To the Reverend Father Gonzalo de Avila, of the Society of Jesus.
This holy man was confessor to the Saint, and Rector of a College at Avila. He seems to have asked her for some advice respecting his office. Date 1578.
JESUS be with your Reverence.
It is a long time since I have been so mortified as I was to-day, with the letter I received from your Reverence. I am not yet so humble as to desire to be considered so proud, nor is your Reverence so anxious to show your humility, so much to my cost. I never felt so much inclined to tear your letter. I assure your Reverence, you know well how to mortify me and make me understand what I am: does your Reverence imagine, then, that I consider myself able to instruct others? God deliver me from such a thought! I do not wish to think of such a thing. Now I perceive I have committed a fault, though it may perhaps be out of a desire I have to see your Reverence very good: and from such a weakness may proceed the follies of my discourse with you, and also from the great respect I have for you, which makes me speak with freedom, without considering what I say. Afterwards, I had some scruple respecting certain things I said to you; and if I were not afraid, too, of being disobedient, I should not now comply with what your Reverence commands me, because I find great reluctance in doing so. May God accept my submission. Amen.
One of the great defects which I have, is judging of myself in these matters of prayer, and therefore your Reverence must not heed what I shall say, because God may give you another talent, different from that He gives to a weak woman like myself. Considering the favour bestowed on me by our Lord, of having Him actually present to me; and how, in addition to this I see, when many duties are to be performed by me, that neither persecutions nor labours can disturb me as much as these1 do; if any business comes which requires immediate despatch, I very commonly go to rest an hour or two, or even later, after midnight, in order that my soul may not afterwards be obliged to attend to any other thought save to Him only whom she possesses thus present. This has been very injurious to my health, and therefore it must be a temptation, though it seems to me the soul remains more at liberty, like one who has on his hands some business of great importance and urgency; and so he immediately settles anything else, that it may not hinder him from attending to that which he considers more necessary.
And so it is a great pleasure to me whenever I can leave anything to be done by the sisters, though it might in some degree be done better by myself; but should I not do it well, His Majesty supplies the deficiency. The less attention I give to business, the more advanced I find myself in my interior. Though I know this very clearly, yet I often neglect using care to be released from business, and doubtless, I receive some harm thereby. I see I might do more, and employ greater diligence in this respect, and thus do myself greater good.
What I say, however, must not be understood of weighty affairs, which cannot be neglected; and here perhaps, lies my mistake, for such are the duties of your Reverence, and it would not be proper to leave them to the management of another, in my opinion; but as I see your Reverence’s health is injured by them, I wish you could have less to do. I am, however, excited to bless God, by seeing you take such an interest in matters relating to the welfare of the house, for I am not so weak as not to understand the great favour our Lord bestowed upon you in having giving you such a talent, and the great merit which may be gained thereby. It makes me somewhat envious, because I wish my superior also to have the like. Since God has given your Reverence to me as such, I wish you would take as much care of my soul as you do of the fountain. I am much pleased with your account of it, for it is so necessary in the monastery, that it deserves all your Reverence can do.
Nothing more remains for me to say. I assure you, I speak to you in all truth and sincerity, as if I were speaking to God. I know what whatever is done towards properly discharging the office of superior is so pleasing to God, that He gives in a short time what He would give to other superiors only after a long period. This I know as well by experience, as by what I have been saying. But as I see your Reverence is so exceedingly busy in general, what I have said to you came at once into my mind, and the more I reflect upon it, the more (as I have said) do I now see, that there is a difference between your Reverence and myself. I will correct myself by not mentioning my first thoughts, since it cost me so dear. Provided I can see you well, my temptation will cease. May our Lord dispose everything as He can and as I desire.
Your Reverence’s Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 That is, her duties.