Faith, Joy and Love
Servant of God, Sister Teresina of Obedient Jesus
Polla, May 14, 1907 – March 5, 1940. First member of the Society of the Queen of the Lilies at the Service of the Church founded by Mother Lillian of Paradise (Venosa, December 20, 1911 – Roma, September 28. 2009)
Fabruary 7, 1935
Sister Teresina of Obedient Jesus, who was 28 years old and Mistress of novices of the Missionaries Sisters of Sacred Chest (of Jesus), gave up a sure and promising future with the Missionary Sisters to follow, as a humble disciple, one of her novices, Lillian of Paradise, in order to start a new Catholic Congregation: the Society of the Queen of the Lilies. This event was considered by many people a “madness” … but time would reveal it to be the “reason” for her real greatness.
Running, picking cherries and flowers
Teresina, the second youngest of eight children, was born of Antonio Calvino and Mariantonia del Bagno, in Polla, in the province of Salerno, Campania, Italy, on June 14, 1907. She grew up as a vivacious girl because of her parent’s love. When she was a little girl, she liked running in the fields; going higher and higher on the swing “to touch the sky”; picking cherries from the trees and bringing Jesus some flowers. She could not understand why Jesus, in spite of having a lot of friends, did not receive flowers from anyone of them.
Mother, Jesus is calling me.
The experience of God’s love, which shines through parent’s love opened Teresina’s eyes to the invisible God’s mysterious world that fills everyday life. It would be Teresina’s mother, Mariantonia who would direct her child’s amazed glance towards Jesus’ mysterious presence in the Eucharistic Bread. One day during the celebration of the Holy Mass, Teresina followed her mother to receive holy Communion but Mariantonia did not allow her:
- Stop following me, she said to Teresina, You are still too young to receive holy Communion
- I can’t mother, Teresina replied, Jesus is calling me. He moved His hand from the Host.
Mariantonia thought that perhaps, her child had mistook the priest’s hand for a sign from Jesus, but nevertheless she could not forget this episode.
The living faith …
The previous episode summarizes, in a way, the whole life of Teresina. Ever since she was a child, God put in her heart an original and pure love which allowed her to develop such a great faith that she could see God who, through little and great signs, made Himself present in her daily life … and Teresina would always take sides with Him.
On the third Sunday of May in 1915 while the world was exploding in war, God’s love was exploding in Teresina’s heart thanks to the wonderful “Sign” of His Son “made” Bread. In this meeting she promised: “My dear little Brother Jesus, I want to clasp You to my heart to prevent You from running away. I want to become a saint to be nearer You in Paradise”.
… Which enables us to see the … “Invisible”
Years passed by and Teresina felt a greater love for Life growing up inside her. Joy, amazement, solidarity were feelings that gushed as a river from the depths of her existence. Teresina realized that the only reason for this great love was Jesus. Love for life flowed forth from her heart because life is the “place” where you can see God. She could feel His charming presence throughout the whole Universe. She could feel herself merged into the pure love of the Father who “came out” of His mystery to offer Himself through His Son Jesus.
That is why Teresina decided to give God her life. Later she said that this project had been her only dream since she was a child. At the age of fourteen, talking to some friends of hers Teresina said: “I am Mary’s daughter and Jesus is my only Bridegroom”.
October 16, 1924. Eboli – Salerno – Convent of the Benedictine Nuns
At last Teresina was “alone in my dear cell”. Her dream had come true at the age of seventeen. Teresina full of love for Jesus entered the monastery, oasis of peace and prayer. Teresina’s love for Jesus grew up more and more. She even wrote it, in a typically teenager attitude, on the old table of the refectory: “I love You, Jesus!”. Teresina was always happy: when she was in her cell; when she walked along the green paths inside the Monastery; when she was ordered to do humble and hard duties. She loved silence, she loved life! Teresina only spent in the Monastery only three years because of her bad health. Three different times she left the Monastery and three times she came back. Teresina was determined to be Benedictine nun, but in the end she had to give in. The human reason was the doctor’s diagnosis: her health was incompatible with Monastery life. However the real reason ( Teresina did not know yet) was that Jesus was planning to meet her at Gravina di Puglie, in the Missionaries of Sacred Chest’s House.
Teresina kept on visiting the Benedictine Nuns in Eboli and during one of these visit she met several Missionaries of Sacred Chest, a Congregation founded by the Servant of God, Father Eustacchio Montemmurro. She immediately accepted their invitation to follow them and become a missionary in their Congregation. Later Teresina, commenting this episode in a letter to a friend of hers, wrote: “When we hear the Lord’s voice inside us, we cannot suppress it. We must answer His call leaving everybody and everything to follow Him blindly with faith and abandonment”.
The Mother Superior, realizing immediately how much love and enthusiasm gushed forth from Teresina, decided – in spite of the fact that Teresina was still a novice, to appoint her as Mistress of Novices. During the time Teresina carried out this duty she was able to turn the “atmosphere” of the novitiate into a “Paradise on earth” thanks to her faith, joy and love.
The meeting …
On September 19, 1932 Sister Teresina of Obedient Jesus (this will be her religious name) met for the very first time Maria Domenica Montereale. On September 14, 1933 Maria Domenica joined the Congregation as novice and she was given the religious name of Sister Lillian of Paradise.
