I TRUST this first volume of Saint Teresa's "Letters," now presented to the public, will be read with that profit, interest, and delight which they are so eminently calculated to produce. If volumes filled with the "Life and Correspondence" of statesmen, poets, philosophers, travellers, military men, &c., be now so universally sought after, how ought we to prize the "Correspondence" of St. Teresa? Her "Letters" far surpass in sterling worth (as well as abound in circumstances invested with the deepest interest) the letters of any statesman, poet, or philosopher of modern times, however great such may have been in the eyes of the world. However pure or elegant their style may be, they cannot equal the classic purity of St. Teresa's; however interesting may be the events recorded in them, they cannot surpass in interest the wondrous events mentioned by St. Teresa, whether they relate to the supernatural state, or to the occurrences of ordinary life, or to her familiar and loving intercourse with her brothers and sisters; or to the delightful outpourings of her noble soul to her confessors; or to the edifying exhortations she gives to her Religious; or to the wit, vivacity, and playfulness with which she both delights and amuses those to whom she writes.
Her correspondence was most extensive, including bishops, archbishops, kings, ladies of rank, gentlemen of the world, abbots, priors, nuncios, her confessors, her brothers and sisters, rectors of colleges, fathers-provincial of the Society of Jesus, nuns and superiors of her convents and monasteries, learned doctors of different religious orders, and even most eminent saints, such as St. Peter of Alcantara, St. Francis Borgia, St. John of the Cross, &c.
In the "Letters" of St. Teresa it seems to me that all her admirable endowments, both of nature and of grace, can be more clearly discovered than in any of her other works. When we puruse her "Life," or "The Interior Castle," one is at first inclined to imagine that the Saint was altogether unearthly, unfit for the cares and troubles of life; that all her time must have been spent in holding sweet converse with her Beloved, and sighing for the hour when she should be united with Him for ever, and that visions and raptures must have engrossed all the powers of her soul. Others, again, might fancy that the Saint must have been very grave, austere, solemn exceedingly scrupulous, and given to melancholy. Some might also be inclined to believe that she was quite an enthusiast,1 led away by the ardent temperament of her character, or the vagaries of an unsteady imagination. But how quickly are such erroneous ideas scattered, when we read her admirable "Letters!" They soon convince us that the Saint possessed what we call "common sense" in a most remarkable manner; that so far from being an enthusiast, she was endowed with a solidity of judgment, and a prudence and sweetness in all her actions, which won the admiration of every one; that she was so careful to guard against melancholy, as never to allow anyone to enter the Order who seemed to be the lest infected with it. With regard to herself, we shall see, by perusing her "Letters," that she was cheerfulness itself, even in the midst of her greatest trials and afflictions, and withal exceedingly witty, lively, and jocose; indeed, her naiveté is one of the greatest charms of her "Letters" These will show us, too, that her raptures and visions did not in the least, interfere with her ordinary duties, for she was an excellent and most admirable "woman of business." Considering her numerous labours, duties, journeys, sicknesses, and infirmities, is it not surprising how she could find time to carry on such an extensive correspondence? Juan de Palafox,2 the celebrated bishop of Osma, remarks, "that it was principally by her Letters the Saint was enabled to effect the reform of the Carmelite Order."
All the biographers of the Saint speak in the highest terms of her "Letters." It is unnecessary to quote here the praises bestowed on them by Abbé Boucher, F. Ribera, Villefore, S. Antonio,3 Diego de Yepes, Bishop Palafox,4 the Bollandists, Dom Taste, Colliombet, &c. The reader will soon perceive their beauty, and be charmed almost out of himself, with the admirable character with which they invest the Saint. What love and tenderness does she not show towards her sisters in religion–what zeal for their advancement in virtue–what gentleness in correcting them–what sweetness, and charity, and forbearance toward those who opposed her reform–what gratitude for the least favour–what discretion, judgment, and consummate prudence in the management of affairs–what affection for her brothers and sisters–what tact and powers of persuasion–what admirable maxims of morality does she not inculcate–what sublime discourses on the wonders of the supernatural life does she not deliver? Indeed, it is not too much to say, that had the Saint written nothing but her "Letters," these alone would have been sufficient to entitle her to the admiration of the whole world, as well as to the love and gratitude of every devout soul. I know no letters written by any other saint which can equal those of Saint Teresa, and which have effected so much good. We can have no idea how highly they are prized in France, Italy, and Spain; and this, too, not merely by "Religious," but by the population in general. I trust their translation into English–now for the first time–will be received with the interest such letters deserve, and that those who read them devoutly may derive abundant spiritual profit and delight from their perusal. The Second Volume shall appear in due time.
Abraham Woodhead translated only a few of the letters, which are appended to the second part of the Saint's works. The zealous community of Carmelite nuns at Mount Carmel, Darlington, have in manuscript a translation in English of the Saint's "Letters;" but as the translation is made from the French, it is very inaccurate. L'Abbé Pelicot published a translation of several letters of the Saint in French, which appeared in 1660: a second volume was published at Lille in 1696, translated by Pierre de la Mère de Dieu. The style of both these translations is far from pleasing: the words are antiquated, and the sense often misunderstood. D'Andilly also published a translation; but on the whole it is not a faithful one, for having been a Jansenist,5 he cannot be trusted. Let us hope it will soon be superseded altogether, by the very excellent translation of St. Teresa's works undertaken by the learned Father Bouix, of the Society of Jesus. In 1753 appeared another translation of the Letters, from the pen of M. Chappe de Ligni, a French lawyer. This translation is both faithful and elegant; it does not, however, include all the Saint's Letters. There is also another translation, made by Marie Marguerite de Maupeou;6 this did not appear till 1748. Dom Taste has adorned it with a valuable preface and many useful notes, besides arranging the Letters in chronological order, as far as could be done with certainty. Though many admire this translation, yet the "Bollandists" seem to think it is not so correct as one could wish. L'Abbé Migne follows Chappe de Ligni and Madame de Maupeou, in his edition of the Saint's Letters.7 He has added three Letters never before published, which he lately informed me were found in the Convent of the Carmelites at Paris. But L'Abbé Migne acknowledges in his letter to me, that the translation is not quite correct. I have, however, given these three Letters in Appendix (No. III.)
The Spanish edition from which I have translated is the Madrid edition of 1793, which is considered to be the very best. It consists of four thick volumes octavo, the first volume being illustrated by the valuable, though somewhat diffuse, notes of the illustrious Señor Don Juan de Palafox, bishop of Osma. But as his Lordship did not live to complete his labours, the other volumes contain the notes of a Carmelite father, named Antonio de San Joseph. Vol. IV. contains several fragments of letters written by the Saint. It seems very probable, on the authority of a letter received from a learned Carmelite father in Rome, "that the Spanish edition of Madrid contains nearly all the Letters of the Saint, which have come down to us." One great fault in this edition is, that the Letters are not arranged in chronological order; and yet, considering how difficult it is to fix the date of all the Saint's Letters, we cannot be surprised at this deficiency; she often omits giving the date, or the name of the place whence she writes. It will be seen, then, that I have not followed the chronological order in the present translation because I found it would be very difficult to do so: indeed, I consider it unnecessary (however desirable it might be in some respects), as there is little or no connection between the Letters. I cannot be certain if the dates I have given be quite correct: I have taken them on trust, partly from Bishop Palafox, and partly from the French translation given by L'Abbé Migne. According to the Bollandists, nearly all the Saint's Letters were written from the year 1562, to about the 12th of September, 1582.
Both in her "Life" and in her "Letters," the Saint frequently testifies the great esteem in which she held the fathers of the Society of Jesus. They came into Spain about the year 1553.8 Several of them were at different periods her confessors. Many of her Letters are addressed to them, as for instance to Padre Rodrigo Alvarez, to F. Ribera Gonzalo de Avila, Padre Juan Suarez, Gaspar de Salazar, and Balthasar Alvarez,9 &c. In Letter No. XXI. (p. 93), the Saint gives a very interesting account of most of those whom she consulted in the affairs of her soul. There were also three individuals belonging to the holy Order of St. Dominic, whom the Saint highly esteemed, and of whom she often speaks in her Letters, viz., Fray Luis de Granada, Fray Pedro Ibañez, and Fray Domingo Bañez. The two latter were her confessors for some time. The valuable Letters addressed to Father Gracian, who belonged to the Carmelite Order, commence at No. XXIV.; and those written to her brother, Señor Lorenzo de Cepeda y Ahumada, begin at No. XI. The others will be found towards the end of the present volume. It was my intention to have given in this Preface a short biographical sketch of the lives of Balthasar Alvarez, Luis de Granada, Pedro Ibañez, Domingo Bañez, Señora Doña Luisa de la Cerda, Señor Don Alonso Velasquez, Bishop of Osma, Señora Guiomar de Ulloa, Lorenzo de Cepeda, and others.10 But as I have been disappointed in some valuable works which I expected to have received, I must defer the pleasing task to the last volume of the translation of the Letters. I have, however, added a few Notes, which I hope will be found useful: too many would only turn away the reader's attention from the golden words of the Saint. To each Letter I have prefixed a short summary of the contents, and also the number of the Letter in the Spanish edition.
I dare not flatter myself, that I have always succeeded in giving the true sense of the original, or in translating the classic words of the Saint into good English, and at the same time preserving the grace and elegance of the epistolary style. This is no easy task. Still I may say with truth, that I have taken all possible pains. I shall feel grateful in being corrected and told of my faults.
I take this opportunity of returning my most sincere thanks to His Eminence Cardinal Wiseman, to Bishop Wareing, Bishop Ullathorne, and Bishop Brown of Shewsbury, as well as several priests, for the kind encouragement I have received, and for the interest they have taken in the translation of St. Teresa's works.
To the Rev. Joseph Brown, of' Mount Carmel, Darlington, I am indebted for the loan of the Spanish edition of the Saint's Letters, and to the Very Rev. T. Sing for sending me a correct facsimile of the Saint's handwriting. The superiors of the convents of Mount Carmel and Llanherne have also very kindly lent me several valuable works, for which I return my grateful thanks.
At the end of the first volume of the Letters in the Spanish edition, appear certain "Advices"11 which the Saint gave, partly when she was alive, and some after her death. They are addressed to several individuals. Many of the advices are more like maxims or proverbs. They are illustrated by the remarks by Bishop Palafox. Most of these I have given in Appendix No. I. I have given three of the Letters in the original Spanish (Appendix No. II.). In Appendix No. III. are given "Letters Inédites," published by L'Abbé Migne. I did not translate them into English, as I could not be certain the French translation was correct. In Appendix No. IV. I have given the greater part of the interesting Letter written by Bishop Palafox to the Most Rev. Padre Diego de la Visitacion, respecting the letters of St. Teresa. In Appendix No. V. will be found a translation of the verses which the Saint sent to her brother, and of which mention is made in Letter No. XII. (English translation.)
Before I conclude, I think it necessary to mention, that St. Teresa never spells her name with an h: it is always "Teresa de Jesus." The French translators, however, insert the h, thus "Sainte Thérèse." But Father Bouix, in his recent translation of the Saint's Life, has restored the recent orthography.12
Bishop's House, Northampton, 1853.
1 A high Puseyite paper, in reviewing the "Life" of the Saint, actually asserted that there were many points of resemblance between St Teresa, John Wesley, and Joanna Southcote! This seems to be the opinion of Mr. Macaulay also. (See his Review on Ranke's "History of the Popes.")
2 This great prelate was enthusiastically devoted to Saint Teresa. Besides his "Annotations" on many of the Letters, he wrote an admirable critique on them, addressed to Padre Diego de la Visitacion. (See vol. i. Spanish ed. Madrid, 1793.)
3 "Giocondissima é la lezione di esse. Vi si scorge l'anima generosa di Teresa, una mente fra tanti travagli, infermita, e affari, sempre limpida e vivace," &c. (Vita di Santa Teresa, tom. iv. p. 44.)
4 "Y aunque todos sus escritos estàn llenos de doctrina del cielo, pero como advierten bien los instruidos en la humana erudicion, no puene negarse que en las cartas familiares se derrama mas el alma, y la condicion del autor, y se dibuxa con mayor propiedad, que no en los dilatados discursos y tratados..........Por eso, estas cartas de Santa Teresa, en las quales, tanto manifesta su zelo ardiente, su discrecion admirable, su prudencia, y carided maravillosa, han de ser recibidas de todos con mayor gozo, y no menor fruto y aprovechamiento." (Carta al Reverendisimo Padre Diego de la Visitacion.)
5 This fact is proved by the Bollandists, in their last magnificent volume on St. Teresa; and also by the Reverend Father Bouix, in his admirable translation of the Saint's "Life" (Paris, 1852).
6 Her name in religion was Thérèse de Saint Joseph. She was superioress of the convent of St. Denis in Paris, and died in 1727.
7 Se "OEuvres très-complètes de Sainte Thérèse," tom. ii. Paris, 1840.
8 See the Saint's "Life" (chap. xxiii. p. 192).
9 It would be well if the "Life" of this holy man, by Da Ponte, were translated into English.
10 I have not mentioned St. Peter of Alcantara, St. John of the Cross, and St. Francis Borgia, because more is known about them from Alban Butler; and no doubt Father Faber will publish their lives, for which we shall be grateful.
11 "Avisos de la Santa Madre Teresa de Jesus que ella dió en esta vida, por revelacion divina," is the Spanish title.
12 "Nous avons restitué au nom de Térèse sa véritable orthographe. La Sainte, ainsi que ses autographes le démontrent, n'a jamais mis d'h dans son nom: ses historiens l'ont écrit comme elle: tous les auteurs Espagnols ont fait de même." (Avertissement du Traducteur)
TO PHILIP THE SECOND, KING OF SPAIN, page 1.
TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS LADY LOUISA DE LA CERDA, OF MALAGON, page 4.
TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS LADY ANNE HENRIQUEZ, OF TORO, page 5.
TO THE REVEREND FATHER LOUIS OF GRANADA, OF THE ORDER OF ST. DOMINIC, page 8.
TO THE REVEREND FATHER PEDRO IBANEZ, page 10.
TO THE REVEREND FATHER JOHN DE JESU ROCA, CARMELITE, AT PASTRANA, page 12.
TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS DON ALONZO VELASQUEZ, BISHOP OF OSMA, page 15.
TO THE REVEREND FATHER GONZALO DE AVILA, OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS, page 20.
TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS LORD DON TEUTONIO DE BRAGANZA, AFTERWARDS ARCHBISHOP OF EVORA, AT SALAMANCA, page 24.
TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS LORD DON TEUTONIO DE BRAGANZA, ARCHBISHOP OF EVORA, page 27.
TO SENOR LORENZO DE CEPEDA Y AHUMADA, BROTHER TO THE SAINT, page 39.
TO SENOR LORENZO DE CEPEDA, BROTHER TO THE SAINT, page 48.
TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS LORD, DON ALONSO VELASQUEZ, BISHOP OF OSMA, page 59.
TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS LORD, DON ALVARO DE MENDOZA, BISHOP OF AVILA, AT OLMEDO, page 68.
TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS LORD, DON ALVARO DE MENDOZA, BISHOP OF AVILA, page 72.
TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS LORD, DON SANCHO D'AVILA, AFTERWARDS BISHOP OF JAEN, page 77.
TO THE VERY ILLUSTRIOUS LORD, DON SANCHO D'AVILA, page 79.
TO THE VERY REVEREND FATHER, FRAY JUAN BAUTISTA RUBEO DE RAVENA, GENERAL OF THE ORDER OF OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL, page 81.
TO THE VERY REVEREND FATHER DOMINGO BANEZ, OF THE ORDER OF ST. DOMINIC, page 91.
TO THE VERY REVEREND FATHER-PRIOR OF THE CARTHUSIAN MONASTERY AT SEVILLE, page 94.
TO THE REVEREND FATHER RODRIGO ALVAREZ, OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS, page 99.
TO THE REVEREND FATHER-PROVINCIAL OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS, IN THE PROVINCE OF CASTILE, page 114.
TO THE REVEREND FATHER GONZALO DE AVILA, OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS, page 118.
TO THE REVEREND FATHER GERONIMO GRACIAN, DE LA MADRE DE DIOS, page 122.
TO THE REVEREND GERONIMO GRACIAN, DE LA MADRE DE DIOS, page 129.
TO THE REVEREND FATHER GRACIAN, DE LA MADRE DE DIOS, page 134.
TO THE REVEREND FATHER GRACIAN, DE LA MADRE DE DIOS, page 136.
TO THE REVEREND FATHER GRACIAN, DE LA MADRE DE DIOS, page 141.
TO THE REVEREND FATHER AMBROSIO MARIANO, OF ST. BENEDICT, CARMELITE, page 144.
TO SENOR LORENZO DE CEPEDA, BROTHER OF THE SAINT, page 155.
TO SENOR LORENZO DE CEPEDA, BROTHER OF THE SAINT, page 164.
TO LORENZO DE CEPEDA, BROTHER OF THE SAINT, page 171.
TO LORENZO DE CEPEDA, BROTHER OF THE SAINT, page 179.
TO DON DIEGO DE GUZMAN Y CEPEDA, page 182.
TO A PERSON WHO WAS AFFLICTED AT THE DEATH OF HIS WIFE, page 183.
TO DIEGO ORTIZ, CITIZEN OF TOLEDO, page 185.
TO ALONZO RAMIREZ, CITIZEN OF TOLEDO, page 187.
TO DONA ISABEL XIMENA, AT SEGOVIA, page 190.
TO MOTHER CATHERINE DE CHRISTO, PRIORESS OF THE DISCALCED CARMELITES OF THE CONVENT OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY AT SORIA, AND TO THE RELIGIOUS OF THE SAID HOUSE, page 192.
TO MOTHER CATHERINE DE CHRISTO, PRIORESS OF THE CARMELITES AT SORIA, page 195.
TO SISTER LENOR DE LA MISERICORDIA, CARMELITE IN THE CONVENT OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY AT SORIA, page 198.
TO SISTER TERESA DE JESUS, CARMELITE IN ST. JOSEPH'S CONVENT AT AVILA, page 201.
TO MOTHER MARIA BAUTISTA, PRIORESS OF THE DISCALCED CARMELITES BELONGING TO THE CONVENT OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION AT VALLADOLID, page 203.
TO MOTHER MARIA BAUTISTA, PRIORESS OF THE CARMELITES AT VALLADOLID, page 206.
TO THE MOTHER-PRIORESS OF THE CARMELITES AT MALAGON, page 213.
TO THE MOTHER-PRIORESS AND RELIGIOUS OF THE CONVENT OF ST. JOSEPH DEL SALVADOR, AT VEAS, page 216.
TO THE CARMELITES OF ST. JOSEPH'S CONVENT AT SEVILLE, page 218.
TO THE CARMELITES OF ST. JOSEPH'S CONVENT AT SEVILLE, page 222.
TO MOTHER MARIA DE SAN JOSEPH, PRIORESS OF ST. JOSEPH'S CONVENT AT SEVILLE, page 226.
TO MOTHER MARIA DE SAN JOSEPH, PRIORESS OF SEVILLE, page 229.
TO MOTHER MARIA DE SAN JOSEPH, PRIORESS OF SEVILLE, page 233.
TO MOTHER MARIA DE SAN JOSEPH, PRIORESS OF SEVILLE, page 236.
TO MOTHER MARIA DE SAN JOSEPH, PRIORESS OF SEVILLE, page 239.
TO MOTHER MARIA DE SAN JOSEPH, PRIORESS OF SEVILLE, page 244.
TO MOTHER MARIA DE SAN JOSEPH, PRIORESS OF SEVILLE, page 246.
TO MOTHER MARIA DE SAN JOSEPH, PRIORESS OF SEVILLE, page 253.
TO MOTHER MARIA DE SAN JOSEPH, PRIORESS OF SEVILLE, page 257.
TO MOTHER MARIA DE SAN JOSEPH, PRIORESS OF SEVILLE, page 260.
TO MOTHER MARIA DE SAN JOSEPH, PRIORESS OF SEVILLE, page 268.
TO THE MOTHER-PRIORESS AND RELIGIOUS OF THE CONVENT OF ST. JOSEPH'S AT GRANADA, page 273.
APPENDICES, page 285.
The Saint implores the protection of his Majesty against certain individuals who were endeavouring to injure the character of Father Gracian, and also to prevent the reformation of the order. The persecution was raised in Seville. The date of the letter is about the year 1577. It is remarkable for the zeal and pious boldness with which the Saint addresses so illustrious a monarch.
JESUS. The grace of the holy Spirit be ever with your Majesty. Amen.
I have heard that a memorial has been presented to your Majesty against the Rev. Father Gracian. This stratagem of the devil and his ministers has indeed terrified me, because, not content with defaming the character of this servant of God (and he is truly such, for he gives great edification to all of us; and whenever he visits our monasteries, I am informed that he always fills the religious with renewed fervour), his enemies are now striving to injure those houses in which our Lord is so devoutly served.
For this purpose they have made use of two Carmelite Friars, one of whom was a servant in our monastery, before he took the habit; but he committed himself in such a way more than once, as plainly to show us he possessed but little judgment. The others who are opposed to Father Gracian (because he has the power of punishing them)–have induced these Carmelites to sign such foolish charges against the nuns, that I should certainly laugh at them, were I not fearful, lest the devil might be able to draw some evil from them. Such accusations, if true, would be monstrous, considering the habit we wear.
I beseech your Majesty, then, for the love of God, not to allow such scandalous charges to be made before a court of justice, because, should we give an occasion, the world might be inclined to believe we had done something evil, even though our innocence should be proved.
The reformation of the order, hitherto so blessed by the divine goodness, might be seriously injured by the least stain. Your Majesty would be able to form a judgment in the matter, should you be pleased to read the attestation which Father Gracian has thought proper to draw up, respecting these monasteries. It includes the testimony of those who have communication with the nuns, and they are persons of great weight and holiness.
Moreover, since the motive by which those are influenced who have written the memorial can easily be discovered, I beseech your Majesty to examine the matter, because the honour and glory of God are concerned; for if our enemies should see that some attention is paid to their charges, they will not hesitate, in order to prevent a visitation, to accuse as a heretic whoever shall undertake to make it: and this would not be difficult to do, where there is no fear of God.
I quite sympathize with the sufferings of this servant of God, which he endures with such patience and perfection; and this induces me to beseech your Majesty, either to take him under your protection, or to remove the cause of these dangers, for he belongs to a family that is extremely attached to your Majesty: independent of this consideration, he has great merits of his own. I consider him to be a man sent by God and our blessed Lady, for whom he has such a tender devotion. Our Lord conducted him to our order, that he might be of assistance to me: for as I have now laboured alone for more than seventeen years, my weak health will not allow me to endure much more.
I beg of your Majesty to pardon me for having entered so much into these particulars: but the great respect which I have for your Majesty, emboldened me to do so; for I considered, that as our Lord endured my indiscreet complaints, so also would your Majesty. May God be pleased to hear all the prayers of the religious, both men and women, that your Majesty may have a long life; for we have no other protector on earth.
I remain, your Majesty's unworthy Servant, and Subject,
TERESA DE JESUS.
The Saint gives the lady an account of the state of her health, and asks her co-operation in a new foundation. The date is 1568.
JESUS BE WITH YOU, MADAM. I have neither time nor strength to write a long letter, for now I write to few persons: it is, however, not very long ago since I wrote to your ladyship. My health has altogether failed me. I found myself much better when I was residing with you, although the people here are attached to me–praise be to God. But as I am with you in affection, so I desire to be in body also.
Are you not astonished, madam, to see how sweetly our Lord conducts all things? Blessed be His name, for having been pleased to commit our interests into the hands of those who are so devoted to His service; I think the undertaking will be very agreeable to His Majesty.
For the love of God, madam, endeavour to obtain leave. I think it best, however, my name should not be mentioned to the Governor; but only that he be requested to allow a house of Carmelite Nuns to be established. He should also be informed, what great good these religious do, wherever they are placed (at least, this may be said with truth of the nuns at Malagon: praise be to God for it).
When permission has been obtained, your ladyship will see how soon I shall be with you: our Lord seems unwilling that we should be separated. May His Majesty be pleased to unite us together in (eternal) glory, together with all my superiors, to whose prayers I constantly recommend myself. Write and tell me how your ladyship is: you are very negligent in doing me this favour.
The Sisters send their most respectful regards to you. You cannot imagine how many indulgences we have obtained for the benefactors of this order: they are innumerable.
May our Lord be with your Ladyship.
Your Ladyship's unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS, Carmelite.
The Saint expresses her great desire to see this lady, and praises two of the nuns, &c. The date is 1574.
JESUS. The grace of the Holy Spirit be ever with your ladyship.
It gave me great comfort to find your ladyship in this place.1 I do not regret the journey, as I now have more leisure to enjoy your company than I had at Salamanca. I have not deserved this favour from our Lord: may He be for ever praised. The prioress is quite well and happy; she is much better than I am, and she is also exceedingly devoted to your ladyship.
I was much pleased on hearing that you have been entertaining Father Baltasar Alvarez2 for a few days, for he requires some repose from his numerous labours. Our Lord be praised for giving you better health than usual. Mine is better now than it has been for several years past, and this is saying a great deal, considering the season of the year.
I have found such pure souls in this house, that I have praised our Lord for such a blessing. I consider Sister Stephanie to be a saint, and I feel great pleasure in beholding the merits of Sister Casilda, and the favours which our Lord bestows upon her ever since she put on the habit. May our Lord advance them more and more in perfection, for we should esteem those souls highly, whom He chooses so early for Himself.
I cannot help admiring the simplicity of Sister Stephanie in everything relating to God, when I consider the wisdom and truth of her words. The Father Provincial has made the visitation of this house,3 and the election has taken place. The prioress has been unanimously re-elected. One of the sisters of St. Joseph's of Avila has been chosen sub-prioress; she takes the name of Antonia of the Holy Spirit. Lady Guiomar is acquainted with her; she is a very devout soul.
The foundation of Zamora has been deferred, at least, for the present, and I am on the point of resuming my long journey. I intend to pass through your place, in order to have the pleasure of paying my respects to your ladyship. It is now some time since I received a letter from my Father Baltasar Alvarez; neither have I written to him, not, however, through any desire of mortification, for I never profited by his advice as I ought to have done. But you cannot conceive what difficulty I have in writing these letters; even when they are for my own pleasure, I can never find time. Blessed be God whom we hope to enjoy in security for ever; for upon nothing can we rely in this world, with all its trials and changes. I live with the hope of arriving at this end; people say "it is amidst sufferings," but I find none.
The mother prioress compliments me on my charge; he appears in her eyes to be as charming a child4 as he does in mine. I beseech our Lord to make him a great saint. Do not forget to give my respects to your husband, and the same also to Don Juan Antonio: I often recommend them to our Lord. Do not, madam, for the love of God, forget me in your prayers, for I always stand in need of them. As you remark, there is no occasion for us to trouble ourselves about Lady Guiomar, and so she tells me herself in stronger words. I should be glad to hear some beginning has been made towards so good a work. I wish to know what it is, and to enjoy the same delight that you feel. May our Lord give your ladyship abundance of joy during this feast, as great as I pray you may have.
To-day being the feast of St. Thomas, Father Dominic (Bañez)5 gave us a sermon, in which he so highly extolled the merit of suffering, that I felt a great desire to endure many, and I requested of our Lord to give me some for the future. The Father's sermons give me very great pleasure. He has been chosen prior. I do not know if his election will be confirmed. He has been so much engaged, that I have enjoyed but little of his company; however, I shall be content, if I can enjoy yours as long.
May our Lord direct your Ladyship, and give you such health and rest as may be necessary for arriving at that happiness which has no end.
Your Ladyship's unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 At Valladolid.
2 One of the Saint's confessors.
3 The convent at Valladolid.
4 It seems that the Saint had a son of this lady under her protection.
5 Another of the Saint's confessors.
The Saint expresses an ardent desire to see this great man, and recommends herself to his prayers. Date, 1577.
THE grace of the Holy Spirit be ever with your Reverence. Amen.
I consider myself as one among that great number of persons who love your Reverence in the Lord, for having written such holy and useful works, and who give thanks to His Majesty for having made you instrumental in the good of so many souls. I think no difficulty would prevent me from going to hear the words of one who consoles me so much by his writings, did not my sex and state of life put an obstacle in the way.
But independent of this consideration, I am obliged to seek for persons like you to calm the fears in which I have now lived for some years. And though I have not deserved this favour, I have been consoled by the command I have received from His Grace Don Teutonio,1 to address this letter to you; this I should not have presumed to do of myself. But the confidence which I placed in obedience, induces me to hope in our Lord, that your Reverence will sometimes remember me in your prayers. I stand in great need of them, both because I have little merit of myself, and because I am exposed to the eyes of the world, without being in any way able to justify the good opinion which people have of me.
If your Reverence knew how I was situated, you would then be induced to grant me this favour, which I ask as an alms. You who know so well the Majesty of God, can easily imagine how great must be the sufferings of one, who has led such a wicked life as I have. But though so wicked, I have often presumed to ask of our Lord to give your Reverence a long life. May His Majesty grant me this favour, and may your Reverence increase more and more in holiness and divine love.
Your Reverence's unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS, Carmelite.
P.S.–Don Teutonio is one of those who are deceived in their opinion of me. He tells me that he esteems your Reverence highly. In return, your Reverence should visit his Grace, and tell him not to be so credulous without cause.
1 Don Teutonio de Braganza was Archbishop of Evora.
The Saint, having written her "Life" by the command of this her holy Director, sent him the manuscript with the following letter. The date is about 1562.
JESUS. The Holy Ghost be always with your Reverence. Amen.
It would not be amiss, in writing to your Reverence, to dwell on this service of mine, in order to oblige you the more to take particular care in recommending me to God. And this I could well do, seeing it has cost me so dear to behold myself in writing, and thus to have brought to my remembrance so many of my miseries, though I can with truth say, that I have experienced more reluctance in mentioning the favours which our Lord has shown me, than I should have felt in mentioning the offences I have committed against His Majesty.
I have done what your Reverence commanded me, to enter into more particulars; but upon this condition, that your Reverence also will perform what you promised me, viz., to tear out whatever you do not approve. When your Reverence sent for the manuscript, I had not finished the perusal of it after having written it. Hence you may find some things not very clearly explained, and others mentioned twice over; for the time I had was so short, that I could not review what I had written. I beseech your Reverence to correct it; and order it to be transcribed, if it must be sent to Father Avila, otherwise some one may know my hand.
I am very desirous such orders may be given, as he thinks proper, since it is with this intention I began to write. If he shall judge I am going on in a safe way, this will give me great consolation, for there will be no more to do on my part. Your Reverence must do whatever you think best; consider how bound you are to one who thus confides her soul to you. Your soul I will recommend to our Lord all the days of my life; make haste, then, to serve His Majesty, in order to be able to do me this favour, for your Reverence will see, by what is now sent you, how well you are employed in giving yourself wholly to Him (as your Reverence has already begun so to do) who gives Himself to us without reserve. May He be blessed for ever: I hope in His mercy, that both your Reverence and myself may one day meet together in that kingdom, where we shall more clearly understand the great favours He has been pleased to show us both, and praise Him for ever and ever. Amen.
Your Reverence's unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 The Saint speaks in the highest terms of this holy religious, who belonged to the order of St. Dominic. He was of the greatest assistance to her in the foundation of St. Joseph's monastery. (See her "Life," chap. xxxviii. p. 364.)
The Saint having been imprisoned by the decree of a general chapter, shows in this letter the greatest patience and joy in sufferings. Date, 1579.
JESUS. Mary and Joseph be in the soul of my father John de Jesu.
I received your Reverence's letter in this prison, where I am now filled with the greatest delight, because I endure all my troubles for my God and for my order. That which grieves me, my father, is the affliction your Reverence feels for me; this it is that troubles me. Do not, however, my son, be troubled, nor any one else, since I may say, like another Paul, though not his equal in sanctity, That prisons, labours, persecutions, torments, ignominies, and insults for my Saviour,1 and for my order, are to me delights and favours.
I never knew myself to be more free from troubles than I am now. It belongs to God to help the afflicted and imprisoned with His favour and assistance. I give my God a thousand thanks; and it is proper we should all thank Him for the favour He has done me by this imprisonment. My son and father, can there be a greater delight or sweetness, than in suffering for our good God? When were the saints at the height of their joy, but when they were suffering for their God and Saviour? This is the most secure and certain path that leads to God, since the cross should be our joy and delight. Let us, then, my father, seek the cross: let us desire the cross; let us embrace afflictions; and whenever we have none, woe to the Carmelite order, woe to us.
You tell me in your letter how the Nuncio has given orders, "That no more convents of our order should be founded, and that those already erected must be taken down, by the request of the father general." You also mention that the Nuncio is exceedingly angry against me, and considers me a troublesome woman, and of a roving disposition;2 that the world is in arms against me, and my sons, who hide themselves in the rocks of the mountains, and the most retired places, in order not to be found and taken. This is what I lament–what I feel–what grieves me, that for such a sinner and wicked nun as I am, my sons should endure so many persecutions and afflictions, and should be abandoned by all men; but not by God; for of this I am certain, He will not forsake us, nor abandon those who love Him so tenderly.
But in order that you, my son, and the rest of your brothers may rejoice, I will tell you something very consoling; but this must be in confidence between myself, your reverence, and Father Mariano; for I should be grieved if others knew it. You must know then, my father, how a certain nun3 of this house, being in prayer on the vigil of the feast of my Father St. Joseph, he appeared to her in company with the Blessed Virgin and her Son; and she noticed how they stood, asking for the reformation (of the order); and our Lord told her, "that many both in hell and on earth rejoiced greatly to see, as they supposed, the order dissolved; but that when the Nuncio commanded its dissolution, God confirmed it." He told her to have recourse to the king,4 who in everything would be to her and her sons as a father. Our Lady and St. Joseph said the same, and several other things not fit to be mentioned in a letter. She was also told that within twenty days I should be delivered from prison, God so willing. Let us then all rejoice, for from this day forward the reform will continue to advance more and more.
What your Reverence should do is, to continue in the house of Madame Maria de Mendoza till you hear again from me; and Father Mariano must go and present this letter to the king, and another to the duchess of Pastrana. I hope your Reverence will not leave the house, least you might be apprehended, for we shall soon see ourselves at liberty.
I am well and strong, thanks be to God. My companion is displeased. Recommend us to God, and say a mass of thanksgiving in honour of my Father St. Joseph. Do not write to me till I tell you. May God make you a holy and perfect Carmelite.
Father Mariano advises your Reverence and Father Jerome de la Madre de Dios, to consult in secret the Duke de Infantado.
TERESA DE JESUS.
Wednesday, 25th of March, 1579.
1 Spanish, "Por mi Christo."
2 "Llamandome muger inquieta, y andariega," &c.
3 The Saint no doubt alludes to herself.
4 King Philip II. of Spain.
The Saint gives his Lordship an account of the state of her soul. He was then her confessor at Toledo. Date, 1581.
JESUS. Oh! that I could make your Reverence understand the quiet and tranquillity which my soul now enjoys. She is now so certain she is to enjoy God, that He seems already to have given her the possession, though not the enjoyment of Him. It is as if some one had, by a legal deed, settled a great estate upon another, so that he should have possession of it after a certain period, and receive the rents; but till then, he was to enjoy only the reversion then made over to him.
But through the gratitude he feels for the donor, he does not wish to enjoy the estate now, because he thinks he does not deserve it, but only to serve Him, even though it were by much suffering. He sometimes even thinks this were but little, though his afflictions should last till the end of the world, provided he could be of service to the giver of this possession; for in truth, such a person is not, in this respect, subject to the miseries of the world, as he used to be formerly, because, though he endures more, it seems to be only outwardly; for the soul is as it were in a castle with sovereign power, and thus she does not lose her peace.
And yet this security does not exclude the great fear she has of offending God, and of removing everything which might prevent her from serving Him: it even increases her fear and care. But so unmindful is she of her own interest, that she seems in part to have lost her very being, so forgetful is she of herself. In everything she looks to God's glory, and how to accomplish His will the best, and glorify Him.
Besides what I have just mentioned, then again, as far as regards her body and health, I think she takes more care of it, and is less mortified in eating, neither has she such desires of doing penance, as she used to have. But in her opinion, all tends to this object, viz., to be able to serve God the more in other things; for she often offers Him, as an agreeable sacrifice, this care she takes of the body: often is she fatigued, and yet sometimes she tries herself in some mortification; but in her opinion she cannot do this without injury to her health; and the commands of her superiors are always before her. Self-love no doubt insinuates itself in this, and in her desires also about her health. But I think it would give me more pleasure, and I received more, when I was able to endure great mortifications; because if I suffered, then I was doing something and giving good example, and I was not troubled with the thought that I was not serving God in anything. Your Lordship well knows what is best to be done in this respect.
The "Imaginary Visions"2 have ceased, but the intellectual vision of the three Persons and of the Humanity, seems always to be present; this, in my opinion, much more sublime. Now I seem to understand that the visions I have had came from God, because they dispose the soul to the state in which she now is. And as she was so weak and so miserable, God went on conducting her as He thought necessary: I consider they are to be valued exceedingly, when they are from God.
The "Internal Speeches" have not gone, for when there is any necessary, our Lord gives me some advice: here in Palentia a great oversight would have been committed, though not sinful, had it not been for such advice.
The "Acts and Desires" do not seem to have so much power in me as formerly, because though they are great, yet that is so much greater which possesses me, viz., that the will of God may be done, and whatever conduces most to His glory; and as the soul knows well that His Majesty understands what is the most proper for this object, and as she takes no pleasure in her own interest, these "acts and desires" immediately cease, and I think have no power whatever. Hence proceeds the fear I sometimes have (though not as I used to have it, with pain and trouble), so that my soul is, as it were, stupefied, and I seem to be doing nothing, because I cannot do any penance. Desires of suffering and of martyrdom, and of seeing God, have no great power over me and in general I cannot accomplish them. It seems as if I had lived only to eat and to sleep, and to suffer no pain in anything; and even this troubles me, except that sometimes (as I have said) I fear it is a delusion; yet I cannot believe it, for as far as I can understand, no attachment to any creature, nor to all the glory of heaven, reigns with any power over me, except only to love my God. This is not diminished, nay, rather, in my opinion it is increased, as well as the desire that all should serve him.
Notwithstanding this, one thing astonishes me, viz., that now I feel so little those excessive and interior sentiments that used to afflict me, through beholding the loss of souls, and of thinking whether any offence against God had been committed, although I think this desire that God should not be offended is not lessened.
Your Lordship must observe, that I can do no more in whatever I either now have, or that is past; nor is it in my power to serve more, if I could, were I not so wicked; more I say, since if now I should earnestly endeavour to desire to die, I could not desire such a thing, nor perform the acts that I used to do; nor have I such sorrow for offences against God, nor likewise those great fears I had for so many years, when I thought I was deluded; hence, I now have no occasion to consult the learned, or to tell anything to any one. I only wish to satisfy myself whether I am going on well at present, and whether I can do anything better. I have spoken on this matter with some whom I consulted about other things, viz., Father Dominic (Bañez) and Maestro Medina, and some belonging to the Society of Jesus. I am resolved to agree to whatever your Lordship shall now say to me, on account of your Lordship's great authority: weigh your words well, for the love of God. I have lately been unable to know whether the souls of some relatives of mine who have died have gone to heaven; but of others, I have not lost the knowledge.
An interior peace, and the little strength which either pleasures or displeasures have to remove this presence (during the time it lasts) of the three Persons, and that without power to doubt of it, continue in such a manner, that I clearly seem to experience what St. John says, "That He will dwell in the soul," and this not only by grace, but that He will also make her perceive this presence, which brings so many good things as cannot be uttered, especially that there is no occasion to seek considerations for knowing that God is in the soul. This is almost general, except when she is oppressed by severe sickness: sometimes it seems as if God wished her to suffer without any internal consolation; but never, not even through any first motion, does this turn the will from desiring that God's will should not be accomplished in her. Her resignation to this will has such strength, that she desires neither death nor life, except for a short time, when she desires to see God; but the presence of these three Persons is immediately represented to her with such power, and thereby her grief for being at a distance from her Spouse is diminished, and a desire to live remains if such be His will, in order to serve Him the more, and that she may be instrumental in causing at least one soul to love Him the more, and praise Him through her means; and though this should be only for a very short time, she thinks it would be more profitable to her, than to enjoy eternal glory.
Your Lordship's unworthy Servant and Daughter,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 St. Teresa, in the book of her Foundations, highly extols this great prelate, both for his learning and piety. When she consulted him as her confessor, he was a canon of the cathedral of Toledo. (See "Foundation of the Monastery of Soria.")
2 The Saint explains this kind of visions in her "Interior Castle."
This holy man was confessor to the Saint, and Rector of a College at Avila. He seems to have asked her for some advice respecting his office. Date 1578.
JESUS be with your Reverence.
It is a long time since I have been so mortified as I was to-day, with the letter I received from your Reverence. I am not yet so humble as to desire to be considered so proud, nor is your Reverence so anxious to show your humility, so much to my cost. I never felt so much inclined to tear your letter. I assure your Reverence, you know well how to mortify me and make me understand what I am: does your Reverence imagine, then, that I consider myself able to instruct others? God deliver me from such a thought! I do not wish to think of such a thing. Now I perceive I have committed a fault, though it may perhaps be out of a desire I have to see your Reverence very good: and from such a weakness may proceed the follies of my discourse with you, and also from the great respect I have for you, which makes me speak with freedom, without considering what I say. Afterwards, I had some scruple respecting certain things I said to you; and if I were not afraid, too, of being disobedient, I should not now comply with what your Reverence commands me, because I find great reluctance in doing so. May God accept my submission. Amen.
One of the great defects which I have, is judging of myself in these matters of prayer, and therefore your Reverence must not heed what I shall say, because God may give you another talent, different from that He gives to a weak woman like myself. Considering the favour bestowed on me by our Lord, of having Him actually present to me; and how, in addition to this I see, when many duties are to be performed by me, that neither persecutions nor labours can disturb me as much as these1 do; if any business comes which requires immediate despatch, I very commonly go to rest an hour or two, or even later, after midnight, in order that my soul may not afterwards be obliged to attend to any other thought save to Him only whom she possesses thus present. This has been very injurious to my health, and therefore it must be a temptation, though it seems to me the soul remains more at liberty, like one who has on his hands some business of great importance and urgency; and so he immediately settles anything else, that it may not hinder him from attending to that which he considers more necessary.
And so it is a great pleasure to me whenever I can leave anything to be done by the sisters, though it might in some degree be done better by myself; but should I not do it well, His Majesty supplies the deficiency. The less attention I give to business, the more advanced I find myself in my interior. Though I know this very clearly, yet I often neglect using care to be released from business, and doubtless, I receive some harm thereby. I see I might do more, and employ greater diligence in this respect, and thus do myself greater good.
What I say, however, must not be understood of weighty affairs, which cannot be neglected; and here perhaps, lies my mistake, for such are the duties of your Reverence, and it would not be proper to leave them to the management of another, in my opinion; but as I see your Reverence's health is injured by them, I wish you could have less to do. I am, however, excited to bless God, by seeing you take such an interest in matters relating to the welfare of the house, for I am not so weak as not to understand the great favour our Lord bestowed upon you in having giving you such a talent, and the great merit which may be gained thereby. It makes me somewhat envious, because I wish my superior also to have the like. Since God has given your Reverence to me as such, I wish you would take as much care of my soul as you do of the fountain. I am much pleased with your account of it, for it is so necessary in the monastery, that it deserves all your Reverence can do.
Nothing more remains for me to say. I assure you, I speak to you in all truth and sincerity, as if I were speaking to God. I know what whatever is done towards properly discharging the office of superior is so pleasing to God, that He gives in a short time what He would give to other superiors only after a long period. This I know as well by experience, as by what I have been saying. But as I see your Reverence is so exceedingly busy in general, what I have said to you came at once into my mind, and the more I reflect upon it, the more (as I have said) do I now see, that there is a difference between your Reverence and myself. I will correct myself by not mentioning my first thoughts, since it cost me so dear. Provided I can see you well, my temptation will cease. May our Lord dispose everything as He can and as I desire.
Your Reverence's Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 That is, her duties.
The Saint gives this great prelate some excellent advice, thanks him for some alms he had sent her, and recommends to him the establishment of a new house of Carmelites. Date, 1574.
JESUS. The grace of the Holy Spirit be ever with your Lordship.
