October 15, 2011
Feast of St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
“Sometimes the Devil proposes to us great desires, so that we shall not put our hand to what we have to do.” –St. Teresa of Avila (more below)
Rome is not burning…yet
(A car ablaze in the streets of Rome yesterday)
Wall Street in New York and Syntagma Square in Athens are not the only places where demonstrators are protesting. The protests have reached Rome.
The Rome protests have not yet reached St. Peter’s Square. And only two cars, not dozens, were set on fire, and there was not a single report of an injury. So these importance of these protests should not be exaggerated. (One internet headline read “Rome is burning” — but Rome is not burning; just two cars in Rome!)
An important caveat: we do not know who is behind the protests or, especially, who may be infiltrating them, and for what purpose. That there are such infiltrators seems clear. For example, in the report below, there is the suggestion that hooded militants called “black blocks” infiltrated the protests pretending to be ordinary Roman citizens. The point is, such protests — whether in Rome, or Madrid, or New York, or Cairo — are easily exploited, or misdirected, or discredited, through the actions of agents with an agenda which has has nothing to do with the real concerns of the people.
“Demonstrators in Rome set fire to two cars and broke shop windows during a protest in the Italian capital, as activists organised a series of rallies in 82 countries,” the London Telegraph wrote today (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/8829005/Protesters-burn-cars-and-police-van-in-Rome-as-Occupy-protests-spread-worldwide.html).
“Riot police in Rome charged hundreds of protesters and fired water cannons, while a group of activists set alight a defence ministry annex nearby. Flames could be seen coming out of the roof and windows of the building on Via Labicana as firefighters struggled to tame the blaze. Dozens of masked protesters could be seen in the area, which had not been cordoned off.
“The violence was said to be caused by hooded militants known as ‘black blocks,’ who have infiltrated demonstrations in the past.
“There were no immediate reports of injuries. Television images showed one of the cars in flames and spewing thick black smoke over the route of the demonstration, which was otherwise peaceful.”
It would seem that such protests will not become truly serious unless the austerity measures all European governments are now discussing — for example, cutting pension payments — are actually implemented.
But in this regard, it does seem likely that some payments will soon stop, as the next story shows…
EU considering massive cuts to food aid for poor
BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is considering a roughly 75 percent cut in funding for a program that helps feed 18 million of its poorest citizens.
The cuts, set to take effect after New Year’s, would come at a time of rising unemployment and consumer food prices in many parts of Europe, as well as overall economic turmoil on the continent. The looming cuts already have raised fears among people who rely heavily on the program.
Full story here:
Archbishop Fisichella: New evangelisation needs “joyful” evangelizers
At the same time, this weekend in Rome, the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization is holding its first major event ever.
The meeting is entitled “New Evangelizers for the New Evangelization — The Word of God Grows and Spreads.”
(Archbishop Rino Fisichella, head of the Vatican’s Council for Promoting the New Evangelization)
Held in the New Synod Hall, the meeting began with a report by the Council President, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, and proceeded with discussion among Church leaders involved in “New Evangelization.”
This meeting, then, is the first “salvo” in the long-awaited effort of the Catholic Church to reverse the centuries-long trend by which the formerly Christian West has become the thoroughly secularized West.
We might almost say that, if the mid-1500s saw the launching of a “Counter-Reformation,” 2011 and 2012 are seeing the launch, under Pope Benedict, with the help of Fisichella, of a “Counter-Secularization,” a “Re-Sacralization” of Western culture.
Speaking to Vatican Radio, Archbishop Fisichella stated that the aim of the meeting is “to visibly present the Church with the new evangelizers.”
As a practical example of this, he said, different groups, different “ecclesial realities.” would go out into the streets of Rome, to the historic squares, and churches, to carry out the work of the new evangelization. “Many of these ecclesial groups already have experience of this,” Archbishop Fisichella said. “They will give the city of Rome, a visible sign of a new evangelization. And we hope that their efforts will bear fruit.”
