Thursday 7 September 2023

An American Little Flower Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich - GinaMarie Tennant - Vision Book

An American Little Flower: 
Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich
GinaMarie Tennant
GinaMarie Tennant (Illustrator)
ISBN 9781621645474
eISBN 9781642291988

An American Little Flower Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich - GinaMarie Tennant - Vision Book

I have been working my way through the Vision Books for Young Readers for a few years now. I have be going back and forth between the old out of print books, the currently in print from Ignatius Press and the New Vision Books where Ignatius is expanding the original series. This is one of two new volumes published in the series in 2023. And if you were to keep counting from the original series it would ne number 79. I believe it is number 36 that is available from Ignatius press. But let us return to this specific volume and not the wonderful series it comes from.

I will be honest I knew nothing about Teresa Demjanovich when I picked up this volume. I just knew it was a new book and the series and therefore believed it would a great read. It exceeded all my expectations. The description of the book is:

“On October 4, 2014, the first Beatification in the United States occurred. A young American religious, Sister Miriam Teresa, was declared a Blessed. 

Born Teresa Demjanovich to loving immigrant parents, Blessed Miriam Teresa grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey, in the early twentieth century.  She witnessed events that changed the United States—such as the introduction of automobiles and motion pictures, the sabotaging of American industry during World War I, and the rise of the labor union movement. All the while, Teresa was discovering the unchanging reality of God's love. 

Like Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, Teresa learned that God wanted to be her friend and from an early age desired to become a Carmelite. Jesus longed to be with her, and she wanted to be with Him, whether she was studying, working, praying, or enjoying the company of friends. This was her secret to happiness, and to holiness.”

The author bio states:

“GinaMarie Tennant is a church organist, music teacher, and an artist.  Louis and Zélie:  the Holy Parents of Saint Thérèse was her first book, and An American Little Flower: Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich is her second.  She lives in Bethesda, Maryland.”

The chapters in the book are:

1. A New Friend
2. Fire!
3. Shrimp and Swallops
4. The Big Event
5. Battles Far and Near
6. Teresa and Thérèse
7. Saint Elizabeth College
8. Treat and Her Many Friends
9. Almost There! Then Where?
10. Miss Demjanovich
11. The Decision
12. Ghostwriter
13. The End of the Beginning 

As mentioned I did not know anything about this blessed prior to reading this book. But even while reading it I started tracking down her own work, published posthumously Greater Perfection and have tracked down two other biographies of her by A Sister of Charity and Theodore Maynard. I was reading this and my youngest daughter who is 13 popped into the den, she asked me about it and it has jumped to the top of her reading list. My son is 15 and was in the car while I was using adaptive technology to listen to it and he became fascinated as well. They have both loved other books in the series and are excited to read this one now. 

This story was a fascinating read and one I could hardly put down. In fact I read it twice back to back, the first time reading the eBook and the second using adaptive technology to listen to it. I stayed up way to late on a work night because I wanted to keep reading, I kept saying just one more page. 

Blessed Miriam Teresa’s live is a deeply moving story. She lost her mother after a long illness. She helped look after her mother and support the rest of the family, even though she was the youngest. She has a deep faith from a young age and always strove to grow closer to God. Raised in an Eastern rite she was always drawn to Carmel. I highlighted a few passages my first time reading this story. Some of them are:

“She must try to get some sleep, for tomorrow morning she would go to an early Mass—not a Sunday Mass, but an ordinary weekday Mass. Of course, no Mass was ordinary; every Mass was a step into eternity to be with Jesus.”

“Sometimes Teresa would see a crucifix and think of how Jesus on the Cross was like the poster of Uncle Sam saying, “I WANT YOU.” Except that Jesus also says, “I love you.” Even more, “I long for you.” Teresa yearned to fulfill Jesus’ request and wondered how soon she could join the Carmelites. She decided to write a poem for Him:”

“Every morning, Teresa started the day with prayer: at her bedside and then at Mass. She often thought about Saint Paul’s words “Pray without ceasing.” How do I pray always? Teresa wondered. How can I pray as I listen to a lecture or play sports or talk with friends? The answer came to her in a flash. She was praying, staying close to God, by living out His will to the best of her capabilities—by keeping His commandments and being His friend. Thus, even running on the track team and reading a novel could be prayer. The realization energized her. She was living for her beloved Jesus at college too.”

“That evening, Teresa started a diary. She opened a burgundy date book and found Wednesday, February 11, 1925. Under it she wrote, “I am all His; He is all mine. How powerful I am!””

