From childhood to youth
Teresa Manetti, familiarly called Bettina, born March 2, 1846 in a country of the Tuscan countryside, Campi Bisenzio, and raised among a simple family.
In her life as a child and girl there are experiences common to many: the tranquility of a quiet family atmosphere, personal fulfillment, but also the grief and the burden of poverty. It is through the merits of these simple beginnings that her spiritual history is rooted in a ground made of essential things and clear necessities.
The sudden loss of her father, when Theresa was only three years, leaves a void in the family, and challenges the young mother with the consequences of isolation and economic problems: such as, sometimes not even knowing how to feed her children. However, the heavy load of the situation of the resources of this woman who, based on a sincere faith, unable to raise the children by opening a positive life.
Teresa will be a lively and cheerful girl, though in poor health, strong-willed and full of initiative. She is very much alive in the call to joy and the desire to get God’s hands: she has a natural sympathy. In this way, she is often at the center of attention where it is easy to praise the many demonstrations of her talents and abilities. To these treatments she devotes much time and everything is paid off with the full success, but besides this, there is a time she loves to spend in a profound sense, “wasting” it in the silence of a church where she senses something more free, or in a corner of her room when the evening comes back to ask herself “After all, what do I need of all this?”.
She makes her way into the deep desire of God, comparing this desire every day more and more with her daily life. For a few years she can follow both attractions, until she realizes that imposes a choice for her. God offers to fill her life, to gather all her desires and to reciprocate it with a unique and total love. It is then that she takes her irrevocable decision: “When i offered myself totally to God, I was 19 years old”.
She did not think of anything more than to please God, from the reasons that she alone knows the secret: In fact, almost no one understands the certain changes in her lifestyle, she doesn’t explain why does she no longer long to the things of the past, and why did she make of the poor her best friends and of prayer her only real joy.
In the small country of Campi, as in all countries, each has his say, but besides those who mock her in the street, there are also others who feel contaminated by this new and radical reality.
Her friends, in fact, are getting closer to her, and are in harmony with her ideals and wish to share. Thus, many small steps lead Teresa to leave her home to live with two companions in a couple of rooms rented: it is July 15, 1874, the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. There she begins to expand, in full freedom, her love for Christ, Who is searched day and night in prayer, served promptly in the poor, for poor as they are, they go to visit door to door.