Quote of the day: 2 December

To the King Don Philip II

Avila, 4 December 1577

The grace of the Holy Spirit be with your majesty, amen. I strongly believe that our Lady has chosen you to protect and help her order. So, I cannot fail to have recourse to you regarding her affairs. For the love of our Lord, I beg you to pardon me for so much boldness.

I am sure your majesty has received news of how the nuns at the Incarnation tried to have me go there, thinking they would have some means to free themselves from the friars, who are certainly a great hindrance to the recollection and religious observance of the nuns. And the friars are entirely at fault for the lack of observance previously present in that house. The nuns are very much mistaken in their desire that I go there, for as long as they are subject to the friars as confessors and visitators, I would be of no helpat least not of any lasting help. I always said this to the Dominican visitator, and he understood it well.

Since God allowed that situation to exist, I tried to provide a remedy and placed a discalced friar in a house next to them, along with a companion friar. He is so great a servant of our Lord that the nuns are truly edified, and this city is amazed by the remarkable amount of good he has done there, and so they consider him a saint, and in my opinion, he is one and has been one all his life.

When the previous nuncio through a long report sent him by the inhabitants of the city was informed of the things that were happening and of the harm that the friars of the cloth were doing, he gave orders under pain of ex-communication that the confessors be restored to their house (for the calced friars had driven them from the city heaping abuse on them and giving much scandal to everyone). And he also ordered that no friar of the cloth under pain of ex-communication go to the Incarnation for business purposes, to say Mass, or hear confessions, but only the discalced friars and secular clergy. As a result, the house was in a good state until the nuncio died. Then the calced friars returnedand so too the disturbancewithout demonstrating the grounds on which they could do so.

And now a friar who came to absolve the nuns caused such a disturbance without any concern for what is reasonable and just that the nuns are deeply afflicted and still bound by the same penalties as before, according to what I have been told. And worst of all he has taken from them their confessors. They say that he has been made vicar provincial, and this must be true because he is more capable than the others of making martyrs. And he is holding these confessors captive in his monastery after having forced his way into their cells and confiscating their papers.

The whole city is truly scandalized. He is not a prelate nor did he show any evidence of the authority on which these things were done, for these confessors are subject to the apostolic commissary. Those friars dared so much, even though this city is so close to where your majesty resides, that it doesn’t seem they fear either justice or God. I feel very sad to see these confessors in the hands of those friars who for some days have been desiring to seize hold of them. I would consider the confessors better off if they were held by the Moors, who perhaps would show more compassion. And this one friar who is so great a servant of God is so weak from all that he has suffered that I fear for his life.

I beg your majesty for the love of our Lord to issue orders for them to set him free at once and that these poor discalced friars not be subjected to so much suffering by the friars of the cloth. The former do no more than suffer and keep silent and gain a great deal. But the people are scandalized by what is being done to them. This past summer in Toledo, without any reason, the same superior took as prisoner Fray Antonio de Jesúsa holy and blessed man, who was the first discalced friar. They go about saying that with orders from Tostado they will destroy them all. May God be blessed! Those who were to be the means of removing offenses against God have become the cause of so many sins. And each day matters will get worse if your majesty does not provide us with some help. Otherwise, I don’t know where things will end up, because we have no other help on earth.

May it please our Lord that for our sakes you live many years. I hope in him that he will grant us this favor. He is so alone, for there are few who look after his honor. All these servants of your majesty’s, and I ask this of him continually.

Dated in St. Joseph’s in Avila, 4 December 1577.

Your majesty’s unworthy servant and subject,

Teresa of Jesus, Carmelite

 


In early December 1577, St. John of the Cross was abducted from his chaplaincy at the monastery of the Incarnation in Avila. Sanjuanist scholars disagree on the exact date.

Translator and editor Father Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD indicates that “on the night of December 2, 1577, a group of Carmelites, laypeople, and men-at-arms broke into the chaplain’s quarters, seized Fray John, and took him away” (Kavanagh 1991, Introduction).

Saint Edith Stein, for example, writes, “on the night of December 3, 1577, several of the Calced with their accomplices broke into the living quarters of the nuns’ two confessors and took them away as captives” (Stein 2002, Introduction).

