggest Christmas song of all time. Also available on iTunes and Amazon.

Besides not shopping there, do take time and tell the staff, manager, owner WHY you are NOT shopping there!  Perhaps if it hurts their pockets, they will rethink their actions!

Saturday, December 1, 2012


The Visitation Order founded by St. Jane de Chantal and St. Francis de Sales is very close to Carmel.  St. Therese when she lived at home, and perhaps in Carmel, read the writings of St. Francis de Sales.  Her "Little Way" is almost identical to St. Francis' writings as he too taught a "little way".  Also, St. Therese's blood sister, Leonie, entered the Visitation monastery in Caen, France and became Sr. Francois Therese (Therese after her sister, St. Therese).  So it is not strange to put some of the Visitation order's saints and their writings on a blog all about Carmel!


Our Advent series this year will focus on the Advent prayers , reflections and experiences of various Visitation Sisters, both our mystics as well as other members of  of the Visitation Order of Holy Mary.

We begin with newly declared Venerable Sister Maria Margit Bogner, VHM of Erd, Hungary (1905-1933) whose Cause for beatification is in process. In a private audience this past June 2012, with prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, Pope Benedict XVI approved the “heroic virtue” of  Servant of God Maria Margit Bogner.

 Sister Maria Margit  lived the liturgical seasons fully, both interiorly and in community. Her interior reflections and prayers were manifested in her diaries and other journal writings. We take these excerpts from the book “Une Tombe Pres du Danube”by Elemer Csavossy SJ, in French, translated by the current blogger.

Sister Maria Margit’s ardor grew throughout Advent. She also prayed in conjunction so very intimately with the Blessed Mother and wrote,
 “O Blessed Virgin, I am close to you, I press up against you in silence, without uttering a word. It is Advent. Our heart quivers. My Mother, I take refuge with you, this Advent is also for me a true Advent, you know it. Put your hand on my heart, o holy Virgin. Do you feel it? Isn’t it so, this poor machine will not be able to go well much farther, anymore? My holy Mother, I wait with you. We listen to the palpitations of His Heart. However, O Holy Virgin, I die of desire to really hold Him in my arms with you. My Holy Mother, forgive my boldness, I am dust, I know it, but I am driven irresistibly; I ardently desire His arrival in me. I would hold him tightly in my arms, to protect him from all offenses, to delight Him with my love, to avoid the wounds caused by the coldness of hearts. May he listen to the soft murmur of my lips, the ardent quivering of my heart! O my little Jesus, I beg you, look at me, plunge your eyes in mine! I cover them with kisses, in order to hide from them all that could cause you sorrow. Sleep, Jesus. I, during this time, will beg for you the love of hearts. I will ask of them that they will let themselves be filled with your graces, to receive your spirit so that you can come back to life in them.”(page 77)

The depth of intimacy in this Advent prayer is incredibly profound, the imagery so tangible, her humanity so prominent.She has the simplicity of a child, as well as  a childlike boldness.She states her union with the Blessed Mother; together they await the birth of the infant Jesus, listening.

What Sr. Maria Margit has, she shares and wants to build in others. So the circle of her concern and love widens from the profound intimacy with the Blessed Mother to all.

Suggestion: Pray Venerable Maria Margit’s Advent prayer today!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Prayer to Infant of Prague

St. Andrew's Christmas Novena 11/30 to 12/25

From the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle to the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ one may begin a special prayer, simply called the "Christmas Prayer" to obtain favors if one's requests are in accordance with God's will. 

It is believed that whoever recites the following prayer with a pious heart15 times a day from November 30th (this year December 1) to December 25th, will obtain whatever is asked. 

This Christmas prayer carries an Imprimatur from Archbishop Michael Augustine of New York City during the Pontificate of Pope Leo XIII on February 6, 1897. Since one should say this short prayer 15 times a day, it is recommended to memorize it below so you can say it wherever you are or clip the prayer card below and insert in your missal, Divine Office book or put on your bathroom mirror or wherever you would see it the most. 

Part 5 LIfe of St. Teresa of Avila by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

13. Spread of the Reform 

Again, it was the burning desire for the salvation of souls that led Teresa to new action. One day a Franciscan from the missions visited her and told her about the sad spiritual and moral condition of people in heathen lands. Shaken, she withdrew into her hermitage in the garden. “I cried to the Savior, I pleaded with him for the means of winning souls for him because the evil enemy robs him of so many. I asked him to help himself a little by my prayers, because that was all I could offer him.” After petitioning like this for many days, the Lord appeared to her and spoke the comforting words, “Wait a little while, my daughter, and you will see great things.” Six months later came the fulfillment of this promise.
In the spring of the year 1567 she received the news of an upcoming visit to Spain by the Carmelite General, Giovanni Battista Rossi (Rubeo). “This was something most unusual. The generals of our order always have been situated in Rome. None had ever come to Spain before.” The nun who had left her monastery and founded a new one had reason to be afraid of the arrival of her highest superior. He had the power to destroy her work. With the consent of the bishop of Avila who had jurisdiction of her house, Teresa invited the General to visit. He came, and Teresa gave him a completely candid account of the entire history of the foundation. What he saw convinced him of the spirit that ruled in this little monastery and he was moved to tears. It was evident that here was a perfect realization of the goal for which he had come to Spain. He was considering a reform of the entire Order, a return to the old traditions, but he had not risked proceeding as radically as Teresa. King Philip II had called him to Spain to renew discipline in the monasteries of his land. He had found little friendly reception in other places. Now he confided his concerns to Teresa. For her part, she responded with love and with a daughter’s trust. When he departed from Avila, he left Teresa with permits to found additional women’s monasteries of the reform. All of these monasteries were to be directly under the general. No provincial was to have the right to hinder their foundation or to involve himself in their affairs. When he returned to Madrid, Fr. Rubeo spoke enthusiastically to the king about Teresa and her work. Philip II asked for her prayers and those of her daughters, and was from then on the most powerful friend and protector of the reform. 

