aA
aA
aA
Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, of The Order of Our Lady of Carmel
« Prev Chapter XXXVI Next »

Chapter XXXVI.

The Foundation of the Monastery of St. Joseph. Persecution and Temptations. Great Interior Trial of the Saint, and Her Deliverance.

1. Having now left that city,527527   Toledo. I travelled in great joy, resolved to suffer most willingly whatever our Lord might be pleased to lay upon me. On the night of my arrival here,528528   Avila. In the beginning of June, 1562. came also from Rome the commission and the Brief for the erection of the monastery.529529   See ch. xxxiv. § 2. The Brief was dated Feb. 7, 1562, the third year of Pius IV. (De la Fuente). I was astonished myself, and so were those who knew how our Lord hastened my coming, when they saw how necessary it was, and in what a moment our Lord had brought me back.530530   The Brief was addressed to Doña Aldonza de Guzman, and to Doña Guiomar de Ulloa, her daughter. I found here the Bishop and the holy friar,531531   Don Alvaro de Mendoza (De la Fuente). Peter of Alcantara, and that nobleman,532532   Don Francisco de Salcedo. the great servant of God, in whose house the holy man was staying; for he was a man who was in the habit of receiving the servants of God in his house. These two prevailed on the Bishop to accept the monastery, which was no small thing, because it was founded in poverty; but he was so great a lover of those whom he saw determined to serve our Lord, that he was immediately drawn to give them His protection. It was the approbation of the holy old man,533533   St. Peter of Alcantara. "Truly this is the house of St. Joseph," were the Saint's words when he saw the rising monastery; "for I see it is the little hospice of Bethlehem" (De la Fuente). and the great trouble he took to make now this one, now that one, help us, that did the whole work. If I had not come at the moment, as I have just said, I do not see how it could have been done; for the holy man was here but a short time,—I think not quite eight days,—during which he was also ill; and almost immediately afterwards our Lord took him to Himself.534534   In less than three months, perhaps; for St. Peter died in the sixty-third year of his age, Oct. 18, 1562, and in less than eight weeks after the foundation of the monastery of St. Joseph. It seems as if His Majesty reserved him till this affair was ended, because now for some time—I think for more than two years—he had been very ill.

2. Everything was done in the utmost secrecy; and if it had not been so, I do not see how anything could have been done at all; for the people of the city were against us, as it appeared afterwards. Our Lord ordained that one of my brothers-in-law535535   Don Juan de Ovalle. should be ill, and his wife away, and himself in such straits that my superiors gave me leave to remain with him. Nothing, therefore, was found out, though some persons had their suspicions;—still, they did not believe. It was very wonderful, for his illness lasted only no longer than was necessary for our affair; and when it was necessary he should recover his health, that I might be disengaged, and he leave the house empty, our Lord restored him; and he was astonished at it himself.536536   When he saw that the Saint had made all her arrangements, he knew the meaning of his illness, and said to her, "It is not necessary I should be ill any longer" (Ribera, i. c. 8).

3. I had much trouble in persuading this person and that to allow the foundation; I had to nurse the sick man, and obtain from the workmen the hasty preparation of the house, so that it might have the form of a monastery; but much remained still to be done. My friend was not here,537537   Doña Guiomar de Ulloa was now in her native place, Ciudad Toro. for we thought it best she should be away, in order the better to hide our purpose. I saw that everything depended on haste, for many, reasons, one of which was that I was afraid I might be ordered back to my monastery at any moment. I was troubled by so many things, that I suspected my cross had been sent me, though it seemed but a light one in comparison with that which I understood our Lord meant me to carry.

