Five years ago I was having lunch with two of my friends who also wanted to enter religious life. One wanted to be a Carmelite, the other was entering a monastery in Guadalajara, Mexico and at the time I wanted to be a Franciscan of the Immaculate. The one who wanted to be a Carmelite literally made my head jerk when she made the statement I am about to share with you,
I want to be a Carmelite, because they form saints so fast, most of them die in their 20’s.
I remember I got sort of defensive, “hey, Franciscan’s form saints fast, too!” Our Lady definitely used this friend, because I wanted nothing to do with the cloistered life. I always said “that way of life is beautiful, takes a real grace to live and I will defend it to the grave, but it is certainly not MY calling.” I have come to realize that when I say “I would never do that” usually means God is calling me to it. After many graces and the “Divine two by four” across the face, I had a change of heart and followed His Voice.
The truth is, Carmel is truly a special place; a garden of delight, and as I like to call it: Mary’s Womb, the very Womb Christ willingly entered. The Womb where the great saints are formed. Here are a couple Carmelite Saints who died in their twenties (most of the time, from tuberculosis).
I never heard of this Saint until I was on my eight day retreat preparing to receive the Holy Habit in Carmel. I was reading the book based on her life called God, the Joy of My Life. I remember exactly where I was when I read the last sentence of the book. We had a very large property in Carmel. There was a bench up at the top of this hill that overlooked the whole monastery and I wept tears of supernatural joy over this young saint. Teresa died at age nineteen years old, just months shy of her twentieth birthday. The title “joy of my life” was the message she wanted to share with the world.
She was only in Carmel a year and her joy radiated out of the book. She was a novice for a little over six months before she contracted typhus, and due to her approaching death she was allowed to make Vows to Our Lord. Teresa went so deep into the interior with Our Lord that He took her to Himself at a tender age. Saint Teresa told her confessor months before she was ill that she knew she was going to die, that Our Lord disclosed it to her. She was not well known outside the convent walls, but the news of her mysterious death and her youthful age sent people flocking to her, they knew something was special about her death, and they were right. She is the first saint to be canonized from Chile.
I wrote a blog post more in depth about this holy soul. She is not yet a saint, but has been declared a venerable and her case is open for canonization. I am adamant on Teresita Quevedo becoming a saint, because she made Mary her life. In Carmel, she was known as Sister Maria Teresa of Jesus. Before Carmel, she was the life of the party: captain of her basketball team, head of the Solidarity for the Blessed Virgin, was a dancer, swimmer and local tennis champion. She was loved by all and a model of virtue to her fellow novices. At age twenty, not yet in Vows and still a novice she developed Tuberculosis. She, like Teresa; made Vows on her death bed. Her last recorded words were,
Mary, how beautiful You are.
Obviously, I do not need to say much about Therese whom, whether souls love her or not, they know her; they have heard of her. I chose the picture of how she looked at her death, because this does not look like a soul who died of tuberculosis, does it? Her last words are striking, too:
My God, I love Thee.
…before drawing her last breath and joining her Beloved. She was only twenty four. Therese is known to me for more than just her “little way of spiritual childhood”. She offered herself as a “victim of holocaust” to open up wide the floodgates of God’s merciful love. Her poetry is exquisite, my last blog post has some of her works. It was then, and only then did she discover her vocation AFTER she offered her entire self as victim. After this offering, while making the stations of the Cross, she felt her heart begin to burn literally for love of God that “I thought I should die.” She felt weak and useless, but she discovered the power in her imperfection, she understood that the Body of Christ had a Heart and her vocation was to keep that Heart beating for the Church and for the whole world.
Do you notice the trend in these Carmelite Saints? Once they fully embraced their vocations as “love in the Heart of the Church”, they were consumed by the fire of love burning in that Heart, and that fire burned away their sin and imperfections. They were made perfect in a short time. There are so many more young Carmelites: Saint Teresa Margaret Redi died at just twenty three and of course Elizabeth of the Trinity died at twenty six. I once heard somewhere, that God takes a soul at their best, if these dear souls were all at “their best” and could not be made more perfect, He would not have taken them at such a tender age. Saint Louis De Montfort said the souls that go through the Womb of the Virgin are hidden through most of their life and their birth really begins at their death. It is indeed a mystery is it not? But, as Teresa of the Andes said: