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Saint Teresa of Avila[Doctor of the Church]
Treasures of Grace ^ | May 12, 2002 | staff

Posted on 10/15/2002 6:53:25 PM PDT by Lady In Blue

St. Teresa of Avila
March 28, 1515 October 15 A.D. 1582

The humble relation which St. Teresa has left us of her own life, in obedience to her confessors, is the delight of devout persons, not on account of the revelations and visions there recorded, but because in it are laid down the most perfect maxims by which a soul is conducted in the paths of obedience, humility, and self-denial, and especially of prayer and an interior life. St. Teresa was born at Avila in Old Castile, on the 28th of March, 1515. Her father, Alphonsus Sanchez of Cepeda, was a gentleman of a good family, and had three children by a first wife, and nine by a second. The name of the latter was Beatrice Ahumada, mother to our saint. another daughter, and seven sons. Don Alphonsus delighted much in reading good books, with which he was well stocked; he was also very charitable to the poor, compassionate to the sick, and tender towards his servants; remarkable for his strict veracity, modesty, and chastity, and very averse from detraction and swearing. Our saint's mother, likewise, was very virtuous, suffered much from frequent sickness, and died happily at the age of three-and-thirty, when Teresa was twelve years old. By the means of the pious instructions and example of her parents, God inclined the tender heart of Teresa from her infancy to his service. Being only seven years old she took great pleasure in reading the lives of the saints, and other pious books, in which she spent much time with a little brother called Rodrigo, who was near of the same age. They were much amazed at the thought of eternity, and learned already to despise all that passes with time. With feeling sentiments they used to repeat often together: "Forever, forever, forever;" and admiring the victories of the saints, and the everlasting glory which they now possess, they said to one another: "What! forever they shall see God." The martyrs seemed to them to have bought heaven very cheap by their torments; and after many conferences together on this subject, they resolved to go into the country of the Moors, in hopes of dying for their faith. They set out privately with great fervor, praying as they went that God would inspire them with his holy love, that they might lay down their lives for Christ: but, upon the bridge over the Adaja, near the town, they were met by an uncle, and brought back to their mother, who was in the greatest frights, and had sent to seek them. They were chide by their parents for their unadvised project, and Rodrigo laid all the blame on his sister. Teresa continued the same course, and used often to say to herself; "O Eternity! Eternity! Eternity!" She gave to the poor all the alms she could, though this was very little: and studied to do all the good works in her power. The saint and the same little brother formed a design to become hermits at home, and built themselves little hermitages with piles of stones in the garden, but could never finish them. Teresa sought to be much alone, and said very long prayers with great devotion, especially the Rosary; for her mother inspired her tender soul with a singular devotion to the Blessed Virgin. She had in her room a picture of our Saviour discoursing with the Samaritan woman at the well, with which she was much delighted, and she often addressed those words to our Saviour with great earnestness: "Lord, give me of that water;" meaning that of his grace and holy love. In the twelfth year of her age, upon the death of her mother, in great grief, she threw herself upon her knees before a picture of the Blessed Virgin, and besought her, with many tears, that she would vouchsafe to be her mother. The saint adds, that this action, which she did with great simplicity, she thought afterwards very profitable to her; and found the Blessed Virgin favorable to her in all her requests, and looked upon herself as much indebted to her intercession for the great mercy by which God was pleased to bring her back to a sense of her duty after she had begun to go astray. She aggravates exceedingly her own malice, by which she had been ungrateful to so great and so early favors she had received from God in her tender age; she never ceased to grieve that she should have ever defiled the tabernacle of her heart, in which he was to dwell forever, and to thank his goodness for having called her back into the path of her duty, begging that he would be pleased to conduct her soul to eternal salvation.

  The most dangerous snare into which she fell was that of idle book, and vain company. Romances, * or fabulous histories of knight-errantry, were at that lime much in fashion in Spain. Teresa got hold of some such books a little before and began to read them much more after her death, though always unknown to her father, who would have been highly provoked. About that time, a certain Cousin-German, a worldly young Woman, addicted to vanity, and fond of reading such books, began to visit her, and by her conversation wrought such a change in Teresa, that, forgetting the greatest part of her former devotions, she spent several hours both of the day and night in reading romances with great pleasure. She began at the same time to curl and trim her hair, to use perfumes, to love fine clothes and the like out of a desire of pleasing others, though without any bad intention; for she would not for the world have given to anyone an occasion of offending God. She continued some years without imagining there was in this any sin; but she afterwards found it was a great one. None but this kinswoman and some other near relations Were allowed by the father to visit his daughter; but even these proved dangerous company to her; and she listened to them with pleasure in their discourse on vanities, toys, and follies, never criminal, yet not good. Thus she gradually fall from her fervor during three months. Her father perceived her to be much changed, and her devotion cooled. She laments grievously this her dangerous fall, and from her own fatal experience, earnestly conjures all parent to watch over their children, that they may never fall into idle, vain, and dangerous company, or such books; for if she had not dashed against those, two rocks, she thinks she should have always increased in fervor, instead of, falling back. Ribera, from his strictest examination of the saint, assures us, that she could not be thought to have incurred the danger of any mortal sin; for this reading and company, though very dangerous, did not appear to her any more than an innocent amusement; so that her simplicity extenuated the fault. Bishop Yepez * makes this evident from what the saint herself acknowledges, * notwithstanding her inclination to exaggerate this offense. Saying, that though she was delighted with agreeable conversation and diversions, she had always an extreme horror of any open evil; but she exposed herself to the danger, and therefore condemns herself so severely attributing her preservation from falling down the precipice to God's pure mercy and assistance, in preserving in her heart a great sense of the honor of virtue. She indeed says, * that notwithstanding her confessors judged nothing in these actions could have amounted to the guilt of a mortal sin, she afterwards understood them to have been mortal sins; where she expresses her own apprehensions. For those vanities and books were dangerous occasions of greater evils than she was aware of. When she fell into these faults, she confessed them, for she always confessed during the lukewarm period of her life all known venial sins, as she assures us. After her perfect conversion, her timorous conscience and vehement compunction, made her speak of these sins in stronger terms than her confessors approved; and she testifies that she desired to say much more on this subject, to publish to the whole world her ingratitude against God, had they not forbid her. Her father took notice that her devotion was much cooled, and not being able handsomely to forbid this vain relation his house, he placed his daughter, who was then fifteen years of age, in a very regular convent of Austin nuns in Avila, where many young ladies of her quality were educated. Teresa found a separation from her companions grievous; but as her attachments proceeded only from the natural affectionate disposition of her heart, they were soon forgot, and a secret sentiment of honor and of her reputation made her disguise this repugnance. From the precaution which her father had taken, she saw that her fault had been greater than she imagined, and began severely to condemn herself for it. The first eight days in the convent seemed tedious to her; but having by that time forgot her former amusements, and broken the ties she had contracted in the world, she began to be pleased with her new situation A devout nun, who was mistress of the pensioners, used frequently to instill into her mind serious reflections and virtue, and repeated often to her that dreadful truth: Man, are called but few are chosen. By the discourse and counsels of this servant of God, Teresa recovered her fervor, and earnestly recommended herself to the prayers of the nuns that God would place her in that state in which she might be likely to serve him best: though she had not then the courage to desire to be a nun herself; for the thoughts of a perpetual engagement affrighted her.

After a year and half spent in this convent, the saint fell dangerously sick, and her father took her home. When she had recovered her health she went to see eldest sister in the country, who tenderly loved her; and calling to see an uncle, her father's brother, was detained by him some time his name was Peter Sanchez of Cepeda: he was a widower, and a very discreet and pious man. He first retired in the country, where he employed his time in his devotions, and in reading good books. He gave several to Teresa to read, and his discourse was most commonly of God, and of the vanity of the world. When she returned to her father's house, he began for some time to deliberate with herself about embracing a religious state of life. She at first thought the convent of the Austin nuns where she had lived, too severe, and was inclined to choose a house in which she had a particular great friend; by which circumstance she afterwards feared she had then more regard to the subtle gratification of a secret sensual satisfaction and vanity, than to the greater spiritual advancement of her soul. After a violent fever at home, (for she had often bad health,) she was determined, by reading St. Jerome's epistles, to become a nun. Her father would by no means give his consent; but said, that after his death she might dispose of herself as she pleased. The saint fearing from former experience she might again relapse, though she felt an excessive severe interior conflict in leaving her dear father, went privately to the convent of the Incarnation of the Carmelite nuns without the walls of Avila where her great friend, sister Jane Suarez, lived, though at that time she says she sought only the good of her soul, making no account at all of rest or ease. Upon her taking the habit, God changed the dryness under which she had labored for some time into an extreme tenderness of devotion, and all her religious observances gave her great delight. While she was sweeping the house, or employed in other such actions, the remembrance that she had formerly spent those hours in dressing herself, or in other vanities, overwhelmed her heart with such an extraordinary joy as amazed her. But during her novitiate she felt many severe interior trials, notwithstanding her constant great contentment in this state. She made her profession with extraordinary fervor in November, 1534, in the twentieth year of her age. A sickness, which seized her before her profession, increased very much on her after it, with frequent fits of fainting and swooning and a violent pain at her heart, which sometimes deprived her of her senses. Physicians finding no remedy for her extraordinary case, her father got her removed out of her convent, in which the law of enclosure was not then established. Sister Jane Suarez bore her company, and she remained partly at her sister's in the country, and partly at Bazeda, almost a year, in the hands of certain able physicians. Their medicines served only to increase her distempers, inasmuch, that for the space of three months she suffered such excessive torments, with a continual burning fever, that her sinews began to shrink up, and she could take no rest either day or night. She was also oppressed with a profound sadness of mind. Her father, after this, caused her to be brought to his own house, where the physicians gave her over; for her distempers had then terminated in a hectic fever, and her sharp pains never left her, and afflicted her all over from head to foot. God, however, gave her incredible patience; and she was much comforted by reading the book of Job, with St. Gregory's Morals or Commentary, and had often in her mouth some of the aspirations of holy Job which expressed his resignation to God. She at length, in August, 1537, lay near four days in a trance or lethargic coma, during which time it was expected that every moment would be her last. It being once imagined that she was dead, a grave was dug for her in the convent, and she would have been buried, if her father had not opposed it, and testified that he still perceived in her body certain symptoms of life. Through excess of pain she had bit her tongue in many places, when out of her senses; and for a considerable time she could not swallow so much as a drop of water, without almost choking Sometimes her whole body seemed as if the bones were disjointed in every part, and her head was in extreme disorder and pain. She could neither stir hand, nor foot, nor need, nor any other part, except, as she thought, one finger of her right hand. She was so sore, that she could not bear anyone to touch her in any part, and she had often a great loathing of all food. Her pains being somewhat abated, she so earnestly desired to return to her monastery, that she was carried thither, though her body seemed reduced to skin and bone, and worse than dead, through the pain she endured. She continued thus above eight months, and remained a cripple near three years.

The saint endured these sufferings with great conformity to the holy will of God, and with much alacrity and joy. Under these afflictions she was much helped by the prayer which she had then begun to use. When, in the beginning of this sickness, she was taken out of her convent, and soon after carried into the country, her devout uncle Peter put into her hands a little book of F. Ossuna, called The Third Alphabet, treating on the prayer of recollection and quiet. Taking this book for her master, she applied herself to mental prayer, according to the manner prescribed in it, was favored with the gift of tears, and of the prayer of Quiet, (in which the soul rests in the divine contemplation, so as to forget all earthly things,) and sometimes, though not for a longer space than an Ave Maria at a time, she arrived at the prayer of Union, in which all the powers of the soul are absorbed in God. However, for want of an experienced instructor, she made little progress, was not able to hold any discourses in her understanding, or to meditate without a book, her mind being immediately distracted. Yet she was wonderfully delighted with this holy meditation, and received a heavenly light, in which she saw clearly the nothingness of all earthly things, looked upon the whole world as under her feet, and beneath the regard of a soul, and pitied all persons who vainly pursue its empty bubbles. The paralytic disorder in which her fevers, violent headaches, and convulsions and contractions of her sinews had terminated, began so far to be abated, that she was able to crawl upon her hands and feet. After three years' suffering, she was perfectly restored to her health; and she afterwards understood that she had received of God this favor and many others, through the intercession of the glorious St. Joseph, which she had humbly and earnestly implored. * She declares, that she trembled exceedingly, and praised and thanked the divine mercy with all the powers of her soul, as often as she remembered that "God might have bereaved her of life, when she was in a dangerous state: and I think," says she, "I may safely add a thousand times, though I be blamed by him who commanded me to use moderation in the recital of my sins. I have disguised them enough. I beseech him for God's sake that he will not extenuate my faults; for by them the great goodness of God is more manifested, since he so long beareth an unfaithful soul. Praise be to Him forever. May he rather annihilate me, than I should ever hereafter cease to love himself." * Her confessor, by whose order she wrote, knew her great propensity to magnify her faults, for which reason he gave her this charge. If, when she was arrived at the most perfect purity of heart and divine love she could discern such faults and dangers in her soul, at a time while she seemed already a saint in the eyes of men, and received the gift of supernatural prayer, and other eminent virtues, how much ought we to fear in our lukewarm state, and excite cite ourselves to watchfulness and compunction? St. Teresa attributes the good opinion which others had of her to her own cunning and hypocrisy! though she acknowledges that she was never designedly guilty of an, dissimulation, having always abhorred such a baseness. Two great mean by which she preserved her soul from many difficulties and snares were her constant and tender charity and goodness towards all persons, by which she always gained the esteem and good-will of all those with whom she lived or conversed; secondly, an extreme dread and abhorrence of the least shadow of detraction, inasmuch, that no one durst in the least reflect on any other person in her presence, and from her infancy she had had this rule always before her eyes, in discoursing of others to speak of them in the same manner she would desire others should speak of her.

Who ought not always to tremble for himself, and excite himself by humility and holy fear to watch continually, with the utmost attention, over his own heart, to apply himself with his whole strength to all his duties, and with the greatest earnestness to call in Omnipotence to his assistance, since this holy virgin, after receiving so many favors from God, fell again from her fervor and devotion? Her prudence and other amiable qualifications gained her the esteem of all that knew her. An affectionate and grateful disposition inclined her to make an obliging return to the civilities which others showed her. And, finding herself agreeable to company, she began to take delight in it, by which she lost that love of retirement which is the soul of a religious or interior life, and in which she had been accustomed to spend almost her whole time in prayer and pious reading. By an irregular custom of her convent she seemed authorized to indulge this dangerous inclination, and spent much time in conversing with seculars at the grate or door of the monastery, and she contracted an intimacy with one whose company was particularly dangerous to her. Such conversation, besides a great loss of time, dissipated her mind, and infused earthly affections and inclinations, which do infinite mischief to a soul whose affections are or ought to be spiritual, and expose her to the utmost dangers. Teresa therefore began to neglect mental prayer, and even persuaded herself that this was a part of humility, a. her dissipated life rendered her unworthy to converse so much, or so familiarly with God, by mental prayer. So subtle is the devil in his snares, knowing that no virtuous person can be deceived but under the appearance or cover of good. Teresa also said to herself there could be no danger of sin in what so many others did, more virtuous than she was, who received frequent visits of secular persons in the parlor. The remonstrances which a senior nun made to her on the impossibility of reconciling so much dissipation of mind and worldly conversation with the spirit and obligations of a religious life, were not sufficient to open her eyes.

One day, while she was conversing at the grate with a new acquaintance "he seemed to see our Lord, who represented himself to the eyes of her soul with much rigor in his countenance, testifying that her conduct displeased him. She took this for the effect of imagination, and being much importuned to it, still persuaded herself, by the example of others, that there could be no harm in so much exterior conversation, and that no damage resulted from it to her soul. She grievously accuses herself of this fault, and of her blindness in shutting her eyes to many warnings and inspirations, by which she ought to have been made sensible of so great an evil, which she conjures all religious persons to beware of. Her father had been induced by her, when she first learned the use of mental prayer, to apply himself earnestly to it, as to the great means of acquiring all perfect interior virtues and within five or six years he was much improved by that holy exercise. He often called to see her, and to converse with her spiritual life. He thought she assiduously conversed with God, as she had formerly done when she had lived a year or more in that state of dissipation, having left off mental prayer, contenting herself with only vocal, of which he says: "This was the greatest and worst temptation that ever I had; for by this means I ran headlong upon my own ruin." * At length finding her father's mistake, she disabused him, telling him she no longer used mental prayer for which she alleged the frequent infirmities to which she was subject But she adds: "This reason of bodily weakness was not a sufficient cause to make me give over so good a thing, which requires not corporeal strength but only love and custom. In the midst o f sickness the best of prayer may be made; and it is a mistake to think that it can only be made in solitude." Her father, out of the good opinion he had of her, looked upon her excuse as just, and pitied her, because she had enough to do to be able to attend: the choir. In 1539, she suffered a great affliction in the loss of her good father, whom she always loved with the most dutiful and tender affection. Though ill herself; she went out of her monastery to assist him in his last sickness, and strained very hard to do him all the service, and procure him all the comfort she was able. Giving great praise to the divine mercy for him, she has left us an edifying account of his preparation for his last passage; and mentions the desire which he had to leave this world, and the good advice he gave to his children, and all that were about him, whom he charged earnestly to recommend his soul to God, faithfully to serve him themselves, and to have constantly before their eyes that all this world must come to an end. He added with many tears how much he was grieved at the heart for not having served God with greater fervor. His sickness began with a very grievous pain in the shoulders St. Teresa told him, that since he had been much devoted to the mystery of our Saviour carrying his cross, he would do well to conceive that Christ, in his great mercy, had been pleased to give him a feeling of some part of that suffering. With this consideration he was so much comforted. that he mentioned his pain no more, nor did he ever let fall the least word of complaint. He expired while he was saying the creed. His confessor, F. Vincent Barron, or Varron, a learned and pious Dominican friar, whom Teresa at that time also made use of, took pains to make her understand that her soul was in a dangerous way, and that she must not fail to make use of mental prayer. She therefore began to use it again, in the twenty-fourth year of her age, and from that time never left it. Yet for a long time she continued still to pursue her amusements of worldly dissipation, and receiving visits at the grate, as if she had a mind to reconcile two contraries which are so much at enmity with one another; a spiritual life and sensual pastimes, or the spirit of God and that of the world. The use she made of prayer made her see these faults; yet she had not courage to follow God perfectly, or entirely to renounce secular company. Describing the situation of her divided soul at that time, she says that she neither enjoyed the sweetness of God, nor the satisfactions of the world; for amidst her amusements, the remembrance of what she owed to God gave her pain; and while she was conversing with God in prayer, worldly inclinations and attachments disturbed her. Yet God was pleased often to visit her in her devotions with sweet consolation; and to bestow upon her great favors, even in that very time of her life when she offended him most, namely, by her frequent amusing conversations with seculars, contrary to the recollection and spirit which her state required.

This goodness of God towards her, notwithstanding her sloth and rebellions was to her a subject of continual astonishment, and a motive of the strongest love and most feeling gratitude. "Hence," says she, "proceeded my tears, together with a grievous indignation which I conceived against myself, when I considered what a wretched creature I was; for I saw that I was still upon the point of falling again, though my purposes and desires of amendment (as long as those favors lasted) seemed to be firm and strong I should be glad that all such persons as may read this account of my proceedings should abhor me, seeing my soul so obstinate and ungrateful to. wards him who had vouchsafed me so great favors. And I wish I could get leave to declare the multitude of times that I failed in my obligation to God m this number of years, because I was not supported by the strong pillar of mental prayer I passed through this tempestuous sea almost twenty years, between these fallings and risings, though I rose very imperfectly, since I so soon relapsed." These sins and imperfections which stopped her relapses are meant of those venial and imperfections which stopped her progress in the divine service. She adds, that as she was obliged to write this account with exact and entire truth, she must acknowledge, that within this term there were many months, and perhaps a whole year, that she gave herself much to prayer, without relapsing into vain amusements; but, because she remembered little of these good days, she believed they were few; though few days passed In which she had not given a considerable time to mental prayer; and the worse she was in health, the more her soul was united to God, and she procured that those who were with her might be so too, and they spoke often of God. Thus, out of twenty-eight years which had passed when she wrote this, since she began to employ herself diligently in mental prayer except that one year in which she laid it aside, she spent more than eighteen in this strife. Bishop Yepez assures us, from his own knowledge of the saint's interior, and demonstrates from her own words, * that she passed these eighteen years in frequent trials of spiritual dryness, intermingled with intervals of heavenly consolation in prayer; and that these faults and dangers, which she continually deplores and extremely exaggerates, consisted chiefly in serious entertainments with affectionate visitants to which the sweetness of her temper, and the goodness of her heart, inclined her, and which her confessors at that time approved and recommended though she discovered them to be obstacles to her spiritual perfection and prayer. She conjures every one, for the love of God, to be assiduous in endeavoring to obtain and cherish the spirit of prayer, and adds the most pathetic exhortations that no one deprive himself of so great a good, ill which nothing is to be feared, but much to be desired. By mental prayer we learn truly to understand the way to heaven; and this is the gate through which God conveys himself, and his graces and favors into our souls. Nobody ever made choice of God for a friend, whom his Divine Majesty did not well requite for his pains. For mental prayer is a treaty of friendship with God, and a frequent and private communication with him, by whom we know we are beloved." And they who love him not yet must force themselves to be much in his company by prayer, and pass on through this gate till they arrive at his love. "I do not see how God can come to us," says the saint, "or enrich us with his graces, if we shut the door against him. Though he is infinitely desirous to communicate himself to us with all his gifts, he will have our hearts to be found disengaged, alone, and burning with a desire to receive him. O Joy of the angels, my Lord, and my God, I cannot think of conversing with you without desiring to melt like wax in the fire of your divine love, and to consume all that is earthly in me by loving you. How infinite is your goodness to bear with, and even caress those who are imperfect and bad: recompense the short time they spend with you, and, upon their repentance, blot out their faults! This I experienced in myself. I do not see why all men do not approach you, to share in your friendship. Even the wicked, whose affections have no conformity to your spirit, ought to approach you, that they may become good. even though they at first abide with you sometimes with a thousand distractions, as I did, &c. Since our Lord suffered so wicked a creature as myself so long a time, and all my miseries were redressed by this means of prayer, what person, how wicked soever, can find any thing to fear in this exercise? For how wicked soever any person may have been, he will never have been so bad as I was, after having received such great favors from our Lord," &c. * The saint says, that during the time of her most slothful dispositions, she was never tired with hearing sermons, though ever so bad; but that she was a long time before she perfectly understood that all endeavors are good for nothing, unless first we strip ourselves entirely of all confidence in ourselves, and place it wholly in God alone. This foundation of a spirit of prayer is seldom sufficiently laid; so apt is pride imperceptibly to persuade us that there is something in us of strength, or by which we deserve the divine compassion.

After twenty years thus spent in the imperfect exercise of prayer, and with many defects, the saint found a happy change in her soul. One day, going into the oratory, seeing a picture of our Saviour covered with wounds in his passion, she was exceedingly moved, so that she thought her very heart was ready to burst. Casting herself down near the picture, and pouring forth a flood of tears, she earnestly besought our Lord to strengthen her, that she might never more offend him. She had long been accustomed every night, before she composed herself to rest, to think on our Lord's prayer in the garden, and bloody sweat, and was particularly affected with that mystery. From this time she made the sufferings of Christ the ordinary object of her interior conversation with him during the day and night. Being particularly devoted to St. Mary Magdalen, she was delighted to place herself in spirit with her at the feet of Jesus, earnestly beseeching her Redeemer not to despise her tears. She always found particular comfort in those saints who, after having been sinners, were converted to our Lord, hoping that by their means he would forgive her, as he had done them. Only this reflection discouraged her - that he called them once, and they returned no more to sin; whereas, she had so often relapsed, which afflicted her to the very heart; but the consideration of the love our Lord bore her, made her always confide entirely in his mercy. St. Austin who was an admirable penitent, and the patron of the first nunnery in which she had lived, was one of those saints towards whom she was most tenderly affected. In reading his confessions, in the twentieth year of her age, she applied to herself that voice by which his conversion was wrought, in so lively a manner as to remain for a considerable time even dissolved, as it were, in tears, with very great affliction and anguish; and she prayed with the greatest earnestness that our Lord would hear her cries, have regard to so many tears, and have compassion on her miseries. From that time she withdrew herself more than ever from all occasions of vain amusements and dissipations, and gave her time more entirely to the exercises of compunction and divine love. The saint had scarce formed her resolution of serving God perfectly, when he vouchsafed to visit her soul with new and extra ordinary consolations and favors, regaling her with heavenly sweetness in great abundance: for she tells us he did not require, as in others, that she should have disposed herself for such favors, but only that she was content to receive them. "I never presumed," says she, "to desire that he should give me so much as the least tenderness of devotion; I begged only for grace never to offend him, and for pardon of my past sins; and I never durst deliberately desire any Spiritual delights. It was an infinite mercy that he would suffer me to appear in his presence. Only once in my whole life, being in great spiritual dryness, I desired him to afford me some little spiritual support; but as soon as I had reflected what I had done, I Was filled with confusion and the grief I felt for my Want of humility obtained for me that which I had presumed to beg." The saint, before she gives an account of the Supernatural favors she had received, conjures her confessor Garzia de Toledo, (by whose order, and to whom she wrote this relation,) entirely to conceal all she says on that head, and publish only her sins, imperfections. and the indifferent actions of her life. *

Describing the state of her soul, with regard to her manner of prayer, she says she began to consider Christ as present in her soul, in the same manner as she had been accustomed to do after communion, thus she entertained herself with him in her ordinary actions, and in mental prayer. From the twentieth year after she had first applied herself to this exercise, she made little use of interior discoursing or reasoning to inflame her affections; the intuitive consideration of any motive or object immediately raising in her heart the most ardent acts of divine love. thanksgiving, compunction, or earnest applications. * The tenderness of her love, and her feeling sense of her own wants, formed her a prayer without studied or chosen words, her long reasoning and reflection in meditation. St. Teresa says she had been before accustomed to feel often a tender heavenly sweetness in her devotions; but at this time her soul began to be frequently raised by God to the sublimer degrees of supernatural passive prayer. For she observes the that servants of divine love, in which they chiefly advance by prayer, arrive not on a sudden at the highest degree of prayer. True love is a precious gift, and the soul must be more and more prepared and disposed as she advances. The gift of prayer and an interior life have difficulties to be overcome, which cost much to flesh and blood, especially in the beginning or first steps by which a soul is prepared to receive it.

