Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Feast of St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila1, the great mystic saint, was born on March 28, 1515. Her wealthy, wool merchant father, the son of a Jewish convert of questionable sincerity, was pious and charitable, and a great lover of books. She described her mother as good and beautiful but sickly.

She had 2 sisters and 9 brothers, and was especially close to the brother who was closest to her in age. In her autobiography, she describes their relationship: 

He and I used to read Lives of Saints together. When I read of martyrdom undergone by the Saints for the love of God, it struck me that the vision of God was very cheaply purchased; and I had a great desire to die a martyr's death,--not out of any love of Him of which I was conscious, but that I might most quickly attain to the fruition of those great joys of which I read that they were reserved in Heaven; and I used to discuss with my brother how we could become martyrs. We settled to go together to the country of the Moors, begging our way for the love of God, that we might be there beheaded; and our Lord, I believe, had given us courage enough, even at so tender an age, if we could have found the means to proceed; but our greatest difficulty seemed to be our father and mother.

It astonished us greatly to find it said in what we were reading that pain and bliss were everlasting. We happened very often to talk about this; and we had a pleasure in repeating frequently, "For ever, ever, ever." Through the constant uttering of these words, our Lord was pleased that I should receive an abiding impression of the way of truth when I was yet a child.

As soon as I saw it was impossible to go to any place where people would put me to death for the sake of God, my brother and I set about becoming hermits; and in an orchard belonging to the house we contrived, as well as we could, to build hermitages, by piling up small stones one on the other, which fell down immediately; and so it came to pass that we found no means of accomplishing our wish.

When Teresa was 11, her mother died, and she turned to the Blessed Virgin for maternal sustenance:

When I began to understand my loss, I went in my affliction to an image of our Lady, and with many tears implored her to be my mother. I did this in my simplicity, and I believe that it was of service to me; for I have by experience found the royal Virgin help me whenever I recommended myself to her; and at last she has brought me back to herself.

Still though, as she entered her teen years, she gave in to vanity, playing up her good looks and spending too much time reading books about chivalry. She had a number of cousins who were also a bad influence on her, enticing her to focus on trivialities, gossip, and pointless amusements. Her father grew fed up with her silly behavior, and sent her to an Augustinian convent to be educated and disciplined. At first, she hated it, but after eight days, she grew to love the nuns. One nun, in particular, had a great effect on her, encouraging her to focus on holy things, and as this friendship grew, her heart softened at the idea of becoming a nun herself.

She wasn't totally in love with the idea though -- until she finished her time at the convent and went to stay with a a dying uncle. Knowing he was facing judgment, the uncle spoke and read of God, and influenced Teresa greatly.

Though I remained here but a few days, yet, through the impression made on my heart by the words of God both heard and read, and by the good conversation of my uncle, I came to understand the truth I had heard in my childhood, that all things are as nothing, the world vanity, and passing rapidly away. I also began to be afraid that, if I were then to die, I should go down to hell. Though I could not bend my will to be a nun, I saw that the religious state was the best and the safest. And thus, by little and little, I resolved to force myself into it.

The struggle lasted three months. I used to press this reason against myself: The trials and sufferings of living as a nun cannot be greater than those of purgatory, and I have well deserved to be in hell. It is not much to spend the rest of my life as if I were in purgatory, and then go straight to Heaven--which was what I desired. I was more influenced by servile fear, I think, than by love, to enter religion.

She was very, very close to her father, though, and the idea of leaving him was a great torment to her. It was a torment to him, as well, and he was against the idea. Still, she entered the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation in Avila, and God provided what she needed:

When I took the habit, our Lord at once made me understand how He helps those who do violence to themselves in order to serve Him. No one observed this violence in me; they saw nothing but the greatest good will. At that moment, because I was entering on that state, I was filled with a joy so great, that it has never failed me to this day; and God converted the aridity of my soul into the greatest tenderness. Everything in religion was a delight unto me; and it is true that now and then I used to sweep the house during those hours of the day which I had formerly spent on my amusements and my dress; and, calling to mind that I was delivered from such follies, I was filled with a new joy that surprised me, nor could I understand whence it came

After she made her profession, she became horribly ill -- so ill at one point that her grave was prepared. During this time, she read many great spiritual works, among them St. Peter of Alcantara's "Golden Treatise of Mental Prayer" and St. Augustine's "Confessions" (both of which you can find in this site's Catholic Library). And it was then that she began intense mental prayer and developed a great devotion to St. Joseph, to whom she attributed her eventual cure.

The mental prayer for which she is known was rewarded with great graces, including levitation, ecstasies, and visions -- including being shown the place in Hell to which she would have been relegated had she resisted the graces she was being given. The most famous of her visions, though, is the "Transverberation" -- the piercing of her heart by Love. She describes it:

Our Lord was pleased that I should have at times a vision of this kind: I saw an angel close by me, on my left side, in bodily form. This I am not accustomed to see, unless very rarely. Though I have visions of angels frequently, yet I see them only by an intellectual vision, such as I have spoken of before. It was our Lord's will that in this vision I should see the angel in this wise. He was not large, but small of stature, and most beautiful--his face burning, as if he were one of the highest angels, who seem to be all of fire: they must be those whom we call cherubim. Their names they never tell me; but I see very well that there is in heaven so great a difference between one angel and another, and between these and the others, that I cannot explain it.

I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it, even a large one. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.

During the days that this lasted, I went about as if beside myself. I wished to see, or speak with, no one, but only to cherish my pain, which was to me a greater bliss than all created things could give me.

This transverberation was famously depicted by Bernini, with his sculpture "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa," which can be found in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria (Our Lady of Victory) in Rome:

At first, she was troubled by these gifts, thinking they might be from the Evil One. But she put herself under the guidance of St. Peter Alcantara, St. Francis Borgia, and a few Dominican and Jesuit priests, who all helped her with spiritual discernment and who concluded that these gifts were, indeed, supernatural and not preternatural in origin.

She wrote of her life and ways of prayer in three works: "Autobiography," "The Way of Perfection," and "Interior Castle," all of which you can find in this site's library.2

Her other great work was the reformation of the Carmelite Order. Finding the convent she'd joined had grown lax in discipline, she formed her own -- the Discalced Carmelites ("discalced" means "shoeless"). Dedicating her first convent to St. Joseph, she established the Convento de San José in Avila, in 1562, and would go on to establish convents all over Spain -- 17 in all -- against strong opposition. St. John of the Cross would follow her example and open a Discalced community for Carmelite friars in 1568.

At the age of 67, in 1582, she took ill and died at her convent in Alba de Tormes. Her last words are said to have been, "My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may your will be done. O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another." When she died, one of the sisters saw Jesus at the foot of her bed, attended by many angels. At the head of her bed were martyrs who had appeared to her in one of her visions and promised to be present at her death. Another nun saw what looked like a white dove fly from her mouth, and yet a third nun saw a crowd of people dressed in white enter her room with joyful, radiant faces.

She was buried there in Alba, and was found to be incorrupt nine months later. Her heart was removed and is on display; it is said that the place where it was pierced by the angel is visible to this day. After some years, her relics were moved to Avila, but she was later moved back to Alba de Tormes, and that is now where her relics can be venerated.

After she died, a prayer was found inside her breviary, and it's become a prayer loved by Catholics and often found on holy cards. It's known as "St. Teresa's Bookmark" and you should be familiar with it: 
Let nothing disturb thee,
Let nothing frighten thee,
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience attains all things.
He who has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

St. Teresa was canonized 40 years after her death, and
was made a Doctor of the Church -- "the Doctor of Prayer" -- in 1970. She is the patron saint of nuns, Spain, and chess, and can be recognized in art by her Carmelite habit, a crown of thorns, a dove, or a quill pen.


Some may prepare for this feast by praying the Novena to St. Teresa of Avila starting on October 6 and ending on October 14, the eve of this feast. For the day itself, the Litany of St. Teresa of Avila, the Glory of Spain would be good to pray, as would this shorter prayer.

Graciously hear us, O God, our Savior, that we rejoice in the festival of blessed Teresa, Thy Virgin, so we may be fed with the food of her Heavenly teaching, and grow in loving devotion towards Thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.

As to music for this feast, Marc-Antoine Charpentier wrote for St. Teresa his Pour Ste Thérèse, "Flores o Gallia" H.374:

In Avila, the entire month of October is spent celebrating St. Teresa. There are concerts, tournaments, games, expositions, lectures, parades of the gigantes (giant figures) and cabezudos (human-scaled figures with giant heads), dramas, street foods -- you name it. One of the foods you'll find during the festivities is an egg yolk-based candy called Yemas de Santa Teresa. A recipe -- along with one for meringues so you can use up the egg whites that remain:

Yemas de Santa Teresa

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon, strained
10 egg yolks
granulated sugar (for rolling)

Put the 1 c. sugar and water in a small steel saucepan and stir. Boil at medium heat until it gets to 220F. Take off the heat and let it cool completely.