After returning to Rome, the Father General gave the saint even more power: to found two monasteries for men according to the Primitive Rule if she could obtain the permission of the present provincial and that of his predecessor. This permission was obtained for her by the bishop of Avila, who himself had been the first to express the wish for monasteries of friars of the reform. Teresa now found herself in an unusual position. Instead of a quiet little monastery to which she could retreat with a few selected souls, she was now to found an entire order for men and women. “And only a poor, unshod Carmelite was there to accomplish this, even though furnished with permits and the best wishes, but without any means for initiating the work and without any other support than that of the Lord....”(46) But this support sufficed. Before long, what was most important for a monastery of men appeared: the first friars. While she was making the first foundation for nuns in Medina del Campo, the prior of the Carmelite monastery of the mitigated rule there, Fr. Antonio de Heredia, energetically stood by Teresa’s side. When she told him of her plan, he declared himself ready to be the first male discalced Carmelite. Teresa was surprised and not absolutely happy, because she did not fully credit him with having the strength to sustain the Primitive Rule. However, he stayed firm in his decision. A few days later, a companion for him appeared who was most satisfactory to the saint: a young Carmelite at that time called John of St. Matthias, who from his early youth had lived a life of prayer and the strictest self-denial. He had gained the permission of his superior to follow the Primitive Rule personally. Not satisfied with this, he was thinking of becoming a Carthusian. Teresa persuaded him, instead, to become the living cornerstone of the Carmelite Order of the Primitive Rule.
Some time later a little house in Duruelo, a hamlet between Avila and Medina del Campo, was offered to her for the planned foundation. It was in miserable condition, but neither Teresa nor the two fathers were taken aback by it. Fr. Antonio still needed some time to end his priorship and put all his affairs in order. In the meantime, Fr. John joined Holy Mother to acquaint himself with the spirit and rule of life of the reform under her personal direction. On September 20, 1568 he went to Duruelo, having been clothed by Teresa in the habit of the reform, which she herself had made for him. As the Holy Mother had anticipated, he divided the single room of the pitiful little hut into two cells, an attic room into the choir, a vestibule into a chapel where he celebrated the first Mass the next morning. Soon he was considered a saint by the peasants in the neighborhood. On November 27, Fr. Antonio joined him. Together they now committed themselves to the Primitive Rule and changed their names. From then on they were called Anthony of Jesus and John of the Cross. 

A few months later the Holy Mother could visit them and get to know their way of life. She says about this: "I came there during Lent in the year 1569. It was morning. Father Antonio in his always cheerful mood was sweeping the doorway to the church. “What does this mean, my father,” I said, “and where is your self-respect?” ...”Oh, cursed be the time when I paid attention to that,” he answered chuckling. I went into the chapel and was seized by the spirit of fervor and poverty with which God had filled it. I was not the only one so moved. Two merchants with whom I was friendly and who had accompanied me from Medina del Campo looked at the house with me. They could only weep. There were crosses and skulls everywhere. I will never forget a little wooden cross over a holy water font to which an image of the Savior had been glued. This image was made of simple paper; however, it flooded me with more devotion than if it had been very valuable and beautifully made. The choir, once an attic room, was raised in the middle so that the fathers could comfortably pray the Office. But one still had to bow deeply when entering. At both sides of the church, there were two little hermitages where they could only sit or lie down and even so their heads would touch the roof. The floor was so damp that they had to put straw on it. I learned that the fathers, instead of going to sleep after matins, retreated to these little hermitages and meditated there until prime. In fact, they once were praying in such recollection that when snow fell on them through the slats in the roof, they did not notice it at all, and returned to the choir without it occurring to them even to shake their robes. 

Duruelo was the cradle of the male branch of the reformed Carmel. It spread vigorously from there, always directed by the Holy Mother’s prayer and illuminating suggestions, but nevertheless relatively independent. The humble little John of the Cross, the great saint of the church, inspired it with the spirit. But he was entirely a person of prayer, of penance. Others took on the external direction. Besides Fr. Antonio, there were the enthusiastic Italians, Fr. Mariano and Fr. Nicolás Doria. But, above all, the most faithful support for the Holy Mother during her last years was, as she was convinced, the choice instrument of the reform, the youthful, brilliantly gifted Fr. Jerónimo Gracián of the Mother of God. 

