July 13, 1900 -April 13, 1920
In the person of St. Teresa of the Andes we find a normal young woman, a woman of the 20th century, who was granted extraordinary graces and experiences of GodShe was not born a saint. She was born into a very dysfunctional family. Her father struggled constantly to make a financial success of his lands. Her mother was very strong and for the most part, had to rear the children alone. She had two brothers, one of whom saw no need for formal education, and the other who was preoccupied with science to the detriment of his faith.
Despite the hardships of her family life, Teresa overcame her own temperamental difficulties to live a very vibrant and full life. She did the things that all young girls did. She participated in many activities from swimming to playing the piano. She taught CCD to young children in a country parish. She had many friends whom she enjoyed. She was not above playing practical jokes on members of her family and her friends. On the natural plane we would call her a well-balanced, wholesome young woman.
Yet on the spiritual plane she was an extraordinary young woman. Very early in her life she began to be the recipient of extraordinary graces. At her first communion the Lord spoke to her. At the time she believed that there was nothing extraordinary in this, that the Lord spoke to everyone on their first communion.
At this early age, she fell head over heels in love with Jesus. At fourteen she gave herself to Him completely, promising Him that He would be her only Spouse. As she grew in love for Jesus she entered more deeply into the suffering of Christ, which she willingly embraced for love of Him.
As she entered her teens Teresa desired to enter Carmel, just as Therese did before her. After receiving a letter from Teresa, Mother Angelica, prioress of the Los Andes Carmel, wrote back telling her that she had been born a Carmelite.
This young woman, now a saint of the Church, is certainly a beacon of hope for all of us on our journey of faith. Saint though she was, she was fully human. Not rejecting her world, but rejoicing in it, as a true Carmelite she willingly offered her life for its redemption in union with Christ, her Spouse. Fr. Regis, O.C.D.
The Carmelite Nuns of Holy Spirit Monastery
" When I speak of my Carmelite vocation and Jesus Christ I cannot stop myself. Carmelite! What a word, so full of beautiful meaning: crucified victim, pure host, lamb who takes away the sin of the world."
Just 13 days after entering the Carmel of the Andes, Juanita wrote to Fr. Artetno Colom. S.J., "How great is the mission opening up before me! It's universal, and I'm so incapable of fulfilling it. But He. my adored Spouse, is with me and will give me the strength to sacrifice myself and pour out all my heart's blood mystically each day, because a Carmelite must die at every moment for her own soul and for all souls. What purity my vocation demands, always united with God. To live my whole life in a divine atmosphere. What recollection, what uninterrupted adoration. What peace. How inflamed with love is the soul espoused to the Crucified One! What poverty and detachment of heart and spirit, and what obedience and submission of our being! Carmelite ... How incapable l am, Father, to fit the pattern offered me by my Divine Spouse and my Most Holy Mother (Let. 88).
Carmel is My Goal
In April 1916, at age 15, Juanita wrote a beautiful letter to her younger sister, Rebecca, to whom she was closely united. In it she revealed her closely guarded secret. The light of her vocation overshadowed her for 14 years. " How happy I am, my dear sister! I've been captured in the loving nets of The Divine Fisherman. I wish I could make you understand this happiness. I can say with certainty that I am His promised one and that very soon we will celebrate our betrothal in Carmel. I'm going to be a Carmelite. What do you think?.... I've give myself over to Him. On the 8th of December I promised myself to Him. It's impossible to say how much I love Him. My mind is filled with Him alone. He is my Ideal, an infinite ideal. I long for the day when I can go to Carmel to devote myself to Him alone, to abase myself before Him and to live His life alone: to love and suffer that I may save souls. Yes. I thirst for souls because I know that is what my Jesus longs for more than anything else. Oh, I love Him" (Let. 8).
