To the Reverend Geronimo Gracian, de la Madre de Dios.
This letter is the second in the Spanish ed., though it is placed as the first in the French translation of L’Abbe Migne. Bishop Palafox praises this letter exceedingly for its spirituality and the beautiful instructions which it gives on the interior life. Date, 1577. Carta XXIII. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS. The Grace of the Holy Spirit be with your Reverence, My Father.
To-day I received three of your letters from the postmaster, and yesterday Brother Alonzo brought me one. Our Lord has rewarded me well for the trouble I was in on account of your delay in writing. May He be for ever blessed for giving your Reverence health. I was at first greatly alarmed at not finding any of your letters in the two packets which came for the prioress: but my disappointment did not last long. I beg you would mention to me what letters you receive from me, for often you do not send an answer to what I write: and sometimes you also forget to put the date to your letters.
In both your letters your Reverence asks me what passed in the interview which I had with Señora Doña Juana. I sent you an account by the courier of this place. I suppose that what you spoke of as having been received by the way of Madrid is the answer I sent you; and so I was in no trouble about it. I am very well. My Isabel1 is quite our recreation. It is wonderful to see how gay and cheerful she is. Yesterday I received a letter from Señora Doña Juana, in which she tells me all her family are well.
I praise our Lord exceedingly, because He prospers your affairs; but I was greatly astonished at what Brother Alonso told me–regarding what people say about your Reverence. O! how necessary was that journey you undertook! Had you even done nothing else, I think you were obliged in conscience to go, for the honour of the Order. I cannot imagine how people could publish such base calumnies. May God enlighten their minds! If your Reverence should have any one in whom you can confide, it would not be amiss to give them the pleasure of having another prior. But this is a matter I do not understand. I was quite astonished that he gave such advice, which was, in reality, to do nothing. It is very painful for you to have one there who opposes you in everything. However, I cannot help thinking but that (when he considers the matter better) he will reject the advice he gave. In a word, they2 have not been taught to desire being little esteemed.
Is it not wonderful that Paul, amidst all his occupations, should have been able to preserve so much tranquility in treating with Joseph?3 I thank God for it. I hope your Reverence will tell her that she ought to be content with her manner of prayer, and that she must not be troubled if her understanding remain inactive, for God will favour her in another way. Tell her also I am much pleased with her letter. It is important to remember, as far as regards these interior things of the Spirit, that the best prayer, and the most acceptable to God, is the prayer which produces the best effects. I speak not now of those many desires the soul may have, for though they are good, they are not such as our self-love represents them sometimes. I speak of those effects, which are confirmed by deeds;4 hence, we may know what desires the soul has for God’s honour, by her being truly anxious for it, by diligently employing her memory and understanding in everything that may please Him, in order the more to testify her love for Him.
O! this is indeed true prayer! and not those delights which tend only to please us, and nothing more. When our prayer is not such as I have described it, there may be found in the soul great remissness, many fears, and some resentment against those who do not esteem her enough. For my part, I wish to have no other prayer, but that which shall give me an increase of virtues. Should it be accompanied with violent temptations, dryness, and afflictions, which might make me more humble, that I should consider to be an excellent kind of prayer; for whatever pleases God the most, I consider to be the best kind of prayer. Let us not imagine that he who suffers does not pray: rather does he the more offer his troubles to God; and often does such a one pray better than those do, who, all alone in their cell, strike their breasts again and again,5 and when they force themselves to shed a few tears, call that prayer.
Pardon me, Father, for having told you so many things to say to Joseph; but the love she has for Paul will make her take them all in good part. If you think it well to tell her what I have said, do so: if not, do not say a word to her about the matter. I have only said what I wish for myself. I add also, that good works and a good conscience are two important blessings.
What your Reverence tells me about Father John pleases me much: it may be, that the devil is anxious to do some harm, and our Lord wishes to draw good from it. But very great care is necessary; for I am sure the devil will try all his arts to injure Eliseus,6 and so he does well in thinking it comes from the evil one. I really believe it would be well not to make much account of those things, for if they have been sent to Brother John7 as a penance, I think God has given him enough. What he has already endured is not for himself alone; for the other three, who should help him with their advice, will soon have their share to endure too, as Joseph foretold.
With regard to Sister San Gerónimo, she must eat meat for some time, and give up her prayer. Will your Reverence please to command her not to consult any one but yourself, or else let her write to me; for, as her imagination is very weak, she thinks that she sees and hears whatever she meditates upon: sometimes, however, she may be in the right, for she is a very good soul.
I have the same opinion of Sister Beatrix; though I cannot see that what was written to me regarding the time of her profession could be a fancy, but I think it quite right. Tell the prioress to exempt her from fasting, and both of them from using prayer, at least for a time. She may occupy them in other exercises, lest they should fall into some greater evil. Believe me, all this is very necessary.
The loss of the letters has given me a great deal of uneasiness: you do not tell me if those which fell into the hands of Peralta were of consequence. Know that I now send this letter by an express messenger. I quite envy those religious who have the good fortune to hear the sermons delivered by your Reverence: it seems they deserve such a consolation, and I nothing but afflictions. However I beg of God, through His love, to send me a good many. I am sorry to hear that your Reverence must go to Granada. I should like to know how long you will stop there, and where I am to direct my letters to you. For the love of God, let me hear from you before your departure. I have received no papers with a seal attached. Send me two, for I think I shall want them. I am aware of the trouble you have, and I wish I could help your Reverence till you gain a little more repose. I pray God to give you as much rest as I desire for you, and to bestow on you that holiness which he alone can give. Amen.
Your Reverence’s unworthy Servant,
TERESA DE JESUS.
1 One of the sisters of Father Gracian.
2 That is, those who were opposed to Father Gracian.
3 By the word “Joseph,” the Saint means Mother Mary of St. Joseph; and by the words “Paul and Eliseus,” she means Father Gracian. She uses this disguise, lest her letters might be intercepted.
4 “Llamo dexos, confirmados con obras,” &c.
5 Literally, “Que el que se està quebrando la cabeza à sus solas.”
6 The name by which the Saint alludes to Father Gracian.
7 St. John of the Cross.
8 This letter also seems to have been written from Avila.