Monday, October 15, 2012

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog: Mystic, Psalms 113:1-7, Luke 11:29-32, Saint Teresa of Avila, Basilica Santa Maria della Vittoria Rome , Infant Jesus of Prague

Monday, October 15, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog: 
Mystic, Psalms 113:1-7, Luke 11:29-32, Saint Teresa of Avila, Basilica Santa Maria della Vittoria Rome , Infant Jesus of Prague

Good Day Bloggers! 
Wishing everyone a Blessed Week!
Year of Faith - October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013

P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Serenity Happens). It has a remarkable way of producing solace, peace, patience and tranquility and of course resolution...God's always available 24/7.

We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift knowledge and free will as well, make the most of it. Life on earth is a stepping to our eternal home in Heaven. Its your choice whether to rise towards eternal light or lost to eternal darkness. Material items, though needed for sustenance and survival on earth are of earthly value only. The only thing that passes from this earth to Purgatory and/or Heaven is our Soul, our's God's perpetual gift to us...Embrace it, treasure it, nurture it, protect it...

"Raise not a hand to another unless it is to offer in peace and goodwill." ~ Zarya Parx 2012


Today's Word:  mystic  mys·tic  [mis-tik]

Origin: 1275–1325; Middle English mystik  < Latin mysticus  < Greek mystikós,  equivalent to mýst ( ēs ) an initiate into the mysteries + -ikos -ic;  akin to myeîn  to initiate, teach

1. involving or characterized by esoteric, otherworldly, or symbolic practices or content, as certain religious ceremonies and art; spiritually significant; ethereal.
2. of the nature of or pertaining to mysteries known only to the initiated: mystic rites.
3. of occult character, power, or significance: a mystic formula.
4. of obscure or mysterious character or significance.
5. of or pertaining to mystics or mysticism

6. a person who claims to attain, or believes in the possibility of attaining, insight into mysteries transcending ordinary human knowledge, as by direct communication with the divine or immediate intuition in a state of spiritual ecstasy.
7. a person initiated into religious mysteries.


Today's Old Testament Reading -  Psalms 113:1-7

1 Alleluia! Praise, servants of Yahweh, praise the name of Yahweh.
2 Blessed be the name of Yahweh, henceforth and for ever.
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting, praised be the name of Yahweh!
4 Supreme over all nations is Yahweh, supreme over the heavens his glory.
5 Who is like Yahweh our God? His throne is set on high,
6 but he stoops to look down on heaven and earth.
7 He raises the poor from the dust, he lifts the needy from the dunghill,


Today's Gospel Reading  - Luke 11:29-32

The crowds got even bigger and Jesus addressed them, 'This is an evil generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be a sign to this generation. On Judgement Day the Queen of the South will stand up against the people of this generation and be their condemnation, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, look, there is something greater than Solomon here. On Judgement Day the men of Nineveh will appear against this generation and be its condemnation, because when Jonah preached they repented; and, look, there is something greater than Jonah here.

• The Gospel today presents a very hard accusation of Jesus against the Pharisees and the Scribes. They wanted Jesus to give them a sign, because they did not believe in the signs and in the miracles which he was working. This accusation of Jesus continues in the Gospels of the following days. In meditating on these Gospels we have to be very attentive not to generalize the accusation of Jesus as if it were addressed to the Hebrew people. In the past, the lack of this attention, unfortunately contributed to increase anti- Semitism in us Christians, which has caused so much harm to humanity throughout the centuries. Instead of pointing out the finger against the Pharisees of the time of Jesus, it is better to look at ourselves in the mirror of the texts to discover in them the Pharisee which lives hidden in our Church and in each one of us, and who merits this criticism from Jesus.

• Luke 11, 29-30: The sign of Jonah. “At that time, the people crowed and Jesus began to say: This is an evil generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah”. The Gospel of Matthew says that it was the Scribes and the Pharisees who were asking for a sign (Mt 12, 38). They wanted Jesus to work a sign for them, a miracle, in such a way that they could become aware if he was the one sent by God, as they imagined. They wanted Jesus to submit himself to their criteria. They wanted to fit him in to the framework of their own idea of the Messiah. In them there was no openness for a possible conversion. But Jesus did not submit himself to their request. The Gospel of Mark says that Jesus, before the request of the Pharisees, Jesus sighed profoundly (Mk 8, 12), probably because he was upset and sad in the face of such blindness; because it serves nothing to try to show a beautiful picture to a person who does not want to open the eyes. The only sign that will be given is the sign of Jonah. “For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be a sign to this generation “. How will this sign of the Son of man be? The Gospel of Matthew responds: “For as Jonah remained in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights” (Mt 12, 40). The only sign will be the resurrection of Jesus. This is the sign which will be given in the future to the Scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus, who was condemned to death by them and to death on the cross, will rise from the dead by God and will continue to resurrect in many ways in those who believe in him. The sign which converts is not the miracles but the witness of life!