Teresa herself had hardly any time for quiet monastic life after she left the peace of St. Joseph’s upon founding the first daughter house in Medina del Campo. She was called now here, now there, to establish new houses of the reform. Despite her always fragile health and increasing age, she indefatigably undertook the most difficult journeys as often as the Lord’s service required. Everywhere there were hard battles to endure: Sometimes there were difficulties with the spiritual and civil authorities; sometimes, the lack of a suitable house and the basic necessities of life; sometimes, disagreements with upper class founders who made impossible demands of the monasteries. When finally all obstacles had been overcome and everything organized so that the true life of Carmel could begin, she who had done it all had, without pause, to move on to new tasks. The only consolation she had was that a new garden was blooming for the Lord to enjoy. 

14. Prioress at the Monastery of the Incarnation 

While the spiritual gardens of Mother Teresa were spreading their lovely fragrance over all of Spain, the Monastery of the Incarnation, her former home, was in a sad state. Income had not increased in proportion to the number of nuns, and since they were used to living comfortably and not (as in the reformed Carmel) to finding their greatest joy in holy poverty, discontent and slackening of spirit spread. In the year 1570, Fr. Fernández of the Order of St. Dominic came to this house. He was the apostolic visitator entrusted by Pope Pius V with examining the disciplinary state of monasteries in Castile. Since he had already become thoroughly acquainted with some monasteries of the reform, the contrast must have shocked him. He thought of a radical remedy. By the authority of his position, he named Mother Teresa as prioress of the Monastery of the Incarnation and ordered her to return to Avila at once to assume her position. In the midst of her work for the reform, she now had to undertake the task that for all intents and purposes appeared impossible. Exhorted by the Lord himself, she declared her readiness. However, with the agreement of Fr. Fernández, she gave a written statement that she personally would continue to follow the Primitive Rule. One can imagine the vehement indignation of the nuns who were to have a prioress sent to them one not elected by them a sister of theirs who had left them eight years earlier and whom they considered as an adventuress, a mischief-maker. The storm broke as the provincial led her into the house. Fr. Angel de Salazar could not make himself heard in the noisy gathering. The “Te Deum” that he intoned was drowned out by the sounds of indignation. Teresa’s goodness and humility finally brought about enough quiet for the sisters to go to their cells and to tolerate her presence in the house. 

They were saving the decisive declarations for the first chapter meeting. But how amazed they were when they entered the chapter room at the sound of the bell to see in the prioress’ seat the statue of our dear Lady, the Queen of Carmel, with the keys to the monastery in her hands and the new prioress at her feet. Their hearts were conquered even before Teresa began to speak and in her indisputably loving manner presented to them how she conceived of and intended to conduct her office. In a short time, under her wise and temperate direction, above all by the influence of her character and conduct, the spirit of the house was renewed. Her greatest support in this was Fr. John of the Cross, whom she called to Avila as confessor for the monastery. 

This time of greatest expenditure of energy when Teresa, along with being prioress of the Monastery of the Incarnation, retained the spiritual direction of her eight reformed monasteries, was also a time of the greatest attestation of grace. At that time she had a vision which she herself described as a “spiritual marriage.” On November 18, 1572, the Lord appeared to her during Holy Communion. “He offered me his right hand and spoke, ‘See this nail. It is the sign of our union. From this day on you are my bride. Up to now you had not earned it. But now you will not only see me as your Creator, your King, your God, but from now on you will care for my honor as my true bride. My honor is yours; your glory is mine.’” From that moment on, she found herself united blissfully with the Lord, a union which remained with her for the entire last decade of her life, her own life mortified, “full of the inexpressible joy of having found her true rest, and of the sense that Jesus Christ was living in her.”(47) She characterized as the first result of this union “such a complete forgetfulness of self that it truly seems as if this soul had lost its own being. It no longer recognizes itself. It no longer thinks about heaven for itself, about life, about honor. The only thing she cares about any longer is the honor of God.” The second result is an inner desire for suffering, a desire, however, that no longer disturbs her soul as earlier. She desires with such fervor that God’s will be fulfilled in her that everything which pleases the divine Master seems good to her. If he wants her to suffer, she is happy; if he does not, his will be done.
But the following surprised me the most. This soul whose life has been martyrdom, because of her strong desire to enjoy the vision of God, has now become so consumed by the wish to serve him, to glorify his name, and to be useful to other souls that, far from wishing to die, she would like to live for many years in the greatest suffering.... 

In this soul there is no more interior pain and no more dryness, but only a sweet and constant joy. Should she for a short time be less attentive to the presence of God, he himself immediately awakens her. He works to bring her to complete perfection and imparts his doctrines in a completely hidden way in the midst of such a deep peace that it reminds me of the building of Solomon’s temple. Actually, the soul becomes the temple of God where only God alone and the soul mutually delight in each other in greatest quiet. 