I received very great pleasure on hearing of your safe arrival, and the good state of your Lordship's health; but your letter seemed to me too short for so long a journey and your Lordship does not tell me the reason why you did not let me know if you succeeded in the affair on which you went. It will be no new thing that your Lordship is not satisfied with yourself; but wonder not if the labour of the journey, which prevented you from having your hours regulated, has caused some tepidity in your soul. But you will be yourself again, when you resume your usual quiet. I have at present some little health, in comparison with the severe sickness I have lately had; and if I should complain as you do, you would consider your pains as nothing. The sickness I had during two months was so violent, that I felt it even in my interior, so as to make me think I had no existence. At present I am well as regards the interior, but as to the exterior, I still suffer my usual infirmities. I am treated well by the orders of your Lordship, and I pray God to reward you for it. The people have shown great kindness to me and some other religious, who have come very ill from Pastrana: the sickness was occasioned by the dampness of their house. They are now getting better; they are very devout souls, with whom your Lordship will be much pleased to converse, but principally with the prioress.
I had before heard of the death of the king of France.1 I am grieved at the thought of seeing so many evils which follow from it, and the souls which the devil will gain. I pray God to send a remedy; at least, if our prayers can be of any assistance, we do not forget to beseech His Majesty (in favour of them). I entreat Him to reward you also for all your care, and the many favours you have done our order. The father provincial (I mean the father visitor) is so far off, that I cannot by a letter transact this business with him, about which you spoke to me. It would be a good thing to build a house here for our fathers, if the devil does not prevent it, for this reason. The favour which you wish to do us will contribute not a little to this establishment, together with the circumstance of the visitors being confirmed without any limitation of time. I believe that for certain reasons, they have been confirmed with greater authority than they had formerly. They may now even found convents; so that I trust in our Lord He will prosper this business. Do not abandon it, I beseech you. I believe the father visitor will soon come near us; I will then write to him. They assure me he will come here. Your Lordship will do me the favour to speak to him, and tell him what you think of everything; you may speak to him with perfect freedom, for he is a truly good man, and he deserves to be treated in this candid way; and perhaps he may resolve to finish the affair, in consideration of you. I beg of you not to despair until you know what he intends doing. Mother prioress recommends herself to your Lordship's prayers. All our nuns have ever been careful, and are so still, to pray for you. Our sisters of Medina, and every one who wishes to confer a favour on me, do the same.
Our Father Rector's bad health afflicts me much. I pray God it may be better, and that He will bestow on you the grace and sanctity I desire for you. Amen. Please to inform the Father Rector how anxious we are to beg of our Lord to give him his health, and that I am well satisfied with Father Santander. But it is quite otherwise with the religious who are our neighbours; they have gone to law against us, because we have bought a house which suited our purpose, and which is near to theirs. I do not know how the matter will end.
Your Lordship's unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 Charles IX., who died in 1574. After the death of this monarch Protestantism began to gain ground in France, and it is to this evil no doubt that the Saint alludes.
Letter 2nd. The Saint congratulates this prelate on being made archbishop, and gives him advice and encouragement. She also mentions the different persecutions which she and her religious were suffering, and the obstacles that were raised to prevent the reform of the Order, &c. Date, 1578.
JESUS. The grace of the Holy Spirit be ever with your illustrious Lordship. Amen.
It is now more than two months since I received a letter from your Lordship. I should have answered it immediately, but the reason which obliged me to defer the answer was, that I waited till I saw if some calm would follow the great troubles which have agitated both our nuns and fathers, ever since the month of August; I was also desirous of giving your Lordship an account of all that passed, according to the command you gave me in your letter. But matters are getting worse and worse every day, as I shall inform your Lordship in the course of this letter. The only thing I now wish for is to be able to converse with your Lordship, as I cannot express in a letter the joy I felt by the letter which the Father Rector sent me this week from your Lordship, though it is more than three weeks since I learnt the news from yourself with more certainty; since then I have been informed from another quarter. I know not how your Lordship can imagine that such a thing can be kept secret. May His Divine Majesty grant it may tend to His greater honour and glory, and that it may be the means of making your Lordship advance more and more in sanctity, as indeed I think it will.
Be assured, my Lord, that a matter which is so strongly recommended to God, by souls who have no other object but that He may be served in whatever they request, will not fail to be heard. As regards myself, though I am so wicked, I do not forget to be very assiduous in praying for your Lordship, and your servants1 in all our houses do the same; here I daily find such souls, the piety of whom covers me with great confusion. It seems our Lord is pleased to choose them from those parts, in order to bring them to these houses, in which I know not who could have given them any knowledge of our monasteries or mode of living.
Hence, my Lord, you must take courage, and doubt not for a moment it is God's will. I have not the least doubt myself; nay, I am even sure that this has been ordered by God, and that His Majesty wishes you should now put in execution the good desires you have of serving Him. You have remained unoccupied too long, and our Lord stands in need of a virtuous prelate. As for us, we can do but little, being so poor and so base, if God does not raise up some one to defend us, though we ask of Him nothing else than His holy service; for malice is raised to such a height, and ambition and vanity are so much encouraged,2 even by those who ought to tread them under feet, that it, seems our Lord, powerful as He is, wishes to make use of His creatures in order to maintain virtue, which without them would not be strong enough to gain the victory; for those who should in reality be her defenders have forsaken her; and thus our Lord has chosen other persons, who He knew would be able to help Him.
I hope your Lordship will endeavour to employ yourself in this way, as I think you will; I pray that His Majesty will give you health, strength, and grace, that your Lordship may prosper in everything. The service we shall do your Lordship will be, continually to pray to God for you, that He may be pleased to give you a people desirous of the good of souls, in whom you may place trust. I am greatly consoled at knowing that the Society of Jesus takes so much interest in your Lordship's affairs that you can employ the fathers in any way you think best, since they are fit for everything.
I was very glad to hear how well the affair of the Marchioness of Elche succeeded. I was in great trouble about it, till I heard of its happy termination. God be praised for it. When our Lord sends us such a multitude of troubles together, He usually makes them serve for our greater good. As He knows we are exceedingly weak, and as He does all things for our welfare, He proportions our sufferings to our strength. I think the same will happen with regard to the storms raised up against us some time since. But if I did not know that both our fathers and sisters lived in the strict observance of their rule, I should sometimes fear that their enemies would accomplish the object they have been aiming at, viz., to ruin the commencement of the reform, which is supported by the most Blessed Virgin. The devil has used such artifices for this end, that it seems our Lord has given him leave to exert all his power in the affair.
Indeed, the stratagems and diligence which have been made use of to defame us, and especially Father Gracian and myself (I am the person against whom all their blows are directed), are so numerous, and the accusations against this good man have been so false, and the memorials which were presented against him to the king, as well as against the reform of the convents, were so scandalous, that to have seen them your Lordship would have wondered how any one could have invented such malice. But I am persuaded that we gained much by them, because the nuns felt as much joy as if these calumnies did relate to them. The virtue of Father Gracian has shone with such brightness under the trial, that I am quite astonished. What a great treasure must not God have hidden in that soul, for he prays especially for those who calumniate him, and he bears their calumnies with as much joy as St. Jerome! He cannot, however, endure the false charges which our enemies have brought against the nuns. The visits which he has made amongst them for two years have given him so great a knowledge of their piety, that he not only considered them as angels in his own mind, but even called them so.
But God was at length pleased that these people should be forced to unsay what they had charged us with. And as to what was said respecting Father Gracian, the Court ordered an inquiry to be made, and evidence to be brought forward, and thus the truth was discovered. They have also retracted many other false charges, by which we have plainly seen how many enemies we had at court, and also how great was the hatred by which they were animated. Your Lordship may be assured, that it was by this means the devil endeavoured to destroy all the good which is done by our houses.
But not to dwell on all that has been done against the poor nuns of the Monastery of the Incarnation, whose only crime was to have chosen me for their prioress, I must tell your Lordship that the whole city was astonished at what they have suffered, and do suffer still, and are likely to suffer for some time; for I do not know how all will end. The severity with which Father Tostado treated them was so extraordinary, that once he kept them for more than fifty days without allowing them to hear mass, or even see any one! This severity still continues. Many people said that the nuns were excommunicated; but all the theologians of Avila denied this, and with reason, because the excommunication, which did not then effect me, had been published only to prevent them from electing a stranger and they thought they could not incur this excommunication by choosing me, because they did not consider me a stranger, one who had been professed in their house, and who had lived so many years in it. And who in reality could hinder me now from returning there if I had a wish to do so? My dowry was paid to that house; the convent is not in a separate province; and the prioress, however has been chosen who had the less number of votes. The matter is in the hands of the council, and I know not how it will end.
I was much grieved to see so many troubles raised on my account; such great scandal given to the city, and so many souls filled with affliction, for the number of those who had been excommunicated was not less than fifty-four! The only consolation which was left me was the thought, that I had used every effort to prevent the nuns from electing me; and surely not without reason, for it would have been one of the greatest troubles to me, I assure your Lordship, to have seen myself there as prioress,–in a house, too, where I never had one hour's good health all the time I lived in it.
But though I have compassion on those souls whose heroic perfection has been made manifest, by the patience wherewith they have endured these persecutions: yet the affliction I now suffer, on account of Father Tostado having commanded, more than a month ago, two fathers who were their confessors to be imprisoned, is much more painful. They are both very perfect religious, and by their good example have edified the whole city during the five years they have lived in it. They it was who kept the house in the same state that I left it; and I can assure your lordship that one of them, called Brother John of the Cross, is considered by all to be a saint, and this opinion is not without a good foundation; in my judgment he is a great treasure. This holy man and his companion were sent to this monastery by the command of the apostolic visitor, who belonged to the Order of St. Dominic, and also by the present nuncio; they were also made subject to the Father Gracian, the visitor.
I do not know how this affair will end. My great trouble is, that they have been taken away without our knowing where they are. But we are afraid they are closely confined, and this makes me fearful lest some misfortune has happened. May our Lord send a remedy.
I hope your Lordship will pardon me if this letter is too long. I find a pleasure in acquainting your Lordship with all that has happened, in case Father Tostado should come into your neighbourhood. When the nuncio came here, he favoured this father so much, that he commanded Father Gracian not to make his visitation, though this command does not prevent him from being apostolic commissary (because the nuncio did nothing to make it appear he took away that power, nor was it, according to what he himself said, his intention to take it from him). This good father went to Alcalá, and after that to Pastrana, where he has lived in a grotto, suffering a thousand persecutions, as I have before told your Lordship; he does not exercise his power of apostolic commissary, for since that time he has lived as if he had been in reality suspended.
He earnestly desires never to exercise his power of making a visitation, and we desire it no less than he does, on account of the troubles which happen to him and us, unless our Lord would do us the favour of making a province for us in particular, it would not be for our good that he should be visitor. When he arrived at Alcalá, he wrote me word that he was resolved to obey Father Tostado, if he made the visitation, and he told us to do the same. But as he has not yet come into this neighbourhood, I believe our Lord will prevent his coming. All the fathers, however, say, that it is he who does everything, and that he employs all his power to be able to make the visitation. That it is, my Lord, that afflicts us extremely, and is the cause of all the complaints we now make to you. But I feel a great relief in giving your Lordship a history of these proceedings. I know, however, you must be tired with reading them; but your Lordship is not insensible to the obligation you lie under of protecting this Order; and how necessary is it that your Lordship should not only know the inconveniences attending a new foundation, but those also which I shall now mention; these will make another strange story.
As I cannot but make use of every possible means to prevent so good a work from miscarrying (for even the most learned men who are my confessors, do not advise me to the contrary), all our fathers are very angry with me; and they have sent such representations to the Father General, that it has been decreed in a general chapter, that by the command of our Father General, no religious of the reform shall henceforth leave their convent, and they have laid this command on me in particular, under pain of excommunication: I am allowed, however, to choose any convent I like to live in. It is very evident that this decree has been made on purpose to prevent any more new foundations: it is painful to see such a multitude of young women who beg to be received into our monasteries, and yet they cannot be received because our houses are so few, and we are forbidden to found any more.
Though the late nuncio ordered me to continue the foundations, and I have very strong "letters patent" from the apostolic visitor; nevertheless, since these disturbances have happened, I have resolved not to establish any houses until our father general or the Pope commands otherwise: for as this work has not been discontinued through my fault, I consider the opposition made against it as a favour from God, who thus frees me from a burthen, of which I already begin to be tired. I do not, however, mean to say, that if I could render some service to our Lord thereby, it would be a trouble to me: but what I say is, it would be so painful for me not to see your Lordship any more, that if it were but for this reason alone I was commanded to keep enclosure, I should be quite inconsolable. But even though the general chapter should put no obstacle in the way, I could not go, because the leave I obtained from our father general extended only to the kingdom of Castile, and hence it would be necessary to receive new letters patent. I am certain our father general would not grant them now; but it would be very easy to obtain them from the Pope, especially if his Holiness could see the document drawn up by the command of Father Gracian: this gives an account of our manner of living in these monasteries; of the life we lead, and of the great good which the religious do wherever they are established. It is said by persons of authority, that this document, of itself, is sufficient to canonize us all! I have not yet read it, because so many good things are said about myself. However, if this foundation is to be made, I am very anxious that leave should be obtained from our father general, with a request that we may be allowed to establish houses in Spain: my presence would not be necessary, for religious could easily be found very capable of doing this work, without my leaving the convent: they should be sent there as soon as the house was in a state to receive them. In order to gain this object, it would be well to represent to him, that to hinder these foundations, would be to deprive souls of a great good. If your Lordship is acquainted with the protector of our Order, who, I am told, is nephew to the Pope, he could easily persuade our general to give his consent. If your Lordship would be so good as to interest yourself in the matter, you would confer a great favour on our Order, and render considerable service to our Lord.
Because I am desirous of telling your Lordship everything that happens, it is necessary that I inform you of another difficulty, viz., that Father Tostado has already been received as vicar general in this province; hence you may judge what bad news this is, especially to me, who may perhaps fall into his hands; and I have reason to fear he will use all his power to prevent this undertaking. As regards Castile, we do not believe, as far as we can judge at present, that he has made a visitation there, because as he has exercised his duties without showing his commission, especially when he visited our monastery of the Incarnation (and this appeared very strange to every one), he was ordered to show his letters patent to the council, by a royal decree: after that he was unable to receive them back again, and I think he never will. We have also letters of exemption given us by the visitors apostolic, which certify that we cannot be visited, except by those whom our father general shall nominate, and they must belong to the reform. But as these commands cannot be observed where religious perfection has fallen to the ground, I hope your Lordship will please to inform us how this evil can be remedied, for your Lordship shall be sure to have good religious to assist you in your undertakings.
Father Julian d'Avila (who, I believe, is already on the way) sends his most humble respects to your Lordship. He is quite delighted to hear the good news about your Lordship: he was, however, already acquainted with it, when last I wrote to him. He is convinced that by your Lordship's elevation, you will be able to render good service to God and His church. Mary of St. Jerome, sub-prioress of this house, respectfully congratulates your Lordship. She says, that to serve your Lordship, she would willingly join the foundation, if such were the Divine will. May our Lord direct everything as He pleases, for His own greater glory. May he preserve your Lordship, and give you an increase of His holy love.
It is no wonder your Lordship cannot enjoy that recollection which you desire, on account of your new dignity. Our Lord will doubly repay you, as He is accustomed to reward those who leave all things for His sake. However, I wish your Lordship not to attend so much to exterior things, without devoting at least some small portion of your time to interior recollection; for in this consists our true interest.
I beg of you, for the love of our Lord, not to afflict me, by placing what you do on the address of the letters.3
Your Lordship's unworthy Servant and Subject,
TERESA DE JESUS.
From our House of St. Joseph's of Avila, the 16th day of January, 1578.
1 That is, the nuns.
2 "Tan canonizada," &c.
3 The bishop of Osma remarks, in his annotations on this letter, that before the edict of Philip II. it was the custom to put on the address of letters the titles and qualities of the persons to whom they were written. This the Saint could not endure, as the praises of the archbishop wounded her humility. "No me atormente con estos sobrescritos, por amor pe nuestro Señor."
Letter 1st. The letters which St. Teresa wrote to her brother are very interesting and instructive. The date of this is about 1561, and it seems to be the first she had written to him for some time. He was then living in the West Indies. She tells us in the "Book of the Foundations" that he lived there for thirty-four years. When he sent her some money, she was then engaged in founding the Convent of St. Joseph at Avila, and was reduced almost to the last farthing. But God came to her assistance.
JESUS. May the Holy Ghost ever dwell in your heart, and reward you for the care you have had in coming so quickly to our relief. I trust in God you will gain great merit by so charitable an act, for it is certain you bestow your charities just when they are wanted; and all those to whom you sent the money stood so much in need of it, that it has been a great consolation to me. As for a poor nun like myself, who considers it an honour to wear a patched habit, I believe God inspired you to send me so great a sum. What I received from Juan Pedro de Espinosa and Varron (for such I think was the name of the other merchant)–was quite enough for my necessities for a long time.
As I informed you a long time ago, I have spent the money in a matter I could not help undertaking, for several reasons, but chiefly for this, because God had given so many strong inspirations to commence the work. I dare not trust things of this nature in a letter; I can only tell you that learned and holy people assure me I ought not to be timid, but that I must do all I possibly can for this undertaking, viz. to found a monastery,1 in which there are to be thirteen religious, and no more, she will be bound to live in strict enclosure, and can never therefore go out. They will never be able to see any one, except with their veil down; their chief duty being to devote themselves to prayer and mortification, as I have told you before at greater length: I will give you more information when Antonio Moran departs.
Madame Guiomar,2 who writes this letter for you, is of great service to me. She is the widow of Francis d'Avila, who belonged to the family of Solralejo; I don't know if you remember this family. It is nine years since her husband died; he was a very rich man; she now enjoys his property, besides the money she has inherited from her own family. Although she was left a widow at the age of twenty-five; yet she refused to marry again, and has given herself entirely to God. She is a very pious person. It is now more than four years since we have contracted so close a friendship, that I love her as if she were my own sister. But though she assisted me in the "Foundation," by giving me a good part of her income, she cannot now relieve me, because just at present she has no money. With regard to the purchase of the house, I must do this with ready money, by the Divine assistance. I have already received (though the monastery has not yet begun) the dowry of two young ladies. By the help of this money, I have secretly purchased the house, though I have not money enough to remodel it for a convent. But I have great confidence in God's assistance, knowing that it is His will the thing should be done. I had engaged the workman, though it may have seemed very foolish to do so. But His Majesty took care of us all, and moved you to come to our assistance. What surprises me the more is, that I was just in want of the forty crowns which you sent. I think that St. Joseph (who is to be the patron of the house) has assisted me by your means: I am sure he will repay you, though the monastery is very poor and small; it has a good prospect, and I think we shall have room enough.
Some of the fathers have gone to Rome for the Bulls; for though the house will belong to the Order we shall be under obedience to the bishop. I trust in our Lord, that all things will prosper for His greater glory, if we should accomplish the undertaking (as I think we certainly shall), because those who are to enter the house are chosen souls, capable of being very great examples of humility, penance, and prayer. I beg of you to recommend the matter to God. I hope, by the help of His Grace, everything will be finished before Antonio Moran goes away. He came here, and I received great comfort from seeing him: he seems to be a man one can depend upon, and to possess good judgment. He gave me every particular about you. I think that the greatest favour our Lord could bestow on me was to make me understand from what he told me, that you were convinced of the vanity of the world, and had made a resolution to retire from it altogether, and live in repose and quiet. If you do so, I think you will be walking in the road to heaven. This was what I wanted most to know, for till then I had been rather uneasy. Glory be to him who doth all things. May He give you grace to advance more and more in His service; for since the reward will be without bounds, we ought not to make any delay in endeavouring to serve our Lord, but daily advance (however little this may be) with such fervour, that it may appear we are always at war, until we gain the victory: we must not rest, nor be negligent till then.
All those with whom you sent the money for me have been honest men, but Antonio Moran has excelled them all, both in selling the gold at a greater price and without any expense, and also in having taken the trouble to come here from Madrid to bring it, to the prejudice of his health–for he was very unwell on the journey, though he is now better. I see that he is truly and sincerely attached to you. He has with great care brought Varron's money also. Roderigo came with him too, and has likewise acquitted himself well of his commission. I will give him a letter for you, if he should depart before Moran, who has shown me the letter you wrote to him. You may be assured, that the great care you have taken in assisting me, is to my mind not only the effect of your goodness, but must have been inspired by God himself.
My sister Mary3 sent me this letter yesterday to be forwarded to you. She tells me she will write to you again as soon as she has received the rest of the money you sent her. She received the first sum in good time. She is a very good woman, but full of troubles. Should Juan de Ovalle go to law against her, her children will be ruined. The matter, however, is not so great as one would imagine, though it was certainly wrong to sell the property and destroy it. Martin de Guzman, however, has his reasons, and God forgive him: the Court has decided in his favour, against all right. I cannot endure, that what my father sold (God rest his soul), should now be demanded back again. My sister Mary would come very badly off if they resumed the lawsuit. God preserve me from such interest, which pays no regard to relationship. But such a thing is so common in this country, that it would be a wonder to see a father and son, or brother and brother, agree together; hence, I do not wonder at the conduct of Juan de Ovalle; I rather think he has acted tolerably well, seeing that for my sake he did not go on with the lawsuit. He has a good heart, but in this case he is not to be trusted; and therefore, when you send him the thousand reals you must make him sign a deed, by which he will be obliged, when he receives the said sum, to give five hundred ducats to my sister Mary on the day when he shall first recommence the lawsuit.
The houses of Juan de Centura are not yet sold, but Martin de Guzman has already received three hundred thousand maravedés4 for them, which sum it is only proper should be given to Juan de Ovalle; and if you would send him the thousand crowns, he would then be able to live here, for just now he is in great want of them; but should the money not come, he will have no means of coming here, and his affairs will not be arranged for a long time.
My sister Jane5 has married well. I assure you she is a very good woman, and very generous; she has the soul of an angel, thanks be to God. I am the worst of all, whom you would hardly know to be your sister, because I have degenerated so much. I know not why people love me to such a degree; this I say in all sincerity. My sister has had many troubles, but she has borne them with great patience. If you can send her anything without injury to yourself, do so as soon as possible, even though it be little at a time.
You will see by this letter that the money has been delivered as you ordered. Toribia and her husband are dead; and we distributed the money among their children, who are poor: this has given them great assistance. We have had all the masses said which you wished; I even think some had been said before the money came. They were offered for the good intentions you named, which pleased me much, and edified me too. I sought out the best priest I could to say them. In the midst of all this business, I am stopping at the house of Madame Guiomar: I found great comfort in being among persons who so frequently spoke of you. I will tell you the occasion which procured me this happiness. As a daughter of this lady's, who is a nun in our monastery of the Incarnation, was allowed to go and see her mother, the provincial ordered me to accompany her. Here I enjoy more liberty in everything I wish, than I did when I was at my sister's house, because we speak of nothing but God, and are very recollected. I shall stay here till the father provincial shall order me elsewhere. I wish he would allow me to stop for some time, for here I am better able to manage the business I spoke to you about.
But let us now speak of my dear sister Jane:6 though I name her last, she does not hold the last place in my heart, for I assure you I pray to God for her with as much affection as I do for you, and I love her as much as yourself. I thank her a thousand times for the favour she has done me. All I can do for her is often to recommend her and her little boy to God. I have recommended him particularly to that holy friar Peter of Alcantara, who promised to pray for him: he is that religious of whom I spoke to you before. I have also requested the Theatin7 fathers, and several others, to pray for him, and whose prayers I hope God will hear. May His Majesty be pleased to make him better than his parents: I do not mean that you are not good, but I wish him to be something more. Pray always inform me of the love and contentment in which you both live, for I receive great pleasure therefrom.
I have already told you that I will send you a copy of the "Executory Letters," which people tell me cannot be better. I will take every care that you shall receive them by Antonio Moran. But if by any misfortune they should be lost, or anything happen to him, so that he could not deliver them, I will send you some others, till I hear you have received them safe into your own hands. If they have not been sent sooner, it is owing to the caprice of an individual whose name I do not wish to mention. You will also receive some relics which I send you; they are enclosed in a case, which has not cost much. I thank my sister a thousand times for the beautiful image she has given me. Had I received it at the time I wore gold, I should very likely have kept it, for it is exceedingly pretty. I beg of God to keep you both in health for many years. This wish comes in at the right time, for to-morrow is the eve of the year 1562.
Having been so long engaged with Antonio Moran, I was obliged to commence writing when it was very late: had not this been the case, I should have written a longer letter. But as he intends setting off to-morrow, I will keep the rest of the news till my brother Gerónimo de Cepeda goes away, when I will send a letter by him. But it is no matter, that I have written in such haste. Always read my letters. I have taken great care that the ink should be good. I have, however, written this letter in such a hurry, and so late, as I have told you, that I had no time to read it over. My health is better than it used to be. I pray God to grant you such health of soul and body, as I desire you may have. Amen. I have not time now to write to Señor Hernanda Ahumada, nor to Pedro de Ahumada; but I soon will. I wish to tell you that some persons who wish me well, and who know the particulars of my undertaking, consider it a miracle, that you sent the money just when I wanted it. I hope in God that when I want any more, He will move your heart to assist me, even should you be unwilling yourself.
Your very loving Sister,
DOÑA TERESA DE AHUMADA.8
1 See the history of this monastery in the Saint's "Life," chap. xxxiii, xxxv. &c.
2 This devout and charitable lady was of the greatest assistance to the Saint in the foundation of St. Joseph's monastery.
3 Doña Maria de Cepeda. She was married to Don Martin de Guzman.
4 An ancient Spanish coin.
5 Juana de Ahumada.
6 This was another sister of the Saint.
7 The Saint means the Jesuits, who in her time were often erroneously called Theatins.
8 The name of the Saint's mother was Beatrice Ahumada. She was her father's second wife.
Letter 2nd. The date of this letter is about the year 1577. It is not the second letter in chronological order. It was written from Toledo.
JESUS be with you.
Serna1 gives me so little time, that I cannot write so long a letter as I could wish; and yet, when I am writing to you, I know not how to finish: but as Serna is not always at hand, he must give me a little more time. When I write to Francis, I beg you would never read his letters, for I fear he is somewhat inclined to melancholy, and he feels a difficulty in telling me of it. Perhaps God gives him these scruples in order to deliver him from other dangers. I hope, however, to give him a remedy, and I find he is well disposed to receive it, for he believes all I tell him.
I am quite certain I sent the manuscript, though I did wrong in not telling you of it beforehand. I had given it to one of our sisters to transcribe it, and when I wanted it she could not find it. There is no means of your having another, till we send to Seville for a copy.
I believe I sent another letter to you by the way of Madrid; however, in case it should be lost, I must repeat in this letter what I said in that, though I dislike being troubled with this affair. I must tell you then, in the first place, that the house of Hernan Alverez de Peralta–where you lodge–has a room in a bad condition, and it is likely to be dangerous; so take care! In the second place, I beg you would send me the little box with all the papers that belong to me: they were put together in bundles, as far as I can recollect: take care the box be sewed up well. If Madame Quiteria should give the packet to Serna, the messenger, she may put it in the box, and then it will come safe. Tell her to send it. Do not forget also to put in my seal, for I do not like to seal my letters with a figure of death; rather I wish to seal them with a figure of Him2 who I earnestly wish was engraven on my heart, as it was on the heart of St. Ignatius. Let no one open the box but yourself (for I believe the paper on prayer is in it); take care if you see anything else there not to mention it to any one, for I do not give you leave, neither is it proper I should; and although you might think you were thus doing a service to God, yet there are several reasons which ought to oblige you to keep it secret; and this must be sufficient for you. If I thought you said anything to any one, I should take good care not to let you know anything for the future.
The nuncio has requested me to send him a copy of the "letters patent" which I use in founding our houses. He wants to know how many there are already founded, and in what places. He also desires me to send him the number of religious, whence they have come, their age, and how many of them can be prioresses. All these papers are in the box: indeed, I must have everything in it. People tell me, that the nuncio wishes to know all these things, in order to make a new province. But I am afraid he is desirous our religious should go and reform other convents, as he often wished to have done before; this, however, should not be for our good. I beg you will acquaint the sub-prioress with the nuncio's wish, and tell her to send me the names of all those who have made their profession in the house, also the age of all those who are there now, and the year of their reception and profession. She must write all this in a book, and sign her name at the end.
But now I remember, I am prioress of that house3 myself: as I can sign the paper myself, it is unnecessary for her to do it; she need only tell me what I have already mentioned; and it does not signify whether the writing is in her own hand or not, for I must copy it. It is unnecessary for the sisters to know anything of the matter. Be sure you send me everything, and take care the papers do not get wet. Don't forget to send the key.
The book I spoke to you about is the "Meditations on the Lord's Prayer."4 There you will find many things proper to direct you in the prayer you make use of, though not at such length as in the other work. I think what I say you will find in the petition, "Thy kingdom come." Read it over again, at least the Lord's Prayer; perhaps you will find something that will satisfy you.
Before I forget, how came you to make such a promise,5 without telling me about it? A fine obedience this! Your resolution has given me some uneasiness, though it has somewhat pleased me; but it seems to me dangerous. Take advice about the matter, because from a venial sin it might become a mortal one, by your having made such a promise. I will likewise ask my confessor about it, for he is a very learned man. Your promise seems to me foolish, because what I promised was with other additions; but this I should certainly not have presumed to promise, for I think even the Apostles fell into venial sins. Our Lady alone was preserved from them. I really believe that God will accept your intention; yet I think it would be much better to change your promise into something else: this may be done by getting a dispensation, if you should not have one already. Do it speedily: the jubilee will be just the time. It is so easy to fall into venial sin, that without our observing it we may commit it. God deliver us from it; but I trust He will not impute this to our fault. He knows well our nature. In my opinion, it is necessary to apply a remedy immediately, and that no promise of this nature be made by you for the future, for it is dangerous to do so. You might sometimes, without any inconvenience, speak on the subject of your prayer with your confessors, who are near at hand; they can give you the best advice on everything, and nothing is lost.
Do not be troubled about your having purchased the farm at Serna;6 it is a temptation from the devil, who tries to prevent you from being grateful to God for having thereby bestowed a very great favour upon you. Be assured that what you have done is for the best in many respects, for you have provided for your children something better than an estate, viz., honour. Every one who hears of it considers it a great happiness. Do you imagine that in collecting rents there is no trouble? None in continually sending executions?7 Consider this to be a temptation. Do not fall into it again; but rather praise God for having given you the farm. Do not think that when you have a great deal of time you must apply more to prayer. This is a mistake: for time well spent in providing a maintenance for our children does not exclude prayer. In one instant, God often gives more than He does in a long period, for His works are not confined to times and seasons.
After the holydays are over, get some one immediately to examine your deeds, and put them in the order they ought to be. What you have spent on Serna is well spent, and when summer comes you will feel great delight in sometimes going there. Jacob did not cease to be a saint for minding his flocks; nor Abraham, nor St. Joachim: when we try to fly from trouble everything wearies us: so it does me, and therefore God is pleased that I should have business enough to occupy me. On these matters speak with Francisco Salcedo,8 for in these temporal matters I give him my place.
It is a great favour from God, that what gives rest to others tires you. But you must not on this account give up your business; for we must serve God not as we wish, but as He wishes. Certain profits may, I think, be excused, and therefore I am glad in some degree that you leave this kind of gains to God, for in these worldly matters we must be content to lose something, than to be too liberal in giving;–seeing God has given you enough to live on, you can give something to those who are in want, though not too much. I do not call that trafficking which you intend to do at Serna, for it is very proper; but I mean other ways of gain. But I have already told you to follow the opinion of Francisco Salcedo in all these matters, and then you will not be troubled with these scruples. Always remember me most kindly to him, and every one else you think proper. I wish I had time to write to Pedro de Ahumada, in order to get a letter from him, for I enjoy his letters exceedingly.
Tell Teresa9 she need not fear I should have more love for another than I have for her. Let her distribute the pictures, but not meddle with that which I intend for myself; tell her to give some of them to her brothers. I have a great desire to see her. What you wrote to me about at Seville caused great devotion in me. I received some of your letters here, and our sisters were much pleased on hearing them read in recreation-time; I also was pleased, for I imagine you would rather cease to live than not to be good-humored; but as you are with holy persons, everything is proper. I believe our sisters here are holy too: every moment they make me blush.
Yesterday we celebrated the great Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. God reward you for your presents. I know not what to send you for the many favours you bestow upon me, except these verses,10 which I have composed by the command of my confessor in order to amuse the nuns. For several evenings I have been with them, and I knew not how to divert them except by these verses. They might have a pleasant air, if little Frank knew how to sing them. Have I not greatly improved? Notwithstanding, our Lord has bestowed great favours on me during these days.
The favours you have received astonish me. May He be blessed for ever. I know it is a good thing to desire devotion as you do. But it is one thing to desire, and another to ask it. But I believe it is the best to leave, as you do, all things in the will of God, and to commit your cause into His hands. He knows what is best for us. But always endeavour to walk along the way I have marked out for you: remember that it is of more consequence than you imagine.
It will not be amiss, when you sometimes awake with these holy affections, to sit up a little in your bed, provided, however, you always take the repose necessary for your head; otherwise, though you may not perceive it, you will at last be unable to make use of prayer. Take care not to expose yourself too much to cold, for it does not suit your colic. I know not why you desire these terrors and fears, since God conducts you by the way of love. Once those were necessary. Think not it is always the devil that tries to prevent us from praying, it is a mercy of God that sometimes we are prevented from using prayer; nay, I will even say that this is almost as great a favour as when He gives us much prayer: there are many reasons in proof of this, but now I have no time to mention them. The prayer God gives you is without comparison much higher than thinking on hell. It does not depend upon you to give the preference to one or the other: you cannot help following that which God gives you, because such is His will.
The answers11 of some of our sisters made me laugh. Others are extraordinary, and they have given me some light about the meaning of the words; for do not think that I understand them. I only mentioned the circumstance casually to you: I will tell you my opinion on the subject, please God, when I see you. The answer of Francisco de Salcedo pleased me much. His humility is very admirable, for God conducts him in such a manner by fear, that perhaps he did not like to speak of such things in the same way as we do. We must accommodate ourselves to souls as we find them. I tell you he is a saint; but God does not guide him in the same way He does you. In a word, He conducts him as a strong man, but us as weak souls. He answered well for one of his disposition.
I have read your letter over again. I do not mean you should rise in the night, but only sit up in your bed. This seems to me sufficient, since it is important to be able to take your rest. On no account then rise, though you may feel great fervour; and if you sleep more, do not make yourself uneasy on that account. If you should hear what Father Peter of Alcantara used to say on this point,12 let it not terrify you, even though this fervour come upon you when you remain awake.
Your letters do not tire me, but comfort me exceedingly; and so I should feel great pleasure in writing to you oftener, but I cannot do so, as my afflictions are so troublesome; even this very night I have been prevented from attending to prayer. This gives me no scruples; still it is a misery to have no leisure. May God send us some, that we may always spend it in His service. Amen.
This is a dreadful place13 for those who do not eat meat, and yet I was thinking that I have not been in such good health for these many years, as I am now. I observe what all the others do, and this is a great comfort to me.
This is the 2nd of January.
Your unworthy Servant and Sister,
TERESA DE JESUS.
P.S.–I thought you would have sent us some of your verses; as for mine, they have neither head nor feet, and yet the nuns sing them. I now remember some which I once composed, when I was absorbed in prayer. They seemed to give a sweet repose to me after I had composed them. They were (I know not whether exactly) as follows; hence you see I am desirous of giving you some recreation:–
O hermosura que excedeis,
A todas las hermosuras!
Sin herir, dolor haceis;
Y sin dolor, deshaceis
Con amor de las creaturas.
O ñudo, que ansi juntais
Dos cosas tan desiguales!
No sé porque os desatais:
Pues atado, fuerza dais
A tener por bien los males.
Quien no tiene sér, juntais
Con el sér que no se acaba:
Sin acabar, acabais;
Sin tener que amar, amais:
Engrandeceis nuestra nada.14
I do not remember any more. O! the wit of a foundress! I tell you I must have been very clever when I made these lines! God forgive you, for it is you who made me spend my time; and yet these stanzas may soften your heart and excite some devotion in it. Do not speak of them to any one. Madame Guiomar and myself were together at the time; give my kind regards to her.
1 This is the individual's name who brought the letter from the Saint's brother.
2 Our blessed Lord.
3 At Avila, where her brother was then residing.
4 These are printed with her other works, and have been translated into English.
5 To abstain from venial sins.
6 The Bishop of Osma mentions that this was an estate about a league from Avila.
7 These words we must suppose the brother addresses to the Saint.
8 This was the name of a very pious gentleman, who was given to prayer. The Saint used to call him the "holy cavalier"–el caballero santo.
9 A cousin of the Saint.
10 They are called in Spanish "villancicos." They come at the end of the letter.
11 To enable the reader to understand this part of the letter, it is necessary to mention, that one day the Saint heard a voice in the interior of her soul, saying "Buscate en mi"–Seek yourself in me. She mentioned these words to her brother Lorenzo, who was then at Avila. The bishop, Alvaro de Mendoza, heard of the secret, and ordered the words to be made the subject of a spiritual recreation, and each of the nuns was enjoined to write down what seemed to her to be the meaning. Four other persons also gave an explanation of them, viz., St. John of the Cross, the Ven. John of Avila, Francisco de Salcedo, and her own brother. (See Carta V. Spanish ed vol. i. p. 28.)
12 He said he used to take only three hours' sleep.
14 Not being a poet, I dare not venture to translate these verses into English. In Appendix No. V. I have given Woodhead's translation, such as it is.
The Saint teaches this great prelate a method of prayer. Palafox says, "that he considers this letter to be the most spiritual of all the Saint's letters, as well as the most important for every one, especially for bishops." Date, 1581. Carta VIII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. Most Reverend Father of my Soul.
One of the greatest favours for which I feel myself indebted to our Lord is, that His Majesty has given me a desire to be obedient, for in this virtue I experience great pleasure and consolation, being a duty which our Lord has recommended to us more than any other.
Your Lordship commanded me the other day, to recommend you to God: I am careful in doing so, and your Lordship's command has increased this solicitude. I have done so, not considering my own littleness, but because it is a matter imposed on me by you; and with this belief I trust in the goodness of your Lordship, that you will receive with a willing mind what I may think proper to represent to your Lordship: accept my will, since it proceeds from obedience.
Representing, then, to our Lord the favours which He has shown you (which I know), in having bestowed upon you humility, charity, and a seal for souls, and for the Divine honour; and being aware also of this your desire, I asked our Lord for an increase of all virtues and perfections, that so you might become as perfect as the dignity requires, in which our Lord has placed you. It was made known to me, that your Lordship failed in what was principally required for these virtues; and being wanting in the most important, which is the foundation, the building soon falls, because it is not firm. You are deficient in prayer, with a burning lamp, which is the light of faith, and in perseverance in prayer with courage: thus you break the bond of union which is the unction of the Holy Spirit, and through want of this arises all that dryness and disunion which the soul experiences.
It is necessary to bear patiently the importunity of a multitude of thoughts and imaginations, and the violence of natural motions, both as well in the soul by the dryness and disunion she feels, as in the body, for want of that subjection which it ought to yield to the spirit. And though we may think these are no imperfections in us, yet when God opens the eyes of the soul, as He is accustomed to do in prayer, these imperfections then clearly appear.
That which was shown me respecting the order your Lordship is to observe in prayer, is this. First, make the sign of the cross; accuse yourself of all the faults committed since your last confession; strip yourself of all things, as if you were to die that hour; have a true sorrow for your sins, and recite the psalm "Miserere," as a penance for them. After this you may say, "I come to Thee, O Lord! to learn in Thy school, and not to teach. I will speak with thy Majesty, though I am dust and ashes, and a miserable worm of the earth." Offer yourself at the same time to God, as a perpetual sacrifice and holocaust, representing before the eyes of your understanding Jesus Christ crucified, on whom with tranquillity and affection of soul, ponder and consider part by part.
Consider, in the first place, the divine nature of the Eternal Word, of the Father united with the human nature, which of itself had no being till God gave it one. Consider also the ineffable love and profound humility with which God annihilated Himself, man becoming God, and God becoming man. Consider that magnificence and bounty with which He exercised His power, by manifesting Himself to men, and making them partakers of His glory, His power, and His greatness.
And if this consideration shall excite in your soul the admiration it is accustomed to produce, dwell upon it, and contemplate a sublimity so low, and a lowliness so sublime.
Behold His head crowned with thorns, and then consider the dulness and blindness of our understanding. Beg of our Lord that He would be pleased to open the eyes of the soul, and enlighten our understanding with the light of faith, that so we may with humility learn who God is, and what we are; and that by this humble knowledge, we may be able to observe His commandments and counsels, and do in all things His will. Behold also His hands nailed, and consider His liberality and our poverty, by comparing His gifts with ours.
View His feet nailed, considering the diligence with which He seeks us, and the sloth with which we endeavour to seek Him. Cast your eyes on that side opened with a lance, which shows us His heart, and the intense love wherewith He hath loved us, when He was pleased to become our harbour and refuge, that so by this gate we might enter the ark, when the deluge of our temptations and tribulations shall come. Beg of Him, that as He was pleased to have His side opened in testimony of the love He bore us, so He would command ours also to be opened, that we might make our necessities known, and obtain a remedy for them.
Your Lordship should approach to prayer with submission and humility, and a readiness to walk along the path by which God may conduct you, relying with security on His Majesty. Listen attentively to the lessons He shall read to you. Sometimes He turns away from you, and at other times He comes before you, either by shutting the gate and leaving you outside, or taking you by the hand, and leading you into His chamber. Everything should be received with an equality of mind: and when He shall reprove you, you must acknowledge His right and just judgment by humbling yourself.
When again He shall console you, you should consider yourself unworthy of consolation, and rather esteem His bounty whose nature it is to manifest itself to men, and to make them partakers of His power and goodness. A great injury is done to God by doubting of His liberality in conferring favours, since He is desirous it should shine forth more brightly in manifesting His omnipotence, than in showing the power of His justice. And if to deny His power in revenging the injuries committed against Him, would be a great blasphemy, it would be worse to deny it in that wherein He is most desirous of manifesting it–viz., in bestowing favours. But if we are not willing to subject our understanding, it is certain that we wish to teach God in prayer, rather than be taught by Him, which is the object and design of prayer; whereas to do the former, would be to go against this object. In acknowledging yourself to be dust and ashes, your Lordship should notice the qualities of dust and ashes, which of their own nature incline to the earth. But when the wind raises the dust, it would be against its own nature not to rise: and when raised, it ascends as high as the wind carries and sustains it; but when the wind ceases, the dust falls to its place. Just so is it with the soul, which being like the dust and ashes, necessarily has the qualities of that to which it is compared. Hence in prayer, the soul must rest in the knowledge of herself; and when the sweet breathing of the Holy Spirit shall lift her up, and place her in the heart of God, and there sustain her, discovering to her His goodness, and manifesting His power, then let her learn with thanksgiving to enjoy such a favour, since He admits her to His very interior, and presses her to His breast as a favoured spouse, in whom He Himself, as her spouse, takes delight.
It would be great rudeness and incivility for the spouse of a King (who chose her from a mean family), not to make her appearance in His palace on the day he wished her to do so, as Queen Vashti did: this made the King angry, as the Scripture mentions. Now our Lord is accustomed to be angry with those souls who shun His presence, His Majesty having declared, "that His delight is to be with the children of men." (Proverbs viii. 31.) Hence if all men shunned Him, they would deprive God of His delight, according to the words above,–even though this should be done under the plea of humility, which however, would be an indiscretion, and bad manners and a kind of contempt, in not receiving from His hand what He gives us. It would also be a want of judgment in one who, standing in need of something for the support of his life, refuses to have it when it is given him.
I said likewise, that we must be like a worm of the earth. Its nature is, to have its breast low on the ground, subject to its Creator and to all men, so that though people tread on it, or the birds peck at it, it does not lift itself up. By treading on it is meant, when at the time of prayer the flesh rebels against the spirit, and with a thousand kind of delusions and deceits represents–that it will do more good in other employments, such as relieving the necessities of our neighbour, studying in order to preach, and to govern those who are intrusted to us. To these suggestions I may answer, that one's own necessity is the first and the greatest obligation, and that perfect charity begins from oneself. Remember also, that a pastor, in order to discharge his office well, ought to take his standing in the highest place–whence he may view all his flock, and see if any wild beasts attack it: now this high place is prayer.
I spoke moreover of a worm of the earth, because though the fowls of heaven peck at it, it does not stir from the earth, nor lose the obedience and subjection it owes to its Creator–of remaining in the same place He put it. A man must also firmly keep the post God has given him, which is that of prayer, though the fowls–that is, the devils–may peck at him, and molest him with vain thoughts and imaginations, which at that moment the devil brings in, carrying away our thoughts, and scattering them here and there, while the heart goes after them. To bear patiently these troubles and temptations, is no small advantage of prayer. This is to offer oneself as a holocaust, by consuming the whole sacrifice in the fire of temptation, without allowing anything to escape.
