St. Teresita Quevedo
As a teenager Teresita was a girl who seemed to have the world at her feet in many ways. She was attractive, fashionable, out-going and popular among her friends. She excelled in everything she did including dancing, singing, and sports. Her happiness and constant smile were contagious.
What gave her so much happiness and made her so attractive? And what made her so willing to give up everything? There was a secret Teresita held in her heart…
Maria Teresa Quevedo was born in 1930 into a wealthy, prominent family. Her father was a physician and her mother an educated woman from a well-respected family. They lived in Madrid, Spain across from the Royal Palace. Teresita had an older brother, Luis, and an older sister, Carmen. The Quevedo family home reflected Catholic spirituality and life. Her parents lived their faith both through prayer and in their daily actions. Every evening the family would gather to pray the Rosary. Here, Teresita’s devotion to Mary began. The Rosary became her favorite prayer and she even taught it to the servants they employed in their household when she was still very young.
As a child Teresita was not exactly a model of saintly perfection. She was terribly stubborn and could not be contradicted without a reaction. She was willful and had a quick temper. At the same time she was lovable and energetic. This combination earned her the affectionate nickname of “Venenito,” which means, “little poison.” Her parents, however, were extremely attentive to her willfulness and took every opportunity to channel her spirited nature. When they lived for a short time in Santander, Teresita was repulsed by the poor street children who lived in the neighborhood. She was used to the refinement and etiquette she was taught at home and did not like the dirt and bad manners the other children brought with them. Her father, however, corrected her saying: “They are poorer than the baby Jesus. God loves them very much and they pray to him just like you do.” After this, Teresita began to make friends with the street children. She invited them to her house, taught them table manners and collected toys and clothes for them.
Madrid, Teresita attended Mount Carmel Academy, a school run by the Carmelites of Charity, where her aunt, Mother Carmen, was the superior. She loved her school and her classmates but studying was never easy for her. She would much rather be out playing sports or spending time with friends.
At the age of 10 Teresita made her first retreat. She wrote down this resolution: “I have decided to become a saint.” From then on her stubbornness, her energy and spirited nature had a new direction. Mary became the secret of how she would love and please Jesus. Around this time, she began to refer to Mary affectionately as “La Madrecita” which means “Little Mother.”
When Teresita was 13 she wrote this consecration prayer:
“O sweet Virgin Mary, my Mother, I offer myself today completely to you. I beg you to give my body, eyes, ears and tongue, my heart and my soul to Jesus. I am all yours, Holy Mother of God. Watch over me! AMEN.”
In school, Teresita had the opportunity to join the Marian Sodality, a group for young Catholics to deepen their faith and spirituality centered on a strong devotion to Mary. Each member made the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary which was developed by St. Louis de Montfort. Being part of the Sodality, Teresita committed herself to daily prayer, actively living her faith and sharing it with others. Each member of the Sodality was given a silver medal on a blue satin ribbon. The back of the medal was inscribed with the motto each one chose. Teresita’s read: “Mother, let all who look at me see you.”
This desire was realized more and more as Teresita grew into adolescence. As a teenager, she was attractive and outgoing. She was not very tall, but she was graceful and well-proportioned. She was blond and her face was often lit by a smile. She loved stylish fashions and carried herself with an air of elegance. This, of course, made her very attractive to the boys who were part of her circle of friends. Yet they could sense there was something different about her and none of them could ever go beyond friendship with her. They did not know the promise Teresita had made in her heart. On December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, when she was 15 years old, she had written 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.”
The idea of religious life was not strange to Teresita. Two of her uncles were Jesuit priests and three of her aunts were religious Sisters. It was not an uncommon topic of conversation among her friends and some of the girls she knew in school had already joined the Carmelites of Charity. Teresita knew this life was one of sacrifice but also a great joy and a gift to Jesus. A friend once told her that she would enjoy her life while she was young and later after doing all she wanted to do she would join the convent. Teresita was indignant. “How selfish you are to give God the leftovers!” she said. “Jesus has better taste than that! He wants the gift of youth with all its joys and dreams!”
