The 4 Teresas and the Cardinal Virtues

In episode 8 of his Catholicism series, Bishop Robert E. Barron presents four holy women of the last 150 years in regard to the cardinal virtue most evident in their life and apostolate. Saint Katharine Drexel exemplifies the virtue of justice, saint Therese of the Child Jesus prudence, saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein ) courage, saint Teresa of Calcutta temperance. Each one of them is of course a paragon of several other natural virtues, in addition to being heroic in faith, hope and charity, which is the main requisite for beatification.

I did not know Saint Katharine Drexel before and I am very pleased I do now. She is a an outstanding model of faith and love, especially for Americans and for modern times, but the fact that the other three bear the name of the great saint Teresa de Jesus (of Avila) gave me the idea to take my favorite saint, the one I know best, as another example of the cardinal virtue of justice. So we have a saint Teresa for each one of the four cardinal virtues.

Justice has some different nuances to it. Bishop Barron took the aspect of social justice to apply particularly to saint Katharine Drexel, because of her apostolate dealing with the effects of racism in the United States. His choice is perfectly worthy, but I will take my example from the very root of justice, which is supernatural justice.

God’s justice is a perfect balance of mercy and retribution. Fortunately for us sinners, the only merit necessary to be admitted in the presence of the living God for eternity is to love Jesus and obey the commandments. More precisely, the requirements consist in acknowledging our sins, repenting, giving back penance for the Lord’s mercy, and doing works of mercy in our turn. To make sure we have all the chances to accomplish that, even minimally, God lavishes his grace on us. If one yields to it, the power of grace can make even the worst sinner turn to perfect love, sometimes suddenly, like a saint Paul or, still more spectacularly, the Good Thief.

What the Good Thief did on the cross was to defend the Messiah’s honor against the blasphemy of his companion. Both knew well who Jesus claimed He was; only one of them recognized Jesus was the love of God in person, and gave back love for love. He did what was good and just, and thus became instantly a just man, that is, in essence, a saint. Holiness, or the lack thereof, is the only thing determining eternal retribution. It depends on our answer to the commandment to be good, just, and loving, as our heavenly Father wants us to be.

This was exactly the motivation of Saint Teresa de Jesus: she wanted God to be better known and loved, and rightly praised, honored and obeyed. She said as much many times in her writings, about her foundations and her ardent prayers for the conversion of sinners and heretics. She used all her gifts and influence to bring as many people as she could to do the same, because “God alone suffices”.

The poem “Let Nothing Disturb You, God Alone Suffices” by saint Teresa de Jesus follows. Read the rest of this entry »