Archive for the ‘Liturgical Renewal’ Category

“To see this immortal King face-to-face…”

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

“To see this immortal King face-to-face, the Church at present is preparing herself; and while she celebrates her temporal feasts here, she contemplates the festive and eternal joys of her native land, where her Spouse is praised by angelic instruments.  And all the saints, continually celebrating the day of great festivity that the Lord has made, cease not to praise with nuptial songs the immortal Bridegroom, beautiful in form before the sons of men, Who in His gratuitous mercy has chosen the Church for Himself.”

Mystical Mirror of the Church, 1160-1165

Interview with Robert Cardinal Sarah

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Cardinal Sarah: ‘How to Put God Back at the Center of the Liturgy’

From: THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER; TRANSLATED OF AN INTERVIEW WITH CARDINAL SARAH, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; BY CHRISTINE BROESAMLE; Translation of an interview originally published by the French magazine Famille Chretienne.

 

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, calls us to a serious reflection on the Eucharist. He also invites priests and the faithful to turn and “orient” themselves towards the East, “the Orient” — that is, to Christ.

Several weeks ago, you discussed a desire to see “The Sacrament of Sacraments put back in the central place,” that is, the Eucharist. What is your reasoning?

Cardinal Sarah: I wish to engage a serious consideration on this question, with the goal of placing the Eucharist back at the center of our lives. I have witnessed that, very often, our liturgies have become like theater productions. Often, the priest no longer celebrates the love of Christ through his sacrifice, but just a meeting among friends, a friendly meal, a brotherly moment. In looking to invent creative or festive liturgies, we run the risk of worship that is too human, at the level of our desires and the fashions of the moment. Little by little, the faithful are separated from that which gives life. For Christians, the Eucharist is a question of life and death!

How can we put God at the center?

Cardinal Sarah: The liturgy is the door to our union with God. If the Eucharistic celebrations are transformed into human self-celebrations, the peril is immense, because God disappears. One must begin by replacing God at the center of the liturgy. If man is at the center, the Church becomes a purely human society, a simple nonprofit, like Pope Francis has said. If, on the contrary, God is at the heart of the liturgy, then the Church recovers its vigor and sap! Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger prophetically wrote, “In our relationship with the liturgy, the destiny of the faith and of the Church plays out.”

What remedy do you recommend to us?

Cardinal Sarah: The recognition of the liturgy as the work of God implies a true conversion of the heart. The Second Vatican Council insisted on a major point: In this domain, the importance is not what we do, but what God does. No human work can ever accomplish what we find at the heart of the Mass: the sacrifice of the cross.  The liturgy permits us to go out past the walls of this world. To find the sacredness and the beauty of the liturgy requires, therefore, a work of formation for the laity, the priests and the bishops. It is an interior conversion.  To put God at the center of the liturgy, one must have silence: this capacity to silence ourselves [literally: “shut up”] to listen to God and his word. I believe that we don’t meet God except in the silence and the deepening of his word in the depths of our heart.

How do we do this concretely?

Cardinal Sarah: To convert is to turn towards God. I am profoundly convinced that our bodies must participate in this conversion. The best way is certainly to celebrate — priests and faithful — turned together in the same direction: toward the Lord who comes. It isn’t, as one hears sometimes, to celebrate with the back turned toward the faithful or facing them. That isn’t the problem. It’s to turn together toward the apse, which symbolizes the East, where the cross of the risen Lord is enthroned. By this manner of celebrating, we experience, even in our bodies, the primacy of God and of adoration. We understand that the liturgy is first our participation at the perfect sacrifice of the cross. I have personally had this experience: In celebrating thus, with the priest at its head, the assembly is almost physically drawn up by the mystery of the cross at the moment of the elevation.

But is this way of celebrating the Mass authorized?

Cardinal Sarah: It is legitimate and conforms to the letter and the spirit of the Council. In my capacity as the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, I continue to remind all that the celebration toward the East (versus orientem) is authorized by the rubrics of the missal, which specify the moments when the celebrant must turn toward the people. A particular authorization is, therefore, not needed to celebrate Mass facing the Lord. Thus, in an article published by LOsservatore Romano June 12, 2015, I proposed that the priests and the faithful turn toward the East at least during the Penitential Rite, during the singing of the Gloria, during the Propers and during the Eucharistic Prayer.  In the minds of many, the change of the orientation of the altar is tied to Vatican II. Is this accurate?  More than 50 years after the closure of Vatican II, it becomes urgent that we read these texts! The Council never required the celebration facing the people! This question is not even brought up by the Constitution [on Sacred Liturgy], Sacrosanctum Concilium.  What’s more, the Council Fathers wanted to emphasize the necessity for all to enter into participation of the celebrated mystery. In the years that have followed Vatican II, the Church has searched for the means of putting this intuition into practice.

Thus, to celebrate facing the people became a possibility, but not an obligation. The Liturgy of the Word justifies the face-to-face [orientation] of the lector and the listeners, the dialogue and the teaching between the priest and his people. But from the moment that we begin to address God — starting with the Offertory — it is essential that the priest and the faithful turn together toward the East. This corresponds completely with that which was willed by the Council Fathers.

I believe that we need to review the Council text. Certain adaptations to the local culture have probably not been fully developed enough. I have the translation of the Roman Missal in mind. In certain countries, important elements have been suppressed, notably the moment of the Offertory. In French, the translation of the Orate fratres has been truncated. The priest must say, “Pray my brothers that my sacrifice which is also yours would be agreeable to God the almighty Father.” And the faithful should respond: “May the Lord receive from your hands this sacrifice for the praise and the glory of his Name, for our good and that of all his Holy Church.” [Translator’s noteIn French, currently the people respond: “For the glory of God and the salvation of the world.”] At the audience which the Pope granted me on Saturday, April 2, he confirmed that the new translation of the Roman Missal must imperatively respect the Latin text.

