I arrived here safely on the vigil of our Lady. Señora Doña Luisa was overjoyed. We spent a lot of time talking about you, which is a pleasure for me, for since she loves you so much she doesn’t tire of this.
Saint Teresa of Avila
Letter 19 to María de Mendoza, Valladolid (excerpt)
Toledo, End of March 1569
“Yo llegué aquí buena la víspera de nuestra Señora. Hase holgado en extremo la señora doña Luisa.”
Cerda, Luisa de la (d. 1596). Daughter of the second Duke of Medinaceli, Luisa de la Cerda in 1537 married Antonio Arias Pardo de Saavedra, nephew of Cardinal Pardo de Tavera and one of the wealthiest and most titled men in Castile. Of his seven children, four were still alive when he died in 1561. His death left his wife so afflicted that the family began to fear for her. Finally, after many other failed attempts to comfort her, the family asked the provincial of the Carmelites to allow Teresa to stay with her in her palace in Toledo. Teresa remained with her for about six months and was able to help free her from the bonds of her affliction, frequent the sacraments, and practice good works. While living in the palace, Teresa was able to observe that nobility and wealth did not free one from the slavery of many human passions. In 1567 Luisa offered to fund a foundation in Malagón if the nuns would pray for her deceased husband. The house that the nuns rented there was poor and inadequate for their needs. Finally, on her return from Seville, Teresa insisted that Luisa build them a new monastery, which she had promised to do. The new monastery, the only one of Teresa’s houses that was not an adaptation of some already existing house, was built according to Teresa’s own specifications and still exists as a Carmel today, as do all of Teresa’s foundations. When the foundation of nuns in Toledo was made, Luisa gave them hospitality in her home while they tried to find a house for themselves. They were very poor and met with serious difficulties, but it doesn’t seem that Luisa did anything to help them. Teresa wrote in her Foundations, “It will seem impossible that though we had stayed in the house of that lady who loved me so much, we had to enter the new foundation in so much poverty (Foundations 15.13). Nonetheless Teresa continued on good terms with Doña Luisa, sending her little gifts, but also feeling free to ask her for favors when she needed help for herself or someone else. Among these favors was the task Doña Luisa undertook to deliver the precious secret manuscript of Teresa’s Life to St. John of Avila.
Letter 19 excerpt and Biography of Doña Luisa de la Cerda The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. ICS Publications Copyright © 2001, 1985 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.