15. Doing Battle for Her Life’s Work 

The greatest grace that can befall a soul was probably necessary to strengthen the saint for the storm that was soon to break over the reform. Even during her term as prioress, she had to resume her journeys of foundation and leave a vicaress in charge in Avila. At the end of her years as prioress it was only with some effort that she stopped the nuns from re-electing her. Those who had so struggled against her assuming the position clung to her with such great love. Her humility and goodness, her superior intelligence and wise moderation in this case had been able to bridge the rift between the “calced” and the “discalced.” Her spiritual sons were not so lucky. They had founded new monasteries in addition to the two for which the general of the Order, Fr. Rubeo, had previously given Teresa authorization. They had the permission of the apostolic visitator from Andalusia, Fr. Vargas, but no arrangement with the Order’s superiors. Their extraordinary penances (which often caused the saint herself concern) and their zeal soon aroused the admiration of the people. This, along with the evident preference for the monasteries of the reform on the part of the apostolic visitator, made those not of the reform fear they themselves would soon be pushed entirely into the background, even that the reform might be imposed on the entire Order. Their envoys turned the general in Rome completely against the discalced as disobedient and as agitators. To suppress their “revolt,” Fr. Tostado, a Portuguese Carmelite with special authority, was sent to Spain. A clash between the two branches of the Order ensued, which must have filled the heart of the humble and peace-loving Holy Mother with the greatest pain. In addition, it appeared that her entire work was threatened. She herself was called “a gadabout” by the new papal nuncio in Spain, “disobedient, ambitious, who presumes to teach others like a doctor of the church despite the prohibition of Saint Paul.” She was ordered to choose one of the reformed monasteries as her permanent residence and to make no further trips. How grateful she would have been for the quiet in the monastery of Toledo which Fr. Gracián suggested to her, had there not been such a hostile design behind the command! All the monasteries of the reform were prohibited from taking in novices, condemning them to extinction. Her beloved sons were reviled and persecuted. Fr. John of the Cross, who had always kept himself far from all conflict, was even secretly abducted and kept in humiliating confinement in the monastery of the “calced” in Toledo. He was cruelly abused until the Blessed Virgin, his protectress since childhood, miraculously freed him. In this storm that finally made everyone lose courage, the Holy Mother alone stood erect. Together with her daughters, she stormed heaven. She was indefatigable in encouraging her sons with letters and advice, in calling her friends for help, in presenting the true circumstances to the Father. General who had once been so good to her, in appealing for protection from her most powerful patron, the king. And finally she arrived at the solution that she recommended as the only possible one: the complete separation of the calced from the discalced Carmelites into two provinces. The Congregation of Religious in Rome had been occupied with the unfortunate conflict for a long time. A well- informed cardinal, whom Pope Gregory XIII questioned concerning the state of affairs, responded, “The Congregation has thoroughly investigated all the complaints of the Carmelites of the Mitigated Rule. It comes down to the following: Those with the Mitigated Rule fear that the reform will finally reform them also.” The pope then decided that the monasteries of Carmelite friars and nuns of the reform were to constitute a province of their own under a provincial chosen by them. A brief dated June 27, 1580 announced this decision. In March of 1581, the chapter of Alcalá elected Fr. Jerónimo Gracián as its first provincial in accordance with the wishes of the Holy Mother. 

16. The End 

Teresa greeted the end of the years of suffering with overflowing thanks. “God alone knew in full about the bitterness, and now only he alone knows of the boundless joy that fills my soul, as I see the end of these many torments. I wish the whole world would thank God with me! Now we are all at peace, calced and discalced Carmelites, and nothing is to stop us from serving God. Now then, my brothers and sisters, let us hurry to offer ourselves up for the honor of the divine Master who has heard our prayers so well.” During the short span of time still given to her, she herself sacrificed her final strength for new journeys to make foundations. The erection of the monastery in Burgos, the last one that she brought to life, cost her much effort and time. She had left Avila on January 2, 1582 to go there. It was July before she could begin the trip home, but she was not to reach the desired goal any more. After she had visited a number of other monasteries of the nuns, Fr. Antonio of Jesus brought her to Alba to comply with a wish of the Duchess María Henríquez, the great patroness of that monastery. Completely exhausted, Teresa arrived on September 20. According to a number of witnesses, she had predicted some years earlier that she would die at this place and at this time. Even though the attending physician saw her condition as hopeless, she continued to take part in all the monastic exercises until September 29. Then she had to lie down. On October 2, in accordance with her wish, Fr. Antonio heard her last confession. On the third she requested Viaticum. An eyewitness gave this report: “At the moment when the Blessed Sacrament was brought into her cell, the Holy Mother raised herself without anyone’s help and got on her knees. She would even have gotten out of her bed if she had not been prevented. Her expression was very beautiful and radiated divine love. With a lively expression of joy and piety, she spoke such exalted divine words to the Lord that we were all filled with great devotion.” During the day she repeated again and again the words from the “Miserere” (Psalm 51): “Cor contritum et humiliatum, Deus, no despicies” (a broken and contrite heart, God, you will not despise). In the evening she requested to be anointed. Concerning her last day, October 4, we again have an eyewitness account by Sr. María of St. Francis: 

