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Monday, March 30, 2015

St. Teresa, a “remarkable woman”: 500th anniversary of the birth of the founder of Carmel

Vatican City, 28 March 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis has written a letter to Fr. Saverio Cannistra, prepositor general of the Order of Descalced Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, to commemorate the fifth centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Jesus and and to participate in the giving of thanks for the charism of this “remarkable woman”.

“I consider it a providential grace that this anniversary coincides with the year dedicated to consecrated life, in which the Saint of Avila shines as a sure guide and attractive model of total commitment to God. … How much we continue to benefit from the witness of her consecration, born directly of her encounter with Christ, her experience of prayer, as a continual dialogue with God, and her community life, rooted in the maternity of the Church!”

“St. Teresa was above all a teacher of prayer. The discovery of Christ's humanity was central to her experience. Moved by the desire to share this personal experience with others, she describes it in a lively and simple way, accessible to all, as consisting simply in 'a relationship of friendship … with Whom we know loves us'. The prayer of Teresa was not a prayer reserved solely to a space or time of day; it arose spontaneously on the most diverse occasions. … She was convinced of the value of continual, if not always perfect, prayer. … To renew consecrated life today, Teresa has left us a great heritage full of concrete suggestions, ways and methods of praying that, far from closing us in ourselves or leading us merely to inner balance, enable us always to start again from Jesus, and constitute a genuine school for growth in love for God and neighbour”.

“Starting from her encounter with Jesus, St. Teresa lived 'another life'; she transformed herself into a tireless communicator of the Gospel. Keen to serve the Church, and faced with the great problems of her time, she did not limit herself to being an observer of the situations surrounding her. … In this way she began the Teresian reform in which she asked her sisters not to waste time discussing 'matters of little importance' with God while “the world is in flames'. This missionary and ecclesial dimension has always distinguished the Discalced Carmelites. As she did during her times, St. Teresa opens up new horizons to us today; she calls us to a great enterprise, to look upon the world through Christ's eyes, to seek what He seeks and to love what He loves”.

“St. Teresa knew that neither prayer nor mission could sustain an authentic community life. Therefore, the foundation she laid in her monasteries was fraternity. … She was very careful to warn her sisters of the danger of self-referentiality in fraternal life”, emphasising the need to “'place what we are at the service of others. To avoid such risks, the Saint of Avila reminded her sisters above all of the virtue of humility, which is neither outward neglect nor inner timidness of the soul; instead, it involves each person being aware of their own possibilities and of what God can achieve in us. The contrary is what she refers to as a 'false point of honour', a source of gossip, jealousy and criticism, that seriously harm relations with others. … With these noble roots, Teresian communities are called to become houses of communion, able to bear witness to the fraternal and maternal love of the Church, presenting to the Lord the needs of the world, riven by divisions and wars”.

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