To remain in prayer without obtaining any advantage is not lost time, but a season of great gain, because then we labour without interest, and only for the glory of God. And though at first it may seem as if we laboured in vain, it is not so; but it is like what happens to sons who work on their father's estate, and who, though at night they receive not wages for the day's work, yet at the end of the year they receive everything.
This is very like the prayer in the Garden, in which our Lord Jesus Christ requested–that the bitterness and difficulty He experienced in overcoming His human nature might be removed. He did not ask that His pains might be removed, but only the dislike with which He suffered them; and what He asked for the inferior part of man was, that the strength of the Spirit might be given to the flesh, that so its weakness might be strengthened. He was told that it was not expedient, but that He must drink the chalice–that is, overcome the cowardice and weakness of the flesh. And so we may understand that as He was truly God, so He was truly man, since even He felt those pains which other men did.
He that approaches to prayer, must needs be a man of labour, and must never grow weary during all the summer and fine weather, in providing provisions (like the ant) for the winter and the floods, that so he may not perish with hunger as other animals do, who are unprovided: he must look forward to the dreadful deluge of death and judgment.
In going to prayer, we should put on a wedding garment–that is, of rest, not of labour; and for such festal days, every one endeavours to procure costly garments; and to honour the feast, every one is accustomed to incur great expense; and they think all well bestowed when the feast goes off as well as they wished. One cannot be a learned man nor a courtier, without great expense and labour. Now to become a courtier of heaven, and to possess spiritual knowledge, cannot be effected without spending some time, and enduring some affliction of spirit.
I cannot now say any more to your Lordship; and I beg your pardon for the presumption I have used, in representing these truths to you. But however full this letter may be of defects and indiscretions, I am not wanting in the zeal I owe to you, as a loving servant of your Lordship, to whose holy prayers I commend myself. May our Lord preserve your Lordship, and enrich you with a manifold increase of His Grace. Amen.
Your Lordship's unworthy Servant and Subject,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 The Saint bestows the highest commendations on this holy prelate, who was her confessor when she was residing in Toledo. See "Foundation of Soria."
This holy prelate was afterwards bishop of Palencia. He was ennobled both by the lustre of his merits, as well as by the splendour of his birth. He protected and encouraged the Saint in her "Foundations of St. Joseph's Convent." Date, 1577. Carta V. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The grace of the Holy Spirit be with your Lordship. Amen.
I have now recovered from the sickness which I had, though I am still troubled with the headache, which torments me almost continually with its noise. But provided I know your Lordship is well, I am quite willing to suffer still greater pain. I thank you a thousand times for the favour you did me in writing to me: your letters are a great comfort to us. The nuns came and showed them to me, and they feel, with great reason, highly flattered by them.
Could your Lordship see how much we stood in need of a visitation from a man who could properly explain the constitutions, and who knew what they were from having observed them himself, I believe you would have experienced a particular satisfaction; and at the same time your Lordship would have understood how great the favour was which our Lord bestowed upon this house in not having placed it under the jurisdiction of one who could not discover whence the devil could enter, nor even by what means he began to enter.1 This, indeed, was no one's fault: it happened with the best intentions. I am truly grateful to God for His goodness. As to what your Lordship says about the difficulties we might be exposed to when a bishop does not take any interest in our affairs, you must not trouble yourself about this; for our monasteries will be the better able to help one another, since they cannot receive assistance from one who has not such love for us as your Lordship has. What afflicts us is, that we cannot enjoy your presence here: as to the rest, no change whatever has been made in us, we are as submissive to your orders as heretofore. You may always count on the obedience of our superiors, and especially of Father Gracian–to whom, it seems, we have communicated the same affection which we ourselves have for your Lordship. As he is not here, I shall send him your letter to-day. He has gone to Alcalá, in order to forward despatches by some religious who are going to Rome. All our sisters are much pleased with him, and with reason, for he is a zealous servant of God, and is of great assistance to us, since we see that in all things he follows the commands of your Lordship.
As to the Lady your Lordship speaks of, I will attend to your orders when an opportunity offers; for the person who has already spoken to me is not accustomed to come to this house: from what I could understand, it is not anything about marriage. But after I read your letter, I had some doubts about the matter, and thought the person wished to put some obstacles in the way. I cannot, however, believe that she really takes any interest in the affair, but she seems rather to be influenced by a zeal for the public good and for God's honour. May His Majesty direct matters as He thinks best: but the affair has gone so far, that we may be obliged to write to your Lordship about it, even should you have no desire to know the particulars. It gives me great comfort to hear your Lordship is so resigned, that you feel no trouble about the matter. But consider, if it would not be proper to acquaint the abbess with the business, in order to show you are angry: this might do some good. I assure your Lordship that people speak to me very strongly about it.
With regard to Dr. Daza,2 all I can say is, that I wish your Lordship would do something for him, because I see he has a great regard for you: I should feel much pleased if something could be done–however little. He has assured me, that so highly does he esteem your Lordship, that even should he displease your Lordship by asking you to do him a favour, he would not fail to serve you, when an opportunity offered, without ever speaking of it to your Lordship. So sincere is his affection for you, that he cannot help feeling his small share of good luck, especially when he sees the favours your Lordship has already bestowed on others, and which you still continue to bestow. He has written to your Lordship on the subject of the benefice. He feels confident that if any office becomes vacant, your Lordship will kindly bestow it upon him before you depart. I should be exceeding pleased if he could meet with such good luck, being persuaded it would be pleasing to God and in accordance with every one's wish. I take the liberty of telling your Lordship, you are in a manner bound to grant him this favour. May God grant your Lordship may soon be able to bestow the benefice, that so you may satisfy every one. However small the favour might be, even though it were less than being a canon, I think he would accept it. In a word, no persons have so disinterested a love for your Lordship, as the Carmelites have: they only wish you would love them, and they fervently pray Almighty God to preserve your Lordship many, many years. We have permitted my brother, who is now in the Locutory, to be informed of this matter. He sends his most respectful regards to your Lordship, and so does Teresa. We are all mortified at your Lordship requesting us to recommend you to God. Your Lordship must know that we do so; to suppose otherwise, would be doing us a kind of injury.
I am in such a hurry to send off this letter, that I can say no more, except that Dr. Daza will, I think, be content, provided your Lordship will have the goodness to promise, that the first vacant benefice shall be given to him.
Your Lordship's unworthy Servant and Subject,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 The Saint seems to allude to the abuses which had crept into the Monastery of the Incarnation, at Avila.
2 Gaspar Daza was one of the Saint's chaplains. He was made canon of Avila, no doubt through St. Teresa's influence with the bishop.
In another letter the Saint mentions how she once heard a voice in the interior of the soul, saying, "Seek yourself in me,"–Buscate en mi. These words she mentioned to her brother, who was then at Avila, begging of him to correspond with the divine call. The bishop, to whom this letter is addressed, became acquainted with what the Saint heard, and expressed a wish that the words should form the subject of a spiritual recreation. Four persons were chosen to give their opinion on the meaning of the words, viz., St. John of the Cross, Father Julian de Avila, a pious gentleman named Francesco de Salcedo, and the Saint's brother Lorenzo de Cepeda. After these four individuals had each sent their own explanation of the words to the bishop, his Lordship sent the answers to the Saint, and commanded her, under obedience, to examine them, and give her opinion on their correctness. This she playfully does in the present letter. Her natural wit and vivacity are conspicuous. Date, 1577. Carta V. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. Did not obedience compel me, I should not certainly have answered your Lordship's letter, nor should I have accepted the commission you give me, to examine the opinions on the meaning of the words; and this for certain reasons different from what the sisters allege on the subject. They say, "I refuse to pronounce who gave the best explanation–simply because my brother is one amongst those who are to be examined, and that my affection for him might induce me to be partial to him." But this is not the reason which prevents me, because I love all equally, since all have assisted me in supporting my labours; and my brother only came in when these were drawing to an end, when we had nigh finished drinking the chalice of our Lord; though since that time he has had some share in those trials, and henceforth by God's grace he is likely to share in some more.
May God give me his grace, that I may say nothing deserving of the censure of the Inquisition, for my head still aches with all the business I have to attend to, and with the numerous letters I have written since last night. But obedience can do all things; and, therefore, well or ill, I will endeavour to do what your Lordship commands me. I thought I should have been somewhat amused with reading the billets, but it is no such thing.
The words in question are, in my opinion, a motto of the Spouse of our souls, who says,–"Seek thyself in Me." It is evident, then, that Señor Francesco de Salcedo is mistaken, in trying to prove from these words that God is in all things: do we not know, without such an explanation, that He is in all things?
He also speaks a great deal of the understanding and of union. But who does not know, that where there is union, there the understanding does not work? And if it works not, how can it seek? The words of David–"I will hear what the Lord God will speak in me"–pleased me much, because that peace which is in the powers of the soul, and which the prophet calls a "people," is greatly to be esteemed. But as I do not intend to approve of all that has been said, therefore I say that this passage is not to the point; for the Spouse does not say, "Let us hear," but "Let us seek."
But what is worse than this is, that if he does not retract, I will denounce him to the Inquisition, which is near at hand. After having so often said–"These are the words of St. Paul–this is an oracle of the Holy Ghost,"–he acknowledges at least, "that all he had written was nonsense!" He must correct his mistake immediately; if not, he shall see the consequence.
Father Julian de Avila began well, but makes a bad end, and so he deserves no praise: he was not asked on this occasion to explain how Uncreated Light could unite itself with the creative, but how we ought to seek ourselves in God. Neither did we require that he should tell us the sentiments of a soul–when she is united with her Creator, and whether in such a state of union there is any difference between her and the Creator. I do not think he has understanding enough to solve these questions, for if he had, we should easily see the difference there is between the Creator and the creature.
He also says, "When the soul is purified." I think that these virtues and the method of purifying the soul of which he speaks are not a sufficient explanation of the subject, because it is a supernatural gift bestowed by God only on whom He pleases; and if we could have any disposition for this, it is love. But I pardon his mistakes, because he is not so prolix as Father John of the Cross. He lays down very sound doctrine in his answer; but it is only fit for those who wish to go through the "Exercises" used by the Society of Jesus: it does not suit our purpose.
It would cost us dear if we were to seek God, only when we are dead to the world. Magdalen, the Samaritan, and Cananæan woman, were not thus dead when they found Him. He likewise says in many places, "that a soul becomes one and the same with God by means of union." But when God has bestowed this favour on a soul, He does not tell her to seek "Him," since she has already found Him.
God preserve me from such spiritual people, who wish to reduce everything to perfect contemplation, without examining whether it be suitable or not. However, we are obliged to him for having explained the matter so well, and made us understand what we did not ask him to explain. For this reason, it is good always to be speaking of God, because we thereby gain a great deal of profit, even when we least expect it.
Such was what we received from Señor Lorenzo de Capeda, whom we thank sincerely for his answer and for the verses.1 But if he has said more than he understands, we shall forgive him on account of the diversion he has given us, and pardon the little humility he has shown in attempting to explain such elevated subjects, as he acknowledges by his answer he does. And because he undertakes, without having been desired, to advise souls to aim at the prayer of Quiet (as if it depended upon them), he shall be subject to the trouble which he knows well is due to him who falls into such a fault. God grant he may derive some profit from his temerity. His remarks, however, have given me great comfort, though I know he has some reason to be ashamed of them. One cannot decide whose remarks are the best, because, without injustice it may be said, that all the four individuals have fallen into mistakes.
I hope your Lordship will tell these persons to correct their errors. Perhaps I shall correct myself in not resembling my brother in his want of humility. All these gentlemen are so very spiritual and elevated, that they have only failed through having said too much: I mean (as I have said before) that he who shall obtain this favour of having his soul united with God, will have no further need of seeking Him, since he possesses Him by this union.
I return your Lordship many thanks for the favour of your letter, to which I shall not at present return an answer, nor tire you any more with my nonsense.2
Your Lordship's unworthy Servant and Subject,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 Lorenzo do Capeda was the Saint's brother.
2 The Saint does not give us her own opinion on the meaning of the words, "Seek thyself in me." Bishop Palafox observes, that they are the same as if God should say in a spiritual sense, "Seek me, and you will find yourself in me; otherwise, if you seek yourself out of me, or without me, you will not easily find yourself."
This great prelate was confessor to the Saint, and Palafox mentions that he preached a magnificent sermon at her canonization. In this letter she consoles him on the death of his mother, and gives him some instruction how to act in regard to certain scruples which troubled him. Date, 1580. Carta VI. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The Grace of the Holy Spirit be ever with your Lordship.
I praise our Lord, and I consider as a great favour what seems to you to be a fault, viz., your having ceased to lament the death of the Marchioness, your mother. I own we have sustained a great loss by her decease. But now she enjoys the sight of her God; and may His Majesty grant that you and I may make so holy an end.
Your Lordship has done well in writing her life, for she was a holy soul, and I can bear testimony to the truth of this statement. I am much obliged to your Lordship for intending to send me a copy of the Life; in it will be much for me to consider, and much to be thankful to God for.
As to the firm resolution of never offending God, which your Lordship tells me you do not feel within you, do not on this account be troubled, provided you do not offend Him in reality when an opportunity of serving Him, and of withdrawing yourself from sin, presents itself. When you do not offend His Majesty, it is an evident sign that your resolution is sincere and firm. The devotion which your Lordship feels for receiving the most Blessed Sacrament every day, and the pain you feel when you do not receive it, are signs of the great love your Lordship has for Him.
Always consider the favours you receive from our Lord, that so the love you bear Him may increase more and more. Do not occupy your mind with examining your miseries in detail: those which present themselves in general to each one–and to me especially–are quite sufficient.
As to the distractions which happen in reciting the Divine office, I am also very subject to them, and I believe they proceed from a weakness in the head, at least in mine. Your Lordship may think the same; for God knows well that when we perform this duty, we wish to do it with the greatest possible attention. I am much better in health than I was last year: I may say I am perfectly well, if what I suffer now be compared with what I suffered then, though I am now seldom without some affliction. But I bear my sufferings patiently, for as we must live, it is the best to live in suffering.
I send my very respectful regards to the Marquis, your brother, and also to his lady, and I beg you would assure them, that notwithstanding my great distance from them, I have not forgotten to offer my poor prayers for their prosperity. For your Lordship also I pray, and this is but little I can do, because you are my confessor, and my master and father at the same time. I beg of your Lordship to remember me most kindly to Señor Don Fadrique and to Señora Doña Maria. The headache I have will not allow me to write to them. I beg pardon for the trouble I have given your Lordship: but in return, I beg His Divine Majesty to preserve you, and to give your Lordship that holiness which I so much desire for you. Amen.
Your Lordship's unworthy Servant and Daughter,
TERESA DE JESUS.
From Avila, October 10th, 1580.
The Saint thanks him for writing to her, and gives him an account of the foundation of the convent at Burgos. The letter was written from Valencia, August 12th, 1582. Carta VII. Spanish ed. vol. i. N.B.–Don Sancho was not a bishop when this letter was written.1
JESUS. The Grace of the Holy Spirit be ever with you. Amen.
If I had known the place where you were, I should much sooner have satisfied the great desire I had to answer your letter, and to let you know the comfort I received from it. May His Divine Majesty reward you with spiritual blessings: this is what I continually beg for you.
I had so many troubles, such poor health, and such numerous occupations in the foundation of Burgos, that I had scarcely any time to give myself the pleasure of writing to you. I thank God that trouble is now over, and has ended well. I have had an earnest desire to pass through your place, and it would give me a great deal of comfort to tell you by word of mouth certain matters which cannot be properly explained by letter. But in few things does our Lord wish my will to be accomplished: however, I am content, provided that of His Divine Majesty be fulfilled: this is all my desire.
I am anxious to see the Life of the Marchioness, your mother. I think that the lady-abbess, your sister, has delayed sending it to me, that she might have time to read it herself: she may have received the letter too late. You have great reason to wish so holy a life should be read by every one; God grant you may not forget anything which deserves to be known: I am only afraid you may not have said enough.
Alas! what have I not suffered from the parents of my niece,2 through my leaving her at Avila till I returned from Madrid. When they found that I was resolute, I was able to accomplish my object.
May God preserve you in recompense for the great care you take of bestowing favours upon the parents: I hope you will be their support. May God preserve you many years in that holiness which I always pray you may have. Amen.
Your unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 This letter is interesting, as it was written only a few months before the Saint died.
2 Her name in religion was Beatrix de Jesu. Her parents were unwilling for her to take the habit. She became prioress of the Carmelites at Madrid, where bishop Palafox knew her intimately.
Though this holy man had a great esteem for the Saint, yet, through false reports which had been made to him by those who did not approve the reform of the order, he issued in a general chapter certain decrees against the Saint, and especially against Fathers Gracian and Mariano. For these the Saint pleads in the present letter, and assures the General of her obedience to whatever he shall command. The letter is written with great mildness and judgment. Date, 1576. Carta XIII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The Grace of the Holy Spirit be ever with your Reverence. Amen.
Since my arrival at Seville, I have written to your Reverence three or four times. I did not write any more, because our Fathers who came from the Chapter told me you were not at Rome, but had gone to visit the convents of Mantua. Thanks be to God that the affair has succeeded so well. In my letters I gave your Reverence an account of the three convents that have been founded this year, viz., at Veas, Caravaca, and Seville. In these places you have religious who are indeed great servants of God. The two first are rented, but the latter is founded in poverty, so that at present we have no house of our own: but I hope in our Lord we shall soon have one. I do not give you a particular account of each of them, because I am certain that some of my former letters will, by this time, have reached your Reverence.
In one of them I made the remark–what a difference there is in speaking to the Discalced Fathers (I mean Father Gracian and Father Mariano), and hearing their enemies speak of them. These Fathers are certainly the true children of your Reverence; and I may say, that in every spiritual point they yield to none of those who boast so much of their being your children. As they engaged me to beg of your Reverence to receive them again into your favour–(for they themselves dare not write to you), I entreated your Reverence with all possible earnestness in the letters which I wrote to you: now I renew my entreaties. I trust you will grant me this favour, for the love of our Lord. Believe what I say, for I have no reason to induce me not to speak the truth. Besides, I think I should offend God were I to conceal this matter from you: but even though I should not offend Him, I should consider it a great crime, as well as malice, to conceal anything from a father whom I love so tenderly
When we shall appear before the Tribunal of God, you will see what you owe to your true daughter, Teresa de Jesus.1 This is the only thing that consoles me in the matter, for I believe some will be found who may tell you differently. But those who are unprejudiced must acknowledge–that I speak the truth, and this I will do as long as I live.
I have already written to your Reverence respecting the commission which Father Gracian received from the Nuncio, and how he was sent to find him. You must know, that he has been confirmed in his office of Visitor of our fathers and sisters, and likewise of the province of Andalucia. I am confident he will refuse, as far as he can do so, to be Visitor of Andalucia, though report says the contrary; but I tell you the truth; and his brother, the Secretary, does not wish him to accept the office, because it is always attended with great trouble. But as this matter is already settled, if those Fathers had believed me, the business would have been amicably arranged, as if all were brothers, without giving offence to anyone. I have done all I could to make them agree; and this was only proper, as those Fathers have helped us much since we have been here: I have also found here, as I told your Reverence, persons of great talent and learning. I wish we could have such as these in our province of Castile.
I am very fond of making a virtue of necessity, as the saying is; and for this reason I should have wished that those persons, before they undertook to make any opposition, had considered whether there was any probability of their succeeding in the matter. On the other hand, I do not wonder at their opposition, for they are tired of so many visitations and changes, which have taken place these last few years on account of our sins. God grant we may know how to profit by them, for His Majesty thereby tries us much. However, as the Visitor is now of the same order, the visitation will not be considered in the light of a reflection upon the order. I trust in God, that if your Reverence should show some kindness to this Father,2 all the rest of the affair will go on well, for then every one will know he is in your favour. He has taken the liberty of writing to your Reverence, since he is very anxious to be friends with you, and not to give you any pain, because he considers himself to be one of your obedient sons.
I once more beg of your Reverence, for the love of our Lord and His glorious Mother, whom you love so tenderly, and whom Father Gracian also loves, and who entered our order that so he might prove his love for her,–I beg of you to answer this letter with mildness, and to forget what has passed even though he should have been in fault, and to receive him again as your child and subject, for he is indeed an obedient son. I beg the same for poor Father Mariano, who sometimes does not know how to explain himself. Hence I should not be surprised if he wrote things to your Reverence different from what he had in his thoughts, not knowing how to express his meaning better; for he positively declares that he never had any intention of making you angry, either by word or deed. As the devil gains a great deal by making people take things in a wrong sense, so he has employed all his art that these two Fathers might, contrary to their wish, be unsuccessful in their affairs.
But your Reverence should consider how natural it is for children to err, and for parents to pardon and forget the faults of their children. For the love of God then, I beg of your Reverence to grant me this favour. It is necessary for many reasons, which you may not know so well in Italy as I do here; and though we poor women are not fit persons to give good advice, still sometimes we hit the mark as well as a man. I cannot see what harm can come from receiving these poor men into favour again; on the contrary, you may (as I said) derive a great deal of good by so doing; whereas, I see none can be gained in not lovingly receiving those who would willingly cast themselves at your feet, were they near your Reverence. God does not fail to pardon us, however guilty: imitate Him, then, on this occasion, and make it known, that you are glad one of your own children and subjects has undertaken the reform of the Order, and how, in return, you are glad to pardon him.
If there were many to whom this commission could be given,–well and good: but as it seems there is no religious so fit for the office as this father is (and I am sure if you saw him you would be of the same opinion), why does your Reverence not show as, that you are glad to have such a man under your obedience? Why should you not wish all the world to know, that the reform (if it should prosper) was effected through your means, and by your advice? It is certain, that if your Reverence is known to approve this reform, all difficulties will vanish. I could say much more respecting this matter. But I beseech our Lord to make you understand, how necessary that is which I have already said, for it is now some time since you have paid any attention to my words. I am quite certain, that if I fall into any mistake, my intention at least is sincere.
Father Antonio de Jesus is here: he could not help coming, although he began to defend himself against the other fathers. He now writes to your Reverence, and perhaps may be more fortunate than I have been in receiving an answer. I trust your Reverence will form a proper judgment about all I tell you. As to the rest, may our Lord order everything,–how, and as He pleases, and sees best.
I have heard of the decree of the General Chapter, which forbids me to leave the house I may choose to live in. The provincial, Father Angel, had sent the news to Father Ulloa, with a command to notify the decree to me. He thought this would trouble me; for those fathers, in procuring such a decree, had the intention of giving me pain; and on this account, he kept the document in his room, not venturing to show it to me for more than a month. But as I was informed of the matter, during that time, from another quarter, I have induced him to mention it to me.
I assure your Reverence, in all sincerity, that, as far as regards myself, it would have given me great pleasure and content, had you send this command by letter, and that, feeling compassion for me, on account of the numerous labours and sufferings I have endured in these foundations (and your Reverence knew well that I could bear but little), you had commanded me to take some rest, as a recompense for what I had suffered. Knowing from which such a command came, I should have felt great consolation in my rest.
But the sincere esteem I have for your Reverence makes me feel, on the other hand, that this command is somewhat rigorous, because, it was sent to me as to one who was disobedient. This is what Brother Angel had published to the Cortes, before I knew anything of the matter. Every one thought this was too great a restraint upon me; and he informed me himself that I might find a remedy by writing to the Pope, as if I had not found a great pleasure in obeying your command. Even though I felt no pleasure in fulfilling the command of your Reverence, I should never have dreamt of disobeying you; for I continually beg of God, not to give me any pleasure against your will. I can truly assure you (and our Lord is my witness), that if I have any comfort in the labours, disquiets, afflictions, and detractions I have endured, it was because I thought I was doing your will, and giving you pleasure; and hence I hope I shall now also receive the same comfort from fulfilling the command of your Reverence. I wished to execute your orders immediately; but as Christmas was near, and the journey so long, my desire was not granted, as they knew it was not the wish of your Reverence to hazard my health; and so I am still to remain here, not, however, with the intention of always remaining in this house, but only till the winter is over, for I do not find myself at home with the people of Andalucia.
I humbly beg of your Reverence not to forget to write to me, wherever I may be; and as I have nothing now to occupy me (which is indeed a great comfort to me), I fear you will forget me, though I shall endeavour to forget this; for however tired your Reverence may be in hearing from me, I shall not cease writing to you, for my own comfort.
People never imagined here, nor do they yet believe, that the council and the Pope's brief could take from superiors the power of commanding religious to go from one house to another, for the good of the Order and for affairs connected with it that may present themselves. I do not mention this for my own sake, as I am now good for nothing: for if I knew I could afford your Reverence the least pleasure, I would willingly remain all my life, not only in the same house (for there I should be able to enjoy a little quiet and repose), but even in a prison. This I say, in order to take away any scruples which your Reverence may have with regard to the past. Though I had even "Letters Patent," never would I go to any place to found a monastery (and it is clear I could not leave my convent for any other cause), without a command in writing, or leave from my superior. When I went to Veas and Caravaca, Father Angel gave me orders, and Father Gracian commanded me to come here, for he had then the same commission from the Nuncio that he has now, though he did not make use of it. How can Father Angel say, then, that I have come here as an apostate, and that I was excommunicated? May God forgive him. Your Reverence knows well, and can testify, that I have always endeavoured to keep friends with him, and to please him in all things that were not displeasing to God; and yet he never would be friends with me.
It would have been much better, had he turned against Father Valdemoro, who, being prior of Avila, drove the nuns from the Convent of the Incarnation, to the great scandal of the people. The convent was in such a good state, as to make one praise God for it; and yet he treated the poor nuns so ill, that it was a pity to behold the great trouble they had to endure. They wrote to me to excuse the prior, and they took all the blame upon themselves. The fathers have, however, returned; and I am informed, the Nuncio has forbidden all other Carmelites to hear the confessions of the sisters.
The troubles of the poor religious have afflicted me exceedingly, for they gave them nothing but bread; and, on the other hand, they are still in trouble, and I feel much for them. May our Lord provide a remedy for all these evils, and preserve your Reverence many years. I am told that the general of the Dominicans is coming here. Would that God did me the favour of sending you here also. My joy would then be complete; though I should, on the other hand, feel for you on account of the fatigue you would be exposed to from the journey. Thus I shall be obliged to wait for my rest and consolation in that eternity which has no end, where your Reverence will know how greatly you are indebted to me.
May our Lord grant, in His mercy, that I may one day arrive there. I earnestly recommend myself to the prayers of those reverend fathers who accompany you. The religious of this house–the daughters of your Reverence–beg your blessing, and I ask the same favour for myself.
Your Reverence's unworthy Daughter and Subject,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 Palafox mentions, that the Saint alludes to some great good which the father general had received from God, through the intercession of the Saint, and of which she was aware. (See annotation on this letter.
2 Father Gracian.
This holy and learned man was professor of Theology in the University of Salamanca: he was also confessor to the Saint, when he commanded her, in virtue of obedience, to write "The way of Perfection." This letter was written at Segovia, where she seems to have received a young lady named Parda, whom Domingo Bañez had recommended to her. Date, 1574. Carta XVI. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The grace of the Holy Ghost be ever with you, and with my soul.
We need not wonder at anything which is done for the love of God, since the esteem which I have for you is so powerful, that whatever you consider good, I consider good also, and whatever you wish, I wish also.
I am much pleased with the young lady named Parda. She is so enraptured since she took the habit, that we are all excited to praise God for it. I think I shall not have the heart to make her a lay-sister, seeing what you have done for her good; so that I have resolved to let her learn to read; afterwards I will act according to circumstances.
I knew her disposition even before I spoke to her:1 and since she came here, she has excited a Religious of the house to such a spirit of prayer, that she is almost out of herself. I assure you, my father, I feel a great pleasure whenever I receive any one that brings nothing to the convent; for then I receive them only for the love of God. Hence, when I see such a person enter religion, who could not follow their vocation for want of means, I am convinced God bestows a particular favour upon me, that so I may be instrumental in doing the same good. If every one could be received in this manner, it would fill me with great joy. However, I do not remember ever to be refused any one, through not having a dowry, if in other respects I found them suitable subjects.
I feel a particular pleasure in beholding the great favours our Lord bestows upon you, by employing you in such good works: I was also quite pleased to receive the poor young woman. You have become the father of those who can do little for themselves, and the charity which our Lord gives you for this object makes me rejoice so much, that I will do whatever lies in my power to assist you in such works. Her companion who came with her wept so much, that I thought she would never stop. I know not why you sent her with Parda.
The father visitor has already given permission, and that is a beginning to obtain more, through the Divine assistance. If your Reverence should wish, I may receive the weeper2 also, and then there will be enough for the Convent of Segovia.
Parda has found a good father in you: she says, "she can scarcely believe she is a Carmelite." The joy she feels makes one thank God. I praise His goodness for having sent your little nephew here, who came with Doña Beatrix, whom I was very glad to see: why did your Reverence not tell me he would come this way?
I have a great esteem for the sister we have received, because she has lived with a holy friend of mine, whom you know very well. Her sister has written to me, and offers me a great many things. I answered her letter, and told her how much I was obliged to her. I think I love her better now, than when her sister was alive. You know you had a vote in the election of a prior for the Monastery of St. Stephen: all the rest have voted for the present prior, and I was edified to find them all so united in their choice.
Yesterday I was speaking with a father of your order, his name is Melchior Cano.3 I told him that if there were many minds in the Order like his, many monasteries for contemplative might be founded.
I have written to Avila, in order that those who are to go and found the convent you mention, may not lose courage on learning that we have not here everything which is necessary: I earnestly wish the business to commence immediately. Why did you not tell me what you have done? May God make you a saint, as I desire. I intend some day or other to speak to you about those fears you have; but you only lose time in troubling yourself with them. This, however, you will not believe, because you want humility. Melchior Cano, of whom I spoke, does much better than you, for he says, "he found great benefit through having once spoken to me at Avila," and he thinks he always has me before his eyes. What a pious soul! O! what a soul does God possess in him! he has consoled me exceedingly.
But it seems as if I had nothing else to do, but to speak to your Reverence about the piety of other persons. Remain with God, and beg of Him to give me grace, not to depart in anything from His will.
Your Reverence's Daughter and Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 Literally, "Bien ha entendido mi espiritu el suyo, aunque no la he hablado," &c.
2 "Lloraduelos,"–that is, the young woman who wept so much.
3 This is not the celebrated bishop of the Canary Isles: he was his cousin.
The Saint gives this holy man an account of the persecutions which the Carmelites of Seville had suffered, and she recommends to his notice the bearer of the letter. Date, 1579. Carta XVII, Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The Grace of the Holy Spirit be ever with your Reverence.
What do you think, my father, of what has taken place in our house of the glorious St. Joseph? What do you think of those who have treated (and do still treat) the poor sisters so ill? What do you think of the spiritual trials and troubles which they have now endured so long–from those even who ought to have consoled them? For my part, I think that if they have besought our Lord to send them these troubles, He has, indeed, heard their prayers. May He be blessed for ever.
I assure you I am not at all troubled about those Religious who came with me for the foundation. Sometimes I even rejoice to see what great advantages they derive from this war, which the devil has excited against them. But I am certainly grieved for those who have taken the habit since that time; for instead of their being occupied with the care of acquiring interior peace and of learning the rules of the Order, everything is in confusion; and this may do a great deal of harm to their souls, as they have only lately given themselves to the service of our Lord. May he send a remedy. I assure your Reverence, it is now some time since the devil began his machinations against them. I have written to the prioress, and told her to mention all her troubles to you. Perhaps she did not venture to do so. It would be a great comfort for me if I could speak plainly to your Reverence, but I dare not trust to a letter:1 I should not have said so much now, had I not sent this by a trusty messenger.
The young man who brings this letter came to ask me, if I knew any one, at Seville who would be responsible for his taking a place in the service of some lady, for he cannot live in this part of the country, as the air is too cold for him, although he was born in it. He has been a servant to a canon of this city, who is a friend of mine, and who assures me the young man is very good and honest. He can write and cast up accounts very well. Do keep him with you, if you can: this favour I beg of your Reverence, for the love of God. If any opportunity of getting him a place should present itself, please to be responsible for him, according to the character I have given him; your Reverence may do this with perfect security, for he who spoke about him to me is incapable of telling any untruth.
When he told me of his intention of going to Seville, I was delighted to have so good an opportunity of consoling myself, by writing to your Reverence, and begging of you to act in such a manner that the deposed prioress may read my letter, and all the letters I or others may send her from this part. No doubt your Reverence is already aware, how she has been deprived of her office, and how one of those who took the veil in that convent has been chosen in her place. I do not now dwell on many other persecutions which they have endured, which were so great, that the sisters were forced to give up the letters which I wrote to them, and which the Nuncio now possesses.
The poor souls stood in great need of some advice, for even the lawyers here are astonished at what they were made to do, through fear of excommunication. I am afraid they said many things against their conscience, and perhaps they did not understand matters properly; for they asserted many things in their depositions which are altogether false, for I myself was at that time in the convent, and what they deposed never happened there. But I do not wonder at their being made to utter so many most untrue things and such extravagances, for one of the nuns was examined for six hours together, and some of the sisters, through want of judgment, would have signed everything that their enemies wished. We have learned a lesson here by what has happened, for we considered what we signed, and so there has been nothing which could be turned against us.
For a year and a half our Lord has afflicted us in all kinds of ways: but I feel the greatest confidence that He will protect His servants, and enable them to discover the snares which the devil has raised against this house. The glorious St. Joseph will bring the truth to light, and make known the virtues of those sisters who went forth to found the convent: as regards those who took the habit there, I know them not: I know, however, that they have great influence over her who governs them, and this has caused much harm in many things.
I entreat your Reverence, for the love of God, not to forsake them, but to help them with your prayers in this their tribulation, for they have no one but God in Heaven, and upon earth none but yourself to comfort them. But His Majesty knows their heart will protect them, and will give you the charity to do the same.
This letter I send open, so that if the sisters should be commanded to give up the letters they receive from me to the provincial, you will arrange matters so that some one may read it, and then some relief may be given in seeing my letter.
It is thought that the provincial would wish them to leave the monastery: if this should be the case, the novices must accompany them. What I understand by this is–that the devil cannot bear the Carmelites: it is for this reason that he wages such a cruel war against them: but I trust in our Lord, that all his stratagems will avail him little.
I hope your Reverence will consider that you have been the protector of the Religious at Seville; and now, as they stand in such need of assistance, help them, I beg of you, through your love of the glorious St. Joseph. I know the favours which your Reverence has bestowed on our fathers: may His Divine Majesty be pleased to grant you a long life for the protection of these poor Religious, and to give you that sanctity which I always beg for you. Amen.
Your Reverence's unworthy Servant, and Subject,
TERESA DE JESUS.
P.S.–Your Reverence may read the letters I send to the sisters, provided they do not tire you too much.
1 Lest it might be intercepted and opened.
This is the second letter which the Saint wrote to this holy man. I have not translated the other, because it is more a treatise than a letter, and also because the greater part of the subject is mentioned in the "Interior Castle," lately published. It is Letter XVIII. in the Spanish ed. vol. i. In the present letter the Saint gives her confessor an account of her manner of proceeding with regard to supernatural things, and she mentions the different persons whom she consulted. It is written with great brevity and clearness. Date, 1576. Carta XIX, Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. It is now forty years since that Religious1 took the habit. From her first entering into religion, she spent some time during the day in meditating on the Passion of Christ our Lord, and in thinking of her sins, without raising her thoughts to any supernatural object. But she considered God's creatures, and whatever else could help her to discover the instability of all earthly things: by these considerations she was excited to admire the greatness of the Creator, and the wonderful love He has for us.
They also filled her with a desire of serving Him, and this was much greater than the fear of torments, for these were never the motives which influenced her in loving Him. The desire which she felt that God might be praised and His Church extended, was very great. For this intention she prayed and offered up whatever she did, without doing anything for herself, for it seemed to her to be of little consequence what she suffered, provided only the Church could be exalted, even though it were but slightly.
She spent about twenty-two years in these occupations, together with great aridities, and never did she think of aiming at anything more, for she considered herself to be such, as to be unworthy even to think upon God; rather did she think, that His Majesty bestowed a great favour upon her, in allowing her to pray in His presence, and permitting her to read good books.
It is now eighteen years since persons began to speak to her about founding the first monastery of Carmelites, which was established at Avila. Two or three years before (I think it was three), she began to feel that she was spoken to interiorly, and even to have some visions and interior revelations with the eyes of the soul–(for she never saw them with her corporeal eyes, nor did she hear anything exteriorly; only twice it seemed to her as if she heard some one speaking exteriorly; but she did not understand anything). When she saw anything interiorly, the representation lasted only for a moment, generally speaking; but it was so deeply impressed on her soul, and produced such wonderful effects that had she seen those things with her corporeal eyes, they could not have seen more clearly.
At that time she was of a very timid nature, so much so, that sometimes she durst not be alone, not even in the daytime. And as she could not prevent these visions, however much she tried to do so, she was exceedingly grieved and afflicted, fearing lest she might be deceived by the devil. On this account, she began to consult some spiritual persons, belonging to the Society of Jesus.
Among these were Father Aroath, who was Commissary of the Society, and who came to the place where she was; also Father Francis,2 who was Duke of Gandia, to whom she spoke twice on this subject; a provincial named Gil Gonzalez, who is now at Rome; she likewise consulted him, who is now provincial of Castile, though she did not speak often with him; Father Baltasar Alvarez, who is now rector of the college at Salamanca, and who at that time had been her confessor for six years: she consulted the present rector of Cuenca, whose name is Salazar; a rector of Segovia, named Santander; a rector of Burgos, named Ripalda; this last individual was not well disposed towards her, on account of what he had heard respecting her: but after she had spoken with him, he altered his opinion. She consulted Doctor Paulo Hernandez, of Toledo, also, who was consultor of the Inquisition; likewise the rector of Salamanca; Doctor Gutierrez, and some other Fathers of the Society, who had the reputation of being spiritual men; and as they lived in the places whither she went to found her monasteries, she took the opportunity of consulting them.
In addition to these, she frequently consulted Father Peter, of Alcantara, a holy man of the order of St. Francis, who was so instrumental in persuading her that she was led by the Spirit of God.3 These fathers continued for more than six years to try her, as she has mentioned in detail elsewhere, and as will be seen afterwards. And while these trials were going on, the more suspensions and raptures she had, and these happened very frequently, accompanied with many tears and afflictions, and not without great pain.
Many prayers were said, and many masses offered for her, in order that our Lord might conduct her by some other way, because, when she was not in prayer she had very great fears, although as far as regarded her soul, it was easy to see she had advanced much, and a great change for the better was evident. She had no temptation to vainglory, nor to pride; on the contrary, she was quite ashamed and displeased, that her visions were known, and she never spoke of them, except to her confessors, or to people who she thought would never mention them. It gave her greater repugnance to declare these favours to those individuals, than it did to mention her grievous sins, for she fancied they would laugh at her, and consider them as so many old women's stories, which she always disliked hearing.
It is now about thirteen years, a little more or less, that after having founded the convent of St. Joseph's,4 into which she had retired after leaving the other, there came to Avila an inquisitor; I know not if he came from Toledo, but I am certain he had been in Seville: his name is Sobo,5 and he is now bishop of Salamanca. She tried to see him, in order to gain more confidence and security for herself; for this purpose, she gave him an account of everything. The inquisitor told her, that such matters did not belong to his office, because everything that she heard and saw in prayer, only confirmed her more and more in the Catholic faith, to which she would ever firmly adhere, and inspired her with the most ardent desires for the glory of God and the welfare of souls, to save only one of whom she would consent to die a thousand deaths. As the inquisitor perceived she was in great affliction, he advised her to give, in writing an account of all these things, and also of her whole life, without omitting any circumstance, and to send it to Father Avila, a man who had great experience in matters relating to prayer: and that when she had written this account, she should endeavour to compose her mind. She did what he told her, and wrote down her sins, together with an account of her life. Father Avila wrote to her,6 and great was the comfort she derived from what he said. This account was given in such a way, that all learned persons who read it, and those who were her confessors, said it was very useful for giving advice in spiritual matters, and so they commanded her to transcribe it, and compose another little book7 for the instruction of her daughters–(for she was the prioress), in which she was to give them some advice concerning prayer.
Notwithstanding all this, she sometimes had great fears, for she thought that even the most spiritual persons might be deceived, as well as herself: on this account, she requested her confessor to allow her to consult some more learned persons, though they might not be much given to prayer, since she desired nothing else but to know, if what she experienced was conformable to Holy Scripture. Sometimes she consoled herself by the consideration, that, though she deserved to be deceived on account of her sins, yet that our Lord would not permit so many good persons to be deceived, who were so desirous of enlightening her.
With this intention, she began to consult the fathers of the Order of the glorious St. Dominic, who, before these things happened, had been her confessors, though she had never acknowledged this, but said she had confessed to fathers belonging to the Order. The following are the names of the persons whom she afterwards consulted. Father Vincente Barron, who was then consultor of the Holy Office, heard her confession for a year and a half at Toledo; and, before these things happened, she had consulted him for many years. He was a very learned man, and did her great good; and so also did those fathers of the Society whom I have mentioned before. All of them assured her that as long as she did not offend God, and acknowledged her own wickedness, what need she fear?
She consulted Father Pedro Ibañez who was professor at Avila; Father Domingo Bañez, who is now professor at Valladolid in the College of St. Gregory, and who was her confessor for six years, and she always consulted him by letter when she thought it necessary to do so; Maestro Chaves; Father Bartolomé de Medina, professor at Salamanca, and as she knew he was not well disposed towards her, on account of what he had heard about her, she thought that he would tell her, better than any one else, whether she were deluded, as he had no good opinion of her. Accordingly, about two years ago, she had an opportunity of making her confession to him; she then gave him an account of all that had happened since the time she began to have these raptures, and this professor read all she had written on the subject, in order to be able to understand the matter better. After this, he consoled her more than all the others had, and ever since has continued her sincere friend.
She likewise confessed for some time to Father Felipe de Meneses, who was rector of St. Gregory's College at Valladolid, when she founded a monastery there. But he had previously gone to Avila (having heard certain things about her), in order to speak very kindly to her on the subject, and to enlighten her in case she should have been deceived; but if she were not, to take her part, should he hear any one speaking against her. He was perfectly satisfied with her account of her life.
She also very frequently consulted a provincial of the Dominicans, named Salinas, who was a very spiritual man; likewise another individual called Lunar, who was prior of the Convent of St. Thomas, at Avila; and at Segovia, a professor named Fay Diego de Yangues.
Among these Dominican fathers, there were some who had attained a high degree of prayer, and perhaps all of them had. She also spoke with others of the same Order, for she had abundant opportunities of doing so. During all the years she continued in these dreadful fears, especially as she was obliged to go into different parts of the country, in order to found her monasteries. These fathers tried her in many ways, for they were all desirous of being able to enlighten her; and so by these means they gave her confidence, and convinced themselves of the truth of what she told them. She was always obedient to their commands, and hence she was quite grieved when she could not obey them in supernatural things. Her prayers, and those of the houses she founded, were always animated with an ardent desire for the propagation of the faith: it was for this object, as well as for the good of the Order, that she commenced her foundations.
She said, that if any of these visions, &c., had induced her to say anything against the Catholic faith or the law of God, there would then have been no necessity to consult so many learned men, nor to have submitted to so many tests, since it would have been evident that she was deceived by the devil. Never did she regulate her conduct by what she had heard in prayer; rather when her confessors told her to preform anything contrary to what she had heard, she did it without the least repugnance, and gave them an account of everything that happened. She was never very credulous or confident that these things came from God, however strongly these fathers assured her that it was so; though, on some occasions, she believed they came from a good spirit, seeing the wonderful effects those great favours had produced in her soul. But what she always desired the most was, to advance in virtue; and this is what she recommended to her nuns, assuring them that the most humble and the most mortified would become the most spiritual.8
What she said she had written,9 she gave to Father Domingo Bañez, who is now living at Valladolid, and with whom she has corresponded the most frequently: she continues to do so still. This father told her he had presented her account to the Holy Office of the Inquisition at Madrid. She submits in everything to the faith of the Roman Catholic Church. No one blamed what she said, because these things do not depend on ourselves, and our Lord does not require impossibilities.
The reason why these things have been so widely noised abroad is this, that as she was so harassed by fears and scruples, she spoke about them to several persons, and so one told them to another. She also did wrong in having allowed a certain individual to see what she had written, for she made it public. This was a very great torment and cross to her, and cost her many tears. She says, "it is not through any feeling of humility that she regrets what happened, but on account of what was said about her." It seems our Lord permitted this to happen, in order to afflict her, because those who before had said the most against her are now the very individuals who take her part, and speak well of her.
