Maria L. Diaz, ocds: Jubilee Year of Mercy 3


Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, tells us that “we shall cross the threshold of the Holy Door, in this year of Mercy, fully confident that the strength of the Risen Lord, who constantly supports us on our pilgrim way, will sustain us.” He further states, “Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.”

Those words resonate with me as I remember the loss of my stillborn son, as if it were just yesterday. An overwhelmingly unexpected sense of courage and love came upon me, when I was told that my baby’s heart was not beating anymore. Just a week earlier, Father Donald Kinney, our then spiritual assistant, shared that after he said Mass, he had received news that his baby niece in Columbia had passed away at the moment of Consecration. This knowledge would also prepare me for the following week, at the hospital, when I would feel nothing but emptiness at having to deliver a dead baby; while next door, there would be beautiful sounds of crying newborns. The knowledge and experience of the Risen Lord, in the face of the reality of this loss, gave me hope and faith that by the grace of Almighty God, I will one day see my son in Heaven.

Praying is the key for St. Teresa. She writes, “I recount also that one may understand that if the soul perseveres in prayer, in the midst of sin, temptation, and failures of a thousand kinds that the devil places in his path, in the end, I hold it certain that the Lord will draw it forth to the harbor of salvation as now it seems He did for me.” Teresa’s conversion was one from pride to humility because she says, “Finally I came to no longer put trust in myself but all my trust on the Lord.”

In the book of her Life, Teresa is eager to talk about her weaknesses and her sinfulness in what may seem to us as extreme terms. But she is setting up a contrast between herself and God. She portrays herself in darkness in order to show the light of God’s mercy, and shows how God’s mercy came face to face with her misery. Teresa experienced the merciful patience of God.

Looking back on her life afterwards, she sees how even at the Augustinian School, and I quote, “The Lord was thinking of all the different ways He could best draw me back to Himself.” In her struggle, Teresa saw that throughout her life, God was reaching out His hand to her and although she recognized it, she did continued to refuse His love.

Prayer, meditation, and performing works of mercy are essential to my daily life in which I am called to relate to God and remain faithful. However, the discipline of prayer is not easy. In my own experience, I can remember when my mom’s illness, and later my dad’s, required much of my help. Both were gravely ill for a period of months and I was called to take care of them. Traveling back and forth to Chicago caused my absences from several monthly meetings. Frequent trips to the hospital, daily care for my parents, and sleepless nights challenged my ability to pray and meditate daily.

Saint Teresa simplified prayer by explaining that it was nothing more than being a friend of Christ. The title of Jesus as friend is central to Teresa’s experience of Him and permeates all her writings and understanding of the Christian life. She writes, “A much greater love for and confidence in this Lord began to develop in me when I saw Him as one with whom I could converse so continually.” Teresa comes to see the real danger of abandoning prayer when she writes, “If through weakness and wickedness, people who practice prayer, should fall as I did, let them keep ever in mind the good they have lost and be suspicious and walk with the fear that if they don’t return to prayer, they will go from bad to worse.” She adds, “Whoever has not begun to practice prayer, I beg for the love of the Lord, not to go without so great a good.

-Our Holy Father writes, “Jesus’ command is directed to anyone willing to listen to his voice. In order to be capable of mercy, therefore, we must first dispose ourselves to listen to the Word of God. This means rediscovering the value of silence in order to meditate on the Word that comes to us. In this way, it will be possible to contemplate God’s Mercy and adopt it as our lifestyle.”

The daily life of prayer is where I find the Mercy of God strengthening my desire for Him and enriching my life with his love, despite my weaknesses. Today, I find it a joyful duty to participate with other members in our community prayer requests, where we can intercede for one another, the Church, and the world’s needs; and thereby, we support each other in our pursuit of a life of prayer. I also find comfort in knowing that our Blessed Mother is present when we pray for one another. She is our instrumental model and inspiration of a prayerful, meditative attitude and disposition.