All of this is a lead up to the October 2012 Synod of Bishops on new evangelization, one year from now.
But there is a concern.
The current Vatican strategy seems fixated on emphasizing that there is not actually a state of emergency, no real, fundamental problem, no “rot” in the “apple” of the faith that must be excised lest it spread through the entire fruit. Thus the emohasis on the fact that many “new evangelizers” are accomplishing great things.
Yet, our entire culture continues to be transformed, day by day, “de-Christianized,” before our very eyes.
Unfortunately, there seems to be little profound analysis of the reasons for the West’s abandonment of the faith.
Nor does there seem to be much profound analysis of the true reason non-faith, non-membership in the Church, seems so attractive to modern men and women.
Our grandparents clung to the faith at all costs, because they valued it — because they believed it had value.
Our children leave the faith in droves, because they do not value it — do not believe it has any real value.
What are the profound reasons for this change?
Why does the Church no longer hold the sincere, committed affection and loyalty of millions?
This is the question that needs to be answered, with honesty, before any program for returning the hearts and minds of men to the things of God can be launched.
And the answer, fortunately or unfortumately, must pass through an analysis of what happened in the 20th century, from the destruction of Europe in the two World Wars, to the imposition of atheism in Christian Russia, to the convocation of the Second Vatican Council, to the revolution in the Church that Council brought about, and continues to bring about.
We need thought, we need analysis, and then we need a clear diagnosis for our malady, the malady of the entire Western culture, which is clearly not simply the malady of lust and sin, but is also a specifically modern malady of superficiality, of “horizontality,” of forgetfulness of the divine, of the holy, of the conviction that man not only can be and, indeed, is God, but that any other God than man would be man’s nemesis and enemy.
This is the anti-Christian faith of our modern time, which is now sweeping all before it, even in the Church.
This is, in a sense, the anti-Christ, or at least the spirit of anti-Christ.
The current Vatican plan to combat this anti-Christian Weltgeist seems focused on creating more activity, more institutional structures, rather than the quiet reflection and personal instrospection that is needed.
Archbishop Fisichella says his aim is “to promote awareness and knowledge of the experience of new evangelization” but also to quash illusions that “everything was all right in the past.”
“We want to reinforce the idea that evangelization is the very mission of the Church and has been going on for more than 2,000 years, but it needs to find a new language, a new lifestyle, one that is respectful but has a deeply rooted identity,” Fisichella told the radio.
It is precisely the finding of this “new language” and “new lifestyle” that is our present difficulty.
We need evangelizers, Fisichella said, “who have a profound sense of belonging to the Church and the Christian community but at the same time who are open to others. And also a good dose of joy and enthusiasm, which is never a bad thing!”
This is true as far as it goes, but it would seem that our time is desperately in need of truth-telling, and the truth, while it contains joy, and end in joy, is not simply joy. there is much sorrow in it.
St. Teresa of Avila had a profound sense of how wretched she was without Christ; this is a truth evangelizers need to communicate.
St. Thomas Aquinas knew clearly how meaningless human existence is without the dimension of eternity; this is a truth evangelizers need to communicate.
St. Augustine felt the hopelessness of all human efforts toward sanctity without the sacraments and God’s grace; this is a truth evangelizers need to feel and communicate.
G. K. Chesterton wrote with great clarity how unattractive is the idea that any man, or all men, should aspire to be God, or to become God, or to be regarded as God, and so worthy of adoration; this is a truth, that the temptation to be like God, or to be God, is ultimately unattractive, that evangelizers need to feel and communicate.
We need saints, and we also need a profound analysis of our predicament, and a clear diagnosis of what we must do to once again draw near to God.
And such a profound analysis is what a number of petitioners are now asking the Pope for, and is also what St. Teresa of Avila asked for, throughout her own spiritual journey, described below.
“In short,” Teresa of Avila wrote, “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.”