Even as a youth Teresa deeply penetrated the ideal of the life to which she was called with an extraordinary clarity. In September 1917 she rote her first letter to Mother Angelica of the Blessed Sacrament, Prioress and Mistress of novices of the Carmel, She wrote, "Now I'll tell you that Ive never personally known any Carmelite Sister. I've only, read the lives of Therese and Elizabeth of the Trinity. That's how I got to know that Carmel is a little bit of heaven and that the Lord's been calling me to that holy mountain." Further along she wrote, "I also know that if I go to Carmel it will be to suffer, but suffering is nothing new or unknown to me. In it I find my joy, for Jesus is on the cross and He is love. And what does suffering matter if a person loves? The life of a Carmelite is one of suffering, loving and praying, and I find my whole ideal in this...". ( Let. 14).
Nineteen more letters follow this one before her entrance into Carmel in May 1919. In the relationship developed through this correspondence, Mother' Angelica Teresa perceived in this young girl completely a greatness of soul. It was on Juanita's first visit to Carmel on January 11, 1919 that the two of them were to talk at length. "I spoke with Mother Angelica from one-thirty to five oclock. She told me the doubts I had were unfounded and from my first letter she saw that I was born a Carmelite.
On January 1, 1919, Juanita wrote about the doubts in her diary that Mother Angelica feIt were unfounded. "I have many doubts with respect to my vocation. I doubt whether I should be a member of the Congregation of the Scared Heart or a Carmelite.... I am very much attracted to this life of immolation; but Carmel presents to me every attraction with which to fill my soul. Moreover, Our Lord has revealed to me many times that I should be a Carmelite."
Juanita wrote about her first revelation in I914 in her diary. "One day I was alone in my room. Because of my illness they spoiled me so that I could not remain alone. That day Lucita [Lucia, her older sister] was sick and Elisea-a servant who took care of my dear grandfather, went to be with her. I then became envious and troubled and began to cry. My tearful eyes began to fix themselves on a picture of the Sacred Heart and I heard a very sweet voice telling me: 'What! I ,Juanita, am alone on the altar for your love, and you cannot even suffer for a moment?' From that time, the dear Jesus spoke to me, and I spent entire hours conversing with Him. That is the reason I enjoyed being alone. He went on teaching me how I should suffer and not complain, and about intimate union with Him. Then He told me that He wanted me for Himself, that He would like me to become a Carmelite. Ah! Mother, you cannot imagine what Jesus was doing in my soul. At that time I did not live in myself, it was Jesus who was living in me" (Diary, 7). Nevertheless, despite these very clear revelations, the doubts obscured the heavens. "What I had never experienced before-doubting that God wanted me to be a Carmelite-is what constitues my suffering." These doubts helped her to more profoundly plumb the Carmelite ideal.
Peace was re-established on her first visit to Los Andes and all her doubts disappeared. "The first visit to my small convent inundated my soul with peace. It's poverty attracted me. Its words, the visit with my sisters made me understand two things: 1) that here my God lived intimately united with each soul; and immediately my doubts ceased, my battle ended and my soul remained submerged in great peace, and it was here God was calling me; 2) that in this life, in spite of suffering, total happiness of soul is given by God." In letters after this visit her heart overflowed and the Carmelite ideal flowed from her heart. "The Carmelite prays for sinners; is immolated at every moment for sinful humanity, and does this in silence... The Carmelite's sacrifice is unknown ... I said to myself that no one can expect less of me, but I have been born a Carmelite." In a long letter written to Fr. Artemo Colom, S. J., she very clearly expressed the reasons she had for desiring to he a Carmelite: "A Carmelite lives in God, by God and for the sake of God ... the solitude... the poverty of Carmel . . . the heart remains pure and belongs to God alone . . . the penance ... the sacrifice ... Only God is aware of it ... A Carmelite's goal to pray for priests, that they may be sanctified, and for sinners, that they be converted, couldn't be a higher one. A Carmelite sanctifies herself in order to make all the Church's members holy. (Let. 5(i).
