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Saints of Carmel

+Mary, Mother of Carmel

Sharing completely in the spiritual heritage of the Carmelite Order, we, the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, have as our primary patron Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whose devotion is connected with the roots of the Carmelite Order. In the thirteenth century, crusaders, fighting to free the Holy Land from Turkish control, realized at the foot of Mount Carmel that the first and constant battle for the Church is spiritual. Laying their arms and armor at the foot of the mountain, they ascended it to live a life of prayer, solitude, and apostolic zeal. They followed in spirit of the Prophet Elijah, who, on that very mountain a millennia before, not only defeated the enemies of God, and returned the people of Israel to worship of the one true God, but also, as tradition tells us, revered the women who would one day be the future mother of the God. These former crusaders first called themselves the Brothers of our Lady of Mount Carmel, for they loved and served Mary with all the chivalry in their hearts as their Queen and Sister. As Jesus disciples, they wanted to love Mary with the same filial affection Jesus did during His life on earth. They also consecrated themselves to Our Lady and sought to imitate Mary as their ideal of the one who lived silence, solitude, poverty, and especially close intimacy with Jesus.

Not only is Mary Queen of Carmel, but also the Beauty and Flower of Carmel, the Flos Carmeli. In Mary's perfect yes, the Church sees itself brought to perfection. Her splendid purity and loving humility adorn the Church in the eyes of her Divine Spouse. So Mary gives her own beauty to the order of Carmel. Carmelites rely on Mary, their Mother, to bestow on them her own virtue and merit. By her scapular, Mary clothes her children in Carmel with her very self.

Mother Mary Teresa of St. Joseph, Foundress of the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, said, "Would that all were children of this most loving and lovable Mother, and esteem amd love her as such! I regard everyone, no matter of what class, or race, or nation, who does not have the Mother of God as his Mother, as being a motherless orphan."

+St. Joseph

As the foster- father on earth of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and the spouse and protector of the Mother of God, Mary, St. Joseph has a unique role in salvation history and in the life of every Christian. He is the patron of the universal and one of the primary patrons of our Carmel DCJ. The Church calls St. Joseph "Protector of Virgins" and "Lover of poverty." Having lived most intimately with Jesus and Mary on earth during the hidden years at Nazareth, he is also a model of the interior life. In the tradition St. Teresa of Avila and following the example of our Foundress, we love and honor St. Joseph as Jesus did during His life on earth and turn to Him in our spiritual and material needs. As Mary is our Mother, St. Joseph is our Father.

Mother Mary Teresa added the title "of St. Joseph" to her name in reparation for all who did not love and revere him. "Indeed what better and holier father could we ask for?" said Mother Mary Teresa. "God's pleasure rests on St. Joseph in a very special way. It is hardly conceivable that God could refuse a petition to St. Joseph, on whose arm rested the Divine Savior."

+St. Elijah

"I have been most zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts.  But the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to the sword.  I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.”  (1 Kings 19:14)

The prophet Elijah is considered to be the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, as well as the Father of the Carmelite Order.  Not much is known of his background.  All that is known from scripture is that he was a Tishbite (or Thesbite), although scholars disagree on what the term refers to.  He lived sometime around the year 90 BC.  Some Jewish traditions maintain that he was of priestly descent.  Otherwise, Elijah's life before he is called by God in the First Book of Kings is a mystery.  Elijah was described as a wild and hairy man; "as a fire, and his word burnt like a torch."    He lived a very ascetic life, living in a cave and wearing clothes made of camel hair. His entire known life was a protest against the immorality of his time.  Pagan worship had corrupted the land, and King Ahab and Queen Jezebel had erected a shrine to the false god Baal.  Elijah informed Ahab that if they did not repent of the evils they had committed, God would scourge the land with a drought to punish them for their apostasy.  After delivering God's message, Elijah quickly disappeared, led by Yahweh to the land east of the Jordan, where he was fed by ravens.