Petition to Pope Benedict XVI for a more in-depth examination of the Second Vatican Council
The following petition, posted yesterday on the Documentation Information Catholiques Internationales (DIDI) website, was initially published on the Italian blogosphere last month (see Riscossa Cristiana, Una Fides and Messa in Latino).
It is signed by the theologians Msgr. Brunero Gherardini (a Canon of St. Peter’s Basilica) and Msgr. Antonio Livi (Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University from 2002 to 2008) as well as by Professor Roberto De Mattei and 46 other clerics and laymen, mostly professors and leaders associated with traditional Catholicism in Italy.
(Monsignor Brunero Gherardini, who lives inside the Vatican as a Canon of St. Peter’s Basilica, signer of the petition to Pope Benedict)
Petition to Pope Benedict XVI for a more in-depth examination of the Second Vatican Council
To the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, that he might be willing to promote a more in-depth examination of the pastoral council, Vatican II.
Most Holy Father,
Monsignor Brunero Gherardini, a priest of the Diocese of Prato and canon of Saint Peter’s Basilica, who is well known as a former professor of Ecclesiology at the Pontifical Lateran University and as dean of Italian theologians, wrote to Your Holiness in 2009 a very respectful and urgent petition calling for the commencement of a critical debate about the documents of Vatican II, a critical debate that would be conducted in a deliberate and public way.
This step was seconded in 2010 by Roberto de Mattei, professor of Church History and the History of Christianity at the European University of Rome and vice president of the National Council of Research.
In his petition, Msgr. Gherardini wrote: “For the good of the Church—and more especially to bring about the salvation of souls, which is her first and highest law (cf. the 1983 CIC, canon 1752)—after decades of liberal exegetical, theological, historiographical and “pastoral” creativity in the name of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, it seemed urgent to me that some clarity be created by answering authoritatively the question about the continuity of this Council with the other Councils (this time not simply by declaring it so but by proposing a genuine demonstration), the question about its fidelity to the Tradition of the Church.”…
In favor of a careful, scientific analysis of the Second Vatican Council
“It seems, indeed, if not impossible, at least very difficult to make this hermeneutic of continuity [with all of the previous Magisterium] that you wish for evident, without first proceeding to make a careful, scientific analysis of the Council in general, of each of its documents, of each of the themes in these documents, of the immediate and remote sources of these themes and these documents…. It would be rather pointless to continue speaking about the Council only by repeating its contents or in presenting it as an absolute novelty.
“But an examination of such scope far surpasses the abilities of one person, not only because one and the same subject requires elaborations at different levels (historical, patristic, canonical, philosophical, liturgical, theological, exegetical, sociological, scientific), but also because each conciliar document touches on dozens and dozens of subjects that only specialists in each of those subjects is capable of addressing effectively.
“Long ago now the idea occurred to me (and now I dare to submit it to Your Holiness) of a grandiose and, if possible, definitive restatement of the last Council that would treat each one of its aspects and themes.
“Indeed it seems logical, and to me it seems imperative, that each of these aspects and themes be studied in itself and in the context of all the others, paying close attention to all the sources, and from the specific perspective of continuity with the previous Magisterium of the Church, whether solemn or ordinary. On the basis of a scientific, critical study that is as thorough and unexceptionable as possible, in connection with the traditional Magisterium of the Church, it will be possible then to derive the material for a sure, objective evaluation of Vatican II.
“This will make it possible to answer the following questions, among many others:
1) What is the true nature of Vatican II?
2) What is the relation between its pastoral character (a notion that will have to be explained authoritatively) and its dogmatic character, if any? Can the pastoral character be reconciled with the dogmatic character? Does it assume the latter? Does it contradict it? Does it ignore it?
3) Is it really possible to define the Second Vatican Council as ‘dogmatic’? And therefore to refer to it as dogmatic? To use it as the basis of new theological assertions? In what sense? Within what limits?
4) Is Vatican II an “event” as the Bologna School understands it, in other words, one that cuts all ties with the past and inaugurates a new era in all respects? Or does it relive in itself the whole past eodem sensu eademque sententia [in the same sense and with the same purpose]?
