Rarely do we get an overview of St. Teresa of Avila’s life, since we most frequently focus on specific teachings from her. This is a refreshing overview with a little bit of trivia.
Our OCDS community had a special celebration for St. Therese on her feast day, Oct. 1st. We had a guest do a presentation on St. Therese. This podcast is that presentation given at St. Peter’s Church in Dayton, OH. Many people have a stereotypical idea that St. Therese, the Little Flower, had it easy growing up and then living in the Carmelite Convent. This presentation clearly lays out many ways that St. Therese suffering and how she dealt with suffering. One ends feeling hopeful that our own suffering offered to God is worthwhile and will aid in saving souls.
This conversation is with Michael Vanderburgh, the Executive Director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Dayton, Ohio. This may immediately raise the question as to what the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has to do with Carmelite Spirituality. Well, honestly, as the Scripture verse below indicates, we are all called to practice charity to some degree. However, in addition, it turns out that St. Therese of Lisieux's Father, Louis Martin, was a very active member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. No doubt, young Therese was exposed, at a young age, to her father's commitment to the poor. This likely contributed to her own early desire to become a missionary and travel to foreign lands to both save souls and serve the poor. Again, this affinity to the poor is something we are all called to, whether members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Carmelites or any baptized Christian.
(Matthew 25:35-40) For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me. “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You? “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’
It is with this thought in mind that we chose to speak with Michael about the great work being done by one of the many St. Vincent de Paul Society districts. We also wanted to hear Michael's own vision for the building on the success of the spiritual charism that is so central to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and how it is, in fact, the central theme for the foundation of the Society.
In this conversation you will hear about the more traditional work of the Society, including food pantries and clothing and housing goods that are distributed and sold, at significantly reduced prices, in the societies retail stores. But you will also hear about the significant number of people who are provided both short- and long-term shelter and housing in the City in Dayton. Finally, Mark and Michael discuss the Society's recent and significant and on-going support to survivors of the tornados that devastated the Dayton area over Memorial Day weekend in 2019. Finally, and most importantly, Michael shares his vision for the spiritual growth of the Society in Dayton, which will be built on the foundation of a new chapel within the Administrative Building in Dayton, and the beginning of Eucharistic Adoration. This is a very good program if you are looking for an opportunity to both better understand, and perhaps participate in one of the most prominent charitable ministries in the history of the Church.
St. Therese’s famous prayer, “The Act of Oblation to Merciful Love” is rich with spiritual concepts for us to ponder, especially the recognition of our poverty and weakness, yet pulsating desire to console Jesus in every way. Knowing souls were rejecting His love, St. Therese offers herself as a victim of his merciful love so that the love others souls rejected would come to her. She vehemently desires to be a saint but is not the great eagle that they are…so she implores God Himself to be her sanctity!! She displays her great confidence in God’s transforming fire of love. How may we imitate her? How may we make her prayer our own? This program carefully considers the duties of a victim of love, the obstacles to be overcome, the soul’s attitude toward suffering, and in what a “death of love” involves. Let us remember that St. Therese prayed for a “legion of little victims worthy of His love” to be raised up. Are you willing to be one?
If you read St. Therese's Act of Oblation to Merciful Love, you will no doubt discover some terminology that might sound a little harsh to the modern ear. Terms like victim, holocaust, and martyr are not words that are cast about lightheartedly these days. But in order to fully appreciate St. Therese's use of these terms in her personal prayer to Jesus Christ, we must also understand what St. Therese is sacrificing or, to use a more familiar term, consecrating herself to. Therese understands that what God wishes to do in her soul, and indeed in each of our souls, is to both ignite the internal fire of love that will consume everything that is inconsistent with His Love, while, at the same time, God wishes to consume the very soul that is burning with this interior love for Him. This is not possible, Therese well knows, unless she make the ultimate sacrifice of herself to God, to His merciful love. In this program, Mark goes through each of these terms, and others, and he describes the context in which St. Therese is using them. He also explains how each of these terms is a perfectly appropriate description of the very action of the Holy Spirit within the soul. He then goes on to explain both some of the cautions related to a soul's adoption of the mindset of oblation to God, and he also describes the remarkable benefits that can accrue from a soul making and living such a sacrifice. Finally, Mark goes on to explain the remarkable benefit such a committed soul can have on the Church as a whole. This is a very valuable presentation for anyone who desire to gain a deeper understanding of just what the Lord is inviting each of us to, what is required of us to respond, and what eternal benefits are available for ourselves and the Church, if we only respond with great fidelity.
