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Age after age has called thee blest,
Yet none hath fathomed all thy bliss;

Mothers, who read the secret best.
Or angels yet its depth must miss.


- Mrs. Elisabeth R, Charles

SPEAKING of the Carmelite Order, the talented authoress of a recent interesting English publication, entitled "Religious Orders," offers the following gracious tribute to the glorious Saint Teresa whose festival falls on the fifteenth of October:  "As time passes, the first fervor of the children of Carmel grew cold; the fine gold was dim; the love of unnecessary dispensations crept in, and then came all its attendant evils.  But where save in the Church’s pale, are miracles seen like unto her reforms?  Reforms which bind together, and gather in, and strengthen the weak, and raise up the fallen; reforms which kindle up fire out of what looks like heaps of ashes: so in this instance, the mighty prayer had gone up from the Mother’s heart to save the Order which bore her name and sign.  And the still small voice came into Spain, and spoke to the heart of one destined to be His instrument.  Was it a holy Priest or zealous Bishop?  No; it was a young and beautiful Spanish girl, with so delicate a constitution, that on her entrance into religion she would not choose the Order of Saint Augustine, as being too severe, but entered the then mitigated Order of Mount Carmel.  It is not our intention to trace the history of  Saint Teresa, for her biography is well known to all. All over the Catholic world has her name spread; her picture brings her familiarly before our eyes, and her sweet name is a household word.  We know her well, with the burning soul speaking in those large, dark Spanish eyes; we see the rude Carmelite habit, which yet cannot conceal the majesty of her form, worn though it be with penance and sickness that sickness which she loved so well, saying that it was sent to her because she should not have had courage to seek so much suffering for herself.  We see her hand holding the pen with which she traced those wonderful works that have raised her to be considered a teacher in the Church.  We see her smile, full of raptured love, and we can almost hear her cry, in low, impassioned tones, as she speaks to her Beloved— ‘Others may serve Thee better that I do not deny; but that others should love Thee more, that I will never suffer.’ 

To such a soul was committed the reform of Mount Carmel, and we cannot wonder that it was eventually accomplished.  Long, indeed, and weary was the task! The enemy did his worst against the Teresa whom he so hated; but, weak woman as she was, she came off victorious.  In vain did he raise storms against her outwardly; her courage and perseverance survived them.  In vain did he strive to darken her spirit; her deep love could know no change.  In vain did he shut the hearts of men, so that she, on one occasion, found herself in the town, where she had come to found a monastery of the reform, possessing only a few ducats in her pocket with which to commence the work.  "Teresa and these ducats are nothing," said she; “but God, Teresa, and these ducats, are more than enough. " What wonder then, that before her death, she saw seventeen convents of women, and fifteen of men, adopting her reform?  Did any thought of pride or of human exultation mingle with her retrospect?  "Let us carry your body back with us to Avila," prayed her weeping religious.  "Will they refuse me here a little earth?" answered she, who almost then could hear the echo of that praise, in which the praise of earth is lost. 

It was at the time when the archfiend prompted Luther, the apostate monk of Wittemberg, to blaspheme against good works, and against the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, that God raised up Saint Teresa to restore to the Church that legion of devoted and ascetic souls in the Carmelite Order, whose prayers brought down benedictions upon the earth and restored it to its fealty at the moment that Satan sought so boldly to usurp God s place by the wild heresies of the sixteenth Century. 

Teresa was born of noble parents, at Avila, in Old Castile.  From her tenderest youth God inclined her to the love of His service.  When only seven years old she took great delight in reading the Lives of the Saints, in company with her little brother Rodriguez.  These children were amazed at the thought of eternity, and even at so early an age felt impelled to despise all the things of earth, and value them at the price of eternity.  Frequently they would repeat to each other, "Forever forever; eternity will last forever!"  And the martyrs were the special objects of their childish admiration; in imitation of these Christian heroes, the two children resolved to go into the country of the Moors, in hopes that they would be martyred for their faith.  They privately left their father s house, and joyfully passed out into the open country, fully determined to offer their lives to God.  But their absence was discovered, and the young would-be martyrs were soon overtaken by their uncle, who safely brought them back to their frightened mother.  On being reprimanded, Rodriguez laid all the blame upon his little sister.  Thwarted in this desire, Teresa and her brother resolved to become hermits at home, and they tried to build for themselves little hermitages of stones in the garden; but these they were never able to finish. 

Teresa’s mother early inspired her with a most tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin; and on her mother’s death, Teresa, who was then twelve years old, threw herself in great grief upon her knees before an image of the Blessed Virgin, and besought her with many tears to be henceforth a mother to her. 

Such was the beautiful childhood of our Saint.  In her life, written by herself, she deeply deplores the faults into which she fell at the age of fifteen, by reading romances, and from the pernicious society of a vain, frivolous cousin. She says: "This fault of reading romances failed not to cool my good desires, and was the cause of my falling into many defects.  I could not be satisfied if I had not some new romance in my hand."  Her devotions were laid aside; her rosary, once her constant companion, now hung unnoticed by her crucifix; and the lives of the glorious heroes of Christianity, that had formerly so inflamed her heart, were cast aside for the frivolous inventions of the novelist. 