• Luke 11, 31: Salomon and the Queen of the South. The reference to the conversion of the people of Nineveh associates and recalls the conversion of the Queen of the South: “The Queen of the South will stand up against this generation and be their condemnation; because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and look, there is something greater than Solomon here”. This reminder almost occasional of the episode of the Queen of the South who recognizes the wisdom of Solomon, shows how the Bible was used at that time. It was by association. The principal rule for the interpretation was this one: “The Bible is explained by the Bible”. Up until now, this is one of the more important norms for the interpretation of the Bible, especially for the Reading of the Word of God, in a climate of prayer.

• Luke 11, 32: And Look there is something greater than Solomon here. After the digression on Solomon and on the Queen of the South, Jesus returns to speak about the sign of Jonah: “The men of Nineveh will appear against this generation and be its condemnation, because when Jonah preached they repented”. The people of Nineveh were converted because of the witness of the preaching of Jonah and he denounces the unbelief of the Scribes and of the Pharisees. Because “something greater than Jonah is here”. Jesus is greater than Jonah, greater than Solomon. For us Christians, he is the principal key for Scripture (2Co 3, 14-18).

Personal questions
• Jesus criticizes the Scribes and the Pharisees who managed to deny the evidence, rendering themselves incapable to recognize the call of God in the events. And we Christians today, and I, do we deserve the same criticism of Jesus?

• Níneveh was converted because of the preaching of Jonah. The Scribes and the Pharisees were not converted. Today, the calls of reality cause changes and conversions in people in the whole world: the ecological threat, urbanization that dehumanizes, consumerism which standardizes and alienates, injustice, violence, etc. Many Christians live far away from these calls of God which come from reality.

Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites,


Featured Item of the Day from Litany Lane


Saint of the Day:  St. Teresa of Avila

Feast Day:  October 15
Patron Saint: Headache sufferers, Spanish Catholic Writers

Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, (March 28, 1515 – October 4, 1582) was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, and writer of the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer. She was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered to be, along with John of the Cross, a founder of the Discalced Carmelites.

In 1622, forty years after her death, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV, and in 1970 named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. Her books, which include her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus, and her seminal work, El Castillo Interior (The Interior Castle), are an integral part of the Spanish Renaissance literature as well as Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practices as she entails in her other important work Camino de Perfección (The Way of Perfection).

Early life

Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada was born in 1515 in Gotarrendura, in the province of Ávila, Spain. Her paternal grandfather, Juan de Toledo, was a marrano (Jewish convert to Christianity) and was condemned by the Spanish Inquisition for allegedly returning to the Jewish faith. Her father, Alonso Sánchez de Cepeda, bought a knighthood and successfully assimilated into Christian society. Teresa's mother, Beatriz, was especially keen to raise her daughter as a pious Christian. Teresa was fascinated by accounts of the lives of the saints, and ran away from home at age seven with her brother Rodrigo to find martyrdom among the Moors. Her uncle stopped them as he was returning to the city, having spotted the two outside the city walls.

In the cloister, she suffered greatly from illness. Early in her sickness, she experienced periods of religious ecstasy through the use of the devotional book "Tercer abecedario espiritual," translated as the Third Spiritual Alphabet (published in 1527 and written by Francisco de Osuna). This work, following the example of similar writings of medieval mystics, consisted of directions for examinations of conscience and for spiritual self-concentration and inner contemplation (known in mystical nomenclature as oratio recollectionis or oratio mentalis). She also employed other mystical ascetic works such as the Tractatus de oratione et meditatione of Saint Peter of Alcantara, and perhaps many of those upon which Saint Ignatius of Loyola based his Spiritual Exercises and possibly the Spiritual Exercises themselves.

She claimed that during her illness she rose from the lowest stage, "recollection", to the "devotions of silence" or even to the "devotions of ecstasy", which was one of perfect union with God. During this final stage, she said she frequently experienced a rich "blessing of tears." As the Catholic distinction between mortal and venial sin became clear to her, she says she came to understand the awful terror of sin and the inherent nature of original sin. She also became conscious of her own natural impotence in confronting sin, and the necessity of absolute subjection to God.