"On the morning of the feast of St. Francis, at about 7 o’clock, our Holy Mother turned on her side toward the nuns, a crucifix in her hand, her expression more beautiful, more glowing, than I had ever seen it during her life. I do not know how her wrinkles disappeared, since the Holy Mother, in view of her great age and her continual suffering, had very deep ones. She remained in this position in prayer full of deep peace and great repose. Occasionally she gave some outward sign of surprise or amazement. But everything proceeded in great repose. It seemed as if she were hearing a voice which she answered. Her facial expression was so wondrously changed that it looked like a celestial body to us. Thus immersed in prayer, happy and smiling, she went out of this world into eternal life."
The wondrous events that occurred at the Saint’s burial, the incorrupt state of her body that was determined by repeated disinterments, the numerous miracles that she worked during her life and then really in earnest after her death, the enthusiastic devotion of the entire Spanish people for their saint all of this led to the initiation of the investigations preparatory to her canonization, already in the year 1595. Paul V declared her blessed in a brief on April 24, 1614. Her canonization by Gregory XV followed on March 22, 1622. Her feast day was designated as October 15, because the ten days after her death were dropped (October 5-14, 1582) due to the Gregorian calendar reform.
Luis de León(48) said of Teresa: “I neither saw nor knew the saint during her lifetime. But today, albeit she is in heaven, I know her and see her in her two living reflections, that is, in her daughters and in her writings....” Actually, there are few saints as humanly near to us as our Holy Mother. Her writings, which she penned as they came to her, in obedience to the order of her confessor, wedged between all of her burdens and work, serve as classical masterpieces of Spanish literature. In incomparably clear, simple and sincere language they tell of the wonders of grace that God worked in a chosen soul. They tell of the indefatigable efforts of a woman with the daring and strength of a man, revealing natural intelligence and heavenly wisdom, a deep knowledge of human nature and a rich spirit’s innate sense of humor, the infinite love of a heart tender as a bride’s and kind as a mother’s. The great family of religious(49) that she founded, all who have been given the enormous grace of being called her sons and daughters, look up with thankful love to their Holy Mother and have no other desire than to be filled by her spirit, to walk hand in hand with her the way of perfection to its goal.
Life and Work of St. Teresa of Jesus
1. [In fact, recent studies have shown that Teresa was of Jewish ancestry; see Teofanes Egido, “The Historical Setting of St. Teresa’s Life,” Carmelite Studies 1 (1980): 122-182. Throughout this essay, Edith Stein writes in light of the historical data available to her at the time. Some minor corrections (of dates, etc.) have been inserted into the text of this translation, but the basic presentation remains as she wrote it. Tr.]
2. [According to recent research, the dedication of the chapel of the Monastery of the Incarnation took place in the same year (1515) as Teresa’s birth, but not on the same day; see Efrén de la Madre de Dios and Otger Steggink, Tiempo y Vida de Santa Teresa, 2d ed. (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1977), pp. 22-25, 90. Tr.]
3. Throughout this essay, Edith Stein quotes from a comparatively free German translation of Teresa’s works available to her, and ordinarily without references. Here, for the convenience of the reader, we have used the ICS translations of the corresponding passages, with appropriate references, whenever these could be located and did not substantially alter Edith Stein’s line of thought or the meaning of the quotation in German. These texts may be found in The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez, vols. 1-3 (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1976- 1985). The following system of abbreviations is used: Foundations = Book of Foundations; Life = Book of Her Life; IC = Interior Castle; Way = Way of Perfection; Testimonies = Spiritual Testimonies. For the first four works, the Arabic numerals indicate the chapter and section number from which the quotation was taken. The Interior Castle is also divided into seven “dwelling places,” indicated by a Roman numeral. Thus a passage marked “IC, 3, 2, 1” would be taken from the first section of the second chapter in the third “dwelling place” of the Interior Castle. Tr.]
4. According to the saint. Fourteen in the latest research. [Ed.]
5. In particular in her Life, Way of Perfection, and Interior Castle. The references cited so far are from her Life. However, it is recommended that the reader who has not yet dealt with spiritual writings begin with the Way of Perfection. The presentation of the Our Father contained in it is a model example of contemplative prayer.
6. Oettingen-Spieberg, Geschichte der hl. Teresia [Biography of St Teresa], Regensberg: Habbel, vol. I, p. 313f.
7. Probably an error by Edith Stein. The provincial at that time was Fr. Gregorio Fernández (1559-1561). Fr. Angel de Salazar was prior in Avila in 1541. He was provincial from 1551-1553. [Ed.]
8. It is said that our Holy Mother at first wore sandals that left the feet uncovered, as our friars still do today. It was only when her dainty foot was admired once during a trip that she introduced hempen sandals called “alpargatas.” [Ed.]
9. See note 8. [Ed.]
10. After she had discovered and tested the most appropriate regimen in living with her daughters, she wrote her “constitutions,” which except for a few minor changes today continue to contain the valid rules of her order. They are contained in her writings. [See Collected Works of St. Teresa, vol. 3, pp. 319-333. Tr.]
11. See note 8. [Ed.]
12. Interior Castle, seventh dwelling places, chap. 3. [The text does not appear in precisely this form in the ICS translation. Tr.]
13. A learned Augustinian who published the first printed edition of Teresa’s writings (1588).
14. At her death Teresa left behind fourteen male and sixteen female monasteries of the reform. Soon thereafter the Order spread to France. Today it is established all over the world. A great number of lay people are united with it by the Secular Order and the Scapular Fraternity. The Teresian Prayer Organization (at the Carmelite Monastery in Würzburg) assembles everyone who wants to intercede for the needs of the Holy Church and the Holy Father into a great prayer army, and lets them participate in all the good works of the Carmelite order.

