God Is Infinite Joy
Her baptismal name is Juana Enriqueta Josefina
de los Sacrados Corazones Fernandez Solar.
In short, she was fondly called "Juanita."
She was born in Santiago, Chile, on July
13, 1900 of a wealthy, aristocratic family.
In her diary, she wrote, "Jesus did
not desire me to be born poor like Himself;
I was born in the midst of riches, spoiled
by all." The fourth of seven children.
As usual, suffering appeared early. Her parents
separated and she had to grow in a dysfunctional
family with an invisible father and brothers
who because of this family situation grew
rebellious and defiant. She herself found
herself struggling with temper and stubbornness.
Her brother Luis said this about her, "She
was quite tall, well-shaped, had a certain
majesty of movement, had white skin and blue
eyes. Her head was small and her hair was
light brown. She had a really pleasing voice.
You could recognize great strength in her
She was also very athletic. She played tennis
very well; she was an excellent swimmer,
loved horseback riding and rode like a skillful
Amazon goddess. She had many friends. She
also played the piano, violin and guitar
and had a wonderful voice.
When she was eighteen, she entered the Carmel
of Los Andes. She chose the Los Andes Carmel
because of its poverty. It did not even have
electricity or hot running water, but she
was inspired by the joyful spirit of the
sisters. In Carmel, she was given the name
Sister Teresa of Jesus in honor of Saint
Teresa of Jesus of Avila, the foundress of
the Discalced Carmelite Order.
"The life of the Carmel is one of love.
This is our profession." Carmel was
fun! "Blessed be God," she wrote
to her mother. "I am in my little convent.
I am taking great care to walk in wooden
shoes. I am overcome with uncontrollable
laughter when I see how awkward I am. In
short, I am happy, for even though I have
nothing, I find all in God." "Here
we mend and darn a lot of clothes, for we
are poor. Just imagine that the habit I am
repairing has more than a hundred and fifty
patches. There's nothing left of the original
tissue!" Eleven months later she died
of typhus on April 12th, 1920. She was only
19, three months short of 20.
Strangely, this unknown hidden Carmelite
sister acquired a popularity that is unbelievable.
Pope John Paul II called her "a shining
beacon for the young", the bishops of
Chile declared her the patroness of children,
especially homeless children or youth in
juvenile prisons. One million people visit
the Sanctuary of Auco-Rinconada of Los Andes
each year, where her remains lie. Santa Teresita
de los Andes is the first Chilean declared
a Saint, the first American Discalced Carmelite
Saint, and the youngest canonized Saint of
Her distinctive feature? Simple. Pope John
Paul II summarized everything in two sentences.
"This is the new hymn of Christian love
that rises spontaneously from the soul of
this young girl! God is infinite joy!"
She herself said, "When Jesus is loved,
everything is joy! The cross is not heavy;
martyrdom is not felt. We live more in heaven
than on earth."
When you read her diary and her letters to
her family and friends, you will find that
the recurring theme of her thoughts and conversations
are centered on the joy and happiness she
experienced because of the love she felt
for God and from God. "Jesus and I love
each other. He, infinitely, and I, with all
my soul's strength."
In a letter to a friend, she wrote, "I
wish I could get you to know God and love
God the way I do." In another letter
to another friend, she said, "I wish
you could know Him that you might truly fall
in love with Him." And still in another
letter to her cousin, she remarks, "How
happy I'd be if you would fall in love with
my Jesus! What a treasure you would find
in that divine Heart! Day and night He stands
knocking at the door of your heart asking
for a little spot, a little love, and will
you not open your heart to Him and receive
Love and joy are interchangeable. She was
so joyful because she felt loved. And when
you feel loved, you cannot not love back.
She was a woman madly in love! "I can't
do anything else than love Him. What do you
expect when Jesus Christ, that mad lover
of mine, made me fall madly in love with
In her letter to her older sister, Lucia,
she wrote "I want to tell you about
my happiness. Yes, I want you to feel for
just a moment, the happiness of belonging
entirely to God, but there's no human language
that can express the divine feelings in which
my soul finds itself submerged. I've given
Him everything, it's true, but I've also
come to possess the one who is Everything."
The inscription in her tombstone reads: "El
Amor es Mas Fuerte," which means, "Love
is stronger." Love is stronger, because
love comes from God, who is, to use Teresa's
exquisite phrase, "Eternal Joy".
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
hereby granted for any non-commercial
provided that the content is unaltered
its original state, if this copyright