lundi 15 octobre 2012

Sainte THÉRÈSE d'AVILA, vierge carmélite et Docteur de l'Église


Sainte Thérèse d'Avila

Vierge, Réformatrice des Carmélites

(1515-1582)

Sainte Thérèse naquit en Espagne, de parents nobles et chrétiens. Dès l'âge le plus tendre, un fait révéla ce qu'elle devait être un jour. Parmi ses frères, il y en avait un qu'elle aimait plus que les autres; ils se réunissaient pour lire ensemble la Vie des Saints: "Quoi! lui dit-elle, les martyrs verront Dieu toujours, toujours! Allons, mon frère, chez les cruels Maures, et soyons martyrs aussi, nous pour aller au Ciel." Et, joignant les actes aux paroles, elle emmenait son petit frère Rodrigue; ils avaient fait une demi-lieue, quand on les ramena au foyer paternel.

Elle avait dès lors une grande dévotion à la Sainte Vierge. Chaque jour elle récitait le Rosaire. Ayant perdu sa mère, à l'âge de douze ans, elle alla se jeter en pleurant aux pieds d'une statue de Marie et La supplia de l'accepter pour Sa fille, promettant de La regarder toujours comme sa Mère.

Cependant sa ferveur eut un moment d'arrêt. De vaines lectures, la société d'une jeune parente mondaine, refroidirent son âme sans toutefois que le péché mortel la ternît jamais. Mais ce relâchement fut court, et, une vive lumière divine inondant son âme, elle résolut de quitter le monde. Elle en éprouva un grand déchirement de coeur; mais Dieu, pour l'encourager, lui montra un jour la place qu'elle eût occupée en enfer, si elle s'était attachée au monde.

Dieu, voulant faire de Thérèse le type le plus accompli peut-être de l'union d'une âme avec l'Époux céleste, employa vingt ans à la purifier par toutes sortes d'épreuves terribles: maladies, sécheresses spirituelles, incapacité dans l'oraison. Jésus-Christ, qui ne voulait pas la moindre tache en elle, ne lui laissait aucun repos, et exigeait d'elle le sacrifice même de certaines amitiés très innocentes. "Désormais, lui dit-Il à la fin de cette période d'expiation, Je ne veux plus que tu converses avec les hommes!" A ces mots, elle se sentit tout à coup établie en Dieu de manière à ne plus avoir d'autre volonté, d'autre goût, d'autre amour que ceux de Dieu même et à ne plus aimer aucune créature que pour Dieu, comme Dieu et selon Dieu.

Elle devint la réformatrice de l'Ordre du Carmel, et travailla tant au salut des âmes, que, d'après une révélation, elle convertit plus d'âmes dans la retraite de son couvent, que saint François Xavier dans ses missions.

Un séraphin vint un jour la percer du dard enflammé de l'amour divin: Jésus la prit pour épouse. Ses révélations, ses écrits, ses miracles, ses oeuvres, ses vertus, tout est à la même hauteur sublime.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950

SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/sainte_therese_d_avila.html



CHRONOLOGIE DE SAINTE THÉRÈSE DE JÉSUS

1515

• 28 mars, Naissance de Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada,

• 4 avril, Baptême de Teresa, Inauguration du carmel de l’Incarnation.

1522

• Teresa et Rodrigo s’enfuient au pays des Maures “pour voir Dieu”.

1528

• Mort de Béatrice de Ahumada, mère de Teresa.

1531

• Teresa est pensionnaire au couvent de Notre Dame de Grâce.

1535

• 3 août, Rodrigo, le frère très aimé, part pour l’Amérique.

• 2 novembre, Teresa s’enfuit et entre au couvent de l’Incarnation.

1536

• 2 novembre, Teresa prend l’habit du Carmel.

1537

• 3 novembre, Profession religieuse de Teresa.

1538

• Séjour à Becedas.

1543

• 26 décembre, Mort d’Alonso de Cepeda, père de Teresa.

1555

• Conversion de Teresa (Saint Augustin, Christ aux plaies, …).

1556

• au printemps, Les fiançailles mystiques de Teresa.

1558

• “La contradiction des gens de biens” commence. Les uns attribuent les grâces dont jouit Teresa au démon, les autres à Dieu.

• Première rencontre avec Pierre d’Alcántara.