St. Teresa distinguishes four degrees in mental prayer. In the first, the soul applies herself to holy meditation, for which a calm state of mind and a retired place are necessary, and the life of Christ one of the first and most important subjects. No state of dryness or difficulties from distractions must make a person lay it aside: he is not to seek his own satisfaction, and ought to be content with humbling himself before God, and knowing that his divine majesty regards the desire of our hearts to love him. and knows and compassionates our miseries and weakness more than we ourselves can do. We must be willing to bear our cross, to pay as well as to receive and the saint says * she afterwards experienced that one hour of consolations abundantly paid, even in this life, for all the crosses she had sustained. Our desire ought to be ever to acquiesce in the will of God, to rejoice in carrying our cross with our Lord, and sincerely to acknowledge ourselves infinitely unworthy to be admitted into the divine presence, much more to receive the least drop of the dew of his consolations, which only the pure excess of his infinite goodness could ever bestow on the most unworthy o f his creatures, out of mere condescension to their weakness, which engages him by these sensible caresses to overcome their obstinacy and draw them to his love. St. Teresa assigns the second degree of prayer to be that of Quiet, in which the powers of the soul are recollected, but not absorbed in God; the will or affections being strongly captivated in God and employed in acts of love, and the understanding and memory aiding some little the will to enjoy this its sovereign good and quiet, though the will is so taken up in God as not to regard or be distracted by the concurrence of these powers. This state is accompanied with an exceeding great interior comfort or delight, the powers of the soul are applied without labor or pains, (so that this prayer never wearies how long soever it continues,) and often tears flow with joy, of their own accord, or without being procured. * The intellect here may suggest certain humble silent reflections of thanksgiving, love, or the like, which increase the flame of the will; but, if the intellect raises too great a tumult, or the will strives to silence or recollect it, or the memory or imagination, this quiet is lost and vanishes. This recollection or quiet, in the exercise of divine love inspired and produced by the Spirit of God, differs infinitely from a pretended quiet of the will which human industry may strive to produce in it; but which is without any effect or sublime operation; it quickly expires, and is succeeded by great dryness in the affections. The devil, sometimes, by working upon the imagination, endeavors to imitate the visits of the Divine Spirit, but an experienced soul easily discovers his illusions, as St. Teresa remarks; for he leaves the mind disturbed, not calm, as the Holy Ghost always does neither does he leave any impression of profound infused humility, (but generally an inclination to pride;) nor any strong dispositions to virtue; nor great spiritual light in the understanding; nor steady resolution or constancy in virtue, which are the effects of heavenly visitations, as the saint remarks. * The third degree of prayer she calls the Repose of the soul: it is the prayer of Union; in which the soul overflows with incomparably greater joy, ardor and delight in the divine love, than in the former; she consumes herself the most sublime affections of love and praise, as Saint Teresa explains at large; and is not inactive, as the false mystics or Quietists pretended though she knows not at all how she acts. * The fourth degree of prayer distinguished by her is a more perfect union of all the powers of the soul suspended and absorbed in God, as she explains at large. * This is accompanied with so great interior joy and delight, that the saint assures us a single moment would be, even in this life, a sufficient recompense for all the pains we can have undergone. * St. Teresa distinguishes the prayer of Union, in which her soul was able to resist the divine operation, from a rapture or ecstasy in which it could not resist, and in which her body lost all the use of its voluntary functions, and every part remained in the same posture, without feeling, hearing, or seeing, at least so as to perceive it; though she says, on such occasions the soul knows she is in a rapture while she is by the most ardent love ravished in God. These raptures continue sometimes for hours, though not all that time in the same degree. In hem the soul sees in a wonderful and clear manner the emptiness of earthly things, the greatness and goodness of God, and the like. Though before she saw nothing in herself but desires of serving God, in a rapture she beholds herself covered with spots, defects, and faults, for the smallest are clearly visible in a bright beam of divine light, darting in upon her: she sees that she is all misery and imperfection, and cries out: Who shall be justified before thee? As the vessel, which seemed before clear in a crystal glass, appears full of atoms if it be placed in the beams of the sun; so this divine sun, by darting its bright beams upon the soul, sets before her eyes all her imperfections and sins as so many hideous spots. At this sight she is confounded and humbled on one side beyond expression, and on the other astonished at the greatness and goodness of God, and transported in an ecstasy of love and adoration. St. Teresa mentions that, having suffered two raptures in the church which could not escape the observation of others, she prayed that this might no more happen to her in public, and from that time it had not when she wrote; but this was not long after. She says she was sometimes raised from the ground in prayer, though she endeavored to resist it. *

St. Teresa, after having exercised herself twenty years in mental prayer, began to withdraw herself from the conversation of secular persons, and other occasions of dissipation and little faults which she exceedingly exaggerates, and was favored by God very frequently with the prayer of Quiet, and also with that of Union, which latter sometimes continued a long time with great improvement of her soul, and with excessive heavenly joy and love. The examples of certain women, who had been miserably the dupes of a deluded imagination and of the devil, much terrified her; and though she was persuaded her favors were from God, she was so much perplexed with these fears that she resolved to take advice; and she consulted so many persons, though obliging them to secrecy, that the affair was divulged abroad. to her great mortification and confusion. The first person to whom she opened herself was a gentleman of the town, named Francis of Salsedo, a married man, who for thirty-eight years had practiced mental prayer with great assiduity, and with his virtuous lady, who concurred with him in his great charities, fasts, and other exercises of piety, was an example of virtue to the whole country. This gentleman introduced to her Dr. Daza, a learned and virtuous priest; and after an examination from what she declared of herself, both judged her to be deluded by the devil, saying, such divine favors were not consistent with a life so full of imperfections as she exposed hers to be. Her alarms being increased by this decision, the gentleman advised her to speak one of those first fathers of the Society of Jesus, who were lately come into Spain, and were eminent for their manner of prayer, and their experience in virtue and an interior life. This gentleman (to whom the saint says she owed her salvation and her comfort) bade her not be discouraged because she was not delivered from all her imperfections in one day, for God would do it by little and little; and said that he himself had remained whole years in reforming some very light things. By the means of certain friends, one of these fathers of the society visited her, to whom she made a very careful general confession, in which, with the confession of her sins, she gave him an account of all the particulars through the course of her whole life. relating to her manner of prayer and her late extraordinary favors. The father assured her these were divine graces; but told her she had neglected to lay the true foundation of an interior life, by the practice of a universal self-denial and mortification, by which a person learns to govern his senses, subdue entirely his passions, and cut off all inordinate attachments in the heart. That spiritual builder attempts to raise an edifice of devotion upon a quicksand, who does not begin by laying the foundation by humility, and that spirit of compunction and practice of general self-denial, which, being joined with a life of prayer, will be a crucifixion of she old man and a reformation of the affections of the new. By the advice of this confessor, St. Teresa made every day a meditation on some part of our Lord's passion, and set herself heartily to practice some kinds of penance which were very inconsistent with her weak health; for, on presence of her great infirmities, she had thought little of any other mortifications than such as were general. By the prudent order of the same servant of God, though he judged her extraordinary gusts in prayer to be from God, she endeavored for two months to resist and reject them. But her resistance was in vain; and when she labored the most to turn herself from heavenly communications, our Lord overwhelmed her most abundantly with them. Saint Francis Borgia, at that time commissary-general of the Jesuits in Spain, coming to Avila, was desired to speak to the saint, and having heard her account of her prayer and state, he assured her, without hesitation, that the spirit of God was the author of her prayer; commended her resistance for a trial during the two months past, but advised her not to resist any elevations if our Lord was pleased to visit her so in prayer, provided she had no hand in endeavoring to procure them; and he prescribed her greater mortifications that she had hitherto undertaken.

Her confessor being called away, she chose another of the Society of Jesus. This was F. Balthasar Alvarez du Paz, a very spiritual man, who, through severe interior trials during the space of twenty years, arrived at the perfection of holy contemplation and an interior life. * This excellent director took notice of certain immortifications in the conduct of St. Teresa, contrary to her perfect sanctification, especially in her remaining still sensible to the satisfaction of ingenious, witty, and learned conversation, of which he put her in mind. Her answer was, that she had hoped her motive in it had been always for the best, and that it seemed a kind of ingratitude in her entirely to deny herself to certain friends. He told her she would do well to beg of God that he would direct her to do what was moat pleasing to him, and for that purpose to recite every day the hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus. She did so for a considerable time, and one day while she was reciting that hymn she was favored with a rapture, in which she heard these words, which were spoken to her in the most interior part of her soul: "I will not have thee hold conversation with men, but with angels." She was exceedingly amazed at this voice, which was the first she heard in that manner: from that time she renounced all company but what business or the direct service of God obliged her to converse with men. * The saint had afterwards frequent experience of such interior speeches after raptures, and explains how they are even more distinct and clear than those which men bear with their corporeal ears, and how they are also operative producing in the soul the strongest impressions and sentiments of virtue, and filling her with an assurance of their truth, and with joy and peace; whereas all the like illusions of the devil leave her much disquieted and disturbed and produce no good effects, as she experienced two or three times. * The saint earned these great heavenly comforts by severe sufferings: or rather God purified and improved her soul in his love and all virtues, both by his sweetest consolations and the sharpest trials. She says of herself, under the name of a third person, what follows: "I know one who for these forty years (since God hath vouchsafed to honor her with special favors) hath not passed one day without anguish and various kinds of sufferings, besides sicknesses and great fatigues." * While F. Balthasar Alvarez was her director, she suffered grievous persecutions for three years, and, during two of them, extreme interior desolation of soul, intermixed with gleams of spiritual comfort and favor. * It was her earnest desire that all her heavenly communications should be kept secret; but they were become the common subject of discourse in every conversation, and even in the public schools, and she was everywhere censured and ridiculed as an enthusiast or hypocrite: her confessor was persecuted on her account. Six religious men of note who had been her friends, after a conference on this subject, decided that she seemed deluded by the devil, and prevailed on F. Balthasar to go with them to her, and to order her not to communicate so frequently (which was her greatest support and comfort,) not to live so strictly retired and not to prolong her meditations beyond the time prescribed by the rule of her house. Her very friends reviled and shunned her as one who had a communication with the devil, and some stuck not to call her a devil. F. Balthasar indeed, bade her be of good courage; for if she was deluded by the devil, he could not hurt her, provided she labored only to advance in charity, patience, humility, and all virtues. One day the saint, after having suffered a long and grievous desolation and affliction of spirit, suddenly fell into a rapture, and heard a voice interiorly saying to her: "Fear not, daughter; for it is I, and I will not forsake thee: do not fear." * Her mind was instantly quieted and composed, and filled with light; her soul was drowned in heavenly sweetness and joy, and being endued with strength and courage, she challenged the devils, making no more reckoning of them than of so many flies, and saying to herself, that God, whose servant she desired to be, is all-powerful, and under his protection nothing could hurt her; and as she pretended and desired no other thing than to please him, she joyfully met all sufferings and renounced all ease and contentment if she could only be so happy as to accomplish in all things his holy will.

A confessor whom the saint made use of once during the absence of F. Balthasar, told her that her prayer was an illusion, and commanded her when she saw any vision, to make the sign of the cross, and to insult the vision, as of a fiend The saint assures us, that these visions and raptures carried with them their own evidence and demonstration, so that while they continued, it was impossible for her to harbor the least doubt but they were from God. Nevertheless, she knew them to be subordinate to the ordinary means which God has established to conduct our souls to him; and as all pretended visions must be false and condemned which should contradict the scripture or the authority of the church, so no such visions can exempt us from any duty towards the church or others: for God never derogates by private revelations from his general laws and established rules. Therefore, in simplicity, she obeyed this order of her confessor; and the saint assures us that Christ himself in several visions approved her conduct in so doing. * She adds, that in these visions to use some exterior action of scorn was a terrible thing to her, as she could not possibly believe but that it was God. "And I besought our Lord," says she, "with much instance to free me from being deceived; and this I did continually, and with abundance of tears. I begged it also by the prayers of SS. Peter and Paul; because, as I had my first vision on their festival, our Lord told me they would take such care of me, that I should not be deceived. Accordingly, I have often seen very clearly these two glorious saints, my very good patrons, upon my left hand. But this making signs of scorn when I saw the vision of our Lord, gave me excessive pain and trouble. For when I saw him present before my eyes it was impossible for me to believe it was the devil. That I might not be perpetually crossing myself, I took a cross into my hands, and this I did almost always. I used not the signs of scorn often; for this afflicted me too much, and I remembered the affronts which the Jews put upon our Lord; and I humbly besought him to pardon me, since I did this in obedience to those whom he had appointed in his own place. He bid me not be troubled at it, for I did well in obeying them; but he said he would bring them to understand the truth;" which they afterwards did. "When they forbade me the use of mental prayer, our Lord appeared angry at it, and bade me tell them this was tyranny. He also gave me reasons to know that this was not the devil. Once when I held in my hand the cross which was at the end of my beads, he took it into his hand; and when he gave it me again it appeared to be of four great stones, incomparably more precious than diamonds. A diamond is but a counterfeit in comparison of these. They had the five wounds of our Lord engraved upon them after a most curious manner. He told me I should always see this cross so from that time forward, and so I did; for I no longer saw the matter of which the cross was made but only those precious stones: though no other saw them but myself When I was commanded to use this resistance to those favors, they in creased much more, and I was never out of prayer. Even while I slept, I was uttering amorous complaints to our Lord, and his love was still increased in me. Nor was it in my po 0wer to give over thinking on him, and least of all when I endeavored at it. Yet I obeyed as well as I could, though I was able to do little or nothing in that respect. Our Lord never freed me from obeying them: yet he gave me all assurance that it was he, and instructed me what I should say to them. There grew in me so impetuous a love of God, that I found myself even dying through a desire to see him, (my true life,) nor did I know how or where to find this life, but by death, &c. *

Bishop Yepez informs us, * that this cross fell afterwards into the hands of the saint's sister, Jane of Ahumada, who died at Alva; and he relates some miracles wrought by it. Pope Gregory XV., in the bull of the canonization of St. Teresa, commends this example of her obedience as the teat of her spirit and of her visions, &c. "By the command of her confessor she humbly showed marks of contempt under the visions of our Lord, not without a great recompense of her obedience. She was wont to say, that she might be deceived in discerning visions and revelations; but could not in obeying superiors," says this pope.

Though after two years spent in frequent interior desolation, the visits of the Holy Ghost restored her interior peace with great sweetness and spiritual light, which dispelled her former darkness, she continued to suffer a whole year longer a persecution from her friends, which seemed genera. F. Balthasar Alvarez, who was a spiritual man, but exceeding timorous durst not oppose the torrent, or decide with confidence that the Holy Ghost was the author of the wonderful operations in her prayer, though he continued to hear her confessions, which scarce any other person in the country would have done; and he comforted her, saying, that so long as she improved herself in virtue, the devil could do her no prejudice. She had learned to be so perfectly dead to herself, that, with regard to herself, she was not the least concerned what the whole world said or did concerning her; but the judgment of others, as to her state, gave her still frequent great alarms and fears, which contributed both to purify her soul, and to prove more clearly her spirit of prayer. In 1559, St. Peter of Alcantara, commissary-general, and visitor of the Franciscans, coming to Avila, conversed several days with St. Teresa. Few saints seem to have been more experienced in an interior life, or better versed in the supernatural gifts of prayer than this holy man. He discovered in Teresa the most certain marks of the wonderful graces of the Holy Ghost, expressed great compassion for her sufferings from the contradictions and slanders even of good men and learned doctors, and publicly declared, that except the truths of holy faith, nothing appeared to him more evident than that her soul was conducted by the Spirit of God; but he foretold her that she was not come to an end of her persecutions and sufferings. The authority of this glorious saint, the reputation of whose judgment and sanctity gave his confident decision the greatest weight, turned the stream exceedingly in favor of the holy virgin. It is not to be expressed what comfort and advantage she received from the conversation of this holy man, who strongly recommended her defence and direction to F. Balthasar, at that time her ordinary confessor, though he was shortly after removed to another place. After the trials already made, and the judgment passed by St. Peter of Alcantara, not only F. Balthasar, but many other persons of the greatest piety, learning, and authority, declared confidently that the marks and reasons were most clear and convincing, then in her ecatasies and prayer, she was conducted in a supernatural manner by the Divine Spirit. In her life, written by herself, we have a general account of the wonderful things she experienced. She sometimes suffered interior trials of darkness in the mind, and great anguish of soul, joined with extreme pain of bodily sickness, so that the powers of her soul seemed, on some occasions, suspended through excessive sorrow, almost as they were usually in raptures through excess of joy. For these afflictions God made her very ample amends; for they were always followed with a great abundance of favors, and her soul seemed to come out of them like gold more refined and pure out of the crucible, to see our Lord within herself. Then those troubles appeared little, which before seemed insupportable, and she was willing to return again to suffer still greater tribulations and persecutions; for all in the end bring more profit, though the saint says she never bore hers as she ought. Besides interior troubles and temptations, she sometimes met with exterior afflictions, and frequently saw devils in hideous figures; but she drove them away by the cross or holy water; and when the place was sprinkled with holy water they never returned. * One day, while she was in prayer, she had a vision of hell, in which she seemed in spirit to be lodged in a place which she had deserved, that is, into which the rarities and dangerous amusements of her youth would have led her, had she not been reclaimed by the divine mercy. Nothing can be added to the energy with which she describes the pain she felt from an interior fire and unspeakable despair; the thick darkness, without the least glimpse of light, in which she knew not how, she says, one sees all that can afflict the sight: from torturing discontent and anguish, the dismal thought of eternity, and the agony of the soul by which she is her own executioner, and tears her. self, as it were, to pieces, of which it is too little to say that it seems a butchering and a rending of herself. The saint says, that in comparison of these pains all torments of this world are no more than pictures, and burning here a trifle in respect of that fire. This was but a representation of those torments; yet she says that after this vision all things seemed easy to her in this life, in comparison of one moment of those sufferings. She continued ever after most heartily to thank God for having mercifully delivered her, to weep far sinners, and to compassionate the blindness of so many who swallow down, as if they were nothing, even most grievous sins, which though she had been most wicked, she had by the divine mercy always shunned, as murmuring, detraction, covetousness, envy, and the like. *

If the various proofs by which it pleased God to try Teresa served only to purify her virtue, the heavenly communications with which she was favored gave her a new luster. In her ecstasies, revelations were imparted to her, with visions, and other great favors, all which served continually to humble and fortify her soul, to give her a strong disrelish of the things of this life, and to inflame her with the most ardent desires of possessing God. In raptures she was sometimes elevated in the air, of which she gives the following description. * Having said that the soul has a power of resisting in the prayer of Union, but not in raptures in which her soul was absolutely carried away, so that she could not stop it, she adds: "Sometimes my whole body was carried with it, so as to be raised up from the ground, though this was seldom. When I had a mind to resist these raptures, there seemed to me somewhat of so mighty force under my feet, which raised me up, that I know not what to compare it to. All my resistance availed little; for when our Lord hath a mind to do a thing, no power is able to stand against it. The effects of this rapture are great. First, the mighty power of the Lord is hereby made manifest; for when he is pleased, we are no more able to detain our bodies than our souls: we are not masters of them, but must, even against our will, acknowledge that we have a superior, that these favors come from him, and that of ourselves we are able to do nothing at all: and a great impression of humility is made on the soul Further, I confess it also produced in me a great fear (which at first was extreme) to see that a messy body should be thus raised up from the earth. For though it be the spirit which draws it after it, and though it be done with great sweetness and delight, (if it be not resisted,) yet our senses are not thereby lost; at least I was so perfectly in my senses, that I understood I was then raised up There also appears hereby so great a majesty in him who can do this, that it makes even the hair of the head to stand on end; and there remains in the soul a mighty fear to offend so great a God. Yet this fear is wrapped up in an excessive love, which the soul conceives afresh towards him, whom she finds to bear so great a love to such wretched worms as we are. For he seems not content with drawing the soul to himself, but he will needs draw up the very body too, even while it is mortal, and compounded of so filthy an earth, as we have made it by our sins. This favor also leaves in the soul a wonderful disengagement from all the things of this world. In raptures of the spirit alone there seems a total loosening of the soul from all things, as it concerns the spirit. But here it seems that also the body partakes of this disengagement. And it breeds such a new aversion and disgust of the things of this world, that it makes even our life much more painful to us," &c.

Bishop Yepez relates, * that the saint, when she was prioress of the convent of St. Joseph at Avila, as she was going to receive the communion at the hands of the bishop, Don Alvarez of Mendoza, was raised in a rapture higher than the grate through which (as is usual in nunneries) she was to receive the holy communion; of which also sister Mary Baptist, prioress of Valladolid, was an eyewitness with others. Likewise Bannes, a very learned theologian of the order of St. Dominic, whose name is famous in the schools, and who was for some time confessor of St. Teresa, testified that the saint one day, in public, as she was raised in the air in the choir, held herself by some rails, and prayed thus: "Lord, suffer not, for such a favor, a wicked woman to pass for virtuous." He mentions other instances in the public choir; but says, that at her earnest request, this never happened to her in public during the last fifteen years of her life. Richard of St. Victor * teaches, that raptures arise from a vehement fire of divine love in the will, or from excessive spiritual joy, or from a beam of heavenly light caning upon the understanding. We learn from St. Teresa, that these three effects of an external grace usually concur in raptures. She says, the faculties or powers of the soul are lost by being most straitly united to God, so that she thought she neither saw, nor heard, nor perceived any thing about her; but this was only for a very short space during the highest part of some raptures: during the rest of the rapture, the soul, though she can do nothing of herself as to the exterior or the voluntary motions of the body, understands and hears things as if they were spoken from afar off. When she returns to herself, her powers continue in some degree absorbed sometimes for two or three days. In these raptures a soul clearly sees, and, as it were, feels how perfectly a nothing all earthly things are; how gross an error, and abominable a lie it is, to give the name of honor to what the world calls so real honor being built on truth, not on a lie. A like idea she has of the vanity and folly of the love of money, and of the baseness of earthly pleasures; and she learns that nothing is really true but what conduces to virtue, and makes no account of any thing which brings us not nearer to God. The greatness and goodness of God, the excess of his love, the sweetness of his service, and such other great truths are placed in a great light, and made sensibly manifest to her: all which she understands with a clearness which can be no way expressed: the impression whereof remains afterwards in the soul. In the rapture she acquires also a liberty and dominion, which results from her perfect disengagement from creatures, upon which she looks down, as raised above them, and above herself; and she is filled with confusion that she should have been so miserable as to have ever been entangled by them. She looks back upon her former blindness with amazement, and considers with compassion the misery of those who still remain in the like. But no effects of a rapture are so remarkable or profitable as the clear sight which the soul receives in it of her own imperfections, baseness, and nothingness; together with the most profound sentiments of humility, and of the other side, a great knowledge of the goodness, majesty, and boundless power of God, with the most ardent love and desires of speedily possessing him forever. * Hence St. Teresa, when her soul was deeply wounded, and to tally inflamed, as it were, by a spark falling from the immense fire of the love our Lord bore her, often repeated, with incredible earnestness, that verse: As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. * Among the visions which the saint had of the joys of heaven, in one she saw her parents in bliss; * in others, much greater se cress of that glorious kingdom were shown her, at which she remained amazed, and was ever after exceedingly moved entirely to despise all things below; but she found it impossible to give any description of the least part of what she saw, the brightness of the sun being mean and obscure in comparison of that light, which no human imagination can paint to itself, not any of the other things which she then understood, and that with a sovereign delight, all the senses enjoying a superior degree of sweetness which cannot be declared. She remained once about an hour in that condition, and our Lord showing most admirable things, said to her: "See what they lose who are against me: do not forbear to tell them of it." "But, O Lord," said the saint, "what good will my telling do them, whom their own malice blindeth, unless thou givest them light?" She adds, that the contempt of this world, and the desires of heaven with which these visions inspired her, could not be declared. "Hence also," says she, "I lost the fear of death, of which I had formerly a great apprehension." Such was the value she learned to set upon the glory and happiness of loving and praising God in his eternal kingdom, that for the least degree of increase in it, she should have been most willing to suffer all that can be imagined to the end of the world, though to her, who deserved hell, the lowest place in heaven would be an infinite and most undeserved mercy.

She sometimes saw the mystery of one God in three persons, in so clear and wonderful manner as much comforted and amazed her; sometimes Christ in the bosom of his Father, and frequently his humanity in its glorified state, so beautiful and delightful that she comprehended that, to behold one glorified body, especially the adorable humanity of Christ, would alone be a great felicity. * She often heard his Majesty say to her, with demonstration of great love: "Thou shalt now be mine, and I am thine." She was favored with many visions in the holy Eucharist; and sometimes with apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, and other saints; and frequently of angels of different orders standing near her, though she did not know their orders, for they never told her this. One of these visions she describes as follows: * "I saw an angel very near me, towards my left side, in a corporal form, (which is not usual with me; for though angels are often represented to me, it is only by the intellectual vision.) This angel appeared rather little than big, and very beautiful; his face was so inflamed that he seemed to be one of those highest angels, called seraphim, who seem to be all on fire with divine love. He had in his hand a long golden dart, and at the end of the point me thought there was a little fire; and I conceived that he thrust it several times through my heart after such a manner that it passed through my very bowels; and when he drew it out, me thought it pulled them out with it, and left me wholly inflamed with a great love of God." She says that this wound caused a great pain in her soul, which also affected her body; but this extremity of pain was accompanied with excessive delight, and, while it continued, she went up and down like one transported, not caring to see or speak, but only to burn and be consumed with that pain, which was a greater happiness to her than any the can be found in created things. The saint's desire to die, that she might be speedily united to God, was tempered by her ardent desire to suffer for his love: and the excess of his love for her, and of the comforts which he so often afforded her, made her esteem it as of no account that she should desire to suffer afflictions for his sake. And she writes: "It seems to me there is no reason why I should live but only to suffer; and accordingly this is the thing which I beg with most affection of God. Sometimes I se, to him with my whole heart; Lord, either to die or to suffer, I beg no other thing for myself. It comforts me also to hear the clock strike; for so methinks I draw a little nearer to the seeing of God, since one hour more of my life is past." * The saint mentions several instances of persons of remarkable virtue, some in a secular, others in a religious state, of her own nunnery, and of several other orders, whose souls she saw in visions freed from purgatory through the prayers of devout persons, and carried up to heaven, several hours or days after their departure; though their penitential and holy lives, their patience in long illnesses, their great regularity in their convent, and their tears, humility, and compunction at their death, which edified all who knew them, had persuaded her they would be admitted straight to glory. Besides the particular instances she relates, she adds she had seen the same of many others. "But among all the souls which I have seen, I have not known any one to have escaped purgatory except three, F Peter of Alcantara, a religious man of the order of St. Dominic (F. Peter Ivagnez,) and a Carmelite friar." * She was given to understand that this last was exempted from purgatory by the indulgences granted to those of his order, he having been a religious man, and having faithfully observed his profession; "which," says she, "I suppose was signified to me to imply that more is required to make a religious man than the wearing of the habit," namely, the spirit and faithful observance of his rule. Spiritual graces require this condition. All these visions and raptures tended exceedingly to the spiritual improvement of the saint in humility, divine love, and all other virtues. By them she was advertised of all her failings, and made continually more and more courageous, and perfect in the practice of all virtues; she learned that it is a misery, and a subject of patience, to converse in the world, to behold the comedy or puppet-show of this life, and to be employed in complying with the necessities of a mortal body by eating and sleeping, which captivate the mind, and are the occupation of our banishment from God. When she once grieved that all her Spanish pious books were taken from her, our Lord said to her: "Let not this trouble thee; I will give thee a living book." * This she experienced by mental prayer, and his heavenly communications. She learned by these raptures great heavenly mysteries, secrets, and things to come, which she foretold; and, as she assures us, not the least tittle of what was thus revealed to her ever failed to come to pass, though, at the time of her revelation and prediction, all appearances were contrary. She mentions that God, through her prayers, brought several sinners to repentance, and granted great graces to many others, as she learned by revelations. Also, that at her earnest request he restored sight to one that was almost quite blind, and health to some others laboring under painful and dangerous distempers. *

The account which this saint has drawn up of these visions, revelations, and raptures, carries with it the intrinsic marks of evidence. It is not possible attentively to peruse it, and not be convinced of the sincerity of the author, by the genuine simplicity of the style, scrupulous nicety, and fear exaggerating the least circumstance, making what might be doubtful apt bear certain, or in the least advancing any thing which might be false, or allowing any thing to conjectures; also by her unfeigned humility, which makes her speak everywhere against herself, omit nothing that could tend to her disgrace, magnify the least faults of her life, according to the apprehensions of her pure and timorous conscience, and leave everywhere the strongest impressions of her guilt, though she was commanded by her confessor not to exceed moderation m speaking of her sins: and though, as bishop Yepez (who was thoroughly acquainted with her, and knew her whole life) observes, could she have instanced in any other sins in particular, she would certainly have been more explicit; and she was obliged to acknowledge that God had preserved her from detraction, envy, impurity, and the like vices. The saint assures us, that she may be deceived, but would not lie in the least point, and would rather die a thousand times. * Her doctrine is called by the church, in the prayer of her festival, heavenly, is conformable to the spirit of the saints, and highly approved by the most experienced proficients in divine contemplation. All acknowledge that the most secret adyta of the sanctuary are here laid open, and the most abstruse maxims, which experience alone can teach but no words utter, are explained with greater perspicuity than the subject seemed capable of bearing and this was done by an illiterate woman, * who wrote alone, without the assistance of books, without study, or acquired abilities, who entered upon the recital of the divine favors with sentiments of humility and reluctance submitting every thing without reserve to the judgment of her confessor and much more to that of the church, and complaining that by this task she was hindered from spinning. The circumstances, and the manner of the narration in each part, furnish a chain of corroborating proofs in favor of the work; and as Mr. Woodhead observes, * her frequent pertinent digressions, the devotions, ejaculations, and colloquies with our Lord, which she everywhere intersperses from her habit of prayer, the prolix parentheses, and the iterated apologies for these surprises of herself, show that neither, her matter nor her method was pre-designed. The heroic sentiments and practice of all the most sublime virtues, with which this book is interspersed in every page, suffice alone to evince that what is here written could not be founded on chimerical illusions, or be the effect of a heated imagination. In the raptures and visions of this saint, we admire, indeed, the divine goodness in his infinite condescension; but what we ought chiefly to consider and study herein, are the great lessons of virtue which we meet with in the relation of these miraculous favors and in the wonderful example of this saint.

How perfectly she excelled in obedience appears from this circumstance, that on all occasions she preferred this virtue to her revelations, saying in them she might be deceived by the devil, but could not in obedience. In founding her convents and many other things, when she had received a command from Christ, she availed not herself hereof, but waited till, by the rules of obedience, she was authorized to execute the divine commission; depending, however, steadfastly on him who promised or commanded the undertaking, that he would carry the same by the regular means into execution: in which she was never disappointed. F. Balthasar Alvarez said of her: "Do you see Teresa of Jesus? What sublime graces has she received of God! yet she is like the most tractable little child with regard to every thing I can say to her." She called obedience the soul of a religious life, the short and sure road to perfect sanctity, the most powerful means to subject our will perfectly to that of God, and to overcome our passions, and which is the sacrifice of our whole lives to God. "I esteem it a greater grace," said she, "to pass one day in humble obedience, putting forth sighs to God from a contrite and afflicted heart, than to spend several days in prayer. Is it nothing great to abandon in some sense the enjoyment of God, in order to do his will manifested to us in obedience? Long prayer will not advance a soul at a time when she is called to obedience," &c. * She used often to repeat: "Obedience is put to the test in different commands." All murmuring, excuses, or delays she condemns as contrary to obedience. As for her own part, even when superior, she studied by many contrivances to obey others, and always obeyed her confessor as she would have done God himself.

A desire most perfectly to obey God in all things, moved her to make a vow never with full knowledge to commit a venial sin, and in every action to do what seemed to her most perfect; a vow which, in persons less perfect, would be unlawful, because it would be an occasion of transgressions. Humility, the root of true obedience, and the faithful parent of other virtues, was that in which she placed her strength, and her humility increased in proportion as she received from God the more extraordinary favors, which she saw to be his pure gifts, without her contributing any to them; and, because she profited so little by them, she condemned and humbled herself the more. The virtues of others seemed to her more meritorious, and she conceived that there was not in the world one worse than herself. * Hence she was the more inflamed to love and praise the gracious goodness of God, to whom alone she entirely ascribed his gifts, not usurping an atom of them to herself, and separating from them her infidelities and miseries, which was all that was of her own growth, and of which, by an infused light, she had the most extensive and fullest knowledge, and the most sincere feeling. Hence, seated in the centre of her own baseness and unworthiness, she was always covered with confusion and shame in the divine presence, as a spouse blushing at the remembrance of her treasons and infidelities towards the best and greatest of lords and husbands. She treated with all men confounded in herself, as unworthy to appear before them. She sincerely looked upon herself as deserving every sort of disgrace and contempt, as one who deserved hell, and whose only support against despair was the infinite mercy of God: and she endeavored to convince others of her wretchedness and grievous sinfulness with as great solicitude and affection as an ambitious proud man desires to pass for virtuous. There are many who affect to use this language of themselves, but cannot bear from others any contempt or injurious treatment. This St. Teresa received on all occasions with great inward joy, and exceedingly desired; and all honors and marks of esteem were most grievous to her. This satisfaction which the heart feels In its own just contempt is, as it were, the marrow and pith of true humility, says bishop Yepez. * These dispositions were in her so perfect as to surprise above all other things those who were best acquainted with her interior, and are sufficiently discoverable in her writings.

Nothing is more dangerous or nice, and nothing more difficult, than for a man to speak much of himself without discovering a complacency in himself in speaking superfluously concerning what belongs to him, and without discovering symptoms of secret self-love and pride, even in a studied affectation to disguise them, or in coloring or suppressing his own disgraces or weaknesses, and in displaying covertly his own talents and advantages. * And nothing seems a clearer proof how perfectly our saint was dead to herself by sincere humility than the artless manner in which she constantly, and not in certain occasions only, speaks of herself with a view to debase herself in every thing. Her exterior conduct breathed this sincere disposition of her soul. Though superior and foundress, she chose unaffectedly the greatest humiliations that could be practiced in her order. If she pronounced a word in the divine office with a false accent, she prostrated herself in penance; confessed in chapter, and humbled herself for the least faults of inadvertence with surprising humility and alacrity, and underwent the most humbling penances in the refectory and elsewhere with the same. It was her pleasure to steal secretly into the choir after the office, to fold up the cloaks of the sisters, to choose for her part of work to sweep the most filthy places in the yard, and to perform the lowest offices in serving at table! or in the kitchen, in which place she was often seen suddenly absorbed in God, with the utensils or instruments of her business in her hands; for every place was to her a sanctuary, and no employment hindered her from offering to God a continual sacrifice of humility. and of ardent love and praise Nothing is more admirable than the lessons of humility which she gives in her writings, and which she inculcates to her religious, recommending to them especially never to excuse themselves in faults, never to murmur, but to rejoice in abjection; never to justify themselves when accused falsely, (unless charity or prudence make it necessary;) to abhor every thought or mark of preeminence or distinction of ranks, which she extremely exaggerates as the bane of all true humility and virtue in a religious community, &c. * It was her usual exhortation that, though we can not arrive at the perfection of other virtues, or at a perfect imitation of our Blessed Redeemer, we can humble ourselves low enough, and be ashamed to fall so far short of Christ, our model, in the cordial love of contempt, and in embracing humiliations, which he underwent for our sake, but which are our due and remedy. She teaches that false humility is attended with interior trouble, uneasiness, and darkness in the mind in the confession of faults, and in embracing humiliations; but that true humility does these things with alacrity and interior light. She used to repeat to her sisters that sincere humility is the groundwork of prayer, this whole edifice being founded in it; and that as humility is the foundation, so is it the measure of our progress in the spirit of prayer, and all other virtues.

Her spirit of penance was not less edifying than her humility. Who without floods of tears for his own insensibility, can call to mind the wonderful compunction with which the saints wept and punished themselves their whole lives for the lightest transgressions? St. Teresa having had the misfortune in her youth to have been betrayed into certain dangerous amusements and vanities, though she would not for the world have ever consented knowingly to any mortal sin, had always hell and her sins before her eyes, penetrated with the compunction of a Magdalen or a Thais. Her love of penance, after she was w ell instructed in that virtue, made her desire to set no bounds to her mortifications, by which she chastised and subdued her flesh by long watchings in prayer, by rigorous disciplines, hair cloths, and austere fasts. Moved by this spirit of penance, she restored the original severity of her rule, and, notwithstanding her bad health, observed its fasts of eight months in the year, and other austerities, unless some grievous fit of illness made them absolutely impossible. On such occasions it was with great repugnance that she consented to use some small dispensations, but said she understood this repugnance proceeded rather from self-love than from a spirit of penance. Her prudence and pious zeal for religious discipline and penance, appear in the caution with which she guarded against the granting dispensations too easily on account of weak health, which opens a wide door to all relaxations in religious orders. She tells her nuns, that it is often the devil that suggests the idea of imaginary indispositions, or that sloth and immortification magnifies those that are slight; that it is often a mark of self-love to complain of little ailments, and that the more the body is indulged, the more numerous and craving its demands and necessities grow. * She insists on the universal self-denial, by which a religious person studies to do his own will in nothing: which practice, it is sounds harsh, will be found sweet, and will bring much contentment, holy peace, and comfort. * St. Francis of Assisi seems not to have carried the love of holy poverty higher than St. Teresa, though she mitigated some points of her first reform in this particular. If, even in secular princes, excess, vanities, and superfluities are sinful, how carefully ought the shadow of such abuses to be banished a religious life! It was her saying, that the least inordinate attachment hinders the flight of a soul upwards; to prevent which she obliged her nuns often to change every thing they used; reduced every thing in their mean clothing, coarse diet, and cells to what was indispensably necessary. She speaks most pathetically against superfluous or stately buildings. * She worked with her hands to gain a subsistence The modesty of the countenance of this holy virgin was a silent strong exhortation to the love of purity, as bishop Yepez testifies, who was persuaded she never felt in her whole life any importunate assaults against that virtue." When one asked her advice about impure temptations, she answered that she knew not what they meant. A noble and generous disposition of soul inclined our saint to conceive the most tender sentiments of gratitude towards all men from whom she had ever received the least service. The gratitude she expressed to God for his immense favors was derived from a higher source. * her writings she everywhere speaks with respect and affection of her persecutors; and, putting pious constructions on their words, and actions, represents them always as perfect servants of God, and her true friends. Contumelies she always bore in silence and with joy. She often said of those that reviled her, that they were the only persons that truly knew her. Under grievous slanders with which she was attacked at Seville, one asked her how she could hold her peace. She answered, with a smile, "No music is so agreeable to my ears. They have reason for what at they say, and speak truth." Her invincible patience under all pains of sickness, provocations, and disappointments; her firm confidence in God and m her crucified Redeemer under all storms and difficulties, and her undaunted courage in bearing incredible labors and persecutions, and in encountering dangers, cannot be sufficiently admired. God once said to her in a vision, "Dost thou think that merit consists in enjoying? No, but rather in working, in suffering, and in loving. He is most beloved by my Father, on whom he lays the heaviest crosses, if these sufferings are accepted and borne with love. By what can I better show my love for thee than by choosing for thee what I chose for myself?"

All eminent spirit of prayer, founded in sincere humility, and perfect self-denial, was the great means by which God raised this holy virgin to such an heroic degree of sanctity. If she remained so long imperfect in virtue and was slow in completing the victory over herself, it was because for some time she did not apply herself with a proportioned assiduity to the practice of devout prayer, some of her confessors having diverted her from it on act count of her ill health and exterior employments: which mistaken advice was to her of infinite prejudice, as she grievously laments. F. Balthasar Alvarez took much pains with very little progress for twenty years on the same account. * And sister Gertrude Moor, the devout Benedictine nun complains she had been led into the like false persuasion by directors unacquainted with the rules of an interior life. A right method of prayer replenished all the saints with a spirit of devotion which wrought a wonderful reformation of their affections, and changed their interior so as to make them on a sudden spiritual men. St. Teresa inculcates above all things in her writings the incomparable advantages of this spirit of prayer, and gives excellent lessons upon that important subject. * Our divine Redeemer, and the mystery of his incarnation and death were a great object of her adoration and most tender devotion. She suggests this often as the most easy method for beginners to accustom themselves to the familiar use of aspirations, that they imagine themselves in spirit conversing with Christ, representing humanity as present with them, whether by their side or in their heart. She observes that all religious persons are not called to contemplation, * but all can use assiduous prayer with aspirations. It is a maxim which she strongly inculcates, that the most advanced ought not entirely to abandon the method of sometimes representing to themselves Christ as man, and considering him as the object of their devotions, and this sometimes occupied her soul in her highest raptures. * The opposite doctrine, that to contemplate the humanity of Christ belongs only to the imperfect, and that perfect contemplatives consider only things purely spiritual, is an illusion of the false mystics. * Her singular devotion to the holy sacrament of the altar appears in her works. She used to say, that one communion is enough to enrich a soul with all spiritual treasures of grace and virtue, if she put no obstacles. To unite ourselves most frequently and most ardently with Christ in the holy Eucharist she called our greatest means of strength and comfort in our state of banishment till we shall be united to him in glory. Her ardor to approach the holy communion, and her joy and comfort in presence of the blessed sacrament are not to be expressed. In her most earnest prayers she conjured Almighty God, for the sake of his divine Son present on our altars, to stem the torrent of vice on earth, and preserve the world from those horrible profanations by which his mercy is insulted. * This her devotion sprang from that inflamed love of God which all her actions and writings breathe. * From the same source proceeded her burning zeal for the conversion of sinners whose souls she continually recommended to the divine mercy with many tears, * charging her religious never to cease from that office of charity, and from praying also for those ministers of God who labor for the salvation of souls. * Her grief for the wicked was inexpressible, and she was ready to suffer with joy a thousand deaths for one soul. She will have the divine love in all souls to be both contemplative and active, yet so that the exterior actions proceed from, and be animated by the interior fire; or be flowers of this plant, the root of which is the vehement affection of love reigning in the heart, from which they must draw their whole substance without any foreign mixtures: thus a preacher ought so entirely to have the divine honor in view as not to think even indirectly of pleasing men. * The first among the external actions in which divine love is exercised, she everywhere reckons patience in suffering persecutions and trials; and she says, that he who loves, finds his delight in sufferings, and gathers strength from them. * The second great exterior employment of love consists in laboring to extend the kingdom of God by advancing the sanctification of souls, but of our own in the first place. These and other exercises of love, and above all things the will of God (perfectly to acquiesce in which is our sovereign happiness) were the motives which tempered the earnestness of her desire immediately to see God in his glory, * which yet she indulged by the most ardent and amorous sighs, crying out: "O death, I know not who can fear thee, since it is by thee that we find life!" &c. * And, "O life, enemy to my happiness when will it be allowed to close thee? I have care of thee, because God is pleased to preserve thee, and thou belongest to him; but be not ungrateful How is my banishment prolonged! All time indeed is short to gain eternity." No saint expresses stronger or more lively sentiments of fear of being eternally separated from God; but these fears she resolved into humble hope in the pure clemency of God. * The operations of the same divine Spirit are various. Though fear, humility, love, and compunction reign in all devout souls, the Holy Ghost excites in some this, and in others that, virtue in a more sensible manner, and in some this, in others that, gift appears more eminent. *

St. Teresa, burning with a desire to promote with her whole strength the greater sanctification of her own soul and that of others, and of laboring to secure by the most perfect penance her eternal salvation, concerted a project of establishing a reform in her order. The rule which had been drawn up by Albert, patriarch of Jerusalem, was very austere; but in process of time several relaxations were introduced, and a mitigation of this order was approved by a bull of Eugenius IV. in 1431. In the convent of the Incarnation at Avila, in which the saint lived, other relaxations were tolerated, especially that of admitting too frequent visits of secular friends at the grate in the parlor or speak-house. St. Teresa one day expressing a great desire of living according to the original institute of the order, her niece Mary d'Ocampe, then a pensioner in that house, offered one thousand ducats to found a house for such a design, and a secular widow lady Guyomar d'Ulloa zealously encouraged the design; which was approved by St. Peter of Alcantara, St. Lewis Bertrand, and the bishop of Avila, and the saint was commanded by Christ in several visions and revelations which she recounts to undertake the same, with assured promises of success and his divine protection. The lady Guyomar procured the license and approbation of F. Angelo de Salazar, provincial of the Carmelites in those parts. No sooner had the project taken wind but he was obliged, by the clamors which were raised against it, to recall his license, and a furious storm fell upon the saint, through the violent opposition which was made by all her fellow nuns, the nobility, the magistrates, and the people. She suffered the most outrageous calumnies with perfect calmness of mind and silence, contenting herself with earnestly recommending to God his own work. In the mean time, Fr. Yvagnez, a Dominican, esteemed one of the most virtuous and learned men of that age, secretly encouraged the saint, and assisted madam Guyomar to pursue the enterprise, together with madam Jane of Ahumada, a married sister of the saint, who began with her husband to build a new convent at Avila, in 1561, but in such a manner that the world took it for a house in tended for herself and her family. Their son Gonzales, a little child, happened to be crushed by a wall which fell upon him in raising this building and was carried without giving any signs of life to Teresa, who taking him in her arms, put up her ardent sighs to God, and after some minutes restored him perfectly sound to his mother, as was proved in the process of the saint's canonization. * The child used afterwards often to tell his aunt, that it was a duty incumbent on her to secure his salvation by her prayers and instructions, seeing it was owing to her that he was not long ago in heaven. After a most virtuous life he died soon after St. Teresa, in extraordinary sentiments of piety. A great strong wall of this house falling in the night as soon as it was finished, many were discouraged; but the saint said it was the effect of the impotent rage and jealousy of the devil. The lady Louisa de la Cerda, sister to the duke of Medina Celi, being in the deepest affliction for the loss of her husband, count Arias Pardo, prevailed upon the provincial of the Carmelites to send an order to Teresa at Avila, sixty miles from Toledo, to repair to her in that city. The saint remained in her house above half a year, and promoted exceedingly the spirit and practice of eminent virtue, not only with the lady, who had for her the highest veneration but with her whole household and many other persons. All this time she abated nothing of her usual mortifications and devotions; and her provincial no sooner released her from the tie of obedience which he had imposed on her of living in the house of this lady, and left it to her choice, either to go or stay, but she returned to her monastery of the Incarnation at Avila. A little before she came back, at the time of the election of a prioress, several of the nuns were very desirous she should be chosen for that office, the very thought of which very much afflicted her; and though she was willing readily to endure any kind of torment for God, she could not prevail with herself to accept of this charge: for, besides the trouble in a numerous community, such as this was, and other reasons, she never loved to be in office, fearing it would greatly endanger her conscience. She therefore wrote to the nuns who were warmest for having her chosen, earnestly entreating them not to be so much her enemies. Our Lord one day when she was thanking him that she was absent during the noise of the election, said to her in a vision: "Since thou desires" a cross, a heavy one is prepared for thee. Decline it not, for I will support thee: go courageously and speedily." Fearing this cross was the office of prioress, she wept bitterly; but soon after heard that another person was chosen; for which she gave God most sincere thanks, * and set out for Avila. The same evening that she arrived at Avila the pope's brief for the erection of her new convent was brought thither. St. Peter of Alcantara, who happened to pass that way, Don Francisco de Salsedo, (a pious gentleman with whom St. Peter lodged,) and the famous Dr. Daza persuaded the bishop to concur, and the new monastery of St. Joseph was established by his authority, and made subject to him, on St. Bartholomew's day in 1562, the blessed sacrament being placed in the church, and the saint's niece, who had given a thousand ducats, and three other novices, taking the habit. Hereupon a great noise was raised against the saint in the town; the prioress of the Incarnation sent for her from St. Joseph's, and the provincial being called, the saint was ordered to remain in her old monastery of the Incarnation, though they were somewhat pacified when the saint had clearly shown them that she had not taken the least step contrary to her rule, or against the duty of obedience. The governor and magistrates would have had the new monastery demolished, had not F. Bannes, the learned Dominican, dissuaded them from so hasty a resolution. Amidst the most violent slanders and persecutions the saint remained calm, recommending to God his own work, and was comforted by our Lord, who said to her in a vision: "Dost thou not know that I am Mighty? What cost thou fear? Be assured the monastery shall not be dissolved. I will accomplish all I have promised thee." In the mean time Don Francis of Salsedo and other friends to the new establishment deputed a very pious priest, named Gonzales de Aranda, to go to court to solicit in its favor, and at length all things were successfully concluded by a new brief from Rome, by which the foundation of the house without rents was confirmed, and towards he end of the year 1562 the bishop prevailed with the provincial to send Teresa to this new convent, whither she was followed by four fervent nuns from the old house. One of these was chosen prioress; but the bishop soon after obliged Teresa to take upon herself that charge, and her incomparable prudence in governing others appeared henceforward in her whole conduct. The mortification of the will and senses, and the exercise of assiduous prayer, were made the foundation of her rule: strict enclosure was established, with almost perpetual silence. The most austere poverty was an essential part of the rule, without any settled revenues: the nuns wore habits of coarse serge, and sandals instead of shoes, lay on straw, and never ate flesh. St. Teresa admitted to the habit several fervent virgins; but would not have above thin teen nuns in this house for fear of dangers of relaxations and other inconveniences which are usually very great in numerous rouses. In nunneries which should be founded with revenues, and not to subsist solely on alms, she afterwards allowed twenty to be received. But this regulation as to the number is not everywhere observed in this order. The fervor of these holy nuns was such that the little convent of St. Joseph seemed a paradise of angels on earth, every one in it studying to copy the spirit of the great model before them. The general of the order, John Baptist Rubeo of Ravenna, who usually resided at Rome, coming into Spain and to Avila in 1566, was infinitely charmed with the conversation and sanctity of the foundress, and with the wise regulations of the house, and he gave St. Teresa full authority to found other convents upon the same plan. *

Out of an ardent zeal for the conversion of sinners, she asked his leave to establish also some convents of religious men, and the general allowed her at first to erect two. St. Teresa passed five years in her convent of St. Joseph with thirteen fervent nuns, whom she discreetly exercised in every sort of mortification, obedience, and all religious exercises, being herself the first and most diligent not only at prayer, but also in spinning, sweeping the house, or working in the kitchen. Among these holy virgins many were of high birth; but having renounced the world they thought of no distinction but that of surpassing each other in humility, penance, and affection for one another and for their holy mother: they abounded with heavenly consolations and their whole lives were a continued course of penitential exercises and contemplation; they never suffered their prayer to be interrupted night or day, as far as the weakness and frailty of our mortal state would admit. For St. Teresa declared assiduous prayer, silence, close retirement, and penance, to be the four pillars of the spiritual edifice she had raised, and the fundamental constitutions of their state. In August, 1567, St. Teresa went to Medina del Campo, and, having conquered many difficulties, founded there a second convent. In her history of the foundation of this house, she gives her spiritual daughters excellent advice concerning mental prayer, saying that it consists riot so much in thinking or forming reflections (of which every one is riot equally capable) as in loving; in resolving to serve God, to suffer for him joyfully, and to do his will; and in asking grace for this. Her instructions concerning obedience are not less important; for it is happy obedience and perfect resignation that give the inestimable treasure of liberty of spirit, by which a soul desires nothing, yet possesses all things neither fears nor covets the things of this world, and is neither disturbed by crosses nor softened by pleasures. The countess de la Cerda, whom St. Teresa had visited at Toledo, most earnestly desiring to found a convent or this order at her town of Malagon, the saint and the countess attended that work. Thence St. Teresa went to Valladolid, and there founded another nunnery. She was much affected with the virtue and happy death of a young nun in this house, and has given an amiable description of her perfect humility, meekness, patience, obedience, fervor, and perpetual silence and prayer. She never meddled in any matter that concerned her not, and therefore she discerned no defect in any one but in herself. In her last sickness she said to her sisters: "We ought not so much as turn our eyes but for the love of God, and to do what is acceptable to him." Another time she said, "It would be a torment to her to take satisfaction in any thing that was not God," (or for him.) St. Teresa made her next foundation at Toledo. She met here with violent opposition, and great obstacles, and had no more than four or five ducats when she began the edifice. But she said: "Teresa and this money are indeed nothing; but God, Teresa, and these ducats suffice for the accomplishment of the undertaking."