“Although Teresa had been flooded with happiness since her arrival at the convent, she was perplexed about many things. She decided to discuss these matters with Father Benedict Bradley. The tall, dignified, gray-haired Benedictine gave the novices weekly talks, called conferences, which were highly regarded. He also heard the novices’ confessions and gave spiritual direction to some of the sisters.

In the presence of Father Benedict, Teresa felt completely at ease. For the first time in her life, she was able to talk openly about the workings of her soul with someone who could understand and guide her. God alone had been her guide, and now He had sent her someone who could lead her even closer to Him.”

“As Father Benedict boarded the train to take him back to Saint Mary’s Abbey in Newark, he recalled that Sister Mary Ellen, mistress of novices, had told him a few weeks ago that a little mystic had just entered the convent. Surely she meant Teresa Demjanovich. God, You want me to help direct her? I know I have years of experience, but she has much to teach me, not vice versa. She also has much to teach the world.”

And after her death a notice was posted in the convent: 

“A piece of paper was hanging there with a brief announcement:

The conferences that I have been giving to the sisters were written by Sister Miriam Teresa.

 —Father Benedict Bradley, O.S.B.”

That is how the sisters found out they had been living with a saint. 

This is a volume that will challenge and inspire readers of all ages. It is a wonderful story of faith, growth, and trusting God in all things. It will help you grow in prayer and instil a desire to seek God even more. It is a wonderful volume I can easily recommend for any home, school, or church library. On a side note the author also contributed Louis and Zélie The Holy Parents of Saint Thérèse, to this series. I have had it for a while but after reading this it jumped to the top of my reading list.

I plan on reading all the books in this series that are in print and as many of the out of print that I can track down. This is another excellent book in a wonderful series. My only complaint is that only about a third of the books are available in digital formats, with my dual form of dyslexia and my son’s eye tracking issues eBooks are our preferred format. Fortunately I was able to obtain the eBook of this just after it was released. These books are written for a Middle Grade or Teens in mind, but this one and the others I have read are excellent volumes for readers of all ages. A well written biography of an amazing blessed, I can easily recommend this book. And keep your eyes out for future books in the series.  

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan

Books in the Vision Books Saints Biographies:
Bernadette, Our Lady's Little Servant 
The Cure of Ars 
Edmund Campion 
Florence Nightingale's Nuns 
Fr. Marquette and the Great Rivers 
Francis and Clare, Saints of Assisi 
Kateri Tekakwitha 
Mother Cabrini, Missionary to the World 
Mother Seton and the Sisters of Charity 
Saint Anthony and the Christ Child 
Saint Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal 
Saint Dominic and the Rosary 
Saint Elizabeth's Three Crowns 
Saint Francis of the Seven Seas 
Saint Helena and the True Cross 
Saint Ignatius and the Company of Jesus 
Saint Isaac and the Indians 
Saint John Bosco 
Saint Katherine Drexel 
Saint Louis and the Last Crusade 
Saint Philip of the Joyous Heart 
Saint Therese and the Roses 
Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Preaching Beggars 
Saint Thomas More of London 
Vincent De Paul: Saint of Charity 

Out of Print books in the Series:
Brother Andre of Montreal 
Catholic Campuses, Stories of American Catholic Colleges 
Champions in Sports and Spirit 
Children Welcome: Villages for Boys and Girls 
Christmas and the Saints 
Columbus and the New World 
Dear Philippine: Mission of Mother Duchesne 
Edel Quinn: Beneath the Southern Cross 
Frances Warde and the First Sisters of Mercy 
Good Pope John b
Governor Al Smith 
In American Vineyards, Religious Orders in the United States 
Irish Saints 
John Carroll Bishop and Patriot
John Neumann, The Children's Bishop 
Kit Carson of the Old West 
Lydia Longley, the First American Nun 
Marguerite Bourgeoys, Pioneer Teacher 
Martin de Porres, Saint of the New World 
Modern Crusaders 
More Champions in Sports and Spirit 
Mother Barat's Vineyard 
My Eskimos: A Priest in the Artic 
Peter and Paul: The Rock and the Sword 
Peter Claver, Saint Among Slaves
Pope Pius XII, the World's Shepherd 
Rose Hawthorne: The Pilgramage of Nathaniel's Daughter 
Saints of the Byzantine World 
Sarah Peter: The Dream and the Harvest 
St. Augustine and His Search for Faith 
St. Francis de Sales 
St. Gregory the Great, Consul of God 
St. Jerome and the Bible 
St. Margaret Mary, Apostle of the Sacred Heart 
The Bible Story, The Promised Lord and His Coming 
The Cross in the West 
The Ursulines, Nuns of Adventure 
When Saints Were Young 

An American Little Flower Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich - GinaMarie Tennant - Vision Book

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