Separately, beat the egg yolks in a second saucepan. Add the zest and juice and beat til it turns a bit pale. Slowly whisk the syrup into the yolks a bit at a time. Cook over low heat, slowly stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and begins to separate from the sides of the pan (4 or 5 minutes). Take off the heat, place the pan on a cold surface (over a bowl of ice is best), and stir for a few minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with a cooking oil (or use butter to grease it up). Pour the mixture out in two ropes onto the sheet and let it cool totally (or put into the fridge until cold and thick).  With oiled or buttered hands, pull off walnut-sized chunks and roll into 1" balls. Roll the balls in the sugar and let sit overnight in the fridge. Place in mini cupcake liners or wrap each individually in little squares of wax paper and serve with coffee or tea.


10 egg whites, room temperature
1 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp vanilla*

Heat oven to 225F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In an immaculately clean and dry bowl, mix the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt and beat til foamy (use a hand mixer or a stand mixer). Add the sugar a bit at a time -- a couple of tablespoonsful per addition -- all while beating at high speed. Beat until glossy and thick, and keep beating until stiff peaks form. Make sure sugar is all dissolved (rub some of the mixture between your fingertips; if it still feels gritty, keep beating). When the whites are at stiff peaks, beat in the vanilla.* Use a piping bag to pipe 1 1/2"-sized portions onto the parchment-lined sheets in a pretty shape. Bake for an hour at 225F, then turn the oven off but keep the oven door closed and leave them in the oven for an hour or two until cooled down. Store airtight.

*If you want, you can divide the beaten whites in half and add vanilla to one half, and another flavor to the other half. Be careful to adjust for the sometimes stronger (or weaker) intensities of different flavorings.

While the meringues are baking and the candies are cooling, your children might enjoy playing with little paper nun dolls designed by Gail Ross. The doll itself looks like St. Teresa, and there are various different habits from other religious orders she can be dressed in. For best results, print the doll itself (page 1) on card stock, and the habits in a lighter paper: Paper Nun Dolls (pdf)

A little aside for information's sake: folks of a certain age will remember the well-beloved Señor Wences, the lightning-fast ventriloquist whose full name was Wenceslao Moreno Centeno (his stage name is pronounced "Wen-thes," with the Castillian TH sound replacing the CE sound most Anglophones would expect). He had the little characters that lived inside boxes, or that he made with just his hands and a tube of lipstick, and is known for the catchphrase, "S'ok?" "S'ariight!" He was born in Salamanca, a city about 15 miles north of Alba de Tormes, the city in which St. Teresa died. He was a very devout Catholic, and a great benefactor of St. Teresa's convent in Alba de Tormes. Your children might enjoy watching Señor Wences today.

For further reading, see St. Teresa's writings in pdf format in this site's Catholic Library.


From "The Liturgical Year"

by Dom Prosper Gueranger

"Although the Church triumphant in heaven, and the Church mourning here on earth, appear to be completely separated," says Bossuet on this feast, "they are nevertheless united by a saored bond. This bond is charity, which is found in this land of exile as well as in our heavenly country; which rejoioes the triumphant Saints, and animates those still militant; which, descending from heaven to earth, and from Angels to men, causes earth to become a heaven, and men to become Angels. For, holy Jerusalem, happy Church of the first born whose names are written in heaven, although the Church thy dear sister, who lives and combats here below, ventures not to compare herself with thee, she is not the less assured that a holy love unites her to thee. It is true that she is seeking, and thou possessest; that she labours, and thou art at rest; that she hopes, and thou rejoicest. But among all these differences which separate the two so far asunder, there is this at least in common: that what the blessed spirits love, the same we mortals love. Jesus is their life, Jesus is our life; and amid their songs of rapture, and oar sighs of sorrow, everywhere are heard to resound these words of the sacred Psalmist: It is good for me to adhere to my God"

Of this sovereign good of the Church militant and triumphant, Teresa, in a time of decadence, was commissioned to remind the world, from the height of Oarmel restored by her to its pristine beauty. After the cold night of the fourteenth and fifteenth oenturies, the example of her life possessed a power of irresistible attraction, which survives in her writings, drawing predestined souls after her in the footsteps of the Divine Spouse.

It was not, however, by unknown ways, that the Holy Spirit led Teresa; neither did she, the humble Teresa, make any innovations. Long before, the Apostle had declared that the Christian's conversation is in heaven; and we saw, a few daya ago, how the Areopagite formulated the teaching of the first century. After him we might mention St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and many other witnesses from all the churches. It hasbeensaid, and proved far more ably than we could prove it, that "no state seems to have been more fully recognized by the Fathers, than that of perfect union, which is achieved in the highest contemplation; and in reading their writings, we cannot help remarking the simplicity with which they treat of it; they seem to think it frequent, and simply look upon it as the full development of the Christian life."

In this, as in all else, Scholasticism followed the fathers. It asserted the doctrine concerning these summits of Christian life, even at a time when the weakness of faith in the people scarcely ever left full scope to divine oharity, save in the obscurity of a few unknown cloisters. In its own peculiar form, the teaching of the School was unfortunately not ttooessible to all; and moreover the abnormal character of that troubled epoch affected even the mystics that still remained.

It was then that the Virgin of Avila appeared in the Catholic kingdom. Wonderfully gifted by grace and by nature, she experienced the resistances of the latter, as well as the calls of God, and the purifying delays and progressive triumphs of love ; the Holy Ghost, who intended her to be a mistress in the Church, led her, if one may so speak, by the classical way of the favours he reserves for the perfect. Having arrived at the mountain of God, she described the road by which she had come, without any pretension but to obey him who commanded her in the name of the Lord. With exquisite simplicity and unconsciousness of self, she related the works accomplished for her Spouse; made over to her daughters the lessons of her own experience; and described the many mansions of that castle of the human soul, in the centre of which, he that can reach it will find the holy Trinity residing as in an anticipated heaven. No more was needed: withdrawn from speculative abstractions and restored to her sublime simplicity, the Christian mystic again attracted every mind; light re-awakened love; the virtues nourished in the Church; and the baneful effects of heresy and its pretended reform were counteracted.

Doubtless Teresa invited no one to attempt, as presumptuously as vainly, to force an entrance into the uncommon paths. But if passive and infused union depends entirely upon God's good pleasure, the union of effective and active conformity to the divine Will, without which the other would be an illusion, may be attained with the help of ordinary grace, by every man of good will. Those who possess it, "have obtained," says the Saint, "what it was lawful for them to wish for. This is the union I have all my life desired, and have always asked of our Lord; it is also the easiest to understand, and the most secure."

She added however: "Beware of that excessive reserve, which oertain persons have, and which they take for humility. If the king deigned to grant you a favour, would it be humility to meet him with a refusal? And when the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth deigns to honour my soul with his visit, and comes to load me with graces, and to rejoice with me; should I prove myself humble if I would not answer him, nor keep him company, nor accept his gifts, but fled from his presence and left him all alone? A strange sort of humility is that! Look upon Jesus Christ as a Father, a Brother, a Master, or a Spouse; and treat him in one or other of these ways; he himself will teach you which is the one that best pleases him and that it behoves you to choose. And then, be not so simple as to make no use of it."

But it is said on all sides: "This way is beset with snares: such a soul was lost in it; such an one went astray; and another, who ceased not to pray, could not escape a fall... See the inconceivable blindness of the world. It has no anxiety about those thousands of unfortunate creatures who, entirely strangers to the path of prayer, live in the most horrible excess; but if it happens, by a misfortune deplorable no doubt but very rare, that the tempter's artifices seduce a soul that prays, they take advantage of this to inspire others with  the greatest terror, and to deter them from the holy practices of virtue. Is he not the victim of a most fatal error, who believes it necessary to abstain from doing good in order to avoid doing evil? You must rise above all these fears. Endeavour to keep your consoienoe always pure; strengthen yourself in humility; tread under foot all earthly things; be inflexible in the faith of our mother the holy Church; and doubt not, after that, that you are on the right road." It is too true that "when a soul finds not in herself that vigorous faith, and her transports of devotion do not strengthen her attachment to holy Church, she is in a way full of perils. The Spirit of God never inspires anything that is not conformable to holy Scripture; if there were the slightest divergence, that, of itself alone, would suffice to prove so evidently the action of the evil spirit, that were the whole world to assure me it was the divine Spirit, I would never believe it."

But the soul may escape so great a danger by questioning those who can enlighten her. "Every Christian must, when he is able, seek out a learned guide ; and the more learned the better. Such a help is still more necessary to persons given to prayer; and in the highest states, they have most need of it. I have always felt drawn to men eminent for doctrine. Some, I grant, may not have experimental knowledge of spiritual ways; but if they have not an aversion for them, they do not ignore them; and by the assistance of holy Scripture, of which they make a constant study, they always recognize the true signs of the good Spirit. The spirit of darkness has a strange dread of humble and virtuous science; he knows it will find him out, and  thus his stratagems will turn to his own loss... I, an ignorant and useless creature, bless thee, Lord, for these faithful servants of thine, who give us light.  I hare no more knowledge than virtue; I write by snatches, and even then with difficulty; this prevents me from spinning, and I live in a poor house where I have no lack of occupations. The mere fact of being a woman and one so imperfect, is sufficient to make me lay down the pen."

Ah thou wilt, Teresa: deliver thy soul; pass beyond that, and with Magdalene, at the recollection of what thou callest thine infidelities, water with thy tears the feet of our Lord, recognise thyself in St. Augustine's Confessions! Yes; in those former relations with the world, although approved by obedience; in those conversations, which were honourable and virtuous: it was a fault in thee, who wast called to something higher, to withhold from God so many hours which he was inwardly urging thee to reserve for him alone. And who knows whither thy soul might have been led, hadst thou continued longer thus to wound thy Spouse? But we, whose tepidity can see nothing in thy great sins but what would be perfection in many of us, have a right to appreciate, as the Church does, both thy life and thy writings; and to pray with her, on this joyful day of thy feast, that we may be nourished with thy heavenly doctrine and kindled with thy love of God.

According to the word of the divine Canticle, in order to introduce Teresa into his most precious stores the Spouse had first to set charity in order in her soul. Having, therefore, claimed his just and sovereign rights, he at once restored her to her neighbour, more devoted and more loving than before. The Seraph's dart did not wither nor deform her heart. At the highest summit of perfection she was destined to attain, in the very year of her blessed death, she wrote: "If you love me much, I love you equally, " I assure you; and I like you to tell me the same. Oh I how true it is, that our nature inclines us to wish for return of love! It cannot he wrong, since our Lord himself exacts a return from us. It is an advantage to resemble him in something, were it only in this."  And elsewhere, speaking of her endless journeys in the service of her divine Spouse, she says : " It ocst me the greatest pain when I had to part from my daughters and sisters. They are detached from everything else in the world, but God has not given them to be detached from me; he has perhaps done this for my greater trial, for neither am I detached from them."

No; grace never depreciates nature, which, like itself , is the Creator's work. It consecrates it, makes it healthy, fortifies it, harmonizes it; causes the full development of its faoulties to become the first and most tangible homage, publicly offered by regenerated man to Christ the Redeemer. Let any one read that literary masterpiece, the Book of the Foundations, or the innumerable letters written by the seraphic Mother amid the devouring activity of her life; there he will see, whether the heroism of faith and of all virtues, whether sanotity in its highest mystical expression, was ever prejudicial — we will not say to Teresa's constancy, devotedness, or energy, — but to that intelligence, whioh nothing could disconcert, swift, lively, and pleasant; to that even character, which shed its peaceful serenity on all around; to the delicate solicitude, the moderation, the exquisite tact, the amiable manners, the practical good sense, of this contemplative, whose pierced heart beat only by miracle, and whose motto was: To suffer or to die!

To the benefactor of a projected foundation she wrote: " Do not think, sir, that you will have to give only what you expect; I warn you of it. It is nothing to give money; that does not cost us much. But when we find ourselves on the point of being stoned, you, and your son-in-law, and as many of us as have to do with this affair, (as it nearly happened to us at the foundation of St. Joseph's at Avila), Oh! then will be the good time!"  It was on occasion of this same foundation at Toledo, whioh was in fact very stormy, that the Saint said: "Teresa and three ducats are nothing; but God, Teresa, and three ducats, there you have everything."

Teresa had to experience more than mere human privations: there came a time when God himself seemed to fail her. Like Philip Benizi before her, and after her Joseph Calasanctius and Alphonsus Liguori, she saw herself, her daughters, and her sons, condemned and rejected in the name and by the authority of the Vicar of Christ. It was one of those occasions, long before prophesied, when it is given to the beast to make tear with the minte and to overcome them. We have not space to relate all the sad circumstances; and why should we do so? The old enemy had then one manner of acting, which he repeated in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, and will always repeat. In like manner, God has but one aim in permitting the evil, viz : to lead his chosen ones to that lofty summit of crucifying union, where he, who willed to be first to taste the bitter dregs of the chalice, could say more truly and more painfully than any other: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

The Church thus abridges the life of the reformer of Carmel.

The virgin Teresa was born at Avila in Spain, of parents  illustrious for nobility and virtue. She was brought up by them in the fear of God; and while still very young, she gave admirable promise of  her future sanctity. While reading the Acts of the holy martyrs, she was so enkindled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, that she ran away from home, resolved to cross over to Africa, and there to lay down her life for the glory of Jesus Christ and the salvation of souls. She was brought back by her uncle; but her heart still burned with the desire of martyrdom, which she endeavoured to satisfy by alms-deeds and other works of piety, weeping continually to see herself deprived of that happy lot. On the death of her mother she begged the Blessed Virgin to be a Mother to her; and she gained her request, for, ever afterwards  the Mother of God cherished  her as a daughter. In the twentieth year of her age she joined the Nuns of St. Mary of Mount Carmel; and spent
eighteen years in that monastery, enduring severe illnesses and many trials. While she was thus courageously battling in the ranks of Christian penance, she was deprived of the support of heavenly consolations, in which the saints usually abound, even on this earth.

She was adorned with angelic virtues; and her charity made her solicitous not for her own salvation alone, but for  that of all mankind. Inspired by God, and with the approbation of Pius IV, she restored the Carmelite rule to its primitlive severity, and caused it to be thus observed first by the women and then by the men.

The all-powerful blessing of our merciful God was evident in this work; for, though destitute of ell human aid, and moreover opposed by many of the great ones of the world, the virgin was able, in her poverty, to build thirty-two monasteries. She wept continually over the blindness of infidels and heretics, and offered to God the voluntary maceration of her body to appease the divine anger, on their behalf. Her heart burned like a furnace of divine love; so that once she saw an Angel piercing it with a fiery dart, and heard Christ say to her, taking her hand in his: Henceforward, as my true bride, thou shall be zealous for mine honour. By our Lord's advice, she made the exceedingly difficult vow, always to do what she conceived to be most perfect. She wrote many works, full of divine wisdom, which arouse in the minds of the faithful the desire of their heavenly country.

Whereas Teresa was a pattern of every virtae, her desire of bodily mortification was most ardent; and in spite of the various maladies which afflicted her, she chastised her body with hairshirts and iron chains, scourged herself with sharp disciplines or with bundles of nettles, and sometimes rolled among thorns. She would often speak thus to God: Lord, let me either suffer or die; for she considered that as long as she was absent from the fountain of life, she was dying daily and most miserably. She was remarkable for her gift of prophecy, and was enriched to such a degree by our Lord with his divine favours, that she would often beg him to set bounds to his gifts, and not to blot out the memory of her sins so speedily. Consumed by the irresistible fire of divine love rather than by disease, after receiving the last Sacraments, and exhorting her children to peaoe, charity, and religious observance, she expired at Alba, on the day she had foretold; and her most pure soul was seen ascending to God in the form a dove. She died at the age of sixty-seven, in the year 1582, on the Ides of October according to the corrected Roman Calendar. Jesus Christ was seen present at her deathbed, surrounded by Angels; and a withered tree near cell suddenly burst into blossom. Her body has remained incorrupt to the present day, distilling a fragrant liquor; and is honoured with pious veneration. She was made illustrious by miraclee both before and after her death; and Gregory XV enrolled her among the Saints.

