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Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada
Born at Avila, Old Castile, 28 March, 1515
Died at Alba de Tormes, 4 October, 1582   

 

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St Teresa Prayer Card


The third child of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda by his second wife, Doña Beatriz Davila y Ahumada, who died when the saint was in her fourteenth year, Teresa was brought up by her saintly father, a lover of serious books, and a tender and pious mother.

After her death and the marriage of her eldest sister, Teresa was sent for her education to the Augustinian nuns at Avila, but owing to illness she left at the end of eighteen months, and for some years remained with her father and occasionally with other relatives, notably an uncle who made her acquainted with the Letters of St. Jerome, which determined her to adopt the religious life, not so much through any attraction towards it, as through a desire of choosing the safest course.

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Unable to obtain her father’s consent she left his house unknown to him on Nov., 1535, to enter the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at Avila, which then counted 140 nuns. The wrench from her family caused her a pain which she ever afterwards compared to that of death. However, her father at once yielded and Teresa took the habit.

Incorrupt arm of St Teresa

After her profession in the following year she became very seriously ill, and underwent a prolonged cure and such unskillful medical treatment that she was reduced to a most pitiful state, and even after partial recovery through the intercession of St. Joseph, her health remained permanently impaired.

During these years of suffering she began the practice of mental prayer, but fearing that her conversations with some world-minded relatives, frequent visitors at the convent, rendered her unworthy of the graces God bestowed on her in prayer, discontinued it, until she came under the influence, first of the Dominicans, and afterwards of the Jesuits.

Stone that St Teresa sat onMeanwhile God had begun to visit her with “intellectual visions and locutions”, that is manifestations in which the exterior senses were in no way affected, the things seen and the words heard being directly impressed upon her mind, and giving her wonderful strength in trials, reprimanding her for unfaithfulness, and consoling her in trouble.

Unable to reconcile such graces with her shortcomings, which her delicate conscience represented as grievous faults, she had recourse not only to the most spiritual confessors she could find, but also to some saintly laymen, who, never suspecting that the account she gave them of her sins was greatly exaggerated, believed these manifestations to be the work of the evil spirit.

The more she endeavored to resist them the more powerfully did God work in her soul. The whole city of Avila was troubled by the reports of the visions of this nun. It was reserved to St. Francis Borgia and St. Peter of Alcantara, and afterwards to a number of Dominicans (particularly Pedro Ibañez and Domingo Bañez), Jesuits, and other religious and secular priests, to discern the work of God and to guide her on a safe road.

 

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Her incorrupt body above the main altar in Alba de Tormes

 

The account of her spiritual life contained in the “Life written by herself” (completed in 1565, an earlier version being lost), in the“Relations”, and in the “Interior Castle”, forms one of the most remarkable spiritual biographies with which only the “Confessions of St. Augustine” can bear comparison.

To this period belong also such extraordinary manifestations as the piercing or transverberation of her heart, the spiritual espousals, and the mystical marriage.

A vision of the place destined for her in hell in case she should have been unfaithful to grace, determined her to seek a more perfect life.

After many troubles and much opposition St. Teresa founded the convent of Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Primitive Rule of St. Joseph at Avila (24 Aug., 1562), and after six months obtained permission to take up her residence there.

Items used by St Teresa

Four years later she received the visit of the General of the Carmelites, John-Baptist Rubeo (Rossi), who not only approved of what she had done but granted leave for the foundation of other convents of friars as well as nuns.

In rapid succession she established her nuns at Medina del Campo (1567), Malagon and Valladolid (1568), Toledo and Pastrana (1569), Salamanca (1570), Alba de Tormes (1571), Segovia (1574), Veas and Seville (1575), and Caravaca (1576).

In the “Book of Foundations” she tells the story of these convents, nearly all of which were established in spite of violent opposition but with manifest assistance from above.

Everywhere she found souls generous enough to embrace the austerities of the primitive rule of Carmel. Having made the acquaintance of Antonio de Heredia, prior of Medina, and St. John of the Cross (q.v.), she established her reform among the friars (28 Nov., 1568), the first convents being those of Duruelo (1568), Pastrana (1569), Mancera, and Alcalá de Henares (1570). 

A new epoch began with the entrance into religion of Jerome Gratian, inasmuch as this remarkable man was almost immediately entrusted by the nuncio with the authority of visitor Apostolic of the Carmelite friars and nuns of the old observance in Andalusia, and as such considered himself entitled to overrule the various restrictions insisted upon by the general and the general chapter.

