Saint Teresa treats of the foundation of the monastery of the glorious St. Joseph made in the city of Toledo in 1569
The Book of the Foundations, Chapter 15
For some days we had no more than the straw mattresses and the blanket,and even that day we didn’t have so much as a stick of wood to make a fire to cook a sardine. And I don’t know who it was the Lord moved to leave a little bundle of wood in the church to help us.
The nights were quite cold; but with the blanket and the woolen mantles we wore, we kept ourselves warm, for these mantles often help us. It will seem impossible that though we had stayed in the house of that lady who loved me so much, [Doña Luisa de la Cerda] we had to enter the new foundation in so much poverty. I don’t know the reason, except that God wanted us to experience the good that lies in this virtue. I did not ask for help, because I don’t like to be a bother; and she perhaps wasn’t aware. Moreover, I am indebted for what she was able to give us.
The experience was very good for us; the interior consolation and happiness we felt were so great that I often think about what the Lord keeps stored up within the virtues. It seems to me this lack we experienced was the cause of a sweet contemplation.
But this poverty did not last long, for soon [the principal benefactor] Alonso Alvarez himself, as well as others, were providing us with more than we needed. And, true to say, my sadness was such that it resembled that of discovering that many gold jewels in my possession were taken away and I left poor.
Thus I felt sorry that they were bringing our poverty to an end, and my companions felt the same. Since I saw they were sad, I asked them what troubled them, and they answered: “What else could it be, Mother, for it no longer seems we are poor.”
From then on my desire to be very poor increased. And I felt freedom in having so little esteem for temporal goods, for the lack of these goods brings an increase of interior good. Certainly, such a lack carries in its wake another kind of fullness and tranquility.
To Padres Luis de Guzmán, S.J. and Pablo Hernández, S.J. Toledo
I, Teresa of Jesus, prioress of St. Joseph’s in Avila, have received from the Most Reverend General, Master Fray Juan Bautista Rubeo, sufficient patent letters for founding and accepting monasteries of the primitive rule of the holy Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I have been informed that in the city of Toledo, moved by the grace of our Lord and aided by the Blessed Virgin, patroness of our order, some persons want to give this order an alms consisting of a house together with a church and four chaplains and everything else necessary for the divine service in the church. I am of the opinion that our Lord will be served and praised by this, and I therefore accept the offer as a work of charity and alms and sign my name below.
And if it should be necessary to negotiate certain matters regarding this agreement, as usually happens, I declare that if Father Superior [Luis de Guzmán] and Padre Pablo Hernández are willing to do me this charity of working toward an understanding in these matters, I will accept the obligation to fulfill all that they arrange. And if they themselves should not want to enter into these negotiations, I will accept whomever they appoint; we must not fail in reaching an agreement since my going to that city would please the Lord.
And because these things are my desire, I declare that I will carry them out and attest to this with my signature.
Valladolid, 7 December 1568.
Teresa of Jesus, prioress St. Joseph’s in Avila, Carmelite
Carmelite Prior General Giovanni Battista Rossi—who St. Teresa referred to as ‘Juan Bautista Rubeo’—died on this date, 4 September 1578 as a consequence of an accident in which he fell from his mule and broke his leg. Teresa was deeply saddened when she received the news:
I greatly grieved over the news written to me about our Father General. I feel deep sorrow, and the first day cried and cried without being able to do otherwise. (Letter 272, 15 October 1578)
Read a brief biography of Father Giovanni Battista Rossi here.
When everything was ready the Lord was pleased that on St. Bartholomew’s day the habit was received by some and the Blessed Sacrament was reserved and with all due authority and power our monastery of our most glorious father St. Joseph was founded, in 1562.
Saint Teresa of Avila The Story of Her Life, Chap. 36
Kieran Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O, and Teresa, 1976, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
On 2 August 1901, the cloister door of the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Dijon opened wide to admit 21-year-old Elizabeth Catez as a postulant. Mother Marie of Jesus, the prioress of Dijon who was also the foundress of the new Carmel of Paray-le-Monial, had desired to take the young postulant with her to the new foundation. Mother Marie had discussed it with Madame Catez toward the end of June, who promised the prioress that she would make the supreme sacrifice and permit her daughter to enter a Carmel in another diocese. Elizabeth, in an attitude of total abandonment to the will of God, was ready to accept all.