The Beloved, who revealed himself to thee, O Teresa, at death, thou hadst already found in the sufferings of this life. If anything could bring thee book to earth, it would be the desire of suffering yet more.  "I am not surprised," says Bossuet speaking in thy honour on thy feast, "that Jesus willed to die: he owed that sacrifioe to his Father. But why was it necessary that he should spend his days, and finally close them, in the midst of such great pains? It is because, being the Man of sorrows, as the Prophet calls him, he would live only to endure; or, to express it more forcibly by a beautiful word of Tertullian's: he wished to be satiated, before dying, with the luxury of suffering: Saginari voluptate patientiae discessurus volebat." What a strange expression! One would think, according to this Father, that the whole life of our Saviour was a banquet, where all the dishes consisted of torments. A strange banquet in the eyes of men, but which Jesus found to his taste! Hid death was sufficient for out salvation; but death was not enough to satisfy his wonderful appetite for suffering for us. It was needful to add the scourges, and that blood-stained crown that pierced his head, and all the cruel apparatus of terrible tortures; and wherefore? Living only to endure, he wished to be satiated, beore dying, with the luxury of suffering for us. In so far that upon his Cross, seeing in the eternal decrees that there was nothing more for him to suffer, 'Ah!' said he, 'it is done, all is consummated; let us go forth, for there is nothing more to do in this world'; and immediately he gave up his soul to his Father."

If such is the mind of Jesus our Saviour, must it not also be that of his bride, Teresa of Jesus? She too wished to suffer or to die; and her love could not endure that any other cause should retard her death, save that which deferred the death of our Saviour. Let us warm our hearts at the sight of this great example. If we are true Christians, we must desire to do ever with Jesus Christ. Now, where are we to find this loving Saviour of our souls? In what place may we embrace him? He is found in two places: in his glory and in his sufferings; on bis throne and on his cross. We must, then, in order to be with him, either embrace him on his throne, which death enables us to do; or else share in his cross, and this we do by suffering ; hence we must either suffer or die, if we would never be separated from our Lord. Let us suffer then, O Christians; let us suffer what it pleases God to send us: afflictions, sicknesses, the miseries of poverty, injuries, calumnies; let us try to carry, with steadfast courage, that portion of his cross, with which he is pleased to honour us.

O thou, whom the Churoh proposes to her children as a mistress and mother in the paths of the spiritual life, teach us this strong and true Christianity. Perfection, doubtless, cannot be acquired in a day; and thou didst say: " We should be much to be pitied, if we could not seek and find God till we were dead to the world. God deliver us from those extremely spiritual people, who, without examination or discretion, would refer everything "to perfect contemplation!" But God deliver us also from those mistaken devotions, which thou didst call puerile and foolish, and which were so repugnant to the uprightness and dignity of thy generous soul! Thou desiredst no other prayer, than that which would make thee grow in virtue. Conviuoe us of the great principle in these matters, that the prayer best made and most pleasing to God, is that which leaves behind it the best results, proved by works; and not those sweetnesses, which end in nothing but our own satisfaction. He alone will be saved, who has kept the commandments and fulfilled the law, and heaven, thy heaven, O Teresa, is the reward of the virtues thou didst practise, not of the revelations and ecstasies wherewith thou wast favoured.

From the blessed abode where thy love feeds upon infinite happiness, as it was nourished on earth by sufferings, obtain that thy native Spain may carefully cherish, in these days of decadence, her beautiful title of the Catholic Kingdom. Remember the part taken by France in determining thee to undertake the reform of Carmel. May thy sons be blessed with increase in members, in merit, and in holiness! In all the lands where the Holy Ghost has multiplied hy daughters, may their hallowed homes recall those first dove-cotes of the Blessed Virgin, where the Spouse delighted to show forth the miracles of his "grace." To the triumph of the faith, and the support of its defenders, thou didst direct their prayers and fasts; what an immense field now lies open to their zeal! With them and with thee, we ask of God two things: first, that among so many men and so many religious, some may be found having the necessary qualities for usefully serving the cause of the Church, on the understanding that one perfect man can render more services than a great many who are not perfect. Secondly, that in the conflict our Lord may uphold them with his hand, enabling them to escape all dangers, and to close their ears to the songs of sirens... God, have pity on so many perishing souls; stay the course of so many evils which afflict Christendom; and, without further delay, cause " thy light to shine in the midst of this darkness!"


1 "Avila" is pronounced with the accent on the first syllable -- "AV-ila", not "a-VIL-a"

2 You will likely see, and often, many quotes attributed to St. Teresa that she never said or wrote. One of the most famous among these is this poem or some variation thereof:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

First of all, Christ does have a body -- glorified in Heaven. Second, He is also bodily present in the Eucharist at Masses and in tabernacles all over the world. The words of this poem come from a Methodist minister.

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