24. Fr. Gracian


To the Reverend Father Geronimo Gracian, de la Madre de Dios.

This holy but persecuted man, to whom so many of the Saint’s letters are addressed, was thinking at one time of choosing a particular province for the Carmelites, who were to be under the direction of a provincial. He communicated his intention to the Saint, who, after having consulted Father Daza and Doctor Rueda on the subject, wrote the following letter to him, in which she forcibly endeavours to dissuade him from the project, and advises him to have recourse to Rome. She also points out what means he was to employ in order to succeed; and, towards the end of the letter, she speaks of two of his sisters who were on the point of taking the habit. Date, 1578. Carta XXII. Spanish ed. vol. i.

JESUS be with your Reverence.

My Father,–After the departure of the Prior of Mancera, I spoke to Father Daza and Doctor Rueda about your intention of making a separate province for our reformed Carmelites, because I should not wish your Reverence to do anything which people might take hold of, and blame you for. Even should the undertaking succeed, this would give me more pain than all the rest of our affairs which might not prosper without any fault of ours. Both of them agreed in thinking that the project would be very difficult to execute, unless your Reverence had a particular “Commission,” to empower you to establish the province. Doctor Rueda especially urges this point very strongly; and I pay great deference to his opinion, because I see that what he recommends always succeeds: he is a very learned man. He says, that as it is a matter of jurisdiction, it is very difficult to elect a provincial, because the choice belongs either to the General or to the Pope. Hence the thing cannot be done, for the votes would be null and void. He adds, that this would give an opportunity to the others1 to apply to the Pope, and to proclaim that you were about to withdraw us from our obedience, by making superiors when you had not the power. He also adds, that this undertaking would be misunderstood, and he is confident that you would have more trouble in confirming the provincial, than you would have in obtaining leave of the Pope to make the province. If the king were to write to his ambassador at Rome, the Pope would be glad to grant leave;2 for the thing could easily be done, particularly if it were represented to his Holiness, how badly our fathers of the reform have been treated. If any one would speak to the king on the subject, his majesty, I am sure, would willingly write to his ambassador, and this would be of great assistance to the reform: for when the other fathers see that the king interests himself in your business, they will have the more respect for you, and will be less ready to trouble you, and less anxious to prevent the reform.3

I think it would be very desirable if your Reverence were to mention the matter to Father Chaves4 (when you give him the letter I wrote to him, and which I sent by the prior), for he is a very sensible man: and if he would only make use of the influence he possesses with the king, he would perhaps obtain the favour. By this means, together with the letters given by the king, the fathers whom you should depute would hasten to Rome on the subject. But even should no letters be received, I should still wish them to go by all means; for Doctor Rueda says this is the right way to manage the business, viz., to apply directly either to the Pope or to the General. I am confident that if Father Padilla had united with us in representing the matter to the king, we should before now have accomplished it. Your Reverence may yet be able to speak to him, or to the Archbishop, about it; for if the provincial, after he has been chosen, must be confirmed and approved by the king, it would be better first to obtain permission5 from the king. If we should not succeed, we shall at least be spared the affront which would be given to us, if he were not confirmed, after having been elected; it would also be a disgrace to us, and the character of your Reverence might suffer if you should attempt what you were not able to do; people would say, “you had no judgment.”

The doctor says, that if the visitor of St. Dominic’s Order, or if any other Order, should make this election, there would not be so much said about it as if you made it yourself; for as I have before said, a person exposes himself to great danger when he meddles with matters of jurisdiction; and it is very important that our superior should be established by proper authority. It is with reason I dread this undertaking, because I foresee that they will have some cause to throw all the fault upon you, though I should not fear did they blame you without reason; but, on the contrary, I should be the more animated to excuse it; on this account, I have been anxious to write this letter to you, in order that your Reverence may consider well what you are about to do.