Teresianum professor and Sanjuanist authority Father Iain Matthew simply states this about John’s arrest: “On a cold night in early December, his chaplaincy in Avila was raided. The young man was taken away for interrogation and chastisement. Then he disappeared” (Matthew 1995, p. 9)

Whatever the date may have been, nine long months of physical and psychological torture followed with hardships that most would have found unbearable. Yet out of this darkness emerged the most profound and exquisite poetry that John of the Cross ever wrote.

 

Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
You fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.

 

 

Silhouelk Mark Gunn Flickr 27703036162_53bc7c3800_o
Mark Gunn / Flickr

 

 

John of the Cross, St. 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Matthew, I 1995,  The Impact of God: Soundings from St. John of the Cross,  Hodder & Stoughton, London.

 

Stein, E 2002, The Science of the Cross, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 2 November

To King Don Philip II, Madrid
Seville, 19 July 1575
Jesus.

The grace of the Holy Spirit be always with your majesty. While much afflicted and praying to our Lord about the affairs of this holy order of our Lady and considering the great need there is that these initiatives God has taken in its regard not crumble, it occurred to me that the best safeguard for us would be that you realize what giving a solid foundation to this edifice entails; even the calced friars would benefit from the increase in numbers.

I have lived among them for 40 years

and, considering everything, I know clearly that if a separate province is not made for the discalced friarsand soongreat harm will be done, and I think it will be impossible for them to move ahead. Since this lies in your hands and I see that the Blessed Virgin, our Lady, has chosen you to support and protect her order, I have dared to write and beg you that for the love of our Lord and his glorious Mother you give orders that this separate province be formed…

Your majesty’s unworthy servant and subject,

Teresa of Jesus, Carmelite

 


 

Teresa Enters the Convent MetMuseum DP310147
Vita B. Virginis Teresiae 
Plate 4: Teresa Enters the Convent 
Adriaen Collaert (Netherlandish, 1560-1618) Engraving, 1613 
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

On the 2nd of November 1535, Saint Teresa entered the Carmelite monastery of the Incarnation at Avila when she was twenty years old. The Lord had been preparing her for that moment by a long and circuitous route; even after she said “yes” to Him, there was no straight path to her goal:

My fondness for good books was my salvation. Reading the Letters of St. Jerome so encouraged me that I decided to tell my father about my decision to take the habit, for I was so persistent in points of honor that I don’t think I would have turned back for anything once I told him. So great was his love for me that in no way was I able to obtain his permission or achieve anything through persons I asked to intercede for me. The most we could get from him was that after his death I could do whatever I wanted. I was afraid of myself and my frailty and of backing down; and since I could not wait so long, I tried to do it by another way… (Book of Her Life, 3)

Her “other way” was so secretive, one would think that St. John of the Cross had her story in mind when he wrote the first stanza of his poem, ‘The Dark Night’:

One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
– ah, the sheer grace! –
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

Indeed, Teresa went out unseen from her house, or rather, from her father’s house:

I remember, clearly and truly, that when I left my father’s house I felt that separation so keenly that the feeling will not be greater, I think, when I die. For it seemed that every bone in my body was being sundered. Since there was no love of God to take away my love for my father and relatives, everything so constrained me that if the Lord hadn’t helped me, my reflections would not have been enough for me to continue on. In this situation, He gave me such courage against myself that I carried out the task. (Book of Her Life, 4)

Teresian scholar Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. notes that her father did, in fact, come to “accept it all with resignation, gave her a dowry that was more than substantial, and acquired for his daughter a private room of her own in the monastery.” (Book of Her Life, Introduction)

Exactly one year later, on the 2nd of November 1536, Saint Teresa received the habit of our Lady of Mount Carmel. Father Kavanaugh notes that the prioress was Doña Mencía Cimbrón, “a distant relative of Teresa’s”.

The lessons that Saint Teresa learned on November 2 can serve us well:

As soon as I took the habit, the Lord gave me an understanding of how He favors those who use force with themselves to serve Him (…) When I recall this, there is no task that could be presented to me, no matter how hard, that I would hesitate to undertake. For I have already experienced in many ways that if I strive at the outset with determination to do it, even in this life His Majesty pays the soul in such ways that only one who has this joy understands it. (Book of Her Life, 4)

Saint Teresa of Jesus, pray for us.

 

TERESA signature Blogfeatureimage
Signature of St. Teresa conserved in the general archives of the City of Burgos

 

 

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.

