30. Lorenzo de C.


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

Letter 3. Two other letters, which the Saint wrote to her Brother, have been translated, and may be read at the end of the “Interior Castle,” among several other letters. This letter will be considered very valuable and interesting. She confirms her brother in his intention of returning into Spain from the West Indies, where he had been living for some time. She gives him an account of the progress her reform had made, and tells him some news about his family. She also consoles him for the loss of his wife, &c. Date, 1575. Carta XXX. Spanish ed. vol. i.

JESUS. May the Holy Spirit be ever with you. Amen.

I wrote to you by four different ways, and in the third I sent a letter to Señor Gerónimo de Cepeda. As then you must have received some of my letters, I do not think it necessary to answer all you said. Neither shall I say anything now, respecting the good resolution with which our Lord has inspired you, and for which I praise His Majesty exceedingly, I certainly think you have done quite right. I judge by the reasons which you mention as having induced you to take this resolution, that there may be many others also. I trust in our Lord it may tend to His greater glory. We continually pray in our monasteries for your safe return: for since your intention is to serve God, may His Majesty direct everything for your greater good, and the welfare of your children.

I have already informed you that six convents for the nuns of our Order, and two monasteries for the fathers, have been founded, in which great progress is made towards perfection. The houses for the sisters are founded on the model of St. Joseph’s at Avila, so that they seem to be one and the same establishment. I am exceedingly comforted on beholding how truly and perfectly our Lord is served by them, and with what purity of soul they praise Him.

I am now at Toledo, and on the eve of the Annunciation of our Lady; it will be a year since I came here, though I made a journey to a town belonging to Ruigomez, Prince of Eboli, called Pastrana: here were founded a monastry for our fathers, and a convent for nuns, both of which are going on well. I returned here to arrange what remained to be done in this house, for it is in a fair way of becoming one of our principal establishments. I have enjoyed much better health this winter than I have for a long time, because the air of this part of the country is so pure. If I did not see it would be inconvenient for you to educate your children here, I was thinking of inviting you to come and settle in this place, on account of the mildness of the climate. But there are many small towns around Avila, where you can pass the winter as several others do. With regard to my brother Gerónimo de Cepeda, I think that if God should conduct him back to this country, he will enjoy better health here. However, all depends on the will of our Lord. I am confident I have not had such good health for these last forty years, as I have just now; for I observe the rules as all the rest do, and never eat flesh-meat, unless compelled to do so by great necessity.

It is now about a year ago since I had the quartan ague; but it left me in a better state than it found me. I was then engaged in the foundation at Valladolid, where I was almost killed by the kindness of Señora Maria de Mendoza, widow of the Secretary Cobos:1 she has a great affection for me. Hence, God gives us health when He sees it necessary for us: but if it be not necessary, He sends us sickness. May He be praised for all things. I was sorry to hear you had sore eyes. Thank God you are now better.

Juan de Ovalle 2 has already informed you of his journey. One of my friends gave him such good directions, that he drew the money the same day he arrived there. He has brought it here, and at the end of this month of January it will be given to those you mentioned. In my presence was made out the amount of duty which must be paid to the king: you will find it in this packet. I have used no small diligence to gain a knowledge of these matters; and I have become such a woman of business, by means of these foundations, and other business belonging to the Order, that I know a little of everything. And as I consider your affairs to be the same as those of our Lord, I am glad to have something to do with them. Lest I forget, I must tell you that since I wrote to you last, Cueto’s son has died: he was quite young. You see then there is nothing certain in this life. It gives me great comfort every time I reflect, how deeply persuaded you are of this truth.

After I shall have finished the business which detains me here, I should be glad to return to our convent at Avila, of which I am still prioress, in order not to offend the bishop, to whom both I myself and the whole Order are so much indebted. But I know not how our Lord will dispose of me; and I am also uncertain whether I shall return to Salamanca, where a house is offered to me; for though I suffer great fatigue in these journeys, yet the benefit which the people derive in all the towns where our convents are established is so very considerable, that my confessors oblige me in conscience to found as many as possible. Our Lord too assists the undertakings in so wonderful a manner, that I am thereby encouraged to persevere.

In my other letter I forgot to tell you how many advantages you could have in Avila, to give a good education to your children. The Fathers of the Society3 possess a college there, in which grammar and other useful things are taught: the scholars go to confession every eight days, and they become so virtuous, that I am thereby excited to praise our Lord. Philosophy and theology are also taught in the College of St. Thomas; and hence without leaving the place, you can find every help requisite for the acquisition both of virtue and of learning. The people there are in general so devout, that those who come from other places are quite edified. Great numbers are devoted to mental prayer, and frequent the sacrament of penance: several of them are lay-persons, and yet they lead lives of great perfection. Among them is the good Francisco Salcedo.

You have bestowed a great favour upon me, in sending Cepeda such a fine present; he cannot thank you sufficiently for it. He is truly a holy man, and in calling him such, I only speak the truth. It is now about a year ago since Pedro de el Peso died; he was very old, and his career was praiseworthy, Ana de Cepeda is much obliged for the alms you sent her: with that she will be rich, for as she is so very good, many other persons are kind to her. There are many places in which she could live; but her character is so strange as to make her unfit for society. Still this is the way along which God leads her. However, I could never venture to take her into any of our houses, not that she is wanting in virtue, but because I thought that the state in which she lives is fitter for her; hence I assure you, that she will not remain either with Doña Maria, or with any one else; and this suits her purpose very well.