Ahab ignored Elijah's warning, and for three years, not a drop of rain fell upon the land.  Furious, Ahab devastated the land in search of Elijah, but his efforts were futile.  After three years, Elijah returned and confronted the King.  Ahab fiercely accused Elijah of bringing the curse upon the land, but Elijah flung the accusation back at Ahab, pointing out that the drought was caused by his own stubbornness and sinfulness.  Next came the episode for which Elijah is most famous.  He challenged the priests of Baal to a contest.  Atop Mount Carmel, Elijah and the priests would each set up an altar and provide a sacrifice upon their altar.  They would then pray to their respective deities, the priests to Baal and Elijah to Yahweh, and whichever deity sent fire down from the sky to consume the sacrifice would be the true God.  The priests of Baal went first, and for hours and hours they chanted and danced and cut themselves, to no avail.  Finally, laughing at their failure, Elijah approached his altar.  He set twelve stones around the altar, for the twelve tribes of Israel, and poured water all over the sacrifice.  Then Elijah prayed to God, and suddenly a fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice.  Elijah then killed all the priests of Baal, and the people once again believed in the true God. That very evening, torrential rains fell upon the land, thereby ending the three year drought.

Elijah went on to prophesy and perform many more wonders which can be found in the First Book of Kings.  He is considered to be the Father of Carmelites, as the Carmelite way of life embodies the Elijahan tradition.  Father Elijah's spirit of prayer, penance, contemplation, and zeal for the Lord is to this day the very spirit of the Carmelites.  During his ministry, Elijah went up to Mount Carmel in Palestine to live and to pray.  It was there that he taught and trained his followers, who are considered by some to be the first monks.  From that time onward, Mount Carmel has always been inhabited by men seeking union with God.  It is also believed that Elijah and the monks living on Mt. Carmel had a devotion to the woman who would be the mother of the Messiah, the Blessed Virgin Mary, long before she was born.

Elijah's end was as quick and mysterious as his beginning.  One day as he was speaking with his successor Elisha, "a fiery chariot, and fiery horses parted them both asunder, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (2 Kings:11)  Elijah appeared along with Moses at the Transfiguration of the Jesus on Mount Tabor. His feast is celebrated on July 20.  

+St. Teresa of Avila

I am Yours and born for You,
What do You want of me?
Majestic Sovereign,
Unending wisdom,
Kindness pleasing to my soul;
God sublime, one Being Good,
Behold this one so vile.
Singing of her love to You:
What do You want of me?

Yours, You made me,
Yours, You saved me,
Yours, You endured me,
Yours, You called me,
Yours, You awaited me,
Yours, I did not stray.
What do You want of me?

(An excerpt from her poem, In the Hands of God)

Teresa de Ahumada y Cepeda was born in Avila, Castile, Spain, on March 28, 1515.  Her parents were of a very high estate, her father being a rather wealthy merchant.  Teresa was the "most beloved" among her nine brothers and sisters.  From her youth, Teresa showed great zeal and piety, as well as courage.  However, the one trait of Teresa that stood out the most was her strong will.  When she was seven years old, St. Teresa ran away with her brother to the land occupied by the Moors in hopes of attaining the crown of martyrdom.  However, they only made it a few miles down the road.

Teresa was considered by all those around her to be quite beautiful.  Plus she had an irresistible charm, a sharp wit, a kind nature, and much enthusiasm.  Everyone loved to be around her.  She was skilled in embroidery, wonderful at housekeeping, and a rather excellent writer.  Around the age of twelve, Teresa's piety she had possessed from youth began to wane as her interests turned towards her abilities, conversation, books of chivalry, and spending time with others, especially her cousins.  When Teresa was 15 her mother died.  Seeing that she needed better guidance, and especially disapproving of the too close relationship between her and her cousin, her father placed Teresa in the care of the Augustinians at Santa Maria de Gracia.

It was during her time with the Augustinians that Teresa recovered her faith.  Teresa was determined not to become worldly, but she did not know whether she had a vocation to the religious life..  Teresa decided she would enter a convent, but her father would not allow it.  As a result of the stress and despair Teresa felt, she became extremely ill.  She returned home to become well, and one night she ran away and entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation in 1535.  Her father realizing it must be God's will, finally consented to Teresa's vocation, and became a benefactor of the monastery.  A year later, Teresa was professed, and she began to practice harsh penances and mortifications.  Soon she became quite ill again, and left the convent in search of a cure for her mysterious illness.  She eventually went back home to Avila and her father's house.  Here she fell into a coma for 4 days, and all thought that she had died.  She eventually came out of the coma, but was paralyzed and bedridden for 3 years.  She was finally cured, and she attributed her cure to St. Joseph.