“It is plain that the hermeneutic of rupture and the hermeneutic of continuity depend on the answers that one gives to these questions. But if the scientific conclusion of the examination concludes by allowing the hermeneutic of continuity as the only acceptable, only possible one, then it will be necessary to prove (beyond any declaration) that this continuity is real, that is manifested in the underlying dogmatic identity.
“If it should happen that this continuity cannot be proved scientifically, as a whole or in part, it would be necessary to say so calmly and candidly, in response to the demand for clarity that has been awaited for almost a half a century.”
In his recent, well-documented History of Vatican II, Professor de Mattei offered the public a precise, realistic picture of the tormented, dramatic unfolding of that Council, and he concluded: “At the end of this volume, allow me to address reverently His Holiness Benedict XVI, whom I acknowledge to be the successor of Peter to whom I feel inseparably bound, expressing my deep thanks to him for having opened the doors to a serious debate about the Second Vatican Council. I repeat that I wanted to make a contribution to this debate, not as a theologian, but as an historian, joining however in the petition of those theologians who are respectfully and filially asking the Vicar of Christ on earth to promote an in-depth examination of Vatican II, in all its complexity and its full extent, to verify its continuity with the twenty preceding Councils and to dispel the shadows and doubts which for almost a half a century have caused the Church to suffer, with the certainty that the gates of hell will never prevail against Her (Mt 16:18).”
And we, the undersigned, being simple believers, join fully in these respectful, authorized requests. Certain that we do not lack filial respect toward Your Holiness, we make so bold as to add (to the four questions posed above) several of the numerous inquiries which, in our opinion, would certainly deserve a clarifying response, as is brought out in the analyses by Msgr. Gherardini and the theologians and intellectuals who since the beginning of the post-conciliar period have fought to obtain clarifications about Vatican II:
5) What is the exact meaning given to the concept of “living tradition” that appeared in the Constitution Dei Verbum on Divine Revelation?
In his recent study on the fundamental concept of Catholic tradition, Msgr. Gherardini maintained that during Vatican II a “Copernican revolution” took place in its way of understanding the Tradition of the Church, since the Council did not clearly define the dogmatic value of Tradition (DV 8); contrary to custom, the document reduces to one (ad unum) the two sources of Divine Revelation (Scripture and Tradition) that have always been admitted in the Church and have been confirmed by the dogmatic Councils of Trent and Vatican I (DV 9).
The document even appears to oppose the dogma of the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture (DV 11.2), for why, “after declaring that everything affirmed by the inspired authors comes from the Holy Spirit, is the privilege of inerrancy attributed only to the ‘salutary’ or ‘salvific truths’, as a part of the whole (veritatem, quam Deus nostrae salutis causae Litteris sacris consignari voluit)? If the Holy Spirit inspired everything that the biblical authors wrote, inerrancy should apply to everything, and not just to salvific truths. The text therefore appears to be illogical.”
6) What is the exact meaning to be given to the new definition of the Catholic Church contained in the Dogmatic Constitution (which nevertheless does not define any dogma) Lumen gentium on the Church?
If it coincides with the perennial definition, namely that only the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Christ because it is the only one to have maintained over the centuries the deposit of faith handed down by Our Lord and the apostles under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, then why did they try to change it, by writing in a way that is not easily understood by a simple believer and is never clearly explained (we must say), that the “one” Church of Christ “subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. Nevertheless many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines. Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity” [LG 8]?
In this formulation, does it not seem that the Church appears to be merely a part of the Church of Christ?
A mere part because the Church of Christ is said to include also—besides the Catholic Church—“many elements of sanctification and of truth” located “outside” the Catholic Church?
It would follow that the “one true religion [that] continues to exist in the Catholic Church” (Declaration Dignitatis humanae on religious liberty, 1.2) was the religion of a “Church of Christ” that possesses “elements” outside of the Catholic Church. Which can also be understood, if you want, as “the one true religion” that subsists, according to the Council, likewise in the non-Catholic “elements” of “the Church of Christ”?
