Reaching for the Summit of Mt. Carmel with John of the Cross and Teresa of Jesus


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I followed John of the Cross
and Teresa of Jesus
inside the Carmelite Monastery,
seeing their pleasant ways
I ran up the mountain
following their path
seeking Almighty God
reaching for the
Summit of Mt. Carmel.
Here’s what I found…

I. Spiritual Guides: St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross

Opening Prayer: Love and honor to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, to Saint Joseph, Saint Anne, to our Holy Mother Saint Teresa, to our Holy Father Saint John of the Cross, whose powerful intercessions we invoke that the spirit of prayer, penance and apostolic zeal may flourish in the community. Amen

Sanctuary at Philadelphia CarmelThe Triumphal arch, with crucifix suspended, inspired by the crucifix of Fra Innocenzo de Palermo (1637) in the Church of San Damiano, Assisi. – Holy Spirit Chapel Sanctuary at Philadelphia Carmel. Photo courtesy of Friends of Carmel Pinterest.

The origins of Triumphal arch comes from the Roman era when captives were led under an arch to symbolize their submission to the authority of Rome. In later centuries the liturgical procession through the triumphal arch symbolizes Christians, as captives of Christ, being lead to the Kingdom of Heaven. The sacred space of the Sanctuary represents the Kingdom of Heaven.

teresa of Avila medallion
The round medallion of Teresa of Jesus (Ávila) as she looks upward on the altar terra cotta wall over the cloister grilles of the Sanctuary. Her feast is celebrated by the Discalced Carmelite Order on October 15.

john of the cross medallion
The round medallion of John of the Cross, with the Christ on the Cross in his arms on the altar terra cotta wall over the cloister grilles of the Sanctuary. His feast is celebrated by the Discalced Carmelite Order on December 14.

II. The Sanctuary Mosaic

altar mosaic 2The Sanctuary of the Holy Spirit Chapel; the heart, joy and beauty of Mount Carmel – Detail

From left to right, Teresa of Jesus; the sanctuary doors with the Cross; St. Elisha with hand reaching to the Lamb of God, reaching for the summit of Mt. Carmel; where the Prophet Elijah rides a chariot on the wings of a cloud. The Holy Spirit is in winged flight above St. Teresa who is in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

The images of the Sanctuary mosaic express the reality of divine love in the charism of Carmel. It is love revealed by God in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New, a love that en-kindles our hearts and transforms them. Ultimately this transformation enables one to enter, body and soul into full union with God. Horizontal and spatial concepts of the mosaic echo passages of time in the Old and New Testament history of the Carmelite Order. – The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel Philadelphia

Symbolic images in the mosaic are:

Fire symbolizes divine love.
– St John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle 39:14, St. Teresa of Jesus Life 30:20

Fire and Water
Oh, God help me, what marvels there are in this greater en-kindling of fire by water. The water does not impede the fire though it’s the fire’s contrary, but rather makes its fire increase! – St. Teresa of Jesus, The Way of Perfection 19:3

These lamps of fire are living waters of the spirit…although it is fire, it is also water.
– St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love Stanza 3, #8

Chariot of Fire
in Christian art, St. Elijah is carried into heaven on a chariot of fire, a symbol of Christ’s Ascension. In the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, Christ himself is referred to by the Father as a fiery chariot.Prophet Elijah in chariot
St. Elijah en-route to Heaven “You make the clouds your chariot, traveling on the wings of the wind. You make the winds your messengers, flaming fire your ministers.” Psalm 104:3-4

Elijah the Prophet is called the founder of the Carmelite ideal. There are two accounts of him being taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2:1-12 and Sirach 48:9). His feast is celebrated by the Carmelite Order on July 20.

The Holy Spirit (Dove)
The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Sanctifier, the living Flame of Love. – Romans 5:5

teresa spirit lamb

St. Teresa of Jesus
St.Teresa of Jesus (1515-1582), the foundress of the reformed Carmel (Discalced Carmelites) is portrayed on the mosaic in Adoration of the Eucharist. In her spiritual writings one finds frequent images of fire and water. The Carmelites celebrate her memory on October 15.

The Lamb of God and the Eucharist
Fulfillment is found in Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the sacrificial lamb of god, who gave himself for the life of the world. His sacrifice is perpetuated in the Eucharist. From this divine reality the graces symbolized by the fire and the water are sought and obtained. Mt. 26;26-29; 1 John 5:6-8; Rev:5:6-14

Elisha and Teresa reaching
St. Elisha (hand raised)

St. Elisha (c. 840 BC) was the first disciple of St. Elijah. He was the leader of the prophets on Mt. Carmel.  The Carmelite Order celebrates his memory on June 14.

altarUnder the altar in Latin: Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto
meaning Glory [be] to the Father.

III. The Repository Doors

repository doors
Between Elisha and Teresa of Jesus, with the Cross and triangle superimposed, are the bronze Repository Doors.

repository doors sketch
The Repository Doors Schematic Diagram. – from The Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Mount Carmel, Philadelphia (Booklet)

The symbols that are employed on the doors shows St. Teresa’s image of the Interior Castle, her guide to union with God. They are:

“The door of entry to this castle is prayer and reflection.” – St. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle I:i,#7

The castle is the image of the soul: We consider our soul to be like a castle made entirely out of a diamond or of a very clear crystal in which there are many rooms, just as in heaven there are many dwelling places. – St. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle

The soul of the just person is nothing else than a paradise where the Lord says He finds His delight. I do not find anything comparable to the magnificent beauty of a soul and its marvelous capacity. – St. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle I:i, #1

The triangle is the symbol of the Most Holy Trinity dwelling in the center of the soul.

cross schematicThe soul of the just person is a paradise where the Lord says He finds His delight. – St. Teresa, Interior Castle

The Cross is the symbol of the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s passion, Death and Resurrection.

Blood and Water
Blood and water flowed out of our Redeemer on the Cross. The Doctors of the Church interpret this to mean that from the pierced Heart of the Son, God the Father pours out through the Holy Spirit, the saving graces of the Church’s Sacraments.

Then the angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal clear down the middle of the city street. – Revelation 22:1-2

Jesus Christ who came by water and blood, not with water only, but with water and blood. – 1 John 5:6

Center Room of the Castle
The castle has many dwelling places. Located at the center, is the abode of the most Blessed Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The shell is a symbol of Baptism, the sacrament of initiation to the divine life.

 IV. Blessed Virgin Mary

our lady w spirit 14
Discalced Carmelites are known for their deep devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, dwells with the Holy Trinity in the most profound union, supreme above all creatures, beloved Daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, Spouse of the Holy Spirit Mediatrix of all Graces.  – Mt. Carmel prayer

V. Seal of Mount Carmel (Coat of Arms)

Carmelite coat of armsDiscalced Carmelite Order (OCD) Coat of Arms plaque, located on balcony in front of  Hook and Hastings organ at the Holy Spirit Chapel, Philadelphia Carmel.

Coat of Arms plaque in context within Holy Spirit Chapel.

The coat of arms is a roadmap to the background and religious beliefs of the Discalced Carmelite Order. There are multiple levels of meaning and symbolism of the Seal of Mount Carmel acquired over the centuries.

The Shield of Carmel

In the center of the seal is Mount Carmel, cradle of the Carmelite Order, and the star in the mountain refers to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The two stars above are the prophets Elijah and Elisha.

Mount Carmel is the Carmelite’s place of origin located in modern day Haifa, Israel. In the 9th century BC the prophet Elijah lived there and had a profound experience of God. In that same place in the early 12th century some hermits, inspired by the memory of Elijah, gathered there, with a desire “to live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ” (Rule of St. Albert).

cross on teh summit high defThe cross on the summit of the mountain was added in the 16th Century by St. John of the Cross as a distinctive mark of the Discalced Carmelites (OCD) branch of the Carmelites. There is no cross for the Order of Carmelites. (O.Carm.)

The colors are the brown of the mountain and the white of the skies. Brown is the color of earth. White is the reflection of light. It is the color associated with the tunic of Christ at the resurrection, the transfiguration.

On this particular shield, there are three, eight pointed stars. The number three has numerous symbolic meanings; the Triune God in unity of three divine persons: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit; the three virtues of faith, hope and love; and three monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

The three stars also represent the three great epochs in the history of Carmel; the first, or prophetic era, represented by the star inside the mountain, denotes the time of the prophet Elijah to the time of St. John the Baptist; the second indicates the era of those hermits living on Mount Carmel before the arrival of the Latin Crusaders; and the third signifies the present epoch spanning from the first Carmelite community living under the Rule of St. Albert until the end of time.

A deeper meaning of the stars is that they stand as a remembrance to the members of the Carmelite order. The star inside the mountain represents the Carmelites who are still on their way to the Summit of Mount Carmel (Heaven), the other two stars in the sky represent all the Carmelites who have gone before us and have reached the goal of their life’s vocation; union with God in love in the eternal Joy of Heaven.
– from Croatian Carmel Province

The Crown of the King

Ducal crown with hand
Placed atop the shield is a ducal crown and an arm wielding a fiery sword, representing the prophet Elijah.

The golden crown represents  the Kingdom of God on earth, present through “Emmanuel,” “God with us,” Jesus Christ. Carmelites endeavor to serve God faithfully with “a pure heart and a steadfast conscience” (Rule of St. Albert). They understand their vocation to be a call to rooting and strengthening Christ’s Kingdom of self-sacrificing love and goodness in the world. In their service to this King they take their inspiration from the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose patronage they enjoy, and Saints Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, the great reformers of Carmel.

The Sword of The Spirit

Over the crown is an arm and hand brandishing a flaming sword, signifying the fiery spirit of Elijah. Burning with zeal for the Lord “burned like a torch” (Eccl. 48:1).

For Carmelites, Elijah is the solitary prophet who nurtured his thirst for the one and only God and lived forever in His presence. Elijah is the biblical inspiration of the Carmelite life and, like him, Carmelites seek both to continually carry in their minds and hearts “the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God” (Rule of St. Albert) and to live constantly with a loving, contemplative awareness of His presence.
– Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

coat of arms detail window
Another rendition of the Discalced Carmelite Order (OCD) Coat of Arms at Philadelphia Carmel, in the stained glass window of the Prophet Elijah.

Halo of Stars

In this stained glass window, the halo of twelve stars above the crown represents the prerogative of every Carmelite’s acclaim – the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom St. John saw in an apocalyptic vision as: “a woman clothed with the sun… on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1).

In the coat of arms of the Discalced Carmelites these stars also signify the twelve points of the rule, which are: Obedience, Chastity, Poverty, Recollection, Mental Prayer, The Divine Office, Chapter, Abstinence from meat, Manual Labor, Silence, Humility and Supererogation. (defined as those works or good deeds performed by saints over and above what is required for their own salvation, the merit of which is held to be transferable to others in need of indulgence). – Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Also shown on this particular Philadelphia Carmel shield or seal, is the Latin legend  referring to the Prophet Elijah’s phrase: “Zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercitum,” which translated means: “With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts.”