My Name will be Teresa Of
"I am so unworthy to be called as my Mother; I am very small for a name so grand: Teresa Of Jesus, Carmelite." Juanita read the Life for the first time in January 1917. She read it again in 1918 and in a letter to Mother Angelica she wrote, "I'm reading the Autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila now.
Convent at Vina del Alar
She sure is teaching me a lot! She opens up such horizons for me! What a beautiful picture she paints of the Carmelite life for her novices!" (Let. 20). Juanita contemplates the beauty of the vocation to Carmel as seen in the life of St. Teresa and found herself in perfect harmony with that beautiful ideal. In a previous letter she asked Mother Angelica, "Help me with your prayers during this blessed month, Rev. Mother. Pray to the Virgin that above all else she will give me her virtues and then, if it be Jesus' will, she will grant me the health to realize my beautiful ideal of becoming a Carmelite, according to the spirit of my seraphic Mother, Saint Teresa (Let. 16).
Entrance into Carmel
"I have been in Carmel for eight days. Eight days of heaven. I feel the Divine love in such a way that there are moments I believe I cannot resist. I desire to be a pure host, to sacrifice myself completely for priests and sinners." Before entering she had written, "My vocation is to be a Carmelite: to be a pure host who is offered to God continually for the sinful world. What a great and complete model our Lord presents to each Carmelite! What an immolation! What forgetfulness of self! What a pure flame! And all in silence and recollection." "Today it has been eight days that I died to the world in order to live hidden in the infinite heart of my Jesus. Little sister, I am happy, the happiest creature in the world. I am beginning my heavenly life, of adoration, of praise and continual love. It appears to me that I am already in eternity since time is not felt in Carmel. We are submerged in the bosom of the immutable God. The Carmelite as I understand her, is not only an adoring victim ... but a very pure host."
Her pen overflowed when speaking of Jesus and her vocation during the short and intense 11 months she lived in Carmel, "We live for Jesus alone. Just as the angels in heaven incessantly sing His praises, so does a Carmelite echo those praises here on earth, whether near to the tabernacle where God who is Love lives imprisoned, or in the intimate depths of her soul's heaven, where faith tells her God dwells. Our vocation's objective is love, the greatest thing a human heart can possess. This love is a bonfire where the soul is consumed and made one with her God. That blazing fire permits nothing to stand in its path ... How beautiful our vocation is, my dear sister! We are together with our Savior, redeemers of souls. We're hosts in which Jesus dwells ... (Let. 130). My vocation becomes more dear to me the more I penetrate it. The true Carmelite, as I understand it, does not live. God is the one who lives in her. That is what I try to accomplish: to contemplate unceasingly the Divine Being . . ."
Mother Angelica would say in the long circular
letter which she wrote on Sister Teresa's death, "these thoughts so high and fitting
that she had concerning her Carmelite vocation, did not come from human teachings ... but
from the knowledge that God placed the vocation to which she was called."
This young daughter was transformed by the ideal that she embraced, an ideal that moved her to give herself without measure, an ideal that created in her the thirst for the salvation of others and a thirst that all might know God. It is a hunger; it is an insatiable thirst that she felt because souls were seeking God. The Carmelite "is the sap by which God cycles his grace to souls." God gave to our Holy Mother an extraordinary wisdom and understanding as full as the sand on the seashore. We see how her youngest daughter had the same full heart and burned with the same fire for God's souls as her Holy Mother. "What a mission presents itself to me. What a great and vast model our Lord presents to each Carmelite . . ." Holy Mother Teresa tells us something similar when she exclaims, "we might be such . . ." Teresa of the Andes accepted this challenge confident in the infinite grace of God that she might carry his work to completion. She lost herself in the contemplation of her Divine Spouse in order to succeed. How vast the mission! To be a Carmelite! A mission that has no end and that Teresa of the Andes continues to realize today from heaven.
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