She was extremely careful not to tell any one that she thought these visions, &c., came from God, for she was fearful lest the devil might deceive both her and those to whom she should speak. She, however, more willingly communicated these secrets of her soul to those who she knew were not too credulous, although she was pained when she saw that, in order to try her, they affected to despise and ridicule whatever she said; for she had reason to think that some of those things could come only from God, and she earnestly wished, therefore, that these should not be so emphatically condemned, because it was not proper they should. Still, she did not wish those persons to imagine that everything which happened to her came from above, for she knew very well there might be some deceit concealed beneath; on this account, she thought she never could be entirely secure, where there was so much danger.
She did whatever lay in her power to avoid offending God in any way, and always obeyed her superiors: by these two means she hoped to be secure together with the Divine assistance, even though she might have been deceived by the devil.
From the time she began to experience these supernatural favours, her soul was always inclined to aim at the most perfect state; and in general she had a great desire for suffering. Hence she found comfort amidst the numerous persecutions she had to endure, and she felt a particular love for those who persecuted her. She had likewise a great desire of poverty, of solitude, and of being delivered from this land of exile, that so she might see her God. By these and many other like effects, she began to enjoy a little more quiet, thinking that the spirit which, produced such virtues in her soul could not be an evil one. Those to whom she spoke told her the same, though they did not entirely remove her fears; still, she was not in such affliction as she used to be.
She persuaded herself that it was always best to obey, and not to conceal anything. She never saw any vision with her corporeal eyes, as mentioned before. But what she did see was represented to her in so subtile and intellectual a manner, that sometimes at first she could not help thinking it was purely the effect of her imagination; yet on many other occasions she could not think so. These things did not happen frequently, but generally only when she was in some affliction, as was once the case, when she had to endure, for several days together, most insupportable interior torments, and a disquiet of soul caused by her fears, lest she might be deceived by the devil, as she mentions at some length in the "Account" she published of her sins, as well as of the other matters, for her fears made her forget her reputation.
When she was in some affliction, which cannot be expressed, by merely hearing in the interior of her soul these words, "It is I–be not afraid,"10 she immediately became so calm, so encouraged, and resigned, that she could not comprehend how she attained such great happiness; for neither her confessor, nor many learned men, had been able, though they spoke so frequently to her, to bestow on her that peace and quietude which she had received by those words. At other times it happened that she was strengthened by some vision; and had not this been the case, she could not have borne so many labours and persecutions, besides her infirmities, which were so numerous and so continual, and which she still suffers, though they are not so frequent; but she is never without some kind of suffering more or less. Her ordinary sufferings are violent pains, with many other infirmities, which have tormented her the more since she became a religious. Whether she does any little service to our Lord, or receives favours from Him, all are quickly effaced from her memory, and though she often thinks on these graces, still she does not dwell upon them so long as she does upon her sins, which always afflict and disgust her, just as a noisome smell would do.
The reason why she is not tempted to vainglory is, because she is loaded with the weight of her sins, and has served the Lord so little. Nothing has ever crossed her mind but what was pure and chaste; and she thinks nothing to the contrary can happen, if the supernatural things which she sees come from good spirit, because she wholly forgets her body, and takes no care of it: all her thoughts are employed on God.
She has also a great fear of offending her Lord, and she is careful to do His will in all things: this she continually prays may be ever fulfilled; hence, she is so determined in her own mind to accomplish this Holy will, that her confessors can command her nothing which she would not willingly perform by the Divine assistance, if she thought it might in any way tend to the glory of God. She is confident that His Majesty assists those who are determined to labour for His honour and glory; and in comparison with these objects, she thinks as little of herself and her own interests as if she had no existence whatever, at least as far as she knows herself, and her confessors judge proper.
All that is written in this letter is most true, and may be verified by her confessors and all those persons whom she has consulted for these last twenty years. Her soul is most frequently excited to break forth into the praises of God, and she wishes that all the world should know this, though it might cost her very dearly. Hence arises an ardent desire for the good of souls, and a great contempt for the things of this world, knowing that they are but dirt in comparison with the interior secrets of the soul, which are infinitely more precious.
Since your Reverence wishes to know something about these visions, behold the manner in which they happen to her. Nothing interior, nor exterior is seen, because they do not come from the imagination.11 But without seeing anything, the soul knows what the object is, and whence it is represented to her, and this more clearly than if she actually saw it with her eyes, except that she sees nothing in particular. It is just as if she perceived some person to be near her, though being in the dark she does not see any one; yet she knows for certain that he is near her. This comparison, however, is not sufficient to make the subject clear, because he who is in the dark can tell, by some way or other, that a person is near him, either by hearing a noise, or by having known beforehand that the individual is there. But here there is nothing of the kind, for without any interior or exterior words, the soul understands most clearly the object represented to her, on what side it is, and sometimes what it signifies. But she understands not how, or by what means, she knows this; all she knows is, that it so happens, and she cannot tell exactly how long it lasts. When it has passed away, in vain she endeavours to remember how it was represented to her before. Then she knows that such an attempt would only be an effect of the imagination, and not a representation, for this is independant of any endeavours on our part, and so are all supernatural things. Hence it is, that those to whom God shows these favours esteem themselves much less and are far more humble than they would be if no such things happened, because they see it is a favour given to them, which cannot be taken away or bestowed by any one else except God. Hereby their love is increased, and their desire of serving so powerful a Lord, who can do what we cannot comprehend in this life, just as a person may have great knowledge, which others cannot understand. May He who is all-powerful, be praised for ever and ever. Amen.
1 The Saint speaks of herself in the third person.
2 St. Francis Borgia, who was the Duke of Gandia whom the Saint mentions.
3 See what the Saint says of this most holy man in her "Life" (chap. xxvii. p. 235).
4 At Avila, which was founded in the year 1562.
5 The bishop of Osma, in his annotations on this letter, speaks very highly of this great prelate. He died at Merida in 1576.
6 See this admirable letter in Appendix No. I., annexed to the translation of the "Interior Castle."
7 "The Way of Perfection."
8 ,,Que lo mas humilde y mortificado, seria lo mas espiritual."
9 That is, her "Life." With it the Saint sent a letter to Father Ibañez.
10 "Yo soy–no hayas miedo."
11 Literally, "Porque no es imagineria."
The provincial to whom this energetic letter is addressed was Father Saurez. The Saint mentions the cause which induced her to defend herself against a certain false report regarding Father Gasper de Salazar. This holy man was a Jesuit, and had been her confessor for some years; but a rumour spread about that he was on the point of becoming a Carmelite, and that a revelation had been made, either to him or the Saint, to induce him to leave his illustrious order. The father provincial, believing the report, wrote a sharp letter to the Saint, and accused her of being the cause of this change in Father Salazar. This she indignantly denies in the following letter. Date, 1578. Carta XX. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The Grace of the Holy Spirit be ever with your Reverence. Amen.
I assure you I was greatly surprised on receiving the letter, which the Father Rector gave me on the part of your Reverence, in which you seem to imagine that I have been persuading Father Gaspar de Salazar to forsake the Society, and to enter our Order of Carmel, and that I had made him understand such was the will of our Lord, as was manifested by a revelation.
With regard to the first charge, His Majesty knows well, that so far from persuading Father Gaspar to leave the Society, I never desired such a thing, much less endeavoured to persuade him to it. And even when I had heard something on the subject–(though I had not heard it from himself)–I was so grieved and so angry, that it injured my health, which at that time was very indifferent; and I heard the report only so recently, that I think your Reverence must have heard it long before I did.
With regard to the revelation of which you speak, you may easily see that as he did not write to me, and I knew nothing of his intention, I could not be aware of his having had any revelation on the subject.
But even supposing I myself had this revelation, which you call "dreaming," I could not be so imprudent as to wish him to make so important a change, through any such cause, neither should I have spoken to him about it; for, thank God, I have many good friends who teach me what credit is to be given to such revelations: nor do I believe that Father Salazar, who is a very prudent man, would have paid any attention to this, had there not been something more in the affair.
With respect to what your Reverence says about superiors investigating the case, this would be a very proper thing; and you may send him your commands, for I am very certain that when your Reverence shall give him notice, he will do nothing without your leave. I will never disown the sincere friendship which exists between Father Salazar and myself, nor will I deny the favours for which I am indebted to him, though I am convinced that his willingness to oblige me was rather a motive to render some service to our Lord and His Blessed Mother, than any regard he had for me, for I believe it sometimes happened that we did not write to each other for two years together. I cannot, however, deny that the friendship existing between us is of long standing! and every one knows that as I was, for some time, more in want of help than I am at present (having had at that time only two friars belonging to the Order), I should then have had greater reasons to induce him to make this change than I have now; for, thanks be to God, we have at this time, I think, more than two hundred Religious, amongst whom are many persons quite good enough for our manner of living. Never did I suppose, that the hand of God will be more restrained to the Order of His Mother than to other Orders.1
With regard to the assertion of your Reverence that I wrote certain letters in order that it might be known I opposed the change: may God never write, my name in the Book of Life, if ever such a thought came across me. Let this expression be attributed to my warmth, for I think I cannot be too earnest in trying to make your Reverence understand, that I never treated with the Society except as one who always had their interest at heart, and who would even expose her life to serve its members, in everything which was in accordance with the laws of God. His secrets are deep; and as I have not in any way been mixed up in this affair of which you have spoken to me, so God is my witness that I have no desire to meddle with it for the future. If the fault should be laid on my shoulders, it will not be the first time I have suffered without being guilty. But I know by experience, that when our Lord is pleased, all things become easy; and never can I believe His Majesty will permit, even for grave reasons, much less for such a trifle as this, that the Society should go against the Order of His Mother, since He has made the one to be instrumental in restoring and renewing the fervour of the other. But if this evil should be allowed, I fear it may happen, that what is gained on one side may be lost in a hundred ways on the other.
We are all servants of one and the same King. God grant that the children of the Son and the Mother may be such, as to think of nothing but marching, like courageous soldiers, under the banner of our Captain, that so we may accomplish His will. If the Carmelites acquit themselves of this duty, it is certain that the fathers of the Society of Jesus will not separate themselves from them, though I have often been threatened with such a misfortune. May God preserve your Reverence many years.
I know of the favours your Reverence has always shown us; and though so miserable a sinner, I often recommend you to our Lord, and I beg of you to do as much for me; Lord, during these last six months, afflictions and persecutions have fallen very heavily upon this poor old body of mine, amongst which this our misunderstanding is not the least. But, after all, I give your Reverence my word, that I will not speak to this father in any way about the execution of his design, nor will I allow any one else to speak to him about it, nor have I hitherto done so.
Your Reverence's unworthy Servant and Subject,
TERESA DE JESUS.
February the 10th, 1578.
1 "Que la mano de Dios estara mas abreviada para la orden de su Madre, que para las otras."
When the Saint addressed the following letter to this father, he was then her confessor, and was probably the rector of a college at Avila. Finding himself but little inclined to mental prayer, on account of his numerous exterior duties, he declared his trouble to Saint Teresa, and commanded her to teach him how to act amidst these his occupations, that so they might not interfere with his interior recollection. Date, 1578. Carta XXI. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS be with your Reverence.
It is a long time since I have been so mortified as I was to-day in reading your letter. I am not yet so humble as to desire to be considered so proud, nor should your Reverence be so anxious to show your humility so much at my cost. I never felt so much inclined to tear your letter. I assure your Reverence, you know well how to mortify me, and make me understand what I am.1 Does your Reverence imagine, then, that I consider myself able to instruct others? God deliver me from such a thought! I do not wish to think of such a thing.
Now, however, I preceive I have committed a fault, though it may, perhaps, be through a desire I have to see your Reverence become very good; and from this weakness may proceed the follies of my discourse with you, and also from the great respect I have for you, which makes me speak with freedom, without considering what I say. Afterwards I had some scruple respecting certain things which I said to your Reverence; and if I were not afraid of being disobedient, I should not now comply with what you command me, because I find great reluctance in doing so. May God accept my submission. Amen.
One of the great defects which I have, is judging of myself in these matters of prayer, and therefore your Reverence must not heed what I shall say, because God may give you another talent, different from that which He gives to a weak woman like myself. Consider the favour bestowed on me by our Lord, of having Him actually present to me, and how also I see, when I have to perform many duties, that neither persecutions nor labours can disturb me so much as these2 do. If any business comes which requires immediate despatch, I very generally do not retire to rest till an hour or two, and even later, after midnight, in order that my soul may not afterwards be obliged to attend to anything else, except to Him only whom she has present to her. This has been very injurious to my health, and therefore it must be a temptation, though it seems to me the soul remains more at liberty; like one who has on hand some business of great importance and urgency, who immediately arranges every minor affair, in order that it may not hinder him from attending to what he considers more necessary.
And so it is a great pleasure to me, whenever I can leave anything to be done by the sisters, though it might perhaps be done better by myself. But should I not do it well, His Majesty supplies the deficiency. The less attention I give to business, the more advanced I find myself in my interior. Though I know this very clearly, yet I often neglect using care to be released from business, and doubtless I receive some harm thereby. I see I might do more, and employ greater diligence in this respect, and thus do myself greater good.
What I say, however, must not be understood as applicable to affairs of importance, which cannot be neglected; and here perhaps lies my mistake, for such are the duties of your Reverence; and it would not be proper to leave them to the management of another, in my opinion: but as I see the health of your Reverence is injured by them, I wish you had less to do. I am, however, excited to bless God, by seeing what an interest you take in everything relating to our Order; for I am not so weak as not to understand the high favour our Lord bestowed upon you in having given you such a talent, and the great merit which may be gained thereby. It makes me somewhat envious, because I wish my superior also should have the like. Since God has given your Reverence to me as such, I wish you would take as much care of my soul as you do of the fountain you speak about. I am much pleased with your account of it, for it is so necessary in the monastery, that it deserves all the attention of your Reverence.
Nothing more remains for me to say. I assure you, I speak to you in all truth and sincerity, as if I were speaking to God. I know that whatever is done towards properly discharging the office of superior, is so pleasing to God, that He gives in a short time to such a one–what he would bestow on others only after a long period. This I know as well by experience, as by what I have been saying. But as I see your Reverence is in general so very busy, what I have said to you came at once into my mind, and the more I reflect upon it, the more do I now see (as I have said) that there is a great difference between your Reverence and myself. I will correct myself, by not mentioning my first thoughts, since it cost me so dear. Provided I can see you well, my temptation will cease. May our Lord dispose everything as He can, and as I desire.
Your Reverence's Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 The Saint was mortified, because Father Gonzalo asked her advice.
2 That is, duties and employments.
This holy but persecuted man, to whom so many of the Saint's letters are addressed, was thinking at one time of choosing a particular province for the Carmelites, who were to be under the direction of a provincial. He communicated his intention to the Saint, who, after having consulted Father Daza and Doctor Rueda on the subject, wrote the following letter to him, in which she forcibly endeavours to dissuade him from the project, and advises him to have recourse to Rome. She also points out what means he was to employ in order to succeed; and, towards the end of the letter, she speaks of two of his sisters who were on the point of taking the habit. Date, 1578. Carta XXII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS be with your Reverence.
My Father,–After the departure of the Prior of Mancera, I spoke to Father Daza and Doctor Rueda about your intention of making a separate province for our reformed Carmelites, because I should not wish your Reverence to do anything which people might take hold of, and blame you for. Even should the undertaking succeed, this would give me more pain than all the rest of our affairs which might not prosper without any fault of ours. Both of them agreed in thinking that the project would be very difficult to execute, unless your Reverence had a particular "Commission," to empower you to establish the province. Doctor Rueda especially urges this point very strongly; and I pay great deference to his opinion, because I see that what he recommends always succeeds: he is a very learned man. He says, that as it is a matter of jurisdiction, it is very difficult to elect a provincial, because the choice belongs either to the General or to the Pope. Hence the thing cannot be done, for the votes would be null and void. He adds, that this would give an opportunity to the others1 to apply to the Pope, and to proclaim that you were about to withdraw us from our obedience, by making superiors when you had not the power. He also adds, that this undertaking would be misunderstood, and he is confident that you would have more trouble in confirming the provincial, than you would have in obtaining leave of the Pope to make the province. If the king were to write to his ambassador at Rome, the Pope would be glad to grant leave;2 for the thing could easily be done, particularly if it were represented to his Holiness, how badly our fathers of the reform have been treated. If any one would speak to the king on the subject, his majesty, I am sure, would willingly write to his ambassador, and this would be of great assistance to the reform: for when the other fathers see that the king interests himself in your business, they will have the more respect for you, and will be less ready to trouble you, and less anxious to prevent the reform.3
I think it would be very desirable if your Reverence were to mention the matter to Father Chaves4 (when you give him the letter I wrote to him, and which I sent by the prior), for he is a very sensible man: and if he would only make use of the influence he possesses with the king, he would perhaps obtain the favour. By this means, together with the letters given by the king, the fathers whom you should depute would hasten to Rome on the subject. But even should no letters be received, I should still wish them to go by all means; for Doctor Rueda says this is the right way to manage the business, viz., to apply directly either to the Pope or to the General. I am confident that if Father Padilla had united with us in representing the matter to the king, we should before now have accomplished it. Your Reverence may yet be able to speak to him, or to the Archbishop, about it; for if the provincial, after he has been chosen, must be confirmed and approved by the king, it would be better first to obtain permission5 from the king. If we should not succeed, we shall at least be spared the affront which would be given to us, if he were not confirmed, after having been elected; it would also be a disgrace to us, and the character of your Reverence might suffer if you should attempt what you were not able to do; people would say, "you had no judgment."
The doctor says, that if the visitor of St. Dominic's Order, or if any other Order, should make this election, there would not be so much said about it as if you made it yourself; for as I have before said, a person exposes himself to great danger when he meddles with matters of jurisdiction; and it is very important that our superior should be established by proper authority. It is with reason I dread this undertaking, because I foresee that they will have some cause to throw all the fault upon you, though I should not fear did they blame you without reason; but, on the contrary, I should be the more animated to excuse it; on this account, I have been anxious to write this letter to you, in order that your Reverence may consider well what you are about to do.
Do you know what I have been thinking? It is this, that perhaps our Father General will turn against us the letters which I have written him (though they were very good), and he may show them to the cardinals. These thoughts suggested to me the propriety of not writing anything on the matter, until we have seen the result: it would be also well, if an opportunity should offer, to say something to the nuncio about it. I perceived, my Father, when you were at Madrid, that you did a great deal in a day; hence I think, that by speaking to different persons, and making the ladies you know in the palace interested in the matter, and by prevailing on Father Antonio to induce the duchess to use her influence, you might do a great deal towards obtaining this favour from the king, who is very desirous that the reform should be maintained. Father Mariano, who often speaks with his majesty, might give him an account of it, and beg of him to support it; he could also remind his majesty, how it is now some time since that dear and holy brother, John of the Cross,6 has been detained in prison. I know the king listens to every one, and I cannot imagine how this matter has not been told to his majesty, and why Father Mariano especially has not entreated the king to set this Father at liberty.
But what am I talking about? What nonsense am I not writing to your Reverence, and yet you bear with my foolishness! I assure you I am greatly troubled, at not having the liberty to do what I advise others to do. The king is now going a great distance off: I only wish he had done something before his departure. May God do it for He is able.
We are anxiously expecting those ladies: and our nuns are quite confident that your Reverence's sister will stop here, and receive the habit in this convent. The obligations you owe them are very great; so also are mine, for though we now have a good number, and their necessities are great, still they have an earnest desire to possess among them something belonging to you, not reflecting on any inconveniences. There is nothing which little Teresa does not do and say! I shall also rejoice if this should be the case,7 because I could not enjoy her company so much where she is going to as I shall do here: nay, perhaps I might never see her again, as the place is so far distant. However, these considerations are now at an end, for she has already been received at Valladolid, where she will do very well. If she had not gone, the sisters would have been greatly disappointed, especially Casilda. Juliana must remain with us (though I say nothing about her to the sisters); for, to send her to Seville would give too much pain to Doña Juana, her mother; and perhaps she would not like it herself, when she grew older. How I wish to have her sister, who is with the other young ladies! She knows not her wants, nor does she try to improve herself: she would have more quiet here than where she is.
My brother Lorenzo, who is going to court, will bring you this letter: he will remain some time at Madrid, and then I believe he will go on to Seville.
I think the prioress will write to you, and so I will say no more, only that God may preserve your Reverence. The prioress of Alva is very ill: pray for her, as all I can say is, that we shall lose a treasure in losing her: she is very obedient, and when anything goes wrong, the sisters need only speak to her, and she puts everything right. O! what sufferings do not the poor nuns of Malagon endure, on account of Brianda:8 I cannot, however, help laughing, when they tell me "they wish I would return."
Madame Louisa de la Cerda's youngest daughter is dead. I feel greatly for her, considering all the afflictions which God sends her. Her widow daughter is now the only child left. I am sure it would be an act of charity for your Reverence to write to her, and console her, for you know our order is much indebted to her.
Consider whether it would be for the best, that your sister should remain here: if your Reverence should judge otherwise, and that her mother would like to have her nearer to her, I shall put no obstacle in the way. I am afraid (as she has already had some intention of going to Valladolid)–that she may afterwards have some temptation to go there, for she may hear that there are comforts there, which we have not in this house, were it only the garden, which is so much finer than ours, for we have the most barren and wretched soil in the world. May God preserve you, my Father, and make you a saint; this I pray for. Amen. My arm is getting much better.
Your Reverence's unworthy Servant and Subject,
TERESA DE JESUS.
P.S.–Madame Guiomar is here, and is very well: she has a great desire to see your Reverence. She and all the nuns grieve much for Brother John of the Cross. It is indeed a sad thing that he should be so treated. The convent of the Incarnation goes on about the same as usual.
1 That is, the fathers who opposed the reform.
2 This was eventually granted, as the history of the Order mentions.
3 "Descuidarian ya en que se han de deshacer."
4 This father was a Dominican, and confessor to King Philip II. He was a man of great genius and virtue.
5 That is, permission to elect a provincial.
6 "Aquel santico de Fray Juan." (See the life of this great friend of St. Teresa in Alban Butler, November 24th.)
7 Should she take the habit.
8 How she was the cause of their afflictions, I am unable to tell.
9 The Saint very frequently does not mention either the date of her letters, or the place from which she writes them. This letter seems to have been written from Avila.
This letter is the second in the Spanish ed., though it is placed as the first in the French translation of L'Abbe Migne. Bishop Palafox praises this letter exceedingly for its spirituality and the beautiful instructions which it gives on the interior life. Date, 1577. Carta XXIII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The Grace of the Holy Spirit be with your Reverence, My Father.
To-day I received three of your letters from the postmaster, and yesterday Brother Alonzo brought me one. Our Lord has rewarded me well for the trouble I was in on account of your delay in writing. May He be for ever blessed for giving your Reverence health. I was at first greatly alarmed at not finding any of your letters in the two packets which came for the prioress: but my disappointment did not last long. I beg you would mention to me what letters you receive from me, for often you do not send an answer to what I write: and sometimes you also forget to put the date to your letters.
In both your letters your Reverence asks me what passed in the interview which I had with Señora Doña Juana. I sent you an account by the courier of this place. I suppose that what you spoke of as having been received by the way of Madrid is the answer I sent you; and so I was in no trouble about it. I am very well. My Isabel1 is quite our recreation. It is wonderful to see how gay and cheerful she is. Yesterday I received a letter from Señora Doña Juana, in which she tells me all her family are well.
I praise our Lord exceedingly, because He prospers your affairs; but I was greatly astonished at what Brother Alonso told me–regarding what people say about your Reverence. O! how necessary was that journey you undertook! Had you even done nothing else, I think you were obliged in conscience to go, for the honour of the Order. I cannot imagine how people could publish such base calumnies. May God enlighten their minds! If your Reverence should have any one in whom you can confide, it would not be amiss to give them the pleasure of having another prior. But this is a matter I do not understand. I was quite astonished that he gave such advice, which was, in reality, to do nothing. It is very painful for you to have one there who opposes you in everything. However, I cannot help thinking but that (when he considers the matter better) he will reject the advice he gave. In a word, they2 have not been taught to desire being little esteemed.
Is it not wonderful that Paul, amidst all his occupations, should have been able to preserve so much tranquility in treating with Joseph?3 I thank God for it. I hope your Reverence will tell her that she ought to be content with her manner of prayer, and that she must not be troubled if her understanding remain inactive, for God will favour her in another way. Tell her also I am much pleased with her letter. It is important to remember, as far as regards these interior things of the Spirit, that the best prayer, and the most acceptable to God, is the prayer which produces the best effects. I speak not now of those many desires the soul may have, for though they are good, they are not such as our self-love represents them sometimes. I speak of those effects, which are confirmed by deeds;4 hence, we may know what desires the soul has for God's honour, by her being truly anxious for it, by diligently employing her memory and understanding in everything that may please Him, in order the more to testify her love for Him.
O! this is indeed true prayer! and not those delights which tend only to please us, and nothing more. When our prayer is not such as I have described it, there may be found in the soul great remissness, many fears, and some resentment against those who do not esteem her enough. For my part, I wish to have no other prayer, but that which shall give me an increase of virtues. Should it be accompanied with violent temptations, dryness, and afflictions, which might make me more humble, that I should consider to be an excellent kind of prayer; for whatever pleases God the most, I consider to be the best kind of prayer. Let us not imagine that he who suffers does not pray: rather does he the more offer his troubles to God; and often does such a one pray better than those do, who, all alone in their cell, strike their breasts again and again,5 and when they force themselves to shed a few tears, call that prayer.
Pardon me, Father, for having told you so many things to say to Joseph; but the love she has for Paul will make her take them all in good part. If you think it well to tell her what I have said, do so: if not, do not say a word to her about the matter. I have only said what I wish for myself. I add also, that good works and a good conscience are two important blessings.
What your Reverence tells me about Father John pleases me much: it may be, that the devil is anxious to do some harm, and our Lord wishes to draw good from it. But very great care is necessary; for I am sure the devil will try all his arts to injure Eliseus,6 and so he does well in thinking it comes from the evil one. I really believe it would be well not to make much account of those things, for if they have been sent to Brother John7 as a penance, I think God has given him enough. What he has already endured is not for himself alone; for the other three, who should help him with their advice, will soon have their share to endure too, as Joseph foretold.
With regard to Sister San Gerónimo, she must eat meat for some time, and give up her prayer. Will your Reverence please to command her not to consult any one but yourself, or else let her write to me; for, as her imagination is very weak, she thinks that she sees and hears whatever she meditates upon: sometimes, however, she may be in the right, for she is a very good soul.
I have the same opinion of Sister Beatrix; though I cannot see that what was written to me regarding the time of her profession could be a fancy, but I think it quite right. Tell the prioress to exempt her from fasting, and both of them from using prayer, at least for a time. She may occupy them in other exercises, lest they should fall into some greater evil. Believe me, all this is very necessary.
The loss of the letters has given me a great deal of uneasiness: you do not tell me if those which fell into the hands of Peralta were of consequence. Know that I now send this letter by an express messenger. I quite envy those religious who have the good fortune to hear the sermons delivered by your Reverence: it seems they deserve such a consolation, and I nothing but afflictions. However I beg of God, through His love, to send me a good many. I am sorry to hear that your Reverence must go to Granada. I should like to know how long you will stop there, and where I am to direct my letters to you. For the love of God, let me hear from you before your departure. I have received no papers with a seal attached. Send me two, for I think I shall want them. I am aware of the trouble you have, and I wish I could help your Reverence till you gain a little more repose. I pray God to give you as much rest as I desire for you, and to bestow on you that holiness which he alone can give. Amen.
Your Reverence's unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 One of the sisters of Father Gracian.
2 That is, those who were opposed to Father Gracian.
3 By the word "Joseph," the Saint means Mother Mary of St. Joseph; and by the words "Paul and Eliseus," she means Father Gracian. She uses this disguise, lest her letters might be intercepted.
4 "Llamo dexos, confirmados con obras," &c.
5 Literally, "Que el que se està quebrando la cabeza à sus solas."
6 The name by which the Saint alludes to Father Gracian.
7 St. John of the Cross.
8 This letter also seems to have been written from Avila.
The subject of this short letter relates to the daughter of some great nobleman, who had taken the habit of the Carmelites in the convent at Valladolid. She had a sister, also, in the convent of St. Catherine of Sienna. But their father took them both away. In consequence of this, a report spread in the court at Madrid injurious to the Carmelites. To explain the real facts of the case, the Saint wrote the following letter. Date, 1578. Carta XXIV. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS be with your Reverence.
My Father,–Though I have already written to you by way of Toledo, I now write again to let your Reverence know, that to-day I received a letter from Valladolid, which at first sight quite alarmed me. But afterwards I considered that the judgments of God are deep; that He loves this Order, and that He will assuredly either draw some good from this affair, or else avert some evil which we cannot foresee. I beseech your Reverence, then, for the love of God, not to trouble yourself about it. I feel great compassion for the poor young lady, who I think is much to be pitied; because it is ridiculous to assert that she was not happy amongst us, for cheerfulness and content were visible in her face. His Majesty does not wish we should be honoured by the great ones of this world: He will have us associate ourselves only with the very poor, just as the Apostles did; and so we must not be troubled by this event. As the father has taken his other daughter also from the convent of St. Catherine of Sienna, to live with him, we shall not lose anything by the removal.–I mean, as far as regards what the world will say; and with regard to God, it is better we should fix our eyes only upon Him.
Whatever shall happen, may God deliver us, from those grandees who can do everything, and who have such strange notions! The poor woman did not know what she was doing: and as to her returning again to the Order, I think it would not be fit she should be allowed. If there be any harm done, it may arise from the mischief which such things do to the convents, especially at the beginning. I should not have wondered at her leaving, had she been as unhappy as they say she was. But I consider it impossible for her to have concealed her discontent so long, if she felt any.
I quite compassionate the poor prioress,1 because she suffers by this removal, and I feel also for Mother Mary of St. Joseph. I hope your Reverence will write to her. I am really very sorry that you are now at so great a distance from me. I know not why I am so attached to you: may God fill you with His grace? Give my respects to Father Nicholas. All the sisters here send their regards to you, and pray God to watch over you.2
Your Reverence's Servant and Daughter,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 The prioress of Valladolid.
2 The Bishop of Osma, in his annotations on this letter, mentions several ladies of noble rank, who afterwards entered the Carmelite order.
This letter was written by the Saint, when the persecution which had been directed against the reform had in a great measure passed away. She congratulates the father on his victory over his enemies, and to him she still alludes under the name of Paul. In order to defray the expenses of having the Reformed Carmelites separated from the others, the Saint mentions how she borrowed from the convent at Valladolid two hundred crowns. At the time she wrote this letter, she had received orders from Father Salazar to proceed to Malaga, as prioress. Date, 1579. Carta XXV. Spanish ed.
JESUS. The grace of the Holy Spirit be with your Reverence.
My Father,–I wish the Holy Ghost may have given you, on this Feast of Pentecost, so many of His gifts and blessings, that by their means you might be able to discharge the numerous obligations you owe His Majesty, who has been pleased that, at the cost of your Reverence, his daughters1 should be assisted. May his name be praised by all men. This affair certainly furnishes abundant matter for reflection, and even for writing a history. Though I am unacquainted with the particulars of the conclusion, I believe everything passed off very well. If, however, our Lord should allow us to have a province, it cannot be established anywhere with more authority and precaution than in Spain; and this clearly shows that our Lord has destined the Carmelites for greater things than we imagine. May His Majesty grant Paul a long life, so that he may see these great things, and labour for their accomplishment. As for me, I hope to see them from Heaven, if ever I deserve to go there.
I have received the cheque from Valladolid, and am very glad they have sent the money. God grant the business may soon be accomplished, for though the Superior whom we now have is a very excellent man, yet he is not the man for us, nor is he capable of setting things right as they should be; in a word, we may say he is borrowed for a short time.2
Your Reverence will see by this letter what they intend to command me–a poor old woman. According to appearances, this order may rather be the effect of a desire on the part of the fathers,3 to keep me at a distance, than any necessity the Convent of Malagon can be in, of having me as prioress: this, however, may only be a suspicion, which has given me a little pain; not that I ever thought of objecting to go to Malagon, though I am troubled at the idea of going there as prioress, because I am not fit for such an office, and I fear I should grow negligent in the service of our Lord.4 I hope your Reverence will pray that I may ever remain firm and constant therein; and then as to the rest, I care not what may happen, for the more I suffer, the more merit I shall have. In any case, I beg of your Reverence to destroy this letter.
I am delighted to hear your Reverence enjoys such good health. But I should not like to see you here during the hot weather. O! what a solitude does not my soul feel day after day when I think at what a distance I am from your Reverence, though it seems as if I were always near Father Joseph; this reflection helps me to endure this life, though I enjoy not the pleasures of the world: still I am happy. With regard to your Reverence, I cannot consider you an inhabitant of this world, since our Lord has taken away from you all temptation of attaching yourself to it, and has given you such abundant opportunities of arriving at Heaven. Truly, the more I think of this persecution, and of the means our Lord has made use of to deliver you from it, the more am I surprised. If God should please to make the Andalusians return to their duty, I should consider it a very particular favour. But do not put yourself to much trouble in pressing them, as matters have taken a better turn; and this is what I always desired.
I was much pleased on reading the letter which Father Nicalo wrote be me on this matter, and on this account I send the letter to your Reverence. All the sisters desire to be kindly remembered to you. The thought of my going away is the only thing which grieves them. I will let your Reverence know the result. Recommend, for love of us, this matter earnestly to our Lord. You remember now what people used so unkindly to say against my journeys, undertaken for the foundations of the convents, and you know who those people are. Consider what a life mine has been! Still this matters but a little.
I mentioned to the Father Vicar5 the inconveniences that would arise from my being prioress because I could not follow the rules of the community; but that as regards all the rest, I had no difficulty, for I should be willing to go to the end of the world if obedience commanded me: nay, I believe that the greater the labour and trials were, the more should I rejoice in doing something for this great God to whom I am so much indebted; and above all, I know that what is done through obedience, is the best means of pleasing Him. As to obeying Paul, it were enough to know I gave him pleasure, to make me do with joy all that he commands me. I could mention several with the same disposition; but I am afraid of saying too much in this letter, especially on matters relating to the soul. I send your Reverence those verses which the nuns of the Incarnation composed; they may make you laugh a little, though the afflictions of that house may rather make you weep. The poor creatures endeavour to lessen their troubles–by amusing themselves with writing verses. My journey to Malagon they consider as something very important, for they (as well as myself) hope to see that convent established in peace and tranquillity.
The nuns of Valladolid have very willingly given 200 ducats,6 and the prioress would have borrowed this sum had it been necessary: she sent me 200 ducats also, making altogether 400, which I have received. She has done a great deal for us, and is an excellent manager of the affairs of her convent. I have written to thank her. Señora Doña Juana made me laugh, and at the same time surprised me by telling me in a letter, "that she felt some uneasiness in giving the money without having first told you." She had no reason, I am sure, to be afraid, for, as regards Sister Mary of St. Joseph, I have always known her to be just and upright: she has a great esteem for your Reverence.
May God preserve you, my Father. Amen. Amen. Give my respects to the Father Rector, and to the father who wrote to me the other day. Yesterday was the last day of the feast of Pentecost. Mine is not yet arrived.
Your Reverence's unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 Spanish, "su pueblo."
2 "Que en fin es de prestado."
3 Those who would not agree to, or approve the reform.
4 The Saint eventually went to Malagon, towards the end of the year 1579.
5 Father Salazar, vicar-general of the reform.
6 This money was borrowed, in order to pay the necessary expenses attendant on forming a distinct province for the Reformed Carmelites.
This letter was written while the Saint was engaged in the foundation of Palencia. The chronicles of the Order inform us of a great difference which arose between the nuns of Alva and their foundress. Of this the Saint speaks in the present letter. As a chapter was also about to be held at Alcalá, in order to establish a separate province, the Saint wrote to several of the superiors who intended to be present, and gave them very important advice on several points. This is one of the letters she wrote to Father Gracian on that occasion. Date, 1581. Carta XXVI. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS be with your Reverence. Amen.
By this letter your Reverence will be made acquainted with the difference which has arise between the nuns of Alva and their foundress. They begin to fear her, because she has made them receive novices, who have reduced them to great want. I see, therefore, it will be difficult to restore tranquillity amongst them; hence, it is necessary your Reverence should be made acquainted with everything that has passed.
Do not forget to command all our Houses to observe the constitutions with regard to the opening of the grate; and they should also be informed what kind of persons may be admitted, that so it may not appear you wish to put the nuns under more restraint than is necessary. I fear more the loss of that great joy which our Lord gives them than all the rest, for I know what a discontented Religious suffers. There is no necessity to require more of them than they have promised, provided they give no more occasion for using severity than they do at present.
They should not see the confessors with the grate open, nor the Religious of any order, much less those of our reform. But they may explain the constitutions in favour of an uncle or some near relation, who acts as a father towards them: the relaxation would then be just. They may plead also in favour of a duchess, countess, or a person of high dignity; in a word, where there can be no danger to themselves, and where others may derive some spiritual profit. Excepting these cases, the nuns should never speak with the grate open. But if any other case should occur, where there may be a doubt, they ought then to consult the provincial and ask his leave; otherwise they should never open the grate. I fear, however, the provincial will easily give them leave. But it seems not to be a difficult matter to speak on spiritual matters, without opening the grate. Your Reverence will judge what should be done for the best.
I earnestly hope the nuns of Alva may soon receive some novice, that will help them to repay the money they have spent in the building. May God so order this, as He sees their wants. The nuns here are all well, for they have abundance of everything, I mean exterior goods: but as far as regards interior pleasure, these temporal goods contribute but little hitherto: far greater comfort is to be found in poverty.
May His Majesty make us understand this truth: I beseech him also to make your Reverence a great saint. Amen.
Your Reverence's unworthy Servant and Subject,
TERESA DE JESUS.
Father Mariano was one of the first founders of the reform. On account of his great talents he was employed by King Philip II. in many important affairs of state. It seems by this letter, that he had been requested by Father Olea, a Jesuit, to write to St. Teresa in favour of a novice, whom the Saint's own Religious had refused to profess, because they did not consider her fit for their Order. In this letter the Saint displays great tact, judgment, and firmness, and by various powerful reasons she tries to convince Father Mariano that it would be wrong to comply with his request. Other matters are also discussed, which clearly show us what rare talents the saint had for business, and with what prudence and good sense her advice was always seasoned. Date, 1576. Carta XXVIII. Spanish ed.
JESUS. MARY. The grace of the Holy Spirit be with your Reverence.
It clearly appears that your Reverence is not aware of my obligations to Father Olea, and of the affection I have for him, since you write to me respecting an affair of which he has already spoken to me, and still speaks about. I think you know I am not ungrateful, and therefore I assure your Reverence, that if this business could have been accomplished by the loss of my health and rest–it should have been done. But when it is a matter of conscience, no friendship is sufficient, because I owe more to God than to any one else.
Would to God there were no other inconvenience than not having a dowry, for your Reverence knows well (and if not, you may be informed), how many Religious there are in our monasteries, without any fortune; but five hundred ducats is a good sum, and with this she might become a religious in any convent. Father Olea does not know the nuns of our houses, and hence I am not surprised at his incredulity. But I, who am convinced they are the servants of God–I, who know too the purity of their souls, do not believe they would ever deprive a person of the habit, without they had sufficient reasons for doing so, for I know the scruples they are accustomed to have in things of this nature. As they were resolved not to admit her, they must have had good reasons. Moreover, as we are so few, the trouble which such persons give, when they are unfit for the Order, is so very great, that even a wicked conscience would be scrupulous in admitting such; with how much greater reason, then, would a soul refuse, who wishes not to displease our Lord in anything. I beg your Reverence to tell me how I can force the sisters to receive a person, if they refuse her their votes? No superior can possess such power.
Do not imagine that Father Olea has a personal interest in this matter, for he tells me she is no more to him than a stranger in the street. My sins have caused him to think of exercising his charity in an affair which cannot be accomplished; and I am very sorry I cannot serve him therein. Even were the thing feasible, it would not certainly be showing any kindness to the young woman, to make her live amongst people who had no regard for her. I have done more than was reasonable in this matter, as I have obliged the nuns to keep her another year, much against their will, in order to try her a little more; and that when I shall pass through Salamanca and go to the convent in which she is, I may be informed of everything about her. This I have done to oblige Father Olea, and that he may be more satisfied. I know well the Religious do not tell lies; and your Reverence also must know, that lying, even in trivial matters, is abhorred by our sisters.
Your Reverence must also know, that it is no new thing for novices to leave our houses; this is very common; hence she will not lose anything by saying, that her health would not allow her to support the rigour of our Order; and I have never known any one lose her good name by leaving our Houses.
This affair will teach me henceforth to consider well beforehand what I do. For example, the lady recommended to us by Señor Nicolao cannot be received, though she would receive your approbation, for I know from another quarter she is not a proper subject; and I do not wish to make enemies, in order to please my friends and supporters.
It seems strange your Reverence should ask me why I began to speak on the matter at all. We should never receive any Religious, if we did not first correspond on the subject. And besides, I spoke about it, because I was desirous of obliging Señor Nicolao. But I was told things quite different from the truth, as I afterwards learnt; and I am sure he is more solicitous for the welfare of our Houses than for the good of any one person; for this reason he did not insist on the lady being received.
I beg of your Reverence, for the love of God, not to trouble yourself any more about this matter; for as she has a good fortune, she may easily be received in some other convent: this will be much better for her, than to enter our Order, where, as the sisters are so few, they ought all to be select. And if hitherto we have not been so particular in this respect with regard to some, whose names could easily be mentioned, we have acted thereby so ill that we shall take more pains for the future. Do not be the cause of our quarrelling with Señor Nicolao, for his request will certainly be refused.
Your Reverence made me smile by saying, that you could tell her character by only seeing her. But we women are not so easily known; for, after having been for so many years under the direction of our confessors, they are often surprised to see how little they know about us. This proceeds from our not knowing how to confess our faults properly, and confessors only judge of us by what we tell them. In a word, my father, when you wish to bestow any favours on our Houses, recommend proper subjects to us,1 and your Reverence will see we shall not quarrel about the dowry. But if they should not be suitable for our Order, I cannot be of service to you in anything,
Your Reverence should know that I consider it very easy to have a house here for the accommodation of religious men; and I believe it would not be difficult (even without its being a monastery) to obtain leave to have mass said there, just as leave is often given to a private gentleman who has an oratory in his house. I have mentioned this to our father:2 but he replied–"I must not think of such a thing, for it would injure the undertaking." I think he was right: and as your Reverence now knows what he wishes, you should not allow so many Religious to be together, and much less prepare a church for them, as if you had obtained leave: this has made me laugh. As for myself, I should not even purchase a house, if I had not the permission of the bishop. As I had not taken this precaution at Seville, you know what it cost me. I often told your Reverence not to do anything, without having obtained a letter from the Nuncio to give you permission.
When Don Gerónimo told me you were going to see the Calced 3 Fathers, I was quite surprised. I am far from having (at least just now) the same confidence in them that your Reverence seems to have. I do not allude to Valdemoro 4 only. I suspect him much, for I believe he is not at all well disposed towards us; for, under the mask of friendship, his only object seems to be to pry into our affairs and make them known to his friend. I wish your Reverence had the same mistrust, so as not to put any confidence in him: do not desire to make use of such friends in this business. Leave it in the hands of God, for it is His affair, and His Majesty will accomplish it in His own good time. Do not hurry yourself, for thus you might do harm.
I assure your Reverence that Don Diego Mexia is a very good gentleman, who will perform what he says: and as he has determined to speak on the matter, his cousin is almost sure not to refuse him anything: be assured that what his cousin does not do for him, he will not do for his aunt. It is useless, then, to write to her, or to any other person, for they are very near relations; and the friendship of Don Diego Mexia is greatly to be esteemed. It is a good sign that the archdeacon has offered to present our request, for had he not fair hopes of succeeding, he would not have undertaken the commission. The business is now in very good training: do not hasten it, or be too anxious about it, for this might do more harm than good. Let us leave the management of it to Don Diego and the archdeacon.
I shall not fail to enquire here if there be any one who could make the request; and also if the dean can do anything in the matter. Madame Louisa will do all she can with him. I am delighted on seeing what a favourable turn the matter has taken; and this makes me believe the more that the foundation will be very pleasing to God, since He has done everything without our having contributed anything thereto, for neither the establishment, nor the permission to say mass, is in our power. It is, however, a great thing that we have a house; and sooner or later we shall obtain leave to say mass. If the Nuncio had given leave, the business would soon have been accomplished. May our Lord grant him health, for we stood in need of him. Father Tostado does not lose courage; but I am afraid the Nuncio will not make use of him.
With regard to the affair at Salamanca, Father Juan de Jesus is so ill with the quartan ague, that I know not how he can do anything, nor does your Reverence mention in what way the Religious can be useful. With respect to the college there, let us begin with what is necessary, viz. to obtain leave from the Nuncio: had he given it the matter would have been finished; but if we make a false step in the beginning, then everything goes wrong. The object of the bishop, is, in my opinion, to find some one to replace Señor Juan Dias, of whose imprisonment he had heard. But I am sure our Order does not allow our Religious to act for others, and I think it is not proper: and even though this could be done, what good could be effected, since they would have to leave in less than two months? Such a proceeding would only serve to provoke the bishop. Besides, how do we know if our Father would succeed in this matter? They might, perhaps, wish them to aim at great perfection and mortification, and this might not be suitable for such persons: indeed, I know not if the bishop would be pleased with the Religious, should they undertake the office.
I assure your Reverence there is more to do than you imagine, and perhaps we shall lose more than we gain. I think it is not very advantageous for our Order to have Religious to act as confessors for others, and the bishop does not wish them to be such. The world should know them only as hermits given to contemplation, and not as persons running here and there to confess women of that character. I think people would be scandalized, even though the Religious had no other object but to draw them from their evil life.
I mention all these difficulties, in order that your Reverence may consider them well, and see what is best to be done. In this point I submit my judgment to yours, which is so much superior to mine. Your Reverence may allow Doctor Padilla and Señor Juan Diaz to read my letter, because I know nothing more than what I have written to you. We shall always be sure of having the bishop's leave. Without that I have little confidence in Señor Don Teutonio5 as a negotiator. I know his good-will, but I am certain he has but little influence.
I am expecting I shall have to go to Madrid, in order to give life to the project of a foundation there, for I am a good negotiator when there is occasion: (if you do not believe this, inquire of my friend Valdemoro).6 I should be glad to make a foundation there, and I should be sorry if we did not succeed through want of using our endeavours, and making use of the means that might enable us to succeed. I often wished to have a convent in that city, because of its proximity to the court. I am pleased that the other design is given up of founding a house at Salamanca, for at present I see no probability of succeeding. Should the worst come, the foundation would be better at Malagon; and Madame Louisa has a great desire to go there.
In the course of time she will bestow many charities upon us; and in the neighbourhood there are many small towns, in which there is abundance of food. This will serve as a good excuse to give up the other house, for people will say we have transferred it to Malagon, and they will not know you have abandoned it altogether: they may fancy you will return to it again, when the house is built, for it does not look well to take a house to-day, and to leave it to-morrow.
I gave Don Gerónimo the letter which I wrote to Don Diego Mexia. He will forward it, together with another that was sent for Count de Olivares. I will write to him again when I see it necessary. I hope your Reverence will take care to refresh his memory; for I assure you, once more, that if he told you he would undertake the task and speak to the archdeacon about it, you may consider the matter as accomplished, since his word can be depended upon.
I have just received a letter from him about a young person to whom he begs I will give the habit, and the mother of the Father Visitor speaks very well of her. Would to God that those whom we refuse had the same good qualities as this person seems to have: we should then not fail to receive them. While I am now writing, I have thought I should not do wrong were I to say something to Don Diego respecting this other affair, under pretext of speaking to him about the young woman, and recommend it again to his care: this I shall certainly do. Will your Reverence please to give him this letter, and may God be ever with you. I have written such a long letter, as if I had nothing else to do; I have not written to the prior, because I have so many other letters to send off; and also because the good father may consider this as written to him. Give my very kind regards to Father Padilla: I praise God for the good health he enjoys. May His Majesty be ever with your Reverence. I will endeavour to procure the writing, even though I should be obliged to speak to Valdemoro, and I cannot express myself more strongly, for I don't believe he will do anything for us. This is the Feast (of the eleven thousand7) Virgins.
Your Reverence's unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
P.S. Before Diego arrived, I received the other letters from your Reverence. I beg you would send by the first opportunity this letter, addressed to our father (Gracian): it is to obtain permission. I have told him nothing about the business, but I trust your Reverence will do so.
In order that you may see how much more active my nuns are than your Reverence, I send you a few lines written by Mother Annie of Jesus, Prioress of Veas. Well, you see she has found a good house for our fathers of Peñuela. She has given me great pleasure. I'll engage your Reverence would not have done the business so quickly! She has given the habit to a young lady, who has brought for her dowry seven thousand ducats. She is soon to receive two others, who have as great a fortune as the former. A lady of rank, niece to Count de Tendilla, has also taken the habit. She has brought with her a great quantity of plate, consisting of candlesticks, table services, reliquaries, crosses, and many other valuable things which it would take too long to mention. But a law-suit is now going on, as you will see by these letters. I trust your Reverence will consider what is to be done in the matter. Perhaps it would be the best to speak of it to Don Antonio, and to convince him that the height of the grates, while useful to us, cannot be injurious to them. In a word, see what can be done in this matter. May His Majesty be ever with your Reverence.
1 "Dènos buenos talentos."
2 Father Gracian.
3 Those who did not adopt the reform.
4 He was prior of the Carmelites at Avila, and was greatly opposed to the Saint's reform.
5 This person afterwards became archbishop of Evora.
6 These words must be spoken in irony.
7 Not in the Spanish.
Letter 3. Two other letters, which the Saint wrote to her Brother, have been translated, and may be read at the end of the "Interior Castle," among several other letters. This letter will be considered very valuable and interesting. She confirms her brother in his intention of returning into Spain from the West Indies, where he had been living for some time. She gives him an account of the progress her reform had made, and tells him some news about his family. She also consoles him for the loss of his wife, &c. Date, 1575. Carta XXX. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. May the Holy Spirit be ever with you. Amen.
I wrote to you by four different ways, and in the third I sent a letter to Señor Gerónimo de Cepeda. As then you must have received some of my letters, I do not think it necessary to answer all you said. Neither shall I say anything now, respecting the good resolution with which our Lord has inspired you, and for which I praise His Majesty exceedingly, I certainly think you have done quite right. I judge by the reasons which you mention as having induced you to take this resolution, that there may be many others also. I trust in our Lord it may tend to His greater glory. We continually pray in our monasteries for your safe return: for since your intention is to serve God, may His Majesty direct everything for your greater good, and the welfare of your children.
I have already informed you that six convents for the nuns of our Order, and two monasteries for the fathers, have been founded, in which great progress is made towards perfection. The houses for the sisters are founded on the model of St. Joseph's at Avila, so that they seem to be one and the same establishment. I am exceedingly comforted on beholding how truly and perfectly our Lord is served by them, and with what purity of soul they praise Him.
I am now at Toledo, and on the eve of the Annunciation of our Lady; it will be a year since I came here, though I made a journey to a town belonging to Ruigomez, Prince of Eboli, called Pastrana: here were founded a monastry for our fathers, and a convent for nuns, both of which are going on well. I returned here to arrange what remained to be done in this house, for it is in a fair way of becoming one of our principal establishments. I have enjoyed much better health this winter than I have for a long time, because the air of this part of the country is so pure. If I did not see it would be inconvenient for you to educate your children here, I was thinking of inviting you to come and settle in this place, on account of the mildness of the climate. But there are many small towns around Avila, where you can pass the winter as several others do. With regard to my brother Gerónimo de Cepeda, I think that if God should conduct him back to this country, he will enjoy better health here. However, all depends on the will of our Lord. I am confident I have not had such good health for these last forty years, as I have just now; for I observe the rules as all the rest do, and never eat flesh-meat, unless compelled to do so by great necessity.
It is now about a year ago since I had the quartan ague; but it left me in a better state than it found me. I was then engaged in the foundation at Valladolid, where I was almost killed by the kindness of Señora Maria de Mendoza, widow of the Secretary Cobos:1 she has a great affection for me. Hence, God gives us health when He sees it necessary for us: but if it be not necessary, He sends us sickness. May He be praised for all things. I was sorry to hear you had sore eyes. Thank God you are now better.
Juan de Ovalle 2 has already informed you of his journey. One of my friends gave him such good directions, that he drew the money the same day he arrived there. He has brought it here, and at the end of this month of January it will be given to those you mentioned. In my presence was made out the amount of duty which must be paid to the king: you will find it in this packet. I have used no small diligence to gain a knowledge of these matters; and I have become such a woman of business, by means of these foundations, and other business belonging to the Order, that I know a little of everything. And as I consider your affairs to be the same as those of our Lord, I am glad to have something to do with them. Lest I forget, I must tell you that since I wrote to you last, Cueto's son has died: he was quite young. You see then there is nothing certain in this life. It gives me great comfort every time I reflect, how deeply persuaded you are of this truth.
After I shall have finished the business which detains me here, I should be glad to return to our convent at Avila, of which I am still prioress, in order not to offend the bishop, to whom both I myself and the whole Order are so much indebted. But I know not how our Lord will dispose of me; and I am also uncertain whether I shall return to Salamanca, where a house is offered to me; for though I suffer great fatigue in these journeys, yet the benefit which the people derive in all the towns where our convents are established is so very considerable, that my confessors oblige me in conscience to found as many as possible. Our Lord too assists the undertakings in so wonderful a manner, that I am thereby encouraged to persevere.
In my other letter I forgot to tell you how many advantages you could have in Avila, to give a good education to your children. The Fathers of the Society3 possess a college there, in which grammar and other useful things are taught: the scholars go to confession every eight days, and they become so virtuous, that I am thereby excited to praise our Lord. Philosophy and theology are also taught in the College of St. Thomas; and hence without leaving the place, you can find every help requisite for the acquisition both of virtue and of learning. The people there are in general so devout, that those who come from other places are quite edified. Great numbers are devoted to mental prayer, and frequent the sacrament of penance: several of them are lay-persons, and yet they lead lives of great perfection. Among them is the good Francisco Salcedo.
You have bestowed a great favour upon me, in sending Cepeda such a fine present; he cannot thank you sufficiently for it. He is truly a holy man, and in calling him such, I only speak the truth. It is now about a year ago since Pedro de el Peso died; he was very old, and his career was praiseworthy, Ana de Cepeda is much obliged for the alms you sent her: with that she will be rich, for as she is so very good, many other persons are kind to her. There are many places in which she could live; but her character is so strange as to make her unfit for society. Still this is the way along which God leads her. However, I could never venture to take her into any of our houses, not that she is wanting in virtue, but because I thought that the state in which she lives is fitter for her; hence I assure you, that she will not remain either with Doña Maria, or with any one else; and this suits her purpose very well.
Her life seems to resemble that of a hermit, and she has the goodness and austerity of one.
The son of Señora Doña Maria, my sister who, is married to Martin de Guzman, has made his profession, and makes great progress in holiness. I have already informed you of the death of Doña Beatrix, and that her daughter, Doña Madalena, who was the youngest, is now a pensioner in a convent. I earnestly wish God would call her to the religious life; she is a very excellent young woman. It is now a long time since I have seen her. At present her friends talk of marrying her to a widower, who is the eldest in his family;4 but I know not how the affair will end.
I believe I also told you that the favour you bestowed on my sister was done just at the time she stood in need of it, for I have been quite astonished at all the troubles and afflictions our Lord has been pleased to send her; but she has borne them very patiently, and I believe that for this reason our Lord now wishes to give her some relief. As for myself, I want nothing, for I have more than is necessary. I shall therefore give my sister part of the alms you sent me, and the rest I shall spend in good works for your intention. I was, however, very glad to receive part of this money, on account of certain scruples which I had, for in these foundations many circumstances happen which require me to spend something, however careful I may be, and sometimes I spend all I have on these foundations; yet I know I might give less than I do in certain matters, about which I consult learned men (for, to such I always mention the affairs of my soul), though no doubt I often consult them about mere trifles. The money you sent me was a great relief to me, for it spared me the unpleasantness of borrowing, though many would have assisted me. When I owe nothing, I am more at liberty to act with these individuals and to explain my affairs to them. The world is self-interested, that for this very reason I have a horror of riches, and I am glad I possess none. If I give something to our Order, my conscience will not reproach me, for I shall give it with a good intention: besides I have received permission from the general and the provincial both to receive nuns, to change them, and to help one house with the means belonging to another.
People are so blind as to have a good opinion of me, and I know not the reason of it: but I stand so high in their esteem, that they would lend me any sum of money, however great.5 Hence at the very time that I have the greatest aversion both to money and to business, our Lord seems to wish to encumber me with it more than ever, and this is no little cross to me. May His Majesty be pleased that I may serve Him in everything, for all will one day come to an end.
It will be a great pleasure for me to see you here, for I receive so little from everything in this world, that our Lord will perhaps be pleased to grant me this comfort, that so we may both unite together, to labour for his honour and glory, and the good of souls, for I am quite grieved to see so many souls lost; and these poor Indians6 cost me many tears. May our Lord enlighten them, since there and everywhere there are many miseries. This I know too well; for as I visit many places, and speak to many persons, I am often able to say, that we are worse than beasts, because we know not the high dignity of our Lord, which we debase by being too much attached to the things of this world. May our Lord give us grace to do better.
You may consult Father Garcia of Toledo, who is nephew to the viceroy, and whom I regret much not having here for my affairs. If you should want him for anything, you may easily have recourse to him, for he is an excellent Christian: I consider it a great blessing that he accepted the charge and went there. I have enclosed a letter for him in the packet I sent you, together with some relics for your journey: I sincerely hope they will arrive safe.
I did not think of writing such a long letter. I am anxious you should understand what a favour God has bestowed upon you, in having beheld the holy death which Señora Doña Juana made.7 All of us here have recommended her to the mercy of our Lord: and obsequies have been performed for her repose in all our houses, so that I hope in God she now stands in no need of our prayers. Try as much as possible to drive away your sorrow; and take care you be not of the number of those who, do not remember there is another life which endures for ever: grieve not then for those who, being delivered from the miseries of this life, go to enjoy the happiness of the next. Remember me very kindly to my brother Gerónimo de Cepeda: tell him he must consider this letter as written to himself. I am much pleased to hear that he is making arrangments to return here in a few years: I hope he will be able, if possible, to bring his family with him, and not leave his children there. It would be much better to have them all together, so that we may help each other (to serve our Lord), and then we shall one day be united for ever in heaven.
Most of the masses have already been said, and the rest will be offered as soon as possible. I have received a young person as a religious, though she had no dowry; and I have willingly given up my bed to her, and offered this charity to God, that He would please to bring you and your children here in safety. Remember me to them. I have received another also, and have offered the charity to God for Gerónimo de Cepeda, I have received several in this way, because they are spiritual persons, and thus our Lord sends us others to supply for those who have no money.
Some have entered our house at Medina, who brought eight hundred ducats, and another has been received here,8 who had nine thousand, and this sum she gives to the convent, without my having asked her for anything. There are so many like these, that I praise our Lord exceedingly. As soon as a young person begins to be devoted to prayer, she has no other desire than to come amongst us. But in all our houses, we never have more than thirteen sisters, because our constitutions do not allow us to ask for anything, and we live only upon what we receive at the grate,9 and this is sufficient for us, hence we cannot have many religious. I am sure you would be much pleased to see our convents.
Your unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS, Carmelite.
January 17th, 1570.
1 He was a great favourite of Charles V., and secretary of state to King Philip II.
2 He was married to one of the Saint's sisters.
3 The Jesuits: "Los de la Compania," &c.
4 "Un casamiento con un Mayorazgo,", &c.
5 Literally, "Para fiarme mil, y dos mil ducados. "
6 It must be remembered that the Saint's brother was living in the West Indies, and hence she knew the miserable state of that country.
7 This lady was his wife. Her name in full was Señora Juana de Fuentes y Guzman. She was very virtuous.
8 At Avila.
9 "Al torno"–at the turn, where provisions, &c. are received.
Letter 4th. The Saint blames her brother for promising to yield obedience to her in the government of his soul, and answers several questions concerning prayers, penances, &c. She also explains some verses which she sends him. Date 1577. Carta XXXII. Spanish ed., vol. i.
JESUS be with you.
With regard to the secret, so far as it concerns me I did not mean to say it obliges under sin, for to this I am very much opposed, nor need you pay any attention to such a thing. It is sufficient for you to know that it gives me pain. With respect to your promise, my confessor has told me it is invalid, and this has made me very glad, since I have been in some anxiety.
Concerning the promise of obedience which you made me I told him it seemed to me very extravagant. He replied, "it was good," provided you did not bind yourself by vow, either to me or to any one else. I accept of it, therefore, only on this condition, though not without some dislike. But I will not dwell on this matter, in order, to console you. I am much pleased to see how Father John of the Cross understands all that you mention to him, for he is a man of great experience: even Francisco1 has a little, but he has no knowledge or experience of these favours which God bestows upon you. May He be blessed for ever and ever. We are both in good health at present.
Our Lord still continues His mercies. Methinks He is pleased to show His greatness by exalting to such high favour such wretched creatures, for I know none so wicked as you and I. You must understand that for these last eight days I have been in such a state, that should it continue, I could hardly attend to so many affairs. Just before I wrote to you, my raptures have come on again; and this gives me great trouble, because they sometimes happen in public, and while I am at matins. To resist is not sufficient, nor can they be concealed. I am so ashamed that I could hide myself I know not where. I earnestly beg of God to deliver me from having them in public; and do you also pray for me, for they are attended with many inconveniences, and it seems to me that prayer does not consist in having them at all. On those days I am almost like one drunk:2 still I am well able to perceive that the soul is in a good state, and thus, as the faculties are not free, it is painful to attend to anything more than to what the soul wishes.
For about a week before these happened, I was in such a state, that often I was not able to have one good thought, but rather was filled with very great aridity. But yet, in some respect, I felt much pleasure, for I had been some days before just as I am now; and it is an extreme source of delight, so clearly to see what little we can do of ourselves.
Blessed be He who can do all things. Amen. I have said enough. The rest cannot be written in a letter, nor spoken. It is just that we praise our Lord, one for the other; at least you must do so for me, since I am unable to give Him all the thanks which I owe Him, and therefore I require great help.
With regard to what you say you have felt, I do not know what advice to give you; it is certainly more than can be well understood, and is the beginning of great good, except you should lose it again by your own fault. I have already passed through that kind of prayer in which the soul sometimes enjoys repose, and then, at other times, it excites her to perform some penances. Especially, if it be a strong impetuosity, it seems intolerable, unless the soul employ herself in doing something for God. It is a stroke of Divine love3 which He gives the soul; and if this goes on increasing, you will then understand that part of the stanza which you say you do not now comprehend. It is a violent pain and grief, without our knowing why we feel it, and yet it is a very delicious pain. And though it must be in reality a wound which Divine love makes in the soul, yet she knows not whence, nor how it comes, nor whether it be a wound, nor what it is. Only a pleasant pain is felt, which makes her complain, and therefore she says:–
"Thou woundest, yet not offendest,And when the soul is in reality wounded with this love of God, the love she has for creatures is removed without any pain (I mean in such a way, that the soul is not tied by any love for them): but this could not be done, did not the soul possess this love of God; for if we love creatures too much, anything connected with them gives us pain, and much more when we part with them. But when God takes up His abode in the soul, He begins to give her dominion over all created things; and though this presence and delight pass away (which is the thing you complain of), as if there had been nothing with regard to the perception thereof by the senses, to which God has been pleased to give some part of the soul's joy; yet God does not abandon her, nor does He fail to enrich her with His graces, as may in course of time be seen by the effects.
And without pain away takest
All love we have for creatures "4
Make no account of those troubles which you mention; and though I have never experienced them, because God in His goodness has always preserved me from such trials, yet I conceive they must proceed from this cause, viz., the delight of the soul being so great, it causes some emotions outwardly: but these, with the Divine blessing, will grow less and less, provided you make no account of them. Some persons have spoken to me on this matter. Those tremblings5 will all go away, for the soul is terrified, because they are new to her, and she thinks she has reason to be so: but the oftener these things happen, the better disposed will she be to receive favours. Do all you can to resist these tremblings or perform some exterior action, lest you should contract a habit, which would only hinder, instead of helping you.
With regard to the heat which you say you feel, it neither does good nor harm: if it be too much, it may rather injure your health somewhat. But this also may perhaps leave you, like the tremblings. These things are (as far as I can judge) in a great measure constitutional; and as you are of a sanguine temperament, the powerful emotions of the Spirit, joined with the natural heat which mounts up and gathers round the heart, may be the cause of these effects. But, as I have said, these can add nothing more to your prayer.
I believe I have already given you an answer as to what you said about remaining afterwards as if nothing had happened. I know not if it be St. Augustine who says: "That the Spirit of God passes without leaving any mark, like an arrow which leaves none in the air." I remember now that I sent you an answer, for I have received a great number of letters since I read yours: and even now I have to write so many answers, that I can hardly find time to send this off. At other times, the soul continues in such a state, that she cannot return to herself for many days, and she seems to resemble the sun, whose rays give heat, and yet the sun is not seen: thus it appears as if the soul dwelt somewhere else, and animated the body without being in it, because some faculty is suspended.
Thanks be to God, you go on very well in the method you employ for meditation,–I mean when you do not enjoy quietude. I know not if I have answered everything, for I am always obliged to read your letter over again, which is so small loss of time, and now I cannot read it except by little and little. You need not take this trouble with the letters which you write to me. I never do it with mine. If some letters or words should be wanting, put them in, as I shall do the same to yours, for we can easily understand what each other wishes to say; hence, to peruse the letters over again, would be loss of time for no purpose.
When you cannot recollect yourself properly in the time of prayer, or when you are desirous of doing something for our Lord, I send you this hair-shirt, which will powerfully revive your love. But I send it on this condition, that you do not wear it after you have dressed yourself, nor when you go to bed.
It may be applied to any part of the body, in such a way as to give you some pain. But I recommend mortification with some fear. As you are of a sanguine temperament, anything might heat your blood; but yet the pleasure is so great which is produced by doing something for God (even should it be a mere nothing, like this is), that I earnestly wish you to try this penance. When the winter is over, you shall do a little more, for I intend taking care of you. Write, and tell me how you like this "trifling" mortification,–such I call it, for when we sincerely desire to exercise judgment against ourselves, and remember what our Lord suffered for us, it is indeed trifling. I cannot help smiling, to see how you send me sweetmeats, delicacies, and money, and I send you a hair-shirt!
Our Father Visitor is in good health, and visits the convents. It is wonderful to see how quiet he keeps the province, and how much he is beloved. The method of prayer, the virtue, and the talents which God has given him, shine pre-eminently. May His Majesty be with you, and preserve you, for I can hardly stop when I am speaking to you. All send their very kind regards to you, and I the same. Always consult Francisco de Salcedo concerning my affairs. You have reason to love him, for he is a saint. My health is very good.
Your unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
P.S.–Send to the bishop, and ask him for the book, for I may perhaps wish to finish it, together with what our Lord has since given to me. This would make matter enough for another book, and a large one, too, if our Lord should wish me to finish it: if not, the loss will be but small.
1 Francisco de Salcedo, the holy gentleman of Avila, of whom the Saint so often speaks.
2 Como un borracho en parte.
3 "Un toque ne amor."
4 These three lines are taken from the first stanza of verses which the Saint had sent to her brother in another letter. (See the "Interior Castle," Letter No. XII., and Appendix No. II.)
5 "Esos estremacimientos."
Letter 5th. In this letter the Saint gives her brother an account of her health, and also some spiritual advice. Several other matters are likewise mentioned. Date, 1577. Carta. XXXIII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS be with you.
I have recovered from the weakness which I felt the other day; but since then, as I thought I had the bile, and I was afraid lest this might prevent me from fasting during Lent, I took some physic. The same day there came so many letters, and I had so much business on hand, that I was obliged to be writing till after midnight. This gave me the headache; however, I may gain by it, for the doctor has ordered me never to write beyond midnight, and sometimes to get others to write for me. Indeed, the trouble which I have had in this way during the winter has been very great, and I am much to blame; for, in order not to be disturbed in the morning, my sleep paid for it;1 and then, as I had to write after my vomiting, everything helped to do me harm. But though on that day I took the physic my sickness was very violent, yet I think I am now getting better. Do not then trouble yourself, for I take great care of myself. I mention this circumstance, in order that if you should receive some of my letters not in my handwriting, and much shorter than usual, you may know what is the reason.
I treat myself as well as I can, and I am displeased with the present you sent me: I had much rather you had eaten it yourself, as sweet things are not good for me; still, I eat some of them. Do so no more, for I shall be angry: is it not sufficient that I send you no sweets?
I don't know what "Pater Nosters" those are which you say you recite in taking the discipline, for I never mentioned any such thing. Read my letter over again, and you will see what I said. On no account use it oftener than I prescribed, viz. twice a week. In Lent you may wear the hair-shirt once in a week; but upon this condition, that in case you perceive it does you harm, you leave it off; for, as you are of a sanguine temperament, I fear it might injure you. I cannot allow you to use it oftener, for it will, when thus limited to a certain degree, be a greater penance for you after you have begun to use it, because it will teach you to subdue your will. Let me know, after you have worn it, whether you find it does you any harm.
The prayer of repose which you mention is the prayer of Quiet, which I spoke of in the little book. As to those emotions caused by the senses, I have told you all that is necessary to be done respecting them; I see plainly they are of no consequence, and that it is best not to heed them. A learned man once told me that a person came to him in the greatest affliction, because every time he communicated he fell into a certain desponding state–a much greater affliction than yours–and that on this account he was allowed to communicate only once a year, merely to fulfil the command of the Church. But this learned man, though not very spiritual, perceived it arose from weakness, and he accordingly told him not to pay any attention to it, and to communicate every eight days. When he lost his fear, this complaint went away: therefore, make no account of your case.
You may speak to Juan de Avila about anything, for he is a very good man. You tell me he often talks to you: I am glad of it. Visit him sometimes, and when you wish to do him a kindness, do it by way of alms, for he is very poor, and exceedingly disengaged from riches; he is, in my opinion, one of the best priests you have at Avila: it is good to have such conversations, for one cannot always be engaged in prayer.
With regard to sleep, I tell you, and even command you, not to take less than six hours. Consider how necessary it is, that we who are advanced in years should take care of our body, lest the spirit should grow weak, for this would be a terrible affliction. You cannot imagine what a misery it is to me now, when I can neither pray nor read, though (as I have said) I am certainly better: but I shall learn wisdom by experience. I advise you to be more careful of your health, and to do what you are commanded, for hereby you will be fulfilling the will of God. How simple you are to think, it was such prayer as mine that would not let me sleep! There is no resemblance, for I would have done much more to have been able to sleep, than to have kept awake.
Truly do the favours which our Lord bestows upon you excite me to praise Him exceedingly as well as the effects which you find come from them. Hereby you may see how great He is, since He gives you such virtues which you could never attain by any diligence of your own. Remember that the weakness in your head does not arise from eating or drinking: do what I told you. Our Lord does me a great favour in giving you such good health. May His Majesty preserve it for many years, that so you may spend it in His service.
The fear you mention must, I think, certainly arise from your soul perceiving the presence of an evil spirit; and though the eyes of the body see it not, yet the soul must see it, or feel it is near. Keep holy water by you, for nothing sooner drives the devil away.2 This has often helped me. Sometimes he has not only terrified me, but tormented me greatly: this, however, I mention in confidence between ourselves. But if the holy water should not touch him, he will not depart; therefore sprinkle it all about the place.
Think not that God bestows a small favour upon you, by giving you such good nights' rest: know that this is a very great favour. I say again, you must not try to prevent sleep, for at your age you require it.
It seems to me great charity to desire troubles for oneself, and to give others pleasure: it is a high favour from God, even to think of doing so. But, on the other hand, it is great stupidity and little humility, to think of arriving at this degree without prayer, even with the virtues possessed by Francisco de Salcedo, or with those which God gives to yourself. Believe my words, and leave the matter to the Lord of the Vineyard, who knows well what every one stands in need of. I never asked Him for interior trials, though He has given me many during my life, and these were very great. Our natural disposition and constitution contribute much to increase these afflictions. I am glad that you are pleased with the company of that holy man, and earnestly do I hope you may imitate him.
I wish you to know that I foresaw what would happen from the judgment I gave: I knew you would not be satisfied; but I could not treat the matter seriously. On consideration, you will see I have given you some praise; though without telling an untruth to you. I cannot give a different answer, and I am still of the same opinion.3 I have had such a violent headache, that I really know not how I could have said so much, for on that day I had so much business to transact, and so many letters to answer, that sometimes it seems as if the devil brought all these upon me, in order to trouble me: this was particularly the case the night I took my physic, which made me very ill. It was quite a miracle I did not send to the bishop of Carthegena, a letter which I had written for Father Gracian's mother, for I had it directed to his lordship and had even put it in the packet (before I found out my mistake).4 Thanks be to God, I discovered my error. I had however written to that bishop (whom I never saw), because his vicar-general had interfered with our nuns of Caravaca, and had forbidden their confessor to say mass for them. The matter, however, is now settled, and the rest will soon be arranged; I mean, the bishop will agree to the foundation of the monastery. His lordship cannot do otherwise, for my letter was recommended by several others. But only fancy what confusion for me, if I had sent the letter to the bishop which I had intended for the lady! Did I not do well to stop there?
We are in dread of Father Tostado, who has now returned to court: recommend the matter to God, and read this letter from the prioress of Seville. I was much pleased with the one you wrote to her, and which she sent to me. I was also amused with the one you wrote to our sisters, for it is very interesting. They were all delighted with it, and now send you a thousand thanks and regards, especially my companion, who is the nun that came with us from Malagon: she is fifty years old, and is extremely good, and has an excellent understanding. I speak from experience, for she is exceedingly kind to me and takes great care of me.
The prioress of Valladolid informs me, that they do all in their power with regard to the business you speak of, and that Padre de Ahumada was in the city to attend to it. You may rest assured, that the merchant who has undertaken it will acquit himself well of the charge. Do not trouble yourself about it. Remember me to the children, but particularly to Francisco; I should much like to see them. You did right to send that person away, though you may have had no reason to be dissatisfied. When there are so many, they are only in each other's way. Give my very kind regards to Doña Juana, Pedro Alvarez, and to all the rest of the family. I assure you, my head is now much better than when I began this letter. I think it must proceed from the pleasure I feel in writing to you.
My confessor, Doctor Velasquez, has been here to-day. I mentioned to him what you said about the plate and tapestry; for, through want of my assistance, I should not wish you to grow negligent in the service of God, and hence in some things I do not rely on my own judgment, though in this matter mine agreed with his. He says "that it will neither do good nor harm, provided you know how little it signifies, and that you be not attached to it." This is good advice, for you must marry your children and furnish your house in a proper way. For the present, then, you must have patience, for God is always accustomed to provide times and seasons for the accomplishment of good desires: and so He will act with you. May God preserve you, and make you a great saint. Amen.
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 That is, she did not take sufficient repose.
2 In her "Life" the Saint says still more: "I have often found by experience, that there is nothing from which the devils fly more quickly than from holy water. Certainly, the power of holy water must be very great: for my part, my soul feels a particular comfort in taking it, and very generally a refreshment and interior delight which I cannot express." (Chapter xxxi. p. 275.)
3 The Saint seems to allude to her brother's explanation of the words, "Seek thyself in me," which were made a subject of discussion. The saint did not approve of that explanation. (See Letter XII.)
4 These words I have added.
Letter 6th. The Saint sends him some spiritual advice, and speaks on several matters, the nature of which will be seen by the letter. Date, 1579. It seems to have been written from Valladolid. Carta XXXIV. Spanish ed. vol. i.
THE grace of Christ be with you.
This relation of ours is quite tiresome:1 thus we must pass our time. But though it is proper we should be entirely separated from the world, yet we must not altogether give up attending to the civilites of life. Believe me, however, that during all the time I have been here, I have not been able to write to the sisters, I mean to every one in particular, though some earnestly wish me to do so. But, please God, I will speak to them without fail next Thursday. I will leave a short little note for you, that she who brings the money may take the letter also, together with the money.
I have been informed that three thousand reals2 are now ready, besides a very good chalice, which need not be richer; the weight is about twelve ducats and a real, and I think the value of the workmanship amounts to forty reals, making in all sixteen ducats and three reals less. It is all silver, and I think you will be pleased with it. They showed me one of the metal you spoke of: but though it has not been long made, and is even gilt, a person can easily see what it is in reality. It is quite black inside the foot, and this makes it look disagreeable. I immediately resolved not to purchase it; and it really did appear to me unbearable, that you who use so much silver at your table should wish to buy brass for the service of God. I think I shall not find another so cheap, nor of so good a size. The prioress is so well skilled in these matters, that she has made the bargain with one of her friends, who knows it was for this house. She sends her very kind regards to you; and because I am writing, she thinks it unnecessary for her to write. It is wonderful to see how well she governs the house, and what a talent she has for this purpose.
I enjoy better health here.3 The best thing you can do, is to avoid the company of those persons of whom you speak. It is better your melancholy should discharge itself in this way (for it is nothing else) than in another, which might bring still greater inconveniences. I was delighted to hear that Avila was not dead, for he is a good man. God granted him a favour, in allowing his illness to come upon him in such a place, where such great care was taken of him.
I am not surprised at your trouble: but I am surprised to see you so very desirous of serving God, and yet that you find such a light cross so very heavy. You will soon say, "you wish it were lighter, in order to be the better able to serve our Lord." O brother! we know not what we ask. All such desires show a little self-love. Do not wonder at wishing to change your cross, for your age demands this. In spite of this imperfection, do not imagine that every one is as exact as you are in fulfilling their duties. Let us praise God that you have not other faults.
I shall stop at Medina three or four days at most, and at Alva about eight. It will take two days to go from Alva to Medina, and thence I shall proceed to Salamanca. By this letter, received from Seville, you will see the prioress has been re-established in her office, at which I am much pleased. If you wish to write to her, send your letter to me, while I am at Salamanca. I have already informed her she must come to pay you, as you want the money. I shall take care that you receive it.
Father Juan de Jesus is now in Rome. The business goes on very well; it will soon be finished.
Canon Montoza, who transacts our business, has returned, and has brought the cardinal's hat for the Archbishop of Toledo.4 He is one of whose services we shall stand in need. Do me the kindness to visit Francisco de Salcedo, and tell him how I am. I was very glad to hear he was better, and that he could say mass again.5 God grant he may perfectly recover his health. Our sisters here continually recommend him to our Lord, and may His Majesty ever be with you. If you think well, you may safely mention anything to Sister Maria de San Gerónimo.
I sometimes wish to have Teresa here, especially when we are walking in the garden: may God make you both saints. Give my respects to Pedro de Ahumada. Yesterday was the feast of St. Anne: I did not forget you, knowing how devoted you are to her, and that you will build a church, if you have not already done so, in her honour; the thought of this gives me great pleasure.
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 The bishop of Osma says, "that she must have been a lover of compliments and ceremony: no wonder, then, she was tiresome to the Saint."
2 The silver real was 5d., and the other of mixed metal about 2 1/2d.
4 His name was Señor Don Gaspar de Quiroga.
5 It appears that this pious gentleman, after the death of his wife, became a priest.
The Saint consoles him upon the death of his wife. He was her nephew, being the son of her sister, Doña Maria de Cepeda. The date of this beautiful and tender letter is uncertain. Carta XXXV. Spanish ed. vol. i.
THE Grace of the Holy Spirit be with you, and give you all the consolation you stand in need of to support the great loss you have sustained, though it is only great because it seems so to you now. But our Lord who permits it, and who loves us more than we do ourselves, will one day make us understand that it is the greatest happiness which could have been granted to my cousin, and to all those who loved her, because He has taken her out of this world to enjoy far greater happiness in the other.
Do not suppose that you may yet live a long time for everything is short which so soon comes to an end: but remember that whatever length of time you may survive your departed spouse, it is but a moment. Put all your affairs then into the hands of God, and His Majesty will do what is the best for your welfare. It ought to give you abundant consolation to have seen a death, which gives us such great hope that she will live for ever in Heaven. Be assured, that as our Lord has now taken her to Himself, you and your children will receive greater graces and blessings from Him, because she stands before His presence.
May His Majesty hear my prayers for you, to whom we continually recommend her dear soul: may He also give you resignation to whatever He may be pleased to send you, and enlighten your understanding, that you may know how short are all the pleasures and troubles of this life.
Your unworthy Servant, TERESA DE JESUS.
It is not known to whom this letter was addressed, neither can the date be ascertained. It is as beautiful and tender as the preceding. Carta XXXIX. Spanish ed. vol. vi.
JESUS. The Grace of the Holy Spirit be with you, and give you strength, both spiritual and corporeal, to bear patiently the great affliction which you have received. I feel for you so much, that did I not know this trial came from a just and merciful hand, I should not be able to comfort you. But as I know well how truly this great God loves us, and since I know also how deeply convinced you are of the miseries and instability of this wretched life, I hope His Majesty will enlighten you more and more, that so you may understand the particular favour our Lord bestows on those who have the happiness of knowing Him, when He takes them from this life: and especially you may be assured, in accordance with what our Faith teaches, that this holy soul is now in a Kingdom where she will receive a reward due to the numerous afflictions which she endured in this life with such admirable patience.
I have very earnestly begged of our Lord this favour for her, and have told our sisters to do the same. We have also requested him to comfort you, and to give you health to recommence the good fight in this miserable world. Happy they who are already in a place of security. I think this is not the time to write a longer letter to you: it had better be spent in praying to God to console you, for creatures can do but little in such an affliction as yours, and much less can I do anything who am so wicked. May His Majesty, then, being so powerful, comfort you, and henceforth be your friend and companion, that so you may no more regret the good soul whom you have lost.
Your unworthy Servant and Subject,
TERESA DE JESUS.
The Eve of the Transfiguration.
Our Lord had inspired this good man to found a Carmelite monastery in Toledo, and the Saint in this letter expresses her gratitude for such a favour. It seems to have been written from Salamanca. Date, 1572. Carta XXXVII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
MAY the Holy Spirit ever dwell in your soul, and give you His holy love and fear. Amen.
Father Doctor Pablo Hernandez has written to inform me of the kindness and charity which you intend showing me, in wishing to found a house of our Sacred Order. I firmly believe that our Lord and His Glorious Mother, my Advocate and Mistress, has moved your heart to do so holy a work, which I hope will greatly promote the honour of His Divine Majesty, and draw down upon you many spiritual advantages. May His Majesty give you what I desire for you, and what all the sisters pray you may possess. Henceforth the whole Order will be indebted to you. Your good design has given me great consolation; and I am also very anxious to become acquainted with you, in order to offer you by word of mouth my sincere gratitude; and I beg you will consider me for the future as your servant.
Our Lord has been pleased to take away the fever which I had. I am doing all I can to make this convent such as I wish it to be, and I think that by the assistance of God I shall soon accomplish my object. I assure you I shall lose no time, but hasten directly to meet you: even should the fever return, I shall not mind it; for it is only just that, as you do everything, I should do all I can on my part, and this is little or nothing. We should indeed take some trouble, and we ought to aim at nothing else but to follow Him who always lived in sufferings, without in any way deserving them.
I think I shall derive more than one benefit from this business; for, according to the letter I have received from Father Pablo Hernandez, I shall gain much by becoming acquainted with you; for up to this time I have been supported by the prayers of good people, and therefore I beg of you, for the love God, not to forget me in yours.
If His Majesty should not ordain otherwise, I hope to be at Toledo in the second week in Lent; for as I shall pass near those monasteries which our Lord has been pleased to found during these last few years, I shall be obliged to remain with the sisters there for some days, though the visits will be as short as possible. As you desire, I shall depart as soon as I can, though in a matter so well arranged, and which one may say is already accomplished, I shall have nothing else to do but to admire and praise our Lord. May His Majesty ever preserve you, and give you health and a long life, and an increase of that grace which I desire for you. Amen.
Your unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS, Carmelite.
This letter is written with great force and tenderness. She makes excuses for not having arrived sooner at Toledo, on account of the frost and cold, for Don Ramirez had intended to found a convent there. This, however, did not take place for some time, as both he and Diego Ortiz (who was his brother-in-law) put some obstacles in the way. This letter was written from Valladolid. Date, 1569. Carta XXXVIII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
THE Holy Ghost be with you, and repay you for the consolation which I received from your last letter. It came just at the time in which I was troubled at not being able to send you an account of myself, for it is proper I should not be wanting in this respect. I have delayed a little longer than I told you in my letter I should, though I assure you I do not lose an hour, at least so it seems to me. It is not a fortnight ago since we took possession of our new monastery, with a solemn procession and great devotion. May our Lord be praised in all things.
Since Wednesday I have been staying with Señora Doña Maria de Mendoza:1 she could not see me sooner, as she was very ill, though I was exceedingly anxious to communicate some things to her. I thought of remaining only one day with her; but the weather has been so very cold, and there has been so much hail and snow, that it was quite impossible to commence my journey, and so I was obliged to remain here till Saturday. I shall depart on Monday, without fail, if our Lord so please, on my way to Medina, and thence to St. Joseph's at Avila. Whatever diligence I may make, I shall be obliged to remain at these two houses for more than fifteen days, as I have some business to arrange there, so that I shall not be at Toledo so soon as I promise you: but I trust you will excuse me if I do not make greater haste: it is not my fault, as you will see by the account I send you of my affairs; and after all, the delay is not long. I beg you will not think of purchasing a house till I come, because I wish to have one that is suitable for us, such as you and your departed friend kindly intend bestowing upon us.
With regard to the leave which we must have, we shall, I think, easily obtain it from the king, by the Divine assistance, though it may cost some trouble. I know by experience that the devil cannot endure these our houses hence he always persecutes us; but our Lord can do all things, and sends the enemy away in conclusion.
We have met with great opposition here: some of the principal persons in the place were against us: but now all opposition has ceased. Do not think of giving our Lord merely what you were intending to bestow: give much more, for His Majesty rewards good works, by giving us grace to do still greater. To bestow money is nothing, for this gives you little trouble. But should people stone you, and your brother-in-law, and all those who have been connected with this business (as was near being the case when we were engaged in the foundation of St. Joseph's at Avila), then the undertaking would prosper; and I believe that neither the monastery, nor we who endured those troubles would lose anything, but rather we should gain a great deal. May our Lord direct everything as He knows best. Do not trouble yourself about it. I am sorry to hear that my Father Hernandez is not at Toledo: if it be necessary, I will endeavour to send him there. The devil already begins to disturb us. God be praised, for if we are not wanting to Him, He will not fail to protect us.
I really have a great desire to see you, for I think your presence will give me great comfort: then will I thank you for all the kindness you express towards me in your letters. May our Lord grant that I may find you and your brother-in-law in good health: to his and your prayers I recommend myself. Remember that I have need of them, considering with what bad health I commence this journey, though the fever has not returned. I will take care to execute your commands, and our sisters will do the same. They all recommend themselves to your prayers. May our Lord always be your guide. Amen.
Your Unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS, Carmelite.
Valladolid, Saturday, February 19th.
P.S.–Give this letter to Señora Doña Luisa de la Cerda, and present also my sincere regards to her. I have not time to write to Señor Diego de Avila, for even this letter which I now send to Señora Doña Luisa is not written by my own hand. Please to give her an account of my health, and tell her that I hope to see her soon. Do not trouble yourself about obtaining leave, for I trust in our Lord everything will go on well.
1 This was a very pious and charitable lady, a great friend of the Saint.
The Saint confirms this lady in her resolution of becoming a Carmelite, which she eventually did at Salamanca. She became a great servant of God, and was called in religion "Isabel de Jesus." Date, 1570 or 1573. Carta XL. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The Holy Ghost be ever with you, and may he give you grace to know how much you are indebted to our Lord, since being exposed to such great dangers (which arise from your youth, fortune, and the liberty you have), He has inspired you with a desire to withdraw yourself from all these temptations: and while penance, enclosure and poverty quite terrify other souls, He has made you understand the value of the one, and the deceit of the other; and how you might have lost yourself therein, had you allowed yourself to be led away by their allurements. May our Lord be blessed and praised in all things. A proof has now been given me of the goodness of your soul, and this makes me easily believe that you are fit to be a daughter of our Lady, by entering this her sacred Order. May God give you grace so to advance in your holy desires and good works, that I may have no cause to complain of Father Juan de Leon (for I am quite satisfied with the account he has given me of you): I am also so consoled by the hope of seeing you one day become a great saint, that I am perfectly content with you, without making any other inquiries.
May our Lord reward you for the alms which you have resolved to bring to the convent, for it is very considerable. The circumstance ought to give you great comfort, because you thus follow the counsel of our Lord, of giving to the poor, for His sake, both yourself and all that belongs to you. It is true that, considering the favours which you have received from His Majesty, it seems you cannot discharge the obligations you owe him without acting as you do; and since you do all that lies in your power, I assure you, you do a great deal, and on this account you will not fail to receive abundant blessings.
As you have read our rules and constitutions, I have nothing more to say but this, viz., that if you continue in your resolution, you may enter any of our Houses which you like best: for the least favour which I can do for my Father Juan de Leon, is to let you have your choice. It is true, I should like you to take the habit where I am, because I have a great desire to know you. May our Lord order everything as He sees best, for His honour and glory.
Your unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS, Carmelite.
The Saint thanks them for the assistance they gave her when she was in great affliction at Avila:, from which city this letter was written, before her departure from Burgos. Date, 1581. Carta XLIII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The grace of the Holy Spirit be with you all, my daughters.
You will, I am sure, readily believe that I was anxious to write to each of you in particular; but I am now so much engaged, and I have besides such a multitude of letters to write, and especially as I am on the point of commencing my journey, you will see what little leisure I have. Beg of our Lord that we may serve Him in all things, and pray in particular for the success of the Foundation at Burgos.
I received great consolation from your letter, and much more from knowing by your works and words the tender love you bear me. However, in spite of the kindness which you have so generously shown towards me, I firmly believe that your love cannot equal the affection I feel for you, though I have every reason to esteem it, as my wants were great. Our Lord will reward you for it; and it clearly appears you serve Him, since you have rendered such good service to the Religious of this convent.1 They all sincerely thank you for such kindness, and pray for you to our Lord. I continually do the same, for I have nothing else to offer you.
I was much pleased to hear how well everything succeeded, and especially that some persons began to speak against you, without your having given them any occasion to do so. This ought to be very pleasing to you, as you have had so few opportunities of meriting it since your Foundation. With regard to our Father Vallejo, I can only tell you that our Lord repays the great service he has done for Him–by sending him many afflictions; and as he has conferred several important benefits on this House, I do not wonder at our Lord sending him troubles, in order that he may gain the more.
Take care, my daughters, how you act when this holy lady2 enters the house. It is proper that the mother-prioress and all the sisters should treat her with civility and affection. But as she possesses such solid virtue, it is unnecessary to be too strict with her. It will be sufficient for her to see what you do; and then, on the other hand, she will have such a good father, that I think she will soon learn everything necessary. May God preserve you all, and give you health and a long life, for these are what I wish you may have.
I am very glad to hear that the mother-superioress is better. If necessary, she must always have meat, even in Lent; for when there is occasion for such a dispensation, no sin is committed either against the rules of the Church, or against ours. I beg of our Lord, that He will give you virtue above everything else, and especially humility and love one for another; for these are of the greatest importance. May His Majesty grant that I may see you all far advanced in these, and I desire you will beg the same for me.
The Servant of you all,
TERESA DE JESUS.
P.S.–This is the eve of King David's day,3 and the day which we commenced the foundation of Palencia. Pray for Sister Teresa de Jesus, and for mother sub-prioress. Both of them are confined to their bed, and the sub-prioress is dangerously ill.
1 At Avila.
2 Doña Beatrix de Beaumonte was her name, according to Bishop Palafox. (See annotation on this letter.)
3 "Vispera del Rey David"–a feast in honour of King David.
This holy Religious was the first prioress of the Convent of the Most Holy Trinity at Soria. St. Teresa had the highest opinion of her sanctity, and the bishop of Osma commends her exceedingly in his remarks on this letter. The contents of this letter are various, but at the same time both interesting and important. Date, 1582. Carta XLII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS be with you, my daughter, and preserve you in His grace.
The letter I received from you gave me great comfort. I should be glad if that could be done, about which you spoke to me, respecting the kitchen and refectory; but as you know better than I how the matter stands, do what you think best. I am much pleased to hear what you say about the goodness of De Roque de Huerta's daughter. With regard to the profession of the novice, I think it better to defer it till the time you mention. She is young yet, and it is of no consequence if she stay a little longer. You must not be surprised at her having certain fancies,1 for these are peculiar to her age. She will get the better of them in time; and such as she are usually the very persons who afterwards become more mortified than others. Tell Sister Eleanor de la Misericordia, that I would willingly do more for her welfare. Would that I could attend her profession: I should be very glad to do so, for this would give me more pleasure than the other matters which now engage me here.
With respect to the Foundation you speak of, I cannot consent to its being established without some revenue be provided, because as charity is now so cold, we must act thus; and, besides, it is impossible to have a house at such a distance from the others, unless it have the means of support, for those already founded there help one another when they stand in need of assistance. However, I am glad to hear of such good beginnings, and how well this business has been managed. By this means they will find out some charitable person, who may perhaps contribute something towards it. If God be pleased with it, He will inspire some good soul to give more assistance than we have at present.
I shall not remain long at Avila, for I shall be obliged to go to Salamanca, and there you may write to me. Still if the Foundation at Madrid should succeed (as I hope it may), I should then be nearer your house: recommend the matter to Almighty God. I should be glad if the Religious you mention would come to Palencia, for that House is in want of her.
I will write to Mother Inez de Jesus on the subject, so that you may both make arrangements for her coming. With regard to those fathers, I shall be glad if you do all you can for them: it is quite necessary to neglect nothing on our part, for the good we do them and the kindness we show them may be of service to us, when we stand in need of assistance. Say what you think proper, as coming from me, to Señora Doña Beatrix. I should be glad to write to her; but we are just on the point of departing, and I am so overpowered with business, that I hardly know what I am doing. May God be served by all men.
If I have advised you to defer the profession of the novice, do not suppose it has been done for the view of giving any preference to another with respect to age, or superiority in religion. These are worldly points of honour which I cannot endure, nor do I wish you to give way to such things. The only reason why I consented was, because she is so young, and it is good to make her a little more mortified than she is. If there were any other motive than this, I would immediately order her to make her profession; for it is proper that the humility which we profess should be made manifest by our actions. I mention this matter to you in the first place, for I am so convinced of humility of Sister Eleanor de la Misericordia, that she will not care for any of these points of honour. This being the case, I am willing for the young lady to defer her profession a little longer.
I can write no more, for we are just on the point of commencing our journey to Medina. My health is about the same as usual. My companions send their respects to you. It is not long since Ana told us of the state of matters there. Remember me most kindly to all the Religious of your House. May God make them and you also saints.
TERESA DE JESUS.
Valladolid, September 15th.
P.S.–We have just arrived at Medina. But I am so busy, that I only have time to inform you we are all well. With regard to the profession of Isabel, conduct the matter with such prudence that no one may suspect it has been deferred, in order to give any preference to another, because this in reality is not the motive.
1 "Que tenga algunos reveses," &c.
The Saint comforts and strengthens this sister against certain scruples which she had. Bishop Palafox styles this letter "very spiritual and judicious"–"Esta carta, es muy discreta y espiritual." Date, 1582. Carta XLIV. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. May the Holy Spirit be with you, my daughter.
O! how I wish I had no other letter to write but this, that so I might have more leisure to answer the letter which I have received from you, as well as that which was sent to me through the hands of the Jesuit Fathers. Believe me, my daughter, that every time I receive a letter from you, it gives me particular consolation; for this reason, take care the devil does not tempt you to discontinue writing to me. With regard to your being afraid, least you should be going backward, instead of advancing in virtue, you may derive very great profit from such a temptation. Time will make this known to you, for God treats you like one whom He has taken into His palace, and who He knows will not depart from Him: hence it is, that He wishes to give you opportunities of meriting more. It may be, that as He was desirous of disengaging you from all earthly things, He treated you up to this time with more tenderness,1 of which you stood greatly in need.
I remember a virtuous lady,2 with whom I was acquainted at Avila, and who certainly led the life of a saint. She had given away all she had for the love of God, so that she had nothing left in the world but one blanket to cover herself with: this also she gave away. Immediately after, God afflicted her for some time with many most severe interior sufferings and aridities, which obliged her now and then to complain of them to our Lord, and to thus exclaim:–"O God, how wonderful art Thou! After having deprived me of everything, dost Thou treat me in this manner?" Thus, daughter, does His Majesty act towards those who love Him, for He repays their services with sufferings; and surely no reward can be greater, since by them the love of God is acquired.
I praise God for the advancement you have interiorly made in virtue. Place your soul in the hands of God: it is His spouse: He will take care of it, and conduct it along that road which is the best for it. It seems the new life you lead and the exercises you practise may remove from you that peace after which you sigh. But be not troubled, for it may afterwards come all at once. Place all your happiness in carrying the cross of Christ, and make no account of consolations: such things belong only to soldiers, who wished to be paid by the day. Serve God gratis, as great men do their king. May our Heavenly King be with you. With regard to my departure, I shall tell Señora Doña Beatrix what is necessary.
Doña Josefa is truly a good soul, and very fit for our Houses. But she advances so much where she is now, that I think she would do wrong to leave, and for this reason I have done all I could to prevent her. I also fear that if she were to leave, it might cause something unpleasant. But if our Lord wishes, it will be done. Remember me to your brothers, whom I know. May God preserve you, and make you what I wish to see you.
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 "Peude ser que tuviese mas ternuritas."
2 Her name probably was Maria Diaz, well known in Avila for her many virtues.
This holy Religious was the daughter of the Saint's own brother and consequently she was St. Teresa's niece. When this letter was addressed to her she was only a novice, but soon after she made her profession at Avila in 1582. St. Teresa wrote to comfort her for some troubles which she had, on account of certain aridities to which she was subject, and through which she imagined the Spouse of her soul had left her. Date, 1582. Carta XLV. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The Grace of the Holy Spirit be ever with you, my daughter.
Your letter gave me great pleasure, and I am glad to hear that mine produced the same effect: this ought to comfort us both exceedingly, since we cannot live together.
With regard to the aridities you speak of, it seems to me that our Lord deals with you as if He considered you one of the strong, since He wishes to try you, in order to see how much you love Him, and whether your love is the same in aridities, as when you abound in consolations. Consider, then, those aridities as very great favours from our Lord. Do not allow them to trouble you, for perfection does not consist in having delights, but in possessing virtue. And besides, your devotion will return when you least expect it.
Respecting what you say of the sister, endeavour to drive away such a thought from her mind, that so she may think no more about it. Do not suppose that when such a thought comes into the mind, it is always sinful; even should it be more evil than what you mention, still it would be nothing (unless wilfully indulged in.)1 I wish she had the same aridities that you have, because I doubt if she knows what she does, and we may desire such trials for her greater good. When any bad thought presents itself, make the sign of the cross, recite the "Our Father," or strike your breast, and try to turn your thoughts to something else: the more you resist, the more merit you will have.
I should have sent an answer to Isabel de San Pablo had I time to write. Give her my kind regards, for she knows well you ought to be the most beloved. Don Francisco2 is well, and leads the life of an angel; he and all his household communicated yesterday. To-morrow we leave for Valladolid, and from there he will write to you: I have not as yet given him any information about the bearer of this letter. May God preserve you, my daughter, and make you a great saint: this is what I pray for. Amen. Remember me to all the sisters.
TERESA DE JESUS.
This is the Feast of St. Albert.
1 Not in the original.
2 He was brother to Sister Teresa de Jesus, and the son of Señor Don Lorenzo de Cepeda.
Letter 1st. This "valiant woman" was niece to the Saint. Before she thought of being a Religious, she offered to give a thousand ducats to this convent. The Almighty rewarded her charity; for, having accomplished her good and noble intention, she became afterwards, by her prudence and rare judgment, one of the most illustrious instruments in the foundation of this convent. This letter was written from Segovia, in the year 1574. Carta XLVI. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. May the Holy Spirit be with you, my daughter.
You will see, by the letter I send to Father Domingo,1 what has happened here, and how our Lord has disposed matters in such a way, that I cannot come and see you.
I assure you I am very, very sorry for this disappointment, because of all things in the world such a visit would have given me the greatest comfort and consolation. But still, this pleasure would have passed away like all the pleasures of this life do: and so when I remember this, all troubles are borne patiently.
I likewise regret not being able to see my beloved Casilda: but I beg you will remember me most kindly to her, and to Maria de la Cruz. Some other time our Lord may so order things, that I shall have more leisure, to be able to come and see you. Take care of your health, for you know how necessary it is, and what trouble I am in when you are not well: try also to become a saint, for I assure you you ought to be one, in order to be able to bear all the labours of your office. The quartan-ague has left me now. When our Lord wishes me to do any thing for His Honour, then He gives me better health.
I shall depart at the end of this month,2 though I am afraid the sisters will not yet enter their House, for we are obliged to pay immediately to the chapter the sum of six hundred ducats: and though we have received a sister who has brought with her six hundred and thirty ducats, yet as this money is to serve only in the way of principal, we can find no one to lend us anything upon it or take it up. Recommend the matter to God, for I should be delighted if the sisters could be established in their House. If Señora Doña Maria could pay what she owed, you might then easily take up the loan, for the security is very good. Let me know if this can be done, or if you know any one who could do it, or who would lend us some money on good security worth more than a thousand ducats. Pray for me to our Lord, for I am about to undertake a long journey, and this, too, in the winter.
At the end of this month I shall leave here for the monastery of the Incarnation. If you wish to send any commands by me to Avila, write before I depart. Do not be troubled at being unable to see me. Perhaps you would be grieved, were you to see me looking so old and care-worn. Remember me to all the sisters. I am very anxious to see Isabel de San Pablo. Those canons have given us a great deal of trouble. May God forgive them.
If any one in your neighbourhood could be found who could lend me some money3 (I should indeed be grateful).4 I do not wish the sum should be given to me, for I would repay it as soon as I received what my brother is sending me; and I am informed that the order has really been sent. Be this as it may, I hope you will endeavour to obtain this favour for me, for at present I am not worth a farthing: and hence I know not how I shall return to the monastery of the Incarnation. The convent here has not the means of assisting me, for it can hardly support itself.
Thank God, Father Domingo has arrived in good health. If Father Medina should chance to come near you, give him this letter which I have written, for he thinks I am angry with him, if I may judge from a letter which I have received from the father provincial. But I am far from being displeased with him; he rather deserves my thanks than my anger. It is not long since I wrote to you, and I know not if you received my letter; if you did, you do wrong in not having written to me before now, as you know what pleasure I feel in reading your letters. God be with you. I assure you again I am exceedingly grieved that I cannot see you; I had once indeed some hopes I might be able.
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 Domingo Bañez, whom the Saint often mentions in her "Life."
2 For Avila.
3 Bishop Palafox asks: "What, must a saint borrow money? Yes, for holy people often want it....... Money is a powerful master, and there is hardly anything great or holy to be done without it." &c
4 Not in the original
Letter 2nd. The Saint mentions the persecutions she endured at Seville by means of a novice who, having left the house, lost her senses, and spread many false reports about the convent there, &c. Date, 1576. Carta XLVII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The grace of the Holy Spirit be with you, my daughter.
The courier leaves to-morrow: I did not intend writing to you, because I have no good news to tell you, except that he who lived in the house (to which we were going) has consented to our taking possession the day after to-morrow, which is the Feast of St. Philip and St. James. This makes me believe that our Lord is now desirous of calming the storm of our troubles.
Send this letter to the Prioress of Medina as soon as you possibly can, for she will be uneasy at my not having written to her, and given her a short account of our troubles. I assure you that of all the persecutions which we have had to endure since the foundation of St. Joseph's, none can bear the least comparison with what we suffered at Seville.1 When you know what has taken place, you will see I had reason for what I said, and that it will be a mercy of God if we can escape from these troubles with safety; at present we have every reason to expect a favourable issue. May our Lord be blessed, who knows how to draw good from evil: as for myself, I feel the greatest joy that so many troubles have befallen us. Had not my brother been here, we should not have been able to do anything whatever.
He2 has suffered much, and has generously spent his money, and has borne every affliction with such great courage, as to excite us to praise our Lord for it. It is, then, with great reason that our sisters esteem him, for they have no one else to help them, and at present all the city is against us. He has now taken refuge in a convent, for it was very fortunate that he was not taken to prison, which is a kind of hell on earth. But the worst of all is, they persecute us without justice or mercy; they ask from us what we do not owe them, and demand that he should be given up as a security. If the matter should be laid before the court, it will soon be settled, otherwise I cannot see the end of it. He is in the Carmelite convent with our father, and is quite delighted to have something to suffer for God, though the troubles which he endures come upon him like hail. I do all I can to hide our sufferings from him, for I see that ours are much more afflicting to him than his own, and with reason.
I will now tell you something more. I informed you in one of my former letters how ill the novice that left us behaved towards us: but this was nothing in comparison with the lies she afterwards published about us. You will soon hear of them. But as regards myself, I must say that God bestowed a great favour upon me, for I was then as calm as if I had abounded in delights; and though I knew well what harm these false reports might do, still this thought did not afflict me, for my joy exceeded my sorrows. A good conscience is everything, and a conviction that one is not guilty of the crimes laid to our charge.
The other novice entered another convent. Yesterday I was assured that she lost her senses, merely because she left our house. Behold herein the depth of God's judgments, who always defends the truth; and now He makes it manifest, that what she reported about us was all false. The following were some of the lies she told:–"That we used to bind the hands and feet of the nuns, and then whip them," &c.; would to God all the rest of her tales were no greater than these, for she said things a thousand times worse, and of far greater consequence! I now see, however, very clearly, how our Lord wished to afflict us, in order that in the end we might gain the more benefit, and so it has happened. Do not then be troubled on our account, but rather rejoice; for I hope in our Lord that we shall soon be able to enter our house, for the Franciscans make no more opposition; and even should they do so, it would be all useless, after we have once taken possession.
The sisters here3 are most holy souls, and above all, the prioress,4 whose courage quite astonishes me, and which is far greater than what I possess. It seems that my presence here has been of some help to them, for the whole weight of the persecution has fallen upon me. Her understanding is very solid. I often tell her that in my opinion she is fit for the province of Andalucia. Was it not necessary to make a good choice of the Religious who were to be sent to Seville? I am quite well now, though I have not been so for a long time: the syrup did me the greatest good in the world. Our father is unwell, though he has no fever. Recommend him to God: he does not know I am writing to you. Let us beg of our Lord to deliver us safely through our troubles, and I am sure He will. Oh! what a miserable year I have spent in this place.
Let us now come to your advice. As to the first point, respecting the title of Don,5 I wish to tell you that all those who have slaves and servants in the Indies are called by this title. Still, when his father came here, I begged of him not to give his son this title, and I gave him my reasons. He followed my advice, so that every one then seemed satisfied. But when Juan de Ovalle and my sister came here, my reasons were not considered sufficient. My brother was not there then, for he had been absent for some time, and on this account I could not speak to him. But they told him so many things on his return (I know not if it were to authorize what they themselves practised), that all my advice went for nothing. It is quite true, that every one in Avila is now speaking about this matter, which I think is very shameful. I am often reproached with it, and it is a point affecting his reputation. With regard to myself, I think I have never given him that title: but do not trouble yourself about the matter, for they say other things of me which I care nothing about. On your account, I shall speak again to his father on the subject: but I believe that his relations will never consent to it, and they are now quite accustomed to call him "Don." I am quite mortified every time I hear him called so.
With regard to what you say about Teresa writing to Pavilla, I could not have believed she would have written to any one, except to you and to the prioress of Medina, in order to give you both a little pleasure. It seems, however, she has written to him only two or three words. He imagines that I am occupied with nothing else but with her and my brother, and it is difficult to drive this idea out of his head. This would indeed be natural, were I different from what I am. But be assured that though I am so much indebted to my brother, I am glad he is about to retire (among the Carmelites), for then I shall not see him so often, since his visits were really troublesome to me. Sometimes when he was with me, I was obliged to tell him to go away, when our father or any other person came to visit me, and he always obeyed me like an angel. This I did, not because I had no love for him, since I love him tenderly, but because I wished to be alone, and to be free from every distraction of this nature. This is the real truth: whether you believe it or no, is of little consequence to me.
Father Padilla was joking with you when he said he was appointed visitor. I have known him for some time. Notwithstanding, he is of great assistance to us, and we are much indebted to him. No one is free from imperfections. What do you wish? I am glad that the leave I gave pleased Señora Doña Maria.6 Say everything kind to her from me, for as it is now so late, I have not time to write to her. Tell her also that though I am sorry she does not enjoy the company of the Duchess,7 yet as I see our Lord wishes she should have no other company but Himself, I am consoled.
I have heard nothing more from Avila, except what you told me in you letter. May God be with you. Remember me very kindly to Sister Casilda, to all the community, and to Father Domingo (Bañez). I wish he would not set out for Avila till I arrive there: but it must be so, as he wishes everything should be a source of mortification to me. Do not fail to write to me. Do not turn away that novice, who you say is so good: would that she could come here, for I am very anxious to have some persons like her, if possible. Tell all the sisters, that in my opinion they need not fear anything now, for I think everything will go on well.
Do not forget to send this letter to the mother prioress of Medina, and the other to the prioress of Salamanca, so that it may serve for all three. May God make you a saint. I own that the people of this place are not very obliging, and I desire more and more to see myself in the Land of Promise, if such should be God's good pleasure, though if I knew He would be more pleased at my remaining in this life, I would willingly do so. Our Lord's will be done.
Your Reverence's Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS
P.S.–Remember me to Maria de la Cruz and to the sub-prioress. Read this letter to Maria de la Cruz, and recommend us all to God.
Dominica in Albis.
1 See the history of this convent in the Saint's "Foundation."
2 Her brother, Lorenzo de Cepeda, who had lately returned to the West Indies.
3 At Seville.
4 Her name was Mother Maria de San Joseph.
5 The bishop of Osma remarks, that in the Saint's time this title was given to very few people. The Saint was against her nephew taking any new title, because it only fed pride and vanity.
6 Doña Maria de Mendoza was the foundress of the convent at Valladolid.
7 Duchess of Osuna.
The Saint in this letter shows her love for this superioress, and the esteem she had for Father Gracian. Date, 1575. Carta XLIX. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The Grace of the Holy Spirit be with you, my daughter. Praise be to God that I have received your letters here,1 for I was very anxious to hear from you: hereby I see that I love you more than many others who are near relations of mine, and I always think your letters are too short. I was quite comforted to hear you were in good health. May our Lord grant you such as I pray you may have. But I am very sorry to hear that besides the trouble inseparable from your charge, you are also subject to this pain you speak of. It seems to me that as this your infirmity has now become so frequent, you ought really to have recourse to some remedy. May our Lord find one for you.
O! my mother, how I wish you had been with me these last few days. I tell you without any exaggeration, that during my whole life I never passed such agreeable days. Father Gracian remained here more than three weeks. I assure you, that though I have spoken with him so often, I am still unable sufficiently to appreciate the worth of this good man. In my opinion he is perfect in everything, and one more adapted for us we could not have asked of God. What you and all the sisters should now do, is to beg of His Divine Majesty to make him our superior. By this means I could free myself from the government of our houses, for never did I witness such perfection united with such admirable sweetness. May God preserve and protect him; on no account would I have missed the opportunity of seeing him and speaking to him. Father Mariano was expected, but we were glad he did not come so soon. Julian de Avila loves him tenderly, and indeed so does every one. He preaches admirably well; and I think he has greatly improved since you saw him last; the severe afflictions he has suffered have advanced him much in perfection. Our Lord has so arranged our affairs, that with His assistance I shall depart for Seville on Monday next. I shall send Father Diego a more detailed account respecting the reasons why I make this journey.
The reason is, because this house is in Andalucia, and as Father Gracian is the provincial thereof, I found myself, without thinking of it, under his jurisdiction, and hence he might give me any command as his subject. What still more induced me to undertake the journey was, that we were ready to go to Caravaca; but as the permission which we had received from the council was drawn up in such a way as to make it invalid, we could not go, so we then resolved immediately to commence the Foundation of Seville. It would give me great consolation to take you with me: but I see it would ruin the house to take you away now, besides being attended with many other inconveniences.
I think Father Gracian will see you before he returns this way, for the Nuncio has recalled him, and he will be at Madrid before you receive this letter. I am much better than usual since I have been in this part of the country. But how much more pleased should I be to pass the summer with you, rather than endure the burning heat of Seville! Recommend us all to God, and tell the sisters, to whom I send my regards, to do the same for us.
At Seville, however, I shall have more opportunities of writing to you oftener, and so I shall say no more at present, except to beg of you to remember me kindly to the Father-Rector, and to your confessor: let me know what has happened, and tell them to remember me in their prayers. Give my regards to all the sisters. May our Lord make you a saint. To-day is the Feast of the Ascension. Sister Gerónimo desires to be remembered to you. I shall take her to Seville, together with five other Religious, of very good talents: and she who is to be the prioress is perfectly adapted for her office.
Your Reverence's Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS
P.S.–I know not why you are in such a hurry to have Sister Juana Bautista professed. Wait a little, for she is yet young. But if you think otherwise, and are satisfied with her, let her be professed. But I believe it would be no harm to give her a little longer trial, for when I saw her, she seemed to be of a weak constitution.
1 In the convent at Veas, where she first met Father Gracian.
This letter is remarkable for what the Saint says about St. Joseph having assisted and encouraged her. She speaks of her journey to Toledo, &c. Date, 1576. Carta L. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. Mary. Joseph. May they embrace the souls of my dear daughters in the convent at Veas.
Since I left your house, I have not had a moment's rest. God be praised for it. In order to comply with your commands, my mother-prioress, and for the consolation of my daughters, I now write to inform you that a short time after I had arrived at the house of Señora Doña Maria, I found all my body in such violent pain, that it seemed as if my very soul were torn in pieces. But in the midst of my affliction I received the greatest consolation from seeing, at my side, the glorious St. Joseph, who comforted and encouraged me to pursue my journey in virtue of holy obedience.
To-morrow, then, daughters, I shall set off without fail, though the devil is enraged to see me going on my journey, because I am about to snatch from his hands two souls whom he has held in captivity and who will be useful to the Church.
For this reason, my daughters, have recourse to God in prayer, that so you may help me on this occasion. Do your best, mother-prioress, that on Thursday next we may give the habit to the physician's daughter, for her virtue will supply the want of a dowry. I also recommend the sick to your care. See that they are well attended to: and believe me, my mother, that when you have no sick, you will lose every opportunity of meriting. Tell the sisters to communicate during the whole of this month for my intention, since I am a wicked creature: if you think otherwise you are deceived.
I am very sorry my companion has got sore eyes. I send you this little present of fruit, that you may all rejoice and be glad on Thursday next, on the reception of the new sister. Let her be called Maria de San Joseph. May God make you all saints, such as I desire you may become.
TERESA DE JESUS.
From the house of Doña Maria Faxardo, at Toledo. Monday, August 6th.
Letter 1st. The Saint encourages and consoles them on account of a violent persecution which had been raised against them and the reform. She disapproves of the conduct of some of the sisters. Date, 1579. Carta LI. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The grace of the Holy Spirit be with you, my daughters and sisters.
Be assured that I never loved you so much as I do now, neither have you ever had such a good opportunity of serving our Lord as you have now; for He bestows a great favour upon you, by making you taste something of the bitterness of His cross, and of that abandonment which He felt when hanging upon it. Happy the day on which you entered this city, considering what a favourable time for meriting has been prepared for you! I really envy your happiness; and, to tell you the truth, when I heard of all the changes (which were told me without any exaggeration): but above all, when I was told they wished to drive you out of your house, together with other particular circumstances, and so far from being afflicted at these trials, I felt the greatest interior joy, seeing that without making you cross the sea, our Lord wished to show you those mines of eternal treasures with which His Majesty is desirous of enriching your souls, that so you may distribute part of them to those who are around you. I trust in His mercy that He will help you to bear your troubles, without offending Him in anything. Be not troubled on account of your sufferings, for our Lord permits them, in order to make you understand that you are not so strong as you supposed, when you were so desirous of sufferings.
Courage, my daughters, courage. Remember that God does not send us more troubles than we can bear, and that His Majesty is ever with the afflicted; since, then, this is certainly the truth, you have nothing to fear, rather should you hope in His mercy, that the truth will be truly discovered: then will be known what artifices the devil makes use of to cause these trials, which have pained me more than all the troubles you now endure.
Pray, pray, my sisters: let your humility and obedience now appear; and may none be found more submissive to the newly-appointed superioress, than you, sisters, and the late mother-prioress. O! what a favourable opportunity you now have, for gathering the fruits of those good resolutions which you made to serve our Lord! Remember that our Lord often wishes to try us, in order to see if our works agree with our words. Extend your hand to the children of Mary, who are your brethren, in order to draw them out with honour from this terrible persecution. If you assist them, our good Jesus will assist you: and though He may sometimes seem to sleep at sea, yet when the storm rages, He commands the winds to be still.1 He wishes us to invoke His assistance, and He loves us to such a degree, that He is always seeking for our advancement in virtue. May His name be blessed for ever. Amen. Amen.
All the Religious of our houses continually pray for you; this encourages me to hope in the goodness of God, that everything will soon be settled. On this account I wish you all to be cheerful, considering that whatever you suffer for so good a God is but little, for One too who has endured so much for us: remember you have not as yet shed your blood for Him; that you are living among your sisters, and not among the Turks. Let your Spouse, then, do whatever He wills, and in a short time you will see how the sea will swallow up all His enemies, just as it did Pharaoh and his army: then you who are God's own people will be delivered. Hence you ought to feel desirous of suffering new troubles, considering the great advantages you have already gained from your past afflictions.
I received your letter, and I wish now I had not burnt what you wrote, because it might have been useful to us on this occasion. You need not have given up mine, according to the opinion of learned men in these parts; but it is of little consequence. Would to God that all the faults which they say have been committed were laid to my charge, though I have deeply felt for those who have suffered so unjustly.
But that which grieved me the most was to find, that in the "verbal-process" which the Father-Provincial drew up, certain things were asserted which I know to be exceedingly false, because I was then on the spot.2 For the love of our Lord, strictly examine and inquire if any of the sisters gave their depositions either through fear or passion; for when God is not offended, all the rest is nothing. But to tell lies to the prejudice of our neighbour, this it is which wounds my heart. I cannot imagine how people can do such things, since every one knows the candour and virtue with which Father Gracian conversed with us, and the great profit we derived from his instructions, and how much he helped us to advance in the service of our Lord. This being the truth, it is a great crime to publish such accusations, even though they were of little consequence. Charitably remind the sisters of the fault they have committed. May the Most Holy Trinity remain with you, and preserve you. Amen.
All the sisters tenderly commend themselves to you. They hope that when the clouds have been scattered, Sister San Francisco will give them an account of everything which has happened. Remember me to good Sister Gabriella, and beg of her to be content. She must have felt great pain on beholding Mother San Joseph3 treated in the way she was. I pity Sister San Garónimo, if her desires be sincere: if they are not, I should have more compassion for her than for all the rest.
I should have felt much more pleasure to have spoken with Señor Garcia Albarez, than to have written to him; but I will not write to him now, because I cannot say what I wish in a letter. Remember me to all the sisters, to whom you may show this letter.4
Your unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 "Que aunque duerme en la mar, quando crece la tormenta, hace parar los vientos."
2 The Saint alludes to the injustice committed by the Father-Provincial when he deposed the prioress of Seville, and put in her place a superioress of his own, and at the same time caused certain charges to be drawn up against Father Gracian and other Religious.
3 The prioress of Seville, who had been deposed.
4 After I had translated this letter, I could not help admiring the fervid eloquence and spirituality which it so remarkably displays.
Letter 2nd. The Saint congratulates the sisters on the choice they had made of a prioress, and exhorts them to forget all they had suffered during the persecution. Those also who had committed any faults, she exhorts to amendment. This letter was written only two years before the Saint's death. Date, 1580. Carta LII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The grace of the Holy Spirit be ever with you, my sisters and daughters.
I received great consolation from your letters, and should have been very glad were I able to answer each one in particular. But my occupations are so numerous that I have no time, and therefore I trust you will kindly excuse me, and take my will for the deed. It would give me much pleasure to become acquainted with those who have lately made their profession, and with those also who have taken the habit. I congratulate them on the happy espousals they have contracted with so great a King. May His Majesty make them such as I desire and pray they may become, that so they may enjoy His presence in that eternity which knows no end.
Tell Sister Gerónimo, who signed herself "The Dunghill,"1 that she must take care her humility be not in words only. Inform Sister Gabriella likewise that I received the picture of Saint Paul which she sent me: it is very beautiful. I smiled when I thought how she resembles him in her littleness. I hope in God that He will make her a great saint in His sight. To tell you the truth, it seems His Majesty wishes you all to be more perfect than the Religious here, since He sends you such severe afflictions, that it will be very meritorious if you make a good use of them. Praise be to God that you have succeeded so well in the election. It has been a great consolation for me.
In our convents here we find by experience that our Lord seems to help in a particular manner the first superioress who is established in a new Foundation; that He gives her more love for her Religious and the welfare of the house, than to those who come after her; and thus the sisters are able to advance more in perfection. In my opinion, then, the superioress ought not to be changed in these (new) houses, unless some notorious fault be discovered in her; for, in doing so, more inconveniences arise than one can imagine. May our Lord so enlighten you, that you may be able to do His will in all things. Amen.
I request Sister Beatrix de la Madre de Dios, and Sister Margarita also (as I have before begged of you all), to forget what is past, and to say no more about it, except to our Lord or your confessor, in order that if they have been in any way deceived, or have not spoken with that candour and charity which God requires of us, they may be on their guard for the future to speak the truth with candour. If it be necessary to make satisfaction, let it be made, for otherwise they will be very uneasy, and the devil will not cease to tempt them. Provided they are pleasing to our Lord, they have no cause to fear, even though the devil should employ all his art against them, and run quite mad lest these good beginnings should prosper. The only thing which ought to surprise us is, that he has not done us greater harm in every way possible.
God often allows a soul to fall, that so she may become the more humble.2 And when she rises again, acknowledging her fault, and has a sincere intention (of pleasing God), she makes afterwards greater advances in the service of our Lord, as we see by the example of many of the saints. On this account, my daughters, as you are all sisters, and all under the protection of our Lady, endeavour to love each other tenderly, and forget the past as if it had never been. I speak to all in general.
I have been particularly careful to recommend to our Lord those who thought I was angry with them. But I am grieved, and shall be still more so, if they do not fulfil what I beg of them, for the love of God, to accomplish. I ever have before me my beloved sister Juana de la Cruz, and have always thought she gained a great deal of merit (in this persecution). As she took the name of "the Cross" at her profession, so she has had to bear a good part for her share. Beg of her to remember me to our Lord, for be assured that if there were a question of her sins and mine (as mine are the greater), God would not have given such a sharp penance to all. I hope all the sisters, too, will be of the same mind, and not forget me in your prayers, since you are more obliged to pray for me than the sisters here. May our Lord make you such saints as I desire you may become. Amen.
The Servant of you all,
TERESA DE JESUS, Carmelite.
1 "Que se firmó, 'Del Muladar.'"
2 "Hartas veces permite el Senor una caida, para que el alma quede mas humilde," &c.
Letter 1st. The Saint wrote many valuable and edifying letters to this holy Religious. The present letter was written from Malagon, when the Saint was on her way to Toledo. By a decree of the General Chapter she was forbidden to go on with her Foundations, and commanded to retire into any convent she might choose. She chose that of Toledo. Date, 1576. Carta LIII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The grace of the Holy Spirit be with you.
O! how glad I should be to write to you more at length. But I have no time, as I am obliged to write many other letters. I have, however, told Father Gregorio to send you a full account of our journey. It is true there are not many things worth mentioning; for we succeeded very well, and were not much troubled by the heat. Thank God, we arrived1 in good health on Easter Tuesday. I found mother-prioress better, though she is not quite well yet. Be very careful to recommend her to God. I was much pleased with my interview with her. I beg of you to write to me as often as possible, that so I may always know how you are going on. Remember me kindly to Garcia Alvarez,2 and tell me something about the lawsuit, and about everything else, but, above all, if it be true that our father has arrived: let me know how he is.
I strongly recommend you not to allow any stranger to eat in the locutory. Such a custom must not be introduced, though a dispensation may be allowed in favour of our father,3 who is so very infirm: but it should be done without the knowledge of any person. Should it, however, be known, people must remember there is a difference between a superior and a subject; and as his health is so necessary for us, all we can do for him is but little. For this object, mother-prioress will send you a small sum of money, through the hands of Father Gregory: she will also furnish whatever else he may require, since she has indeed a great regard for him, and this induces her willingly to assist him. It is proper he should know this, for, let me tell you, you must not expect to receive any abundant alms in your place, so that if you give to others what you receive, you will perhaps have nothing for yourself to live upon. I earnestly wish, however, that you should not trouble yourself about anything; but try only to serve our Lord in peace. May His Majesty be pleased to hear my prayer for this object. I hope Sister San Francisco will be a good historian, by giving a correct account of all that has passed.
On leaving your house, this seemed poorer than ever. The sisters here suffer a great deal. Teresa4 was very sad during the journey, especially the first day. She said, "this her sadness arose from leaving the sisters." But as soon as she came here, she was so delighted that she could eat no supper the night we arrived; she conversed with the sisters, as if she had been living with them all her life. This gave me great pleasure, for I believe it is very natural for her to have such affection for them. I will send you a letter by Father Gerónimo, and therefore I shall say no more at present, except to beg of our Lord to protect you, and make you a saint, that so all your Religious may become saints likewise. Amen. Be so good as to give this letter into the hands of Father Gracian himself; if he is not in Seville, do not send it to him, except by some trustworthy person, for it is a letter of importance.
TERESA DE JESUS.
Friday in Easter Week, 1576.
P.S.–Teresa does not write to you, because she is very busy. She says she is prioress, and desires her regards to you.
1 At Malagon.
2 He was a priest of Seville, who was of great assistance to the Saint in the foundation of the convent there.
3 Father Gracian.
4 She was her niece, being the daughter of her brother, Señor Lorenzo de Cepeda. She accompanied the Saint to Seville, and afterwards to Toledo.
Letter 2nd. This letter, as the bishop of Osma well remarks, is full of good sense and admirable piety. The Saint assures the mother-prioress that she has a great regard for her, and tells her to take care of her health, &c. Date, 1576. Carta LIV. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS be with your Reverence.
I assure you, I feel the same regret for your absence as you say you do for mine. I received your letter after I had written the one which I send with this. I was so delighted on reading it, that I was affected even to tears, and above all, on seeing you so humbly begging my pardon. Provided you love me as much as I love you, I not only willingly pardon whatever you may have done, but also whatever you may hereafter do.1 The greatest complaint which I now have to make is, that you seemed to have but little pleasure when you lived with me. I know, however, it was not your fault, as I told the prioress of Malagon, but that it happened by the permission of our Lord, who, in the midst of the afflictions which I suffered during my stay at Seville, was pleased to deprive me of the consolation which otherwise I might have received from your friendship.
But be assured that I consider those trials as abundantly recompensed, and would have been willing to suffer still greater, provided thereby I could obtain some repose for you and our sisters. Believe me, I love you tenderly; and provided you have the same affection for me, I shall consider the rest as mere trifles, to which not the least attention is to be paid. But I must acknowledge that when I was at Seville engaged in arranging your affairs, though I conversed with you as my beloved daughter, I was pained to observe that you did not show the same candour and love towards me. Your letter, however, has now blotted out every unpleasant feeling from my heart; there only remains an affection for you, so tender and sincere, that I am obliged to remember something of what has passed, in order to lessen its intensity.
I am exceedingly delighted to hear how well your affairs have succeeded. Be sure to arrange the agreement you spoke of, even though you should not have very good security for the future. It is very dangerous and unpleasant to enter into lawsuits, especially at the beginning (of a Foundation). Be assured that the agreement will be more advantageous; even should we gain our cause, lawsuits are dreadful things.
Endeavour as soon as possible to repay my brother, I mean, what he advanced for the possession of the house. I am very anxious to have the money paid, though he has received part of it. O! how delighted he is with your letters! He can never stop speaking in your praise. The letters pleased me likewise: but they were not well written, for the more you try to write legibly, the worse you seem to get on! I shall say no more about my brother or Teresa, for they both intend writing to you.
I have written to the father-prior of the Carthusians; and to-day I must write to Malagon on business, and also to our father (Gracian). I am afraid I shall not be able just now to write to the sisters, for I am occupied with numerous visits.
I am well aware of the kindness good Garcia Alvarez shows us, for great is his charity. Tell him how much obliged I am to him. I was quite delighted on receiving a letter from father-prior. My friends exceedingly oblige me in acting as they do towards you. Take care to be on terms of friendship with them; and if an opportunity present itself, do something for Mariano and Brother Antonio,2 (for I do not wish them to fall out with you): but let it be done in moderation. God forgive them, for all the disturbance which has taken place among our fathers might easily have been avoided, and the matter settled in some other way. Our father is quite grieved about it. He is in good health, and the Nuncio has approved the step he took in not returning to Andalucia.
You cannot say I write seldom to you. Often write to me, for I am always pleased with your letters. I know nothing about what has taken place in your part of the country, for our father sends me very short letters. I suppose he has no time to write longer ones. God be with you, and make you a great saint. After I had written the greater part of this letter, Sister Gabriella wrote to inform me that she was very unwell with a pain in her stomach.
May God keep her from being worse. I do not remember to whom I left you in charge. I think it was to the sub-prioress. Be sure to obey her, and as you love me, take care of your health, for I should be exceedingly grieved if you had not your health. May our Lord grant it to you, as I beseech Him to do. Remember me kindly to Mother Beatriz and Delgado. The prioress here sends her regards to you. All the nuns rejoice at the prosperity of your affairs. God grant it may continue. The priest3 came while I was at mass, and went away after saying mass himself. I only had a moment to speak with him. Had he remained in the town I would have done something for him. He told me he had company, so he went away immediately.
Gabriella tells me likewise that you have fitted up the house very well. I should much like to see it. I have not had time till now to read your letters. I received great comfort from Father Garcia Alvarez's letter. I shall write to him with great pleasure. I hope my daughters at Seville will pardon me if I give the preference to one who has done so much good for them.
Your Reverence's Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
Feast of the Visitation, 1576.
1 The prioress seems to have thought she was not in the good graces of the Saint, on account of a certain coldness which the mother-prioress showed when St. Teresa lived with her at Seville.
2 They seem to have made some complaint to the Saint about the prioress.
3 Probably he came with the letters.
Letter 3rd. In this letter the Saint says she prefers in her houses simplicity to knowledge. She also praises economy, &c. Date, 1576. Carta LV. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. My daughter, may the Holy Spirit be with your Reverence.
I safely received your letter, dated November 3rd. I assure you your letters never tire me; on the contrary, they give me comfort and ease amidst my labours. I was quite pleased to see the date written in full, though I hope in God this was not done through want of humility.1
I must tell you, lest I forget it, that the letter which was sent to Father Mariano would have been very good, had there been no Latin in it. May our Lord deliver all my daughters from presuming to write Latin. I trust you will never do this again, nor permit others to do it. I am much more anxious they should pride themselves on appearing ignorant and simple, as many saints have been, rather than learned. See what you have gained by sending your letters open to me. But as you have already confessed this fault to our father, you will be more mortified for the future (than to do such a thing).
Tell him (Father Gracian) that I made almost a general confession the other day to the person of whom I spoke, and that I had not the twentieth part of the trouble with him, that I used to have when I confessed to his Reverence. What a horrible temptation is this!
Recommend this my present confessor to our Lord, for he comforts me exceedingly, and it is no easy matter to satisfy me. O! how well you acted, in not choosing for your confessor the person who gave me so much trouble in this place,2 that I could not find the least comfort in anything; for the pleasure I received from our father was accompanied with a great deal of uneasiness, while you who could have given me some consolation if you had been willing, because you were one whom I loved, refused to do so. I am glad you now know the affection I have for you. What shall I say of that other Religious at Caravaca? May God forgive her; she, is however, now very sorry for what she has done. Truth is powerful.
To-day a woollen habit was sent to me, which suits me better than any I ever wore: it is coarse, but very light. I have already thanked them for it; my old one was quite worn out, and not fit for the cold: they also sent me some shifts of their own spinning, though we wear none here, not even in summer. The sisters fast very rigorously. I now begin to think myself a nun: pray to God that I may persevere.
The health of the mother-prioress of Malagon is much worse than it used to be, though I am somewhat comforted in being assured that the disease is not in her lungs, nor is she consumptive. They say that Aña de la Madre de Dios, a nun in the same convent, had the same complaint, and recovered. God can do her the same favour also. I know not what to think or say regarding the numerous afflictions which God sends that house; for besides the sick, the rest are in great want: they have neither corn nor money, and what is worse, they are greatly in debt. Our father has ordered four hundred crowns to be sent them from Salamanca, which were due to them for the house. God grant this sum may relieve them in their necessity. I have already sent them part of it. Where they are, they have had expenses of every kind, and on this account I really wish that the prioresses of these houses which are endowed, and even of the others also, would not be so liberal, nor spend so much as they do, for this is the way to ruin everything. Poor Beatriz has had the care of the whole house, she being almost the only one who was well, for mother-prioress committed it to her charge, "through not having any better person," as the saying is, May His Majesty preserve you, and make you all saints. I must conclude, for I have many other letters to write.