1560

• 25 janvier, Vision du Christ ressuscité,

• avril, Grâce de la transverbération,

• août, Vision de l’enfer,

• septembre, Au cours d’une conversation, on parle de “réforme”,

• octobre, Teresa rédige sa première Relation.

1561

• Le père Garcia de Toledo lui demande d’écrire sa Vida et sa manière de faire oraison.

1562

• 24 août, Fondation de Saint Joseph d’Avila,

• décembre, Teresa commence Le Chemin de Perfection.

1563

• Première rédaction des Constitutions.

1567

• février, Visite du Père Général, Rubeo de Ravenne,

Avril, Patentes autorisant d’autres fondations,

• 15 Août, Fondation du couvent de Medina del Campo, Première rencontre avec Jean de la Croix.

1568

• 11 avril, Fondation du couvent de Malagón,

• 15 août, Fondation du couvent de Valladolid,

• 28 novembre, Fondation du couvent masculin de Duruelo.

1569

• 14 mai, Fondation du couvent de Tolède,

• 23 juin, Fondation du couvent de Pastrana.

1570

• 1er novembre, Fondation du couvent de Salamanque.

1571

• 25 janvier, Fondation du couvent d’Alba de Tormes,

• 6 octobre, Teresa arrive à l’Incarnation comme prieure.

1572

• 16 novembre, Grâce du mariage spirituel.

1573

• 25 août, Commencement du récit des Fondations.

1574

• 19 mars, Fondation du couvent de Ségovie.

1575

• L’Inquisition ordonne la saisie de la Vida de Teresa,

• 24 février, Fondation du couvent de Beas de Segura,

• Printemps, Première rencontre avec le P. Jérôme Gratien,

• 29 mai, Fondation du couvent de Séville, Teresa reçoit l’ordre de se retirer dans un couvent de son choix et de n’en plus sortir. “La grande tempête” commence pour la “Réforme”.

1576

• 1er janvier, Fondation du couvent de Caravaca, (par Anne de Saint-Albert).

1577

• mai, À Tolède, Teresa commence Le Livre des Demeures.

• 29 novembre, À Avila, elle achève son ouvrage.

• 24 décembre, Elle se casse le bras gauche en tombant dans l’escalier.

1578/79

• Grandes souffrances de la Réforme et de la réformatrice.

1580

• 21 Février, Fondation du couvent de Villanueva de la Jara,

• 26 juin, Mort de Lorenzo, frère de Teresa,

• 25 Décembre, Fondation du couvent de Palencia.

1581

• 14 juin, Fondation du couvent de Soria.

1582

• 20 janvier, Fondation du couvent de Grenade (par Anne de Jésus)

• 19 avril, Fondation du couvent de Burgos

• 21 septembre, Arrivée à Alba de Tormes.

• 4 (15) octobre, Teresa meurt “fille de l’Église”.

1614

• 14 avril, Béatification, par Paul V.

1622

• 12 mars, Canonisation, par Grégoire XV.

1917

• 30 novembre, Patronne de l’Espagne.

1965

• 18 septembre, Patronne des écrivains espagnols, par Paul VI.

1970

• 27 septembre, Docteur de l’Église, par Paul VI. Teresa est également patronne : du Corps de l’Intendance militaire, du Royaume de Naples, des joueurs d’échec, etc.

SOURCE : http://www.carmel.asso.fr/Chronologie-Therese-de-Jesus.html



BENOÎT XVI



AUDIENCE GÉNÉRALE



Salle Paul VI



Mercredi 2 février 2011



Sainte Thérèse de Jésus


Chers frères et sœurs,

Au cours des catéchèses que j’ai voulu consacrer aux Pères de l’Eglise et aux grandes figures de théologiens et de femmes du Moyen-âge, j’ai eu l’occasion de m’arrêter également sur certains saints et saintes qui ont été proclamés docteurs de l’Eglise en raison de leur éminente doctrine. Aujourd’hui, je voudrais commencer une brève série de rencontres pour compléter la présentation des docteurs de l’Eglise. Et je commence par une sainte qui représente l’un des sommets de la spiritualité chrétienne de tous les temps: sainte Thérèse d’Avila (de Jésus).