During Teresa’s early years, the growth and transformation she experienced were the fruit of God’s merciful action in her life. Often, she turned her back on Him, preferring the ways of the world. How often have we been misled, in our own lives, from walking along the path of truth and, by the grace of God, discover the need for reconciliation with our Lord and with one another?

Teresa also stands as a staunch witness and teacher of the transforming power of a life of prayer as the means for a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, a loving relationship with the living Jesus that leads us to an ever deeper awareness of His presence within our hearts and in one another. She encourages us that, in the power of prayer, we can continue to hold and to lift people up to God and His Mercy – for His Mercy is triumphant.

Teresa stresses that reflection on the Humanity of Christ, who is as present to us as when he walked on this earth, is the measure and source of any authentic Christian commitment, service, and relationship with Him. His humanity reflects Christian humanity and his love for all people is the foundation for all charity.” For Teresa, the Cross means “love and service.” Her spirituality, which springs from an encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus, is truly apostolic as well as contemplative.

Our Holy Father tells us, “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life.” Can we see in our own lives how much Christ suffered out of love for each one of us? Has this experience of His love for us moved our hearts so that we can also beg Him to never let us offend Him again? How can we work toward coming to know, love, and serve God in our lives and thereby commit to a personal holiness?

He calls us to experience His goodness when we dispose ourselves in the practice of prayer, making that room in our lives for Him. The Lord’s Mercy will help us to grow and adapt to Him, and reconcile us to the Father.

God speaks to St. Teresa’s soul. How does God speak to ours? What are the fruits that He has produced in each of us?

Finally, Teresa experienced a deepening life of prayer and the presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. How often do we think, “Well…I’ll start praying more when I feel better. I need to take care of this first. Or…I need to do better before I try to be a good friend of the Lord.” Teresa tells us not to wait – we should go to the Lord as we are!

If you’ve been practicing prayer for a while and you say, “I’m worse than I was when I first started to pray,” don’t let that discourage you! Whatever you’re doing, it’s important to persevere in it, even if it means that you may need to pray in a different way. Teresa wants us to understand that the Eucharist is the means that Jesus chose to remain with us- sustaining, healing, and loving us on our journey through life.

Teresa challenges us to ask ourselves, ‘Are we going to allow ourselves to be possessed by the Risen Christ? Are we going to give ourselves over to his liberating and transforming presence through prayer, the Eucharist, meditation on the Word of God, relationships with one another, and service to those in need?’

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, may we the Church, imitate our Holy Mother, St. Teresa, in being an example and witness of how God’s Mercy comes face to face with our misery to give us growth and transformation, as the fruit of His merciful action in our lives, that we may thereby bring Mercy and Hope to the world. END

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

(SOURCE: Santa Clara OCDS Conference, 2016)

Copyright 2016, Mary L. Diaz. All Rights Reserved

‘arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth. pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’


Maria L. Diaz, ocds: Jubilee Year of Mercy 2

‘Ecce Homo’, La Encarnación, Avila. This statue, no more than ten inches high, converted St. Teresa. Photo credit:

When I entered the Secular Carmelite Order, it was a great discovery for me to find in it this charism of prayer and meditation. The solid foundation of the spirituality, the type of formation involved, and the study of the Carmelite heritage and Saints really attracted me; this was the answer to what I had been searching for. I knew this would be the way to draw closer to God. But this great discovery has also required from me an obedience and daily commitment to the Order, over the years, which has also led me to discover, not only the truth about God and love, but about myself as well. It has been in the trials and struggles of my life, that the discovery of prayer has challenged yet strengthened me with joy and peace. To be a Secular Carmelite has not only been a privilege, but a responsibility

As Teresa came to understand prayer, she began to understand who Jesus was in her life. A couple of events helped Teresa move toward a profound discovery of the humanity of Jesus Christ. The first event was the reading of St. Augustine’s Confessions. The manner in which the Lord called him to conversion resonated with Teresa. She tearfully read how Augustine spoke about waiting until “tomorrow” to change his life; she recognized this in herself.

