Thursday, October 15, 2009


“The Ecstasy of St Therese”
by Francesco Fontebasso, c.1750s


Biographical Information for St. Teresa of Jesus [1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus

Readings and Commentary:

Romans 8:22-27

Brothers and sisters:
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;
and not only that, but we ourselves,
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
we also groan within ourselves
as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
For in hope we were saved.
Now hope that sees for itself is not hope.
For who hopes for what one sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.

In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones
according to God's will.
Commentary on
Rom 8:22-27

In this passage, St. Paul builds upon the theme that Christian life is lived in the spirit and is destined for the glory of God. Through the Spirit, the Christian becomes a “Child of God.” The imagery portrays the Christian adoption in the Spirit as the “firstfruits”; the gift of the first return from the harvest of God that blesses the entire harvest. In the spirit, hope manifests itself, not in the present world, but in the eternal life to come, which is awaited with patient endurance of the material.

As the Christian struggles to be reborn in the Spirit, again using the imagery of a woman in labor “groaning” in her labor, the Spirit given facilitates a transformation or rebirth. The weakness becomes strength in the spirit and the person transformed into an object of God’s will.

CCC: Rom 8:22 2630; Rom 8:23-24 2630; Rom 8:23 735; Rom 8:26-39 2739; Rom 8:26-27 2634; Rom 8:26 741, 2559, 2630, 2736; Rom 8:27 2543, 2736, 2766
Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 11

R. (10) The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
(John 6:63) Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

They are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
Sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
Commentary on
Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11

Psalm 19 is a hymn of praise. In this passage we give praise for God’s gift of the Law which guides us in our daily lives. The hymn also extols the virtues of obedience and steadfastness to the Law and its precepts. The passage also reflects the idea that following God’s statutes leads to peace and prosperity.

John 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
Commentary on
Jn 15:1-8

We begin the discourse on the vine and the branches – really a monologue on the union with Jesus. It is still part of Jesus’ farewell speech. The familiar image of the vineyard and the vines is used which has imagery in common with
Isaiah 5:1-7; Matthew 21:33-46 and as a vine at Psalm 80:9-17; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 15:2; 17:5-10; 19:10; Hosea 10:1. The identification of the vine as the Son of Man in Psalm 80:15 and Wisdom's description of herself as a vine in Sirach 24:17. This monologue becomes a unifying tie that pulls everything together.

CCC: Jn 15:1-17 1108; Jn 15:1-5 755; Jn 15:1-4 1988; Jn 15:3 517; Jn 15:4-5  787; Jn 15:5 308, 737, 859, 864, 1694, 2074, 2732; Jn 15:7 2615; Jn 15:8 737

The title “Doctor of the Church” coupled with a saint tells us instantly that this saintly forerunner has made a unique contribution the Church’s treasury of understanding which is the foundation of its teaching magisterium. St. Teresa of Jesus has been given this title because of her relationship with God that was so strong and personal that it provides us with an insight to a spiritual path that leads us closer to the Lord.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, speaks of our adoption as children of God. When he says “…as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” he refers to our inheritance as adopted children. In a very real way each of us is recreated as a child of God in the holy bath of Baptism and with that adoption comes a responsibility to comport ourselves in the world according to that call and title. In the history of the Church, there have been numerous examples of how one should best respond to that responsibility. St. Teresa of Jesus, whose memorial this is, gives us a shining picture of such a response.

St. Teresa’s personal relationship was so familial, so personal that it is said that when she was on one of her trips across Spain, her horse threw her as she was crossing a river. Soaked to the skin she looked up to heaven and said, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!” We should bring everything to God in our prayers, even our reproaches. For a reproach, in the end, is simply our way of offering up to God our incomprehension of what he is giving us.

Today we ask for St. Teresa’s prayers. We beg that she prays for our unbelief and aids us as we try to live our adoption in Christ our Savior and Lord.


[1] The picture is “The Ecstasy of St Therese” by Francesco Fontebasso, c.1750s
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

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