This is not present on the Coat of Arms plaque but present in this stained glass window and at the portico entrance to the Holy Spirit Chapel.

Coat of Arms Sources: Philadelphia Carmel Monastery
Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region
Croatian Carmel Province
Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

VI. St. Albert and the Carmelite Rule

st. albert half
St. Albert of Trapani (1250-1307), from Sicily, at Philadelphia Carmel.

St. Albert wrote the Rule for hermits living in the spirit of Elijah near the prophet’s spring on Mount Carmel near present-day Israel.

Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross would have both prayed to St. Albert for intersessions. He was one of the first saints of the order to be venerated. He is represented here with a lily, a symbol of purity and an urn for water he had blessed. Water is still blessed with his relics and the Carmel and is used for healing the sick.
– The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel, Philadelphia

VII. Hearing God in Silence

silence please
The Great Spiritual Silence. Listening, loving, believing, preserving.

And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” Mark 6:31

The Apostle would have us keep silence, for in silence he tells us to work. As the Prophet also makes known to us: Silence is the way to foster holiness. Elsewhere he says: Your strength will lie in silence and hope … be careful not to indulge in a great deal of talk, for as Scripture has it – and experience teaches us – Sin will not be wanting where there is much talk, and He who is careless in speech will come to harm; and elsewhere: The use of many words brings harm to the speaker’s soul. – Carmelite Rule of St. Albert, [21a]

angel architecuturally perfectAngel on guard in praying stance. Inside the Holy Spirit Chapel, Philadelphia Carmel.

And our Lord says in the Gospel: Every rash word uttered will have to be accounted for on judgment day. Make a balance then, each of you, to weigh his words in; keep a tight rein on your mouths, lest you should stumble and fall in speech, and your fall be irreparable and prove mortal. Like the Prophet, watch your step lest your tongue give offense, and employ every care in keeping silent, which is the way to foster holiness. – Carmelite Rule of St. Albert, [21b]

Life on Mount Carmel: Contemplation and Prayer

Carmelite spirituality proposes silence and solitude as necessary prerequisites for prayer and contemplation. Silence refers not only to external noise but also to the stilling of one’s internal noises. Silence is the condition for listening attentively to the still small voice of God. Solitude provides the ambiance where one may be alone so as to focus more attentively on the Beloved. Solitude then is not primarily separation or isolation from others, but a place of privileged encounter with the Beloved. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, speak of prayer and contemplation as ‘friendship with God’ and ‘union with God’ respectively.
Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

breviaire-de-therese-de-jesus-d_avila-monastere-st-joseph-medinaBreviary of St. Therese of Jesus on display at the Museo Ferias, Spain in 2014.

The soul does not use words. Is surrounds words with space, and that is what I mean by silence” – Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion

In order to foster and facilitate relationship with God, through prayer and contemplation, Carmelite spirituality proposes certain means, both personal and communal, namely meditation on the word of God, liturgy, silence and solitude, and asceticism (avoidance of indulgence). The Rule of St. Albert urges an unceasing pondering of the Law of the Lord in Scripture and the strengthening of one’s heart with holy thoughts, so that the word of God may abound in one’s heart and lips, and guide all one’s actions.  Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region


Asceticism is the means of freeing self from the tyranny of self-will, simplifying one’s life, and preserving all of one’s energy for journeying to God. For St. John of the Cross, the main expression of asceticism involves a radical detachment from inordinate or disordered desires and appetites. Detachment is a way of prioritizing God above all creatures. As such, it witnesses to the primacy and all sufficiency of God. Asceticism is not only at the service of a deeper life with God, but it is also geared to the demands of the apostolic ministry. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

chapel side aisleHoly Spirit Chapel, side aisle, Philadelphia Carmel. Holy Spirit is principle guide in spiritual life. Photo courtesy of Friends of Carmel Pinterest.

Although Carmelite spirituality highly esteems prayer and contemplation these are always in service of the apostolate. For St. Teresa, while prayer and contemplation are paramount, they are not ends in themselves but are orientated to the support, welfare, and apostolic fruitfulness of all those engaged in the work of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Carmelite spirituality, then, is not simply about self salvation, but a way of co-operating with God in bringing about God’s reign on earth. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

Finally Carmelite spirituality teaches that authentic prayer and contemplation is accompanied by and promotes growth in the human and theological virtues. This leads to a flowering in the Carmelite of the two-fold gospel commandment of love of God and love of neighbor. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

From credence niche side wall of Holy Spirit Sanctuary. Pattern from church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy (6th century). At the center of the radiating disc contains the first letter of the Greek alphabet, Alpha, the symbol of creation, “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1)

Both Saints Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross teach us that God, the Blessed Trinity, dwells within the human person. Hence, one need not go out of self in search for God but enter progressively ever deeper within oneself to be with God who dwells at the very center of our being.

St. Teresa speaks of this journey within as an itinerary through a castle with seven mansions. St. John of the Cross hymns this reality:

“What more do you want, O soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfactions, fullness and kingdom – your Beloved whom you desire and seek? Be joyful and gladdened in your interior recollection with Him, for you have Him so close to you. Desire Him there, adore Him there. Do not go in pursuit of Him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and wearied thereby, and you shall not find Him, or enjoy Him more securely, or sooner, or more intimately than by seeking Him within you.” (S.C. 1:8)

VIII. The Path of John of the Cross

john of the cross window
St. John of the Cross, Poet and Doctor of the Church (1542-1591)

The model of this portrait of St. John of the Cross was the brother of one of the foundresses of the Carmel of Philadelphia. Contrary to what is seen here, St. John was actually of very slight stature, had a oval lean face with a beard, a broad receding forehead, and was also quite bald. St. John of the Cross was associated with St. Teresa of Jesus in the reform of Carmel. The writings of both these Saints speak about the deepest communion with God and the way that leads to it. – The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel Philadelphia.