One day while she was in prayer before an image of Christ at the pillar, she was moved by the deep recognition of how much he had suffered out of love for her. This experience of His love finally moved her heart, and she begged Him to never let her offend Him again. This marked a decisive turn in her life. She writes, “I saw that He was man, even though he was God; that he wasn’t surprised by the weaknesses of men; that he understands our miserable make-up, subject to many falls on account of the first sin which he came to repair.”

Teresa’s discovery of the humanity of Jesus Christ gave her search for God a concrete form which in turn, healed the division she experienced between her spirit that longed for God, and her humanity. As Teresa put it, “Well, come now, my daughters, don’t be sad when obedience draws you to involvement in exterior matters. Know that if it is in the kitchen, the Lord walks among the pots and pans helping you both interiorly and exteriorly.” She writes, “After that point, my prayer began to really take shape because it was being built on a solid foundation.”

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis tells us, “Mercy is the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness. May the message of mercy reach everyone, and may no one be indifferent to the call to experience Mercy. This is the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched!”

From Teresa, I have learned that I can meet God in the heart of my daily life because I know that Christ endured so many trials for me. Nothing surprises Him; He understands me. I can remember, many years ago, waiting upon the Lord to help me through another personal trial. Out of desperation, I surrendered myself, feeling as if I were hanging high upon the clothes-line of God with nothing to offer but my pain, and knowing so well that I could easily fall if he wasn’t there to hold me. It was there that I spoke directly to God, heart to heart, with nothing to offer him. I was a beggar, begging for mercy and for help with my great difficulty.

Indeed, I was given mercy and help through this intense prayer and difficult time, and Jesus answered me with physical results and specific unexpected actions. This was truly a miracle!

 After the conversion she experienced when she contemplated the suffering Christ, Teresa began to experience the powerful and transforming presence of the Risen Jesus within herself and in the Church in ever deeper and decisive ways. On January 25th, 1561, on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Teresa had a vision of the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ in his Risen Form.

Her experience of the Risen Christ healed her affectivity, renewed her hope, liberated her from fear and anxiety, and gave her a desire to proclaim the Mercy and praises of God to the whole world. This presence gave her courage and enabled her to accept and face the realities of daily life calmly and confidently. In a powerful way, her encounter with the Risen Christ profoundly shaped her particular vision of the Christian life, primarily her view of prayer.

In the depths of silent prayer, Teresa experienced the liberating power of the Risen Jesus, freeing her from fear and awakening her to a deeper faith, knowledge, and love of God. This was an outburst of the kingdom of God within her and her experience of being “absorbed” by the spirit of the Risen Lord. Today, we can look at her struggles and her journey, and be encouraged by her witness. She wanted to spread far and wide the message of freedom, love, and friendship she had found in Jesus. For Teresa, Jesus is the source of our Salvation and the cause of all healing and sanctification in every age.

Many years ago, I received healing from chronic sore throats and infections I was experiencing as a result of extreme stress. I saw many doctors over a long period of time, but none of them could help. I remember my mother-in-law saying, “Don’t you worry, I will pray and you will be fine.” She told me that in her younger years, she had suffered from the same problem and was also liberated through prayer.

At about the same time, while I was in silent prayer at Santa Clara Monastery, I heard a voice say, “Give your clothes away.” They were expensive clothes, and shopping for them had taken much of my time, money, and attention. When I look back at my life, I believe that the Lord was calling me to follow Him and wanted to free me of my own material attachments so I could make room in my heart to follow Him and live out my vocation in a more selfless way. I never once regretted the fruit that this action produced.