Around 1556, various friends suggested that her newfound knowledge was diabolical, not divine. She began to inflict various tortures and mortifications of the flesh upon herself. But her confessor, the Jesuit Saint Francis Borgia, reassured her of the divine inspiration of her thoughts. On St. Peter's Day in 1559, Teresa became firmly convinced that Jesus Christ presented himself to her in bodily form, though invisible. These visions lasted almost uninterrupted for more than two years. In another vision, a seraph drove the fiery point of a golden lance repeatedly through her heart, causing an ineffable spiritual-bodily pain.

This vision was the inspiration for one of Bernini's most famous works, the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa at Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. The memory of this episode served as an inspiration throughout the rest of her life, and motivated her lifelong imitation of the life and suffering of Jesus, epitomized in the motto usually associated with her: Lord, either let me suffer or let me die.

Activities as reformer

The incentive to give outward practical expression to her inward motive was inspired in Teresa by the Franciscan priest Saint Peter of Alcantara who became acquainted with her as Founder early in 1560, and became her spiritual guide and counselor. She now resolved to found a reformed Carmelite convent, correcting the laxity which she had found in the Cloister of the Incarnation and others. Guimara de Ulloa, a woman of wealth and a friend, supplied the funds. Teresa worked for many years encouraging Spanish Jewish converts to follow Christianity.

The absolute poverty of the new monastery, established in 1562 and named St. Joseph's (San José), at first excited a scandal among the citizens and authorities of Ávila, and the little house with its chapel was in peril of suppression; but powerful patrons, including the bishop himself, as well as the impression of well-secured subsistence and prosperity, turned animosity into applause.

In March 1563, when Teresa moved to the new cloister, she received the papal sanction to her prime principle of absolute poverty and renunciation of property, which she proceeded to formulate into a "Constitution". Her plan was the revival of the earlier, stricter rules, supplemented by new regulations such as the three disciplines of ceremonial flagellation prescribed for the divine service every week, and the discalceation of the nun. For the first five years, Teresa remained in pious seclusion, engaged in writing.

Church window at the Convent of St Teresa.
In 1567, she received a patent from the Carmelite general, Rubeo de Ravenna, to establish new houses of her order, and in this effort and later visitations she made long journeys through nearly all the provinces of Spain. Of these she gives a description in her "Libro de las Fundaciones." Between 1567 and 1571, reform convents were established at Medina del Campo, Malagon, Valladolid, Toledo, Pastrana, Salamanca, and Alba de Tormes.  As part of her original patent, Teresa was given permission to set up two houses for men who wished to adopt the reforms; she convinced John of the Cross and Anthony of Jesus to help with this. They founded the first convent of Discalced Carmelite Brethren in November 1568 at Duruello. Another friend, Gerónimo Grecian, Carmelite visitator of the older observance of Andalusia and apostolic commissioner, and later provincial of the Teresian reforms, gave her powerful support in founding convents at Segovia (1571), Beas de Segura (1574), Seville (1575), and Caravaca de la Cruz (Murcia, 1576), while the deeply mystical John, by his power as teacher and preacher, promoted the inner life of the movement.

In 1576 a series of persecutions began on the part of the older observant Carmelite order against Teresa, her friends, and her reforms. Pursuant to a body of resolutions adopted at the general chapter at Piacenza, the "definitors" of the order forbade all further founding of convents. The general chapter condemned her to voluntary retirement to one of her institutions. She obeyed and chose St. Joseph's at Toledo. Her friends and subordinates were subjected to greater trials.

Finally, after several years her pleadings by letter with King Philip II of Spain secured relief. As a result, in 1579, the processes before the inquisition against her, Grecian, and others were dropped, which allowed the reform to continue. A brief of Pope Gregory XIII allowed a special provincial for the younger branch of the discalced nuns, and a royal rescript created a protective board of four assessors for the reform.

During the last three years of her life, Teresa founded convents at Villanueva de la Jara in northern Andalusia (1580), Palencia (1580), Soria (1581), Burgos, and Granada (1582). In total seventeen convents, all but one founded by her, and as many men's cloisters were due to her reform activity of twenty years.

Her final illness overtook her on one of her journeys from Burgos to Alba de Tormes. She died in 1582, just as Catholic nations were making the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, which required the removal of October 5–14 from the calendar. She died either before midnight of October 4 or early in the morning of October 15, which is celebrated as her feast day. Her last words were: "My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may your will be done. O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another."

In 1622, forty years after her death, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV. The Cortes exalted her to patroness of Spain in 1617, and the University of Salamanca previously conferred the title Doctor ecclesiae with a diploma. The title is Latin for Doctor of the Church, but is distinct from the papal honor of Doctor of the Church, which is always conferred posthumously and was finally bestowed upon her by Pope Paul VI in 1970 along with Saint Catherine of Siena making them the first women to be awarded the distinction. Teresa is revered as the Doctor of Prayer. The mysticism in her works exerted a formative influence upon many theologians of the following centuries, such as Francis of Sales, Fénelon, and the Port-Royalists


"It is love alone that gives worth to all things." - St. Teresa of Avila
The kernel of Teresa's mystical thought throughout all her writings is the ascent of the soul in four stages (The Autobiography Chs. 10-22):

The first, or "mental prayer", is that of devout contemplation or concentration, the withdrawal of the soul from without and specially the devout observance of the passion of Christ and penitence (Autobiography 11.20).

The second is the "prayer of quiet", in which at least the human will is lost in that of God by virtue of a charismatic, supernatural state given of God, while the other faculties, such as memory, reason, and imagination, are not yet secure from worldly distraction. While a partial distraction is due to outer performances such as repetition of prayers and writing down spiritual things, yet the prevailing state is one of quietude (Autobiography 14.1).

The "devotion of union" is not only a supernatural but an essentially ecstatic state. Here there is also an absorption of the reason in God, and only the memory and imagination are left to ramble. This state is characterized by a blissful peace, a sweet slumber of at least the higher soul faculties, a conscious rapture in the love of God.

The fourth is the "devotion of ecstasy or rapture," a passive state, in which the consciousness of being in the body disappears (2 Corinthians 12:2-3). Sense activity ceases; memory and imagination are also absorbed in God or intoxicated. Body and spirit are in the throes of a sweet, happy pain, alternating between a fearful fiery glow, a complete impotence and unconsciousness, and a spell of strangulation, intermitted sometimes by such an ecstatic flight that the body is literally lifted into space. This after half an hour is followed by a reactionary relaxation of a few hours in a swoon-like weakness, attended by a negation of all the faculties in the union with God. From this the subject awakens in tears; it is the climax of mystical experience, productive of the trance. (Indeed, she was said to have been observed levitating during Mass on more than one occasion (The Interior Castle St Teresa Of Avila translated by Mirabai Starr.)

Teresa is one of the foremost writers on mental prayer, and her position among writers on mystical theology is unique. In all her writings on this subject she deals with her personal experiences, which a deep insight and analytical gifts enabled her to explain clearly. Her definition was used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Contemplative prayer [oración mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us."

Throughout her writings, persistent metaphors provide a vivid illustration of the image of mystic prayer as watering a garden.


Teresa's writings, produced for didactic purposes, stand among the most remarkable in the mystical literature of the Catholic Church:
  • The "Autobiography," written before 1567, under the direction of her confessor, Fr Pedro Ibáñez;
  • " El Camino de Perfección", written also before 1567, at the direction of her confessor;
  • "Meditations on Song of Songs", 1567, written nominally for her daughters at the convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
  • "El Castillo Interior", written in 1577;
  • "Relaciones", an extension of the autobiography giving her inner and outer experiences in epistolary form.
  • Two smaller works are the "Conceptos del Amor" ("Concepts of Love") and "Exclamaciones". In addition, there are "Las Cartas" (Saragossa, 1671), or her correspondence, of which there are 342 extant letters and 87 fragments of others. St Teresa's prose is marked by an unaffected grace, an ornate neatness, and charming power of expression, together placing her in the front rank of Spanish prose writers; and her rare poems ("Todas las poesías", Munster, 1854) are distinguished for tenderness of feeling and rhythm of thought.


 Let nothing disturb thee,  Nothing affright thee; All thing are passing;
 God never changeth; Patient endurance, Attaineth to all things;
 Who God possesseth, In nothing is wanting, Alone God sufficeth.
                                                                                                        -Liturgy of the Hours

In Spanish, it is a song called "Nada te turbe" after the first line. Saint Teresa, who reported visions of Jesus and Mary, was a strong believer in the power of holy water and wrote that she used it with success to repel evil and temptations. She wrote: I know by frequent experience that there is nothing which puts the devils to flight like holy water.
Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing make you afraid. All things are passing. God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things. If you have God you will want for nothing. God alone suffices.
                                                                                                      ~The bookmark of Teresa of Avila

Saint Teresa and Infant Jesus of Prague

Though there are no written historical accounts proving that Teresa of Avila ever owned the Infant Jesus of Prague statue, a pious legend recounts a tale when Avila once allegedly owned the statue and gave it away to a noblewoman travelling to Prague.