Her life seems to resemble that of a hermit, and she has the goodness and austerity of one.

The son of Señora Doña Maria, my sister who, is married to Martin de Guzman, has made his profession, and makes great progress in holiness. I have already informed you of the death of Doña Beatrix, and that her daughter, Doña Madalena, who was the youngest, is now a pensioner in a convent. I earnestly wish God would call her to the religious life; she is a very excellent young woman. It is now a long time since I have seen her. At present her friends talk of marrying her to a widower, who is the eldest in his family;4 but I know not how the affair will end.

I believe I also told you that the favour you bestowed on my sister was done just at the time she stood in need of it, for I have been quite astonished at all the troubles and afflictions our Lord has been pleased to send her; but she has borne them very patiently, and I believe that for this reason our Lord now wishes to give her some relief. As for myself, I want nothing, for I have more than is necessary. I shall therefore give my sister part of the alms you sent me, and the rest I shall spend in good works for your intention. I was, however, very glad to receive part of this money, on account of certain scruples which I had, for in these foundations many circumstances happen which require me to spend something, however careful I may be, and sometimes I spend all I have on these foundations; yet I know I might give less than I do in certain matters, about which I consult learned men (for, to such I always mention the affairs of my soul), though no doubt I often consult them about mere trifles. The money you sent me was a great relief to me, for it spared me the unpleasantness of borrowing, though many would have assisted me. When I owe nothing, I am more at liberty to act with these individuals and to explain my affairs to them. The world is self-interested, that for this very reason I have a horror of riches, and I am glad I possess none. If I give something to our Order, my conscience will not reproach me, for I shall give it with a good intention: besides I have received permission from the general and the provincial both to receive nuns, to change them, and to help one house with the means belonging to another.

People are so blind as to have a good opinion of me, and I know not the reason of it: but I stand so high in their esteem, that they would lend me any sum of money, however great.5 Hence at the very time that I have the greatest aversion both to money and to business, our Lord seems to wish to encumber me with it more than ever, and this is no little cross to me. May His Majesty be pleased that I may serve Him in everything, for all will one day come to an end.

It will be a great pleasure for me to see you here, for I receive so little from everything in this world, that our Lord will perhaps be pleased to grant me this comfort, that so we may both unite together, to labour for his honour and glory, and the good of souls, for I am quite grieved to see so many souls lost; and these poor Indians6 cost me many tears. May our Lord enlighten them, since there and everywhere there are many miseries. This I know too well;  for as I visit many places, and speak to many persons, I am often able to say, that we are worse than beasts, because we know not the high dignity of our Lord, which we debase by being too much attached to the things of this world. May our Lord give us grace to do better.

You may consult Father Garcia of Toledo, who is nephew to the viceroy, and whom I regret much not having here for my affairs. If you should want him for anything, you may easily have recourse to him, for he is an excellent Christian: I consider it a great blessing that he accepted the charge and went there. I have enclosed a letter for him in the packet I sent you, together with some relics for your journey: I sincerely hope they will arrive safe.

I did not think of writing such a long letter. I am anxious you should understand what a favour God has bestowed upon you, in having beheld the holy death which Señora Doña Juana made.7 All of us here have recommended her to the mercy of our Lord: and obsequies have been performed for her repose in all our houses, so that I hope in God she now stands in no need of our prayers. Try as much as possible to drive away your sorrow; and take care you be not of the number of those who, do not remember there is another life which endures for ever: grieve not then for those who, being delivered from the miseries of this life, go to enjoy the happiness of the next. Remember me very kindly to my brother Gerónimo de Cepeda: tell him he must consider this letter as written to himself. I am much pleased to hear that he is making arrangments to return here in a few years: I hope he will be able, if possible, to bring his family with him, and not leave his children there. It would be much better to have them all together, so that we may help each other (to serve our Lord), and then we shall one day be united for ever in heaven.

Most of the masses have already been said, and the rest will be offered as soon as possible. I have received a young person as a religious, though she had no dowry; and I have willingly given up my bed to her, and offered this charity to God, that He would please to bring you and your children here in safety. Remember me to them. I have received another also, and have offered the charity to God for Gerónimo de Cepeda, I have received several in this way, because they are spiritual persons, and thus our Lord sends us others to supply for those who have no money.

Some have entered our house at Medina, who brought eight hundred ducats, and another has been received here,8 who had nine thousand, and this sum she gives to the convent, without my having asked her for anything. There are so many like these, that I praise our Lord exceedingly. As soon as a young person begins to be devoted to prayer, she has no other desire than to come amongst us. But in all our houses, we never have more than thirteen sisters, because our constitutions do not allow us to ask for anything, and we live only upon what we receive at the grate,9 and this is sufficient for us, hence we cannot have many religious. I am sure you would be much pleased to see our convents.

Your unworthy Servant,


January 17th, 1570.

1 He was a great favourite of Charles V., and secretary of state to King Philip II.

2 He was married to one of the Saint’s sisters.

3 The Jesuits: “Los de la Compania,” &c.

4 “Un casamiento con un Mayorazgo,”, &c.

5 Literally, “Para fiarme mil, y dos mil ducados. “

6 It must be remembered that the Saint’s brother was living in the West Indies, and hence she knew the miserable state of that country.

7 This lady was his wife. Her name in full was Señora Juana de Fuentes y Guzman. She was very virtuous.

8 At Avila.

9 “Al torno”–at the turn, where provisions, &c. are received.

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