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“El amor es mas fuerte.” “Love is stronger.” This is what’s written on the tombstone of St. Teresa de Los Andes, the young, inspiring Carmelite of the early 20th century from Chile who lived her short life full of love for God and souls.
Before entering Carmel, St. Teresa of Jesus of Los Andes, was known to her loved ones simply as Juanita. Thanks to her family’s devout faith, she grew up always aware of God’s infinite love and was able to respond to Our Lord’s call for her to belong totally for Him. Whether in school, at home, or in the convent, she dedicated her life to reciprocating Jesus’s love for her through the virtues and beatitudes, by embracing suffering as a gift from God, and striving to abandon herself to the holy will of her Divine Spouse.
The love of saints always amazes me. Their love is truly supernatural, and God given. It’s a sacrificial love that imitates Jesus, always seeking to make Him first and make themselves last. It’s a love that doesn’t run from the agony of the Cross but desires it.
This is exactly the love St. Teresa lived. It wasn’t always easy for her, as she confides in her diary, but after every fall she sought Jesus to lift her back up. She relied completely on His love to strengthen her and wanted nothing more than to draw souls to know and love God as He does us, especially through suffering and love.
She writes, “The story of my soul is summed up in two words: ‘To suffer and to love.’”
I’m grateful that we have St. Teresa’s diary and letters to read in her own words the beautiful love she had for God, our Blessed Mother, and others. I feel an intimate friendship with this saint who I resonate with on many levels.
For one thing, she’s Latina! Even though she’s Chilean and I’m Mexican American, I feel a closer bond with her through our shared language. Reading her diary I realized she also had a gift for prose, so I feel another connection with her through writing. The way she writes about her Beloved lights a fire in my heart, and I hope to one day be able to express myself in both my fiction and nonfiction work with even half as much eloquence.
Like me, she also tried her best for her family who she loved so much. Family is a gift, and I’ve been blessed with the best family God could give anyone. I truly don’t deserve them. I don’t deserve any of the blessings God’s given me and I’m not alone in feeling this unworthiness.
St. Teresa repeatedly expresses her awe that God blessed her with so much when she was just, as she puts it, “a criminal nothingness”, who repaid Him with so little.
The closer I become with God, the more I recognize too how small I am compared to His infinite glory and majesty and how good He is to love someone as weak as me. Before, that used to discourage me, but now I’m learning to walk in the “Little Way” of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, which St. Teresa de Los Andes also embraced, and to put all my hope in God’s merciful love to fortify me.
St. Teresa accepted suffering as the will of God and a means to save souls. She offered every struggle, pain, and humiliation as a sacrifice, always striving to do so with a spirit of humility and joy.
“I’m a drop of water that must disappear in the Infinite Ocean,” she writes.
She sought to love no other but her Divine Spouse, writing, “I want all my actions, desires, and thoughts, to bear this signet: ‘I belong to Jesus.’” And entering her precious convent at Los Andes gave her the place to do just that. There she disappeared from the world to spend every moment in God’s presence, praying, suffering, and sacrificing to bring others to rest in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
St. Teresa died of typhus 11 months after joining the Carmelites, 3 months short from turning 20. Though her life was short, she’s left a great impact. She continues to draw souls to her Beloved, including me!
I find so much in common with this amazing Chilean saint. Little daily challenges were a struggle for her. She had to overcome vanity, pride, and detachment from earthly things, even detachment from the gifts God gave her, like her family, and these are battles I’m fighting too.
She loved Our Lord with all her heart, continually seeking to console Him. I still don’t love God with all my heart, but I want to. I want to love the Cross and courageously surrender to God’s will as she did too. I want to echo her when she writes, “I’ve been caught in the loving nets of the Divine Fisherman.”
These are daunting aspirations but with a friend and older sister like St. Teresa de Los Andes interceding for me in Heaven, I’m more confident that God will hear my prayers.
St. Teresa de Los Andes, pray for us!