To the Reverend Father Gonzalo de Avila, of the Society of Jesus.
When the Saint addressed the following letter to this father, he was then her confessor, and was probably the rector of a college at Avila. Finding himself but little inclined to mental prayer, on account of his numerous exterior duties, he declared his trouble to Saint Teresa, and commanded her to teach him how to act amidst these his occupations, that so they might not interfere with his interior recollection. Date, 1578. Carta XXI. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS be with your Reverence.
It is a long time since I have been so mortified as I was to-day in reading your letter. I am not yet so humble as to desire to be considered so proud, nor should your Reverence be so anxious to show your humility so much at 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.1 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, however, I preceive I have committed a fault, though it may, perhaps, be through a desire I have to see your Reverence become very good; and from this 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 which I said to your Reverence; and if I were not afraid of being disobedient, I should not now comply with what you command 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 which He gives to a weak woman like myself. Consider the favour bestowed on me by our Lord, of having Him actually present to me, and how also I see, when I have to perform many duties, that neither persecutions nor labours can disturb me so much as these2 do. If any business comes which requires immediate despatch, I very generally do not retire to rest till an hour or two, and even later, after midnight, in order that my soul may not afterwards be obliged to attend to anything else, except to Him only whom she has present to her. 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 hand some business of great importance and urgency, who immediately arranges every minor affair, in order that it may not hinder him from attending to what 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 perhaps 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 as applicable to affairs of importance, 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 the health of your Reverence is injured by them, I wish you had less to do. I am, however, excited to bless God, by seeing what an interest you take in everything relating to our Order; for I am not so weak as not to understand the high favour our Lord bestowed upon you in having given you such a talent, and the great merit which may be gained thereby. It makes me somewhat envious, because I wish my superior also should 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 you speak about. I am much pleased with your account of it, for it is so necessary in the monastery, that it deserves all the attention of your Reverence.
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 that whatever is done towards properly discharging the office of superior, is so pleasing to God, that He gives in a short time to such a one–what he would bestow on others 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 in general so very busy, what I have said to you came at once into my mind, and the more I reflect upon it, the more do I now see (as I have said) that there is a great 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 The Saint was mortified, because Father Gonzalo asked her advice.
2 That is, duties and employments.