Elle naît à Avila, en Espagne, en 1515, sous le nom de Teresa de Ahumada. Dans son autobiographie, elle mentionne elle-même certains détails de son enfance: la naissance de «parents vertueux et craignant Dieu», au sein d’une famille nombreuse, avec neuf frères et trois sœurs. Encore enfant, alors qu’elle n’avait pas encore 9 ans, elle a l’occasion de lire les vies de certains martyrs, qui lui inspirent le désir du martyre, si bien qu’elle improvise une brève fugue de chez elle pour mourir martyre et monter au Ciel (cf. Vie, 1, 4): «Je veux voir Dieu» déclare la petite fille à ses parents. Quelques années plus tard, Thérèse parlera de ses lectures d’enfance, et affirmera y avoir découvert la vérité, qu’elle résume dans deux principes fondamentaux: d’un côté, «le fait que tout ce qui appartient au monde ici bas passe» et de l’autre, que seul Dieu est «pour toujours, toujours, toujours», un thème qui revient dans la très célèbre poésie «Que rien ne te trouble,/ que rien ne t’effraie;/ tout passe. Dieu ne change pas:/ la patience obtient tout;/ celui qui possède Dieu/ ne manque de rien/ Dieu seul suffit!». Orpheline de mère à l’âge de 12 ans, elle demande à la Très Sainte Vierge de lui servir de mère (cf. Vie, 1, 7).

Si, au cours de son adolescence, la lecture de livres profanes l’avait conduite aux distractions d’une vie dans le monde, l’expérience comme élève des moniales augustiniennes de Sainte-Marie-des-Grâces d’Avila, ainsi que la lecture de livres spirituels, en particulier des classiques de la spiritualité franciscaine, lui enseignent le recueillement et la prière. A l’âge de 20 ans, elle entre au monastère carmélite de l’Incarnation, toujours à Avila; dans sa vie religieuse, elle prend le nom de Thérèse de Jésus. Trois ans plus tard, elle tombe gravement malade, au point de rester quatre jours dans le coma, apparemment morte (cf. Vie, 5, 9). Même dans la lutte contre ses maladies, la sainte voit le combat contre les faiblesses et les résistances à l’appel de Dieu: «Je désirais vivre — écrit-elle — car je le sentais, ce n'était pas vivre que de me débattre ainsi contre une espèce de mort; mais nul n'était là pour me donner la vie, et il n'était pas en mon pouvoir de la prendre. Celui qui pouvait seul me la donner avait raison de ne pas me secourir; il m'avait tant de fois ramenée à lui, et je l'avais toujours abandonné» (Vie, 8, 2) En 1543, sa famille s’éloigne: son père meurt et tous ses frères émigrent l’un après l’autre en Amérique. Au cours du carême 1554, à l’âge de 39 ans, Thérèse atteint le sommet de sa lutte contre ses faiblesses. La découverte fortuite de la statue d’«un Christ couvert de plaies» marque profondément sa vie (cf. Vie, 9). La sainte, qui à cette époque trouvait un profond écho dans les Confessions de saint Augustin, décrit ainsi le jour décisif de son expérience mystique: «Le sentiment de la présence de Dieu me saisissait alors tout à coup. Il m'était absolument impossible de douter qu'il ne fût au dedans de moi, ou que je ne fusse toute abîmée en lui» (Vie, 10, 1).

Parallèlement au mûrissement de son intériorité, la sainte commence à développer concrètement l'idéal de réforme de l'ordre du carmel: en 1562, elle fonde à Avila, avec le soutien de l'évêque de la ville, don Alvaro de Mendoza, le premier carmel réformé, et peu après, elle reçoit aussi l'approbation du supérieur général de l'ordre, Giovanni Battista Rossi. Dans les années qui suivent, elle continue à fonder de nouveaux carmels, dix-sept au total. La rencontre avec saint Jean de la Croix, avec lequel, en 1568, elle fonde à Duruelo, non loin d'Avila, le premier couvent de carmélites déchaussées, est fondamentale. En 1580, elle obtient de Rome l'érection en Province autonome pour ses carmels réformés, point de départ de l'ordre religieux des carmélites déchaussées. Thérèse termine sa vie terrestre au moment où elle est engagée dans l'activité de fondation. En 1582, en effet, après avoir fondé le carmel de Burgos et tandis qu'elle est en train d'effectuer son voyage de retour à Avila, elle meurt la nuit du 15 octobre à Alba de Tormes, en répétant humblement ces deux phrases: «A la fin, je meurs en fille de l'Eglise» et «L'heure est à présent venue, mon Epoux, que nous nous voyons». Une existence passée en Espagne, mais consacrée à l'Eglise tout entière. Béatifiée par le Pape Paul V en 1614 et canonisée en 1622 par Grégoire XV, elle est proclamée «Docteur de l'Eglise» par le Serviteur de Dieu Paul VI en 1970.

