To Señor Lorenzo de Cepeda y Ahumada, Brother to the Saint.
Letter 1st. The letters which St. Teresa wrote to her brother are very interesting and instructive. The date of this is about 1561, and it seems to be the first she had written to him for some time. He was then living in the West Indies. She tells us in the “Book of the Foundations” that he lived there for thirty-four years. When he sent her some money, she was then engaged in founding the Convent of St. Joseph at Avila, and was reduced almost to the last farthing. But God came to her assistance.
JESUS. May the Holy Ghost ever dwell in your heart, and reward you for the care you have had in coming so quickly to our relief. I trust in God you will gain great merit by so charitable an act, for it is certain you bestow your charities just when they are wanted; and all those to whom you sent the money stood so much in need of it, that it has been a great consolation to me. As for a poor nun like myself, who considers it an honour to wear a patched habit, I believe God inspired you to send me so great a sum. What I received from Juan Pedro de Espinosa and Varron (for such I think was the name of the other merchant)–was quite enough for my necessities for a long time.
As I informed you a long time ago, I have spent the money in a matter I could not help undertaking, for several reasons, but chiefly for this, because God had given so many strong inspirations to commence the work. I dare not trust things of this nature in a letter; I can only tell you that learned and holy people assure me I ought not to be timid, but that I must do all I possibly can for this undertaking, viz. to found a monastery,1 in which there are to be thirteen religious, and no more, she will be bound to live in strict enclosure, and can never therefore go out. They will never be able to see any one, except with their veil down; their chief duty being to devote themselves to prayer and mortification, as I have told you before at greater length: I will give you more information when Antonio Moran departs.
Madame Guiomar,2 who writes this letter for you, is of great service to me. She is the widow of Francis d’Avila, who belonged to the family of Solralejo; I don’t know if you remember this family. It is nine years since her husband died; he was a very rich man; she now enjoys his property, besides the money she has inherited from her own family. Although she was left a widow at the age of twenty-five; yet she refused to marry again, and has given herself entirely to God. She is a very pious person. It is now more than four years since we have contracted so close a friendship, that I love her as if she were my own sister. But though she assisted me in the “Foundation,” by giving me a good part of her income, she cannot now relieve me, because just at present she has no money. With regard to the purchase of the house, I must do this with ready money, by the Divine assistance. I have already received (though the monastery has not yet begun) the dowry of two young ladies. By the help of this money, I have secretly purchased the house, though I have not money enough to remodel it for a convent. But I have great confidence in God’s assistance, knowing that it is His will the thing should be done. I had engaged the workman, though it may have seemed very foolish to do so. But His Majesty took care of us all, and moved you to come to our assistance. What surprises me the more is, that I was just in want of the forty crowns which you sent. I think that St. Joseph (who is to be the patron of the house) has assisted me by your means: I am sure he will repay you, though the monastery is very poor and small; it has a good prospect, and I think we shall have room enough.
Some of the fathers have gone to Rome for the Bulls; for though the house will belong to the Order we shall be under obedience to the bishop. I trust in our Lord, that all things will prosper for His greater glory, if we should accomplish the undertaking (as I think we certainly shall), because those who are to enter the house are chosen souls, capable of being very great examples of humility, penance, and prayer. I beg of you to recommend the matter to God. I hope, by the help of His Grace, everything will be finished before Antonio Moran goes away. He came here, and I received great comfort from seeing him: he seems to be a man one can depend upon, and to possess good judgment. He gave me every particular about you. I think that the greatest favour our Lord could bestow on me was to make me understand from what he told me, that you were convinced of the vanity of the world, and had made a resolution to retire from it altogether, and live in repose and quiet. If you do so, I think you will be walking in the road to heaven. This was what I wanted most to know, for till then I had been rather uneasy. Glory be to him who doth all things. May He give you grace to advance more and more in His service; for since the reward will be without bounds, we ought not to make any delay in endeavouring to serve our Lord, but daily advance (however little this may be) with such fervour, that it may appear we are always at war, until we gain the victory: we must not rest, nor be negligent till then.
All those with whom you sent the money for me have been honest men, but Antonio Moran has excelled them all, both in selling the gold at a greater price and without any expense, and also in having taken the trouble to come here from Madrid to bring it, to the prejudice of his health–for he was very unwell on the journey, though he is now better. I see that he is truly and sincerely attached to you. He has with great care brought Varron’s money also. Roderigo came with him too, and has likewise acquitted himself well of his commission. I will give him a letter for you, if he should depart before Moran, who has shown me the letter you wrote to him. You may be assured, that the great care you have taken in assisting me, is to my mind not only the effect of your goodness, but must have been inspired by God himself.
My sister Mary3 sent me this letter yesterday to be forwarded to you. She tells me she will write to you again as soon as she has received the rest of the money you sent her. She received the first sum in good time. She is a very good woman, but full of troubles. Should Juan de Ovalle go to law against her, her children will be ruined. The matter, however, is not so great as one would imagine, though it was certainly wrong to sell the property and destroy it. Martin de Guzman, however, has his reasons, and God forgive him: the Court has decided in his favour, against all right. I cannot endure, that what my father sold (God rest his soul), should now be demanded back again. My sister Mary would come very badly off if they resumed the lawsuit. God preserve me from such interest, which pays no regard to relationship. But such a thing is so common in this country, that it would be a wonder to see a father and son, or brother and brother, agree together; hence, I do not wonder at the conduct of Juan de Ovalle; I rather think he has acted tolerably well, seeing that for my sake he did not go on with the lawsuit. He has a good heart, but in this case he is not to be trusted; and therefore, when you send him the thousand reals you must make him sign a deed, by which he will be obliged, when he receives the said sum, to give five hundred ducats to my sister Mary on the day when he shall first recommence the lawsuit.
The houses of Juan de Centura are not yet sold, but Martin de Guzman has already received three hundred thousand maravedés4 for them, which sum it is only proper should be given to Juan de Ovalle; and if you would send him the thousand crowns, he would then be able to live here, for just now he is in great want of them; but should the money not come, he will have no means of coming here, and his affairs will not be arranged for a long time.
My sister Jane5 has married well. I assure you she is a very good woman, and very generous; she has the soul of an angel, thanks be to God. I am the worst of all, whom you would hardly know to be your sister, because I have degenerated so much. I know not why people love me to such a degree; this I say in all sincerity. My sister has had many troubles, but she has borne them with great patience. If you can send her anything without injury to yourself, do so as soon as possible, even though it be little at a time.
You will see by this letter that the money has been delivered as you ordered. Toribia and her husband are dead; and we distributed the money among their children, who are poor: this has given them great assistance. We have had all the masses said which you wished; I even think some had been said before the money came. They were offered for the good intentions you named, which pleased me much, and edified me too. I sought out the best priest I could to say them. In the midst of all this business, I am stopping at the house of Madame Guiomar: I found great comfort in being among persons who so frequently spoke of you. I will tell you the occasion which procured me this happiness. As a daughter of this lady’s, who is a nun in our monastery of the Incarnation, was allowed to go and see her mother, the provincial ordered me to accompany her. Here I enjoy more liberty in everything I wish, than I did when I was at my sister’s house, because we speak of nothing but God, and are very recollected. I shall stay here till the father provincial shall order me elsewhere. I wish he would allow me to stop for some time, for here I am better able to manage the business I spoke to you about.
But let us now speak of my dear sister Jane:6 though I name her last, she does not hold the last place in my heart, for I assure you I pray to God for her with as much affection as I do for you, and I love her as much as yourself. I thank her a thousand times for the favour she has done me. All I can do for her is often to recommend her and her little boy to God. I have recommended him particularly to that holy friar Peter of Alcantara, who promised to pray for him: he is that religious of whom I spoke to you before. I have also requested the Theatin7 fathers, and several others, to pray for him, and whose prayers I hope God will hear. May His Majesty be pleased to make him better than his parents: I do not mean that you are not good, but I wish him to be something more. Pray always inform me of the love and contentment in which you both live, for I receive great pleasure therefrom.
I have already told you that I will send you a copy of the “Executory Letters,” which people tell me cannot be better. I will take every care that you shall receive them by Antonio Moran. But if by any misfortune they should be lost, or anything happen to him, so that he could not deliver them, I will send you some others, till I hear you have received them safe into your own hands. If they have not been sent sooner, it is owing to the caprice of an individual whose name I do not wish to mention. You will also receive some relics which I send you; they are enclosed in a case, which has not cost much. I thank my sister a thousand times for the beautiful image she has given me. Had I received it at the time I wore gold, I should very likely have kept it, for it is exceedingly pretty. I beg of God to keep you both in health for many years. This wish comes in at the right time, for to-morrow is the eve of the year 1562.
Having been so long engaged with Antonio Moran, I was obliged to commence writing when it was very late: had not this been the case, I should have written a longer letter. But as he intends setting off to-morrow, I will keep the rest of the news till my brother Gerónimo de Cepeda goes away, when I will send a letter by him. But it is no matter, that I have written in such haste. Always read my letters. I have taken great care that the ink should be good. I have, however, written this letter in such a hurry, and so late, as I have told you, that I had no time to read it over. My health is better than it used to be. I pray God to grant you such health of soul and body, as I desire you may have. Amen. I have not time now to write to Señor Hernanda Ahumada, nor to Pedro de Ahumada; but I soon will. I wish to tell you that some persons who wish me well, and who know the particulars of my undertaking, consider it a miracle, that you sent the money just when I wanted it. I hope in God that when I want any more, He will move your heart to assist me, even should you be unwilling yourself.
Your very loving Sister,
DOÑA TERESA DE AHUMADA.8
1 See the history of this monastery in the Saint’s “Life,” chap. xxxiii, xxxv. &c.
2 This devout and charitable lady was of the greatest assistance to the Saint in the foundation of St. Joseph’s monastery.
3 Doña Maria de Cepeda. She was married to Don Martin de Guzman.
4 An ancient Spanish coin.
5 Juana de Ahumada.
6 This was another sister of the Saint.
7 The Saint means the Jesuits, who in her time were often erroneously called Theatins.
8 The name of the Saint’s mother was Beatrice Ahumada. She was her father’s second wife.