Quote of the day: 1 November

Pilgrim in the footsteps of Saint Teresa of Jesus, with great satisfaction and joy I come to Avila. In this city there are so many Teresian places, such as the monastery of Saint Joseph, the first of the “dovecotes” founded by her; this monastery of the Incarnation, where Saint Teresa received the Carmelite habit, made her religious profession, had her decisive “conversion” and lived her experience of total consecration to Christ. It can well be said that this is the shrine of the contemplative life, place of great mystical experiences, and the focal point of monastic foundations.

To contemplate so many cloistered religious today, I cannot help but think about the great Spanish monastic tradition, its influence on Spanish culture, customs and life. Isn’t it here where the moral strength dwells, where there is a continuous reference to the spirit of the Spaniards?

The Pope calls you today to continue cultivating your consecrated life through a liturgical, biblical and spiritual renewal, following the guidelines of the Council. All this requires a permanent formation that enriches your spiritual life, giving it a solid doctrinal, theological and cultural foundation. In this way, you will be able to give the evangelical response that so many young people of our time expect, who today also approach your monasteries, attracted by a life of generous surrender to the Lord.

In this regard I want to issue a call to Christian communities and their Pastors, reminding them of the irreplaceable position occupied by the contemplative life in the Church. We all must deeply value and esteem the dedication of contemplative souls to prayer, praise, and sacrifice.

They are very necessary in the Church. They are living prophets and teachers for all; they are the vanguard of the Church on the way to the kingdom. Their attitude toward the realities of this world, which they contemplate according to the wisdom of the Spirit, enlightens us about the last things and makes us feel the gratuitousness of God’s saving love. I, therefore, urge everyone to try to foster vocations to monastic life among young women, in the assurance that these vocations will enrich the whole life of the Church.

Daughters of Carmel: May you be living images of your Mother Teresa, of her spirituality and her humanism. May you truly be as she was and wanted to be calledand as I wish her to be calledTeresa of Jesus.

Saint John Paul II

Meeting with Cloistered Nuns (excerpts)
Carmel of the Incarnation, Ávila
1 November 1982

 

 

1982 Nuns at the Encarncion Avila to see JP2 1nov82 ElPais
Roughly 3000 cloistered nuns representing approximately 15,000 contemplative religious gathered at the Carmel of the Incarnation in Ávila on All Saints Day, where they awaited the Holy Father Pope St. John Paul II. Having spent the entire night outside the monastery in a prayer vigil, they were overjoyed at the sight of his helicopter when it arrived. For some, this was the first time they had left their cloisters in decades. | Ricardo Martín / El País (See more)

 

 

This English translation is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.

Quote of the day: 12 September

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.

 

Teresa-vagabonda-statue_full-length
The famous statue of the ‘vagabond’ Saint Teresa in front of the Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila, Spain | Photo credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

 

Teresa of Avila 1976 The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, Translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

 

Quote of the day: 3 September

Confession of St John of the Cross - Puebla
Confession of Saint John of the Cross
José Joaquín Magón (Mexican, 18th c.)
Oil on canvas, 1750-1763
Templo de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, Puebla, Mexico
Learn more about the Carmelite paintings of José Joaquín Magón here

 

The discalced friar who is confessor here is doing great good; he is Fray John of the Cross.

Saint Teresa of Avila
Letter 45 to Doña Juana de Ahumada, Alba de Tormes

 

Quote of the day: 13 August

I was fond of everything about religious life, but I didn’t like to suffer anything that seemed to be scorn. I enjoy being esteemed. I was meticulous about everything I did. It all seemed to me virtue, although this will be no reason for pardon, because I knew in everything, what seeking my own happiness was, and thus ignorance is no excuse. The only real excuse could be that the convent was not founded on a strict observance. I, miserable creature that I was, followed after what I saw wrong and left aside the good.

There was a nun at that time afflicted with the most serious and painful illness because there were some holes in her abdomen which caused obstructions in such a way that she had to eject through them what she ate. She soon died from this. I observed that all feared that affliction. As for myself, I envied her patience. I asked God that, dealing with me in like manner, He would give me the illness by which He would be served. It seemed to me that I feared nothing, for I was so set on gaining eternal goods that I determined to gain them by any means whatever. And I am amazed because I had not yet, in my opinion, any love of God as I did afterward, it seems to me, when I began to practice prayer. But I had the light that made everything coming to an end seem of little value to me, and it made those goods that can be gained by the love of God seem of great value since they are eternal.