The convent of the Incarnation was very lax in its observances. Because of Teresa's charm, many of the nobility and important people of Castile would come to the convent and Teresa would entertain them in the parlor.  It was also a common practice to go to spend time at the homes of these important people.  Soon Teresa had fallen into her old ways of conversation and worldliness.  Her spiritual mediocrity lasted for 17 years.

She was held back by her attachments to worldly things, as well as her attachments to others.  Eventually, with much struggle she overcame her attachments and her pride, and around the age of forty she experienced a conversion and began to conform her life to God.  Her faithfulness to living the Gospel deepened her spiritual life.  She began to experience extraordinary favors from God.

Teresa realized that the life she lived at the convent of the Incarnation was not the way the Carmelite Fathers had originally intended the Carmelite life to be.  She vowed that she herself would follow the rule perfectly and "without mitigation."  Her sisters at the Incarnation caused her much pain because they did not approve of her aspirations.  However, she soon won a few other sisters over to her side, and despite opposition from her sisters and from the townsfolk, she established the convent of St. Joseph on August 24, 1562.  She endured much, including a lawsuit, but eventually the resistance subsided, and Teresa enjoyed several years of peace at her convent of St. Joseph.  It was during this time that she wrote her beloved Way of Perfection.

It became clear to Teresa that it was the will of God to establish more foundations than just her convent of St. Joseph.  She began traveling around establishing convents, relying on the providence and direction of God.  She met Friar John Yepes in Medina del Campo, where her second foundation was established.  He became her ally in the reform.  John Yepes became John of the Cross, and along with Anthony of Jesus, established the first monastery for men at Duruelo.  Until the end of her life, Teresa was founding convents and monasteries.  She experienced every kind of opposition, persecution, and poverty; yet her foundations thrived.  Soon, Teresa was being asked by bishops to reform the already existing Carmelite monasteries.  This caused much ill will between her reformed Carmelites and those that followed the Mitigated Rule.  For years there was a bitter struggle, and Teresa was turned against on all sides.  Finally the matter was settled when in 1580 Pope Gregory XIII recognized the reformed convents and monasteries as a separate province.  The reform was now known as the Discalced Carmelites, and Teresa was finally freed of restrictions.

Teresa is also known for her incomparable writings, which were produced during these busy and turbulent times.  Her most famous works are her Autobiography, Way of Perfection, and Interior Castle.  Teresa was a woman of deep spirituality and complete detachment from the world, yet she never lost her charm or her fantastic sense of humor.  She was always a loving mother to all her sisters and brothers.  Teresa died on October 4, 1582 (October 14 by the Gregorian calendar, which we use today) at Alba, just months after establishing her last foundation.  She was canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV, and in 1970 she was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI-the first woman ever to be given that great honor by the Church.  Her feast day is October 15.

+ St. John of the Cross

“What more do you want, O soul!  And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfaction, and kingdom---your Beloved whom you desire and seek?  Desire Him there, adore Him there.  Do not go in pursuit of Him outside yourself.  You will only become distracted and you won't find Him, or enjoy Him more than by seeking Him within you.”

St. John of the Cross, co-reformer of the Carmelite Order, was born in Spain in 1542 to a loving but extremely destitute family.  His father died when John was still young, but his mother managed to keep the family together.k.  John was a brilliant student, but could not learn any artisan skills.  At the age of fourteen, John took a job at the hospital of Median caring for the poor and incurable.  He spent the rest of his time learning at a nearby Jesuit school.  From an early age, John practiced penance.

John eventually joined the Carmelites of Medina.  He was given permission to follow the rule of Carmel without any of the relaxations that had been granted by previous popes.  He was ordained a priest in 1567, but John became overwhelmed at the idea of fulfilling the duties of the priesthood, and decided to join the Carthusians instead.

St. Teresa of Avila who had come to Medina to found a convent for her Carmelite nuns convinced John to stay with the Carmelites, and he began to help her in the reform of the order.  But his fellow Carmelites were against his attempts at reform and they went so far as to kidnap and lock him up in a small cell.  During this time, John wrote much of his mystical poetry, for which he is well known.  After nine months, John managed to escape.

John spent the rest of his life establishing monasteries, spreading his reform, and writing many spiritual works, which are now treasured by the Church.  He died in 1591 - his body is still incorrupt to this day.  He was canonized on December 27, 1726, and was also named a Doctor of the Church.  St. John of the Cross is one of the Church's most beloved mystics, known for his compassion and deep understanding of the inner workings of the soul.