However, what is historically known is that Teresa always did carry a portable statue of the Child Jesus wherever she went, as she is so portrayed in the 1984 Teresa de Jesús (film), and shown in the movie protecting this infant statue in her many calamitous travels. In some scenes, the other religious sisters take turn in changing its vestments. The devotion to the child-Jesus spread quickly in Spain most likely due to her mystical visions.

During one of these travels, another popular legend tells that Saint Teresa de Avila once saw a young boy who asked her name. She replied Yo Soy Teresa de Jesus!, to which he replied Yo Soy Jesus de Teresa!. The Discalced Carmelites today administer the pilgrim Church of Our Lady Victorious, where the Infant Jesus of Prague is currently enshrined. Similarly, in Raymond Arroyo's biography of Mother Angelica, she recounts a similar event seeing an apparition of the child Jesus in Colombia. Allegedly having a brief conversation which the child, she later discovers him to be the Divino Nino of Bogota.  Mother Angelica is also a known devotee of the Infant Jesus of Prague statue.


  • "St. Teresa" was painted in 1819–20 by François Gérard, a French neoclassical painter.
  • Saint Teresa was the inspiration for one of Bernini's most famous sculptures, The Ecstasy of St. Teresa in Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome.
  • Simone de Beauvoir singles out Teresa as a woman who lived her life for herself (perhaps the only woman to do so) in her book The Second Sex.
  • Saint Teresa features prominently in Joan Osborne's song with the same name.
  • She is a principal character of the opera Four Saints in Three Acts by the composer Virgil Thomson with a libretto by Gertrude Stein.
  • She is mentioned prominently in Kathryn Harrison's novel Poison. The main character, Francisca De Luarca, is fascinated by her life.
  • R. A. Lafferty was strongly inspired by El Castillo Interior when he wrote his novel Fourth Mansions. Quotations from St. Teresa's work are frequently used as chapter headings.
  • Pierre Klossowski prominently features Saint Teresa of Ávila in his metaphysical novel Baphomet.
  • George Eliot compared Dorothea Brooke to St. Teresa in Middlemarch (1871–1872) and wrote briefly about the life and works of St. Teresa in the "Prelude" to the novel.
  • The contemporary poet Jorie Graham features Saint Teresa in the poem Breakdancing in her volume The End of Beauty.
  • Paz Vega stars as Teresa in Teresa, el cuerpo de Cristo, a 2007 Spanish biopic directed by Ray Loriga.
  • Barbara Mujica's novel Sister Teresa, while not strictly hagiographical, is based upon Teresa's life.
  • St. Teresa was the subject of a 1959 play, "La Madre"; she was portrayed by actress Kate Wilkinson.
  • Performance artist Linda Montano has cited Teresa of Ávila as one of the most important influences on her work and since her return to Catholicism in the 2000s has done performances of her life.
  • Concha Velasco portrays Teresa in Teresa de Jesús (film), a 1984 television miniseries directed by Josefina Molina.
  • Timothy Findley's 1999 novel Pilgrim features St. Teresa as a minor character.


  • "St. Teresa of Avila". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
  •  "The Interior Castle - The Mansions," TAN Books, 1997. ISBN 978-0-89555-604-2
  • "The Way of Perfection," TAN Books, 1997. ISBN 978-0-89555-602-8
  • Teresa of Avila, "The Book of Her Life" (Translated, with Notes, by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD. Introduction by Jodi Bilinkoff). Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 2008. ISBN 978-0-87220-907-7
  • "The Interior Castle (Edited by E. Allison Peers)," Doubleday, 1972. ISBN 978-0-385-03643-6
  • "The Way of Perfection (Translated and Edited by E. Allison Peers)," Doubleday, 1991. ISBN 978-0-385-06539-9
  • "The Life of Teresa of Jesus: The Autobiography of Teresa of Avila (Translated by E. Allison Peers)," Doubleday, 1991. ISBN 978-0-385-01109-9
  • "Teresa of Avila: An Extraordinary Life", Shirley du Boulay, Bluebridge, 1995 ISBN 978-0-9742405-2-7
  • "Teresa: Outstanding Christian Thinkers," Rowan Williams, Continuum, 1991. ISBN 0-8264-5081-4
  • "The Eagle and the Dove" Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. by Vita Sackville-West. First published in 1943 by Michael Joseph LTD, 26 Bloomsbury Street, London, W.C.1
  • "Castles in the Sand" fiction with cited sources about Teresa of Avila by Carolyn A. Greene, Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2009. ISBN 978-0-9791315-4-7
  • "15 Days of Prayer with Saint Teresa of Avila" by Jean Abiven, New City Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-56548-366-8


    Featured Items Panel from Litany Lane


    Today Snippet I: Basilica Santa Maria della Vittoria - Rome

    Santa Maria della Vittoria (English: our Lady of Victory, Latin: S. Mariae de Victoria) is a Roman Catholic titular church and minor basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary located in Rome, Italy. The church is known for the masterpiece of Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the Cornaro Chapel, the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.