Most of Teresa’s experiences took place and her deepening relationship with Christ happened within the context of the Eucharist. Her love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament would break forth in ardent prayer and ecstasies. She concretized her union with God through a life of love for neighbor and service to the Church. She writes, “We have Him so near in the Blessed Sacrament, where He is already glorified and where we don’t have to gaze upon him as being so tired and worn out, bleeding, wearied by his journeys, persecuted by those for whom he did so much good, and not believed by the apostles.” Teresa tells us that, “If our health doesn’t allow us, to think always about the passion of Jesus, for who can prevent us from being with Him in his Risen State present in the Eucharist?” She concludes, “This heavenly food provides both spiritual and bodily sustenance. It is a great “medicine” even for bodily ills.”

Our Holy Father writes, “The Church lives within the communion of the saints. In the Eucharist, this communion, which is a gift from God, becomes a spiritual union binding us to the saints and blessed ones whose number is beyond counting.” He also writes, “We all need the quiet and the solitude of prayer and the strength of the Eucharist. When we become overwhelmed by the struggles of life, it is there that we can experience God’s grace and love, in spite of our sinfulness and our failures.”

Today, I understand that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith. It is the bridge between heaven and earth. It gives me a sharing in our Lord’s Resurrected life and in the Church. When I receive the Eucharist, my identity as a beloved of the Lord, is solidified. The Eucharist increases my longing for prayer and desire to be in the presence of our living God. The Eucharist is where I receive God’s liberating and healing love. It is also where my capacity to love God and my neighbor is deepened (to be continued)

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

(SOURCE: Santa Clara OCDS Conference, 2016)

Copyright 2016, Mary L. Diaz. All Rights Reserved

‘arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth. pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’

Maria L. Diaz, ocds: Jubilee Year of Mercy 1

Santa Clara Carmelite Monastery. Photo credit:

a note from the author:  I am a mother of five and have been a member of the OCDS group in Santa Clara, CA since 1991. This comes from a short talk on St. Teresa that illustrates how similar we are to her in our own struggles and temptations. I hope and pray you may find some value in it. Please pray with me: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

St. Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church, was so much like us with similar struggles and temptations; she is a witness in our lives today of prayer and of God’s mercy. In the light of this Year of Mercy, given to the Church by Pope Francis, in his Papal Bull, The Face of Mercy, this understanding is crucial.

As a quick reference, I have used several resources for my talk which include: audio presentations by Carmelite Fr. Gregory Ross, the book A Better Wine, by Carmelite Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh, and Pope Francis’ Papal Bull on the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Teresa of Avila was born in the year 1515. She had one sister and nine brothers. Her father was an upright man who always made it a point to have good books, such as The Lives of the Saints, around the house; her mother taught them to pray and to be devoted to the Blessed Mother. Teresa was awakened at a young age, to a love for God. She writes, “The Lord was pleased to impress upon me in childhood the Way of Truth.” It was a harmonious life filled with intense religious fervor. She and one of her brothers shared this ardent desire for truth and they both enjoyed talking about heaven. When Teresa was twelve years old, her mother died. She says, “When I realized the great good that I had lost, I went to an image of the Blessed Virgin. It was a statue in a little hermitage just outside the city walls. And I begged her to be my mother.” She writes that our Lady seemed to have heard her prayer and responded.

I too was drawn into the Carmelites by our Lady. For quite a long time, I passed by the Santa Clara Carmelite Monastery during my many hours of daily jogging at the park nearby. I felt drawn to the enclosed walls each time, but I never entered. Then one day, during a very painful time of personal crisis, I felt as if a magnetic force had pulled me to walk inside, and suddenly, I felt at home in this unknown place.

I remember stopping in front of the statue of our Lady with the Christ Child and praying to her for help. After that, I felt drawn to walk over to the cloister door and to my surprise, a kind, elderly nun opened it and let me in after I introduced myself. Without any reservation, I found myself asking if I could help cook or sweep their floors since I had a whole lunch hour free from work and could easily come by to help. Then I told her about myself and my painful personal struggles. At the very end of our time together, she invited me to look into the Secular Carmelite Meetings. This was the beginning of my being awakened to really want to see God.