What do you think about the participation of the faithful?

Cardinal Sarah: The participation of the faithful is primary. It consists, first of all, of allowing ourselves to be led to follow Christ in the mystery of his death and of his resurrection. “One doesn’t go to Mass to attend a representation. One goes to participate in the mystery of God,” Pope Francis reminded us very recently. The orientation of the assembly toward the Lord is a simple and concrete means to encourage a true participation for all at the liturgy. The participation of the faithful, therefore, would not be understood as a necessity to “do something.” On this point, we have deformed the teaching of the Council. On the contrary, it is to allow Christ to take us and associate us with his sacrifice. Only a view tempered in a contemplative faith keeps us from reducing the liturgy to a theater show where each has a role to play. The Eucharist makes us enter in the prayer of Jesus and in his sacrifice, because he alone knows how to adore in spirit and in truth.

What significance does the Church give to this question of orientation?

Cardinal Sarah: To begin with, we are not the only ones to pray “oriented,” that is, facing the East. The Jewish Temple and the synagogues were always facing East. In regaining this orientation, we can return to our origins. I note also that some non-Christians, the Muslims in particular, pray facing the East.

For us, the light is Jesus Christ. All the Church is oriented, facing East, toward Christ: ad Dominum. A Church closed in on herself in a circle will have lost her reason for being. For to be herself, the Church must live facing God. Our point of reference is the Lord! We know that he has been with us and that he returned to the Father from the Mount of Olives, situated to the East of Jerusalem, and that he will return in the same way. To stay turned toward the Lord, it is to wait for him every day. One must not allow God reason to complain constantly against us: “They turn their backs toward me, instead of turning their faces!” (Jeremiah 2:27).

Welcome Back to Salem, Archbishop Gullickson!

Monday, June 13th, 2016

SALEM SPECIAL

The Mass is too long…

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

The Mass is TOO LONG

Friday, May 6th through Saturday, May 14th: Novena in Preparation for Pentecost

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

Pentecost Novena for Web

January 6th: The Feast of the Epiphany

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

On Wednesday evening, January 6th, a Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form was celebrated at St. Mary Church.  Father DeWayne Kayser, Pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Madison, SD, served as Deacon of the Mass and our seminarian, Mr. John Streff, F.S.S.P., served as Subdeacon.  Mr. Landon Frederes was Master of Ceremonies.

“As you kneel at the feet of the child Jesus on the day of his Epiphany and see him a king bearing none of the outward signs of royalty, you can tell him:  Lord, take away my pride; crush my self love, my desire to affirm myself and impose myself on others. Make the foundation of my personality my identification with you.

If our vocation comes first, if the star shines ahead to start us along the path of God’s love, it is illogical that we should begin to doubt if it chances to disappear from view. It might happen at certain moments in our interior life — and we are nearly always to blame — that the star disappears, just as it did to the wise kings on their journey. We have already realized the divine splendour of our vocation, and we are convinced about its definitive character, but perhaps the dust we stir up as we walk our miseries — forms an opaque cloud that cuts off the light from above. What should we do if this happens?  Follow the example of those wise men and ask. Herod made use of knowledge to act unjustly. The Magi use it to do good. But we Christians have no need to go to Herod nor to the wise men of this world. Christ has given his Church sureness in doctrine and a flow of grace in the sacraments. He has arranged things so that there will always be people to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way. There is an infinite treasure of knowledge available to us: the word of God kept safe by the Church, the grace of Christ administered in the sacraments and also the witness and example of those who live by our side and have known how to build with their good lives a road of faithfulness to God.”

-St. Josemaria Escriva, Homily for the Feast of the Epiphany, 1956

 

THE SILENT ACTION OF THE HEART

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015
Robert Cardinal Sarah was appointed by His Holiness, Pope Francis, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Robert Cardinal Sarah was appointed by His Holiness, Pope Francis, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

THE SILENT ACTION OF THE HEART

By Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect

Office of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments

L’Osservatore Romano, June 12, 2015

Translation from Rorate Caeli [http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com] by contributor Francesca Romana

Fifty years after its promulgation by Pope Paul VI will the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council be read? “Sacrosanctum concilium“ is not de facto a simple catalogue of reform “recipes” but a real “magna carta” of every liturgical action.

With it, the ecumenical council gives us a magisterial lesson in method. Indeed, far from being content with a disciplinary and exterior approach, the council wants to make us reflect on what the liturgy is in its essence. The practice of the Church always comes from what She receives and contemplates in Revelation. Pastoral care cannot be disconnected from doctrine.

In the Church, “that which comes from action is ordered to contemplation” (cfr. n. 2). The Council’s Constitution invites us to rediscover the Trinitarian origin of the liturgical action. Indeed, the Council establishes continuity between the mission of Christ the Redeemer and the liturgical mission of the Church. “Just as Christ was sent by His Father, so also He sent the Apostles” so that “by means of sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical life revolves” they accomplish ”the work of salvation”. (n.6).

Actuating the liturgy is therefore nothing other than actuating the work of Christ. The liturgy in its essence is “actio Christi”. [It is] the “work of Christ the Lord in redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God.” (n.5) It is He who is the great Priest, the true subject, the true actor in the liturgy (n.7). If this vital principle is not accepted in faith, there is the risk of making the liturgy into a human work, a self-celebration of the community.

By contrast, the real work of the Church consists in entering into the action of Christ, in uniting oneself to that work which He received as a mission from the Father. So, “the fullness of divine worship was given to us” since “His humanity, united with the person of the Word, was the instrument of our salvation” (n.5). The Church, the Body of Christ, must therefore become in Her turn an instrument in the hands of the Word.

This is the ultimate meaning of the key-concept of the Conciliar Constitution: “participatio actuosa”. Such participation for the Church consists in becoming the instrument of Christ – The Priest, with the aim of sharing in His Trinitarian mission. The Church takes part actively in the liturgical action of Christ in the measure that She is His instrument. In this sense, to speak of “a celebrating community”” is not devoid of ambiguity and requires prudence. (Instruction “Redemptoris Sacramentum” n. 42).  “Participatio actuosa” should not then be intended as the need to do something. On this point the Council’s teaching has frequently been deformed. Rather, it is about allowing Christ to take us and associate us with His Sacrifice.

Liturgical “participatio” must thus be intended as a grace from Christ who “always associates the Church with Himself.”(S.C. n. 7) It is He that has the initiative and the primacy. The Church “calls to Her Lord, and through Him offers worship to the Eternal Father” (n.7).

The priest must thus become this instrument which allows Christ to shine through. Just as our Pope Francis reminded us recently, that the celebrant is not the presenter of a show; he must not look for popularity from the congregation by placing himself before them as their primary interlocutor. Entering into the spirit of the council means, on the contrary, making oneself disappear – relinquishing the centre-stage.

Contrary to what has at times been sustained, and in conformity with the Conciliar Constitution, it is absolutely fitting that during the Penitential Rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations and Eucharistic Prayer, for everyone – the priest and the congregation alike– to face ad orientem together, expressing their will to participate in the work of worship and redemption accomplished by Christ. This way of doing things could be fittingly carried out in the cathedrals where the liturgical life must be exemplary (n. 4).

To be very clear, there are other parts of the Mass where the priest, acting “in persona Christi Capitis” enters into nuptial dialogue with the congregation. But this face-to-face has no other end than to lead them to a téte-à-tète with God, who through the grace of the Holy Spirit, will make it ‘a heart to heart’. The council offers other means to favor participation [through]  “the acclamations , responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes.” (n.30).

An excessively quick reading and above all, a far too human one, inferred that the faithful had to be kept constantly busy. Contemporary Western mentality formed by technology and bewitched by the mass media, wanted to make the liturgy into a work of effective and profitable pedagogy. In this spirit, there was the attempt to render the celebrations convivial. The liturgical actors, animated by pastoral motives, try at times to make it into didactic work by introducing secular and spectacular elements. Don’t we see perhaps testimonies, performances and clapping in the increase? They believe that participation is favored in this manner, whereas in fact, the liturgy is being reduced to a human game.

“Silence is not a virtue, nor noise a sin, it is true” says Thomas Merton “but the continuous turmoil, confusion and noise in modern society or in certain African Eucharistic liturgies are an expression of the atmosphere of its most serious sins and its impiety and desperation. A world of propaganda and never-ending argumentations, of invectives, criticisms, or mere chattering, is a world in which life is not worth living. Mass becomes a confused din, the prayers an exterior or interior noise.” (Thomas Merton, “The Sign of Jonah” French edition, Albin Michel, Paris, 1955 – p. 322).

We run the real risk of leaving no space for God in our celebrations. We risk the temptation of the Hebrews in the desert. They attempted to create worship according to their own stature and measure, [but] let us not forget they ended up prostrate before the idol of the Golden Calf.

It is time to start listening to the Council. The liturgy is “above all things the worship of the divine Majesty” (n.33). It has pedagogic worth in the measure wherein it is completely ordered to the glorification of God and Divine worship. The Liturgy truly places us in the presence of Divine transcendence. True participation means renewing in ourselves that “wonder” which St. John Paul II held in great consideration (Ecclesia de Eucharistia” n. 6). This holy wonder, this joyful awe, requires our silence before the Divine Majesty. We often forget that holy silence is one of the means indicated by the Council to favor participation.

If the liturgy is the work of Christ, is it necessary for the celebrant to introduce his own comments?  We must remember that, when the Missal authorizes an intervention, this must not turn into a secular and human discourse, a comment more or less subtle on something of topical interest, nor a mundane greeting to the people present, but a very short exhortation so as to enter the Mystery (General Presentation of the Roman Missal, n.50). Regarding the homily, it is in itself a liturgical act which has its own rules.

“Participatio actuosa” in the work of Christ, presupposes that we leave the secular world so as to enter the “sacred action surpassing all other” (Sacrosanctum concilium, n.7). De facto, “we claim, with a certain arrogance, to stay in the human – to enter the divine.” (Robert Sarah, “Dieu ou rien”, p. 178).

In such a sense, it is deplorable that the sanctuary (of the high altar) in our churches is not a place strictly reserved for Divine worship, that secular clothes are worn in it and that the sacred space is not clearly defined by the architecture. Since, as the Council teaches, Christ is present in His Word when this is proclaimed, it is similarly detrimental that the readers do not wear appropriate clothing, indicating that they are not pronouncing human words but the Divine Word.

The liturgy is fundamentally mystical and contemplative, and consequently beyond our human action; even the “participatio” is a grace from God. Therefore, it presupposes on our part an opening to the mystery being celebrated. Thus, the Constitution recommends full understanding of the rites (n.34) and at the same time prescribes that “the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” (n.54).

In reality, the understanding of the rites is not is not an act of reason left to its own devices, which should accept everything, understand everything, master everything. The understanding of the sacred rites is that of “sensus fidei”, which exercises the living faith through symbols and which knows through “harmony” more than concept. This understanding presupposes that one draws close to the Divine Mystery with humility.

But will we have the courage to follow the Council up to this point? Such a reading, illuminated by faith, is however, fundamental for evangelization. In fact, “to those who are outside as a sign lifted up among the nations under which the scattered children of God may be gathered together “ (n.2). It [the reading of S.C.] must stop being a place of disobedience to the prescriptions of the Church.

More specifically, it cannot be an occasion for laceration among Catholics. The dialectic readings of “Sacrosanctum concilium” i.e. the hermeneutics of rupture in one sense or another, are not the fruit of a spirit of faith. The Council did not want to break with the liturgical forms inherited from Tradition, rather it wanted to deepen them. The Constitution establishes that “any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.” (n.23).

In this sense, it is necessary that those celebrating according to the “usus antiquior” do so without any spirit of opposition, and hence in the spirit of “Sacrosanctum concilium”. In the same way, it would be wrong to consider the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite as deriving from another theology that is not the reformed liturgy. It would also be desirable that the Penitential Rite and the Offertory of the “usus antiquior” be inserted as an enclosure in the next edition of the Missal with the aim of stressing that the two liturgical reforms illuminate one another, in continuity and with no opposition.

If we live in this spirit, then the liturgy will stop being a place of rivalry and criticisms, ultimately, to allow us to participate actively in that liturgy “which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle.” (n.8).

October 15th: St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Statue of St. Teresa venerated in rectory chapel

Statue of St. Teresa venerated in rectory chapel

In the Autobiography which she completed towards the end of her life, Saint Teresa of Avila gives us a description of her parents, along with a disparaging estimate of her own character. “The possession of virtuous parents who lived in the fear of God, together with those favors which I received from his Divine Majesty, might have made me good, if I had not been so very wicked.” A heavy consciousness of sin was prevalent in sixteenth-century Spain, and we can readily discount this avowal of guilt. What we are told of Teresa’s early life does not sound in the least wicked, but it is plain that she was an unusually active, imaginative, and sensitive child. Her parents, Don Alfonso Sanchez de Capeda and Dona Beatriz Davila y Ahumada, his second wife, were people of position in Avila, a city of Old Castile, where Teresa was born on March 28, 1515. There were nine children of this marriage, of whom Teresa was the third, and three children of her father’s first marriage.

Piously reared as she was, Teresa became completely fascinated by stories of the saints and martyrs, as was her brother Roderigo, who was near her own age and her partner in youthful adventures. Once, when Teresa was seven, they made a plan to run away to Africa, where they might be beheaded by the infidel Moors and so achieve martyrdom. They set out secretly, expecting to beg their way like the poor friars, but had gone only a short distance from home when they were met by an uncle and brought back to their anxious mother, who had sent servants into the streets to search for them. She and her brother now thought they would like to become hermits, and tried to build themselves little cells from stones they found in the garden. Thus we see that religious thoughts and influences dominated the mind of the future saint in childhood. Teresa was only fourteen when her mother died, and she later wrote of her sorrow in these words: “As soon as I began to understand how great a loss I had sustained by losing her, I was very much afflicted; and so I went before an image of our Blessed Lady and besought her with many tears that she would vouchsafe to be my mother.” Visits from a girl cousin were most welcome at this time, but they had the effect of stimulating her interest in superficial things. Reading tales of chivalry was one of their diversions, and Teresa even tried to write romantic stories. “These tales,” she says in her Autobiography, “did not fail to cool my good desires, and were the cause of my falling insensibly into other defects. I was so enchanted that I could not be happy without some new tale in my hands. I began to imitate the fashions, to enjoy being well dressed, to take great care of my hands, to use perfumes, and wear all the vain ornaments which my position in the world allowed.” Noting this sudden change in his daughter’s personality, Teresa’s father decided to place her in a convent of Augustinian nuns in Avila, where other young women of her class were being educated. This action made Teresa aware that her danger had been greater than she knew. After a year and a half in the convent she fell ill with what seems to have been a malignant type of malaria, and Don Alfonso brought her home. After recovering, she went to stay with her eldest sister, who had married and gone to live in the country. Then she visited an uncle, Peter Sanchez de Capeda, a very sober and pious man. At home once more, and fearing that an uncongenial marriage would be forced upon her, she began to deliberate whether or not she should undertake the religious life. Reading the <Letters of St. Jerome>,[1] helped her to reach a decision. St. Jerome’s realism and ardor were akin to her own Castilian spirit, with its mixture of the practical and the idealistic. She now announced to her father her desire to become a nun, but he withheld consent, saying that after his death she might do as she pleased This reaction caused a new conflict, for Teresa loved her father devotedly. Feeling that delay might weaken her resolve, she went secretly to the Carmelite convent of the Incarnation[2] outside the town of Avila, where her dear friend Sister Jane Suarez was living, and applied for admission. Of this painful step, she wrote: “I remember . . . while I was going out of my father’s house—the sharpness of sense will not be greater, I believe, in the very instant of agony of my death, than it was then. It seemed as if all the bones in my body were wrenched asunder…. There was no such love of God in me then as was able to quench the love I felt for my father and my friends.” A year later Teresa made her profession, but when there was a recurrence of her illness, Don Alfonso had her removed from the convent, as the rule of enclosure was not then in effect. After a period of intense suffering, during which, on one occasion, at least, her life was despaired of, she gradually began to improve. She was helped by certain prayers she had begun to use. Her devout Uncle Peter had given her a little book called the <Third Spiritual Alphabet>, by Father Francis de Osuna, which dealt with “prayers of recollection and quiet.” Taking this book as her guide, she began to concentrate on mental prayer, and progressed towards the “prayer of quiet,” with the soul resting in divine contemplation, all earthly things forgotten. Occasionally, for brief moments, she attained the “prayer of union,” in which all the powers of the soul are absorbed in God. She persuaded her father to apply himself to this form of prayer.

After three years Teresa went back to the convent. Her intelligence, warmth, and charm made her a favorite, and she found pleasure in being with people. It was the custom in Spain in those days for the young nuns to receive their acquaintances in the convent parlor, and Teresa spent much time there, chatting with friends. She was attracted to one of the visitors whose company was disturbing to her, although she told herself that there could be no question of sin, since she was only doing what so many others, better than she, were doing. During this relaxed period, she gave up her habit of mental prayer, using as a pretext the poor state of her health. “This excuse of bodily weakness,” she wrote afterwards, “was not a sufficient reason why I should abandon so good a thing, which required no physical strength, but only love and habit. In the midst of sickness the best prayer may be offered, and it is a mistake to think it can only be offered in solitude.” She returned to the practice of mental prayer and never again abandoned it, although she had not yet the courage to follow God completely, or to stop wasting her time and talents. But during these years of apparent wavering, her spirit was being forged. When depressed by her own unworthiness, she turned to those two great penitents, St. Mary Magdalen and St. Augustine, and through them came experiences that helped to steady her will.

One was the reading of St. Augustine’s <Confessions>; another was an overpowering impulse to penitence before a picture of the suffering Lord, in which, she writes, “I felt Mary Magdalen come to my assistance…. From that day I have gone on improving in my spiritual life.” When finally Teresa withdrew from the pleasures of social intercourse, she found herself able once more to pray the “prayer of quiet,” and also the “prayer of union.”

She began to have intellectual visions of divine things and to hear inner voices. Though she was persuaded these manifestations came from God, she was at times fearful and troubled. She consulted many persons, binding all to secrecy, but her perplexities nevertheless were spread abroad, to her great mortification. Among those she talked to was Father Gaspar Daza, a learned priest, who, after listening, reported that she was deluded, for such divine favors were not consistent with a life as full of imperfections as hers was, as she herself admitted. A friend, Don Francis de Salsedo, suggested that she talk to a priest of the newly formed Society of Jesus. To one of them, accordingly, she made a general Confession, recounting her manner of prayer and extraordinary visions. He assured her that she experienced divine graces, but warned her that she had failed to lay the foundations of a true spiritual life by practices of mortification. He advised her to try to resist the visions and voices for two months; resistance proved useless. Francis Borgia, commissary-general of the Society in Spain, then advised her not to resist further, but also not to seek such experiences. Another Jesuit, Father Balthasar Alvarez, who now became her director, pointed out certain traits that were incompatible with perfect grace. He told her that she would do well to beg God to direct her to what was most pleasing to Him, and to recite daily the hymn of St. Gregory the Great, “<Veni Creator Spiritus>!” One day, as she repeated the stanzas, she was seized with a rapture in which she heard the words, “I will not have you hold conversation with men, but with angels.” For three years, while Father Balthasar was her director, she suffered from the disapproval of those around her; and for two years, from extreme desolation of soul. She was censured for her austerities and ridiculed as a victim of delusion or a hypocrite. A confessor to whom she went during Father Balthasar’s absence said that her very prayer was an illusion, and commanded her, when she saw any vision, to make the sign of the cross and repel it as if it were an evil spirit. But Teresa tells us that the visions now brought with them their own evidence of ,authenticity, so that it was impossible to doubt they were from God. Nevertheless, she obeyed this order of her confessor. Pope Gregory XV, in his bull of canonization, commends her obedience in these words: “She was wont to say that she might be deceived in discerning visions and revelations, but could not be in obeying superiors.”

In 1557 Peter of Alcantara, a Franciscan of the Observance, came to Avila. Few saints have been more experienced in the inner life, and he found in Teresa unmistakable evidence of the Holy Spirit. He openly expressed compassion for what she endured from slander and predicted that she was not at the end of her tribulations. However, as her mystical experiences continued, the greatness and goodness of God, the sweetness of His service, became more and more manifest to her. She was sometimes lifted from the ground, an experience other saints have known. “God,” she says, “seems not content with drawing the soul to Himself, but he must needs draw up the very body too, even while it is mortal and compounded of so unclean a clay as we have made it by our sins.” It was at this time, she tells us, that her most singular experience took place, her mystical marriage to Christ, and the piercing of her heart. Of the latter she writes: “I saw an angel very near me, towards my left side, in bodily form, which is not usual with me; for though angels are often represented to me, it is only in my mental vision. This angel appeared rather small than large, and very beautiful. His face was so shining that he seemed to be one of those highest angels called seraphs, who look as if all on fire with divine love. He had in his hands a long golden dart; at the end of the point methought there was a little fire. And I felt him thrust it several times through my heart in such a way that it passed through my very bowels. And when he drew it out, methought it pulled them out with it and left me wholly on fire with a great love of God.” The pain in her soul spread to her body, but it was accompanied by great delight too; she was like one transported, caring neither to see nor to speak but only to be consumed with the mingled pain and happiness.[3] Teresa’s longing to die that she might be united with God was tempered by her desire to suffer for Him on earth. The account which the <Autobiography> gives of her revelations is marked by sincerity, genuine simplicity of style, and scrupulous precision. An unlettered woman, she wrote in the Castilian vernacular, setting down her experiences reluctantly, out of obedience to her confessor, and submitting everything to his judgment and that of the Church, merely complaining that the task kept her from spinning. Teresa wrote of herself without self-love or pride. Towards her persecutors she was respectful, representing them as honest servants of God. Teresa’s other literary works came later, during the fifteen years when she was actively engaged in founding new convents of reformed Carmelite nuns. They are proof of her industry and her power of memory, as well as of a real talent for expression. <The Way of Perfection> she composed for the special guidance of her nuns, and the <Foundations> for their further edification. <The Interior Castle> was perhaps meant for all Catholics; in it she writes with authority on the spiritual life.