At Toledo, a young woman who had gained a reputation of virtue, petitioned to be admitted to the habit, but added "I will bring with me my Bible." "What!" said the saint, " your Bible? Do not come to us. We are poor women who know nothing but how to spin, and to do what we are bid." By that word she discovered in the postulant an inclination to vanity and dangerous curiosity and wrangling; and the extravagances into which that woman afterwards fell, justified her discernment and penetration. St. Teresa had met with two Carmelite friars at Medina del Campo, who were desirous to embrace her reform, F. Antony of Jesus, then prior there, and F. John of the Cross. As soon, therefore, as an opportunity offered itself, she founded a convent for religious men at a poor village called Durvelo, in 1568, (of which F. Antony was appointed prior,) and, in 1569, a second for men at Pastrana, both in extreme poverty and austerity, especially the latter After these two foundations, St. Teresa left to St. John of the Cross the care of all other foundations that should be made for the religious men. At Pastrana she also established a convent for nuns. Prince Ruy Gomez de Sylva, a favorite courtier of Philip II., who had founded these convents at Pastrana, dying, his princess in the sudden excess of her grief made her religious profession in this nunnery; but when this passion abated, claimed many exemptions, and would still maintain the dignity of princess; so that St. Teresa, finding she could not be brought to the humility of her profession, lest relaxations should be introduced in her order, sent a precept to the nuns to leave that house to her, and retire to people a new convent in Segovia. Afterwards she would not easily admit ladies who had been long accustomed to rule. When bishop Yepez entreated her once to admit to the habit a certain postulant, who was a lady of the first quality, advanced in years, and very rich both in money and vassalages, she would never hear of it, saying, that great ladies who have been long accustomed to have their own will, seldom sufficiently learn humility, obedience, and simplicity, without which they are more likely to overturn than to support a religious order. * In 1570, St. Teresa founded a convent at Salamanca, and another at Alva. Pope Pius V. appointed apostolic visitors to inquire into relaxations in religious orders, that they might be reformed. Dr. Peter Fernandez, a Dominican friar famous for his virtue and learning, was nominated visitor of the Carmelites in that part of Spain, and in the discharge of his office, coming to Avila, he found great fault in the monastery of the Incarnation in which were fourscore nuns, that enclosure and solitude were not better observed. To remedy these disorders he sent for St. Teresa, who had formerly consulted him in her doubts, and commanded her to take upon her the charge of prioress. It was a double affliction to the saint to be separated from her own dear daughters, and to be placed at the head of a house which opposed her reform with jealousy and warmth. The nuns also refused to obey her. She told them that she came not to command or instruct, but to serve and be instructed by the last among them. It was her custom to gain the hearts first before she laid her commands; and having by sweetness and humility won the affections of this whole community, she easily reestablished discipline, shut up the parlors, and excluded the frequent visits of seculars. At the end of the three years of her superiority, the nuns much desired to detain her, but she was appointed prioress of her reformed consent of St. Joseph in the same town. The provincial ejected St. John of the Cross and other fathers whom St. Teresa had appointed confessors to the house of the Incarnation, and involved her in the persecution he raised against them. She, however, continued to settle new foundations at Segovia, yeas, Seville, Caravaca, Villa-Nuova, Palencia, Granada, Soria, (in the diocese of Osma,) and Burgos. The mitigated Carmelites complained loudly of the great number of foundations which she made, fearing lest in the end they themselves should be subjected to her severe rule. The general, who had favored her, was compelled to order her not to found any more convents. There wee among the barefooted Carmelites a man of great reputation called F. Gratian, who was son to one who had been principal secretary of state to Charles V. and Philip II. As he had been very active in propagating the reform, the mitigated Carmelites proceeded so far as to pronounce a sentence of deposition against him.

St. Teresa felt most severely the persecutions which St. John of the Cross, F. Gratian, and others suffered; yet bore everything with admirable patience and resignation, and wrote to the general with perfect submission and wonderful tranquillity and cheerfulness of mind. Bishop Yepez, who was at that time her spiritual director, was amazed at her constant joy courage, meekness, and invincible greatness of soul under all manner of addictions, and the most atrocious slanders with which even her chastity was attacked. In the meantime, she did all the good offices in her power to every one of them that persecuted her, always spoke well of them, and would never hear the least sinister construction put upon any of their actions. She felt only the sufferings of others, being entirely insensible to her own. When FF. Gratian, Marian, and the rest gave up all for lost, she assured them: "We shall suffer, but the order will stand." The only answer she made to calumnies which were whispered against her, was: "If they thoroughly knew me, they would say much worse things of me." She told her persecuted friends, that nothing seemed to her a surer mark of the divine mercy towards them, and that nothing is more advantageous or necessary than to suffer, that we may learn better to know both God and ourselves, and be assisted more perfectly to extirpate pride and the love of the world out of our hearts. "I return God a thousand thanks," said she, writing to a friar of her order, "and you ought also to thank him on my account. What greater pleasure can we enjoy than to suffer for so good a God! The cross is the secure and beaten road to lead our souls to him. Let us then love and embrace it. Woe to our reform, and woe to every one of us, if crosses fail us." * After recommending her undertaking with many tears to God for the honor of his divine name, she wrote to the king, imploring his protection; and his majesty; upon the information of certain Dominican friars of great reputation, warmly espoused her cause, and that of her establishments; and an order was obtained at Rome to exempt the reformed from the jurisdiction of the mitigated Carmelites, so that each should have their own provincials. This expedient satisfied both parties, and put an end to these troubles in 1677.

Though the wonderful success of this saint in her enterprises undertaken for the divine honor, was owing to the blessing of God, and to the divine light and assistance which she drew down upon her actions by the spirit of holy prayer, the great channel of grace, she was certainly a person endowed with great natural talents. The most amiable sweetness and meekness of her temper, the affectionate tenderness of her heart, and the liveliness of her wit and imagination, poised with an uncommon maturity of judgment, gained her always, in the first part of her life, the particular love and esteem of all her acquaintance. Bishop Yepez assures us, that her deportment in the latter part of her life was not least agreeable than it was edifying; and that the gravity, modesty, and discretion of her words and carriage had such a dignity and gracefulness, and such charms, that even her looks composed the hearts, and regulated the manners of those who conversed with her. He adds, that her prudence and address were admirable. Such was her love of simplicity, truth, and sincerity, that if she heard any nun repeat something they had heard with ever so trifling an alteration in a single word, she reprimanded them with extreme severity; and often said, that a person could never arrive at perfection who was not a scrupulous lover of candor and truth. This appeared in all her dealings, and she would have rather suffered the most important affairs to miscarry, than to have said any word in which there could be the least shadow or danger of a lie or equivocation. * She used to say, that our Lord is a great lover of humility because he is the great lover of truth, and humility is a certain truth, by which we know how little we are, and that we have no good of ourselves. For true humility takes not from us the knowledge of God's gifts which we have received, but it teaches us to acknowledge that we no way deserved them, and to admire and thank the divine goodness so much the more as we more perfectly see our own baseness and unworthiness, and the infidelities and ingratitude with which we repay the divine graces. The wonderful confidence in God, and constancy and firmness of soul which she showed under all difficulties and dangers, arose from her distrust in herself, and in all creatures, and her placing her whole strength in God alone. To have neglected the means of human industry and prudence, would have been to have tempted God, who will have us employ them. Though we expect the whole issue from him who is pleased to make use of these, or perhaps other instruments if he rejects these; but St. Teresa had recourse to the succors of the world so as to place no part of her confidence in them, and she says of them: "I perceive clearly they are all no better than so many twigs of dried rosemary, and that there is no leaning upon them: for upon the least weight of contradiction resting upon them, they are presently broken. I have learned this by experience, that the true remedy against our falling is to lean on the cross, and to trust in him who was fastened to it" * As one unworthy of all heavenly consolation, she never durst ask any comfort of God, whether she suffered the most painful aridities, or abounded with spiritual favors, a conduct of which Dr. Avila and other experienced directors exceedingly approved, regarding it as a mark that her visions and raptures were not illusions. Humiliations and sufferings she looked upon as her due and her advantage "when I am in prayer," said she, * "I cannot, though I should endeavor it, ask of our Lord, nor desire rest, because I see that he lived altogether in labors; which I beseech him to give me likewise, bestowing on me first grace to sustain them."

St. Teresa lived to see sixteen nunneries of her reformed order founded, and fourteen convents of Carmelite friars. One of these latter was founded by a famous lady, called Catharine de Cardona, who had led an eremitical life in a cave in a desert eight years, when she built this friary, near her hermitage in the diocese of Cuenza. She was of the family of the dukes of Cardona, had been governess to Don Carlos and Don John of Austria, and was much caressed at court. In the world she had been much given to the practice of penitential severities; but the austerities with which she treated her body after she had retired into the desert seemed to exceed the ordinary strength of her sex. St. Teresa, who corresponded with her, very much commends her piety and virtue. This lady died in her cave in 1577, five years after she had built the friary, which she called Our Lady of Succor. St. Teresa was returning from founding a convent at Burgos to Avila, where she was prioress, when she was sent for by the duchess of Alva. She was at that time very ill of her usual distemper of a palsy and frequent violent vomitings. Yet when she arrived at Alva, on the 20th of September, she conversed with the duchess several hours; then went to her convent in the town, understanding that our Lord called her to himself. On the 30th of that month she was seized with a bloody flux, and after communicating at mass, took to her bed, and never rose out of it any more. The duchess visited her every day, and would needs serve her with her own hands. Sister Anne of St. Bartholomew, the saint's individual companion never left her. * On the 1st of October, having passed almost the whole night in prayer, she made her confession to F. Antony of Jesus. He afterwards, in the presence of the nuns, entreated her to pray that God would not yet take her from them. She answered, she was no way needful to them, nor useful in the world. She gave every day many wholesome instructions to her nuns, with greater energy and tenderness than usual. She besought them, for the love of God, to observe their rules and constitutions with the utmost diligence, and not to consider the bad example such a sinner had given them, but to forgive her. The holy viaticum being brought into her chamber on the 3rd of October, in the evening, she sprung up in her bed, though exceeding weak, and, among other fervent ejaculations, said: "O my Lord, and my spouse, the desired hour is now come. It is now time for me to depart hence. Thy will be done. The hour is at last come, wherein I shall pass out of this exile, and my soul shall enjoy in thy company what it hath so earnestly longed for." At nine o'clock the same evening, she desired and received extreme unction. F. Antony asked her if she would not be buried in her own convent at Avila? To which she answered: "Have I anything mine in this world? or will they not afford me here a little earth?" She recited often certain verses of the Misetere psalm, especially those words: A contrite and humble heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. This she repeated till her speech failed her. After this she remained fourteen hours, as it were, in a trance, holding a crucifix fast in her hand; and calmly expired at nine o'clock in the evening, on the 4th of October, 1582, the next day (by the reformation of the calendar * made that year by cutting off those ten days) being reckoned the 15th, the day which was afterwards appointed for her festival. She lived Sixty-seven years, six months, and seven days, of which she passed forty-seven in a religious State, and the latter twenty in the observance of her reformed rule. * Her body was honorably burled at Alva; but three years after, by a decree of the provincial chapter of the order, secretly taken up, and removed to Avila, in 1585 The duke of Alva resenting this translation, obtained an order at Rome that the relics should be restored to Alva, which was done in 1586, the body being always found entire, of the same color, and the joints flexible. There The history of many miracles wrought by her relics an: Intercession, may be seen in Yepez * and in the acts of her canonization.

St. Teresa having tasted so plentifully the sweetness of divine love, earnestly exhorts all others by penance and holy prayer to aspire to the same. She cries out: * "O admirable benignity of shine, O my God, who permittest thyself to be looked upon by those eyes which have abused their sight so much as these of my soul have done! O great ingratitude of mortals! O ye souls which have true faith, what blessings can you seek which may any way be compared to the least of those which are obtained by the servants of God, even in their mortal life, besides the happy eternity hereafter! Consider it is most true that God, even here, gives himself to such as forsake all things else for the love of him. He is no excepter of persons: he loves all, nor hath anyone an excuse, how wicked soever he Lath been, since our Lord hath dealt with me so mercifully. Consider, also, that this which I am saying is not so much as a cipher of that which may be said. It is no way in my power to declare that which a soul finds in herself, when our Lord is pleased to impart to her these his secrets; a delight so highly superior to all that can possibly be imagined here, that with good reason it makes those who possess it abhor all the pleasures of the earth; which, all put together, are no more, comparatively, than mere dung and dirt; nay, it is loathsome to bring these into comparison at all with them, even though they might be enjoyed forever. Yet, of these celestial consolations, what kind of mean proportion is that which God is pleased to bestow in this world? No more than, as it were, one single drop of water of that great full-flowing river, which is prepared for us. It is a shame, and I apply it to myself, (and if it were possible for souls to be ashamed in heaven, I should be justly ashamed there more than any other, that we should desire such great blessings, and infinite glory, all at the cost of the good Jesus, and not weep at least over him with the daughters of Jerusalem. If we will not help him to carry the cross, O how can we ever think of coming to enjoy, by the way of pleasures and pastimes, that which he purchased for us, at the expense of so much blood! This can never be. We take quite a wrong course; we shall never arrive at our journey's end by such an erroneous way. Your reverence must cry out aloud to make these truths be heard. O how rich will he find himself another day, who left all the riches he had for Christ! How full of honor, who rejected all worldly honor, and took pleasure in seeing himself much debased and despised for the love of him! How wise will he see himself, then, who rejoiced to see the world hold him for a fool, since they called wisdom itself by that name!" &c.

The life of St. Teresa, written by herself, holds the first place in the church among of this kind after the Confessions of St. Austin, says Baillet. The French translation of this work published by Abbe Chanut, in 1691, is far preferable to that which was the last production of D'Andilly in his old age, In 1670, and to that of F. Cyprian in 1657. The saint finished this work In 1562, twenty years before her death, she afterwards added to it a relation of the foundation of her convent at Avila. In this book we have the history of her life to the reformation of her order, with an account of the visions &c., she received during the three first years she was favored with such graces; those which she continued frequently to receive from that time to the end of her life were never published by her, except some things through the channel of persons whom she consulted. The history which she wrote of her Foundations furnishes us, however, with a continuation of her life till within two years, or a year and half, before her death. F. Ribera, a Jesuit, well known by his learned comments On the Twelve Lesser Prophets, the Epistle to the Hebrews. and the Apocalypse, who had been sometime confessarius of the saint, wrote her life with great care and fidelity. The same was also written soon after by Didacus Yepez, bishop of Tarragona, confessor to king Philip 11., and sometimes to St. Teresa, with whom he frequently conversed and corresponded during the space of fourteen years. See also the Epistles of St. Teresa published by bishop Palafox in four tomes. We have her own life and her other works, except her letters, translated into English by Mr. Abr. Woodhead, in two vols. 4to. 1669. Also an abstract of her own Life and Foundations by R. C. in 1757. Her life is compiled In French by de Villefort.

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Saint Teresa's Life - In Her Own Words


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     Teresa Of Avila  





Takes up the course of her life again and tells how the Lord granted her great relief from her trials by bringing her a visit from the holy man Fray Peter of Alcantara, of the Order of the glorious Saint Francis. Discusses the severe temptations and interior trials which she sometimes suffered.



Now when I saw that I could do little or nothing to stop myself from experiencing these violent impulses, I began to be afraid of them, for I could not understand how distress and contentment could go together. I already knew that it was quite possible for physical distress and spiritual contentment to exist together in the same person but it bewildered me to experience such excessive spiritual distress and with it such intense joy. Though I still did not cease striving to resist, I could do so little that it sometimes fatigued me. I used to seek the protection of the Cross and to try to defend myself against Him Who through the Cross became the Protector of us all. I saw that no one understood me, though I understood it very clearly myself; I did not dare, however, to speak of it save to my confessor, for to have done so would certainly have been to proclaim that I had no humility.


The Lord was pleased to grant me relief from a great part of my trials, and, for the time being, from all of them, by bringing to this place the blessed Fray Peter of Alcantara, whom I mentioned earlier when I said something about his penitential life: among other things, I have been assured that for twenty years he continuously wore a shirt made of iron.[1] He is the author of some little books on prayer, written in Spanish,[2] which are being used a great deal nowadays; as he was a man with great experience of prayer, his writings are very profitable for those who practise it. He kept the Primitive Rule of the blessed Saint Francis in all its rigour, as well as doing those other things of which something has already been said.


In due course that servant of God -- the widow of whom I have spoken and who was a friend of mine[3] -- learned that this great man was here. She knew of my necessities, for she was a witness of my afflictions and used to afford me great consolation, her faith being so strong that she could not but believe that what most people said was of the devil was really the work of the Spirit of God; and, as she is a person of very great intelligence and is also most discreet and was receiving many favours from the Lord in prayer, His Majesty was pleased to enlighten her upon matters of which learned men were ignorant. My confessors gave me permission to relieve my mind by talking to her about certain things, because for a multitude of reasons she was a suitable person for such confidences. She sometimes shared in the favours which the Lord was granting me and would receive counsels which were of great benefit to her soul. Well, when she learned that this holy man was here, she said nothing to me but obtained leave from my Provincial for me to stay with her for a week so as to give me a better opportunity of consulting him. So on this occasion of his first visit I had many talks with him, both in her house and in several churches, and later I had a great deal to do with him on many occasions. I gave him a summary account of my life and method of prayer with the greatest clarity of which I was capable; for I have always acted on the principle of speaking with the utmost clarity and truth to those whom I consult about my soul. I would always try to reveal to them its very first motions and tell them even the most dubious and suspicious things about myself: indeed, in discussing these matters with them I would put forward arguments which told against me. I was able, therefore, to reveal my soul to Fray Peter without duplicity or concealment.


Almost from the beginning, I saw that, out of his own experience, he understood me. And that was all I needed; for I did not understand myself then as I do now, and I could not describe what I was experiencing. Since that time God has granted me the ability to understand and describe the favours which His Majesty sends me. But just then I needed someone who had gone through it all himself, for such a person alone could understand me and interpret my experiences. He enlightened me wonderfully about them. I had been unable, at least as regards the visions which were not imaginary, to understand what they could all mean: I did not see how I could understand the nature of visions which I saw with the eyes of the soul, for, as I have said, I had thought that only visions which can be seen with the bodily eyes are of any importance, and of these I had none.


This holy man enlightened me about the whole matter, explained it all to me and told me not to be distressed but to praise God and be quite certain that it was the work of the Spirit; with the exception of the Faith, he said, there could be nothing truer, and nothing in which I could more confidently believe. He derived great happiness from what I said to him, was helpful and kind to me in every way and ever afterwards took a great interest in me and told me about his own affairs and undertakings. When he saw that I had desires which he himself had already carried into effect -- for the Lord had bestowed very resolute desires upon me -- and when he found, too, that I was so full of courage, he delighted in talking to me about these things. For if the Lord brings anyone to this state he will find no pleasure or comfort equal to that of meeting with another whom he believes He has brought along the first part of the same road -- for at this time I could not, I think, have gone much farther than that: please God I may still be as far advanced as I was then.


He had the greatest compassion on me. He told me that the trial I had been suffering -- that is to say, the opposition of good people -- was one of the severest in the world and that there would be many more such trials awaiting me. I should therefore have continual need of someone who understood me and there was no such person in this city, but he would speak to the priest to whom I made my confessions, and also to one of those who caused me the deepest distress -- namely, that married man of whom I have already spoken. The latter, just because he bore me the greatest goodwill, opposed me more than anyone else: being a holy and God-fearing[4] soul, and having so recently seen how wicked I was, he could not bring himself to have any confidence about me. The saintly man did as he had said he would: he spoke to them both and put reasons and arguments before them as to why they should be reassured about me and not cause me any more disquiet. My confessor hardly needed the advice. This gentleman, however, even when he had heard it, was not completely convinced, but it was sufficient to prevent him from frightening me as much as he had been doing.


We arranged -- Fray Peter and I -- that from that time onward I should write and tell him of anything that happened to me and that we should commend each other earnestly to God; for so great was his humility that he thought that there was value in the prayers of this miserable creature, which made me very much ashamed. He left me greatly comforted and very happy, telling me to continue confidently in prayer and not to doubt that the prayer came from God. For my greater security, I was to report any doubts I might have to my confessor; and, provided I did this, I should feel safe all my life. I was unable, however, to experience this feeling of complete security, for the Lord was leading me by the road of fear, with the result that, whenever I was told that the devil was deceiving me, I would believe it. In reality, none of my advisers was able to make me feel either afraid enough or secure enough to believe in him rather than in the feelings which the Lord implanted in my soul. So, although Fray Peter comforted and calmed me, I had not sufficient trust in him to be wholly without fear, especially when the Lord left me with the spiritual trials which I shall now describe. But, on the whole, as I say, I was greatly comforted. I was never weary of giving thanks to God and to my glorious father Saint Joseph, who seemed to me to have brought Fray Peter here, as he was Commissary General of the Custody[5] of Saint Joseph, to whom, as to Our Lady, I used often to commend myself. I had sometimes to endure -- and still have, though to a lesser degree -- the sorest spiritual trials, together with bodily pains and tortures, so severe that I could do nothing to ease them. At other times I suffered from more grievous bodily ills, and, if I had no spiritual distress, I bore these with great joy. It was when both kinds of distress came upon me together that my trials were so great and caused me such deep depression. I would forget all the favours that the Lord had bestowed upon me: nothing would remain with me but the mere recollection of them, like the memory of a dream, and this was a great distress to me. For, when a person is in this condition, the understanding becomes stupid; and so I was tormented by a thousand doubts and suspicions. I thought that I had not understood it properly, and that it might have been my fancy, and that it was bad enough for me to be deluded myself, without deluding good men as well. I felt I was so evil that I began to think that all the evils and heresies that had arisen were due to my sins.


