31. S. Lorenzo


To Señor Lorenzo de Cepeda, Brother of the Saint.

Letter 4th. The Saint blames her brother for promising to yield obedience to her in the government of his soul, and answers several questions concerning prayers, penances, &c. She also explains some verses which she sends him. Date 1577. Carta XXXII. Spanish ed., vol. i.

JESUS be with you.

With regard to the secret, so far as it concerns me I did not mean to say it obliges under sin, for to this I am very much opposed, nor need you pay any attention to such a thing. It is sufficient for you to know that it gives me pain. With respect to your promise, my confessor has told me it is invalid, and this has made me very glad, since I have been in some anxiety.

Concerning the promise of obedience which you made me I told him it seemed to me very extravagant. He replied, “it was good,” provided you did not bind yourself by vow, either to me or to any one else. I accept of it, therefore, only on this condition, though not without some dislike. But I will not dwell on this matter, in order, to console you. I am much pleased to see how Father John of the Cross understands all that you mention to him, for he is a man of great experience: even Francisco1 has a little, but he has no knowledge or experience of these favours which God bestows upon you. May He be blessed for ever and ever. We are both in good health at present.

Our Lord still continues His mercies. Methinks He is pleased to show His greatness by exalting to such high favour such wretched creatures, for I know none so wicked as you and I. You must understand that for these last eight days I have been in such a state, that should it continue, I could hardly attend to so many affairs. Just before I wrote to you, my raptures have come on again; and this gives me great trouble, because they sometimes happen in public, and while I am at matins. To resist is not sufficient, nor can they be concealed. I am so ashamed that I could hide myself I know not where. I earnestly beg of God to deliver me from having them in public; and do you also pray for me, for they are attended with many inconveniences, and it seems to me that prayer does not consist in having them at all. On those days I am almost like one drunk:2 still I am well able to perceive that the soul is in a good state, and thus, as the faculties are not free, it is painful to attend to anything more than to what the soul wishes.

For about a week before these happened, I was in such a state, that often I was not able to have one good thought, but rather was filled with very great aridity. But yet, in some respect, I felt much pleasure, for I had been some days before just as I am now; and it is an extreme source of delight, so clearly to see what little we can do of ourselves.

Blessed be He who can do all things. Amen. I have said enough. The rest cannot be written in a letter, nor spoken. It is just that we praise our Lord, one for the other; at least you must do so for me, since I am unable to give Him all the thanks which I owe Him, and therefore I require great help.

With regard to what you say you have felt, I do not know what advice to give you; it is certainly more than can be well understood, and is the beginning of great good, except you should lose it again by your own fault. I have already passed through that kind of prayer in which the soul sometimes enjoys repose, and then, at other times, it excites her to perform some penances. Especially, if it be a strong impetuosity, it seems intolerable, unless the soul employ herself in doing something for God. It is a stroke of Divine love3 which He gives the soul; and if this goes on increasing, you will then understand that part of the stanza which you say you do not now comprehend. It is a violent pain and grief, without our knowing why we feel it, and yet it is a very delicious pain. And though it must be in reality a wound which Divine love makes in the soul, yet she knows not whence, nor how it comes, nor whether it be a wound, nor what it is. Only a pleasant pain is felt, which makes her complain, and therefore she says:–

“Thou woundest, yet not offendest,
And without pain away takest
All love we have for creatures “4

And when the soul is in reality wounded with this love of God, the love she has for creatures is removed without any pain (I mean in such a way, that the soul is not tied by any love for them): but this could not be done, did not the soul possess this love of God; for if we love creatures too much, anything connected with them gives us pain, and much more when we part with them. But when God takes up His abode in the soul, He begins to give her dominion over all created things; and though this presence and delight pass away (which is the thing you complain of), as if there had been nothing with regard to the perception thereof by the senses, to which God has been pleased to give some part of the soul’s joy; yet God does not abandon her, nor does He fail to enrich her with His graces, as may in course of time be seen by the effects.