One admiring critic says: “She lays bare in her writings the most impenetrable secrets of true wisdom in what we call mystical theology, of which God has given the key to a small number of his favored servants. This thought may somewhat lessen our surprise that an unlearned woman should have expounded what the greatest doctors never attained, for God employs in His works what instruments He wills.” We have seen how undisciplined the Carmelite nuns had become, how the convent parlor at Avila was a social gathering place, and how easily nuns might leave their enclosure. Any woman, in fact, who wanted a sheltered life without much responsibility could find it in a convent in sixteenth-century Spain. The religious themselves, for the most part, were not even aware of how far they fell short of what their profession demanded. So when one of the nuns at the House of the Incarnation began talking of the possibility of founding a new and stricter community, the idea struck Teresa as an inspiration from Heaven. She determined to undertake its establishment herself and received a promise of help from a wealthy widow, Dona Guiomar de Ulloa. The project was approved by Peter of Alcantara and Father Angelo de Salazar, provincial of the Carmelite Order. The latter was soon compelled to withdraw his permission, for Teresa’s fellow nuns, the local nobility, the magistrates, and others united to thwart the project. Father Ibanez, a Dominican, secretly encouraged Teresa and urged Dona Guiomar to continue to lend her support. One of Teresa’s married sisters began with her husband to erect a small convent at Avila in 1561 to shelter the new establishment; outsiders took it for a house intended for the use of her family. An episode famous in Teresa’s life occurred at this time. Her little nephew was crushed by a wall of the new structure which fell on him as he was playing, and he was carried, apparently lifeless, to Teresa. She held the child in her arms and prayed. After some minutes she restored him alive and sound to his mother. The miracle was presented at the process for Teresa’s canonization. Another seemingly solid wall of the convent collapsed during the night. Teresa’s brother-in-law was going to refuse to pay the masons, but Teresa assured him that it was all the work of evil spirits and insisted that the men be paid. A wealthy woman of Toledo, Countess Louise de la Cerda, happened at the time to be mourning the recent death of her husband, and asked the Carmelite provincial to order Teresa, whose goodness she had heard praised, to come to her. Teresa was accordingly sent to the woman, and stayed with her for six months, using a part of the time, at the request of Father Ibanez, to write, and to develop further her ideas for the convent. While at Toledo she met Maria of Jesus, of the Carmelite convent at Granada, who had had revelations concerning a reform of the order, and this meeting strengthened Teresa’s own desires. Back in Avila, on the very evening of her arrival, the Pope’s letter authorizing the new reformed convent was brought to her. Teresa’s adherents now persuaded the bishop of Avila to concur, and the convent, dedicated to St. Joseph, was quietly opened. On St. Bartholomew’s day, 1562 the Blessed Sacrament was placed in the little chapel, and four novices took the habit. The news soon spread in the town and opposition flared into the open. The prioress of the Incarnation convent sent for Teresa, who was required to explain her conduct. Detained almost as a prisoner, Teresa did not lose her poise. The prioress was joined in her disapproval by the mayor and magistrates, always fearful that an unendowed convent would be a burden on the townspeople. Some were for demolishing the building forthwith. Meanwhile Don Francis sent a priest to Madrid, to plead for the new establishment before the King’s Council. Teresa was allowed to go back to her convent and shortly afterward the bishop officially appointed her prioress. The hubbub now quickly subsided. Teresa was hence. forth known simply as Teresa of Jesus, mother of the reform of Carmel. The nuns were strictly cloistered, under a rule of poverty and almost complete silence; the constant chatter of women’s voices was one of the things that Teresa had most deplored at the Incarnation. They were poor, without regular revenues; they wore habits of coarse serge and sandals instead of shoes, and for this reason were called the “discalced” or shoeless Carmelites. Although the prioress was now in her late forties, and frail, her great achievement still lay in the future. Convinced that too many women under one roof made for relaxation of discipline, Teresa limited the number of nuns to thirteen; later, when houses were being founded with endowments and hence were not wholly dependent on alms, the number was increased to twenty-one. The prior general of the Carmelites, John Baptist Rubeo of Ravenna, visiting Avila in 1567, carried away a fine impression of Teresa’s sincerity and prudent rule. He gave her full authority to found other convents on the same plan, in spite of the fact that St. Joseph’s had been established without his knowledge. Five peaceful years were spent with the thirteen nuns in the little convent of St. Joseph. Teresa trained the sisters in every kind of useful work and in all religious observances, but whether at spinning or at prayer, she herself was always first and most diligent. In August, 1567, she founded a second convent at Medina del Campo. The Countess de la Cerda was anxious to found a similar house in her native town of Malagon, and Teresa went to advise her about it. When this third community had been launched, the intrepid nun moved on to Valladolid, and there founded a fourth; then a fifth at Toledo. On beginning this work, she had no more than four or five ducats (approximately ten dollars), but she said, “Teresa and this money are nothing; but God, Teresa, and these ducats suffice.” At Medina del Campo she encountered two friars who had heard of her reform and wished to adopt it: Antony de Heredia, prior of the Carmelite monastery there, and John of the Cross. With their aid, in 1568, and the authority given her by the prior general, she established a reformed house for men at Durelo, and in 1569 a second one at Pastrana, both on a pattern of extreme poverty and austerity. She left to John of the Cross, who at this time was in his late twenties, the direction of these and other reformed communities that might be started for men. Refusing to obey the order of his provincial to return to Medina, he was imprisoned at Toledo for nine months. After his escape he became vicar-general of Andalusia, and strove for papal recognition of the order. John, later to attain fame as a poet, mystic confessor, and finally saint, became Teresa’s friend; a close spiritual bond developed between the young friar and the aging prioress, and he was made director and confessor in the mother house at Avila. The hardships and dangers involved in Teresa’s labors are indicated by a little episode of the founding of a new convent at Salamanca. She and another nun took over a house which had been occupied by students. It was a large, dirty, desolate place, without furnishings, and when night came the two nuns lay down on their piles of straw, for, Teresa tells us, “the first furniture I provided wherever I founded convents was straw, for, having that, I reckoned I had beds.” On this occasion, the other nun seemed very nervous, and Teresa asked her the reason. “I was wondering,” was the reply, “what you would do alone with a corpse if I were to die here now.” Teresa was startled, but only said, “I shall think of that when it happens, Sister. For the present, let us go to sleep.” At about this time Pope Pius V appointed a number of apostolic visitors to inquire into the relaxations of discipline in religious orders everywhere. The visitor to the Carmelites of Castile found great fault with the Incarnation convent and sent for Teresa, bidding her to assume its direction and remedy the abuses there. It was hard to be separated from her own daughters, and even more distasteful to be brought in as head of the old house which had long opposed her with bitterness and jealousy. The nuns at first refused to obey her; some of them fell into hysterics at the very idea. She told them that she came not to coerce or instruct but to serve and to learn from the least among them. By gentleness and tact she won the affection of the community, and was able to reestablish discipline. Frequent callers were forbidden, the finances of the house were set in order, and a more truly religious spirit reigned. At the end of three years, although the nuns wished to keep her longer, she was directed to return to her own convent. Teresa organized a nunnery at Veas and while there met Father Jerome Gratian, a reformed Carmelite, and was persuaded by him to extend her work to Seville. With the exception of her first convent, none proved so hard to establish as this. Among her problems there was a disgruntled novice, who reported the nuns to the Inquisition,[4] charging them with being Illuminati.[5] The Italian Carmelite friars had meanwhile been growing alarmed at the progress of the reform in Spain, lest, as one of their number said, they might one day be compelled to set about reforming themselves, a fear shared by their still unreformed Spanish brothers. At a general chapter at Piacenza several decrees were passed restricting the reform. The new apostolic nuncio dismissed Father Gratian from his office as visitor to the reformed Carmelites. Teresa was told to choose one of her convents and retire to it, and abstain from founding others. At this point she turned to her friends in the world, who were able to interest King Philip II[6] in her behalf, and he personally espoused her cause. He summoned the nuncio to rebuke him for his severity towards the discalced friars and nuns. In 1580 came an order from Rome exempting the reformed from the jurisdiction of the unreformed Carmelites, and giving each party its own provincial. Father Gratian was elected provincial of the reformed branch. The separation, although painful to many, brought an end to dissension. Teresa was a person of great natural gifts. Her ardor and lively wit was balanced by her sound judgment and psychological insight. It was no mere flight of fancy when the English Catholic poet, Richard Crashaw,[7] called her “the eagle” and “the dove.” She could stand up boldly and bravely for what she thought was right; she could also be severe with a prioress who by excessive austerity had made herself unfit for her duties. Yet she could be gentle as a dove, as when she writes to an erring, irresponsible nephew, “God’s mercy is great in that you have been enabled to make so good a choice and marry so soon, for you began to be dissipated when you were so young that we might have had much sorrow on your account.” Love, with Teresa, meant constructive action, and she had the young man’s daughter, born out of wedlock, brought to the convent, and took charge of her upbringing and that of his young sister. One of Teresa’s charms was a sense of humor. In the early years, when an indiscreet male visitor to the convent once praised the beauty of her bare feet, she laughed and told him to take a good look at them for he would never see them again-implying that in the future he would not be admitted. Her method of selecting novices was characteristic. The first requirement, even before piety, was intelligence. A woman could attain to piety, but scarcely to intelligence, by which she meant common sense as well as brains. “An intelligent mind,” she wrote, “is simple and teachable; it sees its faults and allows itself to be guided. A mind that is dull and narrow never sees its faults even when shown them. It is always pleased with itself and never learns to do right.” Pretentiousness and pride annoyed her. Once a young woman of high reputation for virtue asked to be admitted to a convent in Teresa’s charge, and added, as if to emphasize her intellect, “I shall bring my Bible with me.” “What,” exclaimed Teresa, “your Bible? Do not come to us. We are only poor women who know nothing but how to spin and do as we are told.” In spite of a naturally sturdy constitution, Teresa continued throughout her life to suffer from ailments which physicians found baffling. It would seem that sheer will power kept her alive. At the time of the definitive division of the Carmelite Order she had reached the age of sixty-five and was broken in health. Yet during the last two years of her life she somehow found strength to establish three more convents. They were at Granada, in the far south, at Burgos, in the north, and at Soria, in Portugal. The total was now sixteen. What an astounding achievement this was for one small, enfeebled woman may be better appreciated if we recall the hardships of travel. Most of this extensive journeying was done in a curtained carriage or cart drawn by mules over the extremely poor roads; her trips took her from the northern provinces down to the Mediterranean, and west into Portugal, across mountains, rivers, and arid plateaus. She and the nun who accompanied her endured all the rigors of a harsh climate as well as the steady discomfort of rude lodgings and scanty food. In the autumn of 1582, Teresa, although ill, set out for Alva de Tormez, where an old friend was expecting a visit from her. Her companion of later years, Anne-of-St. Bartholomew, describes the journey. Teresa grew worse on the road, along which there were few habitations. They could get no food save figs, and when they arrived at the convent, Teresa went to bed in a state of exhaustion. She never recovered, and three days later, she remarked to Anne, “At last, my daughter, I have reached the house of death,” a reference to her book, <The Seven Mansions>. Extreme Unction was administered by Father Antony de Heredia, a friar of the Reform, and when he asked her where she wished to be buried. she plaintively replied, “Will they deny me a little ground for my body here?” She sat up as she received the Sacrament, exclaiming, “O my Lord, now is the time that we shall see each other! ” and died in Anne’s arms. It was the evening of October 4. The next day, as it happened, the Gregorian calendar came into use. The readjustment made it necessary to drop ten days, so that October 5 was counted as October 15, and this latter date became Teresa’s feast day. She was buried at Alva; three years later, following the decree of a. provincial chapter of Reformed Carmelites, the body was secretly removed to Avila. The next year the Duke of Alva procured an order from Rome to return it to Alva de Tormez, and there it has remained. Teresa was canonized in 1662. Shortly after her death, Philip II, keenly aware of the Carmelite nun’s contribution to Catholicism, had her manuscripts collected and brought to his great palace of the Escorial, and there placed in a rich case, the key of which he carried on his person. These writings were edited for publication by two Dominican scholars and brought out in 1587. Subsequently her works have appeared in uncounted Spanish editions, and have been translated into many languages. An ever-spreading circle of readers through the centuries have found understanding and courage in the life and works of this nun of Castile, who is one of the glories of Spain and of the Church. Teresa’s emblems are a heart, an arrow, and a book.