4. When everything was settled, our Lord was pleased that some of us should take the habit on St. Bartholomew's Day. The most Holy Sacrament began to dwell in the house at the same time.538538   The Mass was said by Gaspar Daza. See infra, § 18; Reforma, i. c. xlvi. § 3. With full sanction and authority, then, our monastery of our most glorious father St. Joseph was founded in the year 1562.539539   The bell which the Saint had provided for the convent weighed less than three pounds, and remained in the monastery for a hundred years, till it was sent, by order of the General, to the monastery of Pastrana, where the general chapters were held. There the friars assembled at the sound of the bell, which rang for the first Mass of the Carmelite Reform (Reforma, i. c. xlvi. § 1). I was there myself to give the habit, with two nuns540540   They were Doña Ines and Doña Ana de Tapia, cousins of the Saint. There were present also Don Gonzalo de Aranda, Don Francisco Salcedo, Julian of Avila, priest; Doña Juana de Ahumada, the Saint's sister; with her husband, Juan de Ovalle. The Saint herself retained her own habit, making no change, because she had not the permission of her superiors (Reforma, i. c. xlvi. § 2). of the house to which we belonged, who happened then to be absent from it. As the house which thus became a monastery was that of my brother-in-law—I said before541541   Ch. xxxiii. § 13. that he had bought it, for the purpose of concealing our plan—I was there myself with the permission of my superiors; and I

did nothing without the advice of learned men, in order that I might not break, in a single point, my vow of obedience. As these persons considered what I was doing to be most advantageous for the whole Order, on many accounts, they told me—though I was acting secretly, and taking care my superiors should know nothing—that I might go on. If they had told me that there was the slightest imperfection in the whole matter, I would have given up the founding of a thousand monasteries,—how much more, then, this one! I am certain of this; for though I longed to withdraw from everything more and more, and to follow my rule and vocation in the greatest perfection and seclusion, yet I wished to do so only conditionally: for if I should have learnt that it would be for the greater honour of our Lord to abandon it, I would have done so, as I did before on one occasion,542542   Ch. xxxiii. § 3. in all peace and contentment.

5. I felt as if I were in bliss, when I saw the most Holy Sacrament reserved, with four poor orphans,543543   The first of these was Antonia de Henao, a penitent of St. Peter of Alcantara, and who wished to enter a religious house far away from Avila, her home. St. Peter kept her for St. Teresa. She was called from this day forth Antonia of the Holy Ghost. The second was Maria de la Paz, brought up by Doña Guiomar de Ulloa. Her name was Maria of the Cross. The third was Ursola de los Santos. She retained her family name as Ursola of the Saints. It was Gaspar Daza who brought her to the Saint. The fourth was Maria de Avila, sister of Julian the priest, and she was called Mary of St. Joseph. It was at this house, too, that the Saint herself exchanged her ordinary designation of Doña Teresa de Ahumada for Teresa of Jesus (Reforma, i. c. xlvi. § 2).—for they were received without a dowry,—and great servants of God, established in the house. It was our aim from the beginning to receive only those who, by their example, might be the foundation on which we could build up what we had in view—great perfection and prayer—and effect a work which I believed to be for the service of our Lord, and to the honour of the habit of His glorious Mother. This was my anxiety. It was also a great consolation to me that I had done that which our Lord had so often commanded me to do, and that there was one church more in this city dedicated to my glorious father St. Joseph. Not that I thought I had done anything myself, for I have never thought so, and do not think so even now; I always looked upon it as the work of our Lord. My part in it was so full of imperfections, that I look upon myself rather as a person in fault than as one to whom any thanks are due. But it was a great joy to me when I saw His Majesty make use of me, who am so worthless, as His instrument in so grand a work. I was therefore in great joy,—so much so, that I was, as it were, beside myself, lost in prayer.

6. When all was done—it might have been about three or four hours afterwards—Satan returned to the spiritual fight against me, as I shall now relate. He suggested to me that perhaps I had been wrong in what I had done; perhaps I had failed in my obedience, in having brought it about without the commandment of the Provincial. I did certainly think that the Provincial would be displeased because I had placed the monastery under the jurisdiction of the Bishop544544   See Foundations, ch. ii. § 1, and ch. xxxi, § 1. without telling him of it beforehand; though, as he would not acknowledge the monastery himself, and as I had not changed mine, it seemed to me that perhaps he would not care much about the matter. Satan also suggested whether the nuns would be contented to live in so strict a house, whether they could always find food, whether I had not done a silly thing, and what had I to do with it, when I was already in a monastery? All our Lord had said to me, all the opinions I had heard, and all the prayers which had been almost uninterrupted for more than two years, were completely blotted out of my memory, just as if they had never been. The only thing I remembered was my own opinion; and every virtue, with faith itself, was then suspended within me, so that I was without strength to practise any one of them, or to defend myself against so many blows.

