Quote of the day, 28 November: St. Teresa of Avila

On the First or Second Sunday of Advent (I don’t remember which of these Sundays it was), in the year 1568, the first Mass was said in that little stable of Bethlehem, for it doesn’t seem to me the house was any better [In fact, it was the First Sunday of Advent, 28 November 1568 that Fray Antonio de Heredia and St. John of the Cross began to observe the “Primitive Rule” of Pope Innocent IV in Duruelo, Spain].

The following Lent, while on my way to the foundation in Toledo, I passed by there [around the first week of Lent]. When I arrived in the morning, Father Fray Antonio was sweeping the doorway to the church with that joyful expression on his face that he always has. I said to him: “What’s this, my Father; what has become of your honor?” Telling me of his great happiness, he answered with these words: “I curse the day I had any.”

Actress Concha Velasco recreates the scene where St. Teresa visits the foundation at Duruelo in the RTVE series Teresa de Jesús (screengrab)

When I entered the little church, I was astonished to see the spirit the Lord had put there. And it wasn’t only I, for the two merchants, my friends from Medina who had accompanied me there, did nothing else but weep. There were so many crosses, so many skulls! I never forget a little cross made for the holy water font from sticks with a paper image of Christ attached to it; it inspired more devotion than if it had been something very expertly carved.

The choir was in the loft. In the middle of the loft, the ceiling was high enough to allow for the recitation of the Hours, but one had to stoop low in order to enter and to hear Mass. There were in the two corners facing the church two little hermitages, where one could do no more than either lie down or sit. Both were filled with hay because the place was very cold, and the roof almost touched one’s head. Each had a little window facing the altar and a stone for a pillow; and there, too, the crosses and skulls.

I learned that after the friars finished Matins they did not leave the choir before Prime but remained there in prayer, for their prayer was so deep that when it came time to say Prime their habits were covered with snow without their having become aware of the fact. The two Fathers recited the Hours with another Father from among those of the cloth [the O.Carm. friars] who went to stay with them (although he didn’t change his habit because he was very sickly) and another young, unordained brother who was also there [They were Father Lucas de Celis and Brother José de Cristo, a deacon. Neither of them persevered for long].

Saint Teresa of Avila

Book of the Foundations, Chap. 14, nos. 6–7

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.

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