Part 4 LIfe of St. Teresa of Avila by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

10. New Tests 

The first difficulty arose from her own ignorance of mystical theology. In her deep humility, she could not imagine how an unworthy person (as in her opinion she was) could be so richly laden with such extraordinary favors. Of course, as long as the favors during prayer lasted she could not doubt their authenticity. But in between she was plagued by fears that these mystical states were deceptions of the devil. On the basis of her experience, Teresa later said again and again how necessary it is for a soul that is going the way of the interior life to have the guidance of a learned and enlightened spiritual director. Fr. Vicente Barrón, who had so charitably stood by her after the death of her father, had been called away from Avila some time earlier. In her need, upon the advice and through the mediation of a dear friend, the pious nobleman Francisco de Salcedo, she turned to Gaspar Daza, a priest who was considered throughout the city to be as holy as he was learned. His evaluation was devastating. He interpreted all of her favors during prayer as deceptions of the devil and advised her to cease entirely what she had been doing up to now. The saint fell into the uttermost distress showered by favors from heaven while at the same time, according to the theological expert, in the gravest danger, and directed to pull back from the supernatural influences! There appeared one more way out of her distress. A short time earlier a college of the Society of Jesus had been started in Avila. Teresa, who had the greatest admiration for the new order, heard this with joy, but up to now had not dared to speak with one of the greatly renowned fathers. Now she took refuge in them, and this was her deliverance. Fr. Juan de Prádanos completely reassured her about the origin of her mystical states and advised her to continue on this path. He only found it necessary that she make herself worthy of the favors by strict mortifications. As she said, “mortification” was at that time a word virtually unknown to her. But with her characteristic decisiveness, she took up the suggestion and began to accustom herself to severe penances. Recognizing that her weak health would not be able to stand such a severe life, P. Prádanos easily helped her with this. “Without doubt, my daughter,” he said, “God sends you so many illnesses in order to make up for those mortifications that you do not practice. So do not be afraid. Your mortifications cannot hurt you.” And in fact Teresa’s health improved because of this new lifestyle. 

Even though her new spiritual director had no doubt about the heavenly origin of her favors during prayer, he still thought it a good idea to impose on her some constraint in her manner of meditating and to instruct her in resisting the stream of favors. But even this restriction was soon to be lifted again. St. Francis Borgia visited the Jesuit college and to get his evaluation, Fr. Prádanos asked him to speak with Teresa. She herself writes about this: 

I let him...know the state of my soul. After listening to me, he told me that everything happening in me came from the spirit of God. He called my behavior good so far. But he said that in the future I should offer no more resistance. He advised me always to begin my prayers by meditating on one of the mysteries of the passion. If then without my assistance the Lord transported my spirit into a supernatural state, I should surrender to his guidance.... He left me completely consoled. 

If the saint herself was calmed by such weighty testimony, it was not so in her surroundings. In spite of the testimony of St. Francis Borgia, despite the sympathetic guidance she found, soon after the recall of Fr. Prádanos, in his very young but saintly confrere, Fr. Baltasar Alvarez, her devoted friends did not stop worrying about her. They asked others in for advice, and soon everyone in the city was talking about the unusual phenomena at the Monastery of the Incarnation and warning the young Jesuit not to let himself be deceived by his penitent. Even though he placed no credence in these voices, he did think it advisable to pose Teresa some difficult tests. He denied her solitude, and once withheld Holy Communion from her for twenty days. She submitted to all orders. But it was no wonder that unrest once more arose in her heart also, since everyone else doubted her or appeared to doubt her. Her deliverance was the goodness of the Lord who calmed her again and again, who enraptured her right in the middle of the mandatory conversations, since solitary prayer was taken from her. Above all, he strengthened her to persist faithfully in the way of obedience no matter how hard it was. Her reward was new, continually greater favors. She felt the presence of the Savior by her side often for entire days. At first he came to her invisibly, but later also in a visible form. 

The Savior almost always appeared to me visibly in risen form. When I saw him in the holy Host, he was in this transfigured form. Sometimes when I was tired or sad, he showed me his wounds to encourage me. He also appeared to me hanging on the cross. I saw him in the garden; finally, I saw him carrying the cross. When he appeared to me in such a form, it was, I repeat, because of a need in my soul or for the consolation of various other persons; still his body was always glorified. 

These appearances increased Teresa’s love and strengthened her in the certainty that it was none other than the Lord who was visiting her with his favors. So it must have been all the more painful to her when, in the absence of Fr. Alvarez, another confessor ordered her to send the “evil spirit” away each time it appeared by making the sign of the cross and a gesture of contempt. She also obeyed this command. But at the same time she fell at the feet of the Lord and pleaded with him for forgiveness: “Oh Savior, you know when I act like this toward you that I do it only out of love for you because I want to submit obediently to him whom you have appointed in your Church to take your place for me.” And Jesus calmed her. “Be comforted, my daughter, you do well to obey. I will reveal the truth.” 

In this obedience toward the church, the saint herself had always seen the surest criterion that a soul was on the right way. 

I know for certain that God would never allow the devil to delude a soul that mistrusts itself and whose faith is so strong that it was prepared to endure a thousand deaths for the sake of one single article of faith. God blesses this noble disposition of the soul by strengthening its faith and making it ever more fiery. This soul carefully tries to transform itself so that it is completely in line with the teachings of the church and for this purpose asks questions of anyone who could elucidate them. It hangs on so tightly to the church’s creeds that all conceivable revelations even if it saw heaven opened could never make it vacillate in its faith even in the minutest article taught by the church.... 

