July 11, 2019
It is often convenient for us to imagine that the Saints all had a continuing series of mystical experiences throughout their lives. It is believed then, that these experiences are what drew them to holiness, complete transformation and ultimately union with Christ. It is simply easier for many of us to imagine that the Saints were just special people, and by consequence, we could not really be expected to be raised to their degree of holiness. However, in the case of the young Saint from Florence, Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, this is simply not the case. It is true that she heard an interior voice early in her life that she later believed to have been St. Teresa of Avila, and that voice communicated to her that she would one day join a Carmelite convent. But it is also true that Teresa Margaret had been preparing herself for some years to listen to the spiritual voices who may wish to speak with her. We can all do the same. The final, if we want to use the word mystical, experience Teresa Margaret had, was to experience deep within her spirit the reality of the words: Deus Caritas est, which in Latin means, God is Love. Again, Teresa Margaret had been preparing and dedicating her life in the convent to be prepared for just such an experience of the internal communication from God. Her heart was well tilled to receive the seed of God's flowering love within her soul. This preparation on her part included prayer, silence, simplicity, humility, practicing the presence of God and yes, even accepting suffering, most especially the mortification of her own will. None of these practices are extraordinary, and indeed, they may all be practiced, to some degree, by all of us. And it is to that degree that we will have prepared our hearts to receive whatever it is that God, in His wisdom, wishes to communicate to us, individually.
June 26, 2019
At some point in our individual spiritual journey, most of us will decide to make a more formal, firm and specific commitment to the Lord. It may be, like many Saints, that we will choose to write out our commitment, or our oblation. This is exactly what St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus chose to do. She even went so far, with the approval of her spiritual director, to write out her oblation in her own blood. In looking at Teresa Margaret's own words, and more importantly, the details of her life, we can come to discover very practical ways for forming our own commitment to the Lord. Her own commitment included three critical elements that we would expect to find in any genuine act of oblation in the spiritual journey. They included her total commitment to Jesus, a decision to forgo any consideration of the cost associated with her decision, and an acknowledgement that there would be difficult even repugnant (in her own words) things she would have to suffer, but that she would be willing to endure them all for the Lord. In this conversation, Mark and Frances discuss the principle elements of Teresa Margaret's personal sacrifice to Jesus. They also continue the discussion on Teresa Margaret's remarkable commitment to living a life of humility, her difficult struggle with the ongoing process of self-knowledge, and her unflinching efforts to overcome her own will, in favor of God's will for her life. All of this progress in Teresa Margaret's spiritual journey was based on her commitment and the practice of becoming utterly forgetful of self. In addition to her practice of remaining silent to whatever circumstances the Lord saw fit to bring her into in her life. No matter where you might be on the spiritual journey, this particular broadcast will help to provide insight and perhaps a good deal of consolation for those who may also find themselves in a difficult phase in the midst of their own spiritual journey.
June 19, 2019
Following her entry into Carmel, at the young age of 17, the future St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, committed herself unflinchingly to two great Carmelite practices for those who aspire to holiness. In this program, Mark and Frances discuss how these ascetical (which in the Greek means exercise) contributed to Teresa Margaret being raised to such a high degree of union with the Lord in such a brief period of time - only five years in her case. These practices, or exercises were detachment and recollection. Consistent with the teachings of her great patron, St. Teresa of Avila, Teresa Margaret would later add the practice of humility to her program of discipline. She of course practiced many of the better known means of detachment, including fasting, praying at night, sleeping on a hard surface and always attempting to deny her own desires. But she would soon come to understand that the greatest challenge is in detaching ourselves from our own will. As for recollection, Teresa Margaret was already well schooled in this art of prayer, one which requires us to re-collect our faculties and enter within ourselves to commune with the Lord who never leaves us. Indeed, the Lord is constantly waiting in the little Bethany of our Heart for us to come and spend time with Him. Teresa Margaret perfected this practice to such a degree that she was known to lose herself, like St. Teresa of Avila before her, even in the midst of her busy chore. The prayer of recollection is absolutely essential for anyone who wishes to make progress in the spiritual journey, and Mark and Frances provide a perfect model for this practice in their discussion of the life of St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Finally, this conversation explores St. Teresa Margaret's deep understanding and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In many ways, her insights and practice of this devotion preceded and even informed Popes who would later write about and institute the formal celebrations dedicated to the Sacred Heart. This devotion, and St. Teresa's motto to "Return Love for Love," represent the very center of her great progress in the spiritual journey, and is the main reason she is so important for us to study today.
June 19, 2019
Saint Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart is known as the forgotten Saint of Carmel. This is unfortunate as she has much to offer all of us in our spiritual journey. As sometimes happens when we read the lives of the saints, we can be put off by what we perceive to have been special graces or benefits they were granted by God. And we can become discouraged that we could never hope to attain to their degree of holiness. St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart will not leave us with this impression. Her spirituality was based on simplicity, a constant state of recollection and a desire to remain hidden in her perpetual loving gaze of the Lord. Her life was not filled with numerous mystical experiences, she did not seek her understanding of spiritual matters in academic pursuits and her life does not present us with a challenge of great and heroic acts as a requirement for sanctity. She simply took what little is required to become holy: simplicity, prayer, abandoning her own will and seeking to please and love the Lord in all her actions, and then she did her best to fulfill these requirements in every single element of her life. Hers is a spirituality for the common person, something we can all replicate in our own lives. And if we learn from her and apply her simple approach, if we dispose ourselves, as she did, to the work the Holy Spirit desires to do in each of us, then we too can become saints.
God is Love, Saint Teresa Margaret: Her Life, by Margaret Rowe ICS Publications.
From the Sacred Heart to the Trinity: The Spiritual Itinerary of Saint Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart, by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene ICS Publications