The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus

Relation III. -Of Various Graces Granted to the Saint from the Year 1568 to 1571 Inclusive.

1. When I was in the monastery of Toledo, and some people were advising me not to allow any but noble persons to be buried there, [1] our Lord said to me: "Thou wilt be very inconsistent, My daughter, if thou regardest the laws of the world. Look at Me, poor and despised of men: are the great people of the world likely to be great in My eyes? or is it descent or virtue that is to make you esteemed?"

2. After Communion, the second day of Lent, in St. Joseph of Malagon, our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me in an imaginary vision, as He is I wont to do; and when I was looking upon Him I saw that He had on His head, instead of the crown of thorns, a crown of great splendour, over the part where the wounds of that crown must have been. And as I have a great devotion to the crowning with thorns, I was exceedingly consoled, and began to think how great the pain must have been because of the many wounds, and to be sorrowful. Our Lord told me not to be sad because of those wounds, but for the many wounds which men inflict upon Him now. I asked Him what I could do by way of reparation; for I was resolved to do anything. He replied: "This is not the time for rest;" that I must hasten on the foundations, for He would take His rest with the souls which entered the monasteries; that I must admit all who offered themselves, because there were many souls that did not serve Him because they had no place wherein to do it; that those monasteries which were to be founded in small towns should be like this; that the merit of those in them would be as great, if they only desired to do that which was done in the other houses; that I must contrive to put them all under the jurisdiction of one superior, [2] and take care that anxieties about means of bodily maintenance did not destroy interior peace, for He would help us, so that we should never be in want of food. Especial care was to be had of the sick sisters; the prioress who did not provide for and comfort the sick was like the friends of Job: He sent them sickness for the good of their souls, and careless superiors risked the patience of their nuns. I was to write the history of the foundation of the monasteries. I was thinking how there was nothing to write about in reference to the foundation of Medina, when He asked me, what more did I want to see than that the foundation there was miraculous? By this He meant to say that He alone had done it, when it seemed impossible. [3] I resolved to execute His commands.

3. Our Lord told me something I was to tell another, and as I was considering how I did not understand it at all,−−though I prayed to Him, and was thinking it might be from Satan,−−He said to me that it was not, and that He Himself would warn me when the time came.

4. Once, when I was thinking how much more purely they live who withdraw themselves from all business, and how ill it goes with me, and how many faults I must be guilty of, when I have business to transact, I heard this: "It cannot be otherwise, My daughter; but strive thou always after a good intention in all things, and detachment; lift up thine eyes to Me, and see that all thine actions may resemble Mine."

5. Thinking how it was that I scarcely ever fell into a trance of late in public, I heard this: "It is not necessary now; thou art sufficiently esteemed for My purpose; we are considering the weakness of the wicked."

6. One Tuesday after the Ascension, [4] having prayed for awhile after Communion in great distress, because I was so distracted that I could fix my mind on nothing, I complained of our poor nature to our Lord. The fire began to kindle in my soul, and I saw, as it seemed to me, the most Holy Trinity [5] distinctly present in an intellectual vision, whereby my soul understood through a certain representation, as a figure of the truth, so far as my dulness could understand, how God is Three and One; and thus it seemed to me that all the Three Persons spoke to me, that They were distinctly present in my soul, saying unto me "that from that day forth I should see that my soul had grown better in three ways, and that each one of the Three Persons had bestowed on me a distinct grace,−−in charity, in suffering joyfully, in a sense of that charity in my soul, accompanied with fervour." I learnt the meaning of those words of our Lord, that the Three Divine Persons will dwell in the soul that is in a state of grace. [6] Afterwards giving thanks to our Lord for so great a mercy, and finding myself utterly unworthy of it, I asked His Majesty with great earnestness how it was that He, after showing such mercies to me, let me go out of His hand, and allowed me to become so wicked; for on the previous day I had been in great distress on account of my sins, which I had set before me. I saw clearly then how much our Lord on His part had done, ever since my infancy, to draw me to Himself by means most effectual, and yet, that all had failed. Then I had a clear perception of the surpassing love of God for us, in that He forgives us all this when we turn to Him, and for me more than for any other, for many reasons. The vision of the Three Divine Persons−−one God−−made so profound an impression on my soul, that if it had continued it would have been impossible for me not to be recollected in so divine a company. What I saw and heard besides is beyond my power to describe.

7. Once, when I was about to communicate,−−it was shortly before I had this vision,−−the Host being still in the ciborium, for It had not yet been given me, I saw something like a dove, which moved its wings with a sound. It disturbed me so much, and so carried me away out of myself, that it was with the utmost difficulty I received the Host. All this took place in St. Joseph of Avila. It was Father Francis Salcedo who was giving me the most Holy Sacrament. Hearing Mass another day, I saw our Lord glorious in the Host; He said to me that his sacrifice was acceptable unto Him.

8. I heard this once: "The time will come when many miracles will be wrought in this church; it will be called the holy church." It was in St. Joseph of Avila, in the year 1571.