Although Teresa’s ardor for God was awakened when she was a young girl, her youthful, earnest search for God began to wane around the age of twelve. Around the age of fourteen, Teresa came under some bad influences from relatives. She talks about being misled from walking along the path of truth to walking along a path of lies, with vain conversations and frivolous pastimes, and she became overly concerned about her looks, clothes, and how she pleased others. She writes, “I sometimes reflect on the great damage parents do by not striving that their children might always see virtuous deeds of every kind. If I should have to give advice, I would tell parents that when their children are this age they ought to be very careful about whom their children associate with.”

I too remember struggling with my own attachments to particular relatives and friends as an adolescent. Every time certain relatives visited our home, my parents worried about the self-centered conversations and bad habits I developed from them. This experience caused me to walk along a difficult and confusing path.

However, our Lord, who is shepherd of His flock never lets us wander without leading us back if our hearts are open. By the time she was sixteen, Teresa was entrusted under the care of Augustinian Nuns where she had a prompt spiritual recovery because she was around good influences. One nun, whom Teresa became very fond of, awakened within her the desire of “Eternal things” through her devout conversations on the Word of God.

While she was in the monastery of the Augustinians, Teresa began to think about a religious vocation. But even as she seriously considered a life devoted to God, at the age of seventeen and a half, Teresa suffered  a health crisis. Because she was too weak to recover in the convent, she spent some time with her uncle, who was a very spiritual man and another good influence on her.

Her tastes and appetite for romantic notions evaporated. Teresa tells us that her mother liked to read novels of adventure and chivalric romance, and they would read them together in their pastimes, although her father didn’t like that. She says, “I began to get into the habit of reading these books and by that little fault, which I saw in my mother, I started to grow cold in my desires and to fail in everything else.” In her uncle’s home, however, Teresa admits “I became a friend of good books.”

In my own life, I remember how my mother enjoyed reading Spanish romance novels. They influenced me and my sister in our early teen years. My mom, with her many household duties, did not put as much attention to them as we did. However, St. Sebastian high school, which was the Catholic school I attended for only one year, was a saving grace, and provided me with the opportunity to be away from the public schools in the city of Chicago at a turbulent time of violent riots that rose throughout the country in the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination.

St. Teresa talks about having a prompt spiritual recovery; similarly, the good influence from this year of Catholic education influenced me to the love of good books like, Don Quixote, and the Poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I also heard inspiring stories of American Indians by a nun who had been a missionary. These influences were key and critical for my early desire to continue with school and pursue a college education; but more than that, I experienced a spiritual awakening. The nuns at St. Sebastian high school were a solid influence and their teachings of our Catholic faith helped to stir in me a desire to know God.

Teresa entered religious life at the age of twenty-one. Once she was there, she loved it and found great contentment in everything. She said she saw how our Lord repays everything even in this life to those who abandon everything for Him. But a period of real struggle began in her life and it would go on for almost twenty years. After a second health crisis, Teresa was introduced to a book called The Third Spiritual Alphabet by a Franciscan Friar who really wanted to foster prayer in the spiritual life, a method that St. Teresa responded to very positively. While she dedicated herself to this, she began to experience some advanced states of prayer.

At one point, she wound up in a coma for four days and appeared to be dead. They were celebrating her funeral Mass when she was awakened and revived; the first thing she asked was to see a priest. She was brought back to the monastery paralyzed, bedridden, and in great pain, and yet was strengthened in virtue. She was given the patience to bear this trial and began to pray especially to St. Joseph for a cure.

Teresa says that at this point, “I felt the deepest repentance after having offended God,” after which she began including an Examination of Conscience in her prayer. Later, Teresa describes a struggle within her. She says, “I was living an extremely burdensome life because in prayer, I understood more clearly my faults. On the one hand God was calling me, on the other hand, I was following the world.” There came a point when she actually gave up praying and later said that this was the greatest trick, the devil played on her; out of a false humility, he convinced her that she should not pray.

