To the Very Reverend Father, Fray Juan Bautista Rubeo de Ravena, General of the Order of our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Though this holy man had a great esteem for the Saint, yet, through false reports which had been made to him by those who did not approve the reform of the order, he issued in a general chapter certain decrees against the Saint, and especially against Fathers Gracian and Mariano. For these the Saint pleads in the present letter, and assures the General of her obedience to whatever he shall command. The letter is written with great mildness and judgment. Date, 1576. Carta XIII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The Grace of the Holy Spirit be ever with your Reverence. Amen.
Since my arrival at Seville, I have written to your Reverence three or four times. I did not write any more, because our Fathers who came from the Chapter told me you were not at Rome, but had gone to visit the convents of Mantua. Thanks be to God that the affair has succeeded so well. In my letters I gave your Reverence an account of the three convents that have been founded this year, viz., at Veas, Caravaca, and Seville. In these places you have religious who are indeed great servants of God. The two first are rented, but the latter is founded in poverty, so that at present we have no house of our own: but I hope in our Lord we shall soon have one. I do not give you a particular account of each of them, because I am certain that some of my former letters will, by this time, have reached your Reverence.
In one of them I made the remark–what a difference there is in speaking to the Discalced Fathers (I mean Father Gracian and Father Mariano), and hearing their enemies speak of them. These Fathers are certainly the true children of your Reverence; and I may say, that in every spiritual point they yield to none of those who boast so much of their being your children. As they engaged me to beg of your Reverence to receive them again into your favour–(for they themselves dare not write to you), I entreated your Reverence with all possible earnestness in the letters which I wrote to you: now I renew my entreaties. I trust you will grant me this favour, for the love of our Lord. Believe what I say, for I have no reason to induce me not to speak the truth. Besides, I think I should offend God were I to conceal this matter from you: but even though I should not offend Him, I should consider it a great crime, as well as malice, to conceal anything from a father whom I love so tenderly
When we shall appear before the Tribunal of God, you will see what you owe to your true daughter, Teresa de Jesus.1 This is the only thing that consoles me in the matter, for I believe some will be found who may tell you differently. But those who are unprejudiced must acknowledge–that I speak the truth, and this I will do as long as I live.
I have already written to your Reverence respecting the commission which Father Gracian received from the Nuncio, and how he was sent to find him. You must know, that he has been confirmed in his office of Visitor of our fathers and sisters, and likewise of the province of Andalucia. I am confident he will refuse, as far as he can do so, to be Visitor of Andalucia, though report says the contrary; but I tell you the truth; and his brother, the Secretary, does not wish him to accept the office, because it is always attended with great trouble. But as this matter is already settled, if those Fathers had believed me, the business would have been amicably arranged, as if all were brothers, without giving offence to anyone. I have done all I could to make them agree; and this was only proper, as those Fathers have helped us much since we have been here: I have also found here, as I told your Reverence, persons of great talent and learning. I wish we could have such as these in our province of Castile.
I am very fond of making a virtue of necessity, as the saying is; and for this reason I should have wished that those persons, before they undertook to make any opposition, had considered whether there was any probability of their succeeding in the matter. On the other hand, I do not wonder at their opposition, for they are tired of so many visitations and changes, which have taken place these last few years on account of our sins. God grant we may know how to profit by them, for His Majesty thereby tries us much. However, as the Visitor is now of the same order, the visitation will not be considered in the light of a reflection upon the order. I trust in God, that if your Reverence should show some kindness to this Father,2 all the rest of the affair will go on well, for then every one will know he is in your favour. He has taken the liberty of writing to your Reverence, since he is very anxious to be friends with you, and not to give you any pain, because he considers himself to be one of your obedient sons.
I once more beg of your Reverence, for the love of our Lord and His glorious Mother, whom you love so tenderly, and whom Father Gracian also loves, and who entered our order that so he might prove his love for her,–I beg of you to answer this letter with mildness, and to forget what has passed even though he should have been in fault, and to receive him again as your child and subject, for he is indeed an obedient son. I beg the same for poor Father Mariano, who sometimes does not know how to explain himself. Hence I should not be surprised if he wrote things to your Reverence different from what he had in his thoughts, not knowing how to express his meaning better; for he positively declares that he never had any intention of making you angry, either by word or deed. As the devil gains a great deal by making people take things in a wrong sense, so he has employed all his art that these two Fathers might, contrary to their wish, be unsuccessful in their affairs.
But your Reverence should consider how natural it is for children to err, and for parents to pardon and forget the faults of their children. For the love of God then, I beg of your Reverence to grant me this favour. It is necessary for many reasons, which you may not know so well in Italy as I do here; and though we poor women are not fit persons to give good advice, still sometimes we hit the mark as well as a man. I cannot see what harm can come from receiving these poor men into favour again; on the contrary, you may (as I said) derive a great deal of good by so doing; whereas, I see none can be gained in not lovingly receiving those who would willingly cast themselves at your feet, were they near your Reverence. God does not fail to pardon us, however guilty: imitate Him, then, on this occasion, and make it known, that you are glad one of your own children and subjects has undertaken the reform of the Order, and how, in return, you are glad to pardon him.
