Thanks to the sensitivity of Saint Paul VI for women and their role in the Church he declared two women Doctors of the same Church. Solemn ceremonies took place in the Vatican in 1970, a half-century ago. Saint Teresa of Jesus preceded Saint Catherine of Siena on September 27, 2010, with Catherine coming the following Sunday. In Spain years previous the revered University of Salamanca had already given her that status with an honorary doctorate during the rectorate of Miguel de Unamuno (centenary coming up in 2022).
(Since then Carmel has welcomed another Discalced Carmelite among the still small group of women doctors and recognizes St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face as the youngest of the lot.)
Twelve years later in 1982, when time came for our Order to celebrate the centenary of the death of Our Holy Mother Saint Teresa, we were aware that this time around she was not only the Mother of Spiritual Souls ( the “Mater spiritualium” designation visible on the pediment of her statue in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican), she was also a doctor for the entire Church. Those of us who were living in the Washington monastery at the time knew we had something special available to us: one that would serve the purpose of marking the four centuries since her death but also underscore the recent recognition of her as a doctor.
Missionary bishop of the province, Bishop Patrick Shanley, after his service in the Philippines received a farewell image of Saint Teresa when he retired to the States. He donated it to our house and it still hangs in one of the corridors of the building on Lincoln Road. We reproduce it here for the reader’s enjoyment and devotion.
It was put on display in the university library and adorned the poster for the commemorative festivities taking place at the Catholic University of America in October 1982. Originally the piece was most likely a part of an altar frontal, and in the opinion of several experts in embroidery both at the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Gallery of Art in Washington (which it visited), it would have been done in the Philippines according to prototypes found most likely in Spain ca. 1800. It forms a distinct link between the Philippines and the homeland of Saint Teresa even though this beautiful work of art had arrived in Washington from Asia. It displays well the international renown of la Madre.
The real reason for choosing this particular objet d’art as poster image and on handout materials in 1982 derives from the image itself. Tradition ascribes to doctors and teachers the seated position. St Augustine mentions this in one of his sermons. The use of a lectern for teaching is a more modern development. Saint Teresa in our embroidered heirloom is sitting at a desk/table with a book before her and a quill pen in her hand (items which frequently appear in statues of her). For sure, the fact she is seated is a tip-off to the conviction she deserved status as a teacher/doctor in the Church.
In this 50th anniversary year of her arrival among the proclaimed Doctors of the Church, and the first woman among them, we can only show appreciation for Saint Paul VI’s gesture and also the kindliness which led Bishop Shanley to leave to the house of our province devoted to studies such a beautiful image of Teresa of Jesus.