At another time while I was at prayer, my spirit was carried off to where it seemed to be in a large field in which many were in combat, and those belonging to this order were fighting with great fervor. Their faces were beautiful and very much aglow. They conquered many, throwing them to the ground; others, they killed. It seemed to me this battle was against the heretics.
Saint Teresa of Avila The Book of Her Life: Chapter 40
The second expedition of Discalced Carmelite missionary friars, composed of Fathers Pedro de los Angeles, Sebastián de S. Andrés, Bartolomé de S. Miguel, Luis de S. Pablo, and a lay-friar left Lisbon on this date in the fleet that went to the Portuguese colony of Angola. Off the Cape Verde coast, the ship on which the missionaries were sailing was left behind, which was then trapped by four English galleons captained by privateers. Father Pedro de los Apóstoles, the superior of the friars, exhorted the Portuguese to fight and die for the Catholic faith against the anti-papist English; while he was carrying on, an English sailor slashed his neck with a knife to make all the captive Spaniards and Portuguese fear for their lives; thank God, the wound was not deadly. Thus began the dispossession of the missionaries. The English took everything the priests had brought of value — books, chalices, vestments, etc. — and they roundly mocked the friars; the privateers locked the Carmelites in the galleon’s dungeon, which was a veritable portrait of hell. They continued like this for three days in the virtual belly of the whale, eating but a few crusts of hard bread dipped in seawater. The English were going to torment everyone. But seeing the so-called Spanish “heretics” — the Discalced Carmelites — singing for joy at the opportunity to suffer for Christ, the English galleon abandoned them on one of Cape Verde’s secluded islands. Fr. Sebastián de S. Andrés died on the island. The other four friars took advantage of a Spanish ship to return to Seville. So, the second expedition to Africa failed. [Source: Efemérides Carmelitanas]
Well, my soul now was tired; and, in spite of its desire, my wretched habits would not allow it rest. It happened to me that one day entering the oratory I saw a statue they had borrowed for a certain feast to be celebrated in the house. It represented the much wounded Christ and was very devotional so that beholding it I was utterly distressed in seeing Him that way, for it well represented what He suffered for us. I felt so keenly aware of how poorly I thanked Him for those wounds that, it seems to me, my heart broke. Beseeching Him to strengthen me once and for all that I might not offend Him, I threw myself down before Him with the greatest outpouring of tears.
Saint Teresa of Avila
The Book of Her Life, Chap. 9, No. 1 The account of her conversion, Lent 1554
View more images from the life of Saint Teresa here
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 will reach that city of Jerusalem, where all that has been suffered will be little, or nothing, in comparison with what is enjoyed.
Things pertaining to prayer and perfection are, because of our own sins, so discredited in the world that it’s necessary for me to explain myself the way I do. If even without seeing danger people fear to walk this path of prayer, what would happen if we mentioned some of the danger?
Although, truthfully, there is danger in everything, and, while we live, we have to proceed with fear and ask the Lord to teach us and not abandon us. But, as I believe I once said, if some danger can be lacking, there is much less of it for those who turn their thoughts more to God and strive for perfection in their lives.
Since, my Lord, we see that You often free us from the dangers in which we place ourselves, even in opposition to You, how can one believe that You will fail to free us when we aim after nothing more than to please You and delight in You? Never can I believe this! It could be that because of other secret judgments God might permit some things that must happen anyway. But good never brought about evil.
Thus, may what I have said help us strive to walk better along the road so as to please our Spouse more and find Him sooner, but not make us abandon it; and encourage us to walk with fortitude along a road that has such rugged mountain passes, as does that of this life, but not intimidate us from walking through them. For, in the final analysis, by proceeding with humility, through the mercy of God, we will reach that city of Jerusalem, where all that has been suffered will be little, or nothing, in comparison with what is enjoyed.
Saint Teresa of Avila The Book of Her Foundations, Chapter 4
It behooveth thee to grant a favor and confirmation to my holy and devout Order of Carmel
For centuries the faithful who held a pious devotion to the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel believed in an apparition of the Blessed Virgin to Pope John XXII in Avignon. Based on that supposed apparition, the sovereign pontiff issued a Papal Bull, Sacratissimo uti culmine, dated 3 March 1322 from Avignon; it is in the text of the Bull that the pope mentions the apparition. The historical difficulty with this document lies in the fact that the Bull is mentioned nowhere prior to 1752, according to Joseph Hilgers.
A modern-day spiritual descendant of St. Simon Stock, former Carmelite prior general Father Joseph Chalmers, O.Carm. writes, “In any case, the symbolism of the scapular as a sign of consecration to Mary, the Mother of Carmel, was and remains very important.” Citing the Carmelite friar, Mathias of St. John, Father Chalmers adds one important qualifier: “It would be far better to have holiness under a worldly habit than a worldly heart under a holy habit.” He concludes, “wearing the scapular is intended to be an outward reminder of what should be going on within.”
The recently deceased Discalced Carmelite scholar Father Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. discusses the historical problems head-on in his article, Brown Scapular: a Silent Devotion. He reviews the scapular as the habit of the Carmelites from their humble beginnings in the Holy Land to their spread through western Europe. In particular, Father Kieran describes the painstaking research undertaken by the Discalced Carmelites in defense of Carmelite Marian devotion following the Second Vatican Council, and how their careful documentation led to the restoration of the feast day of Saint Simon Stock to the Church’s liturgical calendar in 1979 (God reward you, Father Nilo).
But more important, Father Kieran explains with great precision where the Church stands today in regard to the Brown Scapular devotion: “No mention is made of the vision of St. Simon Stock or of that of Pope John XXII in relation to the Sabbatine privilege, which promises that one will be released from Purgatory on the first Saturday after death.”
Fr. Kavanaugh continues: “Nonetheless, the Carmelites have also been authorized to freely preach to the faithful that they can piously believe in the powerful intercession, merits, and suffrages of the Blessed Virgin, that she will help them even after their death, especially on Saturday, which is the day of the week particularly dedicated to Mary, if they have died in the grace of God and devoutly worn the scapular. But no mention is made of the “first” Saturday after their death.”
One particular reflection that this great Discalced Carmelite scholar offers is rather consoling: “If some day an historian were to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that there are no grounds to the Marian apparition to St. Simon Stock or the scapular promise, the scapular devotion would still maintain its value. The Church’s esteem of it as a sacramental, her appreciation of its meaning and of the good that has come about through its pious use on the part of the faithful is all that is needed.” Thank you, Father Kieran.
Perhaps Saint John Paul II summarized the Church’s teaching and the Carmelite scapular catechesis best in his 2001 Message to the Carmelite Family. The saint wrote, “the scapular is essentially a habit.”
For our readers who are history buffs, we have researched the Bull Sacratissimo uti culmine and found the text in Satolli’s Dictionnaire de Droit Canonique, which we present to you sans scrupule. An English translation is found here.
SACRATISSIMO UTI CULMINE
JOANNES EPISCOPUS SERVUS SERVORUM DEI, Universis et singulis Christifidelibus, tam praesentibus quam futuris, praesentes literas inspecturis, salutem et apostolicam benedictionem.
Sacratissimo uti culmine Paradisi angelorum tam suavis et dulcis reperitur melodia, modulamine visionis, dum paterno Jesus Numini circumspicitur adumatus, dicendo: Domine, Ego et Pater unum sumus, et qui videt me, videt et Patrem meum, et angelorum chorus non desinit dicere: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus; ita Synodus non cessat laudes effundere celsæ Virgini, dicendo Virgo, Virgo, Virgo, sis speculum nostrum pariter et exemplum. Quoniam munere munitur gratiarum, sicut sancta cantat Ecclesia: Gratia plena et Mater misericordiae. Sic ille mons reputatur de Carmelo Ordine cantibus extollendo, et hanc gratiarum Genitricem commendando et dicendo: Salve Regina, Mater misericordiæ et spes nostra.
Sic mihi flexis genibus supplicanti Virgo visa fuit Carmelita, sequentem effata sermonem: 0 Joannes, o Joannes, vicarie mei dilecti Filii, veluti a tuo te eripiam adversario, te Papam facio solemni dono Vicarium, meis coadjuvantibus supplicationibus, a dulcissimo meo Filio petens, quod gratiose obtinui, ita gratiam et amplam meo sancto ac devoto Carmelitarum Ordini confirmationem debeas praeconcedere, per Eliam et Eliseum in Monte Carmeli inchoato. Quod unusquisque professionem faciens, Regulam a meo servo Alberto, patriarcha, ordinatam observabit et inviolatam obtinebit, et per meum dilectum filium Innocentium approbatam, ut veri mei Filii Vicarius debeas in terris assentire, quod in cœlis meus statuit et ordinavit Filius; quod qui in sancta perseverabit obedientia, paupertate et castitate, vel qui sanctum intrabit Ordinem, salvabitur; et si alii, devotionis causa, in sanctam ingrediantur Religionem, sancti Habitus signum ferentes, appellantes se Confratres et Consorores mei Ordinis prænominati, liberentur et absolvantur a tertia eorum peccatorum portione, a die quo præfatum Ordinem intrabunt, castitatem, si vidua est, promittendo; virginitatis, si est virgo, fidem præstando; si est conjugata, inviolati conservationem matrimonii adhibendo, ut sancta mater imperat Ecclesia. Fratres proféssi dicti Ordinis supplicio solvantur et culpa, et die quo ab isto se culo recedunt, properato gradu accelerant purgatorium, ego Mater gratiose descendam sabbato post eorum obitum, et quot inveniam in purgatorio liberabo, et eos in Montem sanctum vitæ æternæ reducam. Verum quod ipsi Confratres et Consorores te neantur Horas dicere Canonicales, ut opus fuerit, secundum Regulam datam ab Alberto; illi, qui ignari sunt, debeant vitam jejunam ducere diebus quos sacra jubet Ecclesia, nisi, necessitatis causa, alicui essent traditi impedimento ; mercurio ac sabbato debeant se a carnibus abstinere, præterquam in mei Filii Nativitate. Et hoc dicto, evanuit ista sancta visio.
