Saint of joy and Patron of youth
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Teresa of Jesus of Los Andes. By the example of her life, Teresa of Jesus of Los Andes shows us Christ’s Gospel lived down to the last detail. She is a prophet of God for the men and women of today.
She was born in Santiago de Chile on 13 July 1900. At the font she was christened Juana Enriqueta Josefina of the Sacred Hearts Fernandez Solar. Those who knew her closely called her Juanita, the name by which she is widely known today. She had a normal upbringing surrounded by her family: her parents Miguel Fernandez and Lucia Solar, three brothers and two sisters, her maternal grandfather, uncles, aunts, and cousins. Her family were well-off and were faithful to their Christian faith, living it with faith and constancy.
Juana was educated in the college of the French nuns of the Sacred Heart. Her brief but intense life unfolded within her family and at college. When she was fourteen, under God’s inspiration, she decided to consecrate herself to him as a religious in the Discalced Carmelite Nuns. This desire of hers was realized on 7 May 1919, when she entered the tiny monastery of the Holy Spirit in the township of Los Andes, some 90 kilometers from Santiago.
She was clothed with the Carmelite habit 14 October the same year and began her novitiate with the name of Teresa of Jesus. She knew a long time before that she would die young. Moreover, the Lord revealed this to her. A month before she was to depart this life, she related this to her confessor. She accepted all this with happiness, serenity and confidence. She was certain that her mission to make God known and loved would continue in eternity.
After many interior trials and indescribable physical suffering caused by a violent attack of typhus that cut short her life, she passed from this world to her heavenly Father on the evening of 12 April 1920. She received the last sacraments with the utmost fervor, and on 7 April, because of danger of death, she made her religious profession. She was three months short of her 20th birthday and had yet 6 months to complete her canonical novitiate and to be legally able to make her religious profession. She died as a Discalced Carmelite novice.
She wakened to the life of grace while still quite young. She affirms that God drew her at the age of six to begin to spare no effort in directing her capacity to love totally towards him. “It was shortly after the 1906 earthquake that Jesus began to claim my heart for himself.”
Juanita possessed an enormous capacity to love and to be loved joined with an extraordinary intelligence. God allowed her to experience his presence. With this knowledge he purified her and made her his own through what it entails to take up the cross. Knowing him, she loved him; and loving him, she bound herself totally to him.
With God’s abundant grace and the generosity of a young girl in love, she gave herself over to prayer, to the acquiring of virtue and the practice of a life in accord with the Gospel. Such were her efforts that in a few short years she reached a high degree of union with God. She was cheerful, happy, sympathetic, attractive, communicative, and involved in sport. During her adolescence she reached perfect psychic and spiritual equilibrium. These were the fruit of her asceticism and prayer.
She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Santiago de Chile on 3 April 1987. Her remains are venerated in the Sanctuary of Auco-Rinconada of Los Andes by the thousands of pilgrims who seek in her and find guidance, light and a direct way to God.
Saint Teresa of Jesus of Los Andes is the first Chilean to be declared a Saint. She is the first Discalced Carmelite Nun to become a Saint outside the boundaries of Europe and the fourth Saint Teresa in Carmel together with Saints Teresa of Avila, of Florence and of Lisieux.
Today let’s remember Teresa of Los Andes as she, with the language of her ardent life, confirms for us that God exists, that God is love and happiness, and that he is our fulfilment.
Heaven is our goal.
Sources: Teresa de Jesús de los Andes (1900-1920) – biography (vatican.va)