Her father, deeply grieved at the alteration, and finding it impossible to separate her from the vain society of the cousin who encouraged in her this perverted taste for the idle romances of the day, determined to place her in a convent where many young persons of rank were educated.  The happy quiet of her new home soon became very delightful to Teresa; her former feelings returned, and she sincerely repented of the faults into which she had fallen.  After a year and a half spent in this happy life, she was taken home on account of sickness; and to restore her health she spent some time at the country house of a very pious uncle.  There she read many works which treated of the vanity of the world and the immense difference between temporal and eternal interests.  After many struggles and conflicts with herself, she finally resolved to embrace a religious life; and during her novitiate she was blessed with rare spiritual favors, which abundantly rewarded her for the severe interior trials she underwent in determining her vocation.  The first years of her conventual life were marked by a complication of severe physical sufferings; the patience with which she bore them amazed all who saw her, and in the midst of the most intense pains her heart seemed always fixed on God alone.  At one time she was supposed to be dead, and a grave was dug for her in the convent cemetery.  Again, she was almost a helpless cripple for three years but she ever regarded her sufferings as so many steps by which she might ascend to perfection, and she welcomed them as special pledges of the love of her crucified Lord.  It was never given to mortal to rise to more seraphic heights of contemplation than did Teresa amid her excruciating bodily pains.  These high spiritual favors, which she so fully enjoyed, filled her mind, at times, with many fears that she might be suffering under illusion, for she knew that Satan often causes the fall of spiritual persons by leading them to indulge in pride and self-complacency.  But the bodily pains she endured, and the persecutions she had at times to undergo in consequence of these favors, kept a spirit of deepest humility alive in her heart. 

St. Teresa relates that one day in passing through the convent, she met a most beautiful boy.  Astonished to find him there, but supposing that he had come to see some relative among the nuns, she asked him who he was.  "Tell me first your name," replied the child, "and I will tell you mine,"  "My name," she answered, "is Teresa of Jesus."  "And mine," He replied, "is Jesus of Teresa.  "This incident shows the close union which the King of Glory contracted with the soul of Teresa. 

At one time her confessor commanded her to resist the visions she had, and to arm herself with the Cross in order to combat them, and one day as she held up the Cross our Lord took it in His sacred hands, and then returned it to her adorned with precious stones, telling her that for her only this Cross should remain always thus ornamented, as a witness to the truth of His Apparition.  He did not dissuade her from obeying her confessor in resisting, as formerly, all heavenly favors.  Let us add for the information of the reader, that our Lord had also bestowed upon St. Catharine of Siena a precious ring, which was visible to her alone.  St. Cecilia and her spouse Valerian each received from the angel a crown of lilies and roses, visible to those alone who had been baptized, and had remained virgins. 

The condition of prayer during which Teresa beheld our Lord, lasted for over two years.  It became continual; sleep even failed to interrupt it, and the love which burned in her soul became so intense that she was perishing from the desire to behold her God.  It was at this period of her life that she received that which theologians call the wound of love, a wound of which God wished that her heart should always bear the mark.  Over and over again the Saint perceived near her, on the left side, an angel under a bodily form: he was very beautiful; by his ardent countenance he could be known as one of the cherubim, spirits made of naught but love and flame.  "I beheld in his hands," she said, "a long poniard of gold, at whose extremity was a slight spark of flame.  From time to time he plunged this into my heart and buried it in my entrails; it seemed to me that he took them from me with this poniard, and left me filled and burning with the love of God.  This wound, inflicted thus, caused me an indescribable martyrdom, and at the same time made me taste of perfect joy.  There exists between God and the soul at that instant an intercourse of love so perfect that it is impossible to describe it.  I consider my sufferings as a glory in comparison with which all the other glories of the world are as nothing." 

One day when she was praying alone, she found herself transported into hell as into a dark trench, fearful, pestilential, and full of reptiles; she then suffered the agonies of fire to a degree which surpassed all the pains she had ever undergone, even those of which the devil was the author, making them appear like shadows.  Nevertheless, even this cruel torment was not to be compared to the agony of the soul, the sadness full of despair, the sinking of the heart which she experienced.  She felt that any attempt at description would be useless, and always believed that God desired thus to show her the dreadful abyss from which He had delivered her, in withdrawing her from her former life of pleasure: for, from one thing led on to another, she would surely have ended by perishing.  This vision made her feel intensely the sufferings of those souls who perish in such numbers, especially since the revolt of Luther, who had been followed by so many weak Christians and others whose faith was already shaken. To save one of these souls from such frightful punishment, she would joyfully have laid down her life a thousand times. 

Once, when at Mass on the Feast of the Assumption, she was grieving over her sins, when the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph appeared to her, and, clothing her with robes of dazzling splendor and brightness, made known to her that she was entirely purified from all her sins.  The Mother of God then taking her hands assured her that she would always assist her, and as a pledge of her protection, and the truth of her promise, the Mother of Jesus placed around Teresa’s neck a collar of rich gold whence hung a most resplendent cross.  This gold and these precious stones differed from all those which one sees upon earth, as likewise did the fabric of her garment, whose shining whiteness was of such radiance that nothing could be compared to it, not even the snow, which, besides this purity, as the Saint declared, seemed as black as soot.  Without being able to distinguish in detail the features of Our Lady, Teresa could only perceive that she was gracious with her holy beauty and the innocence of her youth. 

Another time the Blessed Virgin appeared to her, and sheltering the Saint and her daughters under the vast folds of her mantle, made known to her to what heights of holiness her Divine Son desired to raise all those who became inmates of her Order. 

Scarcely less beautiful was St. Teresa’s vision on the Assumption into heaven, the joy and solemnity with which Mary was received, and the place she holds; the glory which her soul had to see that Mary’s is so great; her desire to suffer greater affliction here and to serve Our Lady more. 

Such is a brief, very brief sketch of the first portion of her religious life, and during these twenty-eight years, God was preparing this chosen soul for the great work of the reform of her Order.  A perfect storm of indignation met her at the commencement of her efforts; but she was encouraged to persevere by Saint Louis Bertrand, Saint Peter Alcantara, and other holy persons.  After many weary delays and bitter persecutions she succeeded in her great enterprise, and she lived to see seventeen convents of nuns, and fifteen houses of friars, established under her reformed Carmelite rule in all the principal cities of Spain. 

The last house founded by the Saint was that of Burgos, in April, 1582.  She was very ill, and with difficulty reached Valladolid about the end of July, where she was grossly insulted by a lawyer who would have her violate the provisions of her brother’s will.  Because she was just, the lawyer called her a wicked nun, who was less good than many who lived in the world.  The Saint accepted the reproach, merely saying, "Our Lord reward you for your charity," as if she deserved to be thus treated. 

The prioress of Valladolid turned against and sent her away from the monastery, and on September 16th, the Saint reached Medina del Campo, where also the prioress treated her with the utmost disrespect. She then went to Alba de Tormes, and nearly died on the road for want of food.  She came to Alba on the evening of the 20th; the next morning she went with the utmost difficulty down to the church for Communion, and then returned to her cell and her bed never again to leave them.  Fra Antonio of Jesus, the first who promised to accept her reform, administered the last sacraments.  Unable to speak, she turned towards her faithful companion, the Venerable Anne of St. Bartholomew, and drew her towards her, and then crept into her arms: Anne held her there for fourteen hours, and then, seeing our Lord with many Saints at the foot of the bed, she prayed for her death that she might enter into joy; the instant she had finished her prayer the Saint was dead.  It was on the feast of St. Francis, October 4th, 1582. 


The following poem is selected from Father Matthew Russell’s most devotional book-- "St. Joseph of Jesus and Mary." The title of this book is in imitation of St. Teresa s title, chosen by herself, "Teresa of Jesus," which was so pleasing to our Lord, that, it is said He showed Himself to her as the Divine Child and asked her her name that He might reply: "And I call myself Jesus of Teresa. " We choose this poem out of all the treasures in the book, because, in the closing words of Father s Russell s preface, "all that we want is a happy death.  May our death bear a far-off likeness to thine, O St. Joseph of Jesus and Mary." 


A simple print, from hand of high renown, 
Upon my low bed’s head looks kindly down; 
The Patriarch Joseph, Foster father mild 
Of Nazareth’s Virgin-Mother’s heavenly Child; 
His dying head pressed close against the knee 
Of the Incarnate Son and Deity: 
The Virgin-Mother kneeling gently near, 
Dissolved in Prayer, on that mild cheek a tear;-- 
Thus has the Christian Master’s pious mind, 
Great Overbeck, the "Just Man’s" death designed. 
The picture, breathing all the holy peace 
Of souls, which find in death, from death release, 
Thus placed, a wish long cherished found expression-- 
When I shall come to my death-bed confession; 
When faithful priest shall that last unction give 
Which bids these lapsing, dying senses live 
On God s own day of happy resurrection, 
As long-tried vessels of most sweet election; 
When on my parched, enfeebled tongue shall lie 
Jesus Himself, in loving mystery; 
Then my three friends, in fair, celestial state, 
Unseen, around my bed benignly wait; 
Thus shall I win while yielding up my breath 
Life’s last and crowning grace, a happy death. 
O Jesus, Mary, Joseph!  Thus I sigh 
Each night as ‘neath that picture’s wing I lie; 
O Jesus, Mary, Joseph! Me befriend 
When this so troubled life begins to end; 
O Jesus, Mary, Joseph!  With you near 
Death’s dreaded spectres all will disappear; 
And though no friend may come with pious care 
To wipe the death-sweat, lift the last sweet prayer, 
Contentedly, serenely, I can die 
In your most dear and holy company.

-Elisa Allen Starr

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