Thérèse de Jésus n'avait pas de formation universitaire, mais elle a tiré profit des enseignements de théologiens, d'hommes de lettres et de maîtres spirituels. Comme écrivain, elle s'en est toujours tenu à ce qu'elle avait personnellement vécu ou avait vu dans l'expérience des autres (cf. Prologue au Chemin de perfection), c'est-à-dire en partant de l'expérience. Thérèse a l'occasion de nouer des liens d'amitié spirituelle avec un grand nombre de saints, en particulier avec saint Jean de la Croix. Dans le même temps, elle se nourrit de la lecture des Pères de l'Eglise, saint Jérôme, saint Grégoire le Grand, saint Augustin. Parmi ses œuvres majeures, il faut rappeler tout d'abord son autobiographie, intitulée Livre de la vie, qu'elle appelle Livre des Miséricordes du Seigneur. Composée au Carmel d'Avila en 1565, elle rapporte le parcours biographique et spirituel, écrit, comme l'affirme Thérèse elle-même, pour soumettre son âme au discernement du «Maître des spirituels», saint Jean d'Avila. Le but est de mettre en évidence la présence et l'action de Dieu miséricordieux dans sa vie: c'est pourquoi l’œuvre rappelle souvent le dialogue de prière avec le Seigneur. C'est une lecture fascinante, parce que la sainte non seulement raconte, mais montre qu'elle revit l'expérience profonde de sa relation avec Dieu. En 1566, Thérèse écrit le Chemin de perfection, qu'elle appelle Admonestations et conseils que donne Thérèse de Jésus à ses moniales. Les destinataires en sont les douze novices du carmel de saint Joseph d’Avila. Thérèse leur propose un intense programme de vie contemplative au service de l'Eglise, à la base duquel se trouvent les vertus évangéliques et la prière. Parmi les passages les plus précieux, figure le commentaire au Notre Père, modèle de prière. L’œuvre mystique la plus célèbre de sainte Thérèse est le Château intérieur, écrit en 1577, en pleine maturité. Il s'agit d’une relecture de son chemin de vie spirituelle et, dans le même temps, d'une codification du déroulement possible de la vie chrétienne vers sa plénitude, la sainteté, sous l'action de l'Esprit Saint. Thérèse fait appel à la structure d'un château avec sept pièces, comme image de l'intériorité de l'homme, en introduisant, dans le même temps, le symbole du ver à soie qui renaît en papillon, pour exprimer le passage du naturel au surnaturel. La sainte s'inspire des Saintes Ecritures, en particulier du Cantique des cantiques, pour le symbole final des «deux Epoux», qui lui permet de décrire, dans la septième pièce, le sommet de la vie chrétienne dans ses quatre aspects: trinitaire, christologique, anthropologique et ecclésial. A son activité de fondatrice des carmels réformés, Thérèse consacre le Livre des fondations, écrit entre 1573 et 1582, dans lequel elle parle de la vie du groupe religieux naissant. Comme dans son autobiographie, le récit tend à mettre en évidence l'action de Dieu dans l’œuvre de fondation des nouveaux monastères.

Il n’est pas facile de résumer en quelques mots la spiritualité thérésienne, profonde et articulée. Je voudrais mentionner plusieurs points essentiels. En premier lieu, sainte Thérèse propose les vertus évangéliques comme base de toute la vie chrétienne et humaine: en particulier, le détachement des biens ou pauvreté évangélique, et cela nous concerne tous; l’amour des uns pour les autres comme élément essentiel de la vie communautaire et sociale; l’humilité comme amour de la vérité; la détermination comme fruit de l’audace chrétienne; l’espérance théologale, qu’elle décrit comme une soif d’eau vive. Sans oublier les vertus humaines: amabilité, véracité, modestie, courtoisie, joie, culture. En deuxième lieu, sainte Thérèse propose une profonde harmonie avec les grands personnages bibliques et l’écoute vivante de la Parole de Dieu. Elle se sent surtout en harmonie avec l’épouse du Cantique des Cantiques et avec l’apôtre Paul, outre qu’avec le Christ de la Passion et avec Jésus eucharistie.

