The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus

Chapter XXXIV -The Saint Leaves Her Monastery of the Incarnation for a Time, at the Command of Her Superior. Consoles an Afflicted Widow.

1. Now, though I was very careful that no one should know what we were doing, all this work could not be carried on so secretly as not to come to the knowledge of divers persons; some believed, in it, others did not, I was in great fear lest the Provincial should be spoken to about it when he came, and find himself compelled to order me to give it up; and if he did so, it would have been abandoned at once. Our Lord provided against it in this way. In a large city, more than twenty leagues distant, was a lady in great distress on account of her husband's death. [1] She was in such extreme affliction, that fears were entertained about her life. She had heard of me, a poor sinner,−−for our Lord had provided that,−−and men spoke well to her of me, for the sake of other good works which resulted from it. This lady knew the Provincial well; and as she was a person of some consideration, and knew that I lived in a monastery the nuns of which were permitted to go out, our Lord made her desire much to see me. She thought that my presence would be a consolation to her, and that she could not be comforted otherwise. She therefore strove by all the means in her power to get me into her house, sending messages to the Provincial, who was at a distance far away.

2. The Provincial sent me an order, charging me in virtue of my obedience to go immediately, with one companion. I knew of it on Christmas night. It caused me some trouble and much suffering to see that they sent for me because they thought there was some good in me; I, knowing myself to be so wicked, could not bear it. I commended myself earnestly to God, and during Matins, or the greater part of them, was lost in a profound trance. Our Lord told me I must go without fail, and give no heed to the opinions of people, for they were few who would not be rash in their counsel; and though I should have troubles, yet God would be served greatly: as to the monastery, it was expedient I should be absent till the Brief came, because Satan had contrived a great plot against the coming of the Provincial; that I was to have no fear,−−He would help me. I repeated this to the rector, and he told me that I must go by all means, though others were saying I ought not to go, that it was a trick of Satan to bring some evil upon me there, and that I ought to send word to the Provincial.

3. I obeyed the rector, and went without fear, because of what I had understood in prayer, though in the greatest confusion when I thought of the reasons why they sent for me, and how very much they were deceived. It made me more and more importunate with our Lord that He would not abandon me. It was a great comfort that there was a house of the Society of Jesus there whither I was going, and so I thought I should be in some degree safe under the direction of those fathers, as I had been here.

4. It was the good pleasure of our Lord that the lady who sent for me should be so much consoled that a visible improvement was the immediate result she was comforted every day more and more. This was very remarkable, because, as I said before, her suffering had reduced her to great straits. Our Lord must have done this in answer to the many prayers which the good people of my acquaintance made for me, that I might prosper in my work. She had a profound fear of God, and was so good, that her great devotion supplied my deficiencies. She conceived a great affection for me−−I, too, for her, because of her goodness; but all was as it were a cross for me; for the comforts of her house were a great torment, and her making so much of me made me afraid. I kept my soul continually recollected−−I did not dare to be careless: nor was our Lord careless of me; for while I was there, He bestowed the greatest graces upon me, and those graces made me so free, and filled me with such contempt for all I saw,−−and the more I saw, the greater my contempt,−−that I never failed to treat those ladies, whom to serve would have been a great honour for me, with as much freedom as if I had been their equal.

5. I derived very great advantages from this, and I said so. I saw that she was a woman, and as much liable to passion and weakness as I was; that rank is of little worth, and the higher it is, the greater the anxiety and trouble it brings. People must be careful of the dignity of their state, which will not suffer them to live at ease; they must eat at fixed hours and by rule, for everything must be according to their state, and not according to their constitutions; and they have frequently to take food fitted more for their state than for their liking.

6. So it was that I came to hate the very wish to be a great lady. God deliver me from this wicked, artificial life!−−though I believe that this lady, notwithstanding that she was one of the chief personages of the realm, was a woman of great simplicity, and that few were more humble than she was. I was very sorry for her, for I saw how often she had to submit to much that was disagreeable to her, because of the requirements of her rank. Then, as to servants, though this lady had very good servants, how slight is that little trust that may be put in them! One must not be conversed with more than another; otherwise, he who is so favoured is envied by the rest. This of itself is a slavery, and one of the lies of the world is that it calls such persons masters, who, in my eyes, are nothing else but slaves in a thousand ways.

7. It was our Lord's pleasure that the household of that lady improved in the service of His Majesty during my stay there, though I was not exempted from some trials and some jealousies on the part of some of its members, because of the great affection their mistress had for me. They perhaps must have thought I had some personal interest to serve. Our Lord must have permitted such matters, and others of the same kind, to give me trouble, in order that I might not be absorbed in the comforts which otherwise I had there; and He was pleased to deliver me out of it all with great profit to my soul.

8. When I was there, a religious person of great consideration, and with whom I had conversed occasionally some years ago, [2] happened to arrive. When I was at Mass, in a monastery of his Order, near the house in which I was staying, I felt a longing to know the state of his soul,−−for I wished him to be a great servant of God,−−and I rose up in order to go and speak to him. But as I was then recollected in prayer, it seemed to me a waste of time−−for what had I to do in that matter?−−and so I returned to my place. Three times, I think I did this, and at last my good angel prevailed over the evil one, and I went and asked for him; and he came to speak to me in one of the confessionals. We began by asking one another of our past lives, for we had not seen one another for many years. I told him that my life had been one in which my soul had had many trials. He insisted much on my telling him what those trials were. I said that they were not to be told, and that I was not to tell them. He replied that the Dominican father, [3] of whom I have spoken, knew them, and that, as they were great friends, he could learn them from him, and so I had better tell them without hesitation.

9. The fact is, that it was not in his power not to insist, nor in mine, I believe, to refuse to speak; for notwithstanding all the trouble and shame I used to feel formerly, I spoke of my state, to him, and to the rector whom I have referred to before, [4] without any difficulty whatever; on the contrary, it was a great consolation to me; and so I told him all in confession. He seemed to me then more prudent than ever; though I had always looked upon him as a man of great understanding. I considered what high gifts and endowments for great services he had, if he gave himself wholly unto God. I had this feeling now for many years, so that I never saw any one who pleased me much without wishing at once he were given wholly unto God; and sometimes I feel this so keenly, that I can hardly contain myself. Though I long to see everybody serve God, yet my desire about those who please me is very vehement, and so I importune our Lord on their behalf.

10. So it happened with respect to this religious. He asked me to pray much for him to God. There was no necessity for his doing so, because I could not do anything else, and so I went back to my place where I was in the habit of praying alone, and began to pray to our Lord, being extremely recollected, in that my simple, silly way, when I speak without knowing very often what I am saying. It is love that speaks, and my soul is so beside itself, that I do not regard the distance between it and God. That love which I know His Majesty has for it makes it forget itself, and think itself to be one with Him; and so, as being one with Him, and not divided from Him, the soul speaks foolishly. When I had prayed with many tears that the soul of this religious might serve Him truly,−−for, though I considered it good, it was not enough for me; I would have it much better,−−I remember I said, "O Lord, Thou must not refuse me this grace; behold him,−−he is a fit person to be our friend."

11. Oh, the great goodness and compassion of God! How He regards not the words, but the desire and the will with which they are spoken! How He suffered such a one as I am to speak so boldly before His Majesty! May He be blessed for evermore!

12. I remember that during those hours of prayer on that very night I was extremely distressed by the thought whether I was in the grace of God, and that I could never know whether I was so or not,−−not that I wished to know it; I wished, however, to die, in order that I might not live a life in which I was not sure that I was not dead in sin, for there could be no death more dreadful for me than to think that I had sinned against God. I was in great straits at this thought. I implored Him not to suffer me to fall into sin, with great sweetness, dissolved in tears. Then I heard that I might console myself, and trust [5] that I was in a state of grace, because a love of God like mine, together with the graces and feelings with which His Majesty filled my soul, was of such a nature as to be inconsistent with a state of mortal sin.

13. I was now confident that our Lord would grant my prayer as to that religious. He bade me repeat certain words to him. This I felt much, because I knew not how to speak to him; for this carrying messages to a third person, as I have said, [6] is what I have always felt the most, especially when I did not know how that person would take them, nor whether he would not laugh at me. This placed me in great difficulties, but at last I was so convinced I ought to do it, that I believe I made a promise to God I would not neglect that message; and because of the great shame I felt, I wrote it out, and gave it in that way. The result showed clearly enough that it was a message from God, for that religious resolved with great earnestness to give himself to prayer, though he did not do so at once. Our Lord would have him for Himself, so He sent me to tell him certain truths which, without my understanding them, were so much to the purpose that he was astonished. Our Lord must have prepared him to receive them as from His Majesty; and though I am but a miserable sinner myself, yet I made many supplications to our Lord to convert him thoroughly, and to make him hate the pleasures and the things of this life. And so he did−−blessed be God!−−for every time that he spoke to me I was in a manner beside myself; and if I had not seen it, I should never have believed that our Lord would have given him in so short a time graces so matured, and filled him so full of God, that he seemed to be alive to nothing on earth.

14. May His Majesty hold him in His hand! If he will go on−−and I trust in our Lord he will do so, now that he is so well grounded in the knowledge of himself−−he will be one of the most distinguished servants of God, to the great profit of many souls, because he has in a short time had great experience in spiritual things: that is a gift of God, which He gives when He will and as He will, and it depends not on length of time nor extent of service. I do not mean that time and service, are not great helps, but very often our Lord will not give to some in twenty years the grace of contemplation, while He gives it to others in one,−−His Majesty knoweth why. We are under a delusion when we think that in the course of years we shall come to the knowledge of that which we can in no way attain to but by experience; and thus many are in error, as I have said [7] when they would understand spirituality without being spiritual themselves. I do not mean that a man who is not spiritual, if he is learned, may not direct one that is spiritual; but it must be understood that in outward and inward things, in the order of nature, the direction must be an act of reason; and in supernatural things, according to the teaching of the sacred writings. In other matters, let him not distress himself, nor think that he can understand that which he understandeth not; neither let him quench the Spirit; [8] for now another Master, greater than he, is directing these souls, so that they are not left without authority over them.

15. He must not be astonished at this, nor think it impossible: all things are possible to our Lord; [9] he must strive rather to strengthen his faith, and humble himself, because in this matter our Lord imparts perhaps a deeper knowledge to some old woman than to him, though he may be a very learned man. Being thus humble, he will profit souls and himself more than if he affected to be a contemplative without being so; for, I repeat it, if he have no experience, if he have not a most profound humility, whereby he may see that he does not understand, and that the thing is not for that reason impossible, he will do himself but little good, and still less to his penitent. But if he is humble, let him have no fear that our Lord will allow either the one or the other to fall into delusion.

16. Now as to this father I am speaking of, as our Lord has given him light in many things, so has he laboured to find out by study that which in this matter can be by study ascertained; for he is a very learned man, and that of which he has no experience himself he seeks to find out from those who have it,−−and our Lord helps him by increasing his faith, and so he has greatly benefited himself and some other souls, of whom mine is one. As our Lord knew the trials I had to undergo, His Majesty seems to have provided that, when He took away unto Himself some of those who directed me, others might remain, who helped me in my great afflictions, and rendered me great services.

17. Our Lord wrought a complete change in this father, so much so that he scarcely knew himself, so to speak. He has given him bodily health, so that he may do penance, such as he never had before; for he was sickly. He has given him courage to undertake good works, with other gifts, so that he seems to have received a most special vocation from our Lord. May He be blessed for ever!

18. All these blessings, I believe, came to him through the graces our Lord bestowed upon him in prayer; for they are real. It has been our Lord's pleasure already to try him in certain difficulties, out of which he has come forth like one who knows the true worth of that merit which is gained by suffering persecutions. I trust in the munificence of our Lord that great good will, by his means, accrue to some of his Order and to the Order itself. This is beginning to be understood. I have had great visions on the subject, and our Lord has told me wonderful things of him and of the Rector of the Society of Jesus, whom I am speaking of, [10] and also of two other religious of the Order of St. Dominic, particularly of one who, to his own profit, has actually learned of our Lord certain things which I had formerly understood of him. But there were greater things made known of him to whom I am now referring: one of them I will now relate.

19. I was with him once in the parlour, when in my soul and spirit I felt what great love burned within him, and became as it were lost in ecstasy by considering the greatness of God, who had raised that soul in so short a time to a state so high. It made me ashamed of myself when I saw him listen with so much humility to what I was saying about certain matters of prayer, when I had so little myself that I could speak on the subject to one like him. Our Lord must have borne with me in this on account of the great desire I had to see that religious making great progress. My interview with him did me great good,−−it seems as if it left a new fire in my soul, burning with desire to serve our Lord as in the beginning. O my Jesus! what is a soul on fire with Thy love! How we ought to prize it, and implore our Lord to let it live long upon earth! He who has this love should follow after such souls, if it be possible.

20. It is a great thing for a person ill of this disease to find another struck down by it,−−it comforts him much to see that he is not alone; they help one another greatly to suffer and to merit. They are strong with a double strength who are resolved to risk a thousand lives for God, and who long for an opportunity of losing them. They are like soldiers who, to acquire booty, and therewith enrich themselves, wish for war, knowing well that they cannot become rich without it. This is their work−−to suffer. Oh, what a blessing it is when our Lord gives light to understand how great is the gain of suffering for Him! This is never understood till we have left all things; for if anybody is attached to any one thing, that is a proof that he sets some value upon it; and if he sets any value upon it, it is painful to be compelled to give it up. In that case, everything is imperfect and lost. The saying is to the purpose here,−−he who follows what is lost, is lost himself; and what greater loss, what greater blindness, what greater calamity, can there be than making much of that which is nothing!

21. I now return to that which I had begun to speak of. I was in the greatest joy, beholding that soul. It seemed as if our Lord would have me see clearly the treasures He had laid up in it; and so, when I considered the favour our Lord had shown me, in that I should be the means of so great a good, I recognised my own unworthiness for such an end. I thought much of the graces our Lord had given him, and held myself as indebted for them more than if they had been given to myself. So I gave thanks to our Lord, when I saw that His Majesty had fulfilled my desires and heard my petition that He would raise up persons like him. And now my soul, no longer able to bear the joy that filled it, went forth out of itself, losing itself that it might gain the more. It lost sight of the reflections it was making; and the hearing of that divine language which the Holy Ghost seemed to speak threw me into a deep trance, which almost deprived me of all sense, though it did not last long. I saw Christ, in exceeding great majesty and glory, manifesting His joy at what was then passing. He told me as much, and it was His pleasure that I should clearly see that He was always present at similar interviews, and how much He was pleased when people thus found their delight in speaking of Him.

22. On another occasion, when far away from this place, I saw him carried by angels in great glory. I understood by that vision that his soul was making great progress: so it was; for an evil report was spread abroad against him by one to whom he had rendered a great service, and whose reputation and whose soul he had saved. He bore it with much joy. He did also other things greatly to the honour of God, and underwent more persecutions. I do not think it expedient now to speak further on this point; if, however, you, my father, who know all, should hereafter think otherwise, more might be said to the glory of our Lord.

23. All the prophecies spoken of before, [11] relating to this house, as well as others, of which I shall speak hereafter, relating to it and to other matters, have been accomplished. Some of them our Lord revealed to me three years before they became known, others earlier and others later. But I always made them known to my confessor, and to the widow my friend; for I had leave to communicate with her, as I said before. [12] She, I know, repeated them to others, and these know that I lie not. May God never permit me, in any matter whatever,−−much more in things of this importance,−−to say anything but the whole truth!

24. One of my brothers−in−law [13] died suddenly; and as I was in great distress at this, because he had no opportunity of making his confession, our Lord said to me in prayer that my sister also was to die in the same way; that I must go to her, and make her prepare herself for such an end. I told this to my confessor; but as he would not let me go, I heard the same warning again; and now, when he saw this, he told me I might go, and that I should lose nothing by going. My sister was living in the country; and as I did not tell her why I came, I gave her what light I could in all things. I made her go frequently to confession, and look to her soul in everything. She was very good, and did as I asked her. Four or five years after she had begun this practice, and keeping a strict watch over her conscience, she died, with nobody near her, and without being able to go to confession. This was a blessing to her, for it was little more than a week since she had been to her accustomed confession. It was a great joy to me when I heard of her death. She was but a short time in purgatory.

25. I do not think it was quite eight days afterwards when, after Communion, our Lord appeared to me, and was pleased that I should see Him receive my sister into glory. During all those years, after our Lord had spoken to me, until her death, what I then learnt with respect to her was never forgotten either by myself or by my friend, who, when my sister was thus dead, came to me in great amazement at the fulfilment of the prophecy. God be praised for ever, who takes such care of souls that they may not be lost!

1. Doña Luisa de la Cerda, sister of the Duke of Medina−Coeli, was now the widow of Arias Pardo, Marshal of Castille, Lord of Malagon and Paracuellos. Don Arias was nephew of Cardinal Tabera, Archbishop of Toledo (De la Fuente).

2. F. Vicente Barron, Dominican (see ch. v. § 8), according to F. Bouix, on the authority of Ribera and Yepez; but the Carmelite Father, Fr. Antonio of St. Joseph, in his note on the first Fragment (Letters, vol. iv. p. 408), says that it was Fr. Garcia of Toledo, brother of Don Fernando, Duke of Alva; and Don Vicente de la Fuente thinks the opinion of Fr. Antonio the more probable.

3. Pedro Ibañez (Bouix).

4. Ch. xxxiii. § 11.

5. Father Bouix says that here the word "confiar," "trust," in the printed text, has been substituted by some one for the words "estar cierta," "be certain," which he found in the MS. But Don Vicente de la Fuente retains the old reading "confiar," and makes no observation on the alleged discrepancy between the MS. and the printed text. The observation of F. Bouix, however, is more important, and deserves credit,−−for Don Vicente may have failed, through mere inadvertence, to see what F. Bouix saw; and it is also to be remembered that Don Vicente does not say that the MS. on this point has been so closely inspected as to throw any doubt on the positive testimony of F. Bouix. Six years after this note was written Don Vicente published a facsimile by photography of the original text in the handwriting of the Saint, preserved in the Escurial. The words are not "confiar," but "estar cierta."

6. Ch. xxxiii. § 12.
Chapter XXXV 177

7. Ch. xiv. § 10.

8. 1 Thess. v. 19: "Spiritum nolite extinguere."

9. St. Matt. xix. 26: "Apud Deum autem omnia possibilia sunt."

10. F. Gaspar de Salazar.

11. Ch. xxvi. § 3.

12. Ch. xxx. § 3. Doña Guiomar de Ulloa.

13. Don Martin de Guzman y Barrientos, husband of Maria de Cepeda, the Saint's sister.

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