Saint Teresa of the Andes - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

Last edited 5th November 2012

Saint Teresa of the Andes - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

Teresa of the Andes, or Saint Teresa of Jesus "of the Andes", was born on 13th July 1900 in Santiago, Chile. She died at the age of 19 in her Carmelite monastery.

She was a Chilean nun of the Discalced Carmelite Order but was born 'Juanita Fernández del Solar' in Santiago, Chile into an upper class family. Early in her life she read the autobiography of the French Carmelite nun Thérèse of Lisieux, who was later to be canonized herself. The experience had a profound effect on Juanita's already pious character, coming to the realization she wanted to live for God alone. She had to work to overcome a very self-centred personality toward being one which cared for others above all. Her further inspiration for this self-transformation was her upcoming First Communion, which led her to this commitment in an effort to be worthy of what she was to receive.

At an early age, she fell head over heels in love with Jesus. At fourteen she gave herself to Him completely, promising Him that He would be her only Spouse. As she grew in love for Jesus she entered more deeply into the suffering of Christ.

At the age of 15, Juanita wrote a beautiful letter to her younger sister, Rebecca, to whom she was closely united. In it she revealed her closely guarded secret - the light of her vocation overshadowed her for 14 years: “How happy I am, my dear sister! I've been captured in the loving nets of The Divine Fisherman. I wish I could make you understand this happiness. I can say with certainty that I am His promised one and that very soon we will celebrate our betrothal in Carmel. I'm going to be a Carmelite. What do you think?.... I've give myself over to Him. On the 8th of December I promised myself to Him. It's impossible to say how much I love Him. My mind is filled with Him alone. He is my Ideal, an infinite ideal. I long for the day when I can go to Carmel to devote myself to Him alone, to abase myself before Him and to live His life alone: to love and suffer that I may save souls. Yes. I thirst for souls because I know that is what my Jesus longs for more than anything else. Oh, I love Him" (Let. 8).

Very early in her life she began to be the recipient of extraordinary graces. At her first communion the Lord spoke to her. At the time she believed that there was nothing extraordinary in this, that the Lord spoke to everyone on their first communion.

In 1919, at the age of 19, Juanita entered the novitiate of the Discalced Carmelite nuns in the township of Los Andes, at which time she was given the name Teresa of Jesus. Toward the end of her short life, the new Sister Teresa began an apostolate of letter-writing, sharing her thoughts on the spiritual life with many people. Within a few months of her admission to the Order, however, she contracted typhus, which was diagnosed as fatal. She was three months away from her twentieth birthday, and had yet six months to complete her canonical novitiate, to make her religious vows; nevertheless she was allowed to profess vows in articulo mortis (danger of death). She thereby died as a professed nun of the Order on April 12, 1920, which fell during Holy Week that year.

Teresa remains popular with an estimated 100,000 pilgrims who visit each year the shrine where her remains are venerated in the Sanctuary of Auco-Rinconada in the township of Los Andes, 100 km. from Santiago. She is Chile's first saint, and is especially popular among women and young people.

During the early 1990s, there was a television miniseries about Teresa’s life it was so popular that the actress who played Teresa would be stopped in the streets and people would ask her to bless them!

Teresa was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Santiago on April 3, 1987. Her brother Luis was present at her beatification; he was her last direct relative still alive. Six years later, she was canonized by this same pope.

She was the first Discalced Carmelite nun from outside of Europe to be declared a saint and the fifth "Saint Teresa" of the Order, together with the foundress, St. Teresa of Jesus, Saint Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Teresa of the Andes is the Patron Saint of young people, and one of the Patrons for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro.

May I find in my soul, with your intercession, the desire to worship and glorify Jesus without pause. Amen

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