At the age of twenty-eight, her father became gravely ill and Teresa, went to care for him. She says, “I went to him more infirm in soul than he was in body.” That was the lowest point in her life. After that, Teresa took up prayer again with great determination even though she still couldn’t give herself completely to the Lord and detach herself from the world. Yet she understood that in prayer, she was drawing nearer to the Lord, to the one she was offending; this understanding gave her the courage to remain in His presence (to be continued).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

(SOURCE: Santa Clara OCDS Conference, 2016)

Copyright 2016, Mary L. Diaz. All Rights Reserved

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth. Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’


Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity: Canonized October 16, 2016


The images above, along with other relevant information, were recently shared on the OCDS of the California-Arizona website by Father Donald Kinney. He writes: I’m sending you a wonderful gift from the prioress of the Dijon-Flavignerot Carmel, Sr. Marie-Michelle of the Cross:  She sent these seven files with the banners the nuns had made for St. Michael’s Church in Dijon,…where Elizabeth worshiped until she entered Carmel and where her major relics now are.  The nuns had these banners printed on canvas in a large size (2 m x 80 cm).  Sr. Marie-Michelle said that they could also be printed in any size, as well as on paper and as posters.  She gives permission for them to be used far and wide.  She wrote enthusiastically, “We hope that they will help make known Elizabeth and her ‘God who is all Love.'”

If you would like to learn more about Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, Father Donald Kinney also gave a wonderful talk on Saint Elizabeth and her sister Guite, titled Make my soul your heaven, given during the 2016 Congress .

Holy Trinity, Whom I Adore -A Prayer by Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity

O my God, Trinity whom I adore, let me entirely forget myself that I may abide in You, still and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity; let nothing disturb my peace nor separate me from You, O my unchanging God, but that each moment may take me further into the depths of Your mystery ! Pacify my soul! Make it Your heaven, Your beloved home and place of Your repose; let me never leave You there alone, but may I be ever attentive, ever alert in my faith, ever adoring and all given up to Your creative action.

O my beloved Christ, crucified for love, would that I might be for You a spouse of Your heart! I would anoint You with glory, I would love You – even unto death! Yet I sense my frailty and ask You to adorn me with Yourself; identify my soul with all the movements of Your soul, submerge me, overwhelm me, substitute Yourself in me that my life may become but a reflection of Your life. Come into me as Adorer, Redeemer and Saviour.

O Eternal Word, Word of my God, would that I might spend my life listening to You, would that I might be fully receptive to learn all from You; in all darkness, all loneliness, all weakness, may I ever keep my eyes fixed on You and abide under Your great light; O my Beloved Star, fascinate me so that I may never be able to leave Your radiance.

O Consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, descend into my soul and make all in me as an incarnation of the Word, that I may be to Him a super-added humanity wherein He renews His mystery; and You O Father, bestow Yourself and bend down to Your little creature, seeing in her only Your beloved Son in whom You are well pleased.

O my `Three’, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in whom I lose myself, I give myself to You as a prey to be consumed; enclose Yourself in me that I may be absorbed in You so as to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your Splendour !




Brother Juan Torres, OCD: Saint Teresa of Avila 2


A melody to God.

It is always good to return to the sources of our spirituality and vocation, to reflect, and to ask ourselves if we really know the great treasure we have in our saints. Do we really know them? Do we really love their testimony? Do we approach them regularly? How have they helped us to live more consciously, our identities as Catholic Christians, and particularly as Discalced Carmelites, as Secular Carmelites, and as Teresian Carmelites?