La sainte souligne ensuite à quel point la prière est essentielle: prier, dit-elle, «signifie fréquenter avec amitié, car nous fréquentons en tête à tête Celui qui, nous le savons, nous aime» (Vie 8, 5). L’idée de sainte Thérèse coïncide avec la définition que saint Thomas d’Aquin donne de la charité théologale, comme amicitia quaedam hominis ad Deum, un type d’amitié de l’homme avec Dieu, qui le premier a offert son amitié à l’homme; l’initiative vient de Dieu (cf. Summa Theologiae -II, 21, 1). La prière est vie et se développe graduellement en même temps que la croissance de la vie chrétienne: elle commence par la prière vocale, elle passe par l’intériorisation à travers la méditation et le recueillement, jusqu’à parvenir à l’union d’amour avec le Christ et avec la Très Sainte Trinité. Il ne s’agit évidemment pas d’un développement dans lequel gravir les plus hautes marches signifie abandonner le type de prière précédent, mais c’est plutôt un approfondissement graduel de la relation avec Dieu qui enveloppe toute la vie. Plus qu’une pédagogie de la prière, celle de Thérèse est une véritable «mystagogie»: elle enseigne au lecteur de ses œuvres à prier en priant elle-même avec lui; en effet, elle interrompt fréquemment le récit ou l’exposé pour se lancer dans une prière.

Un autre thème cher à la sainte est le caractère central de l’humanité du Christ. En effet, pour Thérèse la vie chrétienne est une relation personnelle avec Jésus, qui atteint son sommet dans l’union avec Lui par grâce, par amour et par imitation. D’où l’importance que celle-ci attribue à la méditation de la Passion et à l’Eucharistie, comme présence du Christ, dans l’Eglise, pour la vie de chaque croyant et comme cœur de la liturgie. Sainte Thérèse vit un amour inconditionné pour l’Eglise: elle manifeste un vif sensus Ecclesiae face aux épisodes de division et de conflit dans l’Eglise de son temps. Elle réforme l’Ordre des carmélites avec l’intention de mieux servir et de mieux défendre la «Sainte Eglise catholique romaine », et elle est disposée à donner sa vie pour celle-ci (cf. Vie 33, 5).

Un dernier aspect essentiel de la doctrine thérésienne, que je voudrais souligner, est la perfection, comme aspiration de toute la vie chrétienne et objectif final de celle-ci. La sainte a une idée très claire de la «plénitude» du Christ, revécue par le chrétien. A la fin du parcours du Château intérieur, dans la dernière «pièce», Thérèse décrit cette plénitude, réalisée dans l’inhabitation de la Trinité, dans l’union au Christ à travers le mystère de son humanité.

Chers frères et sœurs, sainte Thérèse de Jésus est une véritable maîtresse de vie chrétienne pour les fidèles de chaque temps. Dans notre société, souvent en manque de valeurs spirituelles, sainte Thérèse nous enseigne à être des témoins inlassables de Dieu, de sa présence et de son action, elle nous enseigne à ressentir réellement cette soif de Dieu qui existe dans la profondeur de notre cœur, ce désir de voir Dieu, de chercher Dieu, d’être en conversation avec Lui et d’être ses amis. Telle est l’amitié qui est nécessaire pour nous tous et que nous devons rechercher, jour après jour, à nouveau. Que l’exemple de cette sainte, profondément contemplative et efficacement active, nous pousse nous aussi à consacrer chaque jour le juste temps à la prière, à cette ouverture vers Dieu, à ce chemin pour chercher Dieu, pour le voir, pour trouver son amitié et trouver ainsi la vraie vie; car réellement, un grand nombre d’entre nous devraient dire: «Je ne vis pas, je ne vis pas réellement, car je ne vis pas l’essence de ma vie». C’est pourquoi, le temps de la prière n’est pas du temps perdu, c’est un temps pendant lequel s’ouvre la voie de la vie, s’ouvre la voie pour apprendre de Dieu un amour ardent pour Lui, pour son Eglise, c’est une charité concrète pour nos frères. Merci.