On the death of the nuncio and the arrival of his successor a fearful storm burst over St. Teresa and her work, lasting four years and threatening to annihilate the nascent reform. The incidents of this persecution are best described in her letters.

The storm at length passed, and the province of Discalced Carmelites, with the support of Philip II, was approved and canonically established on 22 June, 1580.

St. Teresa, old and broken in health, made further foundations at Villnuava de la Jara and Palencia (1580), Soria (1581), Granada (through her assiatant the Venerable Anne of Jesus), and at Burgos (1582).

She left this latter place at the end of July, and, stopping at Palencia, Valldolid, and Medina del Campo, reached Alba de Torres in September, suffering intensely. Soon she took to her bed and passed away on 4 Oct., 1582, the following day, owing to the reform of the calendar, being reckoned as 15 October.

After some years her body was transferred to Avila, but later on reconveyed to Alba, where it is still preserved incorrupt. Her heart, too, showing the marks of the Transverberation, is exposed there to the veneration of the faithful. She was beatified in 1614, and canonized in 1622 by Gregory XV, the feast being fixed on 15 October.

St Teresa incorrupt heart

St. Teresa’s position among writers on mystical theology is unique.

In all her writings on this subject she deals with her personal experiences, which a deep insight and analytical gifts enabled her to explain clearly.

The Thomistic substratum may be traced to the influence of her confessors and directors, many of whom belonged to the Dominican Order.

She herself had no pretension to found a school in the accepted sense of the term, and there is no vestige in her writings of any influence of the Aeropagite, the Patristic, or the Scholastic Mystical schools, as represented among others, by the German Dominican Mystics.

She is intensely personal, her system going exactly as far as her experiences, but not a step further.

 

Room where St Teresa died

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for August 9, 2020

Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us … If a man wants...

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August 9

 

Prayer purifies us,
reading instructs us …
If a man wants to be always in God’s company,
he must pray regularly and read regularly.
When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us.

St. Isidore of Seville


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Bl. Amadeus of Portugal

His sister, St. Beatriz da Silva, was the foundress of the O...

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Bl. Amadeus of Portugal

João Mendes da Silva, better known as the Blessed Amadeus of Portugal, was born in 1420 in Campo Maior on the eastern side of the country. The youngest son of twelve children, he was closely related to the Counts of Vila Real and Viana do Alentejo, whose lands lay near the border of Portugal and Spain. St. Beatriz da Silva, the foundress of the Order of the Immaculate Conception, was one of his sisters, and a strong devotion to this prerogative of Our Lady – centuries before it was defined as a dogma – was a profound spiritual characteristic they both shared.

João was married very young, but soon after entered the Hieronymite monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe in Spain, where he spent about ten years. Inspired by a vision of the Immaculate Conception of Mary Most Holy to join the Franciscans, he sought admission to their friary in Ubeda in Lombardy where he entered as a lay brother in 1452 and took the name of Amadeus.

Initially not well received by his confreres, some of whom took him for a religious fraud, he was widely persecuted within the Order bearing all the humiliations inflicted upon him with great patience. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1459 at the insistence of his superiors. Amadeus subsequently became renowned throughout the houses of the Order for his holiness and miracles.

In 1469, he founded the Friary of Notre Dame de la Paix under the protection of the Archbishop of Milan. This friary soon became the center of a Franciscan reform which eventually spread throughout Italy and beyond. When the Minister General of the Franciscan Order, Francesco della Rovere, was elected to the throne of Peter as Pope Sixtus IV, he summoned Amadeus to Rome to be his confessor and counselor.

The reform of the Franciscan Order begun by St. Amadeus led to his founding of a distinct branch of the Friars Minor which was ultimately named after him. Amadeus later returned to Milan, where he died in 1482.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

I was in my first sleep when the sound of the doorbell...

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The Legend of the Locket

I was in my first sleep when the sound of the doorbell awakened me, whereupon I sprang from my bed, and, after a few hurried preparations, hastened to throw open the door. 

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It was a bitter cold night in January, and the moon without threw its pale light over the wan spectral snow-covered landscape. The sharp gust that swept into the hall as I opened the door made me pity the delicate-looking child who stood at the threshold.

Her hair gleamed with a strange and rare effect in the moonlight, long golden hair that fell in graceful ripples about her shoulders. She was lightly dressed, this little child, as she stood gazing straight and frankly into my eyes with an expression at once so beautiful and calm and earnest that I shall never forget it.

Her face was very pale, her complexion of the fairest. The radiancy about her hair seemed to glow in some weird yet indescribable fashion upon her every feature. These details I had not fairly taken in when she addressed me.

