Saint of the Day – 23 April – Blessed Teresa Maria of the Cross OCD (1846–1910) Religious Nun of the Carmelite Order, Foundress of the Carmelite Sisters of Saint Teresa, Mystic, Adorer of the Holy Eucharist, Marian devotee, spiritaul advisor, teacher. Born on 2 March 1846 at Campi Bisenzio, Florence, Italy as Teresa Adelaide Cesina Manetti and died on 3 April 1910 at Campi Bisenzio, Florence, Italy of natural causes. Patronages – Carmelite Sisters of Saint Teresa, People ridiculed for their piety, Campi Bisenzio, Italy her birthplace.
Teresa Manetti, familiarly called Bettina, was born in the Tuscan countryside and raised among a simple family. She was the daughter of Salvatore Manetti and Rosa Bigagli, and had one brother, Adamo Raffaello. She lived her entire life in her small village.
Bettina had a cheerful, energetic disposition and a talent for organisation and all the qualities which make for a good leader. At the age of 21, she rented a home with two other women who dedicated themselves to a life of prayer, penance and charity. They cared for the sick and the poor and taught catechism to children. They were inspired by the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila and had a special devotion to her. Many other women joined the small group. The women were admitted to the Teresian Third Order and Bettina took the new name of Teresa Maria of the Cross.
Two years later, she joined the Discalced Carmelites as a nun. Over the next few years she started schools in several Italian cities, each with it’s little group of Carmelite teachers. Her Institute of teaching nuns received approval from Pope Saint Pius X on 27 February 1904 as the Carmelite Sisters of Saint Teresa of Florence with a mission to teach and care for children, especially orphans. Like her inspiration, Saint Teresa of Avila, Teresa of the Cross met with much resistance to her work with the poor, much slander about her personal life and a long period of spiritual dryness but all who met her, commented on the air of joy and peace she brought to her work.
Under the wise guidance of Mother Teresa, the new congregation, animated by a true Carmelite spirit, went on expanding. In realisation of an old prophetic dream, with twelve houses opened in Tuscany, Teresa was able to add two on the Carmelite missions in Syria and one on the slopes Of Carmel, at Haifa. She gave individual attention to the foundations and to the religious, with the strength of a mother who wished her daughters to be poor and detached from everything, truly tending towards God alone as they served His orphans and little ones. She herself was the servant of all. Despite her own precarious health, she was forgetful of self as she sought to pour out joy and her smile upon all who approached her. The witnesses at the process of beatification are unanimous in declaring that everyone who met her was impressed by her trust in God and by her serene abandonment to Providence and felt himself the better person for it.
And as the years passed, Teresa was more and more besieged by crowds of people, especially on Sundays. Lines of persons of every class and condition awaited their turn to be heard and consoled by her. She was able to unite them to the Lord, give counsels of heavenly wisdom, heal ills which resisted the efforts of science, read hearts, see into the future, cut down distances, multiply goods and money. These are the «little flowers» that are in evidence on every page of the canonical processes, little flowers that, while they reveal charismatic facts, also show her exceptional availability for her neighbours, even at times of greatest pain. Bishop Andrew Cassullo, who had known her intimately, affirmed in her regard: “She undid herself doing good.”
She lived joyfully, body and soul the mystery of the Cross in full conformity to the will of God. Teresa Maria was outstanding for her love for the Eucharist and her maternal care for children and for the poor. Her life was motivated by a consuming love for Christ and a desire to save souls. She endeavoured to live according to God’s holy will and took delight in all the crosses which came through this purpose. In a prayer she wrote:
“To suffer, to suffer, always suffer. Do what you want with me, it’s enough that I save souls for you.”
The source of such a dedication was her life of faith and of theological charity, the great virtues of her life which nourished her Eucharistic fervour and gave her the strength to live out her religious name, of the Cross, in its deepest significance. She lived on prayer and she had the gift of a continual communion with the Lord, so that, as one witness recalls in regard to a personal affirmation of the servant of God, “for her it was the same to be enclosed in a convent or to deal with people, because everywhere she felt herself united to God.” This habitual union found its nourishment in Eucharistic piety. She had great devotion for the Eucharist even as a child. During the institute’s first years she went into ecstasy almost every day after Communion, later, too, in the Eucharistic presence she felt something that drew her out of herself.
One of her great hopes was a house entirely dedicated to the perpetual adoration of the Eucharist. She was able to realise this in Florence, where on 11 January 1902, in the church of Corpus Domini, which she had built, the Blessed Sacrament was solemnly exposed. It was in contact with Christ that her apostolic desires increased, hence she exclaimed: “I should like to make all hearts into one and plunge it into the heart of Jesus.” Moreover, the love of Jesus bound her more intimately to Our Lady, whose tenderness and care for Jesus she herself wished to have. Happy to be a Carmelite, she saw in her Carmelite vocation a commitment to belong to Our Lady more deeply and to spread devotion to her.
She died at Campi Bisenzio on 23 April 1910 and was beatified on October 1986 by St Pope John Paul II after the approval of the required miracle.