12. Senor Lorenzo


No. XII.
To Señor Lorenzo de Cepeda, Brother to the Saint.

Letter 2nd. The date of this letter is about the year 1577. It is not the second letter in chronological order. It was written from Toledo.

JESUS be with you.

Serna1 gives me so little time, that I cannot write so long a letter as I could wish; and yet, when I am writing to you, I know not how to finish: but as Serna is not always at hand, he must give me a little more time. When I write to Francis, I beg you would never read his letters, for I fear he is somewhat inclined to melancholy, and he feels a difficulty in telling me of it. Perhaps God gives him these scruples in order to deliver him from other dangers. I hope, however, to give him a remedy, and I find he is well disposed to receive it, for he believes all I tell him.

I am quite certain I sent the manuscript, though I did wrong in not telling you of it beforehand. I had given it to one of our sisters to transcribe it, and when I wanted it she could not find it. There is no means of your having another, till we send to Seville for a copy.

I believe I sent another letter to you by the way of Madrid; however, in case it should be lost, I must repeat in this letter what I said in that, though I dislike being troubled with this affair. I must tell you then, in the first place, that the house of Hernan Alverez de Peralta–where you lodge–has a room in a bad condition, and it is likely to be dangerous; so take care! In the second place, I beg you would send me the little box with all the papers that belong to me: they were put together in bundles, as far as I can recollect: take care the box be sewed up well. If Madame Quiteria should give the packet to Serna, the messenger, she may put it in the box, and then it will come safe. Tell her to send it. Do not forget also to put in my seal, for I do not like to seal my letters with a figure of death; rather I wish to seal them with a figure of Him2 who I earnestly wish was engraven on my heart, as it was on the heart of St. Ignatius. Let no one open the box but yourself (for I believe the paper on prayer is in it); take care if you see anything else there not to mention it to any one, for I do not give you leave, neither is it proper I should; and although you might think you were thus doing a service to God, yet there are several reasons which ought to oblige you to keep it secret; and this must be sufficient for you. If I thought you said anything to any one, I should take good care not to let you know anything for the future.

The nuncio has requested me to send him a copy of the “letters patent” which I use in founding our houses. He wants to know how many there are already founded, and in what places. He also desires me to send him the number of religious, whence they have come, their age, and how many of them can be prioresses. All these papers are in the box: indeed, I must have everything in it. People tell me, that the nuncio wishes to know all these things, in order to make a new province. But I am afraid he is desirous our religious should go and reform other convents, as he often wished to have done before; this, however, should not be for our good. I beg you will acquaint the sub-prioress with the nuncio’s wish, and tell her to send me the names of all those who have made their profession in the house, also the age of all those who are there now, and the year of their reception and profession. She must write all this in a book, and sign her name at the end.

But now I remember, I am prioress of that house3 myself: as I can sign the paper myself, it is unnecessary for her to do it; she need only tell me what I have already mentioned; and it does not signify whether the writing is in her own hand or not, for I must copy it. It is unnecessary for the sisters to know anything of the matter. Be sure you send me everything, and take care the papers do not get wet. Don’t forget to send the key.

The book I spoke to you about is the “Meditations on the Lord’s Prayer.”4 There you will find many things proper to direct you in the prayer you make use of, though not at such length as in the other work. I think what I say you will find in the petition, “Thy kingdom come.” Read it over again, at least the Lord’s Prayer; perhaps you will find something that will satisfy you.

Before I forget, how came you to make such a promise,5 without telling me about it? A fine obedience this! Your resolution has given me some uneasiness, though it has somewhat pleased me; but it seems to me dangerous. Take advice about the matter, because from a venial sin it might become a mortal one, by your having made such a promise. I will likewise ask my confessor about it, for he is a very learned man. Your promise seems to me foolish, because what I promised was with other additions; but this I should certainly not have presumed to promise, for I think even the Apostles fell into venial sins. Our Lady alone was preserved from them. I really believe that God will accept your intention; yet I think it would be much better to change your promise into something else: this may be done by getting a dispensation, if you should not have one already. Do it speedily: the jubilee will be just the time. It is so easy to fall into venial sin, that without our observing it we may commit it. God deliver us from it; but I trust He will not impute this to our fault. He knows well our nature. In my opinion, it is necessary to apply a remedy immediately, and that no promise of this nature be made by you for the future, for it is dangerous to do so. You might sometimes, without any inconvenience, speak on the subject of your prayer with your confessors, who are near at hand; they can give you the best advice on everything, and nothing is lost.

