Friday, July 13, 2012

The First Saint of Chile - St. Teresa de los Andes

St. Teresa was born in Santiago, Chile on July 13, 1900. At the font she was christened Juana Enriqueta Josefina of the Sacred Hearts Fernandez Solar. Her family and those who were close to her called her "Juana" or "Juanita". She grew up in the midst of a large family: her parents, Miguel Fernandez and Lucia Solar, three brothers and two sisters, her maternal grandfather, uncles, aunts and cousins. Her family lived comfortably, and were faithful in living their Christian faith. 

Juana had been educated in the college of the French nuns of the Sacred Heart. When she was 14, under God's inspiration, she consecrated herself to God as a religious in the Discalced Carmelite Nuns. This desire of her was realized on May 7, 1919, when she entered the tiny monastery of the Holy Spirit in the township of Los Andes, about 90 kilometers from Santiago. 

She received the Carmelite habit on October 14 that same year and began her novitiate with the name of Teresa of Jesus. It appears that God revealed to her that she would die young. A month before she died, she related this to her confessor. Nonetheless, 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. 

She became ill early in 1920 and received the last sacraments with the utmost fervor. On April 7, because of the danger of death, she was allowed to make her religious profession. She was three months short of her 20th birthday, and had yet six months to complete her canonical novitiate and to be legally able to make her profession. 

After many interior trials and indescribable physical suffering caused by the disease of typhus which cut short her life, she passed from this world on the evening of April 12, 1920, as a Discalced Carmelite novice. 

 Her community was quick to discover the hand of God in her past life. The young novice found in the Carmelite way of life the full and efficient channel for extending to others Christ's grace of life which she wanted to give to the Church. It was a way of life for which she was born and that, in her own way, she had lived among her own family and friends. The Order of the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel fulfilled Teresa's desires. It was proof to her that Christ's mother, whom she had loved from infancy, had drawn her to be part of it. St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Santiago on April 3, 1987, and canonized by him on March 21, 1993. Her remains are venerated in the Sanctuary of Auco-Rinconada of Los Andes by thousands of pilgrims who come each year. St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes is the first Chilean to be declared a saint.

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