It was an innovative and (to some) scandalous idea at the time: letting nuns organize retreats. But when Saint Teresa (Therese) Couderc (1805-1885) was still a member of a teaching order of nuns and was invited by the priest-founder of her order to help him establish an order of nuns to run retreat houses, she agreed.
This novel order was more than just a good idea; it addressed a serious practical problem. When men or women of nineteenth century France traveled, both men and women were generally thrown together in the same bedroom. Women who wanted to make pilgrimages found themselves in awkward, uncomfortable, or even dangerous situations. Teresa’s order, as a sister order to an order of priests providing retreats to me, provided them with a holy and safe alternative.
Unfortunately, after some time, the source of funds for the order dried up, and Teresa blamed herself for the order’s debts. The bishop of the diocese took control of the order away from Teresa and placed it in the hands of a wealthy widow who had only joined the order very recently. Teresa accepted this humiliation with peace, obediently served the order for decades, and was generally forgotten as the founder.
A story demonstrates her lifelong humility. A cardinal came to visit a retreat house where Teresa lived and was introduced to all the sisters. He recognized spiritual depth and holiness in Teresa’s face and demeanor, and when she was missing at a later meeting, he asked the sisters, “Where is the sister who has been left out?”
Humble and patient to the end, Teresa died quietly, peacefully, and in the background when she was eighty years old. She died on September 26, 1885.
Saint Teresa, help me accept humiliations with peace.