These are questions that we can ask ourselves in our groups and churches, but we have to also personally think about how much interest we really have in the life and teachings of our saints. These wonderful saints are Doctors of the Church, and whose spirit and charism we intend to live by. However, one popular saying says, “You cannot love what you do not know.” As members of the Carmelite Order, in particular, we can’t simply know the saints, but we must strive every day to approach them, let them be our teachers, and let them form us and teach us. They can tell us how to become true disciples of Christ to our world today, and how to be true Carmelites.

In August 2015, I saw the places where St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross once lived. The experience made me reflect often of the many ways St. Teresa uses to explain her spiritual process and relationship with God. She uses images like the castle, comparisons like the chess game, natural elements like water and fire, or the transformation of the butterfly.  I too want to use a symbol to explain this spiritual reflection.

Life is like a melody, and every day is a different note that builds our lives’ harmony. For a melody to be complete and above all to make it a masterpiece, different musical notes that give the changes and nuances are necessary. For example, of all Beethoven symphonies, the Sixth Symphony [click on the link to listen–] is one of my favorites; it is a truly beautiful piece. Every one of its movements, each musical instrument and every note plays an important role in the harmony. There are times that the melody seems sad, others when it’s calm and quiet, while others are anxious musical moments that break into glorious moments, but later return to calm.

Similarly, our lives are a melody and every day we live is a musical note; all the notes are important in building a harmonic melody, so that together, every single note is part of a masterpiece; all our experiences are necessary and we must learn to find beauty moment by moment, measure by measure.

More importantly, the melody of our life is not for us, but is a melody that we are creating to delight Someone. This melody of our life is for God; it is a song, a hymn in his honor. And this symphony of our lives will be completed at the end of our days; it is our responsibility to keep composing a beautiful melody and not a musical disaster.

The life of St. Teresa was a song that she entitled “The Mercies of the Lord.” In fact the original title that she gave to the book of her life, was of the “The Mercies of the Lord.” Mother St. Teresa ‘s life was not easy, and it was full of different experiences and situations. Sometimes, the events were joyful but others were very painful. Many of her experiences were of difficulties, while others were of spiritual peace. God was present in her life always – whether she lived in coldness or dryness, and whether she lived the graces of union with God or when the fire of love wounded her heart. She also experienced physical diseases and had to suffer slanders and misunderstandings.

Every note of Teresa’s life was a melody to God. This melody started to be written in Avila on March 28, 1515, and was finished in Alba de Tormes on the evening of October 15, 1582. Today, we have the privilege of seeing, hearing, and learning from this masterpiece. She can inspire us, give us light, and advice us in the creation of our own melody. Saint Teresa, pray for us.

Copyright Brother Juan Torres 2016, All rights reserved

Novena to Saint Teresa of Avila (written by St. Alphonsus of Liguori)
O most amiable Lord Jesus Christ! We thank Thee for the great gift of faith and of devotion to the Holy Sacrament, which Thou didst grant to Thy beloved Teresa; we pray Thee, by Thy merits and by those of Thy faithful spouse, to grant us the gift of a lively faith, and of a fervent devotion toward the most Holy Sacrament of the altar; where Thou, O infinite Majesty! hast obliged Thyself to abide with us even to the end of the world, and wherein Thou didst so lovingly give Thy whole Self to us.

Say one Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be.

V. St. Teresa, pray for us:

R. That we may become worthy of the promises of Jesus Christ.

Let us pray: Graciously hear us, O God of our salvation! that as we rejoice in the commemoration of the blessed virgin Teresa, so we may be nourished by her heavenly doctrine, and draw from thence the fervour of a tender devotion; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth.  Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’


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40 Days For Life: September 28-November 6

Virgin with Child: Discalced Carmelite Convent, Segovia Spain. Photo

Recently, I participated in a 24-hour Adoration and Procession for Life at a local parish as part of the 40 Days for Life 2016 Fall Campaign. One of the organizers was a secular Carmelite, and I wanted to show some kind of support.

In one sense, nothing happened. After Adoration and Mass, we walked leisurely to the Planned Parenthood nearby, prayed, and sang to the accompaniment of a single guitar. When we stopped at the corner, holding our “Pray to End Abortion” placards up in the air, people would either honk and beam a smile, or yell at us from their windows as they passed.

At first, I blended in with the crowd, and tried not to be noticed by the passersby, but as young women walked up the other set of stairs into the clinic, I was reminded of my community college students, particularly an eighteen-year old girl on the day of her final exams. She was shaking and couldn’t concentrate. I took her outside the classroom, and there she told me, “Yesterday, my grandma forced me to have an abortion. I didn’t want to do it. She made me do it.” I didn’t know what to say. We just embraced for a very long time.

I remembered another one of my students, her eyes aglow with joy as she showed me photos of her two-year old on her iPhone. Despite the tube from a tracheotomy that protruded from her throat, the little girl was laughing. “There she is,” my student said with pride. “She’s the reason I’m in this classroom!”

And then I remembered my own story. In the third month of my fourth pregnancy, I went for the usual round of ultrasounds and check-ups, but there was nothing usual about the results. The doctors had identified a growth in my son’s brain. Within one week of the ultrasound results, I was scheduled for a visit with a genetic counselor who explained to me that the baby I was carrying in my womb would be severely mentally handicapped, and that in all likelihood, he would not survive beyond the age of three. She told me that one of my options was abortion and that she could schedule an appointment the following week. My husband and I looked at each other and refused. We would keep the baby no matter what.

In the two months between my appointments, I would often place my hands on my belly and stare numbly into space. I asked for prayers from anyone who would listen, and rather than trying to imagine the unimaginable, I tried to stay resolute in our decision to keep the baby.

During the next ultrasound appointment, the doctors surprised us when they said that the brain growth had disappeared. The initial result was probably a misreading, they explained. A few months later, my fourth miracle child, a beautiful, healthy boy was born.

My son is now fourteen years old, and has a very sharp, witty mind. I don’t know what life would be like without him. In fact, I have had moments of desolation when holding his hand has felt like my only life raft.

People say that abortion is a freedom and a choice, but my experience is that its availability gives a false choice, a false freedom. I wonder how many women have been offered the kind of choice that I was offered by a professional health practitioner, said yes, and unwittingly aborted a perfectly healthy baby. I wonder what young girls would say, if they even had a glimpse of understanding of the exponential joy children give to those around them. I wonder what they would do if they had the knowledge that with each newborn, God gives special graces to raise that child. Every time each of my children were born, my husband and I thought that for sure, we would not be able to afford it, and that we would collapse in financial ruin, but we were wrong. With each child, the blessings multiplied, as we faced each challenge with our wounded faithfulness and love. I wonder if the young girl I embraced on the last day of school has found freedom from the choice she was forced to make.

With all these memories in mind, as those of us in the Procession for Life started praying the first decade of the rosary, I asked an older woman for her placard, stood boldly at the corner of the intersection, and held up my “Pray to End Abortion” sign, hoping that someone, at least someone, would have second thoughts.

by teresa linda


Lauryn Hill can say the rest….


Zion Lyrics

One day you’ll understand

Unsure of what the balance held
I touched my belly overwhelmed
By what I had been chosen to perform
But then an angel came one day
Told me to kneel down and pray
For unto me a man child would be born
Woe this crazy circumstance
I knew his life deserved a chance
But everybody told me to be smart
Look at your career they said,
“Lauryn, baby, use your head.”
But instead I chose to use my heart

Now the joy of my world is in Zion
Now the joy of my world is in Zion

How beautiful if nothing more
Than to wait at Zion’s door
I’ve never been in love like this before
Now let me pray to keep you from
The perils that will surely come
See life for you my prince has just begun
And I thank you for choosing me
To come through unto life to be
A beautiful reflection of his grace
See I know that a gift so great
Is only one God could create
And I’m reminded every time I see your face

That the joy of my world is in Zion