This Mass was one of the most splendid I have ever had the privilege of attending. The capacious Baroque church was packed with faithful of all ages, including quite a few little children, which was heartening to see. A large number of clergy, including the abbot, the prior, and many of the Norbertine canons, assisted in choro. Ministers were provided by the Institute of Christ the King, whose founder and head, Msgr. Gilles Wach, was also present. The liturgy, for the feast of St. Teresa of Jesus, was conducted with the utmost beauty and reverence. The choir sang with great finesse Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli and a number of other Renaissance motets; the organist, for his part, was simply outstanding as an improviser. The final 10-minute improvisation on the popular hymn tune that had just been sung by the congregation was positively Brucknerian in scope.
His Eminence has graciously given NLM permission to publish his sermon for the feast of St. Teresa. It is a most beautiful meditation on this great Carmelite saint. A gallery of photos may be found at the end.
Feast of Saint Teresa of Avila, Virgin
Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Premonstratensian Abbey of Strahov
15 October 2016
2 Cor 10, 17-18; 11, 1-2
Mt 25, 1-13
Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and for ever.
It brings me profound joy to offer the Pontifical Mass in this most beautiful church dedicated to Our Savior and to His Immaculate Mother under her title of the Assumption. I am grateful to almighty God Who has granted me to make pilgrimage to the historic Premonstratensian Abbey of Strahov and to pray at the tomb of Saint Norbert. I thank Father Abbot and all of the canons of the Abbey for their most warm hospitality, and I thank all who have prepared so well the celebration of the Pontifical Mass. In a particular way, I thank the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest for providing the assistance for the Pontifical Mass, even as I am deeply grateful for the presence of Monsignor Gilles Wach, the Founder of the Institute. With deepest esteem and gratitude, I acknowledge the presence of Knights and Dames of the Grand Priory of Bohemia of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, of which I am privileged to be the Cardinal Patron. I take the occasion to express once again my gratitude to Lucie Cekotova and to all who have worked with her to organize my visit to your beloved homeland, the Czech Republic. In deepest gratitude, I offer the Holy Mass for the intentions of the Church in the Czech Republic and the intentions of Strahov Abbey.
Today, we celebrate the feast of Saint Teresa of Avila, Virgin and Doctor of the Church. We recall the heroic sanctity of her life and its many fruits, including the reform of the Carmelite Order, which she carried out together with Saint John of the Cross, and her spiritual writings which continue to inspire and strengthen many souls to seek more perfect union with God. The life and death of Saint Teresa open our eyes to contemplate the mystery of Christ’s love, which is daily at work in our souls. Dom Prosper Guéranger, commenting on today’s feast, extolled the great gift of her spiritual writings:
Having arrived at the mountain of God, she described the road by which she had come, without any pretension but to obey him who commanded her in the name of the Lord. With exquisite simplicity and unconsciousness of self, she related the works accomplished for her Spouse; made over to her daughters the lessons of her own experience; and described the many mansions of that castle of the human soul, in the centre of which, he that can reach it will find the holy Trinity residing as in an anticipated heaven. No more was needed: withdrawn from speculative abstractions and restored to its sublime simplicity, Christian mysticism again attracted every mind; light reawakened love; the virtues flourished in the Church; and the baneful effects of heresy and its pretended reform were counteracted.
Christ called Saint Teresa to give herself totally – in every fiber of her being – to Him, in order that she might bring His light and love to her brothers and sisters. From His glorious pierced Heart, Christ poured forth the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit into the heart of Saint Teresa, so that, she, as His bride through religious profession, could be the effective sign and instrument of His pure and selfless love.
Reflecting upon her life in Christ, we come to understand the words of Saint Paul in his Second Letter to the Corinthians. Addressing the members of the Church at Corinth, who had come to life in Christ through Saint Paul’s sacred ministry, Saint Paul declares: “[F]or I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God. For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor 11, 2). The grace of the Holy Spirit, which came into the life of Saint Teresa of Avila and comes into our lives through the Apostolic ministry, espouses the Church as His Bride to Christ, her one and only Bridegroom. The jealousy of Saint Paul for the members of the Church is the jealousy of Christ Who does not want anyone who has become one with Him through faith and baptism to stray from Him and, thus, lose the gift of eternal salvation in Him.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins helps us to understand the mystery of Christ’s life at work in the life of Saint Teresa and in each of our lives, producing a rich harvest of holiness of life (cf Mt 15, 1-13). At the same time, it makes clear that Christ’s life in us depends upon our free response, our response of love to His immeasurable and ceaseless love of us in the Church. The wise virgins treasure, most of all, their consecration to the bridegroom and, therefore, they take care that their lamps always burn brightly to receive the bridegroom at his coming. So, too, we who belong totally to Christ, by the works of His love, keep ourselves ready to meet Christ at His Coming, both in the circumstances of our daily Christian life but also on the Last Day, when He will return in glory to restore all creation to the Father. Like the wise virgins, we know that there is nothing more important than to be vigilant, at all times, in waiting for Christ and in welcoming Him into our lives. Our Lord speaks to us at the conclusion of the Parable of the Virgins: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Mt 25, 13).
The foolish virgins grow careless about the gift of their bond with the bridegroom. His coming, therefore, takes them by surprise, and they are not ready to welcome him. So, too, we are tempted to lose the sense of wonder at the great mystery of God’s love which rescues us from the snares of Satan and fills us with divine love. In little and big ways, we are tempted to be inattentive to daily communion with Christ through prayer, devotion, participation in the Holy Eucharist, the daily examination of conscience and act of contrition, and the regular meeting with Christ in the Sacrament of Penance. Instead of giving our hearts totally to Christ, as we are called to do, we begin to live more and more for ourselves and for certain earthly goods and pleasures which, at any given moment, can distract us from the true source of our freedom and joy, Christ, our one and only Bridegroom.