Biographer Conrad de Meester, O.C.D. notes that at the beginning of July, Mother Marie of Jesus began to prepare for the new postulant in Paray-le-Monial. Elizabeth would enter on the First Friday in August—August 2nd. The entire month of July was spent with a sense of certitude in the Catez household that Sabeth would be over 100 kilometers from home, not a mere stone’s throw away, not even within earshot as the nuns would sing the Sanctus after Madame Catez would take a brisk walk to morning Mass at the Carmelite monastery.
The postulant’s trousseau was already prepared in Paray-le-Monial when Madame Catez was overcome with regret. She confided in a friend. The friend advised her that she should take up the matter with someone of authority. God writes straight with crooked lines, they say; in this case, the line of authority ran directly from the Sister who was the monastery Portress and an old friend of the Catez family: Sr. Marie of the Trinity.
When Sister Marie learned how distraught Madame Catez had become at the prospect of losing her daughter to the Carmel of Paray-le-Monial, Sister had an idea:to have her own spiritual director, the esteemed Dominican friar Père Vallée, intervene with Mother Marie of Jesus. But first, Sister Marie needed to ascertain Elizabeth’s own sentiments in the matter. That was simple.
During the Diocesan Inquiry for the process of beatification, Sister Marie of the Trinity explained under oath that when Elizabeth next stopped by the monastery, Sister Marie quizzed her concerning her upcoming postulancy in the Carmel of Paray-le-Monial.
Do you have a special attraction for the city of the Sacred Heart?
Does a foundation there attract you?
I rather doubt it. The peace and silence of an established monastery like Dijon would attract me much more. And the distance would cost my mother.
Have you talked to Père Vallée about this?
No, I prefer to abandon myself and let the good God guide everything according to his good wishes.
Would you permit me to talk to Father about it?
Father de Meester writes that without the intervention of Sister Marie of the Trinity, the portress of Dijon, we would not even be speaking of Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity from the Carmel of Dijon; she would be known as Elizabeth from the Carmel of Paray-le-Monial.
De Meester also indicates that when the Dominican Père Vallée learned of the great emotional toll it would take upon Elizabeth’s mother, he urged Madame Catez to speak honestly with Mother Marie about her misgivings and her sincere desire to remain near her beloved daughter. That distance of 140 kilometers between Dijon and Paray-le-Monial could make visits to the monastery difficult and rare.
It was all a last-minute decision. On the 28th or the 29th of July, Madame Catez wrote to Mother Marie of Jesus, who was away at Paray-le-Monial. Father De Meester indicates that the prioress responded immediately and “with humanity and serenity.”
May the good God give you peace and joy in your great sacrifice. As far as I am concerned, I am happy to be able to contribute by leaving our dear child to [the Carmel of] Dijon and you can consider it as having taken place. I am writing to Dijon that they should prepare her little cell for the 2nd of August—if I am not there to receive her, our dear Mother sub-prioress Germaine of Jesus and Sister Marie of the Trinity—her guardian angel—will be there and I will find her when I return; I am really held back here. So console yourself right now, as well as my dear little Marguerite, Elizabeth will stay in Dijon.I really love Elizabeth because I feel that she loves Our Lord very much and that she will make a true daughter of Saint Teresa; if it is a sacrifice for me to lose her, it is a joy to give her to Dijon, of which I am still a mother and of which I will always be a daughter, the two convents will never be but one. I would like to write to Elizabeth, but I cannot do it tonight and I want to reassure you right away because it is painful for me to sense that you are in such anguish. Fear no more … I believe, dear Madame, that we are doing God’s will, and that’s all there is in this world.
MEESTER, Conrad de. Rien moins que Dieu : sainte Elisabeth de la Trinité (French Edition) . edi8. Kindle Edition.
Translations from the French are the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.
Dedicated to Cristhian, sine qua non.
ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS OF VIETNAM ON THEIR “AD LIMINA” VISIT
Tuesday, 17 June 1980
Last year in taking possession of his titular church, your dear Cardinal said that the Church in Vietnam has always found “a mother’s powerful hand” in Mary. I entrust to her protection your ecclesial mission and that of all the Christians in your country.
Just returning from my pilgrimage to Lisieux, permit me also to invoke the little Carmelite, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who is linked to Vietnam in many ways. Her Carmel is at the origins of Carmelite life in your homeland and, if her health had permitted it, she would have gladly gone to your country.
