Catholic Fine Art
Maria Theresa Quevedo +
Born on Holy Saturday, April 14th, 1930 in Madrid, Spain and baptized Teresita Josephina Justina Gonzalez Quevedo y Cadarso after Ss. Teresa, Joseph, Justina, and Our Lady. Her father, Dr. Callisto (Calixto) Gonzalez was a well-respected doctor in Madrid. Her mother was Maria del Carmen Cadarso.
Teresita was a handful for her parents. Full of life, she excelled in sports, but hated books and would convince classmates to do her schoolwork and in turn, would help them with their art. As a teenager, she spoke often in her many letters about hair styles, new clothes and current fashions.
The family’s large home was in the fashionable heart of Plaza d’Oriente in front of where the royal palace was situated. Two of Teresita’s uncles, brothers of Dr. Gonzalez, were Jesuit priests. She received her First Communion at the age of 7 from one of them, Fr. Antonio Gonzalez Quevedo. Four of her aunts were Carmelite Sisters of Charity.
Teresita developed a love of Mary from her devout father, and she would not go to sleep without first praying the rosary. At age thirteen, she consecrated herself to Our Lady using the method of St. Louis De Montfort. Her favorite prayer which she repeated until her death was “My Lady and my Mother, I give myself completely over to you. Rooted in this devotion, I offer to you today my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart and all of myself. And since I belong to you, good Mother, take care of me; defend me as your possession. Amen.” Her beautiful motto was, “Mother, may all who look at me see you.” Explaining her Marian devotion to her cousin, Teresita said, “I love Our Lord with all my heart. But He wants me to love Our Lady in a special way and to go to Him with my hand in Mary’s.”
At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936, during which a religious persecution broke out, seven thousand priests and thirteen bishops died. Three brothers of Teresita’s father were among those martyred. Teresita’s father was known as a deeply religious man and for their safety, the family fled to their home village far from Madrid. Dr. Gonzalez hid elsewhere with the help of friends and the French embassy. Three of Teresita’s uncles were killed, one of them the father of eight children. Teresita’s father rejoined the family and became foster father to his brother’s children. After the war ended in 1939, the family returned to Madrid and Teresita enrolled at the school run by the Carmelite Sisters of Charity where her aunt, Sister Carmen was teaching. It would be the same aunt that would later welcome her as novice mistress.
By the age of thirteen, she began showing signs of the woman she would become. She still loved the fashions and jewelry, and was even elected ‘best dressed’ of her class, but she also began emerging as a leader. She became the captain of the basketball team and when a new Marian Congregation was introduced at the Carmelite Sister’ school, Teresita was one of only eighteen girls selected to be candidates for membership. On the medal she received symbolizing her membership in this sodality, she had engraved “My mother, let everyone who sees me, see you.” When she was fifteen, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, she wrote on a holy card “Most holy Mother, today I have solemnly promised to live holy and chaste forever. My only desire is to give You, Jesus and Mary, pure pleasure.”
In May 1947, at the age of seventeen, Teresita made a retreat where she read a book about religious vocations, and determined this was her call. She spoke afterwards with her spiritual director. There was no question that it should be the Marian Carmelite Order. In 1947, with the consent of her confessor, Teresita petitioned the Mother General to be admitted to the Carmelites of Charity. Not wanting to disturb the family during the Christmas season, she waited to tell her family until January 7th.
The evening before she was to enter the novitiate Teresita asked the Blessed Mother for a last, worldly gift. That of a snow covered Madrid for her departure. The sky was clear when she went to bed, but when she awoke the next morning; Madrid was covered in a blanket of snow. On February 23, 1948 her father and brother drove her to the novitiate.
As an extrovert, at first the silence was difficult for her. Her spiritual life focused on the Blessed Sacrament, Our Lady and doing God’s Will. She was clothed in the Carmelite habit on September 8th 1948, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the name of Sister Maria Teresa of Jesus. The scapular became her reminder of the vigilant and loving protection of the Blessed Mother.
During the novitiate she went completely through “The Story of a Soul”, the Autobiography of St.Therese of Lisieux. She wrote in her diary: “I will try to imitate her, so that Jesus may find in me all the consolations this little Saint gave Him. I really like St.Therese’s ‘little way’; only, in my opinion, this little way has to pass through Our Lady.”
In May 1949, Teresita became ill with a bronchial disorder, and her physician father was called to the convent. He wanted to take her home but Teresita prayed that she would improve so that she could stay. Her wish was granted and she recovered enough be permitted to stay. She was confined to rest and was not allowed to participate in community activities.
Her health continued to worsen and in January she suffered from such bad headaches and backaches she felt obliged to tell her aunt, Mother Superior. When ordinary medicine didn’t provide relief, her father was called. He quickly diagnosed her symptoms as tubercular meningitis,and called in Dr Lozano, the sister’s regular doctor, who confirmed the diagnosis.
Dr. Gonzalo told his daughter of the distinct possibility of death, and advised her to receive Viaticum. For Teresita the Lord’s Will was clear: he was calling her home to take her place at the side of the Blessed Mother.
Although she had not completed her novitiate, Teresita was allowed to take her vows to become a fully professed sister. During the Profession Ceremony her voice rang out confidently and joyfully when she pronounced her vows. At the suggestion of her spiritual father, she offered her sufferings (which would become unbearably acute), for the intentions of the Holy Father and for the Holy Year 1950 which he had indicated was to include the proclamation of the Assumption of Our Lady as a dogma of the faith.
From her sick bed, she joined the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel that concluded the Profession ceremony. Reverend Mother sat close by her bed and observed her closely for quite some time. “She remained for a long time with her eyes closed with an unforgettable expression of rapture on her face… It was something holy and indefinable that reminded me of the virgins, Agnes, Cecilia and Therese of Lisieux.”
The only way to relieve the intense agony of the headaches was to draw off some of the spinal fluid by a spinal tap. In all, the doctors punctured her spine a total of sixty-four times. At all times, Teresita accepted the pain without complaint and only occasionally a silent tear would manifest itself. She did her best to smile and suffer patiently and quietly, offering all to and through Mary. When others would sympathize for her sufferings, she replied that she was highly favored by Jesus and Mary to be able to tread the same path that they did.
Her sufferings increased as Lent began and at times she was unable to contain her cries of pain. She asked her sisters to pray that she be given the strength to endure the pain, but not that it be taken away. By the beginning of Holy Week, Teresita was in such agony that at times she fell unconscious. She received the Anointing of the Sick on Good Friday and on Holy Saturday the sisters began the prayers for the dying. Teresita joined them best as she could. “Pray for her,” the community intoned. “Pray for me,” was her weak response.
When they thought they would not be able to hear her any more, she cried out in a loud voice – so loud that she could be heard in the next room – with her arms raised up: “Come, my Mother, receive me.” and was born to eternal life on April 8th, Holy Saturday, 1950 just four days before her birthday. She had been born on Holy Saturday just twenty years before.
The preliminary investigations into Teresita’s life and virtue were opened in the Marian Year 1954. In 1959, her cause for beatification was presented to the Sacred Congregation in Rome, and a decree confirming the validity of the cause was issued in 1971. She was declared Venerable on June 9th 1983 by Pope John Paul II.
For more information about Ven. Maria Teresa Gonzalez Quevedo and other notable Carmelites: “Profiles in Holiness” – 3 volumes by Redemptus M. Valabek, O.Carm – Edizoni Carmelitane, Rome.