This is the second episode in a new monthly series of talks by Deacon Rusty Baldwin, a Secular Discalced Carmelite who gives a presentation to our Community in Dayton each month. These are recorded live during our Holy Hours. In this program, Deacon Baldwin discusses Carmel and the Evangelical Counsels.
August 26 is the day the Discalced Carmelite Order celebrates the supernatural grace of the “Transverberation of the Heart” of St. Teresa of Avila. What does that entail? To what purpose can it be associated with? How do you discern this grace? St. Teresa gives us a detailed explanation of the first time she experienced the transverberation of her heart. God has given us a great grace through the incorrupt body of St. Teresa, with an incorrupt heart, which may be seen today in a special reliquary. What phenomena are associated with St. Teresa’s heart? What does it mean? How can we share in this grace in a natural, ordinary way? What was St. Padre Pio’s experience of the transverberation of the Heart? Understanding their experiences helps us to realize another way in which God is present and how it affects the whole world.
Prayer is to the soul what air is to the lungs. If we don’t pray, we die spiritually. St. Mary of Jesus Crucified, a Discalced Carmelite Mystic, talked about how we can be a “cell for Jesus” and how Jesus wants to come to you. In the depths of prayer, the Lord sometimes grants supernatural graces, which leads us to the deep prayer of 3 great Carmelites: St. John of the Cross, St. Mary of Jesus Crucified, and St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila). One great grace that both St. Mary of Jesus Crucified (Mariam, the Little Arab) and St. Teresa of Avila experienced was the transverberation of the heart, a wound of the heart. St. John of the Cross gives us a great explanation of this grace, then the descriptions of this experience from St. Mary of Jesus Crucified and St. Teresa of Avila is given. It is interesting to compare their accounts. Then we turn to some quotes on the Blessed Mother and a meditation on the Virtues of Mary from St. Mary of Jesus Crucified.
Recently canonized, St. Mary of Jesus Crucified is a Discalced Carmelite nun and mystic who received incredible supernatural charismatic gifts from God for the Church. She is like the “Padre Pio” of the Carmelite world. This conversation touches briefly on some highlights of her life and on some of her gifts. Her famous prayer to the Holy Spirit is also prayed on this podcast.
We quote St. Mary of Jesus Crucified on her “Prayer in Time of Desolation.” When we suffer temptations of desolation, this prayer helps us to keep focused on God and to persevere on this spiritual journey. It has many metaphors and analogies that we can easily relate to.
If you are looking for a deeper understanding of the nature of the Lord's call to all baptized souls, and you want to discover the depth of commitment and devotion to which a soul can be carried, then you will want to listen to this series. Mark and Frances present here a Catechism on St. Therese of Lisieux's Act of Oblation to Merciful Love. It is the Saint's formal written expression and promise of abandonment to Jesus Christ. The conversation begins by laying the groundwork for the benefits St. Therese received by drafting and continually praying this Act of Oblation. It then presents the significant events, over the course of about five years, that led up to Therese's decision to put into words what she was experiencing in her heart. The Act itself is filled with the language and sentiments that St. Therese wanted to communicate in what is essentially her Love Letter to the Lord. Having read the entire Act, Mark and Frances then begin to analyze some of the more challenging terms for the modern ear. They explore and explain phrases like victim, oblation, holocaust and even martyrdom. These are striking terms to be found in a love letter, but what soon becomes clear, as one reads and prays St. Therese's document, is that her Act is less an offering and more an acceptance of what she understands the Lord wishes to offer her, which is nothing other than His complete self. It is her acceptance of the Lord's offer of merciful love that allows the Lord to complete His work in this well-known Saint. St. Therese's Act is also an invitation to each one of us, not to simply adopt her words, but rather, and more importantly, to open ourselves to the transforming work of sanctification that the Lord wishes to complete in all of us. If you want to truly understand the language of love, then this is a wonderful series for you.