The “discalced” in the name “Discalced Carmelites”, references the practice of wearing sandals or going barefoot instead of shoes. In the stained glass window, John is shown wearing sandals. In Teresa’ s reformed convent of St. Joseph’ s, which she founded in 1562, the nuns wore strap sandals as well.

St John of the Cross’s drawing of the crucifixion.
Drawing of the Crucifixion From Above, by John of the Cross 1641
It influenced Salvador Dali’s Christ of St. John of the Cross 1951.

John of the Cross said that “all prayer is reducible to the pater noster” (Our Father).

John and Teresa Team Up

St. John of the Cross, co-reformer of the Carmelite Order, was born in Spain in 1542 to a loving but struggling family.  At the age of fourteen, John took a job at the hospital of Median caring for the poor and incurable.  He spent the rest of his time learning at a nearby Jesuit school.

John eventually joined the Carmelites of Medina.  He was ordained a priest in 1567, but John became overwhelmed at the idea of fulfilling the duties of the priesthood, and decided to join the Carthusians instead.

St. Teresa of Avila who had come to Medina to found a convent for her Carmelite nuns convinced John to stay with the Carmelites, and he began to help her in the reform of the order.   But his fellow Carmelites were against his attempts at reform and they went so far as to kidnap and lock him up in a small cell.  During this time, John wrote much of his mystical poetry, from his hours of silent prayer, including:

Beloved, in you I find
The mountains, wooded vales;
Choice islands, distant, strange.
The river’s voice resounds
With ever-changing flow.
As whisper soft of breeze
Now sings our love.

After nine months, John escaped the prison cell. Several of John’s books are available on-line:

Dark Night of the Soul


Ascent of Mount Carmel

Spiritual Canticle (poem)

John spent the rest of his life establishing monasteries, spreading his reform, and writing many spiritual works, which are now treasured by the Church.  He died in 1591 at the age of 49 – his body is still incorrupt to this day.  He was canonized on December 27, 1726, and was also named a Doctor of the Church.  St. John of the Cross is one of the Church’s most beloved mystics, known for his compassion and deep understanding of the inner workings of the soul. – Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus

IX. The Path of Teresa of Jesus (Avila)

teresa avila window full
St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila, Spain 1515-1582) Doctor of the Church.

In the stained glass window above, St. Teresa of Jesus is writing at a desk. The scroll hanging from the desk reads:

“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God wants for nothing. God alone suffices.”

Saint Teresa of Jesus is the foundress of the Discalced Carmelite life and is one of the thirty three Doctors of the Church, who are considered guides due to their great significance in our understanding of Church theology. St. Teresa believed in the presence of God in every person.

tersa with Jesus and nails
Jesus gives St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) a nail. Mt. Carmel Philadelphia.

St. Teresa of Jesus received a profound mystical grace during Holy Communion on November 18, 1572. Our Lord appeared to her and gave her a nail as He declared that she was His bride. At this time she entered the highest degree of the spiritual life, that of Spiritual Marriage. – St. Teresa of Jesus, Spiritual Testimonies #31 – from The Chapel of the Holy Spirit booklet, Mount Carmel Philadelphia.

teresa with child Jesus
The Child Jesus Appears to St. Teresa. Mt. Carmel Philadelphia.

This episode is recounted in the life of St. Teresa. One day the saint was passing a flight of stairs and saw a Child.

He asked her, “Who are you?”
“I am Teresa of Jesus” she replied,
“Who are you?”
I am Jesus of Teresa,” the Child said.

St. John became the spiritual director (confessor) of St. Teresa who was 27 years his junior.

It is right that you pray for all those, living and dead, who have helped us. – St. Teresa of Jesus (Foundations 25:9)

Teresa of Jesus in 1828 by François Gérard (1770-1837) – Original

Teresa was born in Avila, Spain, on 28th March 1515 and entered the Carmel of the Incarnation there in 1536. She lived there for about 20 years until she felt that God was asking something more of her. After many tribulations and heart-searching Teresa, left the Incarnation on 24th August 1562 to found St. Joseph’s, a new monastery in which she planned and hoped that the original Rule of Carmel would be kept faithfully. There was a great deal of opposition to the new Carmel and it was sometime before she was able to live there in peace. Many condemned her as a woman deceived by her experiences in prayer.

teresa of avila beauty
Teresa of Ávila by François Gérard (1770−1837) detail

Eventually the hostility died down and Teresa was asked to found more of these houses of prayer in other cities of Spain. Over a period of twenty years she founded 15 more houses for the nuns and, in association with St John of the Cross, at least two for the friars. Teresa introduced a fresh orientation into Carmelite life combining silence and solitude with community living and giving the life of prayer a specific apostolic role in the Church and the world.

Prayer was to be the great outreach to others, the one and only work of her nuns. Her energy, resolution and sense of humor were unfailing, animated as they were by her immense desire to serve the Lord as lovingly as she could. She died at Alba de Tormes on 4th October 1582. She was sixty seven years old. When the bells of Avila tolled for her the local citizens said: “The Saint has gone to heaven.” Her feast day is kept on 15th October. – Carmelite Spirituality, Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region

st. teresa of jesus from Mother Pia
St. Teresa of Jesus sculpture. Shared by Philadelphia Carmel.