    The church was begun in 1605 as a chapel dedicated to Saint Paul for the Discalced Carmelites. After the Catholic victory at the battle of White Mountain in 1620, which reversed the Reformation in Bohemia, the church was rededicated to the Virgin Mary. Turkish standards captured at the 1683 siege of Vienna hang in the church, as part of this theme of victory.

    The order itself funded the building work until the discovery in the excavations of the Borghese Hermaphroditus. Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V, appropriated this sculpture but in return funded the rest of work on the facade and granted the order his architect Giovanni Battista Soria. These grants only came into effect in 1624, and work was completed two years later.


    The church is the only structure designed and completed by the early Baroque architect Carlo Maderno, though the interior suffered a fire in 1833 and required restoration. Its façade, however, was erected by Giovanni Battista Soria during Maderno's lifetime, 1624–1626, showing the unmistakable influence of Maderno's Santa Susanna nearby.


    Its interior has a single wide nave under a low segmental vault, with three interconnecting side chapels behind arches separated by colossal corinthian pilasters with gilded capitals that support an enriched entablature. Contrasting marble revetments are enriched with white and gilded stucco angels and putti in full relief. The interior was sequentially enriched after Maderno's death; its vault was frescoed in 1675 with triumphant themes within shaped compartments with feigned frames: The Virgin Mary Triumphing over Heresy and Fall of the Rebel Angels executed by Giovanni Domenico Cerrini.

    Cornaro Chapel

    The masterpiece in the Cornaro Chapel, to the left of the altar, is Ecstasy of St. Teresa by Scipione's favored sculptor, Bernini. The statues depict a moment described by Saint Teresa of Avila in her autobiography, where she had the vivid vision of an angel piercing her heart with a golden shaft, causing her both immense joy and pain. The flowing robes and contorted posture abandon classical restraint and repose to depict a more passionate, almost voluptuous trance.

    The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (alternatively Saint Teresa in Ecstasy or Transverberation of Saint Teresa; in Italian L'Estasi di Santa Teresa or Santa Teresa in estasi) is the central sculptural group in white marble set in an elevated aedicule in the Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome. It was designed and completed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the leading sculptor of his day, who also designed the setting of the Chapel in marble, stucco and paint. It is generally considered to be one of the sculptural masterpieces of the High Roman Baroque. It pictures Teresa of Ávila.

    The two central sculptural figures of the swooning nun and the angel with the spear derive from an episode described by Teresa of Avila, a mystical cloistered Discalced Carmelite reformer and nun, in her autobiography, ‘The Life of Teresa of Jesus’ (1515–1582). 

    Her experience of religious ecstasy in her encounter with the angel is described as follows:
    I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.

    The group is illuminated by natural light which filters through a hidden window in the dome of the surrounding aedicule, and underscored by gilded stucco rays. Teresa is shown lying on a cloud indicating that this is intended to be a divine apparition we are witnessing. 

    Other witnesses appear on the side walls; life-size high-relief donor portraits of male members of the Cornaro family are present and shown discussing the event in boxes as if at the theatre. Although the figures are executed in white marble, the aedicule, wall panels and theatre boxes are made from colored marbles. 

    Above, the vault of the Chapel is frescoed with an illusionistic cherub-filled sky with the descending light of the Holy Ghost allegorized as a dove.

    The art historian Rudolf Wittkower has written,
    In spite of the pictorial character of the design as a whole, Bernini differentiated between various degrees of reality, the members of the Cornaro Chapel seem to be alive like ourselves. They belong to our space and our world. The supernatural event of Teresa’s vision is raised to a sphere of its own, removed from that of the beholder mainly by virtue of the isolating canopy and the heavenly light.


    Santa Maria della Vittoria is a titular church. The following is a list of its Cardinal Priests:
    • Michelangelo Luchi (1801–1802)
    • Joseph Fesch (1803–1822); in commendam (1822–1839)
    • Ferdinando Maria Pignatelli (1839–1853)
    • Adriano Fieschi (1853–1858)
    • Joseph Othmar von Rauscher (1858–1875)
    • Godefroy Brossais-Saint-Marc (1876–1878)
    • Louis-Edouard-François-Desiré Pie (1879–1880)
    • Luigi Jacobini (1880–1887)
    • Elzéar-Alexandre Taschereau (1887–1898)
    • Giovanni Battista Casali del Drago (1899–1908)
    • François-Marie-Anatole de Rovérié de Cabrières (1911–1921)
    • Alexis-Armand Charost (1922–1930)
    • Angelo Maria Dolci (1933–1936)
    • Federico Tedeschini (1936–1951)
    • Giuseppe Siri (1953–1989)
    • Giuseppe Caprio (1990–2005)
    • Seán Patrick O'Malley (2006–incumbent)

    References in popular culture

    The church has seen a surge in tourism thanks to the widespread popularity of author Dan Brown's novel Angels and Demons, which features the building (but for purposes of his novel, the writer moved its location down to the Piazza Barberini). The statue is a feature in the 2009 novel, Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. Main characters live with a fading picture of it in their Ethiopian home as a remnant of their deceased mother and friend. It remains a part of their lives and surfaces late in the story as they are witness to the real marble creation in the chapel.


      • Matthiae, Guglielmo (1999). The Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. Rome: Order of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers. ISBN 978-88-86542-86-9.


      Today Snippet II: Infant Jesus of Prague

      Infant Jesus of Prague (Czech: Pražské Jezulátko) is a 16th century Roman Catholic wax-coated wooden statue of child Jesus located in the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Malá Strana, Prague Czech Republic. Pious legends claim that the statue once belonged to Saint Teresa of Avila and allegedly holds miraculous powers, especially among expectant mothers.

      The statue is known worldwide in relation to earlier child-Jesus icons, most prominently the Santo Nino de Atocha in Spain and Latin America (13th century), the Santo Nino de Cebu (1521) in the Philippines, and recent ones such as the Holy Infant of Good Health (from Mexico, 1939), and the Divino Niño (from Colombia, 1940's).

      In addition, the statue has also merited several Papal sanctions through Pope Leo XIII who instituted the Sodality to the Infant Prague of Jesus in 1896, followed by Pope Saint Pius X who organized the Confraternity of the Infant Jesus of Prague in 1913, and most recently, Pope Benedict XVI, who donated a golden crown to the statue during his Apostolic visit to the Czech Republic in September 2009

      The Church of Our Lady Victorious (Kostel Panny Marie Vítězné) in Malá Strana, the "small side" of Prague is a church governed and administered by the Discalced Carmelites, and home of the famous Child-Jesus statue called the Infant Jesus of Prague. A chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity was built on this site in 1584. With the Battle of White Mountain, 8 November 1620, the Counter-Reformation signalled the re-Catholicismof Prague. The church was given to the direction of the Carmelites in September 1624. The triumphalist altarpiece of Our Lady of Victory was sent from Rome by Pope Gregory XV. The Carmelites were ordered to hand over the church to Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, 3 June 1784. On 26 September 2009 Pope Benedict XVI declared the church and the Infant Jesus the first station on the Apostolic Road in the Czech Republic. The Pontiff also donated a gold crown, decorated with eight shells, pearls, and garnet gemstones to the Infant Jesus of Prague, which the statue dons today


      The elaborate shrine which houses the wax-wooden statue. Church of Our Lady Victorious, Mala Strana, Prague, Czech Republic.
      The exact origin of the Infant Jesus statue is not known, but historical sources point to a small 19 inch (48 cm) high sculpture of the Holy Child with a bird in his right hand presently located in the Cistercian monastery of Santa Maria de la Valbonna in Asturias, Spain which was carved around the year 1340. Many other Infant Jesus sculptures were also carved by famous masters throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. Often found in early medieval work, the significance of the bird symbolizes either a soul or the Holy Spirit.

      Its earliest history can be traced back to Prague in the year 1628 when the small, 19-inch (48 cm) high, wooden and coated wax statue of the Infant Jesus was given by Princess Polyxena von Lobkowicz (1566–1642) to the Discalced Carmelites, to whom she had become greatly attached. The princess had received the statue as a wedding gift (1603) from her mother, María Manrique de Lara y Mendoza, a Spanish noblewoman, to whom it had been a wedding gift in Spain (1555) and who had brought it to Bohemia. An old legend in the Lobkowicz family insists that Doña María had been given the statue by Saint Teresa of Avila herself.

      The statue first appeared in 1556, when Maria Manriquez de Lara brought the image to Bohemia as an wedding heirloom to Czech nobleman Vratislav of Pernstyn. The statue's raised two fingers raised in a blessing gesture symbolizes the two natures of Jesus Christ and the three folded fingers represent the Holy Trinity. Princess Polyxena inherited the statue from her mother after death. In 1628, Princess Polyxena von Lobkowicz presented the statue to the Carmelite friars and instructed them to venerate the image.

