Hello everyone! Happy Feast day! Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Teresa of the Andes. St. Teresa’s life here on Earth was remarkably short, she died before she saw her twentieth birthday. Yet in the nineteen years and nine months of this brief life, Teresa attained a high level of sanctity. Just eleven months before her death, Teresa entered the Carmel of the Holy Spirit on Los Andes, Chile. There, she lived her Joy to the fullest as a Bride of Christ.
St. Teresa shows us that the true Christian live must be lived with Joy. Despite her immense sufferings, Teresa always lived in Joy!
St. Teresa of the Andes was born Santiago, Chile, on July 13, 1900. Her family belonged to the upper class of Chile – thus from a very young age she knew what it was like to live in relative comfort. Juanita (her baptismal name) lived, in many respects, the life of a normal girl of the times. However, she was also granted many mystical privileges. Juanita, from the time she was just a little girl, conversed frequently with Jesus and the Blessed Mother. She possessed astounding knowledge, spiritual maturity beyond her years, and quite a temper (as did St. Therese of the Child Jesus and St. Teresa of Avila). Perhaps the greatest spiritual gift Juanita possessed was profound humility.
Christ tries those who are close to Him, not to punish them but to bring them closer to Him and to know the depths of their fidelity – Juanita was no exception. From the beginning she suffered with continued illness and emotional insensibility. At the age of fourteen, she suffered from an appendicitis, which almost took her life. Juanita’s father lacked the critical economic skill to manage his wealth and as time progressed, he ended up loosing much of it. Some of the Sisters who ran the boarding school that Juanita and her sister attended thought Juanita to be an imposture were skeptical of her sanctity.
Sufferings like these have the purpose of bringing us closer to God, as we realize our utter dependence on Him. This is exactly the effect which they had on Juanita. She realized that nothing in this passing world could fill her longing for complete Joy – only the infinite God could perfectly fulfill that desire which He put in us.
In order for her to be ever closer to her “Spouse” Juanita followed the call to religious life, and, despite the pleas from her family to abandon her vocation, Juanita entered the Carmel of the Holy Spirit on Los Andes on May 7, 1919 on the feast of the Patronage of St. Joseph. She was a mere 18 years old. Juanita was given the name Teresa of Jesus.
In Carmel, she experienced great Joy, now being as united to Our Lord as the limits of this frail world would allow. Here she experienced unfathomable Joy. However, in the few months she spent in this paradise, Christ willed to try her yet again. He often hid His face from her as she struggled through this “Dark Night of the Soul.
In Holy Week of 1920, Teresa came down with Typhoid. She first showed signs of this last illness on Good Friday. During the time between when she fell ill and her death, Teresa received the last Sacraments with the greatest joy and also was permitted to make her final vows and be fully clothed in the habit of the Order. Teresa of Jesus died on Monday, April 12, 1919 – three months short of her twentieth birthday. She had not even spent yet one year in Carmel.
Suffering and Joy – the ultimate paradox. St. Teresa of the Andes shows us that the way to true Joy is through suffering and that that true Joy is made perfect in suffering. Now of course, to the rest of the world, the whole thing is absurdity, but that is because of our tainted understanding of what Joy is. Joy is not a giddy, happy feeling we get when life is good. No, Joy – true genuine Joy – is living in the fully in the Lord and living fully our membership in His Mystical Body. This, above all, is the message of St. Teresa of the Andes. This is what sums up her life – “God is the Joy of my Life!”
So on this feast of St. Teresa of the Andes, let us pray for that Joy which she so lovingly held in her soul. Let us strive to imitate that innocent Bride of Christ and come to the Eternal Reward of which she is now in full possession. St. Teresa of the Andes – Pray for Us!