This is a false humility; and it was invented by the devil so that he might unsettle me and see if he could drive my soul to despair. I have had so much experience by now of the devil's work that he sees I know his tricks and so he troubles me much less with this kind of torture than he used to. His part in it is evident from the disquiet and unrest with which it begins, from the turmoil which he creates in the soul for so long as his influence lasts, and from the darkness and affliction into which he plunges it, causing it an aridity and an ill-disposition for prayer and for everything that is good. He seems to stifle the soul and to constrain the body, and thus to render both powerless. For, though the soul is conscious of its own wretchedness and it distresses us to see what we are and our wickedness seems to us to be of the worst possible kind -- as bad as that which has just been described -- and we feel it very deeply, yet genuine humility does not produce inward turmoil, nor does it cause unrest in the soul, or bring it darkness or aridity: on the contrary, it cheers it and produces in it the opposite effects -- quietness, sweetness and light. Though it causes us distress, we are comforted to see what a great favour God is granting us by sending us that distress and how well the soul is occupied. Grieved as it is at having offended God, it is also encouraged by His mercy. It is sufficiently enlightened to feel ashamed, but it praises His Majesty, Who for so long has borne with it. In that other humility, which is the work of the devil, the soul has not light enough to do anything good and thinks of God as of one who is always wielding fire and sword. It pictures God's righteousness, and, although it has faith in His mercy, for the devil is not powerful enough to make it lose its faith, yet this is not such as to bring me consolation, for, when my soul considers God's mercy, this only increases its torment, since I realize that it involves me in greater obligations.[6]


This is an invention of the devil, and one of the most grievous and subtle and dissembling that I have found in him, and so I should like to warn Your Reverence of it, so that, if he should tempt you in this way, you may have some light, and may recognize his hand, if he leaves you sufficient understanding for doing so. Do not suppose that learning and knowledge have anything to do with this, for I am wholly destitute of both, and yet, after escaping from the devil's wiles, I see quite clearly that this is folly. What I have learned is that the Lord is pleased to give him permission and leave to tempt us, just as He gave him leave to tempt Job, although, being so wicked, I am not myself tempted as severely as that.


I have, however, been tempted in this way -- once, I remember, on the day before the vigil of Corpus Christi, a festival to which I am devoted, though not so much so as I ought to be. On that occasion the temptation lasted only until the day of the festival: on other occasions it has lasted for a week or a fortnight, or even perhaps for three weeks, or it may have been even longer. In particular it used to come during Holy Week, a time when I would derive great comfort from prayer. What happens on such occasions is that the devil suddenly lays hold on my understanding, sometimes by making use of things so trifling that at any other time I should laugh at them. He confuses the understanding and does whatever he likes with it, so that the soul, fettered as it is and no longer its own mistress, can think of nothing but the absurdities which he presents to it -- things of no importance, which neither keep the soul in bondage nor allow it to be free, and enslave it only in the sense that they stupefy it until its control over itself is gone. It has sometimes seemed to me, indeed, that the devils behave as though they were playing ball with the soul, so incapable is it of freeing itself from their power. Its sufferings at such a time are indescribable. It goes about in search of relief and God allows it to find none; it has only the reasoning power derived from its free-will, and it is unable to reason clearly. I mean that its eyes seem to be almost blindfolded: it is like someone who has gone along a particular road again and again, so that, even if it is night, and quite dark, he knows by the instinct which comes from experience where he is likely to stumble, for he has seen the road by day and is therefore on his guard against that danger. Just so the soul, in avoiding giving offence to God, seems to be walking by habit. This explanation, however, leaves out of account the fact that the Lord has it in His keeping, which is the thing that matters.


At such a time, faith, like all the other virtues, is quite numbed and asleep. It is not lost, for the soul has a firm belief in what is held by the Church; but, though it can testify with the mouth, it seems in other respects to be oppressed and stupefied, and it feels as if it knows God only as something of which it has heard from afar off. So lukewarm does its love become that, if it hears Him spoken of, it listens, believing that He is Who He is, because this is held by the Church, but it retains no memory of its own experiences of Him. To go and say its prayers, or to be alone, only causes it greater anguish, for the inward torture which it feels, without knowing the source of it, is intolerable; and, in my opinion, bears some slight resemblance to hell. Indeed this is a fact, for the Lord revealed it to me in a vision: the soul is inwardly burning, without knowing who has kindled the fire, nor whence it comes, nor how to flee from it, nor with what to put it out. In vain does it seek a remedy in reading: it might as well be unable to read at all. Once I chanced to take up the Life of a saint, to see if I could become absorbed in the reading of it and find comfort in thinking of the saint's sufferings. But I read four or five lines as many times, and, though they were in Spanish, I understood less of them at the end than at the beginning; so I gave it up. This happened to me on many occasions but I have a particular recollection of that one.


To engage in conversation with anyone is worse still, for the devil then makes me so peevish and ill-tempered that I seem to want to snap everyone up. I cannot help this, but if I can keep myself in hand I feel I am doing something, or rather that the Lord is doing something when His hand restrains anyone in this condition from saying or doing anything which may harm his neighbour or offend God. Then again, it is certainly useless to go to one's confessor. I will tell you what often happened to me. Saintly as were those whom I was consulting at that time, and am consulting still, they would say such things to me, and reprove me with such asperity that, when I spoke to them about it later, they were astonished at it themselves but said that they had been unable to do otherwise. For, although they had previously made up their minds not to speak to me like this, and afterwards would be sorry they had done so, and even feel scruples about it because of these bodily and spiritual trials which I was suffering, the resolutions they had made to comfort me with words of compassion would fall to the ground.


The words they used were not wrong -- not offensive, I mean, to God -- but they were the strongest words of displeasure permissible in a confessor. Their aim must have been to mortify me, and, although at other times I delighted in mortification and was well able to bear it, it was now pure torture to me. Then, too, I used to think I was deceiving them, so I would go and warn them most earnestly to be on their guard against me in case I might be doing so. I knew quite well that I would not deceive them intentionally, or tell them a lie, but I was thoroughly afraid. One of them, realizing how I was being tempted, once told me not to be distressed, for, even if I tried to deceive him, he had discernment enough not to allow himself to be deceived.[7] This was a great comfort to me.


Sometimes -- almost habitually, indeed, or at least very frequently -- I would find relief after communicating. There were times, in fact, when the very act of approaching the Sacrament would at once make me feel so well, both in soul and in body, that I was astounded. I would feel as if all the darkness in my soul had suddenly been dispersed and the sun had come out and shown me the stupidity of the things I had been saying and doing. At other times, if the Lord spoke only one word to me (if, for example, as on the occasion I have already described, He said no more than "Be not troubled: have no fear"), that one word completely cured me, or, if I were to see some vision, it was as if there had been nothing wrong with me. I rejoiced in God and made my complaint to Him asking Him how He could allow me to suffer such tortures but telling Him that I was well rewarded for them, since when they were over, I almost invariably received favours in great abundance. My soul seemed to emerge from the crucible like gold, both brighter and purer, to find the Lord within it. So trials like these, unbearable as they may seem, eventually become light, and the soul becomes anxious to suffer again if by so doing it can render the Lord greater service. And, however numerous may be our troubles and persecutions, if we endure them without offending the Lord, but rejoice to suffer for His sake, they all work together for our greater gain -- though I do not myself bear them as they should be borne, but in a way which is most imperfect.


On other occasions these temptations came to me in another fashion, as they do still. At such times as these I seem to have been totally deprived of the possibility of thinking a single good thought or of desiring to put it into practice. My soul and body seem to be completely useless and merely a burden to me. But I do not then have these other temptations and discomforts: only a feeling of dissatisfaction -- with what, I do not know -- so that there is nothing in which my soul can take pleasure. I used to try to occupy myself with the outward performance of good works, and I would half force myself to do these, and I know well how little a soul can do when it is without grace. This did not cause me great distress, for I derived some satisfaction from realizing my own baseness. At other times I find myself unable to formulate a single definite thought, other than quite a fleeting one, about God, or about anything good, or to engage in prayer, even when I am alone; yet none the less I feel that I know Him.


It is the understanding and the imagination, I think, which are doing me harm here. My will, I believe, is good, and well-disposed to all good things; but this understanding is so depraved that it seems to be nothing but a raving lunatic -- no body can repress it and I have not myself sufficient control of it to keep it quiet for a moment. Sometimes I laugh at myself and realize what a miserable creature I am and then I keep an eye on my understanding and leave it alone to see what it will do; and for a wonder -- glory be to God! -- it never occupies itself with evil things, but only with indifferent ones, looking round for things to think about here, there and everywhere. I then become more conscious of the exceeding great favour which the Lord bestows on me when He keeps this lunatic bound and allows me to enjoy perfect contemplation. I sometimes reflect on what would happen if people who think of me as good were to see me in this condition of distraction. I am deeply grieved when I find that my soul is in such bad company. I want to see it free, so I say to the Lord: "When, my God, shall I at last see all the faculties of my soul united in Thy praise and having fruition of Thee? Permit my soul no longer, Lord, to be dispersed in fragments, with each fragment seeming to go its own way." This is an experience I often have, but sometimes I know quite well that my poor bodily health is having a great deal to do with it. I often think of the harm wrought in us by original sin; it is this, I believe, that has made us incapable of enjoying so much good all at once, and added to this are my own sins, for, had I not committed so many, I should have been more nearly perfect in goodness.


There was another great trial, too, which I suffered. I used to think I understood all the books dealing with prayer which I read, and that, as the Lord had bestowed this gift of prayer upon me, I no longer needed them. So I left off reading them and read only lives of saints, for, as I find myself falling so far short of the saints in the service which they rendered to God, such reading helps me and spurs me on to do better. Then it would occur to me that it showed a great lack of humility to suppose that I had received that gift of prayer, and, as I could not succeed in persuading myself of the contrary, I was greatly distressed, until learned men, and the blessed Fray Peter of Alcantara, told me not to let it trouble me. I realize perfectly that, although in granting me favours His Majesty treats me as He does many good people, I have not yet begun to serve Him, and that I am nothing but imperfection except in desire and love, with regard to which I know well the Lord has helped me so that I may render Him some service. I do really believe I love Him, but my actions and the many imperfections which I find in myself discourage me.


At other times my soul is troubled by what I should call a kind of foolishness: I seem to be doing neither good nor evil, but to be following the crowd, as they say, without experiencing either suffering or bliss. I care not whether I live or die, nor whether I experience pleasure or pain: I seem to feel nothing. The soul appears to me to be like a little ass, feeding and sustaining its life by means of the food which is given it and which it eats almost unconsciously. For the soul in this state cannot do otherwise than feed on some of God's great favours; it does not mind living this miserable life and bears its existence with equanimity, but it is quite unconscious of any motions or effects which might help it to understand its condition.


This, it now seems to me, is like sailing with a very calm wind: one makes great headway, but without knowing how, whereas in these other experiences the effects are so noticeable that the soul almost immediately becomes conscious of its improvement, for the desires begin at once to be aroused and the soul is never fully satisfied. This is the result of the violent impulses of love, which I have already mentioned, in those to whom God gives them. It reminds me of little springs which I have seen gushing up and which keep on incessantly stirring up the sand all around them. This, I think, is a very lifelike illustration or comparison to apply to souls which attain to this state. Love is continually bubbling up in them and thinking of the things it will do: it cannot remain where it is, just as the spring-water seems unable to remain in the earth, but issues forth from it. Just so, as a general rule, is it with the soul: such is the love it has that it can find no rest, nor can it contain itself, and it has already saturated the earth around. It would like others to drink of its love, since it has itself no lack of it, so that they might help it to praise God. Oh, how often do I remember the living water of which the Lord spoke to the woman of Samaria! I am so fond of that Gospel. I have loved it ever since I was quite a child -- though I did not, of course, understand it properly then, as I do now -- and I used often to beseech the Lord to give me that water. I had a picture of the Lord at the well, which hung where I could always see it, and bore the inscription: "Domine, da mihi aquam."[8]


This love is also like a great fire, which has always to be fed lest it should go out. Just so with the souls I am describing: cost them what it might, they would always want to be bringing wood, so that this fire should not die. For my own part, I am the sort of person who would be satisfied if she had even straw to throw upon it, and it is sometimes -- often, indeed -- like that with me. Now I am laughing; now I am greatly troubled. An inward impulse moves me to serve God in some way, but I am useless except for decking images with branches of trees and flowers, or for sweeping or tidying an oratory or doing other trifling things which I am ashamed of. If I did anything in the way of penance, it was all so insignificant that, unless the Lord would take the will for the deed, I realized how completely worthless it was and scoffed at my own self. It is no small trial, then, for souls to whom God in His goodness grants an abundance of this fire of His love, that they should lack bodily strength to enable them to do anything for Him. It is a very great grief; for, when a soul lacks the strength to throw any wood on this fire, and is frightened to death lest it should go out, I think it becomes consumed itself and turns into ashes, or melts into tears and is burned up; and this, though delectable, is severe torture.


Let the soul give great praise to the Lord when it has progressed as far as this, and when He has granted it bodily strength to enable it to do penance, or given it learning and talent and freedom to preach, hear confessions and bring souls to God. It has no knowledge or understanding of the blessing it possesses if it has not learned by experience what it is to be able to do nothing in the Lord's service and always to be receiving so much from Him. May He be blessed for all things and may the angels glorify Him. Amen.


I do not know if I am doing right to say so much about trifles. As Your Reverence has again sent me a message telling me not to mind writing at length and to omit nothing, I am continuing to give a true and clear description of everything that I remember. But I cannot help omitting a great deal, for otherwise I should have to devote much more time to this (and, as I said, I have so little time) without perhaps doing any good by it.







Treats of certain outward temptations and representations made to her by the devil and of tortures which he caused her. Discusses likewise several matters which are extremely useful for people to know if they are walking on the road to perfection.



Having described certain secret and inward disturbances and temptations inflicted upon me by the devil I shall now speak of others which he brought upon me almost in public and in which it was impossible not to detect his hand.


Once, when I was in an oratory, he appeared on my left hand in an abominable form; as he spoke to me, I paid particular attention to his mouth, which was horrible. Out of his body there seemed to be coming a great flame, which was intensely bright and cast no shadow. He told me in a horrible way that I had indeed escaped out of his hands but he would get hold of me still. I was very much afraid and made the sign of the Cross as well as I could, whereupon he disappeared, but immediately returned again. This happened twice running and I did not know what to do. But there was some holy water there, so I flung some in the direction of the apparition, and it never came back. On another occasion the devil was with me for five hours, torturing me with such terrible pains and both inward and outward disquiet that I do not believe I could have endured them any longer. The sisters who were with me were frightened to death and had no more idea of what to do for me than I had of how to help myself.


When the pains and the bodily suffering are quite intolerable, my custom is to make interior acts as well as I can, and to beseech the Lord, if it be His Majesty's good pleasure, to give me patience -- if only I have that I can keep on suffering in this way until the very end of the world. So, when on this occasion I found myself suffering so severely, I took to these acts and resolutions, using them as means which would enable me to bear the pain. The Lord evidently meant me to realize that this was the work of the devil, for I saw beside me a most hideous little negro, snarling as if in despair at having lost what he was trying to gain. When I saw him, I laughed and was not afraid. Some of the sisters who were with me were helpless and had no idea how to relieve such torture; for the devil had made me pound the air[9] with my body, head and arms and I had been powerless to resist him. But the worst thing had been the interior disquiet: I could find no way of regaining my tranquillity. I was afraid to ask for holy water, lest I should frighten my companions and they should discover what was wrong.


From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like holy water to put devils to flight and prevent them from coming back again. They also flee from the Cross, but return; so holy water must have great virtue. For my own part, whenever I take it, my soul feels a particular and most notable consolation. In fact, it is quite usual for me to be conscious of a refreshment which I cannot possibly describe, resembling an inward joy which comforts my whole soul. This is not fancy, or something which has happened to me only once: it has happened again and again and I have observed it most attentively. It is, let us say, as if someone very hot and thirsty were to drink from a jug of cold water: he would feel the refreshment throughout his body. I often reflect on the great importance of everything ordained by the Church and it makes me very happy to find that those words of the Church are so powerful that they impart their power to the water and make it so very different from water which has not been blessed.


Well, as my tortures did not cease, I said: "If you wouldn't laugh at me, I should ask for some holy water." So they brought me some and sprinkled me with it but it did me no good. Then I sprinkled some in the direction of the place where the little negro was standing and immediately he disappeared and all my troubles went, just as if someone had lifted them from me with his hand, except that I was as tired as if I had been dealt a great many blows. It edified me greatly to find that, when the Lord gives him permission, the devil can do so much harm to a soul and a body which are not his. For what, then, I thought, will he not do when he has them in his possession? And I felt a renewed desire to be freed from such pernicious companionship.


On another occasion, quite recently, the same thing happened to me, though it did not last so long and I was alone. I asked for holy water, and, after the devils had gone away, the next persons to come in (two nuns who may safely be believed, for they would not tell a lie for anything) noticed a very bad smell, like brimstone. I could not detect it myself but it had remained there long enough for them to have noticed it. On another occasion I was in choir when I felt a vehement impulse towards recollection. I went out, so that the sisters should not observe it, but all who were near me heard sounds where I was, like the noise of heavy blows, and I myself heard voices near me as though people were discussing something. I could not hear what they were saying, however: so deeply immersed was I in prayer that I heard nothing at all and I was not in the least afraid. This happened nearly always at times when the Lord was granting me the favour of allowing some soul, through my agency, to be making progress. What I am now going to describe is something which actually happened to me; and there are many people who will bear witness to this, in particular my present confessor,[10] who saw a written account of the occurrence in a letter. I did not tell him who the author of the letter was, but he knew quite well.


A person came to me who for two and a half years had been living in mortal sin -- one of the most abominable sins that I had ever heard of -- and during the whole of that time he neither confessed it nor amended his life, and yet went on saying Mass. And, though he confessed his other sins, when it came to that one, he would ask himself how he could possibly confess such a dreadful thing. He had a great desire to give it up but could not bring himself to do so. I was terribly sorry for him and very much distressed to find that God was being offended in such a way. I promised him that I would pray earnestly to God that He would help him and that I would get other people better than myself to do so too, and I wrote to a certain person who, he said, would be able to distribute the letters. And, lo and behold, at the first possible moment, he confessed; for through the many most saintly persons who at my request had prayed to Him on his behalf God was pleased to bestow this mercy upon his soul, and I, miserable though I am, had done what I could and taken the greatest pains about it. He wrote to me and said that he was now so much better that days passed without his falling into this sin, but he was suffering such tortures from temptation that his distress made him feel as if he were already in hell; and he asked me to commend him to God. I spoke about it again to my sisters, through whose prayers the Lord must have granted me this favour, and they took it very much to heart. (None of them could guess who he was.)[11] I begged His Majesty that these tortures and temptations might be assuaged and the devils be sent to torture me instead, provided I gave no offence to the Lord. This led me to suffer a month of the severest tortures and it was during that time that the two incidents happened which I have described.


It was the Lord's good pleasure that the devils should leave him; this I learned from letters, for I wrote to tell him what had been happening to me during the past month. His soul took new strength and he remained completely free from his sin and was never tired of giving thanks to the Lord and to me, as if I had done anything for him, unless he was helped by his belief that the Lord was granting me favours. He said that, when he found himself sorely oppressed, he would read my letters, and the temptation would leave him, and added that he was astounded to hear of what I had suffered and of how he had been delivered. I was astounded myself, for that matter, and I would have gone through as much for many years longer to set that soul free. May He be praised for everything, for the prayers of those who serve the Lord can do a great deal and I believe the sisters in this house do indeed serve Him. But the devils must have loosed most of their wrath on me because all this happened through my agency and the Lord permitted me to suffer on account of my sins.


One night, too, about this time, I thought the devils were stifling me; and when the nuns had sprinkled a great deal of holy water about I saw a huge crowd of them running away as quickly as though they were about to fling themselves down a steep place. So often have these accursed creatures tormented me and so little am I afraid of them, now that I see they cannot stir unless the Lord allows them to, that I should weary Your Reverence, and weary myself too, if I were to talk about them any further.


May what I have said help the true servant of God to make little account of these horrors, which the devils present us with in order to make us afraid. Let him realize that, every time we pay little heed to them, they lose much of their power and the soul gains much more control over them. We always derive some great benefit from these experiences, but of this benefit I will say nothing lest I should write too fully. I will only describe something that happened to me one night of All Souls. I was in an oratory: I had said one nocturn and was repeating some very devotional prayers which follow it -- they are extremely devotional: we have them in our office-book -- when actually the devil himself alighted on the book, to prevent me from finishing the prayer. I made the sign of the Cross and he went away. I then began again and he came back. I think I began that prayer three times and not until I had sprinkled some holy water on him could I finish it. At the same moment I saw several souls coming out of purgatory: their time there must have been nearly up and I thought that perhaps the devil was trying to impede their deliverance. I have seldom seen him in bodily shape, but I have often seen him without any form, as in the kind of vision I have described, in which no form is seen but the object is known to be there.


I want also to describe the following incident, which caused me great alarm. One Trinity Sunday, I was in the choir of a certain convent, and, while in a rapture, I saw a great battle between devils and angels. I could not understand the meaning of that vision, but before a fortnight had passed it had become clear that it referred to a conflict that had taken place between some persons who practised prayer and others who did not, which did the house great harm. It was a conflict which lasted a long time and caused a great deal of commotion. On other occasions I saw around me a great multitude of devils, and yet I seemed to be enveloped by a great light, which prevented them from coming nearer. I realized that God was guarding me so that they should not come near me and thus make me offend Him. From what I sometimes saw in myself, I knew the vision was a genuine one. The fact is, I realize so clearly now how little power the devils have, if I am not fighting against God, that I am hardly afraid of them at all: for their strength is nothing unless they find souls surrendering to them and growing cowardly, in which case they do indeed show their power. Sometimes, during the temptations I have already described, I would feel as if all my vanities and weaknesses of times past were re-awakening in me, and then I certainly had to commend myself to God. Until my confessor set my fears at rest, I was tormented by the idea that, because these thoughts came into my mind, I must be wholly possessed by the devil. For it seemed to me that not even the first impulse towards an evil thought ought to come to one on whom the Lord had bestowed so many favours. At other times I was greatly tormented -- and I still am even now -- by finding myself thought so much of, especially by people of importance, and so much good said of me. I have suffered a great deal from this, and suffer from it still. At such times I turn straight to the life of Christ and to the lives of the saints and realize that I am travelling in the opposite direction from that which they took, for they experienced nothing but contempt and insults. This makes me proceed very fearfully and as one who dares not lift her head, for I do not want to seem to be doing what I am not.


When I am undergoing persecutions, my body suffers and I am afflicted in other ways, but my soul is completely mistress of itself to an extent that I should not have thought possible. But that is how it is: on such occasions the soul seems to be in its own kingdom and to have all things under its feet. This happened to me several times and lasted for quite a number of days: it seemed to be a kind of virtue, and humility, but I can now see quite well that it was a temptation. A Dominican friar, who was a very learned man, gave me a clear explanation of this. When I thought that a knowledge of these favours which the Lord is granting me might become public, my torture grew so excessive that it greatly disturbed my soul. Such a pitch did it reach that, when I dwelt on the matter, I decided I would rather be buried alive than endure this. So, when these raptures or these periods of deep recollection began, and I could not resist them, even in public, I would become so ashamed after they were over as to want not to appear where anyone would see me.


Once, when I was very much troubled about this, the Lord asked me what I was afraid of, for only two things could happen -- people would either speak ill of me or praise Him. He meant that those who believed it was His work would praise Him, and those who did not would condemn me without my having done wrong, and that either course would be advantageous to me and therefore I must not be troubled. This calmed me a great deal and whenever I think of it, it still comforts me. The temptation reached such a point that I wanted and leave this place and go and take my dowry to another convent, much more strictly enclosed than the one I was then in, which I had heard remarkably well spoken of. It belonged to my own Order and was a long way away; it is the distance that would have given me the greatest relief, for I should have been where nobody knew me.[12] But my confessor never allowed me to go.


These fears robbed me of much freedom of spirit; later I came to see that all this restlessness on my part was not real humility. And the Lord revealed this truth to me: that if I believed resolutely and with conviction that anything good in me was not mine at all but came from God, then, just as I was not troubled at hearing other people praised but rather rejoiced and took comfort at seeing that God was showing His power in them, so, too, I should not be troubled if He were to show His works in me.


I also fell victim to another excess of zeal, which was to beseech God, and to make it my special prayer, that when a person thought there was any good in me, His Majesty would reveal my sins to him, so that he might see how utterly undeserving I was of these favours -- which is always my great desire. My confessor told me not to do this; but I continued to do it almost down to this day. If I observed that someone was thinking very well of me, I would manage, indirectly or in any way that I could, to make him aware of my sins. That seemed to bring me relief. My sins have made me very scrupulous about this.


This, however, I think, was not the result of humility, but often proceeded from a temptation. It seemed to me that I was deceiving everybody; and, though it is true that it was their own belief that there was some good in me which was deceiving them, I had no desire to deceive them, nor did I ever try to do so: for some reason the Lord permitted it. So, unless I saw that such a course was necessary, I said nothing about these things even to my confessors, for to do so would have caused me grave scruples. I realize now that all these little fears and troubles and this apparent humility were sheer imperfection, due to my lack of mortification. For a soul left in the hands of God cares nothing whether good or evil is spoken of it if it has a right understanding. And, when the Lord is pleased to grant it the grace of understanding, it must understand clearly that it has nothing of its own. Let it trust its Giver and it will learn why He reveals His gifts, and let it prepare itself for persecution, which at a time like the present is sure to come to a person when the Lord is pleased for it to be known that He is granting him such favours as these. For upon a soul like this are fixed a thousand eyes, whereas upon a thousand souls of baser texture there will not be fixed a single one.