Lillian was Teresina’s novice before but later she’ll turn up to be her Mother Superior… This meeting would definitely decide Teresina’s life. Teresina would never had imagined that this her new novice, Lillian, would have been the Person chosen by God to reveal her the beauty and the unheard purity of His Love.
… Which makes us explode with Joy!
The experience of those years was a turning point for Teresina. The revelation of Jesus’ unlimited love for her, through Sister Lillian, filled her mind with a pure joy of an intensity never experienced before. In fact enlightened by that meeting Teresina looked back over and over her past life and she realized how God, in His incommensurable love, chooses the most arduous paths to meet His creatures. That’s why she felt a stronger need to thank Jesus more and more. Now she could feel an unshakeable certainty that Jesus had planned that event, that meeting for her. Thanks to Sister Lillian Teresina’s life gained a deeper meaning and a new horizon: God’s will to Teresina showed itself with “clarity and authority”: Jesus want her to follow Lillian in order to start a new Catholic Congregation: The Society of the Queen of the Lilies.
Love madness ..
“Love is my plan, I want to reach the height of love soon” With these words, Teresina expressed her goal in life. Teresina’s plan gives each of us a glimpse of her incredible experience with God. The purity of God’s love which caused Him to send His Son among men, and show, somehow, through the Jesus’ death on the Cross, His “weakness” for the humanity filled Teresina with astonishment and adoration. That’s why Teresina in front of the Eucharistic Bread, that perpetuates and makes that Pure Love present in every age and in every place, burned with the fire of charity.
“To reach the height of love soon”. This was Teresina’s plan, but to reach the height of love soon means to reach the height of … Mount Calvary soon …
Purity of love, in fact, is love which offers itself … is love which immolates itself.
This is what Teresina wrote in her “act of offering” handed to her Confessor when she was only 15 years old: “ I want to be one with You, I want to live the same life You live in the Tabernacle, in the humble condition of a Victim. Since I can’t do much more now, I offer You my small daily sacrifices”
During the years Teresina spent with Mother Lillian, she indeed accepted the challenge to reach the height of love and purity.
… Which enables us to face the … Impossible!
The two pilgrims of love, Sister Teresina and Mother Lillian, following the example of Abraham, our Father in the faith, left their “land” without knowing where to go … Only the purity of their hearts allowed them “to see” God in everything and to overcome all the adversities, persecutions and incomprehension …
Venosa, Polla, Baronissi, Pagani, Nocera inferiore … these were their stopping places. They were looking for the “promised land” in order to grow up and multiply as the stars in the sky and the sand by the sea. There were privileged stages where life spread around them. They arrived in Naples and settled in a small apartment at number 7, at the Chinese Steps in the Sanità neighborhood, one of the poorest district of Naples. The poor people understood them and followed them. The young girls were the most affectionate. They loved the two Sisters. Sister Teresina exercised an incredible charm over them. Her pure and disinterested love for them could free the energies of life contained in their hearts. This enthusiasm raised the hops of many of the people, as well as the Priest of the local parish of the San Severo church, Father Gambardella, the pastor, was happy to have the two young Sisters working in his parish.
December 4, 1937. Elena D’Aosta Hospital. Teresina had been forced to enter the Hospital near her bed you could read on her case sheet:
Name: Teresa Calvino
Age: 30 years old
The illness, which had been undermining her lungs, showed itself with all its gravity. It was a test of Faith!
This was how she expressed herself in a moment of deep intimacy with Jesus: “Will my life die like a lamp without having done anything? And is your will, that You showed me, so clear and domineering to be short-lived? No, I still feel that You want it … I am sure, and I implore You to enlighten the dark way, to dissipate the darkness. I am happy to believe Your divine words and my faith will not waver. Blessed are those who believe without seeing!”
She remembered when she was still a little girl, in the first fervor of her vocation when a woman had tried to dissuade and discourage her: “Every nun, she said, dies with tubercolosis,” Teresina answered: “it is better, for this is the death of the saints.”
Many years had passed by until Teresina realized what Jesus was asking of her, and she did not turn back. For this hour she was born so that the world would know the purity of her love for the Father.
Teresina left the Hospital on May 1st, 1938.
“I shall be able to do more from Heaven than on earth”
As soon as she left the Hospital, Teresina joined Mother Lillian who in the meanwhile had found accommodation in a small flat in Castaldo building in Sirena Avenue at Barra in Naples.
All the people who had the grace to meet Teresina over those years were fascinated by her loving personality. She smiled at everybody, she always smiled, she hid all her sufferings with a smile. This is what Teresina wrote in her diary: “if I could hid my sufferings even from God’s eyes, I’d surely do it!”
On February 20, 1940, Sister Teresina left Naples for Polla. Her doctor had told her that the air of her country would make her feel better. Teresina’s last embrace, her last glance, her last smile were for Mother Lillian: “ Take courage, Lillian, from Heaven I shall be able to do more than on earth”
Her meeting face to face with Jesus took place on March 5, 1940.
Fr. Elijah of M.C.
on April 9, 1984 in the Diocesi of Teggiano, Salerno started the process of beatification of Sister Teresina of Obedient Jesus . Now the process is going on in Rome carried out by the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints.
Please, anyone who obtains favours or graces attributed to the Servant of God is requested to send a documented report of them to the Postulator: Father Liliano Zaratti, Cofounder of the Society of the Queen of the Lilies.
Temple of the Queen of the Lilies, V.le Regina dei Gigli, 1/7 – San Giorgio a Cremano – 80046 Napoli