To the Reverend Father Gracian, de la Madre de Dios.
This letter was written while the Saint was engaged in the foundation of Palencia. The chronicles of the Order inform us of a great difference which arose between the nuns of Alva and their foundress. Of this the Saint speaks in the present letter. As a chapter was also about to be held at Alcalá, in order to establish a separate province, the Saint wrote to several of the superiors who intended to be present, and gave them very important advice on several points. This is one of the letters she wrote to Father Gracian on that occasion. Date, 1581. Carta XXVI. Spanish ed. vol. i.
JESUS be with your Reverence. Amen.
By this letter your Reverence will be made acquainted with the difference which has arise between the nuns of Alva and their foundress. They begin to fear her, because she has made them receive novices, who have reduced them to great want. I see, therefore, it will be difficult to restore tranquillity amongst them; hence, it is necessary your Reverence should be made acquainted with everything that has passed.
Do not forget to command all our Houses to observe the constitutions with regard to the opening of the grate; and they should also be informed what kind of persons may be admitted, that so it may not appear you wish to put the nuns under more restraint than is necessary. I fear more the loss of that great joy which our Lord gives them than all the rest, for I know what a discontented Religious suffers. There is no necessity to require more of them than they have promised, provided they give no more occasion for using severity than they do at present.
They should not see the confessors with the grate open, nor the Religious of any order, much less those of our reform. But they may explain the constitutions in favour of an uncle or some near relation, who acts as a father towards them: the relaxation would then be just. They may plead also in favour of a duchess, countess, or a person of high dignity; in a word, where there can be no danger to themselves, and where others may derive some spiritual profit. Excepting these cases, the nuns should never speak with the grate open. But if any other case should occur, where there may be a doubt, they ought then to consult the provincial and ask his leave; otherwise they should never open the grate. I fear, however, the provincial will easily give them leave. But it seems not to be a difficult matter to speak on spiritual matters, without opening the grate. Your Reverence will judge what should be done for the best.
I earnestly hope the nuns of Alva may soon receive some novice, that will help them to repay the money they have spent in the building. May God so order this, as He sees their wants. The nuns here are all well, for they have abundance of everything, I mean exterior goods: but as far as regards interior pleasure, these temporal goods contribute but little hitherto: far greater comfort is to be found in poverty.
May His Majesty make us understand this truth: I beseech him also to make your Reverence a great saint. Amen.
Your Reverence’s unworthy Servant and Subject,
TERESA DE JESUS.