      Upon presenting it, the pious princess Polyxena is said to have uttered a prophetic statement to the religious: "Venerable Fathers, I bring you my dearest possession. Honour this image and you shall never want". The statue was placed in the oratory of the monastery of Our Lady of Victory, Prague, where special devotions to Jesus were offered before it twice a day. Carmelite novices voluntarily vow themselves to poverty, and here they professed their poverty in the presence of the Divine Infant.

      Upon hearing of the Carmelites' devotions and needs, the Emperor Ferdinand II of the House of Habsburg sent along 2,000 Florins and a monthly stipend for their support.In 1630, the Carmelite novitiate was transferred to Munich. With the transfer of novices, Prague lost its most ardent devotees of the Infant. Disturbances in Bohemia due to the Thirty Years War brought an end to the special devotions, and on November 15, 1631, the army of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden took possession of the churches of Bohemia's capital city. The Carmelite friary was plundered by the Lutheran Swedes, and the image of the Infant of Prague was thrown into a pile of rubbish behind the altar. Here it lay forgotten, its hands broken off, for seven years, until it was found again in 1637 by Father Cyrillus and placed in the church's oratory. One day, while praying before the statue, Father Cyrillus claimed to have heard a voice say, "Have pity on me, and I will have pity on you. Give me my hands, and I will give you peace. The more you honor me, the more I will bless you." Since then, the statue has remained in Prague and has drawn many devotees worldwide to go and honor the Holy Child. Claims of blessings, favors and miraculous healings have been made by many who petitioned before the Infant Jesus. Statuettes of the Infant Jesus are placed inside many Catholic churches, sometimes with the quotation, "The more you honor me, the more I will bless you."

      A copy of this statuette is placed in the University Chapel in Naples, Italy with the information on the original Prague's statuette. In 1739, the Carmelites of the Austrian Province form a special devotion apart from their regular apostolate. In 1741, the statue was moved to the epistle side off the church of Our Lady of Victory.
      Various regal vestments have been given to the statue, among which began to change according to the liturgical norms in 1713. Among of the vestments donated were given by Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria and is preserved to this day.

      Since 1788, the statue's raised two fingers has worn two rings, as a thanksgiving gift by a noble Czech family for healing their daughter, along with its golden blond hair. Some earlier records indicate that the original wig was possibly white.

      Papal Approval and Devotion

      An early German copy of the statue, note the white wig as opposed to the traditional blonde hair. circa. 1870
      In 1896, Pope Leo XIII confirmed the Sodality of the Infant of Prague by granting plenary indulgence to the devotion. In 1913, Pope Saint Pius X regularized the membership of the confraternity under the canonical guidance of the Carmelite Order.

       In September 2009, Pope Benedict XVI made an Apostolic visit to the Czech Republic and visited the Church of Our Lady of Victory in Prague. The Pontiff donated a golden crown with eight shells with numerous pearls and garnets and is now presently donned by the statue.

      Today, thousands of pilgrims pay homage to the Infant of Prague every year. The tradition of the Infant Jesus procession and the coronation continues to this day. This ceremony is the closing highlight of the annual Feast of the Infant Jesus in Prague.

      In the past in Ireland some brides would place an Infant of Prague statue outside their house the night before their wedding. This was meant to ensure that there would be good weather for the wedding day.

      Once every four years, two wooden statues of Infant Jesus made in Prague are sent to various Catholic churches of the world. 

      In India, the Infant Jesus Shrine in Bangalore and the Saint Theresa Church Perambur (Chennai) obtain one each of these statues.


      In the 1984 miniseries Teresa de Jesús (film), Saint Teresa of Avila is portrayed holding the statue during a rainstorm which ravaged their convent in Spain. In other scenes, religious sisters are also seen changing the vestments of the statue. Saint Teresa of Avila is also portrayed asking many noble women to pray to this image with pious devotion.


      • Miraculous Images of Our Lord, by Joan Carroll Cruz, OCDS, TAN Books and Publishers, Inc, 1995. ISBN 0-89555-496-8
      • Holy Infant Jesus, by Ann Ball & Damian Hinojosa, The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2006. ISBN 0-8245-2407-1
      • The INFANT JESUS OF PRAGUE and Its Veneration, by Rev. H Koneberg, O.S.B. Translated from the Seventh Revised Edition of Rev. Joseph Mayer, C.SS.R Catholic Book Publishing Co. New York, N.Y. Nihil Obstat: John M. Fearns, S.T.D. Censor Librorum Imprimatur: Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archiepiscopus Neo Eboracensis Sept 16,1946