Award Winning Documentary on Visitation Monastery, Mobile Alabama

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American Servant of God was a Visitandine in Georgetown & Carmelite in Spain

Juana Adelaida O’Sullivan and Rouley was born in New York, United States, on October 8, 1817 to a Catholic father and Anglican mother, being baptized in the Anglican Church. At a young age  the girl decided to become a Catholic. At the death of her father, both her brother and her mother wanted her to return to the Anglican Church, but Juan Adelaida was already anchored in Catholicism and remained in it. In 1840 she entered the monastery of the Visitation of Georgetown. In her life as a Visitation nun she discovered the writings of St. Teresa of Jesus and in her interior she made the decision to be her daughter. With the help of her confessor she was able to fulfill her desire and after some difficult and unforeseen ways, she arrived in Guatemala City on September 8, 1843, where she entered the monastery of Discalced Carmelites receiving the name of Maria Adelaida de Santa Teresa. In 1868 she was elected Prioress of the Community and as such had to face the expulsion of her community by the  liberal reforms  in 1871. Realizing the impossibility of re-inhabiting her monastery, she undertook, with a group of sisters, an itinerary that took her to Cuba, the United States and finally to Spain, reorganizing the Carmelite-Teresian life in Grajal de Campos (León) in 1882 and passing away there on April 15, 1893.

As Visitandines we are especially interested in this Servant of God’s early years in the Visitation and how she was formed.

At first Adelaide was a student at the Georgetown Visitation high school, wishing  to perfect herself in music.  There she found new and powerful  stimuli for her  fervor in the midst of those Good religious, and the desire grew more and more in her Soul  to give itself to God, to surrender completely to that divine Spouse, who so softly and powerfully drew her heart. It was not much time she spent in school; but the benefit she gained from the lessons and examples that they gave her and a profound memory of distinguished schoolgirls was immeasurable.

She kept friendships with the religious and schoolgirls, and visited many times accompanied by her sister Mary, especially visiting Sister Stanislaus,  and the notable Cuban Leocadia Zamora, a student then,a  Carmelite, later. She exhibited to these good friends the sad situation in which she felt  the danger to which she was exposed  and the plan she had to retire to that holy house, although she  found rude opposition in the family. But it was necessary to take the most difficult step, the consent of the family.

Adelaide strove and gave the last farewell to the family and went  alone to the Visitation.She had not yet reached that holy retreat,when she heard a horse gallop behind her. She saw  her brother riding fast to prevent her from entering the convent.  Adelaide needed all her strength and courage not to faint with terror; carrying her hands to her bosom and holding the crucifix against her heart, she exclaimed: “If it is your will that I live withdrawn, do not let my brother reach me”, and continuing in her ordinary step, saw with astonishment that, in spite of the speed that brought her brother,he did not reach her.  He threw her a gold watch that she had given him one day , with these words: “Come on, thankless sister, one day you will regret it. Imagine  what waves of feeling and bitterness touched her tender and generous heart.
She at last regained the serenity of her spirit and tried to take advantage of the grace that God granted to enter that sacred asylum, before whose walls  crashes the raging waves of the world, which wrap in their frothy and roaring folds so many miserable children of the century.

Adelaide was calm, hoping that after the first  impressions, the family would finally agree to
her stay in that Congregation.  It did not happen, unfortunately; the family  insisted on  opposition; Some times the family, mainly Juan, did  visit  Adelaide, always with the purpose to persuade her to abandon her retreat; but they always returned with no hope of her doing so. She had asked several times to be allowed the Holy Habit but the Prelate, most brilliant Bishop of Baltimore, considering the rude opposition of the family and knowing the   threats of Don Juan, did not allow it. It was a long time until  this grace would be granted and when she saw her mother’s spirits and brothers had calmed down, she insisted on her request. They no longer had difficulty in granting it, and she was finally able to see her wishes come true. When Dona Maria and Don Juan saw Adelaide with the humble Habit of religious, they considered it useless to insist anymore .

Great was  the progress she made in virtue under the direction of the zealous P. Várela. She started to run like a doe thirsty to quench herself  in the sources of living water, the thirst for love that devoured her soul. Prayer was her food and her most ordinary occupation: her heart was burning .  The Blessed Sacrament,which she received frequently,  communicated heat and life to her spirit and carried her to the quiet region in which Christ communicates to his chosen ones
ineffable delights. Jesus Crucified was the favorite object of her thoughts and her affection, and his Sacred Heart the place of her shelter and rest; as if she were already aware God had destined her to travel the road to the Bridegroom of blood.

These sublime feelings in her  soul were translated abroad into acts of all the virtues. She was considered the last of all and
she treated all with humility, meekness, and sweetness; she was obedient, obsequious, simple.  The Visitation Sisters admired the rapid progress of Adelaide in perfection, confessing naively that where she began, many conclude.  Wanting to have in her body a visible seal of her consecration to God,she took a hot iron and, with incredible patience and strength, she engraved upon her breast a cross and three Nails,  “Put me as a seal upon your heart,. In her humility she took care of having it always hidden, until some years later, on the occasion of an illness she  suffered, being a religious in Guatemala, the Pious secret was discovered by the Carmelite nuns.

Those precious timbres of her great love was Crucified Jesus. Such fine trials of charity could not remain without great reward from the Lord, whose liberality  is shown with generous souls. Since that memorable day she began to feel in her  soul vivid desires to make an entire sacrifice to God.

Adelaide read  the works of St. Teresa of Jesus, which had been  provided by her confessor, Fr. Várela. She became very fond of St Theresa and tried to copy in her heart the high virtues of which she gave such admirable examples and to constantly follow their tracks. These feelings were fanned day by day in her heart and worried her constantly. God Our Lord  also wanted to manifest  by an extraordinary way the acceptance of her desires. She began to have dreams and visions in which she was presented to St Teresa surrounded by nuns, who called to her. She consulted  with her confessor,who, after mature examination and observation, did not hesitate to assure it that God’s will that this is her vocation.

Adelaide’s ineffable gaiety hearing the decision confirmed by the authorized voice of the Minister of the Lord, helped her prepare to follow this new vocation as Carmelite as soon as possible. There would be  two principal purposes, to consecrate perpetually  to Jesus Christ,  and to offer herself as a victim for her mother and brothers, whom she  loved tenderly, and whom, unfortunately,were not Catholic. God rewarded her sacrifice with the conversion of her brothers  So she entered the Carmelite Order.



Temptation according to St Francis de Sales

The difference between experiencing temptations and consenting to them



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We continue our series with Part IV, Chapter 3 “Of Temptations, and the difference between experiencing them and consenting to them. from An Introduction to the Devout Life. Here Saint Francis advises how to deal with temptation.

PICTURE to yourself a young princess beloved of her husband, to whom some evil wretch should send a messenger to tempt her to infidelity. First, the messenger would bring forth his propositions. Secondly, the princess would either accept or reject the overtures. Thirdly, she would consent to them or refuse them. Even so, when Satan, the world, and the flesh look upon a soul espoused to the Son of God, they set temptations and suggestions before that soul, whereby—1. Sin is proposed to it. 2. Which proposals are either pleasing or displeasing to the soul. 3. The soul either consents, or rejects them. In other words, the three downward steps of temptation, delectation, and consent. And although the three steps may not always be so clearly defined as in this illustration, they are to be plainly traced in all great and serious sins.

If we should undergo the temptation to every sin whatsoever during our whole life, that would not damage us in the Sight of God’s Majesty, provided we took no pleasure in it, and did not consent to it; and that because in temptation we do not act, we only suffer, and inasmuch as we take no delight in it, we can be liable to no blame. S. Paul bore long time with temptations of the flesh, but so far from displeasing God thereby, He was glorified in them. The blessed Angela di Foligni underwent terrible carnal temptations, which move us to pity as we read of them. S. Francis and S. Benedict both experienced grievous temptations, so that the one cast himself amid thorns, the other into the snow, to quench them, but so far from losing anything of God’s Grace thereby, they greatly increased it.

Be then very courageous amid temptation, and never imagine yourself conquered so long as it is displeasing to you, ever bearing in mind the difference between experiencing and consenting to temptation, —that difference being, that whereas they may be experienced while most displeasing to us, we can never consent to them without taking pleasure in them, inasmuch as pleasure felt in a temptation is usually the first step towards consent. So let the enemies of our salvation spread as many snares and wiles in our way as they will, let them besiege the door of our heart perpetually, let them ply us with endless proposals to sin,—so long as we abide in our firm resolution to take no pleasure therein, we cannot offend God any more than the husband of the princess in my illustration could be displeased with her because of the overtures made to her, so long as she was in no way gratified by them. Of course, there is one great difference between my imaginary princess and the soul, namely, that the former has it in her power to drive away the messenger of evil and never hear him more, while the latter cannot always refuse to experience temptation, although it be always in its power to refuse consent. But how long soever the temptation may persist, it cannot harm us so long as it is unwelcome to us.

But again, as to the pleasure which may be taken in temptation (technically called delectation), inasmuch as our souls have two parts, one inferior, the other superior, and the inferior does not always choose to be led by the superior, but takes its own line,—it not unfrequently happens that the inferior part takes pleasure in a temptation not only without consent from, but absolutely in contradiction to the superior will. It is this contest which S. Paul describes when he speaks of the “law in my members, warring against the law of my mind,” and of the “flesh lusting against the spirit.” Have you ever watched a great burning furnace heaped up with ashes? Look at it some ten or twelve hours afterwards, and there will scarce be any living fire there, or only a little smouldering in the very heart thereof. Nevertheless, if you can find that tiny lingering spark, it will suffice to rekindle the extinguished flames. So it is with love, which is the true spiritual life amid our greatest, most active temptations. Temptation, flinging its delectation into the inferior part of the soul, covers it wholly with ashes, and leaves but a little spark of God’s Love, which can be found nowhere save hidden far down in the heart or mind, and even that is hard to find. But nevertheless it is there, since however troubled we may have been in body and mind, we firmly resolved not to consent to sin or the temptation thereto, and that delectation of the exterior man was rejected by the interior spirit. Thus though our will may have been thoroughly beset by the temptation, it was not conquered, and so we are certain that all such delectation was involuntary, and consequently not sinful.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Why does St. Francis spend so much time talking about the importance of not taking pleasure in temptation?
  2. Do we all have different temptations, or the same ones? Are temptations at least in part culturally conditioned? For example, in America we might be more tempted toward being busy, or toward being materialistic, as compared to other cultures.
  3. Have you made progress over the course of your life in not giving in to temptations? Have you found ways to avoid particular temptations? How does prayer play a role here? Spiritual reading? Guidance from a spiritual director or confessor?
  4. Is such growth in the strength of the spirit really possible? Does resistence to temptation strengthen character? What other behaviors are needed besides merely avoiding what is bad?
  5. How can we encourage our friends, family members and those under our charge to avoid temptation? How can you do this in a work situation, where moral warnings are often rebuffed? Or even in the family? Should we take the path of least resistance when among others?
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