For Mother Prioress at the Carmel of St. Joseph’s in Seville.
May the Holy Spirit be with your reverence, my mother. It seems our Lord doesn’t want me to go long without having something to suffer.
You should know that our Lord has been pleased to bring to himself his good friend and servant Lorencio de Cepeda [her younger brother, Lorenzo].
He was struck by such intense hemorrhaging that he suffocated from it in less than six hours. He had received Communion two days before and died fully conscious, entrusting himself to our Lord.
I hope in the divine mercy that he went to enjoy the Lord, for he was at a point in which anything that did not deal with serving our Lord wearied him. For this reason he was happy to stay at his country property [in La Serna] which was a league from Avila. He used to say that worldly compliments made him feel uneasy. His prayer was continual because he always walked in the presence of God, and His Majesty granted him so many favors that sometimes I was amazed. He was very inclined toward penance and so he did more than I would have desired him to do. He looked to me for advice in everything; it was strange, the credit he gave to what I told him, and this was because of his great love for me. I am repaying him by rejoicing that he has gone forth from so miserable a life and that he is now safe. And this is not just a way of speaking, but I feel joy when I think of this. I feel sorry for his children [Teresita (at St. Joseph’s in Avila), Francisco (in Spain), and Lorenzo (in Peru)], but I think that because of their father God will show them his favor.
I have given you such a full account because I know that his death will cause you and all my sisters there, to grieve, and I want to console you thereby. It is a wonderful thing how much he felt their trials and his love for them. Now it is time to repay him and recommend him to our Lord, on the condition that if he has no need of your prayers (as I believe he doesn’t, for our faith allows me to think this way), they may serve to benefit the souls most in need of them.
You should know that a little before he died he wrote a letter to me here at St. Joseph’s in Segovia, which is where I now am (eleven leagues from Avila), telling me things that didn’t seem to imply anything else than that he knew what little time he had left to live, for it has amazed me.
It seems to me, my daughter, that everything passes so quickly that we should be thinking more about how to die than how to live. Please God, since I am left here, I may serve him in some way, for I am four years older than he, and I never manage to die; rather, I’ve recovered from the illness I had [paralysis and chest pain], and only experience the usual ailments, especially headaches. (…)
You should know that as long as I live, I desire to do something in God’s service. Since I’ve done so little, I don’t want to spend the time as idly as I have done these past years in which I only suffered interiorly with nothing else to show. Beg our Lord to give me the strength to do something in his service. (…)
My brother died the Sunday after the feast of St. John.
Saint Teresa of Avila
Letter 347 to Madre María de San José, Seville
4 July 1580
Lorenzo de Cepeda (1519-1580) was Saint Teresa’s younger brother who was next to her in birth order. Spain’s Royal Academy of History notes that “All the men left for the Indies, infected with the spirit of adventure and chivalry of the era.” Teresa’s older brothers Hernando and Rodrigo, as well as her younger brothers Antonio and Pedro were all adventurers in “the Indies”, i.e., Central and South America. The Academy emphasizes the fact that “in the absence of her brothers, Teresa was very close to Lorenzo.”
Teresian scholar Father Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. indicates that in 1540 Lorenzo, along with his brother Jerónimo, enlisted in the army of King Charles V bound for the Indies. During their military campaigns, Antonio died and Lorenzo was seriously wounded. In 1556 he married a wealthy young girl from the nobility, Juana de Fuentes y Espinosa. Holding important offices in Quito, even as mayor, he turned out to be financially successful.
When his wife died in 1567, she left Lorenzo with four living children out of the seven that were born: Francisco, Lorenzo, Esteban, and Teresita. Later with the education of his children in mind, Lorenzo decided to return to Spain. He had spent thirty-four years in the work of conquest and pacification of the Indies.
On his return trip to Spain, he took along his brothers Pedro and Jerónimo. Jerónimo died on the way back as did also Lorenzo’s youngest son, Esteban. Having left Panama in May, the Cepedas arrived in Spain in August 1575.
In October 1576 he bought a piece of farmland and woods six kilometers southeast of Avila in a place called La Serna. Retiring there with his brother Pedro to devote his final years to the care of the land and a life of prayer, Lorenzo tried to follow a daily schedule similar to that of the Carmelites. Teresa kept up a correspondence with him in which he sought her counsel and she sought his. He sought spiritual direction from Teresa for his life of prayer and also from St. John of the Cross among others. He was a generous benefactor of Teresa’s helping her with her foundation in Avila and later with the foundation in Seville and with other projects.
The Royal Academy provides the details of Lorenzo’s death and burial. In 1580, a deadly influenza epidemic ravaged Spain. After receiving the sacraments, Lorenzo prepared himself for death and died in Avila, as inscribed on the tombstone of his sepulcher in the chapel attached to St. Joseph’s:
“Lorenzo de Cepeda died on June 26, in the year 1580. He was the founder of this chapel and the brother of the founder of this house and of all the Discalced Carmelites.”
Menéndez y Pelayo, M., Antología de poetas hispano‑americanos, II, LXXXV, Madrid, Est. Tipográfico Sucesores de Rivadeneyra, 1894, pág. LXXXV; Pólit Laso, M. M., Los Hermanos de Santa Teresa en América, Quito, Imprenta del Clero, 1932; Esteve Barba, F., Cultura Virreinal, Barcelona, Salvat editores, 1965.
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.