It seems to me an imperfection, my Sisters, to be always complaining about light illnesses. If you can tolerate them, don’t complain about them. When the sickness is serious, it does the complaining itself; this is different and the sickness is immediately obvious.
Consider that you are few, and if one has this habit of complaining, it wears everyone out if you have love for one another and there is charity. If someone is truly sick, she should say so and take the necessary remedy.
In all this that I have said I am not dealing with serious illnesses, when there is great fever—although I beg for moderation and always patience—but of little ailments, that one can bear on one’s feet.
But what would happen if this that I’m writing were seen outside the house? What would all the nuns say about me? How willingly I would suffer their talk if someone were to make amends! For if there is but one nun like this, the situation can reach a point that for the most part no one is believed no matter how serious her sickness may be.
Let us remember our holy fathers of the past, those hermits whose lives we aim to imitate. What sufferings they endured! What solitude, cold, and hunger, and what sun and heat, without anyone to complain to but God! Do you think they were made of steel? Well, they were as delicate as we.
And believe, daughters, that when we begin to conquer these wretched little bodies, we will not be so troubled by them. There will be enough Sisters to look after what is necessary; forget about yourselves except in what concerns a definite need.
If we do not determine once and for all to swallow death and the lack of health, we will never do anything. Strive not to fear them; abandon yourselves totally to God, come what may.
Saint Teresa of Avila
The Way of Perfection, chap. 11, 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.
Featured image: Nuns who are members of the Association of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, representing monasteries in the Holy Land, Egypt, Morocco, and Syria, gathered to pray in the first chapel of the Carmelite Order, located in the wadi ’ain es-siah on the Mediterranean slope of Mount Carmel. There they read together the Carmelite Rule of St. Albert in observance of the Eighth Centenary of the promulgation of the Rule in 2007. Image credit: Holy Land Carmelites (Used by permission)
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