St. Teresa’s writings on the four states of mental prayer. In the first stage, believers learn to pray. In the second, they experience the supernatural aspect of prayer. In the third, the soul is bathed in the pleasure of God’s presence, and in the fourth, senses are abandoned in a sort of out-of-body experience where the soul feels only divine union. – from The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus of the Order of Our Lady of Carmel (Autobiography)

incorrupt right foot of Teresa of AvilaIncorrupt right foot of St. Teresa of Jesus.

Teresa entered a Carmelite convent when she was eighteen, and later earned a reputation as a mystic, reformer, and writer who experienced divine visions. She wrote the book The Way of Perfection for her nuns. Other important books by her include her Autobiography and The Interior Castle.

st teresa by bernini
The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini, Basilica of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome. 1652. St. Teresa’s life has inspired great works of art. This marble sculpture was finished 30 years after her canonization.

As St. Teresa of Avila’s friend and confidant, St John of the Cross remarked, ‘At the end of the day, it is by the quality of our loving that we shall be judged.’

In 1571 Teresa wrote to her sister about John, “The people take him for a saint; in my opinion he is one, and has been all his life.”

X. In Closing

Christ Has No Body
by Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

mount carmel signA change in seasons at Mt. Carmel.

Inserted into the cornerstone of the Holy Spirit Chapel dated April 15, 1915:

Praise and thanksgiving forever to the Triune God!

Philadelphia Carmelite Monastery
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Philadelphia – Facebook
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Philadelphia – website
The Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Mount Carmel, Philadelphia (Booklet)
Discalced Carmelite of the Australia-Oceania Region website
Croatian Carmel Province
Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Friends of Carmel Pinterest
Opening poem – I followed John of the Cross… – ShrineTower 2014
Opening prayer – Love and honor to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel . . . – From the cornerstone of the Holy Spirit Chapel dated April 15, 1915.

The New Evangelization Enabler: Social Media – Sharing the Joy and Beauty of God


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“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” – Matthew 10:16
Journey of the Magi by James Tissot.

The revolution taking place in communications media and in information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge; may we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination as we seek to share with others the beauty of God. – Pope Francis

I. The New Evangelization Movement: Get the Message Out

Keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter, and so that the Gospel can go out to reach everyone. – Pope Francis

Pope with Dove
Pope Francis with dove in Assisi, Italy

May the light we bring to others not be the result of cosmetics or special effects, but rather of our being loving and merciful “neighbors” to those wounded and left on the side of the road.  Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world. – Pope Francis

send the message out
Christ sending out the Seventy Disciples by James Tissot.

Social media is like sending out seventy disciples multiplied by seventy thousand. With technology enabled tools that create and integrate multiple platforms, a sincere unified message can be sent out.

The Internet in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God. – Pope Francis

POPE FRANCIS MEETS PIACENZA PILGRIMSPope Francis with youth posing for a selfie in St. Peter’s Square.

The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people.  . . . Christian witness, thanks to the internet, can thereby reach the peripheries of human existence. – Pope Francis

The New Evangelization is the most important movement in the Church today. First, because it concerns evangelization, the Church’s most basic task. – Brandon Vogt

… the Church has barely tapped its potential. Imagine telling St. Paul, St. Augustine or St. Thomas that in less than a second you could beam a message to millions of people around the world — and do it for free. Those guys would have given their right arms for such a tool. – Brandon Vogt

II. Social Media: Where People Congregate, Connect and are Active

ARCHBISHOP EAMON MARTINArchbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Ireland. An unlikely technology leader.

“Our challenge as evangelisers has always been to reach out and encounter people where they are at, and nowadays, more and more that means online!” If only to be able to reach our young people and an increasing percentage of people of all ages, we need to be present in this new age.  – Archbishop Eamon Martin

instagram example all saints day martin
Fr. James Martin SJ, connecting Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to get the message out.

The Internet has become like the nervous system of our culture, in which more and more people are expressing and exploring their identity, picking up and discarding their values and attitudes, expressing their feelings and prejudices, befriending and unfriending each other, measuring each other’s status and importance, relevance and appearance. If our young people are living in this gigantic network, then we, as people of faith need to be in there, dialogging with the inhabitants of this world, with the men and women who dwell in the web! – Archbishop Eamon Martin

pope francis twitter acct pageThe official Twitter page of Pope Francis. Over 4.5 million followers.

I quote from the Pope’s Message: ‘The digital highway is … a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope. By means of the Internet, the Christian message can reach “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)’.

III. Social Media Services – The Gift Giveaway

Everything we have received is a gift from God. We respond to his love by giving it away, by showing it in a way of serving. – David Fleming S.J.

Social Media services provided upon request.
@shrinetower (Twitter)

Credits – Message of Pope Francis for the 48th World Communications Day [(6/1/14)
Credits – Brandon Vogt interview.
Credits – Archbishop Eamon Martin (Ireland) ‘The New media and the work of Evangelisation

Basil’s Family at the Basilian Spirituality Center


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outside view of chapel
Basilian Spirituality Center.

Located in Fox Chase Manor, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, the Basilian Spirituality Center is part of the Eastern Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church, under the umbrella of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

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The Basilian Family at the Basilian Spirituality Center.

Icons play a significant role in the Eastern Byzantine rite.

