The Life of St. Henry de Ossó
Henry de Ossó was born in Vinebre, Spain, on October 16, 1840.
From an early age, Henry exhibited a great love for God. At the age of 6, he would stop playing with his friends so he could accompany the parish priest to bring the Blessed Sacrament to the sick.
As he grew older, Henry dreamed of being a teacher. He saw that education was a powerful way to form the hearts of children. His mother wanted him to be a priest and often told him so. However, his father insisted he should become a businessman and sent him to learn the trade from an uncle. During this time, an aunt gave him The Works of St. Teresa, a book that introduced him to St. Teresa of Avila and ignited a love that would last a lifetime.
When Henry was 13, his mother died. After her death, he remembered her desire that he become a priest, and so he began to think seriously about the priesthood. Since his father would not agree to it, he wrote a farewell letter to him and secretly left for the Monastery of Our Lady of Montserrat to dedicate his life to God.
Upon seeing that Henry was determined to become a priest, his father gave him permission to enter the seminary. During his years there, his love for God grew even more. Henry’s greatest desire was to know and love Jesus and to make Him known and loved. He worked tirelessly to help others as his love for God burst into dedicated ministry.
Once ordained to the priesthood, Henry exercised his priestly ministry everywhere among all social classes—preaching, encouraging, giving retreats, teaching religion to the children and classes in the Seminary. In Tortosa, he began founding different groups for every age and station in life, all based on the spirituality of St. Teresa—friendship with Jesus in prayer that leads to action. Some of the groups he founded include:
The Friends of Jesus Club for children, to teach them to love Jesus, to talk to Him every day, and to do whatever He asks.
- The Teresian Apostolic Movement (formerly the Sodality of the Daughters of Mary and Teresa of Jesus), to form youth according to the spirit of St. Teresa
- The Brotherhood of Saint Joseph, a pious association for men
- A monastery of Discalced Carmelite nuns in Tortosa
- The Society of St. Teresa of Jesus, his greatest accomplishment in life
Fr. Henry was inspired to found the Teresian Sisters while at prayer during the night of April 2, 1876. With the approval of his spiritual director and the blessing of the bishop, the new congregation began on June 23 of the same year. To the first sisters he wrote:
“You well know what the aim of our Society is; it is precisely to make each of you another Teresa of Jesus, in so far as possible, so that you can you can be the first in seeking Jesus’ honor and extending His kingdom…throughout the world by means of the apostolate of prayer, teaching and sacrifice…so as to restore all things in Christ according to the spirit of Saint Teresa of Jesus.”
He started the Society with only eight young women. In his lifetime it spread throughout Spain, Portugal, Africa, as well as the Americas. Today the Teresian Sisters minister in 21 countries throughout Europe, Africa and the Americas. Their ministries include education and evangelization in a variety of settings with people of all ages and walks of life.
In addition to his many apostolic works, Father Henry also spent much time writing, inspiring others to know and love Jesus. He was founder and editor of Saint Teresa’s Magazine until his death. Among his many writings, the following publications are most significant:
Fifteen Minutes of Prayer
The Catechist’s Manual
Handbook of the Teresian Apostolic Movement
Treasure Chest for Children
Novena to the Holy Spirit
Novena to the Immaculate Conception
The Month of Saint Joseph
The Month of Mary
A Month in the School of the Sacred Heart
The Month of St. Teresa
The Spirit of Saint Teresa (Maxims)
A Loving Tribute to Saint Francis de Sales
Those who knew Father Henry were inspired by his apostolic zeal and his passionate love for Jesus. He worked tirelessly to help others know the loving God he had come to know, and his goal was to allow Jesus to so transform his life that others would see Christ in him.
In January 1896 Henry wrote the following words in St. Teresa’s Magazine, “My Jesus and my all. Let me love you or die, rather, to live and die loving you above everything else. Do not let me leave this world without having loved you and made you known and loved as much as I can. Give glory, honor and riches to others, but give me, your servant, only your love and that will be enough. My Jesus and my all. Praised be Jesus my love.” These words summed up his life’s desire and were somewhat prophetic. Later that month, on January 27, 1896, he went home to His Father, after having made a retreat at the Franciscan monastery of Sancti Spiritus in Gilet, Spain.
Upon hearing of his death, a friend, Father Francisco Marsal wrote, “The servant of God, Henry de Ossó, was the most faithful model of Jesus Christ that I have ever seen. His speech, conduct and actions always made me think: That is how Christ acted.” Pope John Paul II beatified Henry on October 14, 1979, and canonized him on June 16, 1993, in Madrid, Spain.