"Father, can you come with me at once? My mother is dying, and she is in trouble."

"Come inside, my little girl," I said, "and warm yourself. You must be half frozen."

"Indeed, Father, I am not in the least cold." I had thrown on my coat and hat as she made answer.

"Your mother's name, my child?"

"Catherine Morgan, Father; she's a widow, and has lived like a saint. And now that she's dying, she is in awful trouble. She was taken sick about a few hours ago."

"Where does she live?"

"Two miles from here, Father, on the border of the Great Swamp; she is a stranger in these parts, and alone. I know the way perfectly; you need not be afraid of getting lost."

A few minutes later we were tramping through the snow, or rather I was tramping, for the child beside me moved with so light and tender a step, that had there been flowers instead of snowflakes beneath our feet I do not think a single petal would have been crushed under the airy fall of her fairy feet.

Her hand was in mine with the confiding clasp of childhood. Her face, for all the trouble that was at home, wore a gravely serene air, such as is seldom seen in years of sprightly, youthful innocence.

How beautiful she looked!

More like a creature fresh from the perfect handiwork of God than one who walked in the valley of sin, sorrow, trouble and death.

Locket Upon her bosom I observed a golden locket fashioned in a heart shape.

She noticed my glance, and with a quick movement of her fingers released the locket and handed it to me.

"It's a heart," I said.

"Read what's on it, Father."

"I can't, my little friend; my eyes are very good, but are not equal to making out reading on gold lockets by moonlight."

"Just let me hold it for you, Father. Now look."

How this child contrived, I cannot say; but certain it is, that at once, as she held the locket at a certain angle, there stood out clearly, embossed upon its surface, the legend: 

"Cease! the Heart of Jesus is with me." 

"Mamma placed that upon my bosom one year ago, when I was very sick, Father." And kissing the locket, the child restored it to its place.

We went on for a time in silence. I carried the Blessed Sacrament with me; and, young as she was, the girl seemed to appreciate the fact. Whenever I glanced at her, I observed her lips moving as in prayer, and her eyes seemed, in very truth, fixed upon the place where rested in His sacramental veil the Master of Life and of Death.

Suddenly the girl's hand touched my sleeve-oh, so gently!

"This is the place, Father," she said in soft tones that thrilled me as they broke upon the stillness; and she pointed to a little hut standing back in the dim shadows of three pine trees.

I pushed open the door, which hung loosely upon its hinges, and turned to wait her entrance. She was gone. Somewhat startled, I was peering out into the pallid night, when a groan called me to the bedside of the dying woman.

A glance told me there was no time to lose. The woman lying in that room had hardly reached middle life, but the hand of Death had touched her brow, upon which stood the drops of sweat, and in her face I read a great trouble.

I was at her side in an instant; and, God be thanked for it, soon calmed and quieted the poor creature. She made her confession, and in sentiments of faith and love such as I have rarely seen, received the Last Sacraments of the Church.

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Standing beside her, I suggested those little prayers and devices so sweet and consoling at the dread hour. I noticed, as the time passed on, that her eyes frequently turned toward a little box at the farther end of the room.

"Shall I bring you that box?" I asked.

She nodded assent.

On placing it beside her, she opened it with trembling hands and took out the dress of a child.

"Your little daughter's dress?" I said.

She whispered, and there was love in her tones: "My darling Edith's."

"I know her," I continued. "She brought me here, you know."

I stopped short and caught my breath. The woman half rose in her bed; she looked at me in wonder that cannot be expressed. I, no less amazed, was staring at a golden, oval locket fastened to the bosom of the child's dress which the woman was holding in her hands.

"Madam," I cried, "in the name of God, tell me, where is your daughter? Whose is that locket?"

"The locket is Edith's. I placed it here on the bosom of her dress when my little girl lay dying a year ago. The last thing my darling did was to hold this locket to her lips, and say:

'Cease! the Heart of Jesus is with me.'

"She died a year ago."

Then the mother's face grew very sweet and very radiant.

Still holding the locket in her hands, she fixed her eyes straight before her.

"Edith, my dear Edith, we are at last to be united in the Sacred Heart. I see you, my darling: ‘Cease! the Heart of Jesus is with me."'

Her voice faded with the last syllable into silence.

She and Edith were again united.

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From Fr. Finn's Mostly Boys (New York: 1896), pp. 90-95.
Illustrations by: AF Phillips

 

I was in my first sleep when the sound of the doorbell

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