9. I retain to this day, which is the Commemoration of St. Paul, the presence of the Three Persons of which I spoke in the beginning; [7] they are present almost continually in my soul. I, being accustomed to the presence of Jesus Christ only, always thought that the vision of the Three Persons was in some degree a hindrance, though I know the Three Persons are but One God. To−day, while thinking of this, our Lord said to me "that I was wrong in imagining that those things which are peculiar to the soul can be represented by those of the body; I was to understand that they were very different, and that the soul had a capacity for great fruition." It seemed to me as if this were shown to me thus: as water penetrates and is drunk in by the sponge, so, it seemed to me, did the Divinity fill my soul, which in a certain sense had the fruition and possession of the Three Persons. And I heard Him say also: "Labour thou not to hold Me within thyself enclosed, but enclose thou thyself within Me." It seemed to me that I saw the Three Persons within my soul, and communicating Themselves to all creatures abundantly without ceasing to be with me.

10. A few days after this, thinking whether they were right who disapproved of my going out to make new foundations, and whether it would not be better for me if I occupied myself always with prayer, I heard this: "During this life, the true gain consists not in striving after greater joy in Me, but in doing My will." It seemed to me, considering what St. Paul says about women, how they should stay at home, [8]−−people reminded me lately of this, and, indeed, I had heard it before,−−it might be the will of God I should do so too. He said to me: "Tell them they are not to follow one part of the Scripture by itself, without looking to the other parts also; perhaps, if they could, they would like to tie My hands."

11. One day after the octave of the Visitation, in one of the hermitages of Mount Carmel, praying to God for one of my brothers, I said to our Lord,−−I do not know whether it was only in thought or not, for my brother was in a place where his salvation was in peril,−−"If I saw one of Thy brethren, O Lord, in this danger, what would I not do to help him!" It seemed to me there was nothing that I could do which I would not have done. Our Lord said to me: "O daughter, daughter! the nuns of the Incarnation are thy sisters, and thou holdest back. Take courage, then. Behold, this is what I would have thee do: it is not so difficult as it seems; and though it seems to thee that by going thither thy foundations will be ruined, yet it is by thy going that both these and the monastery of the Incarnation will gain; resist not, for My power is great." [9]

12. Once, when thinking of the great penance practised by Doña Catalina de Cardona, [10] and how I might have done more, considering the desires which our Lord had given me at times, if it had not been for my obedience to my confessors, I asked myself whether it would not be as well if I disobeyed them for the future in this matter. Our Lord said to me: "No, My daughter; thou art on the sound and safe road. Seest thou all her penance? I think more of thy obedience."

13. Once, when I was in prayer, He showed me by a certain kind of intellectual vision the condition of a soul in a state of grace: in its company I saw by intellectual vision the most Holy Trinity, from whose companionship the soul derived a power which was a dominion over the whole earth. I understood the meaning of those words in the Canticle: "Let my Beloved come into His garden and eat." [11] He showed me also the condition of a soul in sin, utterly powerless, like a person tied and bound and blindfold, who, though anxious to see, yet cannot, being unable to walk or to hear, and in grievous obscurity. I was so exceedingly sorry for such souls, that, to deliver only one, any trouble seemed to me light. I thought it impossible for any one who saw this as I saw it,−−and I can hardly explain it,−−willingly to forfeit so great a good or continue in so evil a state.

14. One day, in very great distress about the state of the Order, and casting about for means to succour it, our Lord said to me: "Do thou what is in thy power, and leave Me to Myself, and be not disquieted by anything; rejoice in the blessing thou hast received, for it is a very great one. My Father is pleased with thee, and the Holy Ghost loves thee."

15. "Thou art ever desiring trials, and, on the other hand, declining them. I order things according to what I know thy will is, and not according to thy sensuality and weakness. Be strong, for thou seest how I help thee; I have wished thee to gain this crown. Thou shalt see the Order of the Virgin greatly advanced in thy days." I heard this from our Lord about the middle of February, 1571.

16. On the eve of St. Sebastian, the first year of my being in the monastery of the Incarnation [12] as prioress there, at the beginning of the Salve, I saw the Mother of God descend with a multitude of angels to the stall of the prioress, where the image of our Lady is, and sit there herself. I think I did not see the image then, but only our Lady. She seemed to be like that picture of her which the Countess [13] gave me; but I had no time to ascertain this, because I fell at once into a trance. Multitudes of angels seemed to me to be above the canopies of the stalls, and on the desks in front of them; but I saw no bodily forms, for the vision was intellectual. She remained there during the Salve, and said to me: "Thou hast done well to place me here; I will be present when the sisters sing the praises of my Son, and will offer them to Him." After this I remained in that prayer which I still practise, and which is that of keeping my soul in the company of the most Holy Trinity; and it seemed to me that the Person of the Father drew me to Himself, and spoke to me most comfortable words. Among them were these, while showing how He loved me: "I give thee My Son, and the Holy Ghost, and the Virgin: what canst thou give Me?" [14]

17. On the octave of the Holy Ghost, our Lord was gracious unto me, and gave me hopes of this house, [15] that it would go on improving−−I mean the souls that are in it.