Should a soul not find in itself this powerful faith or its delight in devotion not contribute to increasing its dependence on the holy church, then I say that the soul is on a path filled with danger. The spirit of God only flows into things that are in agreement with the holy Scriptures. If there had been the slightest deviation, I would have been convinced that these things came from the author of lies. 
That after each new favor she grew in humility and love must have pacified the saint herself, and must also have been an unmistakable sign to the enlightened men of the spirit of the disposition of her soul. 

During that time of unusual demonstrations of grace and of the severest tests, Teresa also received a visible sensory image of the glowing love which pierced her heart. “I saw beside me at my left side an angel in a physical form.... Because of his flaming face, he seemed to belong to that lofty choir made up only of fire and love.... I saw a long, golden dart in his hands the end of which glowed like fire. From time to time the angel pierced my heart with it. When he pulled it out again, I was entirely inflamed with love for God.” The heart of the saint, which has been preserved in the monastery of Alba and remains intact to this day, bears a long, deep wound. 

11. Works for the Lord 

One who loves feels compelled to do something for the beloved. Teresa, who even as a child showed herself to be boldly decisive and ready to act, burned with the desire to show the Lord her love and thankfulness by action. As a nun in a contemplative monastery, she seemed to be cut off from all outer activity. So she at least wanted to do as much as possible to make herself holy. With the permission of her confessor (Fr. Alvarez) and her highest superior in the Order, she took a vow always to do what would be the most pleasing to God. To protect her from uncertainty and from qualms of conscience, the text was later changed to read that her confessor was to decide what would be perfect at any given time. 
But a soul so full of love could not be satisfied with caring for its own salvation and making the Lord happy by its own perfection. One day she was transported into hell by a horrible vision. “I immediately understood that God wanted to show me the place that the devil had reserved for me and that I deserved for my sins. It lasted hardly a moment. But even if I live for many more years, I will never be able to forget it.” She recognizes that from which God’s goodness has preserved her. “The superscription for my life should read as ‘the mercy of God.’” But countless other people are constantly subject to the dangers that she herself had escaped. “How could I find one day of rest with such an outlook? How could I live in peace while so many souls were being lost?” It was at the time when Germany was torn by schism, France was tearing itself to pieces in wars of religion, and all of Europe was confused by false doctrines. 

“Brokenhearted, as though I could do something or as if I myself were someone, I embraced the feet of the Lord, shed bitter tears, and asked him to remedy such evil. I would gladly have sacrificed a thousand lives to save one of these misguided souls. But how could a poor woman like me serve the cause of her divine Master?” During such reflections, there occurred to her the thought of freeing herself from the mitigated rule of her monastery so that she could rest entirely in God like the saints, the hermits who had preceded her. Since she could not, as she would have liked, extol God’s mercy throughout the entire world, she at least wanted to gather some selected souls around her who would dedicate themselves to poverty, withdrawal, constant prayer, and the strictness of the Primitive Rule. Already full of this thought, which was not simply fantasy but a firm decision, she conceived of how she would surround herself with a small band of noble souls who were ready to join her in doing what was most perfect. She considered how she might pray day and night to be a constant support to those destined to save souls.... It seemed to her as though she were already in the situation which appeared to her as paradise. She saw herself already living in a little house clad in sackcloth, enclosed behind the walls, only occupied with prayer, and hurrying with her companions to serve the most Beloved.(43)  It was not to be too long before this lovely dream was to be become reality. 

12. Saint Joseph’s of Avila, the First Monastery of the Reform 

A small group of nuns and visitors present for worship on the feast of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel on July 16, 1560 were discussing the obstacles to the life of prayer presented by the large number of nuns living in the monastery and the many visitors. María de Ocampo, a young relative of the saint and a celebrated beauty, suggested that someone should establish a monastery in which the life of the ancient hermits could be revived. In all seriousness she offered her dowry for this. The next day Teresa told her trusted friend Doña Guiomar de Ulloa (a young widow who like her led a life of prayer under the strict direction of Fr. Baltasar Alvarez) of this conversation. Doña Guiomar enthusiastically took up the idea. But what was decisive was that the Lord himself was calling for the project. “He assured me that he would be very well-served in a monastery I might found, that this house would become a star shedding the brightest light. God added that, even though they had lost some of their earlier enthusiasm, the orders were nevertheless of great service to him. What would the world be if there were no more monasteries?” According to the will of the Lord, the new house was to be consecrated to St. Joseph.
Now Teresa no longer hesitated. First she turned to her confessor. He made his consent dependent on the consent of the provincial of the Carmelites, Fr. Angel de Salazar.(44) This consent was easier to get than expected by reason of the mediation of Doña Guiomar. Three very devout religious, whose advice Teresa sought, gave encouraging replies: Jesuit Francis Borgia, Dominican Luis Beltrán, and Franciscan Peter of Alcántara. Now the next task was to find a house. But before that could happen the public scented Teresa’s plans, and this aroused a storm of indignation against her and her friends. One can certainly understand that the nuns of the Monastery of the Incarnation would take it as malicious arrogance for one of their own to want to leave their house to live in greater perfection than the community in which she had been formed. And people in the city shared this view. The two women received their first strong support from the scholarly and highly respected Dominican, Fr. Pedro Ibáñez. When the provincial withdrew his consent under the pressure of Teresa’s sisters and compelled the saint to inaction, her friends continued with the work of preparation: Doña Guiomar, directed by Fr. Ibáñez, Don Francisco de Salcedo, and Gaspar Daza (the two who had once by their doubt caused her so much soul searching, but were now entirely won over to her). A little house was discovered. Her brother-in-law, Juan de Ovalle, the husband of her youngest sister, Juana, who herself had been raised in the Monastery of the Incarnation and loved Teresa greatly, bought it and moved in to protect it until it could be given over to its real purpose.
It seemed like a great hindrance to her plans when the saint received the surprising order from her Fr. Provincial to go to the palace of Duchess Luisa de la Cerda in Toledo, because this influential lady sought the comfort of the saint in her grief over the death of her husband. Her friends hated to see her leave Avila. But the stay in Toledo was to be richly blessed. Doña Luisa became a powerful and faithful patroness of the reform. In the circle of women and girls that gathered around Teresa at the palace to seek her advice, there was someone soon to be one of her strongest supporters, the young María de Salazar (later María of St. Joseph, prioress of Seville). Above all, Teresa found the leisure here to write the story of her interior life, a project given to her the previous year by Fr. Ibáñez. This book was to make her name known in all Catholic lands, and down through the centuries would become a guide for countless people. 
Even in regard to her foundation in Avila the time was not wasted. In the house of the Duchess de la Cerda, she was sought out by María of Jesus, a Carmelite from Granada who had reform ideas similar to Teresa’s and wanted to talk them over with her. She also found occasion for a consultation with St. Peter of Alcántara who on an earlier occasion had tested the state of her soul and consoled her greatly. Now he encouraged her to found the Monastery of St. Joseph without an income, as the Primitive Rule prescribed. 

Teresa was permitted to return to Avila only in June of 1562, after a six-month stay. Good news that came on the day of her arrival awaited her there: the papal brief that permitted Doña Guiomar and her mother to establish a Carmelite monastery according to the Primitive Rule, placing it under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop, giving it the same rights as the other monasteries of the same order, and prohibiting anyone from disturbing it in any way. Teresa’s name was not mentioned in the document. By a lucky coincidence, Peter of Alcántara was just then in Avila for the last time, for he died shortly thereafter. His efforts succeeded in winning the bishop of Avila, Don Alvaro de Mendoza, for the foundation. From then on he was one of the most enthusiastic promoters of the reform. 

The illness of her brother-in-law, Juan de Ovalle, resulted in her gaining the permission of her provincial to move into his house, her future monastery, to care for him. This gave her the opportunity of personally supervising the construction. When the workers left the house, the patient was also healed and the monastery could become what it was meant to be. Now the most important thing was to find suitable living stones for the new foundation. There were four postulants about whom the Holy Mother herself said, “My first daughters were four orphans without dowries, but great servants of God. I found just what I had wished for, because my most ardent desire was that the first to enter would by their example be suitable building blocks of the spiritual edifice, would fulfill our intentions and lead lives of contemplation and perfection.” On August 24, the feast of St. Bartholomew, these first four Carmelites of the reform arrived at the little monastery where the saint awaited them. The friends who had helped to make the foundation made their appearance. By commission of the Bishop of Avila, Gaspar Daza celebrated the first mass and received the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel. Thereby the foundation was completed. Then Teresa clothed her daughters in the robe of the Discalced Carmelites (“discalced,” or “without shoes,” because instead of shoes they wore the footwear of the poor, sandals made of hemp). Their habit and scapular were made of coarse brown frieze; a mantle of white frieze; a toque of linen; and over it for the time being they wore the white novice’s veil. Overjoyed, the mother remained behind with her daughters in the quiet of the holy place when the visitors departed. But people did not leave her in peace for long. The rumor of the accomplished foundation quickly spread to the entire city. The opposition stirred up all the townspeople. A monastery without any income would consume the alms of the poor. The prioress of the Incarnation, pressured by the indignant sisters, sent Teresa an order to return to her monastery immediately. The Saint obeyed at once. She left the four novices behind under the protection of St. Joseph and the direction of the oldest, Ursula of the Saints. On August 26 the city’s municipal judge summoned the mayor and the cathedral chapter to a meeting in the city hall. The consensus was that the monastery was to be suppressed, and the municipal judge himself went there. But Teresa’s young daughters did not allow themselves to be intimidated. When threatened with force, they answered through the grille, “...You may use force. But...such actions are judged here on earth by his Majesty Philip II, and in heaven by another judge, whom you should fear a great deal more, the almighty God, the champion of the oppressed.” The city magistrate left without doing anything and called another, larger gathering for the next day. In an inflammatory speech he explained that this foundation was an innovation and as such suspect. The maintenance of the nuns would excessively burden the nobility of Avila. The opening of the house without the permission of the city was illegal. Therefore, one must conclude that it be suppressed. The speaker already had the majority on his side when a Dominican asked to speak. It was Fr. Domingo Báñez who had only been in Avila for a short time, but was famous for his scholarship. He did not know Teresa, but his love for justice impelled him to become a spokesman for her cause. 

Is it a sufficient reason to destroy something because it is new? Were not all societies of orders innovations when they arose from the bosom of the Church? And when our Lord and God founded the Church, did his work not bear the mark of innovation? ...This newly founded monastery of Carmelites is a reform of the ancient community. It picks up what has fallen. It renews a weakened Rule. It strives for the formation of people for the glory of the holy faith. For these reasons it must not only be tolerated by the power