During her last year of high school, Teresita’s desire to give her life entirely to Jesus through Mary grew. In the summer, she knew she wanted to enter the Carmelites of Charity and spoke with her spiritual director about it. It was not until January of 1948, when she was almost 18 years old that she told her family of her decision. It was very painful and difficult for them to think of the separation this meant. Family members tried to tell her that she was too young and reminded her of the sacrifice and difficulties of religious life. None of this dissuaded her; the desire to give herself to Mary and Jesus was stronger.
Teresita entered the Carmelites of Charity on February 23, 1948. The first six months of life in a religious order is called postulancy. These months were not smooth and easy for Teresita. The life of Carmel was characterized by poverty, silence and discipline. She had given up the comforts of her wealthy home. She had to learn to form her spontaneous and dramatic character according to the new way of life. She accepted all of this with her usual trust in Mary and she knew her Mother would obtain the grace she needed: “I always get what I want from her. I feel she is close at hand. If our mothers love us so much, how much more must Our Lady love us? Will she refuse us anything? I am sure I will be a saint because I am asking it from Our Lady and she can do anything.”
At the end of the six months, on June 29, 1948, Teresita and another young woman received their habits and their religious names. Teresita was now called Sister Maria Teresa. They began the novitiate, the next stage of religious life, which lasts about two years. As a novice, Teresita was an model of generosity. She often went to visit the sick Sisters in the infirmary and found ways to serve and offer help to other Sisters. Her characteristic joy never faded.
Teresita’s spirituality continued to root itself in the love and confidence in Mary. In speaking with fellow novices she said the following:
During Advent, 1949, there was much excitement about the upcoming Holy Year preparations. Pope Pius XII would proclaim the dogma of Our Lady’s Assumption into Heaven before the end of the year. The Sisters were speaking about this one day during recreation and Sister Maria Teresa mysteriously stated that she was sure that Our Lady was going to grant her a very special grace. Of course, this roused the curiosity of the Sisters and a whole barrage of questions followed. Teresita was hesitant to say any more. Finally, she stated simply: “Sisters, I believe I am going to celebrate the new dogma in Heaven.” Some sisters laughed, others protested, but no one took her seriously. She remained convinced and said: “Every one of you will probably sing my requiem before the close of 1950. I know I shall be with my Mother on her glorious day.”
In January of 1950, Sister Maria Teresa developed a severe and relentless headache. At first the Mother Superior thought she had caught a flu that was going around the community but when the headaches did not subside they sent again for Dr. Quevedo. After examining her he diagnosed her illness as tubercular meningitis. He knew that she would not live much longer. When her father told her the news she remained joyful. Death was not a fearful thing for her but the fulfillment of her greatest desires. She received the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. The Mother Superior gave special permission for her to make her religious vows in articulo mortis and become a fully professed Sister.
In the following months, the headaches became continuous and violent, accompanied by nausea and loss of appetite. Teresita endured everything with patience and heroism though sometimes a silent tear fell on her cheek. There was no cure and very little they could do for her. The only relief for her pain was painful spinal taps. Within two months she received this treatment sixty times. At times the headaches became so unbearable that she admitted to her father that she feared she would lose her sanity. She told her Sisters: “If God wants it then I want it too. If I lose my mind, remind me often of my vows, whisper a prayer to the Madonna, such as, ‘Mother, may the one who looks at me see you’ or ‘Mother, teach me to love Jesus.’ ”
Her condition grew worse during Holy Week. On Holy Thursday she lost consciousness but continued murmuring the prayers and offerings she made to Mary and Jesus. On Holy Saturday night, she was fully conscious again and took part in the prayers offered for her and kept repeating: “My Mother, I love you very much! My Jesus, I love you. I love you for all those who don’t love you.” Mother Carmen whispered to her, “You love our Lord very much!” and Teresita answered, “For him alone have I lived.”
Shortly after this, she cried out in a loud voice, so loud that she could be heard in the next room, with her arms raised up: “My Mother, welcome me… take me with you to Heaven! My Mother, your will be done!” Just before dying she lifted her hands, and smiling, said: “How beautiful it is!”
Maria Teresa Quevedo died on Holy Saturday, 1950, at 20 years of age.
The dogma of Mary’s Assumption into heaven was declared on August 15,1950.
In 1954, Teresita’s process for beatification was opened. On June 9, 1983 Pope John Paul II declared her “Venerable.”