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Fully alive: The “little terror” who wanted to be a saint

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Teresita Quevedo was voted best dressed in her class and was captain of the basketball team: a saint for the youth of our times.

Teresita Quevedo was a difficult child. The youngest of three children in a wealthy Spanish family, she was quite spoiled. “Teresita is a bundle of happiness. Everyone loves her,” her mother wrote. “Pretty as a picture but terribly self-willed.” Her self-will led to tantrums, often in response to being served food she didn’t like. She was such a little terror that she was given the nickname “Venenito,” which means “little poison.”

Like many parents, Teresita’s were near despair over her temper; but finicky, volatile Teresita was destined for more, and it was her First Communion that spurred her on. As she received her Lord for the first time, little Teresita made a sort of consecration to Mary, promising to offer all her little sacrifices, especially of taste and of temper, as gifts to the Blessed Mother.

From that moment, she was a changed girl. A few years later, 10-year-old Teresita was on a school retreat when she wrote out her life’s resolution: “I have decided to become a saint.”

But for all her devotion to Our Lady and her desire for holiness, Teresita remained a high-spirited child and often got into trouble at home and school. She wrote notes to her friends during study hall, chatted when the girls were supposed to be quiet, and sometimes played tricks on the Sisters.

In short, Teresita was fun. She was beautiful and talented and popular and a bit mischievous. Her desire for holiness didn’t make her awkward. Her love of the Lord didn’t make her dull. Even her motto, “Mother, may those who see me, see you,” didn’t make her bland and uninteresting, like some plaster image of the Virgin Mary.

Teresita understood well that holiness is being fully alive, fully yourself, for the glory of God. So the girl who longed to be a saint was elected best dressed in her class, became captain of the basketball team, and loved to watch bullfights. She drove a car—a little too fast for her father’s tastes—loved dancing, was excellent at tennis, and once pierced her girlfriend’s ears. She was an excellent artist and athlete, though not much of a student, and was well loved by all. But for Teresita, it was love of the Lord and his Mother that really mattered.

From early childhood, Teresita had been passionately devoted to the Virgin Mary. “I love Our Lord with all my heart,” she explained, “But He wants me to love Our Lady in a special way and to go to Him with my hand in Mary’s.” She loved the Blessed Mother so well that when she heard of St. Louis de Montfort’s Total Consecration to Mary and asked a priest about it, he explained to her that she had already been living this consecration. Rather than preparing her for a month to offer herself to the Lord through Mary’s hands, the priest invited her to do so the very next morning.

As Teresita approached her senior year of high school, she became aware that Mary was drawing her to belong to Jesus in a profound way. Just before Christmas, the most popular girl in the school approached the superior of the Carmelite order and asked permission to enter.

“Then I’d like to go to China as a missionary!” the impassioned girl cried.

“First, you must be a novice,” Mother laughed.

And so, at just 17, Teresita Quevedo left behind home and family and pretty clothes and tennis rackets and dance cards and bullfights to become a bride of Christ. She threw herself into the life of the convent as she had thrown herself into her life in the world, writing to a missionary priest, “the thought of being a mediocre Religious terrifies me.” Though the extroverted little saint struggled mightily with the silence and long hours of prayer expected of her, she offered all her successes and failures to Mary each day, to be purified and given to Christ. On the day Teresita received the habit, she made a vow never to commit a deliberate venial sin.

Only two years after entering Carmel, Teresita received a premonition that she would die soon. Rather than being afraid, she was overjoyed at the prospect of going home to heaven. Not long after, Teresita contracted tuberculosis meningitis. She suffered terribly, refusing painkillers even for spinal taps so that she could unite her sufferings to Christ’s. Finally, on Holy Saturday 1950, Teresita’s eyes cleared, her face lit up, and she called out her last words, “How beautiful! O Mary, how beautiful you are!”

Venerable Teresita Quevedo stands as a witness to God’s power to transform the most ill-tempered and to capture the hearts of the most popular and beautiful among us as well as the lost and the broken.

Let’s ask her intercession for young people who are afraid to give their hearts to Christ because of what they might lose. Venerable Teresita Quevedo, pray for us!

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