18. On the feast of the Magdalene, our Lord again confirmed a grace I had received in Toledo, electing me, in the absence of a certain person, in her place.

19. In the monastery of the Incarnation, and in the second year of my being prioress there, on the octave of St. Martin, when I was going to Communion, the Father, Fr. John of the Cross, [16]−−divided the Host between me and another sister. I thought it was done, not because there was any want of Hosts, but that he wished to mortify me because I had told him how much I delighted in Hosts of a large size. Yet I was not ignorant that the size of the Host is of no moment; for I knew that our Lord is whole and entire in the smallest particle. His Majesty said to me: "Have no fear, My daughter; for no one will be able to separate thee from Me,"−−giving me to understand that the size of the Host mattered not.

20. Then appearing to me, as on other occasions, in an imaginary vision, most interiorly, He held out His right hand and said: "Behold this nail! it is the pledge of thy being My bride from this day forth. Until now thou hadst not merited it; from henceforth thou shalt regard My honour, not only as of one who is Thy Creator, King, and God, but as thine, My veritable bride; My honour is thine, and thine is Mine." This grace had such an effect on me, that I could not contain myself: I became as one that is foolish, and said to our Lord: "Either ennoble my vileness or cease to bestow such mercies on me, for certainly I do not think that nature can bear them." I remained thus the whole day, as one utterly beside herself. Afterwards I became conscious of great progress, and greater shame and distress to see that I did nothing in return for graces so great.

21. Our Lord said this to me one day: "Thinkest thou, My daughter, that meriting lies in fruition? No; merit lies only in doing, in suffering, and in loving. You never heard that St. Paul had the fruition of heavenly joys more than once; while he was often in sufferings. [17] Thou seest how My whole life was full of dolors, and only on Mount Tabor hast thou heard of Me in glory. [18] Do not suppose, when thou seest My Mother hold Me in her arms, that she had that joy unmixed with heavy sorrows. From the time that Simeon spoke to her, My Father made her see in clear light all I had to suffer. The grand Saints of the desert, as they were led by God, so also did they undergo heavy penances; besides, they waged serious war with the devil and with themselves, and much of their time passed away without any spiritual consolation whatever. Believe Me, My daughter, his trials are the heaviest whom My Father loves most; trials are the measure of His love. How can I show My love for thee better than by desiring for thee what I desired for Myself? Consider My wounds; thy pains will never reach to them. This is the way of truth; thus shalt thou help Me to weep over the ruin of those who are in the world, for thou knowest how all their desires, anxieties, and thoughts tend the other way." When I began my prayer that day, my headache was so violent that I thought I could not possibly go on. Our Lord said to me: "Behold now, the reward of suffering. As thou, on account of thy health, wert unable to speak to Me, I spoke to thee and comforted thee." Certainly, so it was; for the time of my recollection lasted about an hour and a half, more or less. It was then that He spoke to me the words I have just related, together with all the others. I was not able to distract myself, neither knew I where I was; my joy was so great as to be indescribable; my headache was gone, and I was amazed, and I had a longing for suffering. He also told me to keep in mind the words He said to His Apostles: "The servant is not greater than his Lord." [19]

1. Alonzo Ramirez wished to have the right of burial in the new monastery, but the nobles of Toledo looked on his request as unreasonable. See Foundations, chs. xv. and xvi.

2. See Way of Perfection, ch. viii.; but ch. v. of the previous editions.

3. See Book of the Foundations, ch. iii.

4. In the copy kept in Toledo, the day is Tuesday after the Assumption (De la Fuente).

5. Ch. xxvii. § 10.

6. St. John xiv. 23: "Ad eum veniemus, et mansionem apud eum faciemus."

7. See § 6.

8. Titus ii. 5: "Sobrias, domus curam habentes."

9. This took place in 1571, when the Saint had been appointed prioress of the monastery of the Incarnation at Avila; the very house she had left in order to found that of St. Joseph, to keep the rule in its integrity.

10. See Book of the Foundations, ch. xxviii.

11. Cant. v. 1: "Veniat dilectus meus in hortum suum, et comedat."

12. A.D. 1572.

13. Maria de Velasco y Aragon, Countess of Osorno (Ribera, lib. iii. c. 1).

14. See Relation iv. § 2.

15. The monastery of the Incarnation, Avila (De la Fuente).

16. St. John of the Cross, at the instance of the Saint, was sent to Avila, with another father of the reformed
Carmelites, to be confessor of the nuns of the Incarnation, who then disliked the observance of the primitive rule.

17. 2 Cor. xi. 27: "In labore et ærumna, in vigiliis multis."

18. St. Matt. xvii. 2: "Et transfiguratus est ante eos."

  1. St. John xiii. 16: "Non est servus major domino suo."

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