They could not sufficiently admire the genius of Madame Acarie
The people came in crowds to Notre Dame des Champs to see the Carmelites take possession of their monastery; distinguished persons also assisted in great numbers at this touching ceremony. All praised God for the new Order of religious that had been established, returned thanks to Spain for the present she had made to France in giving Saints for foundresses. After the Spanish religious had taken possession of the [priory], they examined the interior arrangements. They could not sufficiently admire the genius of Mme. Acarie, who had known how, in so small a space, to make all the proper arrangements, together with all that was necessary for a community. They then visited the new buildings which were on the other side of the church, and the way in which this intelligent woman had grouped them seemed to them equally admirable.
Marcel Bouix, S.J., editor (1806-1889) Autobiography of the Blessed Mother Anne of Saint Bartholomew
The foundation of St. Joseph of Carmel in the city of Seville
Preparations were immediately begun for the journey because it was beginning to get very hot… We journeyed in wagons well covered, which was our mode of traveling… Although we hurried along on our journey, we did not reach Seville until the Thursday before Trinity Sunday, [26 May 1575] after having endured scorching heat.
Even though we did not travel during siesta time, I tell you, Sisters, that since the sun was beating on the wagons, getting into them was like stepping into purgatory.
Sometimes by thinking of hell, at other times by thinking that something was being done and suffered for God, those Sisters journeyed with much happiness and joy.
The six souls who were with me were of the kind that made me think I was daring enough to go off with them to the land of the Turks and that they had the fortitude, or better, our Lord gave them the fortitude, to suffer for Him; for this was the subject of their desires and conversations. They were very experienced in prayer and mortification.
Saint Teresa of Avila The Book of Her Foundations, Chap. 24
The Lord gives us so much to do these days that we can hardly keep up with it all.
At the time I left Granada for the foundation in Córdoba, I wrote to you in haste. And afterward, while in Córdoba, I received your letters and those of the gentlemen who were going to Madrid and who must have thought they would meet me while I was at the meeting of definitors. But you know this meeting never took place because we were waiting for the completion of these foundations and visitations. The Lord gives us so much to do these days that we can hardly keep up with it all. The foundation for the friars in Córdoba was completed with greater applause and solemnity throughout the entire city than was ever given there to any other religious order. All the clergy and confraternities of Córdoba gathered, and the Most Blessed Sacrament was brought with great solemnity from the Cathedral. All the streets were beautifully decorated, and the people acted as though it were the feast of Corpus Christi. This took place on the Sunday after Ascension Thursday. The Bishop came and preached, praising us highly. The house is situated in the best district of the city, in the neighborhood of the Cathedral.
Saint John of the Cross Letter 5 to Madre Ana de San Alberto, prioress of Caravaca Sevilla, June 1586
On 18 May 1586 St. John of the Cross founded the convent of Córdoba of the Discalced Carmelite friars. Although St. John founded the convent “in the neighborhood of the Cathedral” in 1586, a few years later the community transferred to a convent near the Puerta del Colodro just north of the old city wall called the Muralla de la Axerquía. [Source: Efemérides Carmelitanas]
The magistrates came to receive us half a mile outside the city. All the people arranged in procession welcomed us with demonstrations of most lively faith. The gathering was so great, and our entrance made with such solemnity, that we were unable to cross the threshold of our home until evening. There was reason to praise God in witnessing the devotion with which the inhabitants of Pontoise received this new foundation, and even now they retain the same sentiments. Our Lord has granted and ceases not to grant many favors to this city, owing to the prayers of the Sisters.
Witnessing all this, I experienced intense sorrow only at the thought that I was to be head of the monastery. I was like one condemned to death, and so mortified that it seemed to me the office of Prioress, in my case, was a disgrace, and that never in any other circumstances had I been weighed down body and soul by such ignominy. My whole being seemed but a worm of the earth; and that in truth is what I am. But I never saw it in so clear a light as on that occasion.
Being one day before the Blessed Sacrament, I begged our Lord that He, Himself, would be watchful for His glory, and that He would assist me, as I felt entirely alone. He said to me: “I am here; I consider you as the light of my eyes.”
Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew Autobiography of the Blessed Mother Anne of Saint Bartholomew
Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew, despite her fears and trepidation, became one of the great foundresses of the Teresian Carmel in France and Belgium. The Carmel of Pontoise was founded with the aid of Blessed Madame Acarie (Marie of the Incarnation), 15 January 1605, three months after the foundation of the Carmel of Paris on faubourg Saint-Jacques, 18 October 1604.
a sister of the Duke of Medinaceli, in whose home I had stayed by order of my superiors, as I mentioned more at length in writing about the foundation of St. Joseph’s. [Avila] While I was in her home, she got to like me in a special way, which in turn must have been a means by which this lady was stirred to do what she did. For His Majesty often makes use of means like these that seem fruitless to us who don’t know the future.
Since this lady knew that I had permission to found monasteries, she began to urge me very much to make a foundation in her town of Malagón.
Malagón is a small town, still today, in the province of Ciudad Real. In feudal times it belonged to the duchy of Medinaceli.
I in no way wanted to accept since the town was so small that we would be forced to have an income in order to support ourselves — something to which I was very much opposed.
Both my confessor [Domingo Báñez, O.P.] and other learned men with whom I discussed the matter told me that I was doing wrong, that since the holy Council had given permission to have an income, I shouldn’t, because of my own opinion, fail to found a monastery where God could be so much served. To this were added the many urgings of this lady which I could not resist. She provided a sufficient income, for I am always in favor of monasteries being either completely poor or maintained in such a way that the nuns will not need to beg from anyone for their needs.
I made every effort I could so that none of the nuns would possess anything, but that they would observe the constitutions in their entirety as in our other monasteries founded in poverty. Having completed all the paperwork, I sent for some Sisters to make the foundation, and along with that lady we went to Malagón. When we got there, the house was not yet ready for us to move in. And so we were detained for more than eight days in an apartment of this lady’s castle.
On Palm Sunday, [April 11] in the year 1568, with the people of the town, we went in procession to the church, in our white mantles and with veils covering our faces. A sermon was preached there, and from that church, the Blessed Sacrament was brought to our monastery. This inspired great devotion in everybody. I stayed there for some days. On one of those days, while in prayer after having received Communion, I understood from our Lord that He would be served in that house.
Saint Teresa of Avila
The Book of Her Foundations, Chap. 9
Saint Teresa urged Doña Luisa to build her nuns in Malagón a new monastery, the construction of which she supervised carefully. Inaugurated December 8, 1579, this building remains today, an exceptional relic still housing Teresa’s daughters.
I arrived here safely on the vigil of our Lady. Señora Doña Luisa was overjoyed. We spent a lot of time talking about you, which is a pleasure for me, for since she loves you so much she doesn’t tire of this.
Saint Teresa of Avila
Letter 19 to María de Mendoza, Valladolid (excerpt) Toledo, End of March 1569
“Yo llegué aquí buena la víspera de nuestra Señora. Hase holgado en extremo la señora doña Luisa.”
Cerda, Luisa de la (d. 1596). Daughter of the second Duke of Medinaceli, Luisa de la Cerda in 1537 married Antonio Arias Pardo de Saavedra, nephew of Cardinal Pardo de Tavera and one of the wealthiest and most titled men in Castile. Of his seven children, four were still alive when he died in 1561. His death left his wife so afflicted that the family began to fear for her. Finally, after many other failed attempts to comfort her, the family asked the provincial of the Carmelites to allow Teresa to stay with her in her palace in Toledo. Teresa remained with her for about six months and was able to help free her from the bonds of her affliction, frequent the sacraments, and practice good works. While living in the palace, Teresa was able to observe that nobility and wealth did not free one from the slavery of many human passions. In 1567 Luisa offered to fund a foundation in Malagón if the nuns would pray for her deceased husband. The house that the nuns rented there was poor and inadequate for their needs. Finally, on her return from Seville, Teresa insisted that Luisa build them a new monastery, which she had promised to do. The new monastery, the only one of Teresa’s houses that was not an adaptation of some already existing house, was built according to Teresa’s own specifications and still exists as a Carmel today, as do all of Teresa’s foundations. When the foundation of nuns in Toledo was made, Luisa gave them hospitality in her home while they tried to find a house for themselves. They were very poor and met with serious difficulties, but it doesn’t seem that Luisa did anything to help them. Teresa wrote in her Foundations, “It will seem impossible that though we had stayed in the house of that lady who loved me so much, we had to enter the new foundation in so much poverty (Foundations 15.13). Nonetheless Teresa continued on good terms with Doña Luisa, sending her little gifts, but also feeling free to ask her for favors when she needed help for herself or someone else. Among these favors was the task Doña Luisa undertook to deliver the precious secret manuscript of Teresa’s Life to St. John of Avila.
We arrived in Villanueva de la Jara on the first Sunday of Lent, the feast of St. Barbaciani, [21 February] the vigil of the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, in the year 1580. On this same day at the time of the high Mass, the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in the church of the glorious St. Anne.
The city council and some others along with Doctor Ervías came out to receive us, and we got down from our wagons at the church in the town, which was quite far from St. Anne’s. The joy of the whole town was so great.
It gave me much consolation to see the happiness with which they received the order of the Blessed Virgin, our Lady.
We had heard from afar the peal of the church bells. Once we were inside the church, they began the Te Deum, one verse sung by the choir and the other played by the organ.
When it was finished, they carried the Blessed Sacrament on one portable platform and a statue of our Lady on another, and crosses and banners. The procession proceeded with much pomp.
We were in the middle near the Blessed Sacrament with our white mantles and our veils covering our faces, and next to us were many of our discalced friars from their monastery and Franciscans from the monastery of St. Francis that was located there, and one Dominican who happened to be present (even though he was alone it made me happy to see that habit there).
Since the distance was great, there were many altars set up along the way. From time to time the procession stopped and some verses were recited in honor of our order which moved us to great devotion. So did the sight of all of them praising the great God present in our midst and the fact that because of Him they paid so much honor to us seven poor, little discalced nuns who were there.
While I was engaged in all these reflections, I became very ashamed in recalling that I was among them and that if they were to do what I deserved they would all turn against me.
Saint Teresa of Avila The Book of Her Foundations, Chapter 28
We are grateful to photographer José-María Moreno García for making his photo-documentary of the Fifth Centenary visit to Saint Teresa’s foundation of Villanueva de la Jara available for download under a Creative Commons license. To see the complete photo album from this foundation, click here.
SAINT TERESA OF AVILA Spiritual Testimonies, No. 6 (Malagón, Feb. 9, 1570)
Our Lord encourages her to make more foundations and to write their history
Right after I received Communion, on the second day of Lent, in St. Joseph’s at Malagón, our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me in an imaginative vision, as He usually does.
While I was gazing upon Him, I saw in place of the crown of thorns a crown of great brilliance on His head, there where the wounds must have been made.
Since I am devoted to this episode of the Passion, I was very much consoled and began to think how great the torment must have been since there were so many wounds; and I became afflicted. The Lord told me that I shouldn’t grieve over those wounds, but over the many that were now inflicted upon Him. I asked Him what I could do as a remedy for this because I was determined to do everything I could.
He told me that now was not the time for rest, but that I should hurry to establish these houses
He told me that now was not the time for rest, but that I should hurry to establish these houses; that He found his rest with the souls living in them; that I should accept as many houses as given me since there were many persons who did not serve Him because they had no place for it; that those houses I founded in small towns should be like this one, for, by desire, as much could be merited as in the other houses; that I should strive to put all the houses under the government of a superior; that I should insist that the interior peace not be lost through a concern for bodily sustenance; that He would help us so nothing would be lacking; that the sick especially should be cared for; that a prioress who did not provide for and favor the sick was like Job’s friends; that He made use of the scourge for the good of souls, and that in such an event they should practice patience;
and that I should write about the foundation of these houses.
I thought of how in regard to the house at Medina I never understood anything in a way that I could write of its foundation. He told me that that was all the more reason to write of it since He wanted it to be seen that the Medina foundation had been miraculous. He meant that He alone founded that house since it had seemed absolutely impossible to found.
And as a result I decided to write about the founding of these houses.
With profound gratitude to the translator, Father Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D., who with his Spanish collaborator Father Otilio Rodriguez is the sine qua non of all of the texts of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross that we publish on this blog. Father Kieran died 2 February 2019, just days shy of his 91st birthday. His funeral Mass is celebrated today, 9 February in the monastery chapel in Washington DC and his interment will be at the provincial cemetery in Holy Hill, Wisconsin, 14 February. To learn more about Father Kieran and his remarkable career as a translator and Discalced Carmelite, visit the Washington Provinceblog.