Your Reverence's Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
P.S.–I am very glad you bear so patiently the poverty of your house, and that God tries the sisters in this way. May He be blessed for ever. With regard to what you say about a mixture of linen and woollen, I would much rather their dress should be of linen, when necessity requires it, otherwise we might find it difficult to observe our constitutions: but we fulfil them by wearing linen. The other stuff you speak of would be almost as warm: neither one nor the other will do, and so you must be content with that (which I mentioned).
1 The Saint here uses a little pleasant raillery. The prioress seems not to have known the use of ciphers, and the Saint insinuates that perhaps she wished to hide her ignorance by writing the date in full.
2 At Toledo, where this letter seems to have been written.
Letter 4th. The Saint testifies great joy on receiving a novice who brought with her sufficient to pay for the house in which they lived. Other subjects are also mentioned. Date, 1577. Carta LVI. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS be with your Reverence.
O! my daughter, I cannot express to you the joy your letter gave me, both on account of the good news it contained about your health, as well as regards the novice who will do such a charitable work, by paying for your house. God grant no obstacle may arise: this I beg of Him with my whole heart. It would give me the greatest pleasure to see you enjoying some repose. If she come among you, I entreat you to pay every attention to her, for she deserves every kindness should be shown her. I wish I had time to write more at length to you. But having written to-day to Avila, Madrid, and several other places, I have such a pain in my head, that I know not what I am saying now. I have received all the letters you mention. But as you say nothing about the one I wrote to my father the prior of the Carthusians, and which I sent open, that you might read it, I fear it is lost. You must feel very lonely without our good father.
Tell Señor Garcia Alvarez that he is now more than ever obliged to be our father. I was very glad to hear one of his relations had entered our Order: remember me kindly to him, and also to the sisters of Paterna,1 to whom I should be glad to write, if I had time. Send them this letter, that they may see I am in good health, and that I was glad to hear from them, and to know that Margarita and her confessor were going on well.
The sisters there must not be surprised at their being unable immediately to become like us: it would be foolish to require such a thing from them. They must not be so scrupulous about speaking to one another, and with regard to many other things which in themselves are not sinful. This would tend to lead them into the danger of sin, instead of taking it away from them, because they are accustomed to quite a different life. Time and patience are necessary till God is pleased to work in them, for otherwise we might make them fall into despair. Let us pray earnestly for them.
I do not approve of the prioress allowing the Religious to be disrespectful to her: if it could be done, she might appear as if she heard nothing against her. Those who are in authority should know that after they have entered the convent, God permits many things to happen to them, that so they may bear them with great meekness. May our Lord be with you, my daughter: and may He direct you and all the Religious, to whom I beg to be remembered.
Tell the prioress of Paterna that I am astonished she makes no more mention, in her letters, of Sister San Gerónimo than if she were not in the house, though she may perhaps be more holy than herself. Tell her also to let me know how she is going on, and that I wish Sister San Gerónimo to write to me. Exhort them both from me to put all their confidence in God, that so they may succeed in their undertakings, and that they must not imagine they can do anything of themselves.
I am well. The prioress of Malagon is about the same as usual. Tell me if our father brought with him sufficient money for the journey, for I have heard he has not. Be so good as to send him this letter by a trusty messenger, and as soon as you possibly can. I am very sorry that Fiscal is about to leave Seville. It seems to me God wishes it to be known, that He alone can do all things. Remember me to the prior of the Carmelites, and tell my good brother Gregorio to write to me,
Your Reverence's Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
January 17th, 1577.
1 Very little is known about this house. It does not seem as if the Religious there had adopted the reform introduced by the Saint.
Letter 5th. The Saint thanks her for the presents she had sent her, approves her method of prayer, and that of another sister in the same convent, but at the same times blames the indiscretion of two other Religious, &c. Date, 1577. Carta LVII. Spanish ed. vol. i
JESUS. The Grace of the Holy Spirit be with your Reverence, my daughter.
Since your letter contains such good news, and is accompanied, too, with the kind presents you have just sent me, it is only reasonable I should write to you at some length, at least to thank you. But as I wrote yesterday to you, I trust it will be sufficient: besides, the number of letters which I have written this winter has so fatigued my mind, that I have been very ill, though now I am a little better. However, I seldom or ever write any letter myself, because the doctor tells me I must not do so, in order that I may regain my strength.
I am much pleased with your method of prayer. It is no want of humility to know that God gives you this, together with other favours, provided you remember this gift is not yours. He makes us understand when our prayer comes from Him. I continually praise our Lord that you make such great progress, and I shall endeavour to provide for you all the help you require. Beg of Him I may become such, that my petition may deserve to be heard.
With regard to the method of prayer used by Beatriz, I find that it is good and proper; but prevent as much as possible her conversing about it with others. Know that you are bound to do so as prioress. Sister San Gerónimo does not speak of such things here, for once, when she began, the prioress stopped her immediately, and even threatened her, so that then she was obliged to be silent; and you know that when I was at Seville, she did not hesitate to go on the same way. I know not if we did wrong in allowing her to leave us. God grant she may go on well. What a thing it would have been, if the other nuns had found the note she sent to the prioress! God forgive those who commanded her to write such a letter. If your father chose, he might write to her on the subject with great severity. Read this letter I now write to you, and, if you think proper, you may send it to him. You do quite right in not allowing the sisters to speak to any one.
The prioress of Veas informs me, that her nuns mention nothing but their sins to their confessor, and by this means they can all finish their confession in half an hour. She tells me she should do the same in all the rest of our convents, adding that, as they consult only her, they enjoy the greatest consolation, and have a tender love for their mother. Your Reverence may tell them, that as I have some experience in matters relating to prayer, why should they seek among others that which perhaps they do not possess? Why not write to me? In this country such a precaution is more necessary than in any other. Tell Sister San Francisco to allow the other Religious to eat meat after Lent is over, and not to let her fast. I should like to know what she means by saying, "God gives her such great strength that she cannot explain herself." What a trouble it is to see her always weeping in presence of the other sisters, who cannot help noticing how often she writes. Endeavour to procure some of her letters, and send them to me: but, above all, give her no hopes of speaking with any other person on the matter, except with our father, otherwise she will be ruined.
Let her know that such language is less understood in Seville than she imagines, although there can be no harm in speaking at confession with Father Acosta.1 Still, I am confident that even this is not so suitable for her as it is for the others. I warmly approve the order given to allow a little more liberty to the nuns at Paterna; but it would have been better not to have begun with anything which they were obliged to observe; for then they would not afterwards have required a dispensation. You have done very well in exhorting them to live up to the rules of the community, for in matters of reform, when people obtain any concession, however small, by force of clamouring, they immediately imagine that they have only to continue in order to obtain everything.
As I am not writing this letter all at once, I know not whether I have forgotten to answer all your inquiries. I send you some bolts, which are like those we have to our choir-grates: I consider it unnecessary they should be finer than ours, though I foresee you will not be pleased with them. But try and conform yourself to the nuns of this convent, who have been no less delicately brought up than yourself. After all, these little bolts are more convenient than any other sort, for I do not know what other kind you mean. The crucifixes are now being made: they will cost about a ducat each.
You will find in this packet the different explanations which have been given of the words which at first I had proposed to my brother, that so he might ask an explanation of them from others. The persons consulted agreed to send their answers to St. Joseph's convent, and to abide by the decision of the Religious there. The bishop, who was present, commanded the answers should be sent to me, and that I was to give my opinion of them. My poor head, however was not in a fit state to read them. Show them to the father-prior and to Nicolao; but you should inform them of all the circumstances connected with them, and that they must not give any judgment till they have read the answers. If possible return them to me, because our father will be will pleased with them, and the Religious of Avila have begged of me to let them see them, though the courier would have to go out of his way.
I send you the letter which my brother wrote to me, in order that you may see what great favours our Lord bestows upon him: he has written many others also to me, but this was the first that came to hand. I think you will be pleased to see it, as I know you love him. When you have read it, tear it up, and remain with our Lord. I should never come to an end, did I not feel my head getting bad, May His Majesty make you a saint.
Your Reverence's Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
March 2nd. 1577.
P.S.–You may feel obliged to me for having written this letter myself–a thing which I have not done of St. Joseph's Avila.
1 A holy father of the Society of Jesus.
Letter 6th. This letter seems to have been written before the persecution at Seville had terminated. She shows the greatest affection for the prioress and sisters of that convent. Date 1579. Carta LVIII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The grace of the Holy Spirit be with you, my daughter.
I feel more love than ever for the Religious of your Order, but especially for yourself, because you have suffered the most. Be assured, however, that even though I should hear of your being deprived of a voice in the elections, and of every office connected with your charge, I should still feel the greatest consolation, because, though I know my daughter is a great sinner, yet I know well she fears God, and that she is not capable of doing anything against His Majesty, which could deserve so severe a punishment.
I hope our Lord may so dispose things that the truth may be discovered, and your innocence likewise. They have not acted with sincerity in this business. I was extremely grieved when I heard the dispositions of the "Verbal Process" which were drawn up, and in which were accusations that I know were perfectly false, for I was at Seville at the time. Now that I know what has passed between these sisters, I heartly thank our Lord that He has not allowed any more calumnies to be spread about. Those two souls give me much trouble, and it is quite necessary that we should pray for them in particular, that so it may please our Lord to enlighten them. From the moment I saw how Father Garcia Alvarez1 acted, I feared the consequences which I now behold.
I was quite pleased with that part of your letter, in which you mention the compliments that have been paid to you about the bell-tower. You have reason to be pleased, if it is as fine as you say. I hope in God your house will prosper more and more, for you have all endured great trials. You explain yourself so well in all you write to me about, that if my superiors were of my opinion, they would elect you as foundress after my death: even during my life I wish with all my heart you were considered as such, for you both know much more than I do, and are better adapted for the office.2 What I say is really the truth. I may perhaps have a little more experience than you have; but henceforth no attention should be paid to me, for you would be surprised to see how old and feeble I am becoming: I am fit for nothing. Remember me to all the sisters. May His Majesty preserve you, my daughter, and make you a great saint. Amen.
Your Reverence's Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 This holy man seems to have acted somewhat imprudently during the persecution.
2 This is another proof of the Saint's most profound humility.
Letter 7th. This letter was written at the time when the persecution was still raging at Seville. The Saint exorts the prioress to patience, and speaks on several other topics. Date, 1578. Carta LIX. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS be with your Reverence.
I assure you, my daughter, I derive such great pleasure from your letters, that I am continually wishing to hear from you. I know not how it is, that I have such a particular love for your house and for the Religious who dwell there. It is, perhaps, because I have suffered so much for them: thanks be to God, I am now nearly well for the fever has left me, though I am still troubled with a bad cold.
I knew well you would suffer from those evil reports, and the conduct of the Calced fathers. They must have given you a great deal of trouble. But as God has delivered us from Father Tostado, I hope His Divine Majesty will favour us in everything. But we must pray continually and earnestly, that so our Lord may deliver us from this persecution, and our houses may enjoy some repose. But while our Most Reverend Father-General is so indisposed towards us, I can tell you we shall not want opportunities of meriting. As you know everything about our father, I shall say nothing now respecting our affairs. I only beg of you, for the love of God, to be very punctual in sending me an account of every thing, when our father has no time to write himself; take care also to give him the letters I shall write, and to send me his letters. Though he is at Seville, you know the fears we have with regard to the letters: what will it be then when he is further off?
The postmaster of this town is cousin to one of our nuns at Segovia. He came to see me, and assured me he would do great things for her. His name is Fiqueredo. We made an arrangement about the letters: he told me that provided you were careful to give the letters directly to the chief postmaster, I might hear from you almost every eight days. O! how very agreeable and convenient this arrangement would be! He also said that if you put on the cover–"For Fiqueredo,"–the Head Postmaster at Toledo,–the letters would never be lost. All this will give your Reverence some trouble: but I know you are willing to bear still greater for my sake, just as I should do for you.
Be assured I often feel a great desire to see you; and it seems, when I have this desire, as if I could do nothing else. I assure you this is the truth. Inquire what is the title by which we are to address the postmaster; whether we are to call him "Magnifico" or not. I see he lives quite in grand style. On account of the opportunity I shall have of hearing from you so often, I shall be pleased to remain at Toledo; for at Avila I should not have the same advantage, either in this respect or in other ways. I am only sorry on my brother's account, for he will feel my absence exceedingly. You do wrong in not writing to him sometimes. By this letter of his you will see how ill he is: but thank God he has no fever.
I never think of keeping those letters which they write to me about Teresa. All the nuns assure me that her virtues cover them with confusion, as well as her fondness for the most humble offices. She continually tells them they must not esteem her (the more) for being the niece of the foundress, but rather despise her. All the sisters love her much. They say a thousand kind things about her. I tell you these things that you may praise God for them, since it is to you all she is indebted for the good sentiments she has imbibed. I am very pleased to hear that you commend her to His Divine Majesty.
I have a great regard for her father: but I must tell you that I feel much comfort in being at a distance from him. I cannot understand the reason of this, unless it be that the pleasures of this life only cause disgust in me (which I think proceeds from the fear I have of being attached to any earthly thing), and so I think it better to avoid the occasions. Now, however, I should wish to be a little nearer my brother, so as not to show any ingratitude for the favours he has bestowed upon me, and in order that he might be able to arrange certain matters, for which he thinks my presence necessary: he intends to wait till my arrival.
Though I sent away the postulant which Father Nicolao had recommended, yet as he wrote to me again about her, I examined the matter still more; and though our father says–"she is not fit for the Order," yet I did not like to turn her away a second time, because you may see it necessary to try such a person well. She might perhaps make a good nun. Speak on this subject with our father if you are really in want, and try to discover her faults, for I shall say but little about her to him, because I see your affairs are in a bad way.
I was much pleased to hear that you knit stockings, and gain something by your labour. God will help those who help themselves.1 With regard to the question which you ask, viz., if it would be proper, in order to pay the rent you owe, to sell the annuities, I think it is clearly for your advantage to get out of debt. With regard to the other points, it is a sad thing for your house (which is now so poor)–to take a person without having any dowry. To receive her, however, solely for the love of God, is allowable. As yet you have never received any one for charity; if you receive this person, God will help you, and perhaps send you others who are rich, and then they will make amends for her. Receive her then, as our father is so earnestly importuned to speak to you about her; you must not refuse him, only take care not to be too hasty in receiving nuns, for it is of the greatest importance to know if they are fit for us. I believe the only defect in the postulant recommended by Father Nicolao is, that she is a little too simple.
What I told you about the niece of Garcia Alvarez, is I believe quite true: Cavallar also mentioned it to me. I do not think it is Doña Clemencia, but the other lady. You may candidly tell Garcia Alvarez that you have been told she is very subject to melancholy. Cavallar plainly told me she was mad, and therefore I spoke no more about her to him: even were this not the case, you must not at present add to the expenses of the house, but, on the contrary, try to get out of debt as soon as possible. Let us have a little patience, for considering the disturbance the Calced fathers have raised, I am not surprised that no one offers to enter the Order.
Write down what you spend in the postage of letters, that so you may repay the forty ducats which the nuns of St. Joseph's at Avila sent you. To act otherwise would not be civility, but foolishness: it is with reason I give you this advice. But how could you think of sending me money now? Your liberality made me smile, for I was pained to know what difficulty you had in procuring the means of subsistence. However, the money came very opportunely: it will help to pay the postage of my letters: may God reward you. I thank you for the orange flower water:2 it came quite safe. I am also obliged to Sister Juan de la Cruz for the veil she sent me. However, I do not wish you to do the like again: when I wish for anything, I shall be sure to let you know it: with greater freedom I will ask it of you than from those with whom I am more intimate, because I am persuaded that you and all the Religious will willingly grant what I ask.
The person who had such a good voice did not return. I am using every means to find you some suitable subjects. O! how anxious I am that you should receive the water! So anxious am I that I am afraid you will not obtain it. Still I have some hopes that Father Mariano, or our father, may prevail over Father Buenaventura, who is the superior of the Franciscan fathers. May our Lord provide it for you: it would be a great comfort for you. You judge right in supposing that our father is about to depart for Avila; I should much rather be there than here, even though I should spend some unpleasant hours with the bishop. I am quite surprised to see you all so happy, God has brought things round more wonderfully than ever we expected. May He be praised for all His favours and grant your reverence a long life.
In order not to afflict you I did not wish to tell you how grieved I am on account of the illness of the prioress of Malagon, though our Lord can cure her. But independent of the love I have for her, the loss which her death would cause just at this time would be very great indeed. I should like to have her brought here, but our doctor tells me she would not live a month in this place: whereas she may live a year in her present abode. May our Lord restore her to her health: I trust you will not forget to pray for her, for she is given up by the physicians, who say she is in a deep decline. Be careful how you drink the mineral waters, however good they may be for taking away pains in the stomach. The prioress and all the sisters desire their kind regards. I am very sorry to hear of the illness of my good father the prior. We do not forget to pray for him. Let me hear how he is, and tell me also what has become of Delgado. Remember me to all the Religious and to those fathers you think fit. May God be with you. What a long letter I have written! But I was glad to hear all the sisters were well, and above all your Reverence: since I am ever anxious for the health of our prioresses, of whom we stand so much in need. May God protect you, my daughter. I sometimes hear from Caravaca and Veas. They are full of troubles at Caravaca; but I hope in God they will soon be free from them.
TERESA DE JESUS
September 7th, 1578.
P.S.–Now that we write oftener to each other, how is it you never say a word about Brother Gregorio? Remember me kindly to him, and tell how your affairs are going on. If you do not write and let me know how everything is going on, no one else will. I should like to hear on what terms you are with Father Antonio de Jesus. I will not write to Father Nicolao, till I hear from you. When you send three or four letters together, you must pay half a real for the postage; if there be more than four you will have to pay more. As I know by ex-experience what a misery it is to be in want, and how difficult it is to get money at Seville, I dare not at present absolutely refuse Father Nicolao. With regard to the postulant, our father must hear what both parties have to say, and then he will be able to form a judgment: but as he is now so much occupied, he may not advert to the matter.
1 "Como se ayuden, les ayudará Dios." These words have become proverbial.
2 "El agua de azar. "
Letter 8th. The Saint complains of the prioress neglecting to inform her how affairs were going on. She also praises Father Nicolao de Jesus Maria, who was the first General of the Discalced Carmelites, though once he was a secular priest. He was a very holy and prudent man. The prioress to whom the Saint addresses this letter, had been deposed from her office during the persecution at Seville; and as she refused to be elected a second time, St. Teresa sweetly exhorts her to agree for the good of the convent, &c. Date, 1579. Carta LX. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The grace of the Holy Spirit be with you, my daughter.
I know not the reason why you are so long silent, especially at a time when I am so anxious to know how affairs are going on. I assure you I am not silent here, respecting the welfare of your house. I wish to inform you that Father Nicolao is now prior of Pastrana: he came to see me, and his visit gave me great comfort. I praised our Lord for having given us and our Order such a fit subject, and a man of such eminent virtue. It seems as if His Majesty has chosen him to be the instrument of good to our house, considering how many labours and troubles he has endured. Recommend him frequently to our Lord, for you are bound to do so.
You must not refuse, my daughter, to accept again the office of prioress; to do so would be a foolish kind of perfection. We all desire you would accept it, and we try our utmost to accomplish this object; the reasons you give are mere trifles. It is not a matter relating to your Reverence alone: the whole Order feels interested in it, and the glory of God also so strongly requires your consent and acceptance, that I wish the business was already accomplished, both for the honour of the house, and for the consolation of our Father Gracian. Even were your Reverence not suitable for the office, you could not help accepting it: how much more, "when we have nothing better," as the proverb says? If God shall do us this favour, you must be silent, and obey, and not say a word, otherwise you will make me very angry with you. What I have said will, I trust, be sufficient to let you know that we are quite aware you do not desire the office. It is, indeed, a heavy cross: this I know by experience, so that no one need tell me. But God will help you, and I already foresee the storm will blow over.
I should be very glad to know if those sisters are sensible of their fault, or if they oppose you in anything–in a word, how they are going on, for I am in great trouble with regard to their souls.1 I beg of you, for the love of God, to give me a full account of everything. By means of the archbishop, you may send your letters to Roque de Huertas, and he will forward them to wherever I may be. Sister Isabel de San Pablo will write and let you know all that happens here, because I have no time myself to do so. Give my kind regards to my daughter Blanca, and tell her I am quite pleased with her, and very much obliged to her parents, for the kindness they have shown your Reverence. Thank them on my part.
I assure you, that what has happened in your convent is quite a history which astonishes me, and makes me desirous of hearing the whole affair related with truth and clearness. Write and tell me how those two nuns especially are going on; for as I said before, I feel quite concerned for them. Remember me to all my sisters, particularly to my Gabriella, and Sister San Francisco: and tell the sub-prioress, she must consider this letter as written to herself.
Just this moment I have been called to speak to Father Nicolao. To-morrow I shall depart for Valladolid, for our father the vicar-general has commanded me to go there as soon as possible; thence I shall go on to Salamanca. There was no great necessity for my going to Valladolid: but Señora Doña Maria and the bishop requested me to come. It is, however, absolutely necessary that I should go to Salamanca, for the house there which the sisters occupy is very unhealthful, and they have a great deal of trouble with the person from whom they bought the house: he really torments the life out of them, and day after day they suffer some vexations: what they have already endured has been very afflicting. Beg of our Lord that we may be able to purchase another more convenient house, and one that may be got cheap. May His Majesty preserve you, my daughter, and allow me to see you once more before I die.
I depart to-morrow: hence I am now so busy, that I am unable to write to all my daughters, nor have I time to say more. Let me know if they received my last letter.
Your Reverence's unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 According to Bishop Palafox, these Religious to whom the Saint alludes seem to have been the cause of the persecution.
Letter 9th. This letter was written after the mother-prioress had been re-established in her office by the command of the Vicar General, Fray Angel de Salazar, who had received power for this object from the Pope's Nuncio. Date, 1579. Carta LXI. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The grace of the Holy Spirit be with your Reverence.
My daughter,–It is with great reason that I give you this title, for though I have always loved you tenderly, I now love you so much more, that I am surprised at myself: hence, I feel extremely desirous to see you and embrace you. May our Lord be praised, from whom comes every blessing, because He has made you victorious in a battle which has been so terrible. I do not attribute the victory to your virtue, but to the fervent prayers which all the nuns have been offering up for your success.
God grant we may be such, that He may accept the thanks we give Him for such a great blessing.
Father Provincial sent me the letter which the sisters wrote to me, and Father Nicolao gave me yours; by these I find that you are re-established in your office; and this gives me the greatest consolation, because this was the only thing which could have calmed our mind. Have patience: and since God has given your Reverence such a desire for suffering, you should be glad to have the opportunity of seeing it fulfilled in that, which I know has no small labour attached to it. If we were allowed what we liked and to leave other things which we disliked, that would not be imitating the example of our Spouse, who suffered so much for us in the garden during His passion: thus did He conclude His prayer: "Not my will, but Thine be done." This will we must ever accomplish, by doing whatever He requires of us.
I have requested Father Nicolao to give your Reverence what advice he thinks best for you, because he is very prudent, and he knows you.
I shall give my consent, therefore, to whatever he shall command your Reverence to do. All I beg of you is, that you will allow your Religious to speak as little as possible with any one, except with our Discalced fathers: I mean in matters relating to their souls. You must not be troubled you do not have them often to hear confessions, and that on this account your communions are less frequent. I tell you again, you must not trouble yourself about this matter, because it is of more importance not to have the trials you lately have had to endure.
If any of the fathers or nuns wish to change their confessors sometimes, you may grant them this favour. I have so little leisure, that I did not think of writing to you now. Remember me very kindly to all the nuns, and thank them for me for having entered so willingly into my views, so as to have given me such pleasure (by having re-elected you).1 May our Lady reward them and give them her benediction, and make them all saints.
I think you can hardly refuse to receive the eldest daughter of Henrique Freyla, considering how much we are indebted to him: however, do just as Father Nicolao shall tell you: to him I refer you. With regards to the youngest, it is not at all proper you should receive her now, because she is yet too young, and also because three sisters seldom agree together in the same house, and above all in ours, where the nuns are so few. But we must try and satisfy the parents, and say that her reception is deferred on account of her youth: we must not give them any pain.
O! if you did but know what great grief my brother felt when he heard of your sufferings! May God give you that rest and peace which are so necessary for you, for then my brother will be consoled. Send me the full particulars of everything, and especially how those two poor Religious are going on, and who must be in such trouble. Show them all the kindness you can, and endeavour to bring them back to a sense of their fault. Please God I shall leave here2 on St Ann's Day. I shall remain for a few days at Salamanca. You may direct your letters to Roque de Huerta. All the Religious here desire to be kindly remembered to you and the sisters. We are greatly indebted to them.
Our houses here are in such a good state, that we have reason to praise God for it. Recommend to His Majesty our affairs at Malagon, and also the business which brings me to Salamanca: and do not forget, especially at this time, every one to whom we are in any way indebted. To-day is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. I am so engaged just now, that I know not how I find time to write to you. I have been obliged to do so at intervals: for this reason I cannot write at present to Father Gregorio, though I had some thought of doing so. Write and send him my respects, and tell him I am glad to hear the good part he took in the late war against you, and I hope that he will share in the spoils. Tell him how our father-prior of the Carthusian is going on, in order that I may be able to write to him about our affairs.
Your Reverence's Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 Not in the original.
Letter 10th. This letter is very admirable, and treats of several subjects the nature of which will be seen by its perusal. Date 1580. Carta LXIII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The grace of the Holy Spirit be with your Reverence.
My Daughter,–To-day being the eve of the Presentation of our Lord, I received your Reverence's letter, and also the one sent by my sisters. I was quite pleased with them, and I cannot think the reason; for though you have given me many crosses, still I cannot help loving you very much, since I can easily forget all that is passed. And now, as I see your house has improved so much by your late sufferings, this makes me love it the more. God be praised that everything has ended so well. I think you must find yourself a little better,1 since your Religious do not now complain so much of you, as they used to do.
With regard to the tunic you wish to wear during the summer, if you will do me a favour, as soon as you receive this letter, take it off, and never mind the mortification you may feel. As all the religious know of your illness, they will not be scandalised; and you will also please God by complying with my wish. Do not act otherwise, for I know by experience the great heat of the place, and it would be much better for you and the sisters to follow the rules of the community, than to be all ill. What I say, applies to all those who are in the same necessity.
I thank our Lord that the election was conducted so well, for they say that when it is carried on in this way, the Holy Spirit always presides. You should rejoice in the sufferings (attached to your office2), and never give the devil an opportunity of making you dislike your dignity. You amuse me by saying you shall be glad to know if I recommend you to our Lord; I assure you, it is more than a year since not only I, but all our houses, have done so: I requested them to pray for you, and hence it is perhaps that your affairs have succeeded so well. May His Majesty prosper them still more.
I knew that as soon as Father Nicolao arrived, everything would go on well. But a short time before your Reverence was requested and commanded to accept the office of prioress again, you were very near ruining us all: you regarded only your own interest, but Father Nicolao had the welfare of the whole Order at heart, and this depended on your Reverence. Almighty God, however, has done the work. I wish he3 could remain here or at Seville, until this important affair was concluded. I also wish he could come here for a time, that so I might have an interview with him. It cannot be done now.
You already know that a few days ago, our father-vicar sent me a "letter-patent" to go to Villanueva de la Xara, for the foundation of a house; the place is near Roda. It is now almost four years since the magistrates of that town requested us to go there: other persons also, and especially the inquisitor of Cuenca, who was the procurator at Seville, begged of us to make the Foundation. But I saw many obstacles in the way, which prevented me complying with their wish. But Father Antonio de Jesus and the prior of Roda have been there and have done so much that I have resolved to go. It is twenty-eight leagues from this place. I should consider it a great happiness if Seville lay in the way, that so I might have the pleasure of seeing your Reverence, and quarrelling with you, or rather of speaking with you; for I suppose your sufferings have now made you an accomplished person.
I must return here before Easter, for I am allowed to remain only till the Feast of St. Joseph. Tell the father-prior that if he should come this way I shall be glad to see him. I wrote to his Reverence by the way of Madrid; and I should have written much oftener both to you and to him from this place, but I was afraid, lest the letters might be lost.
I was very glad to find my letters were not lost, for I told you what I thought about the election of a sub-prioress, though you know much better than I do what is the most suitable for your house. But I must tell you it is very inconvenient for both the prioress and sub-prioress to be ill. It is also just as inconvenient that the sub-prioress should not know how to read well, or be unable to conduct the choir: this is against our constitutions. Who can hinder you from sending to the Locutory any one you like, when any business has to be settled? And whom could you send if you were unwell yourself? I am persuaded that Gabriella will do nothing but what you command her; and if your Reverence should place her in authority over the sisters, she has virtue enough not to give bad example. I should be glad, then, to see you make choice of her. May God order everything for the best.
You make me laugh by telling me I must not believe all that Sister San Gerónimo says, as if I had not often said the same thing myself. You know well that in a letter I once wrote to Garcia Alvarez (and which your Reverence tore up) I said many things about her, in order that he might not give any credit to her extravagances. However, I assure you she is a good soul, and though she may now and then be a little foolish, there is no comparison between her and Beatriz; for if she errs, it is more through want of judgment than through malice. I may be deceived. Provided you allow her not to confess to any one except to our Discalced Fathers, I assure you she will come to herself. Sometimes she might make her confession to Rodrigo Alvarez, and tell him my opinion about her: always remember me very kindly to him.
I was quite delighted to see by the letters the great love the sisters have for you, and this meets with my sincere approbation. Your letter gave much pleasure and delight: would that I could say the same of the one which Sister San Francisco wrote to me! hers gave me nothing but sorrow, for in it seems to have had but little humility and obedience. Take great care, then, that she advance in these virtues, for she must have learned something wrong at Paterna. Forbid her to use such exaggerations, for though she thinks she does not tell a lie by these quibbles, yet such a style is quite opposed to religious perfection, and particularly when she writes to people with whom she should always speak with candour and clearness, for otherwise a superior may fall into a thousand mistakes. Tell her what I have now said in answer to her last letter: you may also tell her that when she corrects herself, I shall be satisfied with her.
But I would much rather she would endeavour to please our Lord: it is of little consequence whether she pleases me or not. O my daughter! would that I had leisure, and that my head was well enough, to give you a long account of all the things which have happened in this house. Thereby your Reverence would learn experience, and you would even beg pardon of God for not having informed me of everything, for I know you were present. A good intention may free some of the Religious from blame, but it will not be sufficient for others. Learn wisdom from experience; and since you have such respect for the constitutions, be resolved to observe them, unless you wish to gain a little in this world, and to lose God in the next.
All the sisters here now see, and acknowledge, too, the perdition to which they were hastening. Beatriz of Jesus is the only one who, though she sees everything is discovered, yet loved the sister to such a degree that she never informed me of anything, nor will she give me any information now: hence, she has lost all the good opinion I once had of her. Since my arrival, the father who used to hear their confessions has not done so, and I believe he will not hear them any more, for he was obliged to desist in compliance with the wish of the people, who were terribly excited against the convent. He was certainly a person very fit for his office, had he had reasonable people to deal with. God forgive those who took him away from this house, in which he might have advanced himself, as well as all the rest, in perfection.
He knew very well we had a right to do what we did: he sometimes comes to see me. I returned him many thanks, and it is only proper I should do so now: his simplicity quite pleases me. Youth and little experience do a great deal of harm. O my mother! the world is so full of malice, that it puts a bad construction on everything. If by the experience we have already had we do not take care of ourselves, everything will get worse and worse. Since a great part of the government has been confided to you, I beg of your Reverence, for the love of our Lord, to be constant in your attention to all those entrusted to you. I will do the same on my part.
I am surprised you did not send me the verses, for no doubt many were made on account of the election. I was glad to hear you had such merriment in your house, provided it was in moderation. If I said anything (severe), it was for some particular reason: my Gabriella was the cause of it. Remember me kindly to her. I earnestly wish I could write to her.
I take with me, as sub-prioress, San Angel; and the prioress I shall take from Toledo, though I have not yet determined whom to choose. Earnestly beg our Lord that He will accept this Foundation. I also recommend Beatriz to your prayers. I feel much compassion for her. I am pleased with what Margarita tells me, if things are there in the state she says they are. If the sisters only see your Reverence loves them, everything will come right in time.
I am astonished, on considering how much we are indebted to the father-prior of the Carthusians. Send him my sincere respects and gratitude. Tell all the sisters to pray for me, and do not forget yourself to remember me, for I am now very old, and quite worn out.4 It is nothing wonderful that the father-prior has a regard for me, for he only returns the esteem which I have for him. May God preserve him, since he is a great treasure to us: you are, therefore strictly bound to remember him in your prayers. May His Majesty be with you also, and preserve you. Amen.
Your Reverence's unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
P.S.–You may judge by the length of this letter the great desire I had to write to you, for this letter is four times longer than any I have addressed to the prioresses of our other houses, and seldom am I able to write to them myself. I am pleased to hear of the good order in which the father-prior has put your affairs, for what is due to my brother will not now be lost, whatever distress you may be in. All the sisters here are quite happy, and the prioress is extremely good. I assure you she is one of the best we have, and what is most important, she enjoys perfect health. The convent is like a paradise. Many kind remembrances to Father Gregorio; ask him why he forgets me. Kind regards to Father Soto also. His friendship has been vary useful to your Reverence.
1 In health.
2 Not in the original.
3 Father Nicolao.
4 This Letter was written in 1580, and the Saint died two years after, aged sixty-seven.
Letter 10th. The Saint sends the mother-prioress an account of the death of her brother, Lorenzo de Cepeda. St. Teresa bore her brother's death with heroic fortitude and submission to the Divine will, as this affecting letter clearly proves. Date, 1579. Carta LXIV. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The Holy Spirit be with your Reverence.
My mother,–It seems our Lord does not wish me to remain long without afflictions, for you must know that He has been pleased to call to Himself His good friend and servant, Lorenzo de Cepeda. He was seized so violently with the "bloody-flux," that he died under it in less than six hours. Two days before, he had received the Most Blessed Sacrament. He died in his perfect senses, recommending himself very devoutly to our Lord. I hope in the goodness of God that he is now in the enjoyment of eternal glory, for he always lived in such a way as to have no other care but to serve Him: everything else soon tired him; and on this account he retired to his country house, which was about a league from Avila, in order to avoid the noise and gaiety of the world.
His prayer was continual, for he always kept himself in the presence of God: hence, His Majesty filled his soul with so many graces and favours, that sometimes I have been quite astonished at them. He was very fond of doing penance: he even did more than ever I wished him to do. He gave me an account of all his interior life, and it was wonderful to see the attention he paid to whatever I said: this I think arose from the great affection which he had for me. I now return such affection by rejoicing that he has left this miserable life, and is now in a place of repose. This I say not for the sake of saying it: but I assure you, when I think of his happiness I feel great joy.1 I feel much for his children: but I hope God will help them, through the prayers of their father.
I have given your Reverence this exact account, because I know you will be grieved to hear of his death, and this account may help to console you all; for he certainly deserves to be regretted by the sisters. It was wonderful to see what he felt, on hearing of your afflictions, for great was the love he had for your house. Now is the time to repay that love, by commending his soul to God: on condition, however, that if he should not stand in need of your prayers (as I think he does not, considering the life he led), they may be applied to those souls who have greater need of them, in order that they may find some relief from them.
I must tell you that a short time before his death, he wrote to me at St. Joseph's convent in Segovia, where I now am, and which is eleven leagues from Avila. In that letter he said many things with regard to the shortness of life, which quite astonished me. And then, my daughter, it is certain everything passes quickly away, we ought continually to be thinking how to die a good death, rather than of the means how we are to live. Since I must still remain in this world, God grant it may be that I may serve Him in something. I am four years older than my brother was, and yet God has been pleased I should survive him. I have now quite recovered from my late illness, though I still have my usual indispositions, especially a pain in my head.
Tell my father Rodrigo Alvarez that his letter just came when I wanted it, for it speaks of the great advantage of afflictions. Tell him also that I think God works miracles through him, even during his life: what then will He not do after his death?
I have just heard that the Moors of Seville are conspiring together to get possession of the city. What a fine opportunity you will all have of becoming martyrs! Inquire if the report be true, and order the mother sub-prioress to send me an account of every particular. I was very pleased to hear you were in good health, as I was grieved before to hear you were ill. For the love of God, take great care of yourself. I have been told a good remedy for your disease, viz., dog-roses beaten to powder, when they are dry, and about half an ounce should be taken every morning. But ask the doctor about it. Let me beg of you not to be so long again, without writing to me.
Remember me very kindly to all the sisters, and to San Francisco. Mother-prioress and all the community here send their regards. It must seem to you very delightful to be among standards and the tumults of war,2 if you only knew how to profit and to draw spiritual reflections from all the strange things you must see in that place. It is very necessary, however, for you to be on your guard, in order not to be distracted. I am very anxious you should all become saints.
What should you say if the Foundation of Portugal were made? Don Teutonio, archbishop of Evora, informs me that the town is not more than forty leagues from this place. I should feel great comfort were the foundation commenced. Since God spares my life, I desire to do something for His honour and glory; and as I have not long to live, I will not spend my time so idly as I have hitherto done in past years during which I suffered so much in my interior. As to other things, what I have done is not worth speaking about. Beg of our Lord to give me strength, that I may employ my time in doing something for His glory.
I have already told you, you may show this letter to Father Gregorio: I hope he will consider it as addressed to himself, for I certainly do love him in our Lord, and I have a great desire to see him. My brother died on the Sunday after the Feast of St. John. May His Majesty watch over you, and make you what I desire you to be.
Your Reverence's Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
July 4th, 1579.
1 It seems as if the Saint had a revelation of his happiness.
2 The Saint alludes to the rumoured insurrection of the Moors.
This letter is remarkable for its severity, vigour, and spirituality; for, whether the Saint wrote in anger or in love, everything that came from her pen bears the impress of her heroic soul, which was always on fire for the good of her Order. This letter is also interesting from having been written only four months before the Saint's death, in 1582. When the Saint was on the point of departing for the Foundation of Burgos, the Foundation at Granada was also proposed to her. As, however, she could not attend to it in person, she entrusted it to Mother Anne of Jesus, who was then at Veas. She sent her two nuns from Avila to assist her in this Foundation, one of whom was called Mother Maria de Christo, and the other was named Antonia del Espiritu Santo. The Provincial, on the other hand, commanded her to take the rest of the nuns belonging to the convent at Veas. It seems she took too many, and for this the Saint blames her, and the other Religious likewise, for leaving their convent. Besides, she reproves them for not having sent either her or the father-provincial an account of what they had done at Granada. The rest of the letter treats of several subjects. Carta LXV. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The Grace of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Very strange are the complaints you have made against our father-provincial, considering how negligent you have been in writing to him, since your first letter, in which you had informed him about having made the foundation: you have acted in the same way towards me. His Reverence was here on the Feast of the (Exaltation) Cross, and said he knew nothing about you except what I had told him: this I merely learnt from a letter which I received from the prioress of Seville, who told me you were thinking of purchasing a house for twelve thousand ducats.
It is not at all surprising that rather severe rules should be made for a convent, in which such great prosperity reigns. But the deep artifice you made use of in order not to obey has sensibly afflicted me, on account of the bad example it may give to the rest of the Order, and because the prioresses will be able to introduce a custom of taking liberties, for which they will find plenty of excuses. If, as you say, those gentleman be so stingy, it was very unwise to have taken so many1 Religious with you, and to have sent so many others back who had only just arrived. I cannot imagine how you had the heart to make them come such a long distance.
You should have sent to Veas those who arrived, and others also with them: you did very wrong in having so many in the house, especially as you saw those gentlemen were against it; and yet you thought of sending for more from Veas: how could you have done so, when you had no house which you could call your own? I certainly am surprised the gentlemen had such patience. The whole affair was badly managed from the very beginning: and since you have no other remedy than what you mention, I think it best your Reverence should make use of it; for since you take so much precaution in receiving nuns, the same precaution, if not greater, is necessary for this affair. However, it seems to me your precaution is far too great for such a large place.
I could not help laughing at the fright you gave us, by saying that the archbishop would suppress the convent. At present I see no sign of such a thing, nor do I see why I should make so much of it. He will die before he can accomplish such a deed. If any want of obedience should be introduced into the Order, it would be much better there had never been a convent, because our advantage does not consist in having many houses, but in having Religious who are holy to live in them.
I know not when your letters can be sent to our father-provincial. I fear it will be near six weeks before he can have them, and even then, I do not know how I shall send them by a safe courier, because he has left here for Soria, and thence he goes to so many places on his visitation, that we cannot possibly tell in what town or city he may be found: neither can we know for certain when we shall hear from him, or of him. As far as I can learn, he was at Villanueva, when the poor sisters arrived: I was in great affliction, when I thought of the trouble and shame he would have on seeing them, for as the town is so small, it is impossible to keep their arrival secret; and it will also do us no small hurt, when every one shall be made acquainted with such a foolish act. You might easily have sent them to Veas, until the father-provincial has been informed of everything, for they have not had leave to return to the house whence they were taken, having been made by the command of the provincial conventuals of Veas. I think, however, that some remedy may be found for the evil: but your Reverence is the sole cause of it, through not having mentioned how many Religious you took with you, or if you received any lay-sister: indeed, you seemed to take as little notice of the provincial, as if he had no authority whatever.
According to what he told me, and considering how matters stand at present, it will be impossible for him to come to you before the winter. God grant that the father (vicar) provincial may be able to undertake the journey, for I have just received a letter from Seville, in which the prioress tells me that he has caught the plague (which is in the city, though the public do not yet know of it): brother Bartolomi is also seized with it, and this afflicts me exceedingly. Should you not already have heard the sad news, earnestly recommend them to our Lord, for their death would be a great loss to the Order. The father-vicar writes in the postscript of her letter that he is a little better, but not out of danger. The poor nuns are in great affliction, and with reason, because they suffer martyrdoms in their house, and far greater labours than the nuns in your house: and yet they do not complain so much as yours do! It is not so great a torment to be confined in such a small space, as to want health and nourishment; and since you are in such high esteem with so many grandees, I see not what reason you have to complain: we cannot expect everything to happen just as we wish.
Mother Beatriz informs father-provincial, that she expects the father-vicar will send back to their convents the nuns of Veas and Seville. In Seville they are not in a condition to receive them, and the distance is very great; besides, it is in no ways proper to send them back: when, however, there is any necessity for such a step, our father will see that it is taken.
As for the Religious of Veas, it is so proper they should return, that if I were not fearful of being the occasion of your offending God by some act of disobedience, I would send an express command to your Reverence, because in everything relating to the affairs of our Discalced Carmelites, I hold the place of our provincial. In virtue, then, of my authority, I direct and command that all those who have come from Veas shall return back as soon as possible, except the mother-prioress, Ana de Jesus: even though they should have a house suitable in every respect, what use would it be, unless they had a revenue sufficient to keep them from want? It is not wise to begin a foundation with such a large community; and for many other reasons it is better.
For some days I have been recommending this matter to our Lord (for I did not wish to answer the letters immediately), and I find it is God's will this should be done; the more repugnance you feel, the more must it be done. It is quite opposed to the spirit of our Religious to be attached to anything, even were it to their prioress, for this would always prevent them from advancing in perfection. God wishes His spouses to be attached to no one but Himself. I do not desire the house should commence in the same way as that of Veas did; for I shall never forget the letter which the sisters wrote to me from that convent, when your Reverence gave up office. Attachments are the source of disunion and other disorders which are not perceived at first. On this account, I beg of you, for the love of God, not to follow this time any opinion but mine; for when afterwards you shall be more securely established, and the Religious more disengaged, then they may return, if it should be considered expedient.
I don't really know who those are that have followed you, for you kept this a secret from me and your father (provincial). I did not think your Reverence would have taken so great a number with you; but they were those who were very attached to your Reverence. Oh! true spirit of obedience, which makes us have no repugnance in loving those who hold the place of God. I beg of you, through love of the same God, to consider that you are bringing up souls to be the spouses of our crucified Saviour; for this reason you ought to mortify them in their will, so that they may be not attached to trifles. Remember that you are beginning a Foundation in a kingdom newly conquered,2 and that your Reverence and all the other sisters are obliged to advance the more in perfection, not as weak and timid women, but like strong and valiant women.
What does it matter, my mother, whether the father-provincial style you president, or prioress, or call you by your name, Ana de Jesus? It is certain that if you were not at the head of the community, people would no more apply to you than to another, for there have been prioresses like yourself.3 As you have so seldom written, it is no wonder they are ignorant whether you have been elected or not. I assure you, I am quite grieved to see the Discalced Carmelites so soon become attached to such mean trifles, and that they should even make them the subject of conversation, and above all, that Mother Maria de Christo4 should take great notice of such things! This seems so strange to me, that I believe either her imperfections have affected her head, or the devil has been using all his art to introduce diabolical principal into the Order.