7. The devil also would have me ask myself how I could think of shutting myself up in so strict a house, when I was subject to so many infirmities; how could I bear so penitential a life, and leave a house large and pleasant, where I had been always so happy, and where I had so many friends?—perhaps I might not like those of the new monastery; I had taken on myself a heavy obligation, and might possibly end in despair. He also suggested that perhaps it was he himself who had contrived it, in order to rob me of my peace and rest, so that, being unable to pray, I might be disquieted, and so lose my soul. Thoughts of this kind he put before me; and they were so many, that I could think of nothing else; and with them came such distress, obscurity, and darkness of soul as I can never describe. When I found myself in this state, I went and placed myself before the most Holy Sacrament, though I could not pray to Him; so great was my anguish, that I was like one in the agony of death. I could not make the matter known to any one, because no confessor had as yet been appointed.

8. O my God, how wretched is this life! No joy is lasting; everything is liable to change. Only a moment ago, I do not think I would have exchanged my joy with any man upon earth; and the very grounds of that joy so tormented me now, that I knew not what to do with myself. Oh, if we did but consider carefully the events of our life, every one of us would learn from experience how little we ought to make either of its pleasures or of its pains! Certainly this was, I believe, one of the most distressing moments I ever passed in all my life; my spirit seemed to forecast the great sufferings in store for me, though they never were so heavy as this was, if it had continued. But our Lord would not let His poor servant suffer, for in all my troubles He never failed to succour me; so it was now.

He gave me a little light, so that I might see it was the work of the devil, and might understand the truth,—namely, that it was nothing else but an attempt on his part to frighten me with his lies. So I began to call to mind my great resolutions to serve our Lord, and my desire to suffer for His sake; and I thought that if I carried them out, I must not seek to be at rest; that if I had my trials, they would be meritorious; and that if I had troubles, and endured them in order to please God, it would serve me for purgatory. What was I, then, afraid of? If I longed for tribulations, I had them now; and my gain lay in the greatest opposition. Why, then, did I fail in courage to serve One to whom I owed so much?

9. After making these and other reflections, and doing great violence to myself, I promised before the most Holy Sacrament to do all in my power to obtain permission to enter this house, and, if I could do it with a good conscience, to make a vow of enclosure. When I had done this, the devil fled in a moment, and left me calm and peaceful, and I have continued so ever since; and the enclosure, penances, and other rules of this house are to me, in their observance, so singularly sweet and light, the joy I have is so exceedingly great, that I am now and then thinking what on earth I could have chosen which should be more delightful. I know not whether this may not be the cause of my being in better health than I was ever before, or whether it be that our Lord, because it is needful and reasonable that I should do as all the others do, gives me this comfort of keeping the whole rule, though with some difficulty. However, all who know my infirmities, are astonished at my strength. Blessed be He who giveth it all, and in whose strength I am strong!

10. Such a contest left me greatly fatigued, and laughing at Satan; for I saw clearly it was he. As I have never known what it is to be discontented because I am a nun—no, not for an instant—during more than twenty-eight years of religion, I believe that our Lord suffered me to be thus tempted, that I might understand how great a mercy He had shown me herein, and from what torment He had delivered me, and that if I saw any one in like trouble I might not be alarmed at it, but have pity on her, and be able to console her.

11. Then, when this was over, I wished to rest myself a little after our dinner; for during the whole of that night I had scarcely rested at all, and for some nights previously I had had much trouble and anxiety, while every day was full of toil; for the news of what we had done had reached my monastery, and was spread through the city. There arose a great outcry, for the reasons I mentioned before,545545   Ch. xxxiii. §§ 1, 2. and there was some apparent ground for it. The prioress546546   Of the Incarnation. sent for me to come to her immediately. When I received the order, I went at once, leaving the nuns in great distress. I saw clearly enough that there were troubles before me; but as the work was really done, I did not care much for that. I prayed and implored our Lord to help me, and my father St. Joseph to bring me back to his house. I offered up to him all I was to suffer, rejoicing greatly that I had the opportunity of suffering for his honour and of doing him service. I went persuaded that I should be put in prison at once but this would have been a great comfort, because I should have nobody to speak to, and might have some rest and solitude, of which I was in great need; for so much intercourse with people had worn me out.

12. When I came and told the prioress what I had done, she was softened a little. They all sent for the Provincial, and the matter was reserved for him. When he came, I was summoned to judgment, rejoicing greatly at seeing that I had something to suffer for our Lord. I did not think I had offended against His Majesty, or against my Order, in anything I had done;

on the contrary, I was striving with all my might to exalt my Order, for which I would willingly have died,—for my whole desire was that its rule might be observed in all perfection. I thought of Christ receiving sentence, and I saw how this of mine would be less than nothing. I confessed my fault, as if I had been very much to blame; and so I seemed to every one who did not know all the reasons. After the Provincial had rebuked me sharply—though not with the severity which my fault deserved, nor according to the representations made to him—I would not defend myself, for I was determined to bear it all; on the contrary, I prayed him to forgive and punish, and be no longer angry with me.

13. I saw well enough that they condemned me on some charges of which I was innocent, for they said I had founded the monastery that I might be thought much of, and to make myself a name, and for other reasons of that kind. But on other points I understood clearly that they were speaking the truth, as when they said that I was more wicked than the other nuns. They asked, how could I, who had not kept the rule in that house, think of keeping it in another of stricter observance? They said I was giving scandal in the city, and setting up novelties. All this neither troubled nor distressed me in the least, though I did seem to feel it, lest I should appear to make light of what they were saying.

14. At last the Provincial commanded me to explain my conduct before the nuns, and I had to do it. As I was perfectly calm, and our Lord helped me, I explained everything in such a way that neither the Provincial nor those who were present found any reason to condemn me. Afterwards I spoke more plainly to the Provincial alone; he was very much satisfied, and promised, if the new monastery prospered, and the city became quiet, to give me leave to live in it. Now the outcry in the city was very great, as I

am going to tell. Two or three days after this, the governor, certain members of the council of the city and of the Chapter, came together, and resolved that the new monastery should not be allowed to exist, that it was a visible wrong to the state, that the most Holy Sacrament should be removed, and that they would not suffer us to go on with our work.

15. They assembled all the Orders—that is, two learned men from each—to give their opinion. Some were silent, others condemned; in the end, they resolved that the monastery should be broken up. Only one547547   F. Domingo Bañes, the great commentator on St. Thomas. On the margin of the MS., Bañes has with his own hand written: "This was at the end of August, 1562. I was present, and gave this opinion. I am writing this in May" (the day of the month is not legible) "1575, and the mother has now founded nine monasteries en gran religion" (De la Fuente). At this time Bañes did not know, and had never seen, the Saint; he undertook her defence simply because he saw that her intentions were good, and the means she made use of for founding the monastery lawful, seeing that she had received the commandment to do so from the Pope. Bañes testifies thus in the depositions made in Salamanca in 1591 in the Saint's process. See vol. ii. p. 376 of Don Vicente's edition.—he was of the Order of St. Dominic, and objected, not to the monastery itself, but to the foundation of it in poverty—said that there was no reason why it should be thus dissolved, that the matter ought to be well considered, that there was time enough, that it was the affair of the bishop, with other things of that kind. This was of great service to us, for they were angry enough to proceed to its destruction at once, and it was fortunate they did not. In short, the monastery must exist; our Lord was pleased to have it, and all of them could do nothing against His will. They gave their reasons, and showed their zeal for good, and thus, without offending God, made me suffer together with all those who were in favour of the monastery; there were not many, but they suffered much persecution. The inhabitants were so excited, that they talked of nothing else; every one condemned me, and hurried to the Provincial and to my monastery.

16. I was no more distressed by what they said of me than if they had said nothing; but I was afraid the monastery would be destroyed: that was painful; so also was it to see those persons who helped me lose their credit and suffer so much annoyance. But as to what was said of myself I was rather glad, and if I had had any faith I should not have been troubled at all. But a slight failing in one virtue is enough to put all the others to sleep. I was therefore extremely distressed during the two days on which those assemblies of which I have spoken were held. In the extremity of my trouble, our Lord said to me: "Knowest thou not that I am the Almighty? what art thou afraid of?" He made me feel assured that the monastery would not be broken up, and I was exceedingly comforted. The informations taken were sent up to the king's council, and an order came back for a report on the whole matter.

17. Here was the beginning of a grand lawsuit: the city sent delegates to the court, and some must be sent also to defend the monastery: but I had no money, nor did I know what to do. Our Lord provided for us for the Father Provincial never ordered me not to meddle in the matter. He is so great a lover of all that is good, that, though he did not help us, he would not be against our work. Neither did he authorise me to enter the house till he saw how it would end. Those servants of God who were in it were left alone, and did more by their prayers than I did with all my negotiations, though the affair needed the utmost attention. Now and then everything seemed to fail; particularly one day, before the Provincial came, when the prioress ordered me to meddle no more with it, and to give it up altogether. I betook myself to God, and said, "O Lord, this house is not mine; it was founded for Thee; and now that there is no one to take up the cause, do Thou protect it." I now felt myself in peace, and as free from anxiety as if the whole world were on my side in the matter; and at once I looked upon it as safe.548548   See Ch. xxxix. § 25.

18. A very great servant of God, and a lover of all perfection, a priest549549   Gonzalo de Aranda (De la Fuente). who had helped me always, went to the court on this business, and took great pains. That holy nobleman550550   Don Francisco de Salcedo (ibid.). of whom I have often spoken laboured much on our behalf, and helped us in every way. He had much trouble and persecution to endure, and I always found a father in him, and do so still. All those who helped us, our Lord filled with such fervour as made them consider our affair as their own, as if their own life and reputation were at stake; and yet it was nothing to them, except in so far as it regarded the service of our Lord. His Majesty visibly helped the priest I have spoken of before,551551   Ch. xxiii. § 6; Gaspar Daza (ibid.). who was also one of those who gave us great help when the Bishop sent him as his representative to one of the great meetings. There he stood alone against all; at last he pacified them by means of certain propositions, which obtained us a little respite. But that was not enough; for they were ready to spend their lives, if they could but destroy the monastery. This servant of God was he who gave the habit and reserved the most Holy Sacrament, and he was the object of much persecution. This attack lasted about six months: to relate in detail the heavy trials we passed through would be too tedious.

19. I wondered at what Satan did against a few poor women, and also how all people thought that merely twelve women, with a prioress, could be so hurtful to the city,—for they were not to be more,—I say this to those who opposed us,—and living such austere lives; for if any harm or error came of it, it would all fall upon them. Harm to the city there could not be in any way; and yet the people thought there was so much in it, that they opposed us with a good conscience. At last they resolved they would tolerate us if we were endowed, and in consideration of that would suffer us to remain. I was so distressed at the trouble of all those who were on our side—more than at my own—that I thought it would not be amiss, till the people were pacified, to accept an endowment, but afterwards to resign it. At other times, too, wicked and imperfect as I am, I thought that perhaps our Lord wished it to be so, seeing that, without accepting it, we could not succeed; and so I consented to the compromise.

20. The night before the settlement was to be made, I was in prayer,—the discussion of the terms of it had already begun,—when our Lord said to me that I must do nothing of the kind; for if we began with an endowment, they would never allow us to resign it. He said some other things also. The same night, the holy friar, Peter of Alcantara, appeared to me. He was then dead.552552   He died Oct. 18, 1562. But he had written to me before his death—for he knew the great opposition and persecution we had to bear—that he was glad the foundation was so much spoken against; it was a sign that our Lord would be exceedingly honoured in the monastery, seeing that Satan was so earnest against it; and that I was by no means to consent to an endowment. He urged this upon me twice or thrice in that letter, and said that if I persisted in this everything would succeed according to my wish.