<Excerpts from> Interior Castle

This body has one fault, that the more people pamper it, the more its wants are made known. It is strange how much it likes to be indulged. How well it finds some good pretext to deceive the poor soul! . . . Oh, you who are free from the great troubles of the world, learn to suffer a little for the love of God without everyone’s knowing it! . . .

And remember our holy fathers of past times and holy hermits whose life we try to imitate; what pains they endured, what loneliness, what cold, what hunger, what burning suns, without having anyone to complain to except God. Do you think that they were of iron? No, they were as much flesh as we are; and as soon as we begin, daughters, to conquer this little carcass, it will not bother us so much…. If you don’t make up your mind to swallow, once and for all, death and loss of health, you will never do anything….

God deliver us from anybody who wishes to serve Him and thinks about her own dignity and fears to be disgraced…. No poison in the world so slays perfection as these things do….

There are persons, it seems, who are ready to ask God for favors as a matter of justice. A fine sort of humility! Hence He who knows all does well in giving it to them hardly ever; He sees plainly they are not fit to drink the chalice….

Sometimes the Devil proposes to us great desires, so that we shall not put our hand to what we have to do, and serve our Lord in possible things, but stay content with

having desired impossible ones. Granting that you can help much by prayer, don’t try to benefit all the world, but those who are in your company, and so the work will be better for you are much bounden to them…. In short, what I would conclude with is that we must not build towers without foundations; the Lord does not look so much to the grandeur of our works as to the love with which they are done; and if we do all we can, His Majesty will see to it that we are able to do more and more every day, if we do not then grow weary, and during the little that this life lasts—and perhaps it will be shorter than each one thinks—we offer to Christ, inwardly and outwardly, what sacrifice we can, for His Majesty will join it with the one He made to the Father for us on the Cross, that it may have the value which our will would have merited, even though our works may be small.

<Epilogue>

Although, as I told you, I felt reluctant to begin this work, yet now it is finished I am very glad to have written it, and I think my trouble is well spent, though I confess it has cost me but little.

Considering your strict enclosure, the little recreation you have, my sisters, and how many conveniences are wanting in some of your convents, I think it may console you to enjoy yourselves in this Interior Castle, where you can enter, and walk about at will, at any hour you please, without asking leave of your superiors.

It is true you cannot enter all the mansions by your own power, however great it may appear to you, unless the Lord of the Castle Himself admits you. Therefore I advise you to use no violence if you meet with any obstacle, for that would displease Him so much’ that He would never give you admission to them. He dearly loves humility: if you think yourselves unworthy to enter the third mansion, He will grant you all the sooner the favor of entering the fifth. Then if you serve Him well there, and often repair to it, He will draw you into the mansion where He dwells Himself, where you need never depart, unless called away by the Prioress, whose commands the sovereign Master wishes you to obey as if they were His own. If, by her orders, you are often absent from His presence chamber, whenever you return He will hold the door open for you. When once you have learned how to enjoy this Castle, you will always find rest, however painful your trials may be, in the hope of returning to your Lord, which no one can prevent.

Although I have only mentioned seven mansions, yet each one contains many more rooms, above, below, and around it, with fair gardens, fountains, and labyrinths, besides other things so delightful that you will wish to consume yourself in praising the great God for them, Who has created the soul in His own image and likeness. If you find anything in the plan of this treatise which helps you to know Him better, be certain that it is sent by His Majesty to encourage you, and whatever you find amiss

in it is my own.

In return for my strong desire to aid you in serving Him, my God and my Lord, I implore you, whenever you read this, to praise His Majesty fervently in my name, and to beg Him to prosper His Church, to give light to the Lutherans, to pardon my sins, and to free me from purgatory, where perhaps I shall be, by the mercy of God, when you see this book, provided it is given to you after having been examined by the theologians. If these writings contain any error, it is through my ignorance; I submit in all things to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Roman Church, of which I am now a member, as I protest and promise both to live and die. May our Lord God be forever praised and blessed. Amen. Amen.

The writing of this was finished in the convent of Saint Joseph of Avila, in the year 1577, on the vigil of Saint Andrew, to the glory of God, Who liveth and reigneth for ever and ever. Amen

(<Interior Castle and Mansions>. London, 1912.)

Endnotes:

1 For extracts from St. Jerome’s letters, see above, p. 93.

2 The Carmelites were an order of mendicant friars claiming descent from hermits who lived on Mt. Carmel in Palestine in the sixth century. The order was founded in 1156, when a monastery was built on the mountain; the nuns of the order, which at this time were established in the Netherlands and Spain, were divided into three observances.

3 This event is commemorated by the Carmelites on August 27.

4 The Spanish Inquisition had been set up a century before by Ferdinand and Isabella. It was less severe in Teresa’s day than it had been earlier.

5 The Illuminati was a heretical secret society that denied dependence on the Church and claimed that salvation came through the enlightenment of each individual by his own vision of God.

6 Philip II, son of the Emperor Charles V and husband of the English Catholic Queen, Mary, was a devout champion of the faith against Protestantism.

7 Crashaw left England when Charles I was beheaded, became a Catholic priest, and spent his later years in Italy. One of his most eloquent poems is the “Hymn to the Adorable St. Teresa.”

Saint Teresa of Avila, Virgin, Foundress. Celebration of Feast Day is October 15. Taken from “Lives of Saints”, Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

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