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.
Our generals always reside in Rome and none ever came to Spain. 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 [the provincial refused to accept jurisdiction]. 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, 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.
Well then, when he arrived in Avila, I arranged that he come to St. Joseph’s. And the bishop 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
Saint Teresa of Avila The Book of Her Foundations, Chap. 2 (excerpt)
Juan Bautista Rubeo (Giovanni Battista Rossi, 1507-1578) was an untiring apostle born in Ravenna who entered the Carmelites at the age of ten. He received his doctorate in Padua. In 1546 he was named procurator general of the order and began lecturing at the Sapienza in Rome. The Carmelite general chapter, under the presidency of St. Charles Borromeo, unanimously elected him general of the order on 21 May 1564. He lost no time in obtaining faculties from the Holy See to visit, reform, and correct the houses of the order. His cherished desires were to bring the order back to its origins, to stress solitude, affective prayer, devotion to Mary, and the apostolate. This appealed to him much more than merely promoting fulfillment of the laws newly set forth by the Council of Trent. In 1564 he began his visit to Spain, and on 10 June 1566, he had an audience with Philip II. Proceeding to Andalusia, where the Carmelites were torn by rival factions and resistance to reform, he convoked a provincial chapter for 22 September at which over 200 Carmelites took part. His efforts to correct abuses angered the guilty parties and caused them to make appeals to the king, complaining of Rossi and calling on the king himself to set up a visitation. As a result, Philip II lost confidence in Rossi and initiated his own plans for the reform of religious orders in Spain. Unaware of the king’s attitude, Rossi began his visitation of Castile and on 27 April 1567 authorized Teresa to found other houses for her nuns, provided they be under the jurisdiction of the order, and the number in each community be restricted to no more than twenty-five nuns. A month later he limited the region where the new houses could be founded to Castile, but later he extended this to all parts. Because of the troubles among the friars in Andalusia, he did not want to grant permission for new foundations of discalced friars. But at Teresa’s request on 10 August 1567, he wrote from Barcelona giving her permission to found two houses of “contemplative Carmelite friars” in Castile. In 1569 in a letter to the prioress of Medina, Rossi wrote: “She [Teresa of Jesus] does more good for the order than all the Carmelite friars in Spain together.” And Teresa esteemed him just as highly. But later because of the many jurisdictional complexities that arose from the king’s desire to reform the Carmelites in Spain, passions were aroused and Rossi was so misinformed that he approved measures harmful to what Teresa was trying to bring about. She never lost her high esteem for Rossi and explained and appealed to him through her letters. Rossi died unexpectedly on 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 and always lamented the pain she thought she had caused the general because of the misunderstandings that had arisen and her inability to explain things to him personally or get her letters through to him.