Make no account of those troubles which you mention; and though I have never experienced them, because God in His goodness has always preserved me from such trials, yet I conceive they must proceed from this cause, viz., the delight of the soul being so great, it causes some emotions outwardly: but these, with the Divine blessing, will grow less and less, provided you make no account of them. Some persons have spoken to me on this matter. Those tremblings5 will all go away, for the soul is terrified, because they are new to her, and she thinks she has reason to be so: but the oftener these things happen, the better disposed will she be to receive favours. Do all you can to resist these tremblings or perform some exterior action, lest you should contract a habit, which would only hinder, instead of helping you.

With regard to the heat which you say you feel, it neither does good nor harm: if it be too much, it may rather injure your health somewhat. But this also may perhaps leave you, like the tremblings. These things are (as far as I can judge) in a great measure constitutional; and as you are of a sanguine temperament, the powerful emotions of the Spirit, joined with the natural heat which mounts up and gathers round the heart, may be the cause of these effects. But, as I have said, these can add nothing more to your prayer.

I believe I have already given you an answer as to what you said about remaining afterwards as if nothing had happened. I know not if it be St. Augustine who says: “That the Spirit of God passes without leaving any mark, like an arrow which leaves none in the air.” I remember now that I sent you an answer, for I have received a great number of letters since I read yours: and even now I have to write so many answers, that I can hardly find time to send this off. At other times, the soul continues in such a state, that she cannot return to herself for many days, and she seems to resemble the sun, whose rays give heat, and yet the sun is not seen: thus it appears as if the soul dwelt somewhere else, and animated the body without being in it, because some faculty is suspended.

Thanks be to God, you go on very well in the method you employ for meditation,–I mean when you do not enjoy quietude. I know not if I have answered everything, for I am always obliged to read your letter over again, which is so small loss of time, and now I cannot read it except by little and little. You need not take this trouble with the letters which you write to me. I never do it with mine. If some letters or words should be wanting, put them in, as I shall do the same to yours, for we can easily understand what each other wishes to say; hence, to peruse the letters over again, would be loss of time for no purpose.

When you cannot recollect yourself properly in the time of prayer, or when you are desirous of doing something for our Lord, I send you this hair-shirt, which will powerfully revive your love. But I send it on this condition, that you do not wear it after you have dressed yourself, nor when you go to bed.

It may be applied to any part of the body, in such a way as to give you some pain. But I recommend mortification with some fear. As you are of a sanguine temperament, anything might heat your blood; but yet the pleasure is so great which is produced by doing something for God (even should it be a mere nothing, like this is), that I earnestly wish you to try this penance. When the winter is over, you shall do a little more, for I intend taking care of you. Write, and tell me how you like this “trifling” mortification,–such I call it, for when we sincerely desire to exercise judgment against ourselves, and remember what our Lord suffered for us, it is indeed trifling. I cannot help smiling, to see how you send me sweetmeats, delicacies, and money, and I send you a hair-shirt!

Our Father Visitor is in good health, and visits the convents. It is wonderful to see how quiet he keeps the province, and how much he is beloved. The method of prayer, the virtue, and the talents which God has given him, shine pre-eminently. May His Majesty be with you, and preserve you, for I can hardly stop when I am speaking to you. All send their very kind regards to you, and I the same. Always consult Francisco de Salcedo concerning my affairs. You have reason to love him, for he is a saint. My health is very good.

Your unworthy Servant,


January 17th.

P.S.–Send to the bishop, and ask him for the book, for I may perhaps wish to finish it, together with what our Lord has since given to me. This would make matter enough for another book, and a large one, too, if our Lord should wish me to finish it: if not, the loss will be but small.

1 Francisco de Salcedo, the holy gentleman of Avila, of whom the Saint so often speaks.

2 Como un borracho en parte.

3 “Un toque ne amor.”

4 These three lines are taken from the first stanza of verses which the Saint had sent to her brother in another letter. (See the “Interior Castle,” Letter No. XII., and Appendix No. II.)

5 “Esos estremacimientos.”

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