***

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins francophones et plus particulièrement la Communauté Saint-Martin et le lycée Sacré-Cœur. Que l’exemple de sainte Thérèse de Jésus nous encourage à donner chaque jour du temps à la prière pour apprendre à aimer Dieu et son Eglise! Avec ma bénédiction.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20110202_fr.html


Sainte Thérèse, vierge

Née en 1515, morte dans la nuit historique du 4 au 15 octobre 1582 où entra en application la réforme grégorienne du calendrier. Canonisée en 1622, fête en 1644.

Leçon des Matines (avant 1960) 

Quatrième leçon. La vierge Thérèse naquit à Avila, en Espagne, de parents illustres par leur naissance et leur piété. Nourrie par eux du lait de la crainte de Dieu, elle donna, dans un âge bien tendre, un merveilleux présage de sa sainteté future. Car en lisant les actes des saints Martyrs et en les méditant, elle fut tellement embrasée du feu de l’Esprit-Saint que, s’enfuyant de la maison paternelle, elle voulut passer en Afrique, afin d’y donner sa vie pour la gloire de Jésus-Christ et le salut des âmes. Son oncle paternel l’ayant ramenée, elle compensa par des aumônes et d’autres œuvres de piété le souhait ardent, [mais irréalisé,] du martyre, se plaignant avec des larmes continuelles d’avoir été privée d’un si heureux sort. Sa mère étant morte, elle pria la très sainte Vierge de lui montrer qu’elle était mère aussi, et son vœu fut exaucé, car la Mère de Dieu la protégea toujours comme sa fille. En sa vingtième année, elle entra chez les religieuses de Notre Dame du Mont-Carmel, où, pendant dix-huit ans, elle fut affligée de très grandes maladies et agitée de diverses tentations ; mais elle demeura ferme sous les armes de la pénitence chrétienne, sans être soutenue par l’aliment de ces consolations célestes dont la sainteté est ordinairement comblée même sur la terre. 


Cinquième leçon. Enrichie de vertus angéliques, Thérèse ne se contenta pas de travailler à son propre salut, mais elle se dépensa pour celui de tous, avec une charité pleine de sollicitude. C’est dans le but de le procurer que, d’après l’inspiration de Dieu et avec l’approbation de Pie IV, elle proposa d’abord aux femmes et ensuite aux hommes, l’observation de la règle plus austère des anciens Carmes. Le Seigneur tout-puissant et miséricordieux daigna bénir cette entreprise, car cette vierge, sans ressources, privée de toute assistance humaine, ayant même le plus souvent contre elle les princes du siècle, réussit à bâtir trente-deux monastères. Elle déplorait par des larmes continuelles l’aveuglement des infidèles et des hérétiques ; et afin d’apaiser la colère et de détourner la vengeance divine, elle offrait à Dieu, pour leur salut, les tourments volontaires qu’elle infligeait à son corps. Son âme était si embrasée du feu de l’amour divin, qu’elle mérita de voir un Ange lui percer le cœur avec un dard à la pointe enflammée, et d’entendre Jésus-Christ lui dire, en lui tendant sa main droite : Désormais, comme une véritable épouse, tu brûleras de zèle pour mon honneur. Ce fut par son inspiration qu’elle prononça le vœu si difficile de faire toujours ce qu’elle comprendrait être le plus parfait. Elle a écrit plusieurs ouvrages remplis d’une sagesse céleste, extrêmement propres à exciter les âmes des fidèles au désir de la patrie d’en haut. 


