St. Teresa’s Inspiration

St. Teresa of Jesus

In 1562, in a small house outside the walled city of Avila, Spain, St. Teresa of Jesus founded the Carmel of San José. Here was born the Order of the Discalced Carmelites. The lifestyle she ordained for them flowed from her union with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She writes:

“One day after Communion, His Majesty earnestly commanded me to strive for this new monastery with all my powers, and He made great promises that it would be founded and that He would be highly served in it. He said it should be called San José, and that this saint would keep watch over us at one door, and Our Lady at the other, that Christ would remain with us, and that it would be a star shining with great splendor.”
Jesus Bound

Teresa’s desire to search for God began when she was a young child. Having learned that heaven is the reward gained through martyrdom, she and her brother Rodrigo actually set out for the land of the Moors, hoping to be martyrs there. Fortunately they were intercepted on their way by an uncle, who put an end to their quest. When Teresa was questioned why she entertained such an idea, she replied, “I want to see God, and to see Him, one must die.” When Rodrigo was questioned in his turn, he answered, “La Niña made me do it” - La Niña being his younger sister.

Later in life, Teresa would write, “The Lord surrenders to us in the same degree we surrender ourselves to Him.” His love caused Him to empty Himself through His Incarnation. Is it any wonder that this is the kind of love He seeks in return?

The above incident also displays Teresa’s power of determination. Again in her adult life, Teresa proclaims, “for those who reach this degree of divine love, a most determined determination is required. For this, one must dispose oneself.” What is the way to acquire this determination? “God desires that if we are going to please Him and receive His great favors, we must do so through the Sacred Humanity of Christ, in Whom He takes His delight. The Lord told me we must enter by this gate.” Teresa saw the achievement of full human and spiritual potential in prayer and union with Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Jesus with Mary Magdalene

The Lord did find delight in the Carmel of San José, showing His approval by the many blessings He showered upon it. In her lifetime, Teresa founded 16 more monasteries. After her death, many more were established by her spiritual daughters, until now they exist all over the face of the earth.

San Jose, Avila and Georgetown, CA

“Carmel” refers to Mount Carmel in the Holy Land, where the Order of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel originated in the 13th century.

“Carmel” means a flowering garden; a garden on earth - a spiritual garden wherein the Lord may take His delight.

Teresa compares the soul to a garden wherein God takes His delight. A garden needs much tending. Tending is the work of the person to whom the garden belongs. To aspire to become a “spiritual garden” for the Lord is to accept a divine challenge.

Jesus in a Garden with a Dove