Do you know what I have been thinking? It is this, that perhaps our Father General will turn against us the letters which I have written him (though they were very good), and he may show them to the cardinals. These thoughts suggested to me the propriety of not writing anything on the matter, until we have seen the result: it would be also well, if an opportunity should offer, to say something to the nuncio about it. I perceived, my Father, when you were at Madrid, that you did a great deal in a day; hence I think, that by speaking to different persons, and making the ladies you know in the palace interested in the matter, and by prevailing on Father Antonio to induce the duchess to use her influence, you might do a great deal towards obtaining this favour from the king, who is very desirous that the reform should be maintained. Father Mariano, who often speaks with his majesty, might give him an account of it, and beg of him to support it; he could also remind his majesty, how it is now some time since that dear and holy brother, John of the Cross,6 has been detained in prison. I know the king listens to every one, and I cannot imagine how this matter has not been told to his majesty, and why Father Mariano especially has not entreated the king to set this Father at liberty.

But what am I talking about? What nonsense am I not writing to your Reverence, and yet you bear with my foolishness! I assure you I am greatly troubled, at not having the liberty to do what I advise others to do. The king is now going a great distance off: I only wish he had done something before his departure. May God do it for He is able.

We are anxiously expecting those ladies: and our nuns are quite confident that your Reverence’s sister will stop here, and receive the habit in this convent. The obligations you owe them are very great; so also are mine, for though we now have a good number, and their necessities are great, still they have an earnest desire to possess among them something belonging to you, not reflecting on any inconveniences. There is nothing which little Teresa does not do and say! I shall also rejoice if this should be the case,7 because I could not enjoy her company so much where she is going to as I shall do here: nay, perhaps I might never see her again, as the place is so far distant. However, these considerations are now at an end, for she has already been received at Valladolid, where she will do very well. If she had not gone, the sisters would have been greatly disappointed, especially Casilda. Juliana must remain with us (though I say nothing about her to the sisters); for, to send her to Seville would give too much pain to Doña Juana, her mother; and perhaps she would not like it herself, when she grew older. How I wish to have her sister, who is with the other young ladies! She knows not her wants, nor does she try to improve herself: she would have more quiet here than where she is.

My brother Lorenzo, who is going to court, will bring you this letter: he will remain some time at Madrid, and then I believe he will go on to Seville.

I think the prioress will write to you, and so I will say no more, only that God may preserve your Reverence. The prioress of Alva is very ill: pray for her, as all I can say is, that we shall lose a treasure in losing her: she is very obedient, and when anything goes wrong, the sisters need only speak to her, and she puts everything right. O! what sufferings do not the poor nuns of Malagon endure, on account of Brianda:8 I cannot, however, help laughing, when they tell me “they wish I would return.”

Madame Louisa de la Cerda’s youngest daughter is dead. I feel greatly for her, considering all the afflictions which God sends her. Her widow daughter is now the only child left. I am sure it would be an act of charity for your Reverence to write to her, and console her, for you know our order is much indebted to her.

Consider whether it would be for the best, that your sister should remain here: if your Reverence should judge otherwise, and that her mother would like to have her nearer to her, I shall put no obstacle in the way. I am afraid (as she has already had some intention of going to Valladolid)–that she may afterwards have some temptation to go there, for she may hear that there are comforts there, which we have not in this house, were it only the garden, which is so much finer than ours, for we have the most barren and wretched soil in the world. May God preserve you, my Father, and make you a saint; this I pray for. Amen. My arm is getting much better.

Your Reverence’s unworthy Servant and Subject,


April 15th.9

P.S.–Madame Guiomar is here, and is very well: she has a great desire to see your Reverence. She and all the nuns grieve much for Brother John of the Cross. It is indeed a sad thing that he should be so treated. The convent of the Incarnation goes on about the same as usual.

1 That is, the fathers who opposed the reform.

2 This was eventually granted, as the history of the Order mentions.

3 “Descuidarian ya en que se han de deshacer.”

4 This father was a Dominican, and confessor to King Philip II. He was a man of great genius and virtue.

5 That is, permission to elect a provincial.

6 “Aquel santico de Fray Juan.” (See the life of this great friend of St. Teresa in Alban Butler, November 24th.)

7 Should she take the habit.

8 How she was the cause of their afflictions, I am unable to tell.

9 The Saint very frequently does not mention either the date of her letters, or the place from which she writes them. This letter seems to have been written from Avila.

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