In truth, there is no small reason here for being afraid, and I certainly ought to have been so -- I was being, not humble, but pusillanimous. For a soul which God allows to walk in this way in the sight of the whole world may well prepare itself to be martyred by the world, for, if it will not die to the world of its own free will, the world itself will kill it. Really, I can see nothing in the world that seems to me good save its refusal to allow that good people can ever do wrong and the way it perfects them by speaking ill of them. I mean that more courage is necessary for following the way of perfection, if one is not perfect, than for suddenly becoming a martyr; for perfection cannot be acquired quickly, except by one to whom by some particular privilege the Lord is pleased to grant this favour. When the world sees anyone setting out on that road it expects him to be perfect all at once and detects a fault in him from a thousand leagues' distance; yet in that particular person the fault may be a virtue, and his critic, in whom it is a vice, may be judging him by himself. They will not allow him to eat or sleep -- they will hardly let him breathe, as we say: the more highly they think of him, the more they seem to forget that he is still in the body. For, however perfect his soul may be, he is still living on earth, and however resolutely he may trample earth's miserable limitations beneath his feet, he is still subject to them. And so, as I say, he needs great courage. His poor soul has not yet begun to walk, and men expect it to fly. He has not yet conquered his passions, and men expect him to rise to great occasions and be as brave as they read the saints were after they had been confirmed in grace. What happens here gives us cause for praising the Lord and also for great sorrow of heart, since so many poor souls turn back because they have no idea what to do to help themselves. And I believe my soul would have been like them had not the Lord Himself had such compassion on me and done everything for me. Until He of His goodness had done everything, I myself did nothing, as Your Reverence will know, but fall and rise again.


I wish I knew how to express this, for many souls, I believe, go wrong here and want to fly before God gives them wings. I think I have made this comparison somewhere before, but it is very much to the point, so I will attempt it again, for I find that some souls are very much distressed by this. They begin with good desires, and fervour, and determination to advance in virtue, and some of them give up all external things for God. Then they see in others who are more fully grown in grace many notable fruits, in the shape of virtues given them by the Lord -- for we cannot acquire these ourselves. They see in all the books written on prayer and contemplation a description of things which we must do in order to rise to that dignity. And, as they themselves cannot manage to do all these things, they lose courage. I refer to such things as not caring if people speak ill of us, but being more pleased than when they speak well; holding our own reputation in little esteem; cultivating detachment from our kindred and, unless they be persons of prayer, not desiring converse with them but finding it wearisome; and many other things of that kind. These, I think, must be bestowed upon us by God, for they seem to me to be supernatural blessings, contradicting our natural inclinations. They must not be troubled, but hope in the Lord; for what they now are in desire His Majesty will, if they pray and do what they can for themselves, make them to be in very deed. It is most necessary that this weak nature of ours should have great confidence, and not be dismayed or think that, if we do our utmost, we can fail to come out victorious.


As I have a great deal of experience here, I will say something to Your Reverence by way of counsel. Do not think, even though it may seem so to you, that anyone has acquired a virtue when he has not tested it by its corresponding vice. We must always guard our misgivings, and never, all our lives long, grow careless, for much of the world will cling to us, if, as I say, God has not given us the grace fully to understand the nature of everything; and there is never anything in this life which is not attended by many dangers. A few years ago, I believed, not merely that I was not attached to my relatives, but that they were wearisome to me, and this was certainly true, for I could not endure their conversation. Then a matter of great importance cropped up and I had to go and stay with a sister of mine of whom, in the past, I had been extremely fond.[13] Though she is a better woman than I am, I could not get on with her at all in conversation; for as she is married, and therefore lives a different kind of life, we could not always be talking of the things I should have liked, and all I could do was to try to be alone. But I found that when she was distressed it affected me much more than when my neighbours were; sometimes, in fact, I would be quite concerned about her. In short, I discovered that I was not as free from attachment as I had supposed and indeed that I needed to avoid occasions of sin, so that this virtue, which the Lord had begun to implant in me, might grow; and with His help I have done my utmost to cultivate it ever since.


When the Lord begins to implant a virtue in us, it must be esteemed very highly and we must on no account run the risk of losing it. So it is in matters concerning our reputation[14] and in many others. Your Reverence can be quite sure that we are not all completely detached when we think we are and it is essential that we should never be careless about this. If any person wishing to make progress in spiritual matters finds that he is becoming punctilious about his reputation, let him believe what I say and put this attachment right behind him, for it is a chain which no file can sever; only God can break it, with the aid of prayer and great effort on our part. It seems to me to be an impediment on this road and I am amazed at the harm it does. I see some people whose actions are very holy and who do such wonderful things that everyone is astonished at them. God bless me, then! Why are such souls still on earth? How is it that they have not reached the summit of perfection? What is the reason for this? What can it be that is impeding one who is doing so much for God? Why, simply his punctiliousness about his reputation! And the worst of it is that this sort of person will not realize that he is guilty of such a thing, the reason sometimes being that the devil tells him that punctiliousness is incumbent upon him.


Let such persons believe me, then: for the love of the Lord let them believe this little ant, for she speaks because it is the Lord's will that she should do so. If they fail to remove this caterpillar, it may not hurt the whole tree, for some of the other virtues will remain, but they will all be worm-eaten. The tree will not be beautiful: it will neither prosper itself nor allow the trees near it to do so, for the fruit of good example which it bears is not at all healthy and will not last for long. I repeat this: however slight may be our concern for our reputation, the result of it will be as bad as when we play a wrong note, or make a mistake in time, in playing the organ -- the whole passage will become discordant. Such concern is a thing which harms the soul whenever it occurs; but in the life of prayer it is pestilential.


You are trying to attain to union with God. We want to follow the counsels of Christ, on Whom were showered insults and false witness. Are we, then, really so anxious to keep intact our own reputation and credit? We cannot do so and yet attain to union, for the two ways diverge. When we exert our utmost efforts and try in various ways to forgo our rights, the Lord comes to the soul. Some will say: "I have nothing to forgo: I never get an opportunity of giving up anything." But if anyone has this determination I do not believe the Lord will ever allow him to lose so great a blessing. His Majesty will arrange so many ways in which he may gain this virtue that he will soon have more than he wants. I would urge you, then, to set to work and root out things which are of little or no consequence, just as I used to do when I began -- or, at least, some of them. They are mere straws; and, as I have said, I throw them on the fire. I am incapable of doing more than that, but the Lord accepts it: may He be blessed for ever.


One of my faults was this: I knew very little of my office book, and of what I ought to do in choir, and of how to behave, simply because I was careless and absorbed in other vanities. I saw other novices who could have taught me these things, but I did not ask them to do so, lest they should become aware how little I knew. But good example soon prevails: that, at least, is the general rule. Once God opened my eyes a little, I would ask the other girls' opinion[15] even when I knew something but was the slightest bit in doubt about it; and my doing so damaged neither my honour[16] nor my credit -- in fact I think the Lord has been pleased since then to give me a better memory. I was bad at singing and I felt it very deeply if I had not studied what was entrusted to me: not for my shortcomings in the Lord's eyes -- that would have been virtue -- but because of all the nuns who were listening to me. Merely out of concern for my own honour I was so much perturbed that I did much worse than I need have done. Later, when I did not know my part very well, I made a point of saying so. At first, this hurt me terribly but after a time I began to take pleasure in it. And when I ceased caring if my ignorance were known or not, I got on much better. So this miserable concern for my honour prevented me from being able to do what I really regarded as an honour, for everyone interprets the word "honour" to mean what he chooses.


By means of these nothings, which after all actually are nothing (and I, too, am certainly nothing, to be hurt by a thing like this), one's actions gradually become worthier. And if we take trouble over such trifling things, to which God attaches importance because they are done for Him, His Majesty helps us to do greater ones. And so it was with me in matters concerning humility; seeing that all the nuns except myself were making progress (for I myself was always a good-for-nothing) I would collect their mantles when they left the choir. I felt that by doing this I was serving angels who were praising God there, until -- I do not know how -- they came to hear of it, which made me not a little ashamed. For my virtue had not reached the point of desiring them to know of these things -- not out of humility, but lest they should laugh at me over something so unimportant.


O my Lord, how ashamed I am at having to confess all this wickedness! I go on counting these little grains of sand, which as yet were not being stirred up in the riverbed for Thy service, but were embedded in all kinds of filth.[17] The water of Thy grace was not yet flowing beneath all this sand to stir it up. O my Creator, if only amid so many things that are evil I had a few that were worthy of enumeration, to set beside the great favours that I have received from Thee! But thus it is, my Lord, and I know not how my heart can bear it or how anyone who reads this can fail to abhor me when he sees how ill I have requited such exceeding great favours and that despite all this I am not ashamed to reckon any services that I may have rendered Thee as my own. In reality, my Lord, I am ashamed to do so, but the fact that I have nothing else of my own to enumerate makes me speak of such mean beginnings so that those who began better may be hopeful that, as the Lord has taken notice of these, He will take notice of theirs still more. May it please His Majesty to give me grace so that I may not always remain a beginner. Amen.







Tells how the Lord was pleased to carry her in spirit to a place in hell which she had merited for her sins. Describes a part of what was shown her there. Begins to tell of the way and means whereby the convent of Saint Joseph was founded in the place where it now is.



A long time after the Lord had granted me many of the favours which I have described, together with other very great ones, I was at prayer one day when suddenly, without knowing how, I found myself, as I thought, plunged right into hell. I realized that it was the Lord's will that I should see the place which the devils had prepared for me there and which I had merited for my sins. This happened in the briefest space of time, but, even if I were to live for many years, I believe it would be impossible for me to forget it. The entrance, I thought, resembled a very long, narrow passage, like a furnace, very low, dark and closely confined; the ground seemed to be full of water which looked like filthy, evil-smelling mud, and in it were many wicked-looking reptiles. At the end there was a hollow place scooped out of a wall, like a cupboard, and it was here that I found myself in close confinement. But the sight of all this was pleasant by comparison with what I felt there. What I have said is in no way an exaggeration.


My feelings, I think, could not possibly be exaggerated, nor can anyone understand them. I felt a fire within my soul the nature of which I am utterly incapable of describing. My bodily sufferings were so intolerable that, though in my life I have endured the severest sufferings of this kind -- the worst it is possible to endure, the doctors say, such as the shrinking of the nerves during my paralysis[18] and many and divers more, some of them, as I have said, caused by the devil -- none of them is of the smallest account by comparison with what I felt then, to say nothing of the knowledge that they would be endless and never-ceasing. And even these are nothing by comparison with the agony of my soul, an oppression, a suffocation and an affliction so deeply felt, and accompanied by such hopeless and distressing misery, that I cannot too forcibly describe it. To say that it is as if the soul were continually being torn from the body is very little, for that would mean that one's life was being taken by another; whereas in this case it is the soul itself that is tearing itself to pieces. The fact is that I cannot find words to describe that interior fire and that despair, which is greater than the most grievous tortures and pains. I could not see who was the cause of them, but I felt, I think, as if I were being both burned and dismembered; and I repeat that that interior fire and despair are the worst things of all.


In that pestilential spot, where I was quite powerless to hope for comfort, it was impossible to sit or lie, for there was no room to do so. I had been put in this place which looked like a hole in the wall, and those very walls, so terrible to the sight, bore down upon me and completely stifled me. There was no light and everything was in the blackest darkness. I do not understand how this can be, but, although there was no light, it was possible to see everything the sight of which can cause affliction. At that time it was not the Lord's will that I should see more of hell itself, but I have since seen another vision of frightful things, which are the punishment of certain vices. To look at, they seemed to me much more dreadful; but, as I felt no pain, they caused me less fear. In the earlier vision the Lord was pleased that I should really feel those torments and that affliction of spirit, just as if my body had been suffering them. I do not know how it was, but I realized quite clearly that it was a great favour and that it was the Lord's will that I should see with my own eyes the place from which His mercy had delivered me. It is nothing to read a description of it, or to think of different kinds of torture (as I have sometimes done, though rarely, as my soul made little progress by the road of fear): of how the devils tear the flesh with their pincers or of the various other tortures that I have read about -- none of these are anything by comparison with this affliction, which is quite another matter. In fact, it is like a picture set against reality, and any burning on earth is a small matter compared with that fire.


I was terrified by all this, and, though it happened nearly six years ago, I still am as I write: even as I sit here, fear seems to be depriving my body of its natural warmth. I never recall any time when I have been suffering trials or pains and when everything that we can suffer on earth has seemed to me of the slightest importance by comparison with this; so, in a way, I think we complain without reason. I repeat, then, that this vision was one of the most signal favours which the Lord has bestowed upon me: it has been of the greatest benefit to me, both in taking from me all fear of the tribulations and disappointments of this life and also in strengthening me to suffer them and to give thanks to the Lord, Who, as I now believe, has delivered me from such terrible and never-ending torments.


Since that time, as I say, everything has seemed light to me by comparison with a single moment of such suffering as I had to bear during that vision. I am shocked at myself when I think that, after having so often read books which give some idea of the pains of hell, I was neither afraid of them nor rated them at what they are. What could I have been thinking of? How could anything give me satisfaction which was driving me to so awful a place? Blessed be Thou, my God, for ever! How plain it has become that Thou didst love me, much more than I love myself! How often, Lord, didst Thou deliver me from that gloomy prison and how I would make straight for it again, in face of Thy will!


This vision, too, was the cause of the very deep distress which I experience because of the great number of souls who are bringing damnation upon themselves -- especially of those Lutherans, for they were made members of the Church through baptism. It also inspired me with fervent impulses for the good of souls: for I really believe that, to deliver a single one of them from such dreadful tortures, I would willingly die many deaths. After all, if we see anyone on earth who is especially dear to us suffering great trial or pain, our very nature seems to move us to compassion, and if his sufferings are severe they oppress us too. Who, then, could bear to look upon a soul's endless sufferings in that most terrible trial of all? No heart could possibly endure it without great affliction. For even earthly suffering, which after all, as we know, has a limit and will end with death, moves us to deep compassion. And that other suffering has no limit: I do not know how we can look on so calmly and see the devil carrying off as many souls as he does daily.


This also makes me wish that in so urgent a matter we were not ourselves satisfied with anything short of doing all that we can. Let us leave nothing undone; and to this end may the Lord be pleased to grant us His grace. I recall that, wicked creature though I was, I used to take some trouble to serve God and refrain from doing certain things which I see tolerated and considered quite legitimate in the world; that I had serious illnesses, and bore them with great patience, which the Lord bestowed on me; that I was not given to murmuring or speaking ill of anyone, nor, I think, could I ever have wished anyone ill; that I was not covetous and never remember having been envious in such a way as grievously to offend the Lord; and that I abstained from certain other faults, and, despicable though I was, lived in the most constant fear of God. And yet look at the place where the devils had prepared a lodging for me! It is true, I think, that my faults had merited a much heavier punishment; but none the less, I repeat, the torture was terrible, and it is a perilous thing for a soul to indulge in its own pleasure or to be placid and contented when at every step it is falling into mortal sin. For the love of God, let us keep free from occasions of sin and the Lord will help us as He has helped me. May it please His Majesty not to let me out of His hand lest I fall once more, now that I have seen the place to which that would lead me. May the Lord forbid this, for His Majesty's sake. Amen.


After I had seen this vision, and other great things and secrets which, being what He is, the Lord was pleased to show me, concerning the bliss reserved for the good and the affliction for the wicked, I desired to find some way and means of doing penance for all my evil deeds and of becoming in some degree worthy to gain so great a blessing. I desired, therefore, to flee from others and to end by withdrawing myself completely from the world. My spirit was restless, yet the restlessness was not disturbing but pleasant: I knew quite well that it was of God and that His Majesty had given my soul this ardour to enable me to digest other and stronger meat than I had been in the habit of eating.


I would wonder what I could do for God, and it occurred to me that the first thing was to follow the vocation for a religious life which His Majesty had given me by keeping my Rule with the greatest possible perfection. And although in the house where I was living[19] there were many servants of God, and He was well served in it, yet, as it was very needy, we nuns would often leave it for other places where we could live honourably and keep our vows. Furthermore, the Rule was not observed in its primitive rigour but, as throughout the Order, according to the Bull of Mitigation.[20]

There were also other disadvantages, such as the excessive amount of comfort which I thought we had, for the house was a large and pleasant one. But this habit of frequently going away (and I was one who did it a great deal) was a serious drawback to me, for there were certain persons, to whom my superiors could refuse nothing, who liked to have me with them, and so, when importuned by these persons, they would order me to go and visit them. So things went on until I was able to be in the convent very little; the devil must have had something to do with my being away so much, though at the same time I was in the habit of repeating to some of the nuns the things taught me by the people I met and these did them a great deal of good.


One day it happened that a person to whom I was talking,[21] with some other sisters, asked me why we should not become Discalced nuns,[22] for it would be quite possible to find a way of establishing a convent. I had had desires of this kind myself, so I began to discuss the matter with a companion -- that widowed lady who, as I have said before, had the same desire. She began to think out a way to find the money for such a house; I see now that that would not have got us very far, though our desire to achieve our object made us think that it would. But, for my own part, I was most happy in the house where I was, for I was very fond both of the house and of my cell, and this held me back. None the less, we agreed to commend the matter very earnestly to God.


One day, after Communion, the Lord gave me the most explicit commands to work for this aim with all my might and made me wonderful promises -- that the convent would not fail to be established; that great service would be done to Him in it; that it should be called Saint Joseph's; that He[23] would watch over us at one door and Our Lady at the other; that Christ would go with us; that the convent would be a star giving out the most brilliant light; and that, although the Rules of the religious Orders were mitigated, I was not to think He was very little served in them, for what would become of the world if it were not for religious? I was to tell my confessor this[24]

and to say that it was He Who was giving me this command and that He asked him not to oppose it nor to hinder me in carrying it out.


So great was the effect upon me of this vision and such was the nature of these words which the Lord addressed to me that I could not doubt that it was He Who had uttered them. This caused me the deepest distress, because I had a fairly good idea of the serious disturbances and trials which the work would cost me. I was very happy, too, in that house, and, though in the past I had been accustomed to speak of such a foundation, it had not been with any great degree of determination or certainty that the thing would be done. I felt now that a great burden was being laid upon me, and, when I saw that I was at the beginning of a very disturbing time, I became doubtful what I should do. But the Lord appeared and spoke to me about it again and again, and so numerous were the motives and arguments which He put before me, in such a way that I saw that they were valid and that the project was His will, that I dared not do otherwise than speak to my confessor about it and give him a written account of everything that took place.


He did not venture to tell me expressly to give up the idea, but he saw that, humanly speaking, there was no way of putting it into practice, since my companion, who was to be the person to effect this, had no resources at all, or very scanty ones. He told me to talk it over with my Superior, and to do what he advised. I did not discuss these visions with the Superior, but the lady who was desirous of founding this convent had a talk with him, and the Provincial,[25] who is well-disposed to the religious Orders, took to the idea very well, gave her all necessary help and told her he would give the house his sanction. They discussed the revenue which the convent would need, and we decided that, for many reasons, the number of nuns in the convent ought never to exceed thirteen. Before beginning to discuss the matter we had written to the holy Fray Peter of Alcantara and told him all that was happening. He advised us not to desist from our work and gave us his opinion about the whole matter.


Hardly had news of the project begun to be known here than there descended upon us a persecution so severe that it is impossible in a few words to describe it: people talked about us, laughed at us and declared that the idea was ridiculous. Of me, they said that I was all right in the convent where I was living, while my companion was subjected to such persecution that it quite exhausted her. I did not know what to do, for up to a certain point I thought these people were right. Worn out with it all as I was, I commended myself to God and His Majesty began to give me consolation and encouragement. He told me that I could now see what those saints who had founded religious Orders had suffered: they had had to endure much more persecution than any I could imagine and we must not allow ourselves to be troubled by it. He told me certain things which I was to say to my companion, and to my absolute amazement we at once felt comforted by what had happened and courageous enough to resist everybody. And it is a fact that, at that time, both among people of prayer and in the whole place, there was hardly anyone who was not against us and did not consider our project absolutely ridiculous.[26]


There was so much commotion and talk of this kind in my own convent that the Provincial thought it would be hard for him to set himself against everybody; so he changed his mind and refused to sanction the plan. He said that the revenue was not assured, that in any case there would be too little of it, and that the plan was meeting with considerable opposition. In all this he appeared to be right. So he dropped the matter and refused to sanction the new convent. We, on whom the first blows now seemed to have fallen, were very much distressed at this, and I myself was particularly so at finding the Provincial against me, for his previous approval of the plan had justified me in the eyes of all. My companion was refused absolution unless she would give up the idea; it was incumbent on her, she was told, to remove the scandal.


She went to talk the matter over with a very learned man, a most devout servant of God, of the Order of Saint Dominic,[27] and to him she detailed the whole story. This she did even before the Provincial withdrew his support from us, for we had no one in the whole place who would advise us in the matter; and it was for that reason that they said the whole thing had come out of our own heads. The lady gave this holy man an account of everything and told him how much revenue she derived from her estate; she hoped very much that he would help us, since at that time he was the most learned man in the place, and there are few more learned than he in his entire Order. I myself told him all that we were proposing to do and some of the reasons for it. I said nothing to him about any of the revelations I had had, but only described the reasons, other than supernatural, which were prompting me, for it was these alone that I wanted him to take into account when giving us his opinion. He told us that we must allow him a week to think the matter over before answering and asked if we were definitely going to act upon whatever he said. I told him we were; but although I said this, and I think I would have acted upon it,[28] I never for a moment lost my confidence that the foundation would be made. My companion had more faith; and, whatever people might say to her, nothing would persuade her to abandon it.


For my own part, although, as I say, the abandonment of the project seemed to me impossible, I believed the revelation to be true only in the sense that it was not contrary to what is in Holy Scripture or to the laws of the Church which we are obliged to keep; for, despite my belief that it really came from God, if that learned man had told me that we could not act upon it without offending Him and that we were acting against our conscience, I think I should at once have abandoned the plan and sought some other way. But the Lord showed me no other way than this. Later, this servant of God told me that at one point he had definitely decided to urge us to give the project up, because his attention had been directed to the popular clamour, and also because to him, as to everyone else, it had seemed folly; that a certain gentleman, on hearing that we had gone to him, had sent to advise him to be careful what he did and not to help us; but that, when he had begun to consider what he should say to us, to think over the matter, and to reflect upon the intentions that were prompting us, the way we were setting to work and our concern for our Order, he became convinced that we should be rendering God a great service and that the scheme must not be abandoned. And so his answer was that we should make haste to carry it out; he told us by what ways and methods this should be done; and, although our income was small, we must be prepared to some extent to trust God. Anyone, he said, who offered further opposition should be referred to him for an answer; and he always helped us in this way, as I shall show later.


We were greatly comforted by this, and also by the fact that several saintly persons, who had previously been against us, were now better disposed and some of them actually helped us. One of these was the saintly gentleman whom I have already mentioned. He now felt that the project, being founded, as in fact it was, on prayer, would lead to great perfection, and though he thought it would be difficult and impracticable to find the necessary means for making the foundation, he gave up his former view and decided that the idea might be from God, in which decision the Lord Himself must have inspired him. He also inspired that Master, the cleric and servant of God to whom, as I said, I had spoken first of all, who is a pattern to the whole place and a person whom God keeps there for the help and profit of many souls.[29] He, too, came forward to help me in the matter. And while things were in that position, and many people were continually helping us by their prayers, we practically completed the negotiations for purchasing the house. It was a small one, but that did not trouble me in the least, for the Lord had told me to start work as well as I could and in due course I should see what His Majesty would do for us. (And how clearly I have seen it!) And so, though I realized our income would be small, I believed that the Lord would have other ways of arranging things for us and would give us His help.







Proceeds with the same subject -- the foundation of the convent of the glorious Saint Joseph. Tells how she was commanded not to continue it, how for a time she gave it up, how she suffered various trials and how in all of them she was comforted by the Lord.



It was when matters had reached this position and were so near completion that the deeds were to be signed on the following day that the attitude of our Father Provincial suddenly changed. I believe, and it has since become apparent, that this change was by Divine appointment; for, while all these prayers were being offered for us, the Lord was perfecting His work and arranging for it to be accomplished in another way. As the Provincial would not now sanction the foundation, my confessor at once forbade me to go on with it, though the Lord knows what sore trials and afflictions it had cost me to bring it to its present state. When the project was given up, and remained unaccomplished, people became still more certain that it was all some ridiculous women's idea, and the evil-speaking against me increased, though until then I had been acting on my Provincial's orders.


I was now very unpopular throughout my convent for having wanted to found a convent more strictly enclosed. The nuns said that I was insulting them; that there were others there who were better than myself, and so I could serve God quite well where I was; that I had no love for my own convent; and that I should have done better to get money for that than for founding another. Some said I ought to be thrown into the prison-cell;[30] others came out on my side, though of these there were very few. I saw quite well that in many respects they were right and I could sometimes make allowances for them; although, as I could not tell them the principal thing -- namely, that I had been obeying the Lord's command -- I did not know what to do and so was silent. At other times God was so gracious to me that none of this worried me in the slightest; I gave up the project as easily and happily as though it had cost me nothing. This nobody could believe, not even the very persons, given to prayer as they were, with whom I had to do: they supposed I must be very much distressed and ashamed -- even my confessor could not really believe that I was not. It seemed to me that I had done all I possibly could to fulfil the Lord's command and that therefore I had no further obligation. So I remained in my own house, quite content and happy. I could not, however give up my belief that the task would be duly accomplished and, though I was unable to forecast the means and knew neither how nor when the work would be done, I was quite sure that it would be done in time.