After all, your Reverence is praised for being very courageous, as if submission would take away your courage! May God give my Discalced daughters the grace to be humble and obedient and submissive; for courage without these virtues is nothing but the source of numerous imperfections.
I now remember that in one of the letters which I received a few days ago, I was informed that one of the nuns whom you brought from Veas had some relations in Granada, who had helped her much on her journey. If this be the reason she is kept there, I leave it to your prudence to keep her, or send her back, just as you think fit: but I do not give you the same liberty with regard to the others.
I can easily believe your Reverence must have many troubles in this commencement of the Foundation. Do not, however, wonder at it, for so important a work cannot be accomplished without them, since the reward (they say) is very great. God grant that the imperfections with which such works are performed, may not deserve punishment rather than rewards: this consideration always makes me fearful.
I will write to the Prioress of Veas, that so she may contribute something towards the expenses of the journey, for which you yourself have such slender means. I shall tell her, that if Avila were as near (as Veas) I should be very glad to take back my nuns. This may be done in time, by the help of our Lord, and so your Reverence may tell them that as soon as the Foundation is finished, and you shall have a sufficient number of Religious to supply their place, they must return to their own house.
It is not long since I wrote to your Reverence, to other mother-prioresses, and to Father John of the Cross, giving you an account of all that had happened here. I do not, then, think it necessary to write any more: this letter will be sufficient for all. God grant they may not be offended with me, as they were with our father (provincial) for calling your Reverence president: I mean as matters go on at present. In this part we call them so, and not prioress, until they are elected on our father's arrival: after all, prioress and president are both the same.
I quite forgot to mention this. I am informed that the Religious of Veas, even after the chapter has been held, got out of their house to adorn the church! I cannot understand how this can be done, because not even the provincial himself can give them leave, since the Pope, by a "motu proprio," has especially forbidden it under pain of excommunication: besides, the constitutions expressly forbid it. In the beginning of the Order, this was not of such consequence, but now I am very glad it is otherwise. Now we are not allowed to go so far as to shut the gate. The sisters of Avila know well such a thing cannot be done: I cannot imagine why they did not tell you so. Look to this matter, for the love of God, for I am sure His Majesty will provide some one to adorn the church: He can find a remedy for everything.
I feel quite grieved every time I think of the inconvenience you have put those gentlemen to. I told you the other day to use every possible exertion in order to find a house, even though it might not be convenient in every respect; for whatever inconvenience you might suffer yourself, it is not proper they should suffer who have done you so much good. I have already written to Doña Ana, and I only wish I could find words sufficient to thank her for all the favours she has bestowed upon us. Our Lord, however, will not fail to reward her for all that she has done in this affair.
If you desire anything from our father, remember you have not written to him: and, as I told you before, it will be very late before I can send your letters to him; however, I will send them as soon as I can. He will have to go from Villanueva to Daimiel, in order to take possession of the monastery, and thence he will proceed on to Malagon and Toledo, and afterwards to Salamanca and Alva. When these visitations have all been made, he will have I know not how many prioresses to elect. He told me at his departure, he did not think he should be at Toledo before the month of August. I am quite grieved to think of the long journeys he has to make in such hot places. Pray for him, and induce your friends to try all they can to purchase another house for you.
The sisters I spoke of may stay till you have informed his Reverence of everything, and he will do what he thinks for the best, though you have not given him an account of anything, nor even so much as let him know the reason why you kept those Religious. May God grant us His light, without which we cannot succeed in anything, and may He ever be the guide of your Reverence. Amen.
Your Reverence's Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
P.S.–I have written to the mother-prioress of Veas, respecting the journey of the nuns, and I have commanded her to receive them as privately as possible: but it is of little consequence, even should it be known. Give this letter to the mother sub-prioress, and let her and her two companions and Father John of the Cross read it; my head will not allow me to write any more.
1 The number amounted to eight.
2 Granada, which was taken from the Moors; or the Saint may mean, that this would be the first Foundation since the reform.
3 This sentence is obscure in the Spanish.
4 This was a holy Religious in the convent of Avila, whom the Saint had sent to the Foundation of Granada.
"Once (says the Saint), when I was in the hermitage of Nazareth at the convent of St. Joseph in Avila, it being the Vigil of Pentecost, and while I was reflecting on the exceeding great favour which our Lord has bestowed upon me on that same day twenty years before, I was seized with an ecstasy, and with strong impetuous and interior movements, which quite suspended all my senses.
"While I was in this wonderful rapture, I heard the following words from our Lord, saying: 'Tell all the Discalced fathers, in my name, that they must endeavour to observe four things, which, as long as they faithfully observe, their Order will continue to increase more and more; but if they forget them, let the fathers be assured they will soon fall from their first favour.
1. "'The Superiors should always be of one mind.
2. "'Though they may have many convents there should be few Religious in each.
3. "'They must speak but little with Seculars, and this little should be for the good of their souls.
4. "'They should teach more by their works than by their words.'" 3
"This rapture happened in the year 1579; and because what I have said is most certain and true, I have signed it with my name.
"TERESA DE JESUS."
This comprises a short, but very beautiful and edifying, exhortation, which the Saint addressed to the nuns of Avila when she was made prioress. This house was not one of the reformed, and the nuns were exceedingly annoyed at our Saint being appointed the prioress over them. She was commanded to accept the charge by the Apostolic visitor, Padre Maestro Fray Pedro Fernandez. The nuns at first refused to receive her. When she entered the house, most of them refused to obey her, because it was their convent she had left in order to commence the work of her reform. One day, however, she assembled them all in the choir, and having placed an image of our Lady in the chair of the prioress, she sat down at the feet of it. The nuns began to tremble, for they expected a most severe reprimand But their hearts were quite changed when they heard the Saint deliver the following sweet exhortation.
"My daughters, mothers, and sisters: by the obedience which I owe to my superiors, our Lord has been pleased to send me back to this house to exercise the office of prioress: I never thought of such a dignity, because I knew I was far from deserving it.
"I was grieved at my election, both because a charge was given to me, the duties of which I know not how to fulfil, and also because they have taken away from you the right you should have of making your own choice, and thus they have given you a prioress against your will and pleasure–a prioress, too, who would think she had done a great deal could she only learn from the least amongst you the virtues which are practised in this house.
"I come to serve and to please you in everything I can, and I hope our Lord will assist me for this purpose; with respect to everything else, the least amongst you is able to teach me and correct me. You must, then, my dear sisters, let me know what I can do for each one of you, for I shall be most willing to do what you ask, even were it to shed my blood for you.
"I am a daughter of this house, and your sister too. I know the disposition and wants of all the Religious, or at least of the greater part of them; you have no reason, then, to fear being under the government of one who is wholly yours by so many titles.
"And though I have till now lived amongst my Discalced nuns, and have been their prioress, nevertheless I hope through the goodness of our Lord to be able to govern those who are not discalced. My desire is that we may all serve our Lord with sweetness and humility, and through our love of Him to whom we are so much indebted, that we may perform what our rules and constitutions command us. I know our weakness is great; but if we cannot fulfil all our observances, let us at least have strong desires of doing so: our Lord is compassionate, and He will give us strength to execute by little and little those desires and intentions."4
This short discourse the Saint addressed to the nuns at Valladolid before she left them, and only three weeks before her death.
"My daughters, I leave this house quite consoled by the perfection which I observe in you, by the poverty which you practise, and by the charity which I know you exercise one towards another. If you only persevere as you have hitherto done, our Lord will help you exceedingly.
"Each one ought to regulate her life in such a way, as not to neglect anything which may help her towards acquiring perfection.
"Never perform the duties of a Religious through mere custom; but strive to do heroic acts, and these with greater perfection every day.
"Endeavour to conceive ardent desires, since from these you may gain great profit, even though you might never be able to execute them."
These words were addressed to a Religious belonging to another Order.
"All those things will be so many crosses to him who loves God as you do, and if you consider often that God alone is with you in this house, it will contribute much to the profit of your soul.
"While you have no office which obliges you to take care of the convent, do not mind what passes in it, endeavour to imitate whatever you see perfect in each Religious, and to love her the more for it: profit also by the imperfections which you may notice in the other sisters.
"So great was the profit I drew from this exercise, that though there was a great number of Religious in the convent where I lived, they were no more trouble to me than if there had been none: on the contrary, I gained advantages. In a word, we may love our great God in all places; nor can any one hinder us from doing so. May He be blessed for ever."
The object of this advice is to show what advantage may be drawn from persecution.
"In order that the soul may gain some advantage from persecutions, it is good to consider that they are directed rather against God than against ourselves, because though we may receive the stroke, yet His Divine Majesty received the blow first, by the sins we committed against Him.
"We should also consider that a true lover has already made this agreement with her Spouse, viz., to belong entirely to Him, and to wish for nothing out of Him. If then he has already suffered persecution, why should not we also endure them? If we feel any pain, it should be for having offended His Majesty, and not for what we suffer, since it does not reach the soul; what is done is directed against this body of clay, which deserves so much to suffer.
1. "Our desire ought to be to die or to suffer.
2. "No one is tempted more than he can bear.
3. "Nothing happens without the will of God. 'My Father, my Father, the chariot of Israel, and the driver thereof,' said Elias to Eliseus."
Those exhortations were intended by the Saint, after her death, for Father Gracian, the first provincial of the reform. They were first spoken by the Saint to the Venerable Catherine of Jesus, foundress of the convent at Veas, the Saint appearing to her often after her death.
For the Father-Provincial.
This day, being Low Sunday, our holy mother appeared to me, and commanded me to tell your Reverence several things which she mentioned to me more than a month ago. But as they related to you alone, I neglected to mention them to you by letter, thinking it would be time enough when I should see your Reverence, for it is impossible to inform you in detail of all she said. However, I shall mention some of them here, in order that they may not be forgotten. The first is: "That you must not allow any of your Religious to write about revelations, nor to make any account of them, for though some of them may be really authentic, yet it is quite certain that many are false; and it is very difficult to discover the truth amidst a hundred lies." The subject itself is full of danger, for many reasons which she gave me.
The first reason is, that the more revelations of this kind there are, the more we are liable to fall away from our faith, which is more certain than any revelation. The second is, because men are very fond of such supernatural things, and they highly esteem that soul which is favoured with them. This, however, is contrary to the order established by God for the sanctification of the soul; for this must be effected by the practice of virtue, and fulfilling the commandments.
She said: "Your Reverence should use all possible diligence in putting a stop to this abuse, for it was very necessary to do so: otherwise (she said) the greater part of women would be led away by these imaginations; and as they have neither the prudence nor the knowledge of men to be able to form a proper judgment of things, so they expose themselves to very great dangers (by giving credit to these revelations).
On this account she said, "That she did not wish her daughters to apply too much to the perusal of the works she wrote, especially her 'Life ' fearing they might be tempted to believe that perfection consists in these revelations; and thus they might feel desirous of having them, and try to imitate her in this way." She said several things to me on this subject, which are very true, viz., "That she did not acquire the glory she now enjoys by means of the revelations which she had during her life, but by her virtues; that your Reverence, though intending to do good, quite ruins the souls of the Religious by allowing them to give way to such things; that, though some of them should have true revelations, yet it is necessary you should disapprove of them, and give no more credit to them, as if they were nothing at all, because they often hinder, rather than advance, the soul." Her reasons were so powerful, that I have abandoned the intention I had of reading the "Life" of our holy mother.
Our holy mother also said: "That a subtile deceit might be concealed under these 'imaginary visions,' unless they were accompanied with the 'intellectual likewise' because that which is beheld with the interior eyes has much greater power than that which is seen with the eyes of the body, and though our Lord sometimes favours a soul with this kind of vision, for her greater good, yet it is very dangerous, on account of the cruel war which the devil wages against spiritual people who walk along this supernatural way, especially if they should be attached to any earthly thing. In that case we cannot be secure, unless we submit to our director, and yield to his judgment." She also said: "That the soul which is most separated from everything sensual is the most perfect."
This advice was intended for the Father-Provincial.
A few days before the feast of St Andrew, while I was at prayer recommending the affairs of our Order to God, our holy mother Teresa de Jesus, appeared to me, and said "Tell the Father Provincial he must command the Religious in his convents not to procure any favours, spiritual or temporal, by those means which seculars employ, for, if they do, they will obtain neither the one nor the other; but they must trust only in God, and live in recollection. Sometimes they think they do good to seculars, and to our Order, by frequently conversing with them: but let them beware, for they rather lose their esteem, and their own soul receives much harm. By thinking to make seculars spiritual, they themselves become secular, and imitate their way of living, from which the devil knows well how to gain advantage over them; for he sees that temporal solicitude brings disorder and trouble into the Order, and cools the spirit of recollection.
"Let them be very careful (she said) to remember these things, both for their own good and that of others also. Before they resolve upon anything, let them first recollect themselves by prayer, and then He will give them so much of His spirit and intelligence as to make them capable of performing what He may have taught and commanded them. Let them be careful, too, to keep this spirit within themselves, and also to teach it to others."
This was also intended for the Father-Provincial.
Our holy mother bid me also tell your Reverence: "That the priors must not be re-elected; and this for many important reasons. The first is, because the advancement of every one in particular is more important than the assistance which a superior (who is re-elected) could give to the others. The good of the community is also greater when the Religious obey those who have been superiors: this cannot be practised without good example. Moreover, new priors will accustom themselves little by little to their duties; and though they may not have such great experience as those who have been priors, they should gain profit from their advice: but those who have been priors should not give their advice, nor interfere with the government of others, without being asked." I was also told: "It was very important that those who have been superiors should become true subjects, and should show themselves as such for an example to others, and that they may have no reason to think they cannot live without having the power of commanding and governing. They should show themselves subjects in such a way as if they had never been superiors, and also as if they had no hopes of ever returning to their office: they should, then, study only their own profit; and by this means they will make themselves very useful to others, when they themselves shall become superiors again."
For the Father-Provincial.
This being the Feast of the three Kings,5 our holy mother commanded me to tell the Father-Provincial, "That among the complaints made by the Religious, one is, he does not practise any austerities, and that he wears linen. It is with reason they complain thus, because many of his subjects, not being desirous of his good living, take no notice of the labours and trials he endures in his journeys: but if they should see him some day eat meat, or take a little refreshment in his illness, then they are tempted to become superiors themselves.
"Let the superior, therefore, be very fond of doing penance, and correct the least excess in himself with regard to his food; because mortifications, when they do not injure our health, strengthen the spirit exceedingly.
"Let him banish with rigour (if it cannot be done with meekness) whatever tends to relaxation, either in the rules or constitutions; for in this matter the beginnings are generally small, but the end is dreadful."
For her Daughters, the Discalced Carmelites.
To-day being the Feast of the Kings, as I was asking our holy mother, who appeared to me, what books we should read, she took the "Catechism of Christian Doctrine," and said: "Behold, this is the book which I desire my Religious should read day and night, for in it is contained the law of God." And then she began to read about the "last judgment" in a tone that made me tremble, and that frightened me exceedingly; and for many days after her voice sounded in my ears. I discovered in this book a treasure of most sublime doctrine, and the perfection at which a soul arrives who takes it for her guide. Hence, I cannot help teaching sublime things to those souls who are under my charge: indeed, I have a great desire to teach them all that is contained in this catechism, and of making them learn it. As for myself, I am always anxious to read whatever appears to me fit to be learnt. The catechism contains quite a treasure for me. I endeavour to make my daughter love humility, mortification, and hard labour. As for the rest, our Lord will give it to them when He sees good.
Which the Saint delivered to one of her Daughters after her death.
MAXIM 1. "Love the more, and walk the more uprightly, as the way is strait and narrow (that leads to life)."
2. "Those in heaven and those on earth ought to be one and the same in purity and love; those in heaven, by enjoying; those on earth, by suffering. We, who are above, adore the Divine Essence; you who are yet on earth should adore the Most Blessed Sacrament. Make these words known to my daughters."
3. "The devil is so proud, that he tries to enter at the same door as God does,–viz., by confession, communion and prayer. But he strives to poison these fountains of health."
4. "We ought not to resolve to do anything of consequence, without having first recommended the matter to God by prayer."
5. "Let superiors be careful to bring up souls in a total disengagement from all earthly things, both interiorly and exteriorly; for they are intended to be the spouses of a king who is so jealous that He wishes us to forget even ourselves for love of Him."
6. "Let all Religious be great lovers of poverty, and let them rejoice in it, for while they continue such, the spirit by which they are led will remain with them."
1 See Preface.
2 "Avisos de la Santa Madre Teresa de Jesus, que ella dió en esta vida."
3 Those four advices are printed in the beginning of the "Constitutions of the Discalced Fathers." (See the Annotations of the bishop of Osma).
4 "Que piadoso es el Senor, y hará que poco á poco las obras igualen con la intencion y desco."
5 The three wise men–Feast of the Epiphany.
Carta VI. vol. i. English Translation, No. XVI.
Al muy Ilustre Señor Don Sancho d'Avila, Obispo de Jaen.
JESUS. La gracia del Espiritu Santo sea siempre con V. M.
He alabado á nuestro Señor, y tengo por gran merced suya, lo que V. M. tiene por falta–dexando algunos estremos de los que V. M. hacia por la muerte de mi Señora la Marquesa su madre, en que tanto todos hemos perdido.
Muy bien ha hecho V. M. en escribir su vida, que fue muy santa; y soy yo testigo desta verdad. Beso á V. M. las manos, por la que me hace en querer enviarmela, que tendré yo mucho que considerar, y alabar á Dios en ella. Esa gran determinacion, que V. M. no siente en si de no ofender á Dios, como quando se ofrezca ocasion de servirle, y apartarse de no enojarle, no le ofenda, es senal verdadera, se que lo es el deseo de no ofender á su Magestad. Y el llegarse V. M. al santisimo Sacramento cada dia y pesarle quando no lo hace, lo es de mas estrecha amistad.
Siempre vaya V. M. entendiendo las mercedes que recibe de su mano, para que vaya creciendo lo que le ama, y dexese de andar mirando en delgadezas de su miseria, que á bulto se nos representan á todos hartas, en especial á mi.
Y en eso de divertirse en el rezar el oficio divino, en que tengo yo mucha culpa, y quiero pensar es flaqueza de cabeza: ansi lo piense V. M. fues bien sabe el Señor, que ya que rezamos, querriamos fuese muy bien. Yo ando mejor: y para el año que tiene el pesado, puedo decir que estoy buena, aunque pocos ratos sin padecer: y como veo que ya que se vive, es lo mejor bien lo llevo.
Al Señor Marqués y á mi Señora la Marquesa, hermano de V. M. beso las manos de sus Señorias, y que aunque he andado léjos, no me olvido en mis pobres oraciones de suplicar á nuestro Señor por sus Señorias: y por V. M. no hago mucho, pues es mi Señor, y Padre de Confesion. Suplico á V. M. que al Señor D. Fadrique, y á mi Señora Doña Maria mande V. M. dar un recado de mi parte, que no tengo cabeza para escribir á sus Señorias; y perdoneme V. M. por amor de Dios. Su Divina Magestad guarde á V. M. y dé la santidad que yo le suplico. Amen.
Indigna sierva, de V. M. y su Hija,
TERESA DE JESUS.
De Avila, diez de Octubre, de mil quinientos y ochenta.
Carta VII. vol. i. English Translation, No. XVII.
All Mismo Ilustrisimo Señor Don Sancho d'Avila.
JESUS. La gracia del Espiritu Santo sea siempre con V. M.
Si supiera que estaba V M. en ese lugar, antes hubiera respondido á la carta de V. M. que lo deseaba mucho, para decir el gran consuelo que me dió. Paguelo la Divina Magestad á V. M. con los bienes espirituales, que yo siempre le suplico.
En la Fundacion de Burgos han sido tantos los trabajos, y poca la salud, y muchos ocupaciones, que poco tiempo me quedaba para tomar este contento. Gloria sea á Dios, que ya queda acabado aquello, y bien. Mucho quisiera ir par donde V. M. está; que me diera gran contento tratar algunas cosas en presencia, que se pueden mal por cartas. En pocas quiere nuestro Señor que haga mi voluntad: cumplase la de su Divina Magestad, que es lo que hace al caso. La vida de mi Señora la Marquesa deseo mucho vén. Debió de recibir tarde la carta mi Señora la Abadesa su hermana, y por leerla su merced, creo no me la ha enviado. Con mucha razon ha querido V. M. quede por memoria tan santa vida. Plegue á Dios la haga V. M. de lo mucho que hay en ella que decir, que temo ha de quedar corto.
O Señor! y qué es lo que padecé, en que sus Padres de mi sobrina la dexasen en Avila, hasta que yo volviese de Burgos! Como me vieron tan porfiada, salí con ello. Guarde Dios á V. M. que tanto cuida de hacerles merced en todo, que yo espero que ha de ser V. M. su remedio. Guarde Dios á V. M. muchos años, con la santidad que yo siempre le suplico. Amen.
Indigna sierva, y Subdita de V. M.,
TERESA DE JESUS.
De Palencia, doce de Agosto, de mil quinientos y ochenta y dos.
Carta XVI. vol. i. English Translation, No. XIX.
Al Reverendo Padre Maestro Fray Domingo Bañez, de la orden de Santo Domingo.
JESUS. La gracia del Espiritu Santo sea con V. M. y con mi alma.
No hay que espantar de cosa que se haga por amor de Dios, pues puede tanto el de Fray Domingo, que lo que le parece bien, me parece, y lo que quiere, quiero: y no sé en qué ha de parar este encantamiento.
La su Parda nos ha contentado. Ella está tan fuera de sí de contento despues que entró, que nos hace alabar á Dios. Creo no he de tener corazon para que sea Frayla, viendo lo que V. M. ha puesto en su remedio: y ansi estoy determinada á que la muestren á leer, y conforme á como le fuere, haremos.
Bien ha entendido mi espiritu el suyo, aunque no la he hablado; y Monja ha habido, que no se puede valer desde que entró, de la mucha oracion que le ha causado. Crea, Padre mio, que es un delicte para mi cada vez que tomo alguna, que no trae nada sino que se tomo solo por Dios: y vér que no tienen con qué, y lo habian de dexar por no poder mas: veo que me hace Dios particular merced, en que sea yo medio para su remedio. Si pudiese fuesen todas ansi, me seria gran alegria: mas ninguna me acuerdo contentarme, que la haya dexado por no tener.
Hame sido particular contento, vér cómo le hace Dios á V. M. tan grandes mercedes, que le emplee en semejantes obras, y vér venir á está. Hecho está Padre, de los que poco pueden; y la caridad que el Señor le dá para esto, me tiene tan alegre, que qualquier cosa havé por azudarle en semijantes obras, si puedo. Pues el llanto de la que traía consigo, que ne pensé que acabára. No sé para qué me la envió acá?
Ya el Padre Visitador ha dado licencia, y es principio para dar mas con el favor de Dios: y quizá podré tomar ese lloraduelos sí á V. M. le contenta, que para Segovia demasiado tengo.
Bien Padre ha tenido la Parda en V. M. Dice que aun no cree, que está acá. Es para alabar á Dios su contento y le he alabado de vér acá su sobrinito de V. M. que venia con Doña Beatriz; y me holgué hasta de verle. Porque no me lo dixo?
Tambien me hace al caso haber estado esta Hermana con aquella mi amiga Santa. Su Hermana me escribe, y envia á ofrecer mucho. Yo le digo, que me enternecido. Harto mas me parece la quiedo, que quando era viva. Ya sabrá, que tuvo un voto para Prior en San Estevan: todos los demás el Prior; que me ha hecho devocion verlos tan conformes.
Ayer estuve con un Padre de su orden, que llaman Fray Melchor Cano. Yo le dixe, que á haber muchos espiritus como el soyo en la orden, que pueden hacer los monasterios de contemplativos.
A Avila he escrito, para que los que le quieran hacer no se entibien, si acá no hay recando, que deseo mucho se comience. Porqué no me dice lo que ha hecho? Dios le haga tan santo como desco. Gana tengo de hablarle algun dia en esos miedos que trae, que no hace sino perder tiempo; y de poco humilde, no me quiere creer. Mejor lo hace el Padre Fray Melchor que digo, que de una vez que le hablé en Avila, dice le hizo provecho; y que no le parece hay hora, que no me trae delante. O qué espiritu, y qué alma tiene Dios alli! En gran manera me he consolado. No parece que tengo mas que hacer, que contarle espiritus agenos. Quede con Dios, y pidale que me le dé á mi, para no salir en cosa de su voluntad. Es Domingo en la noche.
De V. M. Hija y Sierva,
TERESA DE JESUS.
Lettres Inédites. Lettre Première.1
La grâce du Saint-Esprit soit avec votre Révérence.
Mon Père,–Je ne m'étonne pas que vous soyez malade, mais je suis surprise que vous soyez en vie d'apres ce que vous devez avoir essuyé intérieurement et extérieurement. On m'a fait beaucoup de peine lorsqu'on m'a dit que vous gardiez le lit, parceque je connais votre Révérence; mais comme le mal n'est pas dangereux, je me suis á moitié rassurée, et j'ai pense que ce pouvait être un rhume de la nature de ceux qui règnent dans ce moment. Je supplie votre Révérence d'une manière toute particulière de ne faire dire comment elle se trouve; qu'elle n'y manque pas pour l'amour de Dieu, quand même ce ne serait que par une lettre de la main du P. Miseria, je m'en contenterai.
Dites-moi aussi si vous avez besoin de quelque chose. Au reste, ne vous inquiétez de rien, et persuadez-vous bien que quand il semble que les choses sont mieux, c'est alors que je suis ordinairement plus mécontente que je n'ai lieu de l'être dans ce moment. Vous savez que le Seigneur veut toujours que nous voyions que c'est la Majesté divine qui fait ce qui nous convient; et afin que cela soit mieux compris et que nous nous apercevions que alors que tout succède mieux. On ne me dit rien de mon P. Padilla, ce qui me fait la plus grande peine, il ne m'écrit pas non plus; je voudrais qu'il jouít d'une santé parfaite, pour qu'il pût vous soigner, puisque le P. Balthasar doit vous quitter. Je prie instamment notre Seigneur de daigner vous remettre promptement en santé. J'écris à ces Pères-là pour leur faire part de ce que j'ai fait, et il me semble que le messager n'a pas d'autre mission que cela. Sachez, mon Père, que j'ai pensé que nous aurions bien besoin du bon nonce, car enfin c'est un surviteur de Dieu; son départ, s'il a lieu, me fera la plus grande peine. Je suis persuadée qu'il ne s'abstient d'agir que parce qu'on l'a dègoûté de ce que nous comptons faire: mais ce qui fait le sujet de ces craintes, on le négotie actuellement à Rome où nous avons quelqu'un qui s'en acquitte avec talent et sagesse, et qui lui donnera de l'occupation. Je me rappelle que le bon Nicolaso disait à son passage par cette ville, que les Carmes Déchaussés devaient avoir un Cardinal pour protecteur. Un de ces derniers jours j'ai parlé à un de mes parents d'un rang élevé, qui m'a dit qu'il y avait à Rome un curial qui à fait prévenir qu'il ferait tout ce que nous voudrions, pourvu qu'on le payât. Je lui avais déjà dit combien je serais bien aise d'avoir à Rome quelqu'un qui pût traiter certaines affaires avec le Père Général. Voyez s'il est convenable que l'ambassadeur demande quelque chose pour les Carmes Déchaussés.
Je vous apprends que le P. Fray Pedro Fernandez a été ici, et qu'il m'a assuré que si le Tostado n'était point porteur d'un titre en règle qui lui donnât pouvoir sur les visiteurs, celui des auteurs prevaudrait: mais que s'il avait ce pouvoir, il fallait se taire, obéir et changer de batterie, parce qu'il lui semblait que si les commissaires n'ont d'autre autorité que celle qu'ils avaient, ils ne pouvaient pas constituer une province et des définiteurs. Il faut donc que nous prenions d'autres mesures: adressons-nous à Dieu, qui est celui qui doit tout faire; qu'il daigne dans sa miséricorde vous rendre promptement à la santé, ainsi que nous l'en supplions tous. Le messager porteur de la présente n'est expédié que dans la vue de voir ce que vous désirez qu'on passe, et d'avoir des nouvelles de votre Révérence. Je vous prie d'avoir la bonté de dire au P. Jean Diaz comment il doit s'y prendre pour remettre quelques lettres au P. Soler. Il est très-important pour moi que votre Révérence l'envoie chercher, et qu'elle les lui remettre avec le plus grand secret, si elle ne peut pas faire autrement.
Indigne Servante de votre Révérence,
THERESE DE JESUS.
Ce 16 Fevrier.
Au Docteur Fray Mariano de Saint-Benoît à Madrid.
Jésus soit avec votre Révérence, mon Père et qu'il vous accorde la recompense que vous méritez pour les bonnes nouvelles que vous m'avez écrites, et qui, à ce qu'il paraît, nous sont extrêmement favorables par plusieurs raisons. Le jeune homme ne tarda pas à partir, que Dieu conduise ses pas pour sa plus grande gloire, la seule chose à laquelle nous devons tous aspirer. Je me réjouirais que votre Révérence se trouve si bien avec ces pères-là, qui au moins ne cherchent pas à mettre des entraves. On m'assure que le Père Fray Anselmo a écrit à l'Evêque de Salamangue pour l'engager à n'accorder aucune autorisation pour fonder aucun convent, ce que lui a suscité un procès semblable à celui d'ici, ni plus ni moins. Oh! mon père, qu'on sait mal conduire ces affaires! Celle en question serait maintenant terminée, si l'on avait su s'y prendre, tandis qu'elle n'a servi, qu'à déverser l'infamie sur les Carmes Déchaussés. Croyez que ce n'est qu'avec le temps que les affaires peuvent avoir du succès? Au demeurant, moi je pense que c'est par la volonté de Dieu que les choses vont ainsi, et que cela renferme un grand mystère. Nous verrons; et si l'on fait ce que vous dites, ce sera un bonheur. Que Dieu vous tienne compte de la bonne opinion que vous avez de ma manière de voir: Dieu veuille qu'elle soit durable; mais il me semble que celui qui en a une aussi bonne ne doit pas faire grand cas de la mienne. Je suis on ne peut pas plus contente de ce que les affaires soient conduites par des moines aussi habiles: que celui qui le permet ainsi, soit loué. Amen! Comme vous ne me dites jamais rien du Père Fray Balthasar, et que j'ignore où il est, je vous prie de lui dire bien des choses de ma part, ainsi qu'à mon Père Padilla et au Père Juan Diaz. La Prieure d'ici et celle de Malagombrianda se rappellent au souvenir de votre Révérence. La première se trouvait beaucoup mieux: mais depuis qu'elle est arrivée ce soir, elle est devenue plus malade. Nous espérons la conserver; que Dieu veuille lui prolonger la vie comme vous voyez que nous en avons besoin, et avoir votre Révérence en sa sainte garde. Faites attention, mon père, et songez bien toujours que ces amitiés pourraient devenir trop violentes pour ne point se tenir sur ces gardes en tout point; le véritable ami, l'ami, dont volonté il n'y a rien à craindre. Je désirerais bien connaître le réponse en question; je voudrais aussi que votre Révérence et le Père Maître pussent rester là où ils croiraient être bien accueillis, il est certain que, quoi qu'on fasse, il ne peut pas manquer des croix dans cette vie pour celui qui est du parti du Crucifié.
Quant à Antonio Manuel, il se trompe: Doña Catherina d'Otalora n'est pas religieuse chez nous, et elle ne l'a jamais été. Cette dame devint veuve, aida à la fondation de couvent en question, où je ne crois pas qu'elle soit maintenant. Outre que je ne la connais pas, il ne m'appartient pas de m'occuper d'elle: ma profession d'ailleurs me le défend. Je prie votre Révérence de le lui dire; on m'a même fait naître un scrupule sur ce que j'ai demandé à votre Révérence dans ce cas; mais on verra combien je connais peu ce Monsieur-là, qui quoique haut placé, et mon parent, je ne l'ai vu qu'une seule fois, et j'ignore ce dont son âme peut s'accommoder; ceci soit dit entre nous. Je supplie donc votre Révérence de ne rien faire dans cette circonstance que ce qu'elle croira convenable après avoir observé sa porsonne. Ne lui dites rien de cela, pour ne point le chagriner et lui faire de la peine; mais dites-lui bien des choses de ma part, et que je ne lui écris pas, parce que j'ai mal à la tête, laquelle continue toujours d'être assez mauvaise. Dites-lui aussi que j'ai écrit aujourd'hui à madame sa femme. Doña Beatriz, et surtout ne manquez pas de lui faire savoir que la dame dont il parle n'est pas religieuse.
Je prie Dieu qu'il ait votre Révérence en sa sainte garde, comme nous en avons tous besoin. Amen.
THERESE DE JESUS.
Ce 15 Mai.
A la Révérende Mère, Prieure de Saint-Jean de Salamanque.
Le Sainte-Esprit soit avec votre Révérence.
Je suis bien fâchée des craintes qu'ont montrées pour votre maison celles qui vous temoignent leur intention de s'en aller, et que vous ne desireriez pas moins conserver aujourd'hui, attendu que celle qui causait le mécontement n'y est plus, Il faut qu'elles fassent le bien, la seule chose pour laquelle elles sont venues, pour que cette maison ne déchoie pas de la bonne réputation et de la bonne idée que doivent avoir d'elle celles qui la quittent. J'espère qu'on le fera ainsi, parce qu'il y restera de bonnes religieuses avec elles. Je pense que vous êtes toujours indisposée; encore si Dieu nous fait la grâce que vous ne soyez pas alitée, ce sera un moindre mal. Soignez-vous pour l'amour de Dieu, et que la Majesté divine daigne m'accorder de vous voir bientôt, de voir que Dieu veut que vous souffriez de toutes les manières; qu'il soit pour tout loué, et qu'il daigne vous récompenser des aumones que vous m'avez faites, avec lesquelles j'ai été ces jours derniers assez mauvaise pour m'oublier, comme également avec le voile, parce que celui que je portais en forme de guimpe, je l'avais fait pour le mettre par-dessus.
Au reste, il faut convenir que les voiles que votre Révérence me donne sont fort jolis; mais faites-moi la grâce, je vous en supplie, de me rien envoyer qu'autant que je vous le demanderai: je préfère que vous en profitiez et que cela serve à vos plaisirs. Dans cette fondation tout prospère si bien, que je ne sais pas ce que nous allons devenir. Priez notre Seigneur de nous donner de bonnes maisons. Nous ne voulons plus l'ermitage: des maisons et des personnes disposées à nous en procurer ne nous manquent pas. L'évêque ne cesse pas de nous rendre service; priez Dieu pour lui, je vous en supplie, ainsi que pour tous nos bienfaiteurs.
Je prie votre Révérence d'ecrire une petite lettre au P. Fray Domingo, si je ne puis le faire moi-même, pour lui donner des nouvelles de cette fondation. Je tâcherai cependant de lui écrire un mot; mais si je ne le fais pas, faites-lui bien des compliments de ma part. Il m'a charmee par la manère accomplie avec laquelle il a approvisionné les soeurs: tout le monde s'en ferait pas autant: j'en suis bien contente, surtout par rapport à Isabella-de-Jesus, à qui nous devons tout: il paraît qu'elle est aussi très-contente. Et puisqu'elle et toutes les autres me disent tout ce qu'elles ont à me dire, et que j'ai d'autres lettres à écrire, je n'ajouterai rien autre chose à ma présente, si ce n'est que je supplie notre Seigneur Jesus Christ de vous avoir en sa sainte et digne garde, et de vous accorder toute sainteté. Amen.
Les Missels sont très-beaux: vous m'en marquez le prix, mais je ne sais pas quand nous pourrons vous les payer. L' P. Mondiago remettra les lettres ci-jointes à mes Pères Dominicains; je prie votre Révérence de les lui recommander.
THERESE DE JESUS.
1 See "OEuvres très-complètes de Sainte Thérèse," par l'Abbé Migne, tome ii. p. 664.
Carta del Illustrisimo Señor D. Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, Obispo de Osma, al Reverendisimo Padre Fray Diego de la Visitacion, General de los Carmelitas Descalzos.
Reverendisimo Padre,–Con gran consuelo mio he leido las Epistolas de Santa Teresa, que V. P. Rma. quiere dar á la estampa, para pública utilidad de la Iglesia, porque en cada una de ellas se descubre el admirable espiritu de esta virgen prudentisima, á la qual comunicó el Señor tantas luces para que con ellas despues ilustrase, y mejorase á las almas. Y aunque todos sus escritos están llenos de doctrina del cielo; pero como advierten bien los instruidos en la humana erudicion, no puede negarse que en las cartas familiares se derrama mas el alma, y la condicion del autor, y se dibuxa con mayor propriedad, y mas vivos colores su interior y exterior, que no en las dilatados discursos, y tratados. Y como quiera que aquello será mejor, y mayor de Santa Teresa, en que se descubra á si misma mas, por eso estas cartas en las quales tanto manifiesta su zelo ardiente, su discrecion admirable, su prudencia, y caridad maravillosa, han de ser recibidas de todos con mayor gozo, y ho menor fruto, y aprovechiamento.
Verdaderamente cosa alguna de quantas dixo, de quanta hizo, de quantas escribió esta Santa, habian de estar ignoradas de los fieles: y asi siento mucho el vér algunas firmas de su nombre, compuestas con las letras de sus escritos; porque faltan aquellas letras á sus cartas, y aquellas cartas, y luces á la Iglesia universal: y mas la hemos menester leida enseñando, que venerada firmando.
Pues que otra cosa son las Epistolas familiares de los Santos, sino unas disimuladas instrucciones, ofrecidas con suavidad á los fieles? Y una eloquente y persuasiva doctrina que informa á la humana, y christiana comunicacion entre nosotros mismos? La qual no solo dá luz con su discurso, sin calor, y eficácia para seguir é imitar lo que primero enseñaron los Santos con su exemplo, y virtudes al obrar.
Y asi me parece, que la Santa en sus tratados del Camino de la Perfeccion, de las Moradas, en la Explicacion del "Pater Noster," en sus Documentos, y Avisos (que todos son celestiales) nos ha enseñado de la maniera que hemos de vivir en órden á Dios; y dirigir nuestros pasos por la vida espiritual. Pero como hemos de vivir en esta exterior unos con otros (de la qual depende tanta parte, y no sé si la mayor de la interior), nos lo enseña en estas Epistolas, porque con lo que dice en ellas, nos alumbra de lo que debemos aprender; y con lo que estaba obrando al escribirlas, de lo que debemos obrar.
Qué zelo no descubre en ellas del bien de las almas? Qué prudencia y sabiduría en lo mistico, moral, y politico? Qué eficácia al persuadir? Qué claridad al explicarse? Qué gracia, y fuerza secreta al cautivar con la pluma á los que enseña con la erudicion?
Muchos santos ha habido en la Iglesia, que como sus Maestros universales la han enseñado; muchos, que con sapientisimo tratados la han alumbrado; muchos, que con eficacísimos escritos la han defendido: pero que en ellos, y con ellos hayan tan dulcemente persuadido, arrebatado, y cautivado, ni con mayor suavidad, y actividad vencido las almas, y convencido, so sé hallarán facilmente.
Inuemerables virtudes, propriedades, y gracias pueden ponderarse en la Santa: no digo en sus heroicas acciones, costumbres, y perfecciones (porque esas aprobadas, y canonizadas por la Iglesia, mas piden la imitacion, que la alabanza), sino en sus suavisimos escritos; pero yo lo que admiro mas en ellos, es la gracia, dulzura, y consuelo con que nos vá llevando á lo mejor; que es tal, qui primero nos hallamos cautivos, que vencidos, y aprisionados, que presos.
El camino de la vida interior es aspero, y desapacible–"Arcta est via, quæ ducit ad vitam:" porque se vence la naturaleza á si misma, y todos son pasos de dolor para la parte inferior, quantos le ofrece al alma el espiritu; y asi hacer dulce, y entretenido este camino, alegre, y gustoso al caminante, no solamente le facilita el viage, sino que le hace mas meritorias las penas con reducirlas á gozos.
Al que alegremente dá, ama el Espíritu Santo–"Hilarem enim datorem diligit Deus." Esto es, ama mas que á otros, al que sirve mas alegremente que otros. Esta alegria, gusto, y suavidad comunica admirablemente la Santa en sus obras adulzando por una parte, y haciendo por otra mas meritorias las penas. A todos socorre con sus escritos, y les dexa contentos con su dolce modo de enseñar, y persuadir. A Dios, con la mayor caridad del justo; y al justo con la mayor alegria, y mérito de servir á Dios. Porque tal gracia en lo natural, y tal fuerza en lo sobrenatural, como este admirable espíritu tiene en su pluma, y como allana y facilita las dificultades del camino de la virtud, no es bastantemente ponderable.
...... Ninguno lee los escritos de la Santa, que no busque luego á Dios; y ninguno busca por sus escritos á Dios que no quede devoto, y enamorado de la Santa. Y esto no solo credo yo que es gracia particular del estilo, y fuerza maravillosa del espíritu, que secretamente lo anima, sino providencia de Dios. Porque ama tanto á la Santa, que á los que hace perfectos con la imitacion de sus virtudes, é ilustra con la luz de sus tratados espirituales, quiere asegurar con la fuerza poderosa de su intercesion.
No he visto hombre devoto de Santa Teresa, que no sea espiritual. No he visto hombre espiritual, qui se lee sus obras, no sea devotisimo de Santa Teresa...... La utilidad de los escritos de Santa Teresa, no basta á ponderarlos la pluma. Diganlo las almas á quien sacaron de los lazos de la vanidad del mundo. Diganlo los que por la luz comunicativa que traen consigo, como con vivas centellas, leyendolas, se han abrasado sus devotos corazones. Diganlo tanto número de hijos, y de hijas, y siervous de Dios, que á ellos les deben primero su conversion, y despues su vocacion...... Y si los demás escritos de Santa Teresa, para llevar á Dios almas, han sido tan eficáces: yo estoy pensando que lo han de ser mucho mas estas Epistolas. Porque la misma Santa dexó escrito en su Vida el provecho interior, que sentia un sacerdote en si mismo al leer aquello que le escribia. Y que solo con pasar por ello los ojos, le templaba, y ahuyentaba muy graves tribulaciones. Y asi, V. P. Rma. nos consuele con darlas luego á la estampa, porque han de ser para la Iglesia universal de todos los fieles de grandísimo provecho.
A instancia de los Padres deste santo convento de V. P. Rma., y particularmente del Padre Prior Fray Antonio de Sant-Angelo, mi confesor, he escrito sobre cada carta algunas notas, que creo serán mas apropósito para entretener los noviciados de los conventos de V. P. Rma. con una no inútil recreacion, que no para que se impriman.
Las ocupaciones desta peligrosa dignidad son tales, que apenas me han dexado libres treinta dias, y no del todo; antes muy llenos de embarazos inescusables al Pastoral ministerio, para darlos á tan gustoso trabajo; y asi servirá la congoja, y la brevedad del tiempo de disculpa á sus descuidos.
Guarde Dios á V. P. Rma.
De V. P. Rmo. Servidor,
JUAN, Obispo de Osma.
Osma, Febrero 15, 1656.
The following translation of the Spanish verses, by Woodhead, may give the reader some imperfect idea of the meaning of the original. (See Letter No. XII.)
"O Beauty! that so far transcendest
The beauties of all features!
Thou woundest us, yet not offendest:
And without pain too, away takest
All love we have for creatures.
Strange love-knot, that together draws
Such distant things to meet
What then can a disunion cause?
When tied, thou rul'st o'er nature's laws,
And mak'st e'en sufferings sweet.
Things void of being thou hast joined
To endless being, and to bliss:
When all's bestowed, still more remains:
Where nought is to love, Thou art kind:
Thou makest great, what nothing is."
The French translation of the Spanish reads much better than the English, though it sadly wants the terseness of the original.
"Vous triomphez, ô Beauté sans seconde:
Pour vous j'éprouve un tourment enchanteur:
Et vos attraits me détachent du monde,
Sans qu'il en coûte un soupir à mon coeur,
Qu'il est puissant ce noeud qui joint ensemble
Les deux sujets les moins faits pour s'unir!
Tant que ce noeud par vos soins les assemble,
Les plus grands maux se changent en plaisir.
Le rien s'unit à l'être par essence:
Et l'immortel me parôit expirant:
L'indigne objet de votre complaisance
A peine existe, et vous le rendez grand."
The Anchor Press, Ltd., Tiptree Heath. Kelvedon, Essex.
Footnotes to the letters have been reorganized and renumbered. Instead of appearing at the bottom of each page in the text, as they do in the original book, with indicators of the order in which they appear on that page, they have been grouped together at the end of each letter, and numbered according to the order in which they appeared in that letter.