Blessed Teresa Maria of the Cross
Today we commemorate Blessed Teresa Maria of the Cross, Carmelite nun and founder.
Teresa Maria Manetti (Bettina was her nickname.) was born at Campi Bisenzio, Florence, Italy. Daughter of Salvatore Manetti and Rosa Bigagli, Teresa had one brother, Adamo Raffaello. She lived her entire life in her small village.
Bettina had a cheerful, energetic disposition and a talent for organization 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 February 27, 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.
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 endeavored 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 daily source for her energy was her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Virgin Mary. Teresa Mary lived without gratification instead seeking and finding peace of heart through a simple lifestyle and routine. This simplicity allowed her to quietly explore the depths of her own soul where she continually united herself with the Lord in each aspect of her day.
She died at Campi Bisenzio on April 23, 1910 and was beatified on October 1986 by Pope John Paul II.
O God, You sustained the virgin, Bl. Teresa Maria, along the way of the Cross by a most ardent love of the Eucharist, and You gave her a mother’s love for Your little ones and the poor. Through her intercession, grant that, strengthened by the bread of angels, we may delight in sharing the sufferings of Christ, and hasten the coming of Your kingdom through our own works of mercy. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
“God makes saints with a chisel, not a paintbrush.” ~ Blessed Teresa Maria of the Cross