What troubled me a great deal was that on one occasion my confessor[31] wrote me a letter of a kind which suggested that I had in some way been acting against his wishes. It must have been the Lord's will that I should not be immune from trials coming from the source which would cause me the greatest pain. For, amid this multitude of persecutions, my confessor, whom I had expected to console me, wrote that I must now have realized that all that had happened was just a dream and that henceforth I must lead a better life and not try to do anything more of the kind or talk about it any further, since I now saw what scandal it had occasioned. He said other things, too, all of them very distressing. This troubled me more than everything else put together, for I wondered if I had myself been an occasion of sin to others, if it had been my fault that offence had been given to God, if these visions were illusory, if all my prayer had been a deception and if I was sorely deluded and lost. These thoughts oppressed me to such an extent that I was quite upset by them and plunged into the deepest affliction. But the Lord, Who never failed me, and in all these trials which I have enumerated often comforted and strengthened me, in a way that need not here be described, told me at once not to distress myself and said that I had not offended Him in the matter at all but had rendered Him great service. He told me to do what my confessor ordered me and to keep silence for the present and until the time came for the project to be resumed. This brought me such comfort and satisfaction that all the persecution which I was undergoing seemed nothing at all.


The Lord now showed me what a signal blessing it is to suffer trials and persecutions for His sake, for so great was the growth in my soul of love for God and of many other graces that I was astounded, and this made me incapable of ceasing to desire trials. The other people thought I was very much ashamed -- as indeed I should have been had the Lord not helped me in these straits by granting me such great favours. It was now that I began to experience the increasingly strong impulses of the love of God which I have described, and also deeper raptures, although I was silent on this subject and never spoke to anyone of what I had gained. The saintly Dominican[32] did not cease to share my certainty that the project would be accomplished; and, as I myself would take no further part in it, lest I should run contrary to the obedience which I owed my confessor, he discussed it with my companion and they wrote to Rome and sought a way out.


And now the devil began to contrive that one person after another should hear that I had received some kind of revelation about this matter, and people came to me in great concern to say that these were bad times and that it might be that something would be alleged against me and I should have to go before the Inquisitors. But they only amused me and made me laugh, because I never had any fear about this. I knew quite well that in matters of faith no one would ever find me transgressing even the smallest ceremony of the Church, and that for the Church or for any truth of Holy Scripture I would undertake to die a thousand deaths. So I told them not to be afraid, for my soul would be in a very bad way if there were anything about it which could make me fear the Inquisition. If ever I thought there might be, I would go and pay it a visit of my own accord; and if anything were alleged against me the Lord would deliver me and I should be very much the gainer. I discussed this with my Dominican Father, who, as I say, was a very learned man, so that I knew I could rely on anything he might say to me. I told him, as clearly as I could, all about my visions, my way of prayer and the great favours which the Lord was granting me, and I begged him to think it all over very carefully, to let me know if there was anything in them contrary to Holy Scripture and to tell me his feelings about the whole matter. He reassured me a great deal and I think it was a help to him too; for, although he was very good, from that time onward he devoted himself much more to prayer, and retired to a monastery of his Order where there is great scope for solitude, so that he might the better practise prayer; and here he stayed for over two years.[33] He was then commanded under obedience to leave, which caused him great regret, but he was such an able man that they needed him.


In one way, I was very sorry when he went, because I too needed him badly. But I did nothing to unsettle him, for I realized that the gain was his; and, when I was feeling very much grieved at his departure, the Lord told me to take comfort and not be distressed, because he was being led in the right way. When he came back, his soul had made such progress and his spiritual growth had been so great that he told me after his return that he would not have missed going for anything. And I too could say the same thing; for previously he had been reassuring and comforting me only by his learning, whereas now he did so as well by the ample spiritual experience which he had acquired of things supernatural. And God brought him back just at the right time, for His Majesty saw that he would be needed to help with this convent, the foundation of which was His Majesty's will.


For five or six months I remained silent, taking no further steps with regard to the plan and never even speaking about it, and the Lord gave me not a single command. I had no idea what was the reason for this, but I could not get rid of my belief that the foundation would be duly made. At the end of that time, the priest who had been Rector of the Company of Jesus having left, His Majesty brought a successor to him here who was a very spiritual man, of great courage, intelligence and learning, at a time when I was in dire need.[34] For the priest who at that time was hearing my confessions had a superior over him, and in the Company they are extremely particular about the virtue of never doing the slightest thing save in conformity with the will of those who are over them. So, although he thoroughly understood my spirit and desired its progress, there were certain matters about which, for very good reasons, he dared not be at all definite. My spirit, which was now experiencing the most vehement impulses, was greatly troubled at being constrained in this way; I did not, however, depart from his orders.


One day, when I was in great affliction, thinking that my confessor did not believe me, the Lord told me not to be worried, for my distress would soon be over. I was very glad, supposing His meaning to be that I was soon going to die, and whenever I thought of this I was very happy. Later I realized that He was referring to the arrival of this Rector whom I have mentioned; for I never had any reason to feel so distressed again, because the new Rector placed no restrictions upon the minister who was my confessor, but told him that, as there was no cause for fear, he should comfort me and not lead me by so strait a path, but allow the Spirit of the Lord to work in me, for sometimes it seemed as if these strong spiritual impulses prevented my soul even from breathing.


This Rector came to see me and my confessor told me to consult him with the utmost frankness and freedom. I used to dislike very much speaking about the matter, and yet, when I went into the confessional, I felt something in my spirit which I do not recall having felt in the presence of anyone else, either before or since. I cannot possibly describe its nature or compare it with anything whatsoever. For it was a spiritual joy: my soul knew that here was a soul that would understand and be in harmony with mine, although, as I say, I do not know how this happened. If I had ever spoken to him or had been told great things about him, it would not have been strange that I should have felt happy and been sure that he would understand me; but I had never spoken a word to him before, nor had he to me, nor was he a person about whom I had ever previously heard anything. Later I discovered that my instinct had not been wrong, and my contact with him has in every way been of great benefit to me and to my soul; for he knows how to treat persons whom the Lord seems to have brought to an advanced state: he makes them run, not walk a step at a time. His method is to train them in complete detachment and mortification, and for this, as for many other things, the Lord has given him the greatest aptitude.


When I began to have dealings with him, I realized at once what type of director he was, and saw that he had a pure and holy soul and a special gift from the Lord for the discernment of spirits. From this I derived much comfort. Soon after I came under his direction, the Lord began to lay it upon me again that I must take up the matter of the convent and put all my reasons and aims before my confessor and this Rector so that they should not hinder me. Some of the things I said made them afraid, but this Father Rector never doubted that I was being led by the Spirit of God, having studied and thought very carefully about the effects which would be produced by the foundation. In short, after hearing these numerous reasons, they did not dare to risk hindering me.


My confessor now gave me leave once more to take up the work again with all my might. I saw clearly with what a task I was burdening myself, since I was quite alone and there was so very little that I could do. We agreed that the work should be done in all secrecy, and so I arranged that a sister of mine,[35] who lived outside the town, should buy the house and furnish it, as if it were to be for herself, the Lord having given us money, from various sources, for its purchase. It would take a long time to tell how the Lord continued to provide for us. I thought it of great importance to do nothing against obedience, but I knew that, if I told my superiors about it, everything would be ruined, just as it was on the last occasion, and this time things might be even worse. Getting the money, finding a convent, arranging for its purchase and having it furnished cost me many trials, some of which I had to suffer quite alone; my companion did what she could, but that was little -- so little as to be hardly anything beyond allowing the work to be done in her name and with her approval. All the most difficult part of the work was mine and there were so many different things to do that I wonder now how I was able to go through with it. Sometimes in my distress I would say: "My Lord, how is it that Thou commandest me to do things which seem impossible? If only I were free, woman though I am -- ! But being bound in so many ways, without money or means of procuring it, either for the Brief or for anything else, what can I do, Lord?"


Once, when I was in a difficulty and could not think what to do, or how I was going to pay some workmen, Saint Joseph, my true father and lord, appeared to me and gave me to understand that money would not be lacking and I must make all the necessary arrangements. I did so, though I had not a farthing, and the Lord, in ways which amazed people when they heard of them, provided the money.[36] I thought the house very small, so small that it seemed impossible to turn it into a convent.[37] I wanted to buy another, but had not the wherewithal, so there was no way of buying it, and I could not think what to do. There was a house near our own, but it was also too small to make into a church. One day, after I had communicated, the Lord said to me: "I have already told you to go in as best you can," and then added a kind of exclamation: "Oh, the greed of mankind! So you really think there will not be enough ground for you![38] How often did I sleep all night in the open air because I had not where to lay My head!" This amazed me, but I saw that He was right. So I went to look at the little house, and worked things out, and found that it would just make a convent, though a very small one. I thought no more then about buying another site but arranged to have this house furnished so that we could live in it. Everything was very rough and it had only enough done to it not to make it injurious to the health. And that is the principle that should be followed everywhere.


On Saint Clare's day, as I was going to Communion, that Saint appeared to me in great beauty and told me to put forth all my efforts and proceed with what I had begun and she would help me. I conceived a great devotion for her and her words turned out to be the exact truth, for a convent of her Order, which is near our own, is helping to maintain us. What is more, she has gradually brought this desire of mine to such perfection that the poverty observed by the blessed Saint in her own house is being observed in this and we live upon alms. It has cost me no little trouble to get this principle quite definitely and authoritatively approved by the Holy Father -- this, of course, being essential -- so that we shall never have any income.[39] And -- at the request, it may be, of this blessed Saint -- the Lord is doing still more for us. Without any demand on our part His Majesty is providing amply for all our needs. May He be blessed for it all. Amen.


At this same period, on the festival of the Assumption of Our Lady, I was in a monastery of the Order of the glorious Saint Dominic, thinking of the many sins which in times past I had confessed in that house and of other things concerning my wicked life, when there came upon me a rapture so vehement that it nearly drew me forth out of myself altogether.[40] I sat down and I remember even now that I could neither see the Elevation nor hear Mass being said, and later this caused me a certain amount of scruple. While in this state, I thought I saw myself being clothed in a garment of great whiteness and brightness. At first I could not see who was clothing me, but later I saw Our Lady on my right hand and my father Saint Joseph on my left, and it was they who were putting that garment upon me. I was given to understand that I was now cleansed of my sins. When the clothing was ended, and I was experiencing the greatest joy and bliss, I thought that Our Lady suddenly took me by the hands and told me that I was giving her great pleasure by serving the glorious Saint Joseph and that I might be sure that all I was trying to do about the convent would be accomplished and that both the Lord and they two would be greatly served in it. I was not to fear that there would be any failure whatever about this, although the nature of the obedience which it would have to render might not be to my liking. They would keep us safe and her Son had already promised to go with us: as a sign that that was true, she said, she would give me this jewel. Then she seemed to throw round my neck a very beautiful gold collar, to which was fastened a most valuable cross. The gold and stones were so different from earthly things of the kind that no comparison between them is possible: their beauty is quite unlike anything that we can imagine and the understanding cannot soar high enough to comprehend the nature of the garment or to imagine the brightness of the vision which it was the Lord's will to send me, and by comparison with which everything on earth looks, as one might say, like a smudge of soot.


The beauty which I saw in Our Lady was wonderful, though I could discern in her no particularly beautiful detail of form: it was her face as a whole that was so lovely and the whiteness and the amazing splendour of her vestments, though the light was not dazzling, but quite soft. The glorious Saint Joseph I did not see so clearly, though I could see plainly that he was there, as in the visions to which I have already referred and in which nothing is seen. Our Lady looked to me quite like a child. When they had been with me for a short time and caused me the greatest bliss and happiness -- more, I believe, than I had ever before experienced, so that I wished I need never lose it -- I seemed to see them ascending to Heaven with a great multitude of angels. I remained quite alone, but so greatly comforted and exalted and recollected in prayer, and so full of tender devotion, that I stayed for some time where I was, without moving, and unable to speak, quite beside myself. I was left with a vehement impulse to melt away in love for God, and with other feelings of a like kind, for everything happened in such a way that I could never doubt that this was of God, however hard I tried. It left me greatly comforted and full of peace.


As to what the Queen of the Angels said about obedience the point of it is that it was a grief to me not to make over the convent to the Order, but the Lord had told me that it would not be wise for me to do so. He gave me reasons for which it would be extremely unwise and told me to send to Rome, and to follow a certain procedure, which He also described to me. He would see to it that that procedure should bring security. And so it came about. I sent as the Lord had told me -- had I not, we should never have concluded the negotiations -- and it turned out very well. As to the things which have happened since, it proved a very wise arrangement that we should be under the Bishop's obedience, but at the time I did not know this, nor did I even know who that prelate would be. But the Lord was pleased that he should be good and helpful to this house, as has been necessary, in view of all the opposition it has met with, which I shall recount later, and in order to bring it to the state it is now in.[41] Blessed be He Who has brought all this to pass! Amen.





Describes how about this time she had to leave the place, for a reason which is given, and how her superior ordered her to go and comfort a great lady who was in sore distress. Begins the description of what happened to her there, of how the Lord granted her the great favour of being the means whereby His Majesty aroused a great person to serve Him in real earnest and of how later she obtained help and protection from Him. This chapter should be carefully noted.



Despite all the care I took that nothing should be known of all this work that I was doing, it could not be done so secretly but that a few people heard of it: of these, some believed in it, while others did not. I was sorely afraid that they would say something about it to the Provincial when he came, and that he might then order me to stop, in which case all would be up with it. The Lord provided against this as follows. It happened that, in a large city,[42] more than twenty leagues from here, there was a lady in great distress because of the death of her husband: her grief had reached such a pitch that there were fears for her health.[43]

She had heard about this poor sinner -- for the Lord had ordained that people should speak well to her about me for other good purposes which resulted from this. This lady was well acquainted with the Provincial, and as she was an important person and knew that I lived in a convent where the nuns were allowed to leave the house, the Lord gave her a very great desire to see me: she thought that I might bring her comfort, which she could not find herself. So she began at once to use all possible means to get me to visit her, sending a great distance, for that purpose, to the Provincial. He sent me an order to go at once, under obedience, with a single companion. This message I received On Christmas night.


It disturbed me a little and distressed me a great deal to think that she wanted me to come to her because she believed there was some good in me: knowing myself to be so wicked, I could not bear this. I commended myself earnestly to God; and, during the whole of Matins, or for a great part of it, I was in a deep rapture. The Lord told me I must go without fail and must not listen to people's opinions, as there were few who would advise me otherwise than rashly: to go might bring trials upon me, but God would be greatly served, and, as far as the convent was concerned, it would be as well if I were absent until the Brief arrived, because the devil had organized a great plot against the arrival of the Provincial; I was to fear nothing, however, for He would help me in this. I found this assurance a great strength and comfort. I told the Rector about it. He told me to go by all means, whereas others were telling me that I should not stand it, that it was an invention of the devil to bring some evil upon me there, and that I ought to send word about it to the Provincial.


I obeyed the Rector, and, after what I had learned in prayer, went without any fear, though not without the greatest confusion when I saw the reason of their sending for me and knew all the time how completely they were mistaken. This made me beseech the Lord still more earnestly that He would not abandon me. It was a great comfort to me that there was a house of the Company of Jesus in the place where I was going[44]: I thought I should feel fairly safe if I continued to be subject to their direction, as I was here. The Lord was pleased that the lady should be so much comforted that she began at once to grow markedly better: she felt more comforted every day. This was a notable achievement, for, as I have said, her distress was causing her great depression: the Lord must have brought it about in response to the many prayers for the success of my enterprise which had been offered by the good people whom I knew. She was a most God fearing lady and so good that her most Christian spirit made up for what was lacking in me. She conceived a great affection for me, as I also did for her when I saw how good she was. But almost everything was a cross for me: the comforts in her house were a real torment and when she made so much of me I was filled with fear. My soul had such misgivings that I dared not be careless, and the Lord was not careless of me, for while I was there He showed me the most signal favours[45]

and these made me feel so free and enabled me so to despise all I saw -- and the more I saw, the more I despised it -- that I never treated those great ladies, whom it would have been a great honour to me to serve, otherwise than with the freedom of an equal. From this I derived great profit, and I told my lady so. I saw that she was a woman, and as subject to passions and weaknesses as I was myself. I learned, too, how little regard ought to be paid to rank, and how, the higher is the rank, the greater are the cares and the trials that it brings with it. And I learned that people of rank have to be careful to behave according to their state, which hardly allows them to live: they must take their meals out of the proper time and order, for everything has to be regulated, not according to their constitutions but according to their position; often the very food which they eat has more to do with their position than with their liking.


So it was that I came to hate the very desire to be a great lady. God deliver me from this sinful fuss -- though I believe that, despite her being one of the most important in the kingdom, there are few humbler and simpler people than this woman. I was sorry for her, and I still am when I think how often she has to act against her own inclination in order to live up to her position. Then, with regard to servants, though hers were good, one can really place very little trust in them. It is impossible to talk more to one of them than to another; otherwise the favoured one is disliked by the rest. This is slavery; and one of the lies which the world tells is that it calls such persons masters, whereas in a thousand ways, I think, they are nothing but slaves. The Lord was pleased that, during the time I spent in that house, its inmates should come to render His Majesty better service, though I was not free from trials, or from certain jealousies on the part of some of them, on account of the great love which my lady had for me. They must surely have thought that I was working for some interest of my own. The Lord must have allowed such things to try me to some extent so that I should not become absorbed in the comforts which I was enjoying there, and He was pleased to free me from all this to my soul's profit.


While I was there, it chanced that a religious arrived with whom for many years I had been in communication on various occasions and who was a person of great importance.[46] When I was at Mass in a monastery of his Order, which was near the house where I was staying,[47] the desire came to me to know about the state of his soul, for I wished him to be a great servant of God; so I got up in order to go to speak to him. But then, as I was already recollected in prayer, this seemed to me a waste of time. What right, I thought, had I to interfere with him? So I sat down again. This happened, I believe, no less than three times, but finally my good angel got the better of my evil angel and I went to ask for him and he came to one of the confessionals to speak to me. I began to question him about his past life, and he to question me about mine, for we had not seen one another for many years. I began to tell him that mine had been a life of many spiritual trials. He urged me to tell him what the trials were. I said that they were not such as could be told and that I ought not to say anything about them. He replied that, as the Dominican Father to whom I have alluded[48] knew of them and was a great friend of his, he would tell him about them at once, so that I need not mind doing so myself.


The truth is, he could not help importuning me, any more, I think, than I could help talking to him; for, despite all the regret and shame which I used to feel when I discussed these things with him and with the Rector whom I have mentioned,[49] I was not now in the least distressed -- in fact, I found it a great comfort. I told him everything under the seal of confession. I had always taken him for a man of great intelligence, but now he seemed to me shrewder than ever. I thought what great talents and gifts he had and what a deal of good he could do with them if he gave himself wholly to God. For some years now I have felt like this -- I never see a person whom I like very much without immediately wishing that I could see him wholly given to God, and sometimes this yearning of mine is so strong that I am powerless against it. Though I want everybody to serve God, my desire that those whom I like may do so is particularly vehement, and so I become extremely importunate for them with the Lord. This is what happened in the case of the religious I am referring to.


He asked me to commend him often to God: he had no need to do so, for my state of mind was such that I could not do otherwise, so I went to the place where I am in the habit of praying in solitude, and, with extreme recollection, began to speak to the Lord in that silly way in which I often speak to Him without knowing what I am saying; for it is love that speaks, and my soul is so far transported that I take no notice of the distance that separates it from God. For the love which it knows His Majesty has for it makes it forget itself and it thinks it is in Him, and that He and it are one and the same thing without any division, and so it talks nonsense. I shed copious tears, and begged Him that that soul might really give itself up to His service, for, good as I thought him, I was not satisfied but wanted him to be better still. And after praying in that way, I remember saying these words: "Lord, Thou must not refuse me this favour. Think what a good person he is for us to have as our friend."


Oh, the great goodness and humaneness of God, Who regards not the words but the desires and the good-will with which they are uttered! To think that His Majesty should allow such a person as myself to speak to Him thus boldly! May He be blessed for ever and ever.


That night, I remember, I was greatly troubled during those hours of prayer, wondering if I had incurred the enmity of God. I could not be sure if I were in grace or no -- not that I wanted to be sure, but I wanted to die, so as to find myself no longer in a life in which I was not sure if I were dead or alive. For there could be no worse death for me than to think I had offended God and my distress about this caused me great depression: then I felt quite happy again, and, dissolving into tears, besought Him not to permit such a thing. I soon learned that I might safely take comfort and be certain[50] that I was in grace, since my love for God was so strong and His Majesty was working these favours in my soul and, of His compassion, giving it feelings which He would never give to a soul that was in mortal sin. I became confident that the Lord must surely do for this person what I begged of Him. He told me to say certain things to him. I was troubled about this, as I had no idea how to say them, and the thing I most dislike, as I have said, is having to take messages to a third person, especially if I am not sure how he will receive them or even that he will not make fun of me. So I was sorely distressed. But in the end I was quite persuaded that I must do it without fail, and I believe I promised God that I would, but I was so shy about it that I wrote down the message and handed it to him.


The effect which it produced upon him showed clearly that it came from God, for he made a most earnest resolve to give himself to prayer, though he did not fulfil that resolve immediately. As the Lord desired to have him for Himself, He had sent through my instrumentality to tell him certain truths which, without my knowing it, were so apposite that he was astounded. The Lord must have prepared him to believe that they came from His Majesty. And for my part, miserable creature though I am, I kept beseeching the Lord to bring him right back to Himself and make him hate the pleasures and affairs of this life. And -- praised be God for ever! -- so he did, to such an extent that, every time he speaks to me, he astounds me. If I had not seen it for myself, I should have thought it doubtful that in so short a time God could have shown him such increased favours, and led him to become so completely immersed in Him that, so far as things of earth are concerned, he no longer seems to be alive. May His Majesty hold him in His hand, for he has such profound self knowledge that, if he advances farther, as I hope in the Lord he may, he will be one of the most notable of His servants and bring many souls great advantage. For in spiritual things he has had a great deal of experience in a short time, these being gifts bestowed by God when He wills and as He wills and having nothing to do either with time or with service. I do not mean that these latter things are unimportant but that often the Lord grants to one person less contemplation in twenty years than to others in one: His Majesty knows why. We are wrong if we think that in the course of years we are bound to understand things that cannot possibly be attained without experience, and thus, as I have said, many are mistaken if they think they can learn to discern spirits without being spiritual themselves. I do not mean that, if a man is learned but not spiritual, he may not direct a person of spirituality. But in both outward and inward matters which depend upon the course of nature, his direction will of course be of an intellectual kind, while in supernatural matters he will see that it is in conformity with Holy Scripture. In other matters he must not worry himself to death, or think he understands what he does not, or quench the spirits, for these souls are being directed by another Master, greater than he, so that they are not without anyone over them.


He must not be astonished at this or think such things are impossible: everything is possible to the Lord. He must strive to strengthen his faith and humble himself, because the Lord is perhaps making some old woman better versed in this science than himself, even though he be a very learned man. If he has this humility, he will be of more use both to other souls and to himself than if he tries to become a contemplative without being so by nature. I repeat, then, that if he has neither experience nor the deepest humility which will reveal to him how little he understands and show him that a thing is not impossible because he cannot understand it, he will gain little himself and the people who have to do with him will gain less. But, if he is humble, he need not fear that the Lord will allow either him or them to fall into error.


Now this Father of whom I am speaking, and to whom in many ways the Lord has granted humility, has studied these matters and done his utmost to discover all that study can reveal. For he is a very good scholar, and when he has no experience of a thing he consults those who have; and, as the Lord also helps him by granting him great faith, he has rendered a great deal of service both to himself and to certain souls, of which mine is one. For, as the Lord knew of the trials I had to endure, His Majesty, having seen good to call to Himself some who were directing me,[51] seems to have provided others who have helped me in numerous trials and done me a great deal of good. The Lord has almost completely transformed this religious, until, as one might say, he hardly knows himself. Though formerly he had poor health, He has given him physical strength, so that he can do penance, and has made him valiant in all that is good, and has done other things for him as well. He seems, then, to have received a very special vocation from the Lord. May He be blessed for ever.


All this good, I believe, has come to him from the favours which the Lord has granted him in prayer, for there is no mistaking their reality. The Lord has already been pleased to test him in a number of situations, and from all these he has emerged like one who has amply proved the reality of the merit which we gain by suffering persecutions. I hope the Lord in His might will grant that much good may come through him to various members of his Order and to that Order itself. This is already beginning to be understood. I have seen great visions and the Lord has told me a number of very wonderful things about him and about the Rector of the Company of Jesus, whom I have already mentioned,[52] and about two other religious of the Order of Saint Dominic:[53] especially about one of them, to whom, for his own profit, the Lord has taught certain things which He[54] had previously taught me. From this Father of whom I am now speaking I have learned a great deal.


To one of my experiences with him I will refer here. I was with him once in the locutory, and so great was the love that my soul and spirit felt to be burning within him that I became almost absorbed, as I thought of the wonders of God, Who had raised a soul to so lofty a state in so short a time. It filled me with confusion to see him listening so humbly to what I was telling him about certain things concerning prayer. There was little enough humility in me that I could talk in this way with such a person, but the Lord must have borne with me because of the earnest desire that I had to see him make great progress. It helped me so much to be with him that he seemed to have left my soul ablaze with a new fire of longing to begin to serve the Lord all over again. O my Jesus, how much a soul can do when ablaze with Thy love! What great value we ought to set on it and how we should beseech the Lord to allow it to remain in this life! Anyone who has this love should follow after such souls if he is able.


