How our Father General came to Avila and what followed from his visit
Our generals always reside in Rome and none ever came to Spain [more precisely, none had ever visited Castile]. So it seemed impossible that one should come now. But since nothing is impossible when our Lord wants it, His Majesty ordained that what had never happened before should come about now.
When I came to know of it, I felt grieved. For as was already mentioned concerning the foundation of St. Joseph’s, that house was not subject to the friars for the reason given [insufficient funds].
I feared two things: one, that our Father General would be displeased with me (and rightly so since he was unaware of how the things had come to pass); the other, that he would order me to return to the monastery of the Incarnation, where the mitigated rule is observed, which for me would have been an affliction for many reasons—there would be no point in going into them. One reason should be enough: that in the Incarnation I wouldn’t be able to observe the austerity of the primitive rule, that the community numbers more than 150, [there were 180 nuns], and that where there are few there is more harmony and quiet.
Our Lord did better than I had imagined. For the general is such a servant of the Lord, and so discreet and learned, that he regarded the work as good; moreover he showed no displeasure toward me. His name is Fray Juan Bautista Rubeo de Ravenna, a person very distinguished in the order, and rightly so [Prior General Giovanni Battista Rossi visited Avila February 16-18, 1567].
Well then, when he arrived in Avila, I arranged that he come to St. Joseph’s. And the bishop [Alvaro de Mendoza, who approved the founding of St. Joseph’s monastery] thought it well that he be given all the welcome that the bishop himself would receive.
I gave our Father General an account in all truth and openness, for it is my inclination to speak thus with my superiors, whatever might happen, since they stand in the place of God—and with confessors, the same. If I didn’t do this, it wouldn’t seem to me that my soul was secure.
And so I gave him an account of my soul and of almost my whole life, although it is very wretched. He consoled me much and assured me that he wouldn’t order me to leave St. Joseph’s.
“My desires to help some soul come closer to God were great.” #StTeresaofAvilaTweet
He rejoiced to see our manner of life, a portrait, although an imperfect one, of the beginnings of our order, and how the primitive rule was being kept in all its rigor, for it wasn’t being observed in any monastery in the entire order; only the mitigated rule was observed [this was true in Spain; there was one monastery near Genoa that also observed the primitive rule].
And with the desire he had that this beginning go forward, he gave me very extensive patent letters so that more monasteries could be founded, along with censures to prevent any provincial from restraining me [the patent letters were dated 27 April 1567 and 16 May 1567]. I did not ask for these, but he understood from my way of prayer that my desires to help some soul come closer to God were great.
I was not seeking these means; rather the thought seemed to me foolish because a useless little woman as helpless as I well understood that she couldn’t do anything. But when these desires come to a soul, it is not in its power to put them aside.
“Faith and the love of pleasing God make possible what to natural reason is not possible.” #StTeresaofAvilaTweet
And thus in seeing the strong desire of our Most Reverend General that more monasteries be founded, it seemed to me I saw them founded. Remembering the words our Lord had spoken to me [“Wait a little, daughter, and you will see great things”], I now perceived some beginning to what before I could not understand.
I was very sad to see our Father General return to Rome. I had grown to love him very much, and it seemed to me I was left helpless. He showed me the greatest kindness, and during the times that he was free from his duties he came to speak about spiritual things as one to whom the Lord must grant great favors. In this house, it was a consolation for us to hear him.
Saint Teresa of Avila
The Foundations, chap. 2, nos. 1–4
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.