21. At this time I had already seen him twice since his death, and the great glory he was in, and so I was not afraid,—on the contrary, I was very glad; for he always appeared as a glorified body in great happiness, and the vision made me very happy too. I remember that he told me, the first time I saw him, among other things, when speaking of the greatness of his joy, that the penance he had done was a blessed thing for him, in that it had obtained so great a reward. But, as I think I have spoken of this before,553553   Ch. xxvii. § 21. I will now say no more than that he showed himself severe on this occasion: he merely said that I was on no account to accept an endowment, and asked why it was I did not take his advice. He then disappeared. I remained in astonishment, and the next day told the nobleman—for I went to him in all my trouble, as to one who did more than others for us in the matter,—what had taken place, and charged him not to consent to the endowment, but to let the lawsuit go on. He was more firm on this point than I was, and was therefore greatly pleased; he told me afterwards how much he disliked the compromise.

22. After this, another personage—a great servant of God, and with good intentions—came forward, who, now that the matter was in good train, advised us to put it in the hands of learned men. This brought on trouble enough; for some of those who helped me agreed to do so; and this plot of Satan was one of the most difficult of all to unravel. Our Lord was my helper throughout. Writing thus briefly, it is impossible for me to explain what took place during the two years that passed between the beginning and the completion of the monastery: the last six months and the first six months were the most painful.

23. When at last the city was somewhat calm, the licentiate father, the Dominican friar554554   "El Padre Presentado, Dominico. Presentado en algunas Religiones es cierto titulo de grado que es respeto del Maestro como Licenciado" (Cobarruvias, in voce Presente). The father was Fra Pedro Ibañez. See ch. xxxviii. § 15. who helped us, exerted himself most skilfully on our behalf. Though not here at the time, our Lord brought him here at a most convenient moment for our service, and it seems that His Majesty brought him for that purpose only. He told me afterwards that he had no reasons for coming, and that he heard of our affair as if by chance.

He remained here as long as we wanted him, and on going away he prevailed, by some means, on the Father Provincial to permit me to enter this house, and to take with me some of the nuns555555   From the monastery of the Incarnation. These were Ana of St. John, Ana of All the Angels, Maria Isabel, and Isabel of St. Paul. St. Teresa was a simple nun, living under obedience to the prioress of St. Joseph, Ana of St. John, and intended so to remain. But the nuns applied to the Bishop of Avila and to the Provincial of the Order, who, listening to the complaints of the sisters, compelled the Saint to be their prioress. See Reforma, i. c. xlix. § 4.—such a permission seemed impossible in so short a time for the performance of the Divine Office—and the training of those who were in this house: the day of our coming was a most joyful day for me.556556   Mid-Lent of 1563.

24. While praying in the church, before I went into the house, and being as it were in a trance, I saw Christ; who, as it seemed to me, received me with great affection, placed a crown on my head, and thanked me for what I had done for His Mother. On another occasion, when all of us remained in the choir in prayer after Compline, I saw our Lady in exceeding glory, in a white mantle, with which she seemed to cover us all. I understood by that the high degree of glory to which our Lord would raise the religious of this house.

25. When we had begun to sing the Office, the people began to have a great devotion to the monastery; more nuns were received, and our Lord began to stir up those who had been our greatest persecutors to become great benefactors, and give alms to us. In this way they came to approve of what they had condemned; and so, by degrees, they withdrew from the lawsuit, and would say that they now felt it to be a work of God, since His Majesty had been pleased to carry it on in the face of so much opposition. And now there is not one who thinks that it would have been right not to have founded the monastery: so they make a point of furnishing us with alms; for without any asking on our part, without begging of any one, our Lord moves them to, succour us; and so we always have what is necessary for us, and I trust in our Lord it will always be so.557557   See Way of Perfection, ch. ii. As the sisters are few in number, if they do their duty as our Lord at present by His grace enables them to do, I am confident that they will always have it, and that they need not be a burden nor troublesome to anybody; for our Lord will care for them, as He has hitherto done.

26. It is the greatest consolation to me to find myself among those who are so detached. Their occupation is to learn how they may advance in the service of God. Solitude is their delight; and the thought of being visited by any one, even of their nearest kindred, is a trial, unless it helps them to kindle more and more their love of the Bridegroom. Accordingly, none come to this house who do not aim at this; otherwise they neither give nor receive any pleasure from their visits. Their conversation is of God only; and so he whose conversation is different does not understand them, and they do not understand him.

27. We keep the rule of our Lady of Carmel, not the rule of the Mitigation, but as it was settled by Fr. Hugo, Cardinal of Santa Sabina, and given in the year 1248, in the fifth year of the pontificate of Innocent IV., Pope. All the trouble we had to go through, as it seems to me, will have been endured to good purpose.

28. And now, though the rule be somewhat severe,—for we never eat flesh except in cases of necessity, fast eight months in the year, and practise some other austerities besides, according to the primitive rule,558558   "Jejunium singulis diebus, exceptis Dominicis, observetis a Festo Exaltationis Sanctæ Crucis usque ad diem Dominicæ Resurrectionis, nisi infirmitas vel debilitas corporis, aut alia justa causa, jejunium solvi suadeat; quia necessitas non habet legem. Ab esu carnium abstineatis, nisi pro infirmitatis aut debilitatis remedio sint sumantur." That is the tenth section of the rule.—yet the sisters think it light on many points, and so they have other observances, which we have thought necessary for the more perfect keeping of it. And I trust in our Lord that what we have begun will prosper more and more, according to the promise of His Majesty.

29. The other house, which the holy woman of whom I spoke before559559   See ch. xxxv. § 1. Maria of Jesus had founded her house in Alcala de Henares; but the austerities practised in it, and the absence of the religious mitigations which long experience had introduced, were too much for the fervent nuns there assembled. Maria of Jesus begged Doña Leonor de Mascareñas to persuade St. Teresa to come to Alcala. The Saint went to the monastery, and was received there with joy, and even entreated to take the house under her own government (Reforma, ii. c. x. §§ 3, 4). laboured to establish, has been also blessed of our Lord, and is founded in Alcala: it did not escape serious opposition, nor fail to endure many trials. I know that all duties of religion are observed in it, according to our primitive rule. Our Lord grant that all may be to the praise and glory of Himself and of the glorious Virgin Mary, whose habit we wear. Amen.

30. I think you must be wearied, my father, by the tedious history of this monastery; and yet it is most concise, if you compare it with our labours, and the wonders which our Lord has wrought here. There are many who can bear witness to this on oath. I therefore beg of your reverence, for the love of God, should you think fit to destroy the rest of this my writing, to preserve that part of it which relates to this monastery, and give it, when I am dead, to the sisters who may then be living in it. It will encourage them greatly, who shall come here both to serve God and to labour, that what has been thus begun may not fall to decay, but ever grow and thrive, when they see how much our Lord has done through one so mean and vile as I. As our Lord has been so particularly gracious to us in the foundation of this house it seems to me that she will do very wrong, and that she will be heavily chastised of God, who shall be the first to relax the perfect observance of the rule, which our Lord has here begun and countenanced, so that it may be kept with so much sweetness: it is most evident that the observance of it is easy, and that it can be kept with ease, by the arrangement made for those who long to be alone with their Bridegroom Christ, in order to live for ever in Him.

31. This is to be the perpetual aim of those who are here, to be alone with Him alone. They are not to be more in number than thirteen: I know this number to be the best, for I have had many opinions about it; and I have seen in my own experience, that to preserve our spirit, living on alms, without asking of anyone, a larger number would be inexpedient. May they always believe one who with much labour, and by the prayers of many people, accomplished that which must be for the best! That this is most expedient for us will be seen from the joy and cheerfulness, and the few troubles, we have all had in the years we have lived in this house, as well as from the better health than usual of us all. If any one thinks the rule hard, let her lay the fault on her want of the true spirit, and not on the rule of the house, seeing that delicate persons, and those not saints,—because they have the true spirit,—can bear it all with so much sweetness. Let others go to another monastery, where they may save their souls in the way of their own spirit.


« Prev Chapter XXXVI Next »

Advertisements


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |