On the occasion of the English translation of St. Teresa of the Andes' Letters, her handwriting has been examined from a graphological point of view by Sister Kay Elmer. Here is the interesting conclusion of this study.


Before examining letters Teresa had written in the Carmelite cloister shortly before her death, "I had no idea I would be on such holy ground", to borrow words of Teresa's bother Luis as he liked to speak of his saintly sister after her death. It has been both an extraordinary honor and a humbling experience to examine the handwriting of someone who has reached such great heights of sanctity, one whose writings, a noted theologian has said, reveal mystical truths reminiscent of a Saint Teresa of Avila !

One of the first things I noticed in Teresa's handwriting was her keenly analytical mind. Teresa had a desire to learn and to analyze thoroughly all she had learned. She utilized the thought processes well: accumulating the evidence, then giving an earnest critical analysis of it, and finally, penetrating to the heart of the matter. In the words of her brother Luis, "she possessed a keen mental solidity and a continual thirst to investigate and to know. Perhaps this aided here in her mystical, bold and deep insights.

Also striking in her handwriting is the indication of Teresa's deeply emotional nature. Her emotions appear to have been lasting, absorbed into her being, giving her a deep capacity for joy and suffering.

Along with the intensity of feeling, Teresa's writing show a responsiveness to emotions of love, joy, suffering, etc., indicating a warm-hearted, sensitive person, ready to reach out easily to others with support and understanding. In Silvana Egidi's tribute to the Saint on the occasion of her Canonization, we read that, "she distributed her own savings, and sewed for needy, visited families, listened to their confidences, sought to bring them material and spiritual assistance, was an excellent catechist and an enthusiastic collaborator with the priests in missionary activity." Also, she notes, "She was open to expansiveness, to friendship, to joy, to innocent jokes and witty remarks." Pope John Paul II in his Canonization Homily for St. Teresa said, "In feeling that she belonged to the Creator alone, her love of neighbor became more intense and definitive."

While Teresa responded to others without self-consciousness, there is evidence in her writing of some conscious restraint. She puts brakes on her natural impulsiveness. She is cautious and guarded. We find verification of this from Luis who indicated she was very discreet. Despite her natural joy, she was reserved, very composed and disciplined. She was modest without ostentation. At parties, although she knew how to dance, she kept her distance, playing the piano, and sometimes the guitar, or singing.

Teresa's handwriting also shows that she was an independent thinker; there are indications of strong will power and a tenacity in carrying out her goals. In comments about Teresa's early childhood, it has been show that she carried out continual warfare against early defects, such as tendency to anger and stubbornness. She had to "exert herself to acquire the virtues or habitual dispositions of mind and heart that could fit her for a life of union with God."

Luis noted that Teresa's will was energetic and ironlike, without seeming so. He also related that their father gave permission to Juanita to join Carmel with great difficulty, and remarked that "to oppose Juanita's vocation was like trying to stand in the path of an avalanche."

Teresa's amazing thought processes, the depth and permanency of her deep emotions, and her responsiveness to these emotions, with some cautious restraint are the most evident and compelling characteristics of her handwriting. These qualities are supportive of what Luis notes in his sister: "her psychological balance, her moderation in actions, not expressing extreme emotions. She was serenity itself because of her inner peace."

One perhaps would expect to find some unusual, unique, or flamboyant personality traits. On the contrary, we find a beautifully well-balanced unassuming human person who wisely and intensely exercises her splendid qualities of mind to search out the truth for what matters most in life. And this brings forth from her a deep emotional response. In reading theses pages, we find out that most important to her was a knowledge and awareness of God's incomprehensible love, and all it encompasses. We see that her response to that Love was carried out in decisive actions which cover the whole spectrum from giving physical, emotional, and prayerful support to others to extending herself to martyrdom.

What a chastening experience, given our own blindness, apathy, and self-indulgence, to measure our love for God against hers — and to see how she could comprehend to such a high degree the tremendous love of God for each soul, and respond with the totality of her own being. "She sought the truth, and once seeing it, embraced it, and lived it as perfectly as she could!"

What might be possible for each of us — if we could with our own combination of talents and weaknesses, set our sights with a like intensity and application; if we could engage our own mind processes dutifully, and respond with deep feeling for others; if we could marshall all our powers to perform the Will of God as He reaches out and calls to each of us in turn — then we, too, with Teresa, might also be led to experience indescribable joy in the Lord! Teresa was so single-minded in ferreting out the greatest truth of our lives, that God loves us and that He is indescribable joy


Sister Kay Elmer
Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity
Manitowoc, Wisconsin


Photo : Teresa's writing



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