Sixième leçon. Or, tandis qu’elle donnait de constants exemples de vertus, elle brûlait d’un si anxieux désir de châtier son corps, que, quoique les maladies dont elle était affligée lui persuadassent le contraire, elle tourmentait souvent ses membres par des cilices, des chaînes, des poignées d’orties et par d’autres pénitences très rigoureuses ; parfois même elle se roulait sur des épines, et elle avait coutume de dire à Dieu : « Seigneur, ou souffrir ou mourir ; » estimant toujours qu’elle périssait d’une très déplorable mort, aussi longtemps qu’elle vivait éloignée de la fontaine céleste de la vie éternelle. Elle eut à un très haut degré le don de prophétie, et le Seigneur l’enrichissait de faveurs spéciales avec tant de largesse, qu’elle le priait souvent avec d’ardentes exclamations de mettre des bornes à ses divins bienfaits, et de ne pas effacer par un si prompt oubli le souvenir de ses fautes. Réduite à s’aliter lors de son arrivée à Albe, moins par la violence de la maladie que par l’effet de l’amour divin dont elle ne pouvait plus supporter l’incendie, ayant prédit le jour de sa mort, reçu les sacrements de l’Église, et exhorté ses filles à la paix, à la charité ainsi qu’à l’observance régulière, Thérèse rendit à Dieu son âme très pure, [qu’on vit s’élever vers le ciel] sous l’aspect d’une colombe ; elle avait vécu soixante-sept ans, et c’était l’an mil cinq cent quatre-vingt-deux, le quinze octobre, selon la réformation du calendrier romain. A ses derniers moments, Jésus-Christ lui apparut au milieu des troupes d’anges, et un arbre desséché, proche de sa cellule, refleurit tout à coup. Le corps de Thérèse, demeuré jusqu’à ce jour exempt de corruption, répand une liqueur odoriférante et est l’objet d’une pieuse vénération. D’éclatants miracles l’ont glorifiée avant comme après sa mort, aussi Grégoire XV l’a-t-il mise au nombre des Saints.


die 15 octobris
SANCTÆ TERESIÆ
Virginis
III classis (ante CR 1960 : duplex)
Missa Dilexísti, de Communi Virginum III loco, præter orationem sequentem :
Oratio.
Exáudi nos, Deus, salutáris noster : ut, sicut de beátæ Terésiæ Vírginis tuæ festivitáte gaudémus ; ita cæléstis eius doctrínæ pábulo nutriámur, et piæ devotiónis erudiámur affectu. Per Dóminum nostrum.

le 15 octobre
SAINTE THÉRÈSE
Vierge
IIIème classe (avant 1960 : double)
Messe Dilexísti, du Commun des Vierges III, sauf l’oraison suivante :
Collecte
Exaucez-nous, ô Dieu, qui êtes notre salut, et faites que, célébrant avec joie la fête de la bienheureuse Thérèse, votre Vierge, nous soyons nourris du pain de sa céleste doctrine et formés aux sentiments d’une piété fervente.




Sainte Thérèse d'Avila


docteur de l'église catholique

article du Dictionnaire de Théologique Catholique

THERESE DE JESUS (SAINTE), réformatrice du Carmel et écrivain (1515-1582). – On étudiera la sainte, la réformatrice (col. 561), la fondatrice (col. 563) et l’écrivain mystique (col. 566).

I. LA SAINTE. – Il y a intérêt à distinguer deux périodes dans la vie de sainte Thérèse : celle qui a précédé l’élévation habituelle de la sainte aux états mystiques, qui se termine en 1558 (Thérèse a 43 ans), et celle qui l’a suivie, de 1558 à 1582, date de sa mort. Dans la première nous sommes les témoins de son ascension progressive vers la perfection et dans la deuxième nous la voyons vivre dans les états mystiques et en même temps se livrer tout entière à l’œuvre de la réforme du Carmel et de la fondation de ses monastères de carmélites.

De la première partie de la vie de sainte Thérèse trois faits surtout retiendront l’attention de l’historien : la " conversion ", la maladie au début de la vie religieuse et l’utilisation de l’oraison comme moyen de sanctification.

1° La conversion. – A l’époque de la jeunesse de sainte Thérèse, avant son entrée dans la vie religieuse, y eut-il conversion proprement dite, c’est-à-dire passage de l’état de péché mortel à l’état de grâce ? Les circonstances où sainte Thérèse aurait pu pécher gravement sont les suivantes. Née le 28 mars 1515 à Avila, dans une famille bien chrétienne, Thérèse eut une enfance très pieuse. Vers l’âge de douze ans elle se livre avec avidité à la lecture des romans de chevalerie si répandus alors en Espagne, lecture " qui fit le plus de tort à son âme ", dit Thérèse, Vie, c. II. Après la mort de mère – Thérèse avait treize ans – laissée sans surveillance attentive, elle reçut fréquemment la visite de " plusieurs cousins germains ", qui lui parlaient " de leurs inclinations et autres enfantillages qui n’avaient rien de bon ". Vie, ibid. Enfin, la fréquentation d’une parente, qui " était des plus légères " et " compagnie dangereuse ", mit Thérèse en grave péril d’offenser Dieu. Mais elle ