by the Carmelite nuns,
Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph near Agnew
When our Discalced Carmelite Order began making plans for the 500th Anniversary of our holy Mother (OHM) St. Teresa of Jesus’ birth, the idea came up, among the Superiors of petitioning Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to proclaim a Teresian Year. This, of course, might have caused too many problems with other Orders and Congregations wishing the same for their Founders and Foundresses.
However, His Holiness was providentially inspired to proclaim instead the Year of Consecrated Life. We all know, at least in part, the many blessings – increased appreciation of God’s calling in families, schools and other environments, awakening of vocations, etc. – this Year has brought forth.
And, who is Teresa of Jesus? She was born in Avila, Spain, March 15, 1515. Even as a young child traits of her noble, determined character can be found. We see this in her ardent intent to run away from home, dragging her reluctant little brother, Rodrigo, with her, so as to be martyred by the Moors. Since this attempt was thwarted by a vigilant uncle, she then turned to building convents and monasteries with a few ever-crumbling stones. This childlike, yet very sincere piety, was later eclipsed by her teenage “vanities,’ as she called them. This was quite natural since she was constantly being told how beautiful she was.
But grace finally overcame her repugnance for the religious life and she entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation in her own walled-City of Avila. She was 21. Leaving home and her father, in particular, was like dying… illness, aridity, a constant struggle …yet after 20 years her thirst was being satiated and she was able to pray, even giving us this jewel-definition: prayer is an “intimate sharing between friends…with Him whom we know loves us.”
When Blessed Pope Paul declared St. Teresa of Jesus Doctor of the Church he presented her as the universal Teacher of Prayer. Hence the relevance of the Fifth Centenary for the whole world: the need of prayer is ever greater today.
Now we are at the threshold of the Year of Mercy, and find that OHM St. Teresa’s teachings give us the key that opens the flood-gates of God’s infinite mercy: a profound, loving devotion to the Sacred Humanity of His Son, Jesus Christ, our “Captain of Love. …Whoever lives in the presence of so good a friend and excellent a leader, who went ahead of us to be the first to suffer, can endure all things. The Lord helps us, strengthens us, and never fails; He is a true friend. And I see clearly, …that God desires that if we are going to please Him and receive His great favors, we must do so through the Most Sacred Humanity of Christ, in whom He takes His delight.”
Elsewhere the saint also tells us that the Eucharist has become for her the Sacrament of the most Sacred Humanity of Jesus. By means of the Eucharist she is able to come close, to touch, to grasp this precious Humanity. Love for the Christ-man is made real in her love for the Eucharist.
We cannot speak of St. Teresa and her essential role in the teachings of Holy Mother the Church without recalling her profound, filial devotion to Our Blessed Mother. The name she gives to her Monasteries, witnesses to this: “Dovecots of Our Lady.” This leads us to address Mary, in the words of the Salve Regina – as our Holy Father Pope Francis tells us in his proclamation of the Holy Year of Mercy – “turn Thine eyes of mercy towards us.”