St Teresa of Jesus Ibars

Foundress of The Little Sisters of the Elderly Poor (entered heaven this day in 1897)

Dear Elyria,

It’s a good sign that you’re racking your brains to come up with an apostolic idea acceptable to all sensibilities in the Catholic Student Association.  It shows that you’re in tune with the Holy Spirit, who always pushes us (sometimes gently, sometimes less so) to give away whatever faith and grace we have received.  That helps others come closer to Christ, and enables him to keep filling us more and more with his light and strength. Keep thinking and looking, and he’ll show you how, just as he did with today’s saint.

Teresa grew up on a poor farm in northeastern Spain, dreaming about becoming a teacher.  Her dream came true when she took a position at a school in Barcelona. Soon thereafter she switched over to a Carmelite school run by her uncle, who was a priest.  But her desire to be a teacher didn’t satisfy her. She felt called to a life of total service to Christ, so she entered the novitiate of the Poor Clare Sisters. Their life of contemplation, simplicity, and penance suited her soul, but not her body.  After two years she had to leave on account of her delicate health. She went back to her uncle and took up once again her leadership role among the other Third Order Carmelites in the school.

When her uncle died, however, the school fell victim to contrarieties, and she ended up returning home, not sure where God wanted her to go.  He didn’t forget about her. Soon after her return she met a priest who was beginning a new foundation of nuns who would be dedicated to serving the elderly sick who had no one to care for them.  He invited Teresa to join the first group, and as soon as the Bishop approved their constitutions, Teresa was made General Superior of the new Foundation, the Little Sisters of the Elderly Poor. She had found her vocation, and she wasted no time living it to the full.  

In the remaining 25 years of her life (she died at the young age of 54) she founded 103 religious houses, and filled them with 1200 sisters.  They were spread throughout Spain and Latin America, always dedicated to caring for the elderly poor and sick, who seemed to fall off everyone else’s radar screen.

God has some work in mind for you, just as he had for St Teresa, you just have to keep looking and trying things out.  In fact, it occurs to me as I write that an apostolate for the elderly could very well be the perfect one for your fellow Catholic students on campus.  It would benefit them (get off campus to the nearby homes for the elderly, remind them of the fleetingness of life, give a realistic perspective on things to balance out academic abstractness…), and it would certainly be a beautiful service to those men and women who although they have spent their lives for others have in many cases been forgotten by those whom they served.  I think it would please Christ tremendously, don’t you? I mean, didn’t he say, “In as much as you have done this to the least of my brethren, you have done it to me”?

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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