Teresa is writing a letter. If you could see the faces she’s making while writing you would be delighted. However badly our fortunes go I don’t allow them to tell her anything. Today is January 30.
Saint Teresa of Avila
Discalced Carmelite translator, editor, and scholar Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh tells us that this autograph fragment from a letter, presumably written in 1578 to Padre Jerónimo Gracián from Avila, gives us an intimate glimpse inside the tender relationship between Teresa and her niece, ‘Teresita’, Sr. Teresa de Jesús Cepeda.
This is a little scene in which Teresa watches as Teresita, about eleven years old, makes some first attempts at writing. This fact in itself is significant. In 1935, the international literary quarterly Books Abroad invited the famed Ecuadorean writer, Víctor Manuel Rendón, to write an article on Ecuadorean literature. His topic of choice was ‘Women Writers of Ecuador’ and in it, he made a bold claim:
Who was the first woman writer of Ecuador? Teresa de Jesús Cepeda (1566-1610). Her father was a brother of Santa Teresa de Jesús. She was born in Quito but was taken at an early age to Spain and educated in the Carmelite Convent over which her glorious aunt presided. The latter said of her: “She has the disposition of an angel, and is a brilliant conversationalist; she tells stories of the Indians and of the sea better than I could tell them.” All that we have of Teresa de Jesús Cepeda is her letters; but they are written with consummate grace and in the purest Castilian, abounding in profound ideas in which discretion, strength, modesty, and piety vie with one another, like reflections of the divine intellectual gifts of the Saint of Avila.
Discalced Carmelite historian and blogger Father Iván Mora Pernía places Teresita’s date of birth as 25 October 1566, relying upon the research of Teresian biographer Father Salvador de la Virgen del Carmen, OCD.
Father Mora recalls the words of St. Teresa’s brother and Teresita’s father, Lorenzo; when he presented his daughter Teresita to the nuns at the Carmel of St. Joseph in Avila, he reportedly said, “I’m giving you the best gift I brought back from the Indies.”
Rendón, V 1935, 'Women Writers of Ecuador', Books Abroad, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 380-382.
Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.