7) What is the true significance to be given to the notion of the Church understood in its totality as “People of God” (Lumen gentium 9-17), a notion which in the past referred only to a part of the whole, whereas the whole constituted the “Mystical Body of Christ”?
8) What significance is to be given to the omission of the terms “supernatural” and “transubstantiation” from the Council documents? Does this omission also modify the substance of these concepts, as come claim?
By establishing a sort of collective responsibility, doesn’t collegiality cause the individual bishops to lose authority?
9) What is the exact significance of the new notion of collegiality? In light of the constant teaching of the Church, what are we to think of the interpretation in the Nota explicativa praevia, the “preliminary explanatory note” placed at the start of Lumen gentium (a note that was put there to nullify the debate among the Council Fathers)? We cite the doubts clearly presented by Romano Amerio: “The ‘preliminary note’ (Nota praevia) rejects the classic interpretation of collegiality, according to which the subject of supreme power in the Church is the Pope alone, who shares it when he wants with the totality of the bishops convened in council by him. The supreme power becomes collegial only when communicated by the Pope, at his pleasure (ad nutum). The ‘preliminary note’ likewise rejects the opinion of the innovators, according to which the subject of supreme power in the Church is the episcopal college united to the Pope and not without the Pope, who is the head of it, but in such fashion that when the Pope exercises the supreme power, even by himself, he does so precisely as the head of said college, and therefore as a representative of this college, which he is obliged to consult so as to express their judgment. This is a theory modeled on the one that claims that all authority owes its power to the multitude: a theory that is difficult to reconcile with the divine constitution of the Church (which is hierarchical and of divine, not popular, origin). In refuting these two theories, the Nota praevia insists that the supreme power belongs to the college of bishops united to their head, but that the head can exercise it independently of the college, whereas the college cannot exercise it independently of the head (and this is supposedly a concession to Tradition).”
Is it accurate to maintain that assigning juridical powers—those of a real college, properly speaking—to the institution of Bishops’ Conferences has in fact depreciated and distorted the role of the bishop? Indeed, in the Church today the bishops, taken individually, seem not to matter at all, practically speaking (Your Holiness will forgive our frankness).
On this point, here is Amerio again: “The novelty that has stood out most in the post-conciliar Church is the opportunity now for participation [in decision-making] by all Church authorities that are juridically defined organs, such as diocesan and national Synods, parish and presbyteral Councils, etc…. The establishment of Episcopal Conferences has produced two effects: it has deformed the organic structure of the Church, and it has resulted in the loss of authority by the [individual] bishops. According to the canon law in force before the Council, the bishops are successors of the Apostles, and each one governs in his diocese with ordinary power in spiritual and temporal matters, exercising there a legislative, judiciary and executive power (canons 329 and 335). This authority was precise, individual, and except for the institution of the vicar general, not capable of being delegated (whereas the vicar general depended on the willingness of the bishop—ad nutum)…. The Decree Christus Dominus attributes collegiality to the body of bishops in virtue of its “supreme, full power over the universal Church”, which would be in all respects equal to that of the Pope if it could be exercised without his consent. This supreme power has always been acknowledged in the case of the assembly of bishops convened in an ecumenical council by the Pope. But the question arises, whether an authority that can be put into effect only by a superior authority can be considered supreme and does not amount to a purely virtual object, a thing existing only in the mind (ens rationis). Now according to the spirit of Vatican II, the exercise of episcopal authority in which collegiality is actualized is that of the Bishops’ Conferences.