Do not be troubled about your having purchased the farm at Serna;6 it is a temptation from the devil, who tries to prevent you from being grateful to God for having thereby bestowed a very great favour upon you. Be assured that what you have done is for the best in many respects, for you have provided for your children something better than an estate, viz., honour. Every one who hears of it considers it a great happiness. Do you imagine that in collecting rents there is no trouble? None in continually sending executions?7 Consider this to be a temptation. Do not fall into it again; but rather praise God for having given you the farm. Do not think that when you have a great deal of time you must apply more to prayer. This is a mistake: for time well spent in providing a maintenance for our children does not exclude prayer. In one instant, God often gives more than He does in a long period, for His works are not confined to times and seasons.

After the holydays are over, get some one immediately to examine your deeds, and put them in the order they ought to be. What you have spent on Serna is well spent, and when summer comes you will feel great delight in sometimes going there. Jacob did not cease to be a saint for minding his flocks; nor Abraham, nor St. Joachim: when we try to fly from trouble everything wearies us: so it does me, and therefore God is pleased that I should have business enough to occupy me. On these matters speak with Francisco Salcedo,8 for in these temporal matters I give him my place.

It is a great favour from God, that what gives rest to others tires you. But you must not on this account give up your business; for we must serve God not as we wish, but as He wishes. Certain profits may, I think, be excused, and therefore I am glad in some degree that you leave this kind of gains to God, for in these worldly matters we must be content to lose something, than to be too liberal in giving;–seeing God has given you enough to live on, you can give something to those who are in want, though not too much. I do not call that trafficking which you intend to do at Serna, for it is very proper; but I mean other ways of gain. But I have already told you to follow the opinion of Francisco Salcedo in all these matters, and then you will not be troubled with these scruples. Always remember me most kindly to him, and every one else you think proper. I wish I had time to write to Pedro de Ahumada, in order to get a letter from him, for I enjoy his letters exceedingly.

Tell Teresa9 she need not fear I should have more love for another than I have for her. Let her distribute the pictures, but not meddle with that which I intend for myself; tell her to give some of them to her brothers. I have a great desire to see her. What you wrote to me about at Seville caused great devotion in me. I received some of your letters here, and our sisters were much pleased on hearing them read in recreation-time; I also was pleased, for I imagine you would rather cease to live than not to be good-humored; but as you are with holy persons, everything is proper. I believe our sisters here are holy too: every moment they make me blush.

Yesterday we celebrated the great Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. God reward you for your presents. I know not what to send you for the many favours you bestow upon me, except these verses,10 which I have composed by the command of my confessor in order to amuse the nuns. For several evenings I have been with them, and I knew not how to divert them except by these verses. They might have a pleasant air, if little Frank knew how to sing them. Have I not greatly improved? Notwithstanding, our Lord has bestowed great favours on me during these days.

The favours you have received astonish me. May He be blessed for ever. I know it is a good thing to desire devotion as you do. But it is one thing to desire, and another to ask it. But I believe it is the best to leave, as you do, all things in the will of God, and to commit your cause into His hands. He knows what is best for us. But always endeavour to walk along the way I have marked out for you: remember that it is of more consequence than you imagine.

It will not be amiss, when you sometimes awake with these holy affections, to sit up a little in your bed, provided, however, you always take the repose necessary for your head; otherwise, though you may not perceive it, you will at last be unable to make use of prayer. Take care not to expose yourself too much to cold, for it does not suit your colic. I know not why you desire these terrors and fears, since God conducts you by the way of love. Once those were necessary. Think not it is always the devil that tries to prevent us from praying, it is a mercy of God that sometimes we are prevented from using prayer; nay, I will even say that this is almost as great a favour as when He gives us much prayer: there are many reasons in proof of this, but now I have no time to mention them. The prayer God gives you is without comparison much higher than thinking on hell. It does not depend upon you to give the preference to one or the other: you cannot help following that which God gives you, because such is His will.