If there were many to whom this commission could be given,–well and good: but as it seems there is no religious so fit for the office as this father is (and I am sure if you saw him you would be of the same opinion), why does your Reverence not show as, that you are glad to have such a man under your obedience? Why should you not wish all the world to know, that the reform (if it should prosper) was effected through your means, and by your advice? It is certain, that if your Reverence is known to approve this reform, all difficulties will vanish. I could say much more respecting this matter. But I beseech our Lord to make you understand, how necessary that is which I have already said, for it is now some time since you have paid any attention to my words. I am quite certain, that if I fall into any mistake, my intention at least is sincere.
Father Antonio de Jesus is here: he could not help coming, although he began to defend himself against the other fathers. He now writes to your Reverence, and perhaps may be more fortunate than I have been in receiving an answer. I trust your Reverence will form a proper judgment about all I tell you. As to the rest, may our Lord order everything,–how, and as He pleases, and sees best.
I have heard of the decree of the General Chapter, which forbids me to leave the house I may choose to live in. The provincial, Father Angel, had sent the news to Father Ulloa, with a command to notify the decree to me. He thought this would trouble me; for those fathers, in procuring such a decree, had the intention of giving me pain; and on this account, he kept the document in his room, not venturing to show it to me for more than a month. But as I was informed of the matter, during that time, from another quarter, I have induced him to mention it to me.
I assure your Reverence, in all sincerity, that, as far as regards myself, it would have given me great pleasure and content, had you send this command by letter, and that, feeling compassion for me, on account of the numerous labours and sufferings I have endured in these foundations (and your Reverence knew well that I could bear but little), you had commanded me to take some rest, as a recompense for what I had suffered. Knowing from which such a command came, I should have felt great consolation in my rest.
But the sincere esteem I have for your Reverence makes me feel, on the other hand, that this command is somewhat rigorous, because, it was sent to me as to one who was disobedient. This is what Brother Angel had published to the Cortes, before I knew anything of the matter. Every one thought this was too great a restraint upon me; and he informed me himself that I might find a remedy by writing to the Pope, as if I had not found a great pleasure in obeying your command. Even though I felt no pleasure in fulfilling the command of your Reverence, I should never have dreamt of disobeying you; for I continually beg of God, not to give me any pleasure against your will. I can truly assure you (and our Lord is my witness), that if I have any comfort in the labours, disquiets, afflictions, and detractions I have endured, it was because I thought I was doing your will, and giving you pleasure; and hence I hope I shall now also receive the same comfort from fulfilling the command of your Reverence. I wished to execute your orders immediately; but as Christmas was near, and the journey so long, my desire was not granted, as they knew it was not the wish of your Reverence to hazard my health; and so I am still to remain here, not, however, with the intention of always remaining in this house, but only till the winter is over, for I do not find myself at home with the people of Andalucia.
I humbly beg of your Reverence not to forget to write to me, wherever I may be; and as I have nothing now to occupy me (which is indeed a great comfort to me), I fear you will forget me, though I shall endeavour to forget this; for however tired your Reverence may be in hearing from me, I shall not cease writing to you, for my own comfort.
People never imagined here, nor do they yet believe, that the council and the Pope’s brief could take from superiors the power of commanding religious to go from one house to another, for the good of the Order and for affairs connected with it that may present themselves. I do not mention this for my own sake, as I am now good for nothing: for if I knew I could afford your Reverence the least pleasure, I would willingly remain all my life, not only in the same house (for there I should be able to enjoy a little quiet and repose), but even in a prison. This I say, in order to take away any scruples which your Reverence may have with regard to the past. Though I had even “Letters Patent,” never would I go to any place to found a monastery (and it is clear I could not leave my convent for any other cause), without a command in writing, or leave from my superior. When I went to Veas and Caravaca, Father Angel gave me orders, and Father Gracian commanded me to come here, for he had then the same commission from the Nuncio that he has now, though he did not make use of it. How can Father Angel say, then, that I have come here as an apostate, and that I was excommunicated? May God forgive him. Your Reverence knows well, and can testify, that I have always endeavoured to keep friends with him, and to please him in all things that were not displeasing to God; and yet he never would be friends with me.
It would have been much better, had he turned against Father Valdemoro, who, being prior of Avila, drove the nuns from the Convent of the Incarnation, to the great scandal of the people. The convent was in such a good state, as to make one praise God for it; and yet he treated the poor nuns so ill, that it was a pity to behold the great trouble they had to endure. They wrote to me to excuse the prior, and they took all the blame upon themselves. The fathers have, however, returned; and I am informed, the Nuncio has forbidden all other Carmelites to hear the confessions of the sisters.
The troubles of the poor religious have afflicted me exceedingly, for they gave them nothing but bread; and, on the other hand, they are still in trouble, and I feel much for them. May our Lord provide a remedy for all these evils, and preserve your Reverence many years. I am told that the general of the Dominicans is coming here. Would that God did me the favour of sending you here also. My joy would then be complete; though I should, on the other hand, feel for you on account of the fatigue you would be exposed to from the journey. Thus I shall be obliged to wait for my rest and consolation in that eternity which has no end, where your Reverence will know how greatly you are indebted to me.
May our Lord grant, in His mercy, that I may one day arrive there. I earnestly recommend myself to the prayers of those reverend fathers who accompany you. The religious of this house–the daughters of your Reverence–beg your blessing, and I ask the same favour for myself.
Your Reverence’s unworthy Daughter and Subject,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 Palafox mentions, that the Saint alludes to some great good which the father general had received from God, through the intercession of the Saint, and of which she was aware. (See annotation on this letter.
2 Father Gracian.