So well did His Majesty hear my prayer that within two years I was so sick that, although this sickness was not the same as the nun’s, I don’t think it was any less painful or laborious during the three year period that it lasted, as I shall now tell . . .

Saint Teresa of Avila
The Book of Her Life, Chapter 5

To be continued 14 August . . .

 

Concha Velasco dying in fathers house
The great Spanish actress Concha Velasco appeared in the starring role in Spain’s 1984 RTE television miniseries drama, Teresa de Jesús. In Episode 2 “Cuentas de Consciencia” (Accounts of Conscience), broadcast Monday night 19 March 1984, the episode begins with the grave illness of St. Teresa and her near-death experience in her father’s house in Avila. Learn more about this episode from IMDb or watch the episode for free in Spanish on the RTE website.

 

Kieran Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O, and Teresa, 1976, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Carmelitis Da Privilegia: Novena 7

Her vision of our Lady in the choir of the Incarnation

1. On the eve of the feast of St. Sebastian, the first year in which I was prioress at the Incarnation, at the beginning of the Salve Regina, I saw the Mother of God descend with a great multitude of angels and sit in the prioress’s choir stall where there was a statue of our Lady. In my opinion I didn’t then see the statue but our Lady herself. It seemed to me she looked something like she does in the painting the countess gave me; although the power to discern this was quickly taken away, for my faculties were soon held in great suspension. It seemed to me there were angels above the canopies of the stalls in the back and above the front stalls; although they were not in corporeal form, for this was an intellectual vision.

She remained for the whole of the Salve, and she told me: “You were indeed right in placing me here; I shall be present in the praises they give my Son, and I shall offer these praises to Him.”

2. After this I remained in the kind of prayer I now have, that of keeping my soul present with the Blessed Trinity. And it seemed to me that the Person of the Father drew me to Himself and spoke very pleasant words. Among them, while showing me what He wanted, He told me: “I gave you My Son, and the Holy Spirit, and this Blessed Virgin. What can you give Me?”

Saint Teresa of Avila
Spiritual Testimonies: 21


1. La víspera de San Sebastián, el primer año que vine a ser Priora en la Encarnación, comenzando la Salve, vi en la silla prioral, adonde está puesta nuestra Señora, bajar con gran multitud de ángeles la Madre de Dios y ponerse allí. A mi parecer, no vi la imagen entonces, sino esta Señora que digo. Parecióme se parecía algo a la imagen que me dio la Condesa aunque fue de presto el poderla determinar, por suspenderme luego mucho. Parecíame encima de las comas de las sillas y sobre los antepechos, ángeles, aunque no con forma corporal, que era visión intelectual.

Estuvo así toda la Salve, y díjome: “Bien acertaste en ponerme aquí; yo estaré presente a las alabanzas que hicieren a mi Hijo, y se las presentaré”.

2. Después de esto quedéme yo en la oración que traigo de estar el alma con la Santísima Trinidad, y parecíame que la persona del Padre me llegaba a Sí y decía palabras muy agradables. Entre ellas me dijo, mostrándome lo que quería: “Yo te di a mi Hijo y al Espíritu Santo y a esta Virgen. ¿Qué me puedes tú dar a mí?”.

Santa Teresa de Jesús
Las Relaciones: Capítulo 25

Choir Incarnation Avila British Library Blogfeatimage
Engraving of Carmelite nuns in prayer at the Monastery of the Incarnation; note the canopies above the choir stalls

 

SCRIPTURE
Romans 12:1-2

So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.

NOVENA PRAYER

O most beautiful Flower of Mount Carmel,
Fruitful Vine, Splendor of Heaven,
Blessed Mother of the Son of God,
Immaculate Virgin,
assist me in this my necessity.
O Star of the Sea, help me and show me
herein that you are my Mother.

O Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Queen of heaven and earth,
I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart
to succor me in this necessity.
There are none that can withstand your power!
O help me and show me herein
that you are my Mother.

Our Lady, Queen and Beauty of Carmel,
pray for me and obtain my requests!
Sweet Mother, I place this cause
in your hands!

 

Novena citations taken from The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. 
ICS Publications Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars,

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