St. Teresa of Jesus of Los Andes
Juana Fernandez Solar was born on July 13, 1900 in Santiago, Chile, and was baptized two days later. The fourth of six children of Miguel Fernandez and Lucia Solar, she was known to her family and friends as Juanita. Her mother comments about her childhood: "Don't think that Juanita was a little girl different from all the others. She loved to play and was first in the games her brothers arranged. She usually won those games."
Juanita attended day and boarding schools of the Society of the Sacred Heart. In 1907 she made her first confession and in a pact with her brother Luis, promised to pray the rosary daily. In 1909 she received the Sacrament of Confirmation and in 1910, her first Communion. That event was an occasion of great grace in strengthening her character and the beginning of a deep intimacy with Christ. She later wrote also of her devotion to Our Lady: "My inseparable companion. She has been my intimate confidante from the most tender years of my life.
Suffering had its own part in Juanita's early life, including bouts with diptheria and appendicitis for which she had surgery in 1914. In her illness, relates Luis, she was "courageous and long-suffering because she sought support in God." When the family met with significant financial reversals, "she consoled everyone."
At 14 Juanita became aware of her vocation to Carmel. Beginning with the autobiography of St. Therese, she nourished her spirit with Carmelite writings, next reading Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, then St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross.
In 1915 Mother Rios, the spiritual director of the students, asked Juanita to write an account of the favors she was receiving from God. From that time on, she kept a diary which reveals her struggles, her progress, her dedication in her spiritual journey, brief but intense. Juanita began correspondence with the prioress of the Carmel of Los Andes when she was 17. Although she could have sought admittance to the Carmel in Santiago, she was attracted to this monastery, sixty miles distant, because of its poverty. She continued the correspondence after leaving school in 1918 to take her place helping her mother at home.
Juanita finished her education with the blue ribbon as the school's outstanding student, as well as with first place prizes in four subjects, including chemistry, which she disliked. In other activities, she was a good swimmer, was known as "an amazon on horseback," enjoyed tennis, singing, and playing the piano, organ and guitar. She also had a gift for writing letters.
During school vacations and after leaving school, she taught catechism and organized games for poor children, served meals to the elderly and the poor, and took special care of a neglected orphan, using her own allowance for his needs.
She formed a parish choir, and had thirty homes consecrated to the Sacred Heart, a work which she did "with love and pleasure." Her brother Luis says, "she was a missionary in her own home...affected us by her presence." She was likewise known for her gift of counsel among her friends.
Early in 1919, Juanita visited the Carmel of Los Andes for interviews with the community. On May 7 she entered the monastery, not without feeling the sacrifice of leaving her close family, but with determination and joy. Her prioress commented that "her Carmelite vocation appeared to grow from day to day."
On Oct. 14 she received the habit of Carmel and the name, Teresa of Jesus. On taking part in the prayer and work of the community she wrote: "Everything in Carmel is done joyfully, because everywhere we have our Jesus, who is our infinite joy."
Nevertheless, she suffered trials of darkness and aridity in prayer at times, allowing God to lead her as he willed. After entering fervently into the Holy Week services of 1920, Sister Teresa became noticeably ill on Good Friday, April 2. When diagnosed as having typus, she was anointed, and on April 7, joyfully made her religious profession amid great physical suffering, which she repeatedly offered to God. On the morning of April 12, the One whom she called, "My Spouse" came for her and she entered into eternal life.
Pope John Paul II beatified her on April 3, 1987, and canonized her on March 21, 1992. "A canonization," says the Holy Father, "is the greatest joy that the church can experience in its earthly pilgrimage."