The “Basilian Family” icon, located on a wall within the retreat center is especially core to the Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great. Central in the Basilian Family is Mary, her arms outstretched and the name of her Son, “IXC”, radiating from her body. In Eastern Byzantine rite this is called The Theotokos, Mary Mother of God. Macrina The Elder is to the right of Mary, to whom St. Basil attributed much of his spiritual formation. She is dressed in green, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, a woman of spiritual gifts and the wisdom of God. To the right of Macrina the Elder is St. Gregory of Nyssa, brother of St. Basil, holding the gospels as a symbol of his preaching abilities and is dressed in the ecclesiastical garb of a Bishop. To the left of The Theotokos is Macrina the Younger, Basil’s sister, in monastic garb as a foundress of the community of Neocaesarea and next to her is St. Basil also dressed as a Bishop carrying the gospel.

song of songs
Song of Songs poem.

Inscribed above the wall of the Basilan Family, is the love poem from Song of Songs v8:6-7
“Set me as a seal on your heart, for love is as strong as death, its flames are flames of fire, many waters cannot quench love.”

overall holy trinity chapel
Holy Trinity Chapel. The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity was celebrated here on June 15th.

The Byzantine rite is one of several Eastern rites recognized in full communion with the Bishop of Rome; Pope Francis. Its origin can be traced to the ancient city of Byzantium (modern-day Istanbul), renamed Constantinople when the emperor Constantine relocated his capital city there from Rome in A.D. 330.

mother and childe 2
The Theotokos.

On the rear wall of the Holy Trinity Chapel, the Chapel of the Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil the Great, is the “Theotokos” icon, meaning “God Bearer” or ‘Mother of God’. Mary is the Theotokos, the one who gave birth to God. This was the Council of Ephesus (in 431) and the Council of Nicea’s definition of Mary since Jesus was true God and true Man, so Mary could be called “Mother of God”. It appeared in the Archbasilicas of Rome, built by Constantine in one of the first churches ever built.

jesus icon
Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane

The Eastern Ukrainian Byzantine Church has 5.5 million followers. Typically the sanctuary is separated from the congregation by an iconostasis, a screen covered with icons. Leavened bread is used for the consecration of the body of Christ in the liturgy (not called the “Mass” in Eastern rites), which is either the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or that of St. Basil the Great. Communion is received under both kinds and administered by the priest using a spoon to the faithful.

icon looking up in HTC
The Pantocrator.

Located on the ceiling in the nave of the Chapel is the Pantocrator Icon, “Ruler of All”, Christ blessing his people. The Pantocrator is present in most Eastern Byzantine churches along with the Theotokos described earlier.

holy trinity chapel

Byzantine Catholics operate under a different code of canon law. They also celebrate a somewhat different liturgical year with some unique feasts and saints. Latin-rite Catholics can attend a Byzantine liturgy to fulfill their obligation to attend Mass.

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Two at the Tomb icon.

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Pysanky eggs photo on display at the Basilian Spirituality Center.

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Entrance to the Basilian Spirituality Center complex.

Creating an icon.

Each year an icon presentation and icon writing workshops are held at the Basilian Spirituality Center in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. This year (2014), famed iconographer Rev. Damian Higgins conducted the icon workshop. Rev Damien is from the Holy Transfiguration Monastery also known as Mt. Tabor Monastery in Redwood Valley, California.

Andrej Rublev
One of the all time famous icons every created, “The Holy Trinity” by Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev (1360-1370).

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Symbolism in the three spires on Holy Trinity Sunday.

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”
St. Basil the Great

Saint John Paul II Embraces The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa


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Saint John paul II Saint John Paul II, The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Philadelphia Pennsylvania.

On April 27, 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis canonized Blessed Pope John Paul II. He attended the Second Vatican Council initiated by Pope John XXIII, who is also being canonized on this day. Born Karl Wojtyla, Pope John Paul was an actor, poet, athlete, playwrite, priest and philosopher. As Charles Chaput, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia stated: He proved by his life the words of St. Irenaeus that “the glory of God is man fully alive.”

outside with JP2

St. John Paul II visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa on two occasions while a cardinal. Karol Cardinal Wojtyla first visit was in 1969 and again in 1976 while attending the Eucharistic Congress held in Philadelphia. He became the 264th Pope of the Catholic Church two years later in 1978. John Paul II was the first non Italian pope since Pope Adrian VI who died in 1523.

Coat of Arms of Pope John Paul II with the Marian Cross. The Letter M is for Mary, the mother of Jesus, to whom he held strong devotion.

john paul at the door full view

John Paul II created Divine Mercy Sunday which is celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. It is originally based on the devotion to the Divine Mercy that Saint Faustina Kowalska reported as part of her encounter with Jesus. St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun reported visions and visitations from Jesus and conversations with Him. John Paul II beatified Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska on April 18, 1993 and canonized her on April 30, 2000.

St. Paul the Hermit, a strong influence at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

The Order of St. Paul the Hermit was founded during the first half of the 13th century in Hungary. The members of the Order were actual hermits who lived in the caves in Hungary. For their patron they chose St. Paul the Hermit, thereby acquiring the name “Pauline Fathers”. John Paul II had an affection for the Pauline Fathers religious order, and helped persevere the order in Poland. The Pauline Fathers, like John Paul II, have a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Their main monastery is in Czestochowa, Poland, where they continue to reside. The Pauline Order received permission from the Holy See to establish a monastery in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and subsequently built Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine.

upper church 2

In the main church is the Miraculous Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, which was blessed by Pope John XXIII on February 10, 1962, who also became a saint. The Icon of Our Lady hangs behind the altar in the main nave and depicts the Holy Trinity. God the Father, with His arms stretched out like the wings of a large bird, enfolds Jesus Christ and all God’s people. Above them is shown a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Below them, a choir of angels, with their golden horns, extol the glory of God.

our lady of czs lower church adoration day

The Chapel of Our Lady of Czestochowa, located at The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa on Adoration Day.