Saint Teresa is a powerful example of the heroic virginal love of Christ, to which we are all called. From her first intimation of Christ’s call to the religious life, she responded with all her heart. No matter how much resistance she encountered on the way of following Christ in the religious life, especially in the reform of the Carmelite Order, whether it came from her family, from her fellow religious in the Order, or from the society in which she was living, Christ was always first in her life. In a most wonderful way, her joy in spending hours in prayer, especially before the Most Blessed Sacrament, was a sign of her wisdom and fidelity as a bride of her Eucharistic Lord. As a wise virgin, she, through prayer and the life of the Sacraments, kept an abundance of oil for the lamp of her daily Christian living, so that she was always ready to meet our Lord, at His coming.
May Saint Teresa of Jesus teach us to persevere in trust, as she did in the face of much opposition and many trials. May she assist us in accepting with joy our suffering with Christ, so that we may enjoy with Him the unending joy of His Resurrection. Referring to Saint Teresa’s motto, “To suffer or to die,” Dom Prosper Guéranger, citing the great preacher Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, reminds us of the timeliness of the spiritual doctrine of Saint Teresa, embodied in her life and death:
If we are true Christians, we must desire to be ever with Jesus Christ. Now, where are we to find this loving Saviour of our souls? In what place may we embrace Him? He is found in two places: in His glory and in His sufferings; on His throne and on His cross. We must, then, in order to be with Him, either embrace Him on His throne, which death enables us to do; or else share in His cross, and this we do by suffering; hence we must either suffer or die, if we would never be separated from our Lord. Let us suffer then, O Christians; let us suffer what it pleases God to send us: afflictions, sicknesses, the miseries of poverty, injuries, calumnies; let us try to carry, with steadfast courage, that portion of His cross, with which He is pleased to honour us.
With Saint Teresa, we are certain that, if only we give our hearts to Christ, our one and only Bridegroom, the evils we encounter in our personal lives and in society will be overcome by the immeasurable and enduring truth, goodness and beauty of Christ, which is made visible to us in the Sacred Liturgy, above all, in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. May Saint Teresa teach us to imitate her in fidelity to prayer and devotion, and to the life of the Sacraments, above all the Holy Eucharist and Penance, so that Christ may transform us and our world, in accord with His unceasing desire that all men be one with Him, that all men be saved for eternal life.
Let us now lift up our hearts, one with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus through His Eucharistic Sacrifice. Resting our hearts in His Most Sacred Heart, we will find the healing of our sins and the strength of divine love, in order to do God’s will in all things. Let us, with Mary Immaculate and Saint Teresa of Jesus, be confident that, from His Sacred Heart, there flows unceasingly and without measure the grace of the Holy Spirit, which overcomes sin in our lives and in the world, and prepares us and the world to welcome our Lord, at all times and at His Final Coming, with our lamps burning brightly.
Heart of Jesus, King and center of all hearts, have mercy on us.
O Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen assumed into heaven, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, Foster-Father of Jesus and true Husband of the Virgin Mary, pray for us.
Saint Norbert, pray for us.
Saint Teresa of Jesus, pray for us.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
+ Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE
 “Arrivée donc à la montagne de Dieu, elle fit le relevé des étapes de la route qu’elle avait parcourue, sans autre prétention que d’obéir à qui lui commandait au nom du Seigneur ; d’une plume exquise de limpidité, d’abandon, elle raconta les œuvres accomplies pour l’Époux ; avec non moins de charmes, elle consigna pour ses filles les leçons de son expérience, décrivit les multiples demeures de ce château de l’âme humaine au centre duquel, pour qui sait l’y trouver, réside en un ciel anticipé la Trinité sainte. Il n’en fallait pas plus ; soustraite aux abstractions spéculatives, rendue à sa sublime simplicité, la Mystique chrétienne attirait de nouveau toute intelligence ; la lumière réveillait l’amour ; et les plus suaves parfums s’exhalaient de toutes parts au jardin de la sainte Église, assainissant la terre, refoulant les miasmes souls lesquels l’hérésie d’alors et sa réforme prétendue menaçaient d’étouffer le monde.” Prosper Guéranger, L’année liturgique, Le temps après la Pentecôte, Tome V, 12ème éd. (Tours: Maison Alfred Mame et Fils, 1925), p. 457. [Guéranger]. English translation: Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, Time after Pentecost, Book V (Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto Publications, 2000), pp. 396-397. [GuérangerEng].
 “Souffrir ou mourir!” Guéranger, p. 462. English translation : GuérangerEng, p. 401.
 “Si nous sommes de vrais chrétiens, nous devons désirer d’être toujours avec Jésus-Christ. Or, où le trouve-t-on, cet aimable Sauveur de nos âmes ? En quel lieu peut-on l’embrasser ? On ne le trouve qu’en ces deux lieux : dans sa gloire ou dans ses supplices, sur son trône ou bien sur sa croix. Nous devons donc, pour être avec lui, ou bien l’embrasser dans son trône, et c’est ce que nous donne la mort, ou bien nous unir à sa croix, et c’est ce que nous avons par les souffrances ; tellement qu’il faut souffrir ou mourir, afin de ne quitter jamais le Sauveur. Souffrons donc, souffrons, chrétiens, ce qu’il plaît à Dieu de nous envoyer : les afflictions et les maladies, les misères et la pauvreté, les injures et les calomnies ; tâchons de porter d’un courage ferme telle partie de sa croix dont il lui plaira de nous honorer.” Guéranger, pp. 468-469; GuérangerEng, pp. 406-407.
Photographs © Lucie Hornikova, from “Člověk a víra”