+St. Therese of Lisieux

“O Jesus, I know well that You do not look so much at the greatness of my actions, as at the love with which I do them.  It is true I am not always faithful, but I shall not lose courage.  I desire to make use of every opportunity to please You.”

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face (also known as The Little Flower) was born Marie-Francois Therese Martin on January 2, 1873 in Alencon, France.  Raised in a virtuous and loving environment by Louis and Zelie Martin, Therese showed great devotion at a very early age.  She had 4 sisters; one became a Visitation sister, and the other three entered the Carmel  where she would also live.

Therese was four years old when her mother died, and the period following was one of great suffering for her; she became extremely sensitive and painfully shy.  At the age of ten, Therese became mysteriously ill, but she was miraculously cured shortly thereafter by the Blessed Mother.  At the age of 14, Therese experienced what she called her "conversion" and was freed of her sensitiveness, thereby able to grow closer to God with no consideration for self.  At the young age of fifteen, Therese entered the Carmelite cloister in Lisieux, France.  She became mistress of novices at the age of 20.  Within the Carmel Therese grew in love and sanctity, perfecting her "Little Way" of consecrating to God everything she did, no matter how trivial.

In obedience to her superior, Therese composed her autobiography, now known as Story of a Soul, perhaps the most beloved spiritual work of the Church, after the Bible. At the age of 22, Therese contracted tuberculosis.  She died on September 30, 1897 at the age of 24.  She was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925.  Therese is referred to as the greatest saint of modern times.  She is the patroness of the Missions.  Her feast day is Oct. 1.

+St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

“O my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage and strength to serve You.  Enkindle Your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of road before me.  I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will open before me and I shall meet with peace.”

Edith Stein was born October 12, 1891 (the Feast of Atonement) to a Jewish family in Breslau, Germany.  Though she became agnostic in her teen years, through her passionate study of philosophy as an adult she searched after truth and found it in reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Jesus.  In 1922, she was baptized a Catholic, and in 1933 entered the Discalaced Carmel of Cologne where she took the name of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. 

During the Nazi occupation she was sent to the Carmel in Echt, Netherlands.  When the Nazis occupied the Netherlands all Jews and Jewish converts were arrested.  Sr. Teresa Benedicta and her sister Rosa were arrested at this time.  She said to Rosa, “Come.  Let us go and die for our people.” 

Sister Teresa Benedicta was gassed and cremated at Auschwitz on August 9, 1942 and died a martyr for the Christian faith after having offered herself as a holocaust for the people of Israel.  A woman of singular intelligence and learning, she left behind a body of writing notable for its doctrinal richness and profound spirituality.  She was beatified by Pope John Paul II at Cologne, Germany on May 1, 1987 and canonized on October 11, 1998. 

+St. Teresa of Jesus “of the Andes”

“Oh, my Jesus and my Mother, may I belong to Him forever.  May nothing on earth claim my attention but the tabernacle.  Preserve me pure for Yourself so that when I die I can say: how happy I am now that at last I can lose myself in the infinite Ocean of the Heart of Jesus, my adored Spouse.”

(excerpt from Drink of the Stream: Prayers of Carmelites compiled by Penny Hickey)

Juana Enriqueta Josafina de los Sacrados Corazones was born in Santiago, Chile, July 13, 1900.  Her parents were wealthy and aristocratic and has six children.  Juana was the fourth and was affectionately called Juanita by her family.  From the age of five, Juana never tired of listening to people talk about God or other religious subjects.  She loved and excelled in horseback riding and was a real beauty.  This led to vanity, which she worked very hard to overcome, along with other faults.

From the time she was six she attended daily Mass and said that “Jesus took her heart to be His own.”  She yearned to receive Holy Communion, but was restricted because of her age.  This was a time of purification for her.  The night before her First Communion she went to the members of her family and begged forgiveness for any time she might have hurt them.  She says that her First Communion was “truly a fusion between Jesus and her soul...”  This was at the age of ten.  Each time she received Communion Juana records that “Jesus spoke with her for a long time.” 

She had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother and daily prayed the Rosary.  Juana kept an intimate diary from the age of fifteen until she died.  She suffered frequent and serious illnesses, but joyfully lived her faith even more seriously.  Her diary reveals that Juanita saw her life as a composed of suffering and love.  Her scholastic achievements were very notable, but she was most proud of being a “Child of Mary.”  This gifted one was also a musician, playing the piano and harmonium and singing beautifully. 

She made a vow of virginity at the age of fifteen and determined to enter Carmel.  She loved parties and dancing, but she also had the desire to care for the poor.  She prepared for her entrance to Carmel by corresponding with the prioress, opening her soul for guidance.  The big day arrived on May 7, 1919, at Los Andes.  She wrote to her family eight days later, “It is eight days since I have been in Carmel, eight days of heaven.” 

This heaven was marked with serious illness, and during Holy Week of 1920 it reached its peak.  Juanita, now Sister Teresa of Jesus, had contracted typhus.  After receiving the last sacraments, she was permitted to make her religious vows in the Carmelite Order.  On April 12, 1920, she went to sleep in the arms of her Lord.  She had recorded earlier, “To die is to be eternally immersed in Love.”  Her feast day is celebrated on July 13.

+St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

“O my God, Trinity whom I adore, let me entirely forget myself that I may abide in you, still and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity; let nothing disturb my peace nor separate me from you, O my unchanging God, but that each moment may take me further into the depths of your mystery ! Pacify my soul! Make it your heaven, your beloved home and place of your repose; let me never leave you there alone, but may I be ever attentive, ever alert in my faith, ever adoring and all given up to your creative action. 

O my beloved Christ, crucified for love, would that I might be for you a spouse of your heart! I would anoint you with glory, I would love you - even unto death! Yet I sense my frailty and ask you to adorn me with yourself; identify my soul with all the movements of your soul, submerge me, overwhelm me, substitute yourself in me that my life may become but a reflection of your life. Come into me as Adorer, Redeemer and Savior. 

O Eternal Word, Word of my God, would that I might spend my life listening to you, would that I might be fully receptive to learn all from you; in all darkness, all loneliness, all weakness, may I ever keep my eyes fixed on you and abide under your great light; O my Beloved Star, fascinate me so that I may never be able to leave your radiance.

O Consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, descend into my soul and make all in me as an incarnation of the Word, that I may be to him a super-added humanity wherein he renews his mystery; and you O Father, bestow yourself and bend down to your little creature, seeing in her only your beloved Son in whom you are well pleased.

O my `Three', my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in whom I lose myself, I give myself to you as a prey to be consumed; enclose yourself in me that I may be absorbed in you so as to contemplate in your light the abyss of your Splendor!”

(excerpt from Drink of the Stream: Prayers of Carmelites compiled by Penny Hickey)

Elizabeth Catez was born in 1880 in Avor, France.  Her father was an army captain and died when she was seven.  She had a younger sister, Guite, and they were very close to each other and their mother.  At the age of seven, Elizabeth told a friend of the family, Canon Angles, that she would be a religious.  She was a precocious child with a flashing temper until she made her First Communion.  From that time on she was noticeably calm in temperament.  She was an accomplished pianist.  Her family was middle class, and they enjoyed parties and other social activities. 

From the time of her First Communion in 1891, she “wanted to give her life and to return a little of His great love.”  At the age of thirteen she bound herself to Jesus was a vow of virginity.  Elizabeth’s heart had been captured, and now she could think only of Him.  On her twenty-first birthday she had her mother’s blessing at last to enter the Carmel in Dijon, close to her home.  Elizabeth expresses in her letters a deep joy at being in Carmel.  Everything led her to her “Three,” the Trinity.  She offered herself unconditionally to “Him”; He accepted. 

Elizabeth became ill shortly after entering Carmel and suffered for five years from a stomach ailment, now thought to have been Addison’s disease.  Her suffering was intense both spiritually and physically; this caused her love for Jesus to increase, and also her desire to offer these sufferings to Him. 

In her writings Elizabeth refers often to the words of Saint Paul.  She speaks of her vocation: “To be a bride, a bride of Carmel,” means to have the flaming heart of Elijah, the transpierced heart of Teresa, to be His “true bride,” because she was ”zealous for His honor.”  St. Elizabeth of the Trinity had true depth of prayer, was a mystic, a great lover of Jesus, and a real friend to her sisters in Carmel and her family.  She referred to herself as Laudem Gloriae, Praise of Glory.  She died November 9, 1906.  Her last words were:  “I am going to Light, to Love, to Life!” Her canonization took place in Rome on October 16, 2016.

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