“Here is an oddity: the Decree (in section 37) finds the reason for the existence of this new institution in the need for the bishops of a country to take concerted action; it does not see this new tie of cooperation, which henceforth has a juridical configuration, as a change in the structure of the Church that would replace a bishop with a body of bishops and personal responsibility with a collective responsibility that is therefore fragmented…. By the institution of Bishops’ Conferences the Church has become a multi-centered body…. The first consequence of this new organization is therefore the loosening of the tie of unity [with the Pope]; this has been manifested by enormous dissensions on the most serious points [for example on the teaching of the Encyclical Humanae vitae dated July 25, 1968, which prohibited the use of contraceptives]. The second consequence of the new organization is the loss of the authority of each bishop considered separately as such. They are no longer responsible to their own people nor to the Holy See, because their personal responsibility has been replaced by a collegial responsibility which, belonging to the whole body, can no longer be imputed to the different elements making up that body.”
Is the priest today reduced to the role of an organizer and presider over the assembly of the People of God?
10) What exact significance is to be given today to the priesthood, an authentic institution of the Church? Is it true that since the Council the priest has been demoted from “sacerdos Dei” [“a priest of God”] to being “sacerdos populi Dei” [“a priest of the people of God”] and has been reduced mainly to the role of “organizer” and “presider over the assembly” of the “People of God” and to the role of a “social worker”?
In this regard the following should be critiqued: Lumen gentium 10.2, which seems to try to put at the same level the “ministerial” or “hierarchical” priesthood and the so-called “common priesthood of the faithful”—which formerly was considered as a mere honorific title—by its statement that the two “are none the less ordered one to another, ad invicem tamen ordinantur” (see also LG 62.2); LG 13.3, which seems to describe the priesthood as a simple “duty” or office of the “People of God”; the fact that preaching the Gospel is listed as the first priestly “duty” (Decree Presbytorum Ordinis on the ministry and life of priests, 4: “it is the first task of priests as co-workers of the bishops to preach the Gospel of God”), whereas on the contrary the Council of Trent recalled that what characterizes the priest’s mission is in the first place “the power to consecrate, offer, and administer the Body of Blood of the Lord” and in second place the power “of forgiving or retaining sins” (DS 957/1764).
Is it true that Vatican II devalues the fact of ecclesiastical celibacy by stating that “Perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven was recommended by Christ… and has always been highly esteemed in a special way by the Church as a feature of priestly life [even though] it is not demanded of the priesthood by its nature” (PO 16); might this last statement be justified by a false interpretation of 1 Tim 3:2-5 and Tit 1:6?
11) What is the exact significance of the principle of “creativity” in the Liturgy, which without any doubt results from the fact of having granted to the Bishops’ Conference a broad competence in this matter, including the option of experimenting with new forms of worship so as to adapt them to the characters and the traditions of the people and so as to simplify them as much as possible? All this is proposed in the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium on the liturgy: art. 22.2 on the new competencies of the Bishops’ Conferences; 37, 39 and 40 on adaptation to the characters and traditions of the peoples and on the criteria for liturgical adaptation in general; articles 21 and 34 on liturgical simplification.
Were not similar options for innovating in liturgical matters condemned in all ages by the Magisterium of the Church?
It is true that the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium still calls for the supervision of the Holy See over the liturgy and innovations in it (SC 22.1, 40.1-2), but this supervision has proved incapable of preventing the widespread devastation of the liturgy, which has driven the faithful out of the churches, and this devastation continues to be unleashed even today, despite disciplinary action and the intention of Your Holiness to eliminate abuses.
Could not competent studies bring to light the reasons for this failure?
What difference is there between conciliar religious liberty and secular freedom of conscience?
Obviously we cannot formulate all the questions that the documents of the Council raise and that are related to the present situation of the Church.
On this subject we venture to add only the following:
12) The principle of religious freedom, proclaimed by the Council for the first time in the history of the Church as a “natural” or “human right” of the person, whatever his religion, and thus a right superior to the right of the one Revealed Truth (our Catholic religion) to be professed as the true religion, in preference to the others that are not revealed and therefore do not come from God; this principle of religious liberty is based on the presupposition that all religions are equal, and consequently its application promotes indifferentism, agnosticism and eventually atheism; as it is understood by the Council, how is this principle distinguished really from the secular freedom of conscience that is honored among “the rights of man” that were professed by the anti-Christian French Revolution?
13) Doesn’t present-day ecumenism also seem to lead to a similar result (indifferentism and the loss of faith), given that its principal aim seems to be not so much the conversion (as much as possible) of the human race to Christ as its unity and even its unification in a sort of new world Church or religion that is capable of ushering in a messianic era of peace and fraternity among all peoples?
If those are the aims of present-day ecumenism—and they are already found in part in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes on the Church and the modern world—then doesn’t this ecumenical dialogue seem to drift dangerously toward a certain “agreement between Christ and Belial” [cf. 2 Cor 6:15]? Shouldn’t the whole dialogue of the post-conciliar Church with the contemporary world be reconsidered?
Most Holy Father,
The questions that we have had the audacity to pose to you in this humble petition certainly may displease that part of the hierarchy that already declared that they did not appreciate Msgr. Gherardini’s petition two years ago.
We mean that part of the hierarchy that does not yet seem to have understood the exceptional seriousness of the crisis that has afflicted the Church for fifty years; a crisis whose pre-conciliar premises burst onto the scene during the Council, as the book by Professor de Mattei has demonstrated, and before that, more succinctly, the book by Fr. Ralph M. Wiltgen, S.V.D., and the one by Professor Romano Amerio.
In our souls and consciences as believers, this petition, written with all deference toward You, seems perfectly in harmony, we dare say, with the work of restoring, renewing and purifying the Church Militant that Your Holiness has courageously undertaken, despite resistance and difficulties of all sorts that are known to everyone.
We are referring not only to the unyielding actions of Your Holiness against the corruption of morals that has penetrated a sector of the clergy, nor the clean-up operation in well-known charitable institutions and aid programs that are no longer Catholic except in name.
We are referring also to the “liberation” of the celebration of Mass in the ancient Roman rite (improperly called “Tridentine, given that its canon, according to a sure tradition, goes back to apostolic times) and of the administration of the sacraments and of the rite of exorcism according to the pre-conciliar ritual.
We are referring also to Your remission of the excommunications which (for well-known disciplinary reasons) weighed on the bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X, founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the “lifting” of which had been requested of Your Holiness respectfully and persistently, while launching an “International Rosary Crusade” for that intention, which had a widespread following among the Catholic faithful.
In all these arrangements, which are certainly of the utmost importance to the Church and which You made motu proprio [on Your own initiative] with Your full authority as Supreme Pontiff that is derived from Your potestas iurisdictionis [power of jurisdiction] over the whole Church of Our Lord—in all these things our sensus fidei as simple Catholic laymen sees the obvious work of the Holy Ghost. We therefore conclude our humble petition by invoking the aid of the Holy Ghost so that, in this enterprise of reestablishing Christ at the heart of Catholicism, Your Holiness might also include the hoped-for review of the Council.
With an assurance of our filial devotion and respect,
In Domino et in corde Mariae [In the Lord and in the Heart of Mary].
September 24, 2011
The signatures of almost 50 Catholic leaders follow, among them:
Prof. Paolo Pasqualucci, professor of philosophy; Msgr. Brunero Gherardini, dean of the Italian theologians, professor of Ecclesiology; Msgr. Antonio Livi, professor emeritus of epistemology at the Lateran University; Prof. Roberto de Mattei, Università Europea di Roma; Prof. Luigi Coda Nunziante, personally and in his capacity as president of the association Famiglia Domani; Dr. Paolo Deotto, chairman of Riscossa Cristiana (www.riscossa cristiana.it); Prof. Piero Vassallo, professor of philosophy, co-chairman of Riscossa Cristiana; Dr. Virginia Coda Nunziante; Dr. Pucci Cipriani; Fr. Marcello Stanzione and the entire Militia of St. Michael the Archangel; Prof. Dante Pastorelli, Governor of the Venerable Confraternity of St. Jerome and St. Francis of Assisi in San Filippo Benizi, Florence, and president of Una Voce (Florence); Calogero Cammarata, president of Inter Multiplices Una Vox (Turin); Dr. Cristina Siccardi – Castiglione Torinese (TO); Dr. Carlo Manetti – Castiglione Torinese (TO); Alessandro Gnocchi; Mario Palmaro; Mario Crisconio, Knight of the Order of Malta, Governor of the Pio Monte della Misericordia (Naples), president of Una Voce (Naples); Enrico Villari, Ph.D., engineer (Naples); Marcello Paratore, professor of philosophy (Naples); Giuseppe De Vargas Machuca, First Governor of the Reale Arciconfraternità e Monte del SS. Sacramento dei Nobili Spagnoli (Naples); Giovanni Turco, university professor, president de la International Thomas Aquinas Society, Naples division; Giovanni Tortelli, writer, research specialist in canon law and Church history (Florence).
This Petition is promoted by the website of Riscossa cristiana, with the text in Italian. (Subheadings and translation: DICI no. 242, dated October 14, 2011)
 B. Gherardini, “Petition to the Holy Father”, an appendix to: The Ecumenical Vatican Council II: A much needed discussion (Frigento, AV: Casa Mariana Editrice, 2009) [translated from French].
 R. de Mattei, Il Concilio Vaticano II: Una storia mai scritta [Vatican Council II: A story never written] (Turin: Lindau, 2010), 591.
 B. Gherardini, “Quod et tradidi vobis: La Tradizione vita e giovinezza della Chiesa,” in Divinitas, new series, 2010 (53/1-2-3): 165-186.
 Romano Amerio, Iota Unum (Nouvelles Editions Latines, 1985), 82-83 (§44). [Translated from French.]
 Ibid., 431-433 (§§232, 233) [translated from French].
 B. Gherardini, Quale accordo fra Cristo e Beliar? Osservazioni teologiche sui problemi, gli equivoci ed I compromessi del dialogo interreligioso (Verona: Fede & Cultura, 2009).
SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, VIRGIN, FOUNDRESS—1515-1582 A.D.
Feast: October 15
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  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 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.
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 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. she composed for the special guidance of her nuns, and the for their further edification. 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 henceforth 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, charging them with being Illuminati.
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 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, 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, . 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 Teresa of Avila’s 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.
“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…
“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
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.
Lombardi: Silence is essential for hearing the Word of God
Octava Dies 641, October 15, 2011
By Federico Lombardi
Director, Vatican Television Centre & Vatican Radio
On September 29, the theme of reflection for the next World Day of Social Communications was announced: “Silence and Word: Path of
Just a few days later, on Sunday, October 9, the Pope went to the Carthusian monastery of Serra San Bruno, in Calabria, to pray with the monks in one of the most distinctive places of the Church’s spirituality—a place where, as the Prior said, for centuries “the lamp of prayer has been kept lit in silence and obscurity.”
There is no antithesis between silence and word, between prayer and proclamation.
For silence is the essential prerequisite for accepting and preparing to hear the Word; the sound of the Word becomes meaningful precisely because it is interspersed with moments of silence.
For the person of today, immersed in a torrent of constant noise—physical or mental—the life of monks inspires admiration and awe, a nostalgic yearning for the rhythm and balance of a way of life lost in the past. In any case almost everyone feels its charm and understands—at least vaguely—the vital importance of a place where silence is not the equivalent of a void of nothingness, but rather the breath of the spirit, where it becomes possible to perceive the gentle movement of the heavenly spheres, and, in the end, the quiet breathing of a “light wind”, of the presence of God, “the most real Reality there is” —as the Pope has said — “a Reality that lies beyond the perceptible dimension.”
While we inquire how to give wings to the “new evangelization” and its messages, we should not forget that their efficacy arises from listening.
Their foundation is silence, full of the reality of the life of God.
As the Prior also said, the hidden existence of the monks who, in God, experience a closeness to all people of the earth—and especially to those who are seeking, struggling, and suffering— “accompanies us and comforts us.”