This chapel is a replica of the chapel found at the Jasna Góra Shrine in Poland. At the heart of the chapel is a copy of the Miraculous Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, blessed by Pope John Paul II, now a Saint.


chapel of divine mercy
The Chapel of Divine Mercy, within The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Philadelphia Pennsylvania. John Paul II died on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, April 2, 2005.

Entrance to the shrine complex.

john paul at the door
Saint John Paul II
Feast day is October 22nd, the anniversary of his inauguration to Pope in 1978.

John the Cross – Man on Poetic Fire


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John of the Cross (1542-1591) was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered, along with Saint Teresa of Ávila, as a founder of the Discalced Carmelites. Saint John the Cross was also a Spanish mystic and a Doctor of the Church. Scholars agree that John the Cross is probably the greatest poet in the Spanish language, not for the volumes produced but for the content “polished and re-polished ceaselessly” to perfection.

Carmelite Monastery of St. Joseph and St. Anne. Inside is the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. These are true gems of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

inside carmalite monestary
Inside the medieval looking Chapel of the Holy Spirit. The Carmelite nuns celebrate Mass on the other side of the reredos immediately behind the altar.

john the cross closeup
Closeup of St. Elisha the prophet on right and St. Teresa of Jesus on the left at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Mount Carmel, Philadelphia PA. The prophet Elijah is in the chariot of fire at top, being carried into heaven.

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Face of St. Elisha.

Up to John the Cross’s time, there had been very little mystical prose at all, except for poetry of the mystical experience, called the Prayer of Quiet (similar to contemplative prayer). St. John of the Cross had to invent phrases in order to express ideas which previously had no outlet in Spanish.(1) His greatest poetic work, the Spiritual Canticles was composed for the most part while imprisoned by his own religious order, the Carmelites, who resisted the change he was promoting.

A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul

(1) Reference: St. John of the Cross | Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. | From Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel–On Prayer

nuns wall


My Beloved is the mountains,
The solitary wooded valleys,
The strange islands,
The roaring torrents,
The whisper of the amorous gales;
The tranquil night
At the approaches of the dawn,
The silent music,
The murmuring solitude,
The supper which revives, and enkindles love.

– STANZAS XIV, XV, from The Spiritual Canticle of the Soul

Waterfall Lenten Meditation


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The Waterfalls:
Takkakaw Falls, Yoho National Park, B.C.
Tower Falls, Yellowstone National Park, MT
Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, CA
Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite National Park, CA
Mistaya Canyon Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta
Johnston Canyon Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta
Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta
McWay Falls, Big Sur, California
Lake Agnes Falls, Lake Louise, Banff National Park
Virgina Falls, Glacier National Park, Montana
Athabasca Falls, Jasper, National Park Alberta
Sunwapta Falls, Jasper, National Park Alberta
Panther Falls, Jasper National Park Alberta

In High Definition (1080p)

Opening the Doors to St. Patrick


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patrick window

St. Patrick was the founding bishop of the Irish church. According to legend the three leaf clover or Shamrock was coined by Saint Patrick for the Holy Trinity. Saint Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17, the date of his death.

In the background of this turn of the century bavarian stained glass window is St. Kevin’s tower (a 5th century monastery) in Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland. It is near the village of Laraugh, home of Thomas Kinsella, the poet laureate of Ireleand. From stained glass window at St. Basil the Great Church, Chester County, PA.


Shown above is St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Photo taken from the Rockefeller Center.

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The bronze doors of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In the main door are six figures, (including St. Patrick) each playing a significant role in local church history in the State of New York and surrounding area. Just above them is the Figure of Christ the Redeemer surrounded by the twelve apostles, the Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist and two angels with scrolls.

Saint_Patrick on the door

St. Patrick, the patron of the Archdiocese of New York and apostle of Ireland stands in the upper right section. On his left is the mystical phoenix rising to renewed life and the word “gratis” or gratitude. On his right is the Celtic harp and the word “laus” or praise.

St. Joseph, the upper left statue holds a budding staff, token of his espousal to the Virgin Mary and a carpenter’s square, symbolic of the saint as patron of workingmen. The design to his left refers to his position as earthly father of Christ, to his right the design is symbolic of his purity of life and intention.


The middle left figure is Issac Jogues, the French Jesuit priest, who was the first Catholic missionary to enter New York state. He holds a crucifix representative of his mission to the Iroquois. The palm branch to his left is a martyrs symbol. The Greek letters ICXC and the word nika mean “Jesus Christ conquers”; the word passio means passion. The other panel has a chalice and the letters AMDG, which is the Latin motto for the Society of Jesus.

The middle right figure is that of Mother Cabrini, wearing the habit of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, which she founded. To her left the dolphin and star symbolizes Pope Leo XIII’s direction to extend her apostolic work to the West; the word “spes” means hope. Two hands and a rose represent her heart going out to the immigrant; cor and Jesu means “heart of Jesus.”

In the lower left of the door stands St. Kateri Tekakwitha, an Indian maiden known as the Lily of the Mohawks and the Pocahontas of the Catholic Church. The design to her left shows an American eagle with the word fides meaning faith. To her right is the coat of arms of pope Pius XII, who declared her venerable in 1943. (She was canonized on October 21, 2012, Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI)


The statue at the lower right is of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, canonized the first American-born saint in 1975. The panel to her right shows a rose bush, for the official NY state flower and the word caritas meaning charity. On her left is the motto from Cardinal Spellman, Sequere Deum meaning Follow God. (St. Patricks Cathedral by Leland A. Cook)


View of the Cathedral from across 5th Avenue with bronze statue of Atlas in foreground at right.

St. Patrick at Charles Borremeo Seminary

Tucked away in the library at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia can be found St. Patrick.

happy st. patricks day

John Neumann’s World


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outside of church peter and paulSt. Peter the Apostle church, Upper Church of St. John Neumann Shrine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, built in 1843.

John Neumann (1811-1860) celebrated Midnight Mass (Christmas) in 1859, a few days before his death. After his funeral services he was laid to rest in a grave in the basement of St. Peter the Apostle church. The body now lies in state, enclosed in glass under the altar at what has become the world renowned National Shrine of St. John Neumann. Feast day is January 5.

Lower Church Neumann shrine National Shrine of St. John Neumann, in Lower Church.

Prayer requests can be made to John Neumann for intersession by God to make the request realized. Saints themselves do not perform miracles, but recognized in Heaven as Saints, they can request from God to intercede on their behalf. The National Shrine of John Neumann has on record many of these realized prayer requests.

alphonsus liguori founder redemptorists Alphonsus Liguori is the founder of the Redemptorist religious order. (1732)

Saint Alphonsus Liguori is also a Doctor of the Church. Liguori was influenced by St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) and St. Vincent de Paul. (1581-1660). As Neumann became a Redemptorist and eventually its leader, he spread knowledge about these great saints.

liguori at rest Saint Alphonsus Liguori, in state in Italy.

Pope Pius IX proclaimed Liguori a Doctor of the Church in 1871. In his book Preparation for DeathLiguori says, “While we are in the body, we are absent from the Lord.” (2 Cor. v. 6). While the soul is united to the body, it is at a distance from the vision of God, as if in a strange land, and excluded from its true country. Hence, according to St. Bruno, the departure of the soul from the body should not be called death, but the beginning of life.”

neumann icon in Upper Church Neumann in St. Peter the Apostle church, Upper Church of the Neumann Shrine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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A large diocese to manage.

First appointed Superior of the Redemptorist American Mission in 1850, then on March 19, 1852 Nuemann was consecrated bishop of Philadelphia, a role he really didn’t want.

Nuemann at st. peter and paul At Cathedral Basilica of Saint Peter and Paul, St. John Neumann Chapel.

Opened in 1864, the Cathedral is the motherchurch of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. One of the first tasks when Neumann became Bishop was to complete the Cathedral. Unfortunately due to money constraints, the Cathedral completion was delayed. The cathedral was finally dedicated on November 20, 1864, where it stands today.

Neumann shrine  p and p More of Neumann in the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul.

The interior of the Basilica is in Roman-Corinthian style with a dome at 156 feet high. St. Katherine Drexel, a contemporary of John Nuemann, also has a side chapel, one in which she donated while she was alive! The Basilica is one of the finest east coast examples of architecture expressing our Catholic faith.

neumann shrine entranceThe future planned entrance of the St. John Neumann Shrine.
The Shrine continues to thrive and remains active in the local community, much as Nuemann did while alive.

Jesus rises 2 In St. John Nuemann Shrine, looking up, in all its glory.

Thomas Aquinas – The Angelic Doctor


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St. Thomas Aquinas got his name from the town he was born 8 km north of Aquino, Italy in 1225. He was also called the “Dumb Ox” for his quiet demeanor and being a large framed man. He knew and was inspired by John of St. Julian, a member of the Dominicans, started by St. Dominic around 1216. Thomas would eventually become a Dominican at age 19. The other influential person was Peter of Ireland, an academic who taught Thomas. One other Saint of this time was Albert the Great whom Thomas met in Paris. Albert was the leading academic and expert in science, history, astronomy, music and scripture.

St. Thomas Aquinas Icon

Thomas was a theologian and philosopher and wrote a seminal document called the Summa Theologica which is widely available as an ebook and book today. Thomas is a Doctor of the Catholic Church. Those that study Thomas’s teachings are know as Thomists. Two modern day Thomists are; Ralph McInerny (d2000) who taught philosophy and medieval studies at Notre Dame, and Dr. Taylor Marshall, a theology professor and avid blogger, who created the New Thomas Institute, an on-line series of courses on Thomas in 2013.


Also known as the Angelic Doctor, Thomas Aquinas felt each angel in heaven was a separate species, not just an angel species. On earth every Human belongs to the human species, in heaven there are numerous different species or forms of angels according to Thomas. Humans rationalize and ponder, angels never think through their forms, they have pure formal knowledge. Thomas takes the angels debate further than the ancient Greeks. He philosophically describes the fallen angels and their wickedness. Thomas expands St. Augustine’s thought on Satan and evil angels. The fallen angels wanted to be called God, to be be worshiped like God. Although originally created as good angels, they inherently choose to become evil.


Thomas stopped writing his Summa Theologica in 1273 after a mystic appearance by Jesus Christ at Mass and kept the vision to himself till death, four months later on March 7, 2074.

Today, Thomas Aquinas teachings continue to flourish in the Catholic Church. And probably will for another 800 years.

Additional insight:
Dr. Taylor Marshall, an avid blogger, wrote Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages (, whith topics like “How to think like Thomas Aquinas” and “the difference between philosophy and theology”. On the later topic, per Dr. Marshall; philosophy pertains to reason alone and the love of wisdom, while theology pertains to divine revelation and the study of God. With email sign up, the ebook is free.

A First Glance at St. Thomas Aquinas, A Handbook for Thomists, by Ralph McInerny has topics like “Aristotle and the Beatific Vision” and “The Meaning of life” and “Does God Exist” according to Thomas.

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”
— Thomas Aquinas
(Patron saint of universities and students; Feast Day is January 28th)