The answers11 of some of our sisters made me laugh. Others are extraordinary, and they have given me some light about the meaning of the words; for do not think that I understand them. I only mentioned the circumstance casually to you: I will tell you my opinion on the subject, please God, when I see you. The answer of Francisco de Salcedo pleased me much. His humility is very admirable, for God conducts him in such a manner by fear, that perhaps he did not like to speak of such things in the same way as we do. We must accommodate ourselves to souls as we find them. I tell you he is a saint; but God does not guide him in the same way He does you. In a word, He conducts him as a strong man, but us as weak souls. He answered well for one of his disposition.

I have read your letter over again. I do not mean you should rise in the night, but only sit up in your bed. This seems to me sufficient, since it is important to be able to take your rest. On no account then rise, though you may feel great fervour; and if you sleep more, do not make yourself uneasy on that account. If you should hear what Father Peter of Alcantara used to say on this point,12 let it not terrify you, even though this fervour come upon you when you remain awake.

Your letters do not tire me, but comfort me exceedingly; and so I should feel great pleasure in writing to you oftener, but I cannot do so, as my afflictions are so troublesome; even this very night I have been prevented from attending to prayer. This gives me no scruples; still it is a misery to have no leisure. May God send us some, that we may always spend it in His service. Amen.

This is a dreadful place13 for those who do not eat meat, and yet I was thinking that I have not been in such good health for these many years, as I am now. I observe what all the others do, and this is a great comfort to me.

This is the 2nd of January.

Your unworthy Servant and Sister,


P.S.–I thought you would have sent us some of your verses; as for mine, they have neither head nor feet, and yet the nuns sing them. I now remember some which I once composed, when I was absorbed in prayer. They seemed to give a sweet repose to me after I had composed them. They were (I know not whether exactly) as follows; hence you see I am desirous of giving you some recreation:–


O hermosura que excedeis,
A todas las hermosuras!
Sin herir, dolor haceis;
Y sin dolor, deshaceis
Con amor de las creaturas.


O ñudo, que ansi juntais
Dos cosas tan desiguales!
No sé porque os desatais:
Pues atado, fuerza dais
A tener por bien los males.


Quien no tiene sér, juntais
Con el sér que no se acaba:
Sin acabar, acabais;
Sin tener que amar, amais:
Engrandeceis nuestra nada.14

I do not remember any more. O! the wit of a foundress! I tell you I must have been very clever when I made these lines! God forgive you, for it is you who made me spend my time; and yet these stanzas may soften your heart and excite some devotion in it. Do not speak of them to any one. Madame Guiomar and myself were together at the time; give my kind regards to her.

1 This is the individual’s name who brought the letter from the Saint’s brother.

2 Our blessed Lord.

3 At Avila, where her brother was then residing.

4 These are printed with her other works, and have been translated into English.

5 To abstain from venial sins.

6 The Bishop of Osma mentions that this was an estate about a league from Avila.

7 These words we must suppose the brother addresses to the Saint.

8 This was the name of a very pious gentleman, who was given to prayer. The Saint used to call him the “holy cavalier”–el caballero santo.

9 A cousin of the Saint.

10 They are called in Spanish “villancicos.” They come at the end of the letter.

11 To enable the reader to understand this part of the letter, it is necessary to mention, that one day the Saint heard a voice in the interior of her soul, saying “Buscate en mi”–Seek yourself in me. She mentioned these words to her brother Lorenzo, who was then at Avila. The bishop, Alvaro de Mendoza, heard of the secret, and ordered the words to be made the subject of a spiritual recreation, and each of the nuns was enjoined to write down what seemed to her to be the meaning. Four other persons also gave an explanation of them, viz., St. John of the Cross, the Ven. John of Avila, Francisco de Salcedo, and her own brother. (See Carta V. Spanish ed vol. i. p. 28.)

12 He said he used to take only three hours’ sleep.

13 Toledo.

14 Not being a poet, I dare not venture to translate these verses into English. In Appendix No. V. I have given Woodhead’s translation, such as it is.

 Posted by