CHAPTER 8 – Teresian Spirit – Zeal for God and Souls
St. Teresa of Jesus was a mother of souls. Once she entered the “castle” herself, she was consumed with a desire to share this peace of soul with others. Even though her writings tend to the soul that is filled with desire to reach the summit, she holds out an invitation to those not quite ready to make the commitment. Fr. Marie Eugene states that St. Teresa does not abandon the souls that she cannot draw after herself because sin holds them fixed in the immobility of death but she looks back to them with a glance of tender kindness. He says that as she grows closer to God in prayer, so too, her charity for souls grows.
She was consumed with the zeal of the Prophet Elijah when founding the reformed Convent of St. Joseph of Avila. St. Teresa was drawn by her own zeal for a strict cloister and intimacy with Jesus. As Teresa saw other souls interested in the same goal, she then realized that God had His own special design in it. Fr. Marie Eugene points out that St. Teresa was aware of the religious troubles that were spreading throughout the world and this fed the fuel to the fire of divine love.
“At about this time, there came to my notice the harm and havoc that were being wrought in France by these Lutherans and the way in which their unhappy sect was increasing. This troubled me very much and as though I could do anything, or be of any help in the matter, I wept before the Lord and entreated Him to remedy this great evil.”
It breaks my heart to see so many souls travelling to perdition, she continues. I would the evil were not so great and I did not see more being lost every day. (Way of Perfection, Ch 2)
The zeal that St. Teresa had was compared to that of the prophet Elijah when he states, “With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant. They have thrown down Thy altars, they have slain Thy prophets.”
To work for the Church is the vocation of St. Teresa and the purpose of her Reform. The love of the Church is her whole life; so much so that at the end of her life, she says, “I am a daughter of the Church.”
In order to understand the Carmelite vocation, it is important to understand this teaching of St. Teresa and that is: to live for the glory of God and the salvation of souls by our prayers for the Church. This entails our struggles as well as our joys in our loving union with Christ. St Teresa offers her daily duty in the convent as her works of reparation and service to the Church which is what we as laymen are called to do.
Prayer was already the principal function of Carmel in the Church. This prayer must obtain for us “the qualities needed for the struggle” and preservation from the dangers of the world. St. Teresa, and the Carmelites who follow her, understood that we must pray for its leaders, its priests and for all those who defend our Church. She looked at this as a direct help to Jesus, Who is guiding these men to victory; but with the aid of our prayers in imitation of Our Lady!
The apostolic role assigned to prayer contributes to its higher perfection. For if prayer is to be powerful, it must in fact be perfect. The efficacy of prayer depends especially on the degree of sanctity of the soul who prays. Thus, love for souls and the Church is an incentive to strive for union with God. “Let us strive to live in such a way,” says St. Teresa, “that our prayers may be of avail to help these servants of God.” We must understand that our prayer life and our charity for our neighbor and especially those who serve the Church, feed on each other by increasing our zeal for a greater union with God. This zeal opens up horizons of sacrifice that were unknown when desire was set only on intimate union with God. St. Teresa said, “To see God we must die.” Not only meaning the physical death but the mortifications necessary to truly give ourselves to God in prayer. Prayer for the Church finds its efficacy only in sacrifice. St. Teresa implemented sacrifices and austerities into St. Joseph’s convent.
Soon, God allowed it that this St. Joseph’s should multiply and that the demand for new convents was to happen at the request of a Superior General by the name of Father Rubeo. The world was on fire and Christ was not loved as He should be. This was St. Teresa’s motivation to do as Fr. Rubeo had asked. Multiplying courageous Christians for prayer will save souls and contribute to the triumph of Christ and His Church.
She had to sacrifice the sweet joys of solitude for the activity of opening new convents. She shared her zeal for God and His Church with these new souls and they too became contemplatives and intercessors whose prayers were all given to the Church.
Following this, she dreamed of prolonging her conquering action by extending the Reform to the friars of the Order. She wanted them to be such that they could sustain her daughters, govern her convents, but also do combat for the Church and cross seas for the conquest of souls. Soon, a Father Gracian became the first Superior to the Discalced Carmelite Friars.
A work of reform and a spiritual doctrine sprang simultaneously from her soul: they are both fruits of the same living spirit that work together.
All must be contemplatives seeking the summit of perfection by way of prayer. Fr. Marie Eugene points out that St. Teresa does not receive among her following those souls who would come only to learn the ways of prayer and the secret of divine intimacy – they must be dedicated to the service of Jesus Christ and His Church. They must thirst for the salvation of souls and be willing to make sacrifices to bring these souls to the Heart of Jesus. Without Fr. Marie Eugene saying so in this Chapter, it is the spirit of Mary – Our Queen and Mother. This is her sole desire – to please the Heart of Her Son by winning for Him the souls that He came to die for.
Fr. Marie Eugene points out the example of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. She desired to win souls for God with her life of sacrifice and prayer. This is a Carmelite.
He also uses the example of St. Teresa of Jesus, herself, when she moans and cries over the sins of the world and feels the pain of God over the lack of love the world has for Him.
“I was so afflicted by the loss of so many souls that I did not know what to do. I withdrew into a hermitage and wept tears in abundance.” (Foundations – Ch. 1)
St. Teresa and the Carmelites are to continue for the Church the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane.
Fr. Marie Eugene points out that this spirituality of contemplation and an apostolate are solidly united; they are fused into one life of the soul and happily complete each other. They are two aspects of a harmonious whole, two manifestations of the same profound life. The soul must be united to God in order to work for the good of souls. Carmel forms spiritual souls who are still apostles with a consuming zeal when they have learned to remain constantly in the presence of the living God.
Blessed Fr. Marie-Eugene