Feast of Irish Martyrs 20th June
In Ireland: Feast of The Irish Martyrs may be celebrated (from the Common of Martyrs)
1st Reading: 2 Kings 17:5-8, 13-15, 18
Exile of the ten northern tribes of Israel, for not listening to the prophets
Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria; for three years he besieged it. In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria; he carried the Israelites away to Assyria. He placed them in Halah, on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They had worshipped other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had introduced.
Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the law that I commanded your ancestors and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” They would not listen but were stubborn, as their ancestors had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. They despised his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their ancestors, and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false; they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do as they did. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah alone.
Gospel: Matthew 7:1-5
How we judge others determines our own judgment by God
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.
Icon of Martin Family
The beautiful icon of the St Louis and Zelie Martin and their family was written by Paolo Orlando. It can be seen in the Church of St Nazaro and Celso, Marcallo - Casone (MI), Italy.
The icon is available in US from Trinity Stores - http://www.trinitystores.com
St Teresa of Avila
1515 – 1582
Feast – 15th October
Saint Teresa was born in Avila, Spain, March 28, 1515. She died in Alba, October 4, 1582. Her family were originally Jewish and became conversos, and have been traced to Toledo and Olmedo. Her father, Alonso de Cepeda, was a son of a Toledan merchant, Juan Sanchez de Toledo and Ines de Cepeda, originally from Tordesillas. Juan transferred his business to Avila, where he succeeded in having his children marry into families of the nobility. In 1505 Alonso married Catalina del Peso, who bore him two children and died in 1507. Two years later Alonso married the 15-year-old Beatriz de Ahumada of whom Teresa was born. Of her parents she wrote the following:
'The care my mother took to have us pray and be devoted to our Lady and to some of the saints began to awaken me ... to the practice of virtue.'
'It was a help to me to see that my parents favoured nothing but virtue. And they themselves possessed many.'
Teresa was the "most beloved of them all." She was of medium height, large rather than small, and generally well proportioned. In her youth she had the reputation of being quite beautiful, and she retained her fine appearance until her last years. Her personality was extroverted, her manner affectionately buoyant, and she had the ability to adapt herself easily to all kinds of persons and circumstances. She was skillful in the use of the pen, in needlework, and in
household duties. Her courage and enthusiasm were readily kindled, an early example of which trait occurred when at the age of 7 she left home with her brother Rodrigo with the intention of going to Moorish territory to be beheaded for Christ, but they were frustrated by their uncle, who met the children as they were leaving the city and brought them home.
At about 12 the fervor of her piety waned somewhat. She began to take an interest in the development of her natural attractions and in books of chivalry, a bad habit she picked up from her otherwise devout mother. Like a typical teenager of now, boys, clothes and idle gossip became her mainstay.
'I began to dress in finery and to desire to please and look pretty, taking great care of my hands and hair and about perfumes and all the empty things in which one can indulge, and which were many, for I was very vain.'
Of her mother: 'Even though my mother was so virtuous, I did not, in reaching the age of reason, imitate her good qualities; in fact hardly at all.'
Her affections were directed especially to her cousins, the Mejias, children of her aunt Dona Elvira, and she gave some thought to marriage to a cousin. They were not very good companions and flattered her ego. Her father was disturbed by these fancies and opposed them. Her mother was in bad health and was unable to keep her under check constantly. She wrote in her Life later reflecting on the importance of parents working to build virtue in their children above all and giving them good example of the same.
'I sometimes reflect on the great damage parents do by not striving that their children might always see virtuous deeds of every kind.'
Regarding keeping bad company she writes:
'I was strikingly shrewd when it come to mischief. It frightens me sometimes to think of the harm a bad companion can do, and if I hadn't experienced it I wouldn't believe it.'
'If I should have to give advice, I would tell parents that they ought to be very careful about whom their children associate with.'
In 1528, at the age of 15, while she was in this crisis, her mother died, leaving behind 10 children. Afflicted and lonely, Teresa appealed to the Blessed Virgin to be her mother.
'When my mother died.. I went, afflicted, before an image of our Lady and besought her with many tears to be my mother.'
Seeing his daughter's need of prudent guidance, her father entrusted her to the Augustinian nuns at Santa Maria de Gracia in 1531.
'God delivered me from all these occasions and dangers in such a way that it seems clear he strove, against my will, to keep me from being completely lost.'
The influence of Dona Maria de Brinceno, who was in charge of the lay students at the convent school, helped Teresa to recover her piety. She began to wonder whether she had a vocation to be a nun.
'...there was a nun... She told me about the reward the Lord grants those who give up all for him. This good company caused my mind to desire for eternal things and to gain freedom from the antagonism that I felt strongly within myself towards becoming a nun.'
'My soul began to return to the good habits of early childhood, and I saw the great favour God accords to anyone placed with good companions ... May you be blessed, Lord, who put up with me so long!'
Toward the end of the year 1532 she returned home to regain her health and stayed with her sister, who lived in Castellanos. Reading the letters of St. Jerome led her to the decision to enter a convent, but her father refused to give his consent. Her brother and confidant, Rodrigo, had just set sail for the war on the Rio de la Plata. She was terribly worried about the state of her soul and whether she would be worthy of heaven. She felt that a life in the convent would be a more sure way of entering heaven than living in the world, so her desire for religious life was prompted by fear. She decided to run away from home and persuaded another brother to flee with her in order that both might receive the religious habit.
On Nov. 2, 1535, she entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation at Avila, a convent of some 200 nuns of various states, where she had a friend, Juana Suarez; and her father resigned himself to this development. The class systems existed in the convent also and as she was from a wealthy family she was given her own suite of rooms and a servant. Her substantial dowry allowed for it. She was very close to her father and felt the parting deeply:
'When I left my father's house I felt the separation so keenly that the feeling will not be greater, I think, when I die. For it seemed that every bone in my body was being sundered.'
The following year she received the habit and began wholeheartedly to give herself to prayer and penance.
'As soon as I took the habit .. within an hour, the Lord gave me such great happiness, it never left me ... sometimes while sweeping, during the hours I used to spend in self-indulgence and self-adornment, I realised that I was free of all that and experienced a new joy which amazed me.'
Shortly after her profession she became seriously ill and failed to respond to medical treatment. She herself attributes it to the food and the lifestyle at the Convent. Some however think it was that she suffered a type of nervous breakdown from the strain and tension brought on by her great hunger to please God in one place and the awareness of her own sinfulfullness on the other. Doctors found no cure for her and as a last resort her father took her to Becedas, a small village, to seek the help of a woman healer or quack famous throughout Castile, but Teresa's health did not improve but in fact left her much worse. Leaving Becedas in a terrible state in the Autumn of 1538, she stayed in Hortigosa at the home of her uncle Pedro de Cepeda, who gave her the Tercer Abecedario (The Third Alphabet) of Francis of Osuna to read.
"I remained in that place almost a year.. suffering severe torment from the harsh cures they used on me .. although during this first year I read good books...I did not know," she said, "how to proceed in prayer or how to become recollected, and so I took much pleasure in it and decided to follow that path with all my strength" (V--4.6).
Instead of regaining her health, Teresa grew even more ill, and her father brought her back to Avila in July 1539. On August 15 she fell into a coma so profound that she was thought to be dead.
'At this time they gave me the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, and from hour to hour or moment to moment they thought I was going to die; they did nothing but recite the Creed to me, as if I were able to understand them. At times they were so certain I was dead that afterwards I even found the wax on my eyes.'
After 4 days she revived, but she remained paralyzed in her legs for 3 years. After her cure, which she attributed to St. Joseph (V. 6.6-8), she entered a period of mediocrity in her spiritual life, but she did not at any time give up praying. Her trouble came of not understanding that the use of the imagination could be dispensed with and that her soul could give itself directly to contemplation. During this stage, which lasted 18 years, she had transitory mystical experiences. She was held back by a strong desire to be appreciated by others, but this finally left her in an experience of conversion in the presence of an image of "the sorely wounded Christ" (V 9.2). This conversion dislodged the egoism that had hindered her spiritual development. Thus, at the age of 39, she began to enjoy a vivid experience of God's presence within her.
'I tried as hard as I could to keep Jesus Christ, our God and our Lord, present within me, and that was my way of prayer.'
'This is the method of prayer I then used: since I could not reflect discursively with the intellect, I strove to picture Christ within me, and it did me greater good - in my opinion - to picture him in those scenes where I saw him more alone.'
'The scene of his prayer in the garden, especially , was a comfort to me; I strove to be his companion there .. I though of the agony he had undergone in that place. I desired to wipe away the sweat he so painfully experienced.'
She realized that the safest course of action was not to hide this from her confessor but to tell him humbly of all the favours she had received. She was glad to have the opportunity to submit her spirit totally to the judgement of the Church. However, the contrast between these favours and her conduct, which was more relaxed than was thought proper according to the ascetical standards of the time, caused some misunderstanding. Some of her friends, such as Francisco de Salcedo and Gaspar Daza, thought her favors were the work of the devil (V 23.14). She herself though very fearful of the devil's deceptions initially came to a state of complete peace regarding him.
'I don't understand these fears, "The devil! The devil!, when we can say "God! God!, and make the devil tremble.'
She always sought the counsel of very learned spiritual men to affirm the favours the Lord was giving her. She was particularly fond of the Jesuits whom she believed to be very holy men. Diego de Cetina, SJ, brought her comfort by encouraging her to continue in mental prayer and to think upon the humanity of Christ. Francis Borgia in 1555 heard her confession and told her that the spirit of God was working in her, that she should concentrate upon Christ's Passion and not resist the ecstatic experience that came to her in prayer.
Nevertheless she had to endure the distrust even of her friends as the divine favours increased. When Pradanos left Avila in 1558 his place as Teresa's director was taken by Baltasar Alvarez, SJ, who, either from caution or with the intention of probing her spirit, caused her great distress by telling her that others were convinced that her raptures and visions were the work of the devil and that she should not receive communion so often (V 25.4). Another priest acting temporarily as her confessor, on hearing her report of a vision she had repeatedly had of Christ, told her it was clearly the devil and commanded her to make the sign of the cross and laugh at the vision (V 29.5).
But God did not fail to comfort her, and she received the favour of the transverberation (V 29.13-14). In August 1560 St. Peter of Alcantara counseled her: "Keep on as you are doing, daughter; we all suffer such trials." He was a deeply devout and saintly Franciscan friar who understood her and through his own experience was able to explain things, comfort and encourage her.
When the Inquisition banned many of the spiritual writings that she had gained so much insight from she was deeply grieved however she received a locution from the Lord telling her not to be sad but that He would become for her a living book. Because of the subsequent lack of availability of spiritual books on prayer she later wrote her own books to explain and give instruction to her sisters and friends about the path to spiritual union with God.
St Teresa started writing The Book of her Life when she was almost 50 years old. She had been experiencing mystical graces for almost 10 years at this stage. She was obliged to report in writing on her experiences to submit to the judgement of professionals. She was however lacking in the language necessary to explain her mystical experiences and sought the words of other spiritual writers such as Laredo whose Ascent of Mt Sion told of something similiar. Her book is not so much an autiobiography as description of the supernatural realities of the interior life. She uses historical dates as a background to the work God was carrying out in her soul. It is a book of fact, mystical grace and above all is a wonderful lesson in prayer, using many different images from nature and life to explain the development of the soul in prayer - such as the 4 ways of watering a garden (Life Ch. XI) and she later uses in the Interior Castle, the similitude of the silk worm to explain the soul's progress toward perfection.(5th Mansions, Ch. II)
St Teresa felt called to reform the life she was living and believed that a return to the Primitive rule was the way in which to do this. She eventually founded the monastery of St Joseph's in Avila, a community of 12 nuns where she spent 3 peaceful years before becoming the Prioress of the Incarnation. From there she went on to found a number of reformed convents for nuns and began the reform of the Friars with the help of St John of the Cross. She wrote voraciously and carried out a substantial correspondance which showed her deep love and affection for those she knew. Her letters gave advice on spiritual matters as well as health, diet, matters of the heart, marriage etc. Her gift for friendship was her greatest skill and she used this to deepen her relationship with God, spending quality time with him as a friend.
'Prayer is nothing more than an intimate conversation with one whom you know loves you.'
She died in Alba de Tormes whilst returning from a recently founded convent on the 4th of October 1582. She was beatified in 1614 by Pope Paul V and canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV. Pope Paul VI proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church in 1970. Her feast is on the 15th of October.
Along with her letters and her Autobiography, she wrote The Foundations - and account of the epic work of founding her monasteries, the Way of Perfection as a spiritual guide for her sisters, The Interior Castle - her supreme masterpiece of spiritual writing outlining the souls path to union with God, and other minor works such as Spiritual Testimonies, Soliliquies, Meditations on the Song of Songs and her Poetry.
St Therese of Lisieux
1873 – 1897
Feastday - 1st October
From an early age it was Therese's ambition and desire to be a saint. She was born into a pious and loving Catholic family. She remembers the idyll of her early childhood, spending time with her parents and five sisters in the unspoilt French countryside. However this early childhood ideal was broken by the early death of her Mother (from breast cancer). Aged only four years old, she felt the pain of separation and instinctively turned to the Virgin Mary for comfort and reassurance.
The next couple of years of St Therese's' life was a period of inner turmoil. She was unhappy at school, where her natural precociousness and piety, made other school children jealous. Eventually her father agreed for Therese to return home and be taught by her elder sister,Celine. She enjoyed being taught at home, however after a while, her eldest sister made a decision to leave to enter the local Carmel Convent at Lisieux. This made Therese feel like she had lost her second mother. Shortly afterwards Therese experienced a painful illness, in which she suffered delusions. The doctors were at a loss as to the cause. For three weeks she suffered with a high fever. Eventually Therese felt completely healed after her sister's placed a statue of the Virgin Mary at the foot of the bed. Therese felt her health and mental state returned to normal very quickly. Soon after on Christmas Eve 1884, she recounts having a remarkable conversion of spirit. She says she lost her inclination to please herself with her own desires. Instead she felt a burning desire to pray for the souls of others and forget herself. She says that on this day, she lost her childhood immaturity and felt a very strong calling to enter the convent at the unprecedented early age of fifteen.
St Therese with the Pope
Initially the Church authorities refused to allow a girl, who was so young to enter holy orders. They advised her to come back when she was twenty one and 'grown up'. However Therese's mind was made up, she couldn't bear to wait, she felt God was calling her to enter the cloistered life. Therese was so determined she travelled to the Vatican to personally petition the Pope. Breaking protocol she spoke to the Pope asking for permission to enter a convent. Soon after, her heart's desire was fulfilled, and she was able to join her two sisters in the Carmelite convent of Lisieux.
Convent life was not without its hardships; it was cold and accommodation was basic. Not all sisters warmed to this fifteen year old girl. At times she became the subject of gossip, one of her superiors took a very hash attitude to this young 'spoilt middle class' girl. However Therese sought always to respond to criticism and gossip with the attitude of love. No matter what others said Therese responded by denying her sense of ego. Eventually the nun who had criticised Therese so much said. "why do you always smile at me, Why are you always so kind, even when I treat you badly"
Love attracts love, mine rushes forth unto Thee, it would fain fill up the abyss which attracts it; but alas! it is not even as one drop of dew lost in the Ocean. To love Thee as Thou lovest me I must borrow Thy very Love - then only, can I find rest.
"The Little Way"
This was the 'little way' which Therese sought to follow. Her philosophy was that; what was important was not doing great works, but doing little things with the power of love. If we can maintain the right attitude then nothing shall remain that can't be accomplished. St Therese was encouraged by the elder nuns to ask her to write down her way of spiritual practise. She wrote three books that explained her 'little way' and also included her personal spiritual autobiography.
"The good God does not need years to accomplish His work of love in a soul; one ray from His Heart can, in an instant, make His flower bloom for eternity"
St Therese died tragically early at the age of twenty four from Tuberculosis. However after her death, the writings became avidly read by, first other nuns, and then the wider Catholic community. Although initially intended only for a small audience her books have been frequently republished. In 1997 St. Therese was declared one of the three Doctors of the Catholic Church. Thus after her death she was able to achieve her intuitive feeling that she would be able to do something great and help save souls.
St Therese was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 17, 1925, only twenty six years after her death.