Istam ergo sanctam Indulgentiam accepto, roboro et in terris confirmo, sicut, propter merita Virginis Matris, gratiose Jesus-Christus concessit in coelis. Nulli ergo omnino hominum liceat hanc paginam nostræ Indulgentiæ, seu statuti, et ordinationis irritare, vel ei ausu temerario contraire. Si quis autem hoc attentare præsumpserit, indignationem Omnipotentis Dei, et Beatorum apostolorum Petri et Pauli se noverit incursurum.
Datum Avenione, tertia die Martii, Pontificatus nostri anno sexto
Being in prayer on the feastday of the glorious St. Peter, I saw or, to put it better, I felt Christ beside me; I saw nothing with my bodily eyes or with my soul, but it seemed to me that Christ was at my side — I saw that it was He, in my opinion, who was speaking to me.
Since I was completely unaware that there could be a vision like this one, it greatly frightened me in the beginning; I did nothing but weep. However, by speaking one word alone to assure me, the Lord left me feeling as I usually did: quiet, favored, and without any fear. It seemed to me that Jesus Christ was always present at my side; but since this wasn’t an imaginative vision, I didn’t see any form.
Yet I felt very clearly that He was always present at my right side and that He was the witness of everything I did. At no time in which I was a little recollected, or not greatly distracted, was I able to ignore that He was present at my side.
Yet I felt very clearly that He was always present at my right side and that He was the witness of everything I did.
I immediately went very anxiously to my confessor to tell him. He asked me in what form I saw Him. I answered that I didn’t see Him. He asked how I knew that it was Christ.
I answered that I didn’t know how, but that I couldn’t help knowing that He was beside me, that I saw and felt Him clearly, that my recollection of soul was greater, and that I was very continuously in the prayer of quiet, that the effects were much different from those I usually experienced, and that it was very clear.
It seemed to me that Jesus Christ was always present at my side
I could do nothing but draw comparisons in order to explain myself. And, indeed, there is no comparison that fits this kind of vision very well. Since this vision is among the most sublime (as I was afterward told by a very holy and spiritual man, whose name is Friar Peter of Alcántara and of whom I shall speak later, and by other men of great learning) and the kind in which the devil can interfere the least of all, there are no means by which those of us who know little here below can explain it. Learned men will explain it better.
I couldn’t help knowing that He was beside me
I saw and felt Him clearly
my recollection of soul was greater
I was very continuously in the prayer of quiet
the effects were much different
it was very clear
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.
While I was on earth, I took her for my friend; but now that I am in heaven, I have chosen you.
(Avila, Incarnation, July 22, 1572)
A favor on St. Mary Magdalene’s feast
1. On the feast of St. Mary Magdalene the Lord again confirmed in me a favor He had granted me in Toledo, choosing me in the place of a certain person who was absent.
Día de la Magdalena, me tornó el Señor a confirmar una merced que me había hecho en Toledo, eligiéndome en ausencia de cierta persona en su lugar. [Las Relaciones: Capítulo 32]
 This is a probable reference to an event reported by Diego de Yepes in his life of St. Teresa (1615, Madrid). One day in Toledo, Teresa was envying St. Mary Magdalene for the love our Lord had for her. The Lord then appeared to Teresa and said: While I was on earth, I took her for my friend; but now that I am in heaven, I have chosen you.
“Do what lies in your power; surrender yourself to me, and do not be disturbed about anything; rejoice in the good that has been given you, for it is very great; my Father takes His delight in you, and the Holy Spirit loves you.”
Our Lord to Saint Teresa of Avila