Carmelite Fr JunJun Agruda speaking during his homily. On the right are a relic and statue of St Teresa of Avila. Photo: Daniel Tham

SINGAPORE – To commemorate the 500th year of the birth of St Teresa of Avila, the Carmelite Friars and Sisters organised a series of Novena Masses at the Church of Sts Peter and Paul from Oct 5-13, to prepare for the official celebration vigil of the feast day of the saint on Oct 14.

The theme for the Masses was I Was Born For You. Carmelite Fr JunJun Agruda, a specialist on Teresian spirituality from the Philippines, was the main celebrant and homilist. During each Mass, participants prayed the daily Novena prayer and there was also veneration of St Teresa’s relics.

Fr JunJun shared that St Teresa, a Doctor of the Church, was a great spiritual guide to knowing God. Her writings, especially her books, The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection, the priest said, act as a map in one’s journey towards Christ. Fr JunJun also emphasised that for St Teresa, humility was the queen of all virtues.

The priest then urged the faithful to persevere in prayer, grow in holiness and love the Lord with a “determined determination”.

He said that love does not reside in the mind or in emotions, and that one can truly love only through the exercise of one’s will.

He challenged participants to grow in their love by strengthening families and communities, treasuring friendships and above all, seeking Jesus in prayer, as He is the source of love.

Some of the 600 attendees interviewed said they found the Novena uplifting and inspiring.

Ms Mandy Binney enjoyed the enlightening stories that was shared during the homilies, especially the one on forgiveness. Ms Grace Chong shared that she found the teachings of St Teresa a valuable source of comfort, joy and wisdom. Ms Rozenie Villarder agreed and added that she felt really blessed to gain wisdom from St Teresa through Fr JunJun’s preaching.

The spiritual preparation reached its highest point on Oct 14 when Archbishop William Goh celebrated an evening Mass in the Carmelite monastery chapel to commemorate the Solemnity of St Teresa of Jesus.

During his homily, he encouraged all to follow the example of St Teresa which was to grow in holiness and to seek divine wisdom.

He added that striving for a life of perfection and holiness is not only for a privileged few, but for everyone. He also thanked the Carmelite Friars and Sisters for their love, dedication and service to the Church, and for sharing their gift of prayer and the Carmelite Spirituality.

By Damian Boon