For one who has this sickness it is a great thing to find another stricken by it too. It is a great comfort to him to see that he is not alone: the two are of mutual help in their sufferings and their deservings. They stand shoulder to shoulder, ready for God's sake to risk a thousand lives and longing for a chance to lose them. They are like soldiers who, in order to win booty and grow rich upon it, are spoiling for war, realizing that without fighting they can never become rich at all. Toiling in this way, in fact, is their profession. Oh, what a great thing it is, when the Lord gives this light, to know how much we are gaining in suffering for His sake! But we cannot properly understand this until we have given up everything; for, if there is a single thing to which a man clings, it is a sign that he sets some value upon it; and if he sets some value upon it, it will naturally distress him to give it up, and so everything will be imperfection and loss. "He who follows what is lost is himself lost": that saying is appropriate here. And what greater loss, what greater blindness, what greater misfortune is there than to set a great price on what is nothing?


Returning, then, to what I was saying: As I looked at that soul I rejoiced exceedingly and I think the Lord was desirous that I should have a clear view of the treasures He had laid up in it. So when I became aware of the favour which He had done me in bringing this to pass through my intervention, I realized how unworthy I was of it. I prized the favours which the Lord had bestowed upon him and considered them more my own than if they had actually been granted to me, and I praised the Lord repeatedly when I found that His Majesty was fulfilling my desires and had heard my prayer that He would awaken such persons as this. And then my soul, in such a state that it could not endure so much joy, went out from itself, and lost itself for its own greater gain. It abandoned its meditations, and, as it heard that Divine language, which seems to have been that of the Holy Spirit, I fell into a deep rapture, which caused me almost to lose my senses, though it lasted but for a short time. I saw Christ, in the greatest majesty and glory, manifesting His great satisfaction at what had been taking place. This He told me, and said that He wanted me to realize clearly that He was always present at conversations of this kind, for He was very pleased when people found their delight in talking of Him.


At another time, when I was a long way from here,[55] I saw him being carried up to the angels in great glory.[56] By this vision I understood that his soul was making great progress, as indeed it was. For a cruel slander against his reputation had been started by a person whom he had helped a great deal and to whose reputation and to whose soul he had rendered a great service; and he had endured this very happily and had done other things which tended greatly to the service of God and had undergone other persecutions. I do not think it suitable to say more about this just now, but Your Reverence knows about it all, and in the future, if you think well, it can all be set down to the glory of the Lord. All the prophecies about this house to which I have already referred, and others of which I shall speak later, concerning both this house and other matters, have been fulfilled. Some the Lord made to me three years before they became known; others, before that time, and others, again, since. And I always mentioned them to my confessor and to that widow who was a friend of mine, and with whom, as I said before, I was permitted to discuss them. She, I have learned, repeated them to other people, who know that I am not lying. God grant that I may never, in any matter, speak anything but the whole truth, especially on so serious a subject as this!


Once, when I was in great distress because a brother-in-law of mine[57] had died suddenly without being careful[58] to make his confession, I was told in prayer that my sister, too, would die in the same way and that I must go to see her and get her to prepare for death. I told my confessor about this, but he would not let me go; I then heard the same thing several times more. When he found that this was so, he told me to go, as no harm could possibly come of it. She lived in a village,[59] and I went there without telling her the reason but giving her what light I could about everything. I got her to go to confession very frequently and always to think of her soul's profit. She was very good and did as I said. Some four or five years after she had adopted these habits and begun to pay great heed to her conscience, she died in such circumstances that nobody could come to see her or hear her confession. So it was a fortunate thing that, following her usual custom, she had made her last confession little more than a week previously. When I heard of her death, it made me very happy to think that she had done so. She remained only a very short time in purgatory.


It could hardly have been a week later when, just after I had communicated, the Lord appeared to me and was pleased to let me see her as He was taking her to glory. During all those years between the time when the Lord spoke to me and the time of her death, neither my companion[60] nor I forgot what I had been told, and, when she died, my companion came to me in amazement at the way in which it had all been fulfilled. God be praised for ever, Who takes such care of souls so that they are not lost!


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[1][Hoja de lata. Lit.: "tinplate."]

[2][The only one of these "little books" still extant is the Treatise of Prayer and Meditation: S.S.M., II, 106.]

[3]Do–a Guiomar de Ulloa.

[4][This word, temerosa, might also be translated "timorous", "timid" but St. Teresa's use of "and", rather than of "but", to connect it with "holy" seems to indicate the meaning given in the text.]

[5][The Franciscan term for a group of religious houses not large enough to form a province.]

[6][The sudden and characteristic change of person is reproduced exactly from the original.]

[7]P. Baltasar çlvarez, according to Gracián.

[8]St. John iv, 15 "Sir, give me this water." These words, which form part of the Gospel for the Friday after the third Sunday in Lent, the Saint could have read as a child beneath a picture of the scene in the Gospel. On her father's death the picture was given to the Convent of the Incarnation, where it is still preserved.

[9][Lit.: "had made me give great blows."]

[10]This would be either P. B‡–ez or P. Garc’a de Toledo, who were the Saint's confessors from about 1563 to 1566.

[11][The brackets here are mine. The sentence is an excellent example (and there are many others in the Life) of St. Teresa's inconsequent way of writing. An idea comes into her head and at once she writes it down, even if (which is not the case here) doing so completely dislocates her sentence.]

[12]P. Federico de S. Antonio (Vita della Santa Madre Teresa di Gesœ, Bk. I, Chap. XXII) thinks the Saint had contemplated going to a convent in Flanders or Brittany. The Parisian Carmelites (Oeuvres de Sainte ThŽrsa, Vol. I, p. 409) suggest that she had in mind a convent established near Mantes, in 1477, by B. Franoise d'Ambroise. But there seems no reason to assume that she ever thought of going to a house outside Spain.

[13]This reference is probably to a stay which St. Teresa made with her younger sister, Juana, and her husband, Don Juan de Ovalle. From letters which the Saint wrote to her brother, Don Lorenzo, it is clear that lack of means, together with Don Juan's difficult temperament, made Do–a Juana's married life anything but a smooth one. The two came from Alba to Avila, for reasons connected with the foundation of St Joseph's, in August 1561.

[14][Honra; and so throughout this and the following paragraphs. Cf. n. 68.]

[15]["Girls'," may seem an unduly colloquial word, but the Spanish is even more unexpected: ni–as, "young girls", "children".]

[16][Cf. n. 247. "Reputation" would be a better word here, but the wordplay in the last sentence of the paragraph requires "honour".]

[17][This is evidently a reminiscent reference to Ch. XXX. The application of the figure, however, it will be seen, is slightly different.]

[18][See Ch. V.]

[19]The Convent of the Incarnation, Avila.

[20]A Bull published by Pope Eugenius IV on February 15, 1432.

[21]Mar’a de Ocampo, daughter of Don Diego de Cepeda and Do–a Beatriz de la Cruz y Ocampo, who were St. Teresa's cousins. She herself took the Discalced habit at Avila in 1563.

[22]Another account of this conversation [cit. P. Silverio, I, 268, n.] says that it arose out of a discussion on the hermit-saints. Some of the nuns suggested the establishment of a small convent in which a few of them could lead a more penitential life. St. Teresa then said they ought to restore the primitive Rule and one nun offered her financial help if she would found a convent of the kind described. At this point, Do–a Guiomar de Ulloa (the "widowed lady" of the text) arrived, and, on being told of the conversation, said that she too would help in the good work.

[23][I translate "He" in deference to P. Silverio's capitalization of the pronoun, but a likelier reading seems to me "he" (St. Joseph). Sixteenth-century manuscripts do not capitalize pronouns which refer to God, so the matter must remain one for conjecture.]

[24]P. Baltasar çlvarez.

[25]This was not, as is often said, P. Angel de Salazar, but P. Gregorio Fern‡ndez, who was Provincial from 1551 to 1553 and again from 1559 to the end of 1561.

[26]The Saint's niece Teresita related [cf. P. Silverio, I, 270, n.] that the proposed reform was even publicly denounced from çvilan pulpits. On one occasion, she says, St. Teresa and her sister Do–a Juana went to hear a sermon at St. Thomas's and to Do–a Juana's discomfiture the preacher ("a religious of a certain Order") began to inveigh against "nuns who left their convents to go and found new Orders". But when she turned indignantly to see how St. Teresa was taking it, she found that she was having a quiet laugh (con gran paz se estaba riendo). [Cf. ch. XXIII, para. 5.] The identity of the preacher has been guessed at, but is not known.

[27]P. Pedro Ib‡–ez, one of the Saint's chief supporters in the early days of her Reform, of which, however, he saw very little, for he died in 1565.

[28]A line is obliterated here, presumably by P. B‡–ez.

[29]Master Gaspar Daza. [The title of "Master" was conferred by the Orders upon certain religious in virtue of teaching posts held by them, or as a distinction.

[30]The prison-cell of the Incarnation still exists. It was quite common in those days for religious communities to imprison their recalcitrant members.

[31]P. Baltasar çlvarez.

[32]P. Pedro Ib‡–ez.

[33]At Trianos, in the province of Le—n. Actually he died there, at about the time when St. Teresa was completing this book, so his return to Avila, referred to in the text below, can have been only temporary.

[34]The Rector who left Avila was P. Dionisio V‡zquez, confessor of St. Francis Borgia and famous in the history of the Society of Jesus for his negotiations with Philip II, the Inquisition and the Holy See, the aim of which was to remove the Spanish houses of the Society from the jurisdiction of the General in Rome. He was succeeded, in 1561, by P. Gaspar de Salazar. Disagreements which arose between St. Giles' College and Don çlvaro de Mendoza, Bishop of Avila, led to P. Salazar's removal early in 1562: he had gone when St. Teresa returned from her visit to Toledo. She had a great regard for him and speaks highly of him in a number of her letters.

[35]Do–a Juana who lived at Alba. Cf. n. 246.

[36]The benefactor was St. Teresa's brother Lorenzo, who had emigrated to America, settled in what to-day is the capital of Ecuador and married a daughter of one of the conquistadores of Peru. He came back to Spain a wealthy man and did a great deal of good with his money. See Letters, 2.

[37]The house, which St. Teresa bought through the agency of her brother-in-law Don Juan de Ovalle, was indeed so small that all her biographers have compared it to the "little porch of Bethlehem" (cf. Foundations: Vol. III, p. 66). Julian de Avila (Vida de Santa Teresa, Part II, Chap. VIII) describes the chapel as "hardly more than ten paces in length". The diminutive bell used in this first convent was restored in 1868 to Avila from Pastrana, where it was taken in 1634, and now hangs beside the great bell which calls the religious to offices.

[38][The second personal pronouns in this quotation are in the singular, but the phraseology is markedly colloquial, and to bring this out I have used "you" in preference to "thou".]

[39]The original Brief (February 7, 1562), addressed to Do–a Aldonza de Guzm‡n and her daughter Do–a Guiomar de Ulloa, authorized them to hold property in common, as the Saint had not at that time decided to forgo an endowment. A Rescript dated December 5, 1562, however, confirmed by Brief of July 17, 1565, granted the Convent permission to live on public charity, without a fixed revenue.

[40]This rapture is believed to have come to the Saint in 1561, in the chapel known as that of the Sant’simo Cristo in the Dominican church of St. Thomas, Avila.

[41]The Bishop, when the foundation was made, was Don çlvaro de Mendoza (n. 267, above), who had taken possession of his office on December 4, 1560. He was greatly devoted to St. Teresa and a strong supporter of her Reform.


[43]This lady was Do–a Luisa de la Cerda, widow of Don Arias Pardo de Saavedra, who died in 1561, and daughter of the Duke of Medinaceli, who was in the direct line of descent from Alfonso X.

[44]A Jesuit house had been founded at Toledo in 1558 by St. Francis Borgia. Its first Superior, P. Pedro Domenech, later became St. Teresa's confessor.

[45]Some of these favours are described in the Relations (cf. pp. 315-16).

[46]Ribera, Yepes and St. Teresa's early biographers in general suppose this religious to have been P. Vicente Barr—n, but modern editors follow Gracián, who, in the notes already referred to (pp. 62-3), identifies him as P. Garc’a de Toledo. Of aristocratic stock (n. 174) this Dominican went to the Indies as a child with the Viceroy of Mexico, and professed in the capital of the Viceroyalty in 1535. Returning to Spain, he became Superior of the çvilan monastery in 1555. Later, he accompanied his cousin, who was appointed Viceroy of Peru, to that country, returning shortly before St. Teresa's death.

[47]This monastery, dedicated to St. Peter Martyr, was in fact near the palace of the Duke of Medinaceli, which has been a Discalced Carmelite convent since 1607, and is not far from the Puerta del Cimbr—n.

[48]P. Pedro Ib‡–ez.

[49]P. Gaspar de Salazar.

[50]Luis de Leon substituted "trust" (confiar) for the "be certain" (estar cierta) of the original manuscript, and other editors have followed him. But St. Teresa felt that the joint witness of a good conscience and her interior locutions gave her the moral certainty which she describes.

[51]Probably St. Peter of Alc‡ntara (d. October 18, 1562) and P. Ib‡–ez (d. February 2, 1565). [If P. Ib‡–ez is included, the reference has a bearing upon the date of this book: cf. n 340.]

[52]A. Gaspar de Salazar.

[53]PP. Pedro Ib‡–ez and Domingo B‡–ez, especially the first-named.

[54][P. Silverio reads "he", as though St. Teresa could have learned things from the Dominican which the Lord taught him later! The pluperfect and the word "previously" (antes) seem to settle the matter.]

[55]I.e., from Avila.

[56]According to Gracián, this was P. Garc’a de Toledo.

[57]Don Mart’n de Guzm‡n y Barrientos, husband of the Saint's half-sister Mar’a (ch. IV).

[58]Thus St. Teresa in the autograph; but P. Banez emended the phrase so that it read: "without having had the opportunity The early editions follow the author, but later editors have tended to adopt the emendation.

[59]Cf. n. 74.

[60]Do–a Guiomar de Ulloa.


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1 posted on 10/15/2002 6:53:25 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: *Catholic_list; father_elijah; Salvation; nickcarraway; JMJ333; Siobhan
2 posted on 10/15/2002 6:59:17 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue
It took me most of the night, but I did finish it! I have read quite a bit about her before, but you never can tell when you may happen upon a new nugget of information. I very muched liked her work Interior Castles. Good stuff.

Thanks for your hard work, LIB. I always appreciate it.

3 posted on 10/15/2002 9:46:50 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: Lady In Blue
Thanks! I will read this entire post, too. St. Theresa is great. I'm going to read her book soon.
4 posted on 10/15/2002 10:58:40 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: JMJ333
Bless your heart! I haven't finished reading it yet. I just finished reading the Holy Father's new Apostolic Letter on the Rosary and it is absolutely beautiful.
5 posted on 10/16/2002 9:16:22 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: nickcarraway
You're welcome! It'll probably take me another day or two to finish reading this thread.
6 posted on 10/16/2002 9:19:47 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue
BTTT on 10-15-03!

7 posted on 10/15/2003 7:13:08 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue

BTTT on 10-15-04, Feast Day of St. Teresa of Jesus [Avila]!

8 posted on 10/15/2004 7:00:09 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue
Many depictions of St. Teresa of Jesus (St. Teresa of Avila)

9 posted on 10/15/2004 7:11:04 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue

BTTT on the Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus [St. Teresa of Avila] on 10-15-05!

10 posted on 10/15/2005 8:48:51 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue
American Catholic’s Saint of the Day

October 15, 2005
St. Teresa of Avila

Teresa lived in an age of exploration as well as political, social and religious upheaval. It was the 16th century, a time of turmoil and reform. Her life began with the culmination of the Protestant Reformation, and ended shortly after the Council of Trent.

The gift of God to Teresa in and through which she became holy and left her mark on the Church and the world is threefold: She was a woman; she was a contemplative; she was an active reformer.

As a woman, Teresa stood on her own two feet, even in the man's world of her time. She was "her own woman," entering the Carmelites despite strong opposition from her father. She is a person wrapped not so much in silence as in mystery. Beautiful, talented, outgoing, adaptable, affectionate, courageous, enthusiastic, she was totally human. Like Jesus, she was a mystery of paradoxes: wise, yet practical; intelligent, yet much in tune with her experience; a mystic, yet an energetic reformer. A holy woman, a womanly woman.

Teresa was a woman "for God," a woman of prayer, discipline and compassion. Her heart belonged to God. Her own conversion was no overnight affair; it was an arduous lifelong struggle, involving ongoing purification and suffering. She was misunderstood, misjudged, opposed in her efforts at reform. Yet she struggled on, courageous and faithful; she struggled with her own mediocrity, her illness, her opposition. And in the midst of all this she clung to God in life and in prayer. Her writings on prayer and contemplation are drawn from her experience: powerful, practical and graceful. A woman of prayer; a woman for God.

Teresa was a woman "for others." Though a contemplative, she spent much of her time and energy seeking to reform herself and the Carmelites, to lead them back to the full observance of the primitive Rule. She founded over a half-dozen new monasteries. She traveled, wrote, fought—always to renew, to reform. In her self, in her prayer, in her life, in her efforts to reform, in all the people she touched, she was a woman for others, a woman who inspired and gave life.

In 1970 the Church gave her the title she had long held in the popular mind: Doctor of the Church. She and St. Catherine of Siena were the first women so honored.


Today we live in a time of turmoil, a time of reform and a time of liberation. Modern women have in Teresa a challenging example. Promoters of renewal, promoters of prayer, all have in Teresa a woman to reckon with, one whom they can admire and imitate.


Teresa knew well the continued presence and value of suffering (physical illness, opposition to reform, difficulties in prayer), but she grew to be able to embrace suffering, even desire it: "Lord, either to suffer or to die." Toward the end of her life she exclaimed: "Oh, my Lord! How true it is that whoever works for you is paid in troubles! And what a precious price to those who love you if we understand its value."

11 posted on 10/15/2005 7:11:59 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue
St. Teresa of Jesus/Avila

St. Teresa of Avila
Feast Day: October 15, 2007

Teresa lived in an age of exploration as well as political, social and religious upheaval. It was the 16th century, a time of turmoil and reform. Her life began with the culmination of the Protestant Reformation, and ended shortly after the Council of Trent.
The gift of God to Teresa in and through which she became holy and left her mark on the Church and the world is threefold: She was a woman; she was a contemplative; she was an active reformer.
     As a woman, Teresa stood on her own two feet, even in the man's world of her time. She was "her own woman," entering the Carmelites despite strong opposition from her father. She is a person wrapped not so much in silence as in mystery. Beautiful, talented, outgoing, adaptable, affectionate, courageous, enthusiastic, she was totally human. Like Jesus, she was a mystery of paradoxes: wise, yet practical; intelligent, yet much in tune with her experience; a mystic, yet an energetic reformer. A holy woman, a womanly woman.
     Teresa was a woman "for God," a woman of prayer, discipline and compassion. Her heart belonged to God. Her own conversion was no overnight affair; it was an arduous lifelong struggle, involving ongoing purification and suffering. She was misunderstood, misjudged, opposed in her efforts at reform. Yet she struggled on, courageous and faithful; she struggled with her own mediocrity, her illness, her opposition. And in the midst of all this she clung to God in life and in prayer. Her writings on prayer and contemplation are drawn from her experience: powerful, practical and graceful. A woman of prayer; a woman for God.
     Teresa was a woman "for others." Though a contemplative, she spent much of her time and energy seeking to reform herself and the Carmelites, to lead them back to the full observance of the primitive Rule. She founded over a half-dozen new monasteries. She traveled, wrote, fought—always to renew, to reform. In her self, in her prayer, in her life, in her efforts to reform, in all the people she touched, she was a woman for others, a woman who inspired and gave life.
     In 1970 the Church gave her the title she had long held in the popular mind: Doctor of the Church. She and St. Catherine of Siena were the first women so honored.


Today we live in a time of turmoil, a time of reform and a time of liberation. Modern women have in Teresa a challenging example. Promoters of renewal, promoters of prayer, all have in Teresa a woman to reckon with, one whom they can admire and imitate.


Teresa knew well the continued presence and value of suffering (physical illness, opposition to reform, difficulties in prayer), but she grew to be able to embrace suffering, even desire it: "Lord, either to suffer or to die." Toward the end of her life she exclaimed: "Oh, my Lord! How true it is that whoever works for you is paid in troubles! And what a precious price to those who love you if we understand its value."

12 posted on 10/15/2007 9:28:07 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue

Great thread. Thank you.

13 posted on 10/15/2008 12:47:26 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue
St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Saint Theresa of Jesus
Saint Teresa of Avila
Virgin and Doctor of the Church
October 15th

Biography | Readings



Saint Teresa of Avila (Saint Theresa of Jesus)
Born in Avila, Spain March 28, 1515; died in Alba de Tormes, October 4 [15], 1582
Foundress of the Discalced Carmelites, 1560-62.
Canonized by Gregory XV, 1622; declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970.

One of the most charismatic of the Church's counter-reformation saints, Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada was born the daughter of a saintly and literate father, Don Alonso, and a pious mother. At fifteen, after her mother's death and the marriage of her oldest sister, Teresa was sent to be educated with Augustinian nuns, but after an illness she returned to live with her father and other relatives. An uncle acquainted her with the Letters of Saint Jerome, which led her to pursue religious life. At the age of 20 Teresa joined the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at Avila.

During the sixteenth century the early austerity and religious enthusiasm that had characterized religious orders when they were founded, had been lost, and "worldliness" of all kinds, and even moral corruption was widespread. (The Protestant Reformation began in 1519 in Germany, at first as a reaction to the pervasive corruption and lack of governance by Church authorities.)

Teresa's convent at Avila was no exception. Although she had been devout at first, she lost this fervor and embraced the lax life of her convent. After the death of her father, and several serious illnesses, however, she was led to reform herself through intense prayer, and began to have religious experiences which she, and the priests she consulted, thought were delusions.

Two Jesuit confessors, however, believed Teresa's experiences were genuine graces, and advised her to lay a firm spiritual foundation through private prayer and the profound practice of virtue. During this time, she had even more intense and extraordinary experiences of "heavenly communications" -- including "mystical marriage", or the "espousal" of her soul to the person of Christ -- and even bodily manifestations of her spiritual elevation.

Her confessors ordered her to write her experiences of the spiritual necessity for prayer, the practice of contemplative prayer, and its fruits. She wrote the Way of Perfection and Foundations for her nuns, and The Interior Castle, as a guide for all. It was principally for these writings that she was declared a Doctor of the Church four centuries later. Her writings are intensely personal spiritual autobiographies, based on her own experiences and insights, and are remarkably clearly written. They remain spiritual classics -- along with Saint Augustine's Confessions.

Inspired by a niece, who was also a Carmelite at Avila, she decided to undertake the establishment of a reformed convent that would be restored to the austerity and devotion of earlier times. This effort met strong opposition from several quarters. In 1562, Teresa received approval for a new foundation, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Primitive Rule of Saint Joseph, at Avila, which she began with with her niece and three other nuns. Several years later, while she was establishing a new convent in Toledo, she met John Yepes (later John of the Cross), and soon after made new foundations for men that were eventually placed under his care. Difficulties and opposition to the newly established reformed Discalced Carmelite foundations persisted. ("Discalced", literally "shoeless", refers to the austerity of the new foundations. The nuns and friars wore sandals instead of shoes).

Finally, in 1580, the separation of the Discalced Carmelites from the other Carmelites was recognized by the Holy See -- when Teresa was sixty-five years old, and in poor health. Teresa made seventeen foundations of the Discalced Carmelites, her last at Burgos in July, 1582. Instead of returning to Avila from Burgos, she set out for Alba de Tormes. It was a difficult trip and she was ill. Three days after reaching Alba, she died -- on October 4, 1582, and was buried there. The next day the Gregorian reform of the calendar was effected, which resulted in dropping ten days. Thus her feast is fixed on October 15.

 St. Theresa’s most popularly known writing is a brief poem is known as her “Bookmark”, because it was found in her prayer book after her death in 1582. It has been variously translated into English, and has been very widely circulated.

Original Spanish:

Nada te turbe,
nada te espante;
todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda.
La pacientia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene nada la falta:
solo Dios basta.

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.


Lord, by your Spirit you raised up Saint Teresa of Jesus to show your Church the way to perfection. May her inspired teaching awaken in us a longing for true holiness.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading: Romans 8:22-27
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Gospel Reading: John 15:1-8
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.

St. Teresa's Bread
Pan De Santa Teresa

This dish, which makes a tasty breakfast or branch, is a first cousin to French toast, but with a flavor and texture all its own.


2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 good piece of lemon peel
12 slices Italian/French bread (a little stale) 1/2-3/4 inch thick
3 eggs
Pinch of salt
Cinnamon-sugar for sprinkling on the toast
Olive oil for frying

Combine the milk with the sugar, cinnamon, and lemon peel. Simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes, until the milk has become well flavored. Place the bread in a large flat dish or pan, and strain the milk over it.

Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl with a pinch of salt. With a spatula, lay the slices of bread in the egg, turning them to coat both sides. Beat additional eggs and salt together if necessary to finish coating bread slices. Fry the bread in the olive oil until it is browned and crusty on both sides.

Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.

Yield: 4-6 servings

from A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz, originally published by Harper & Row in 1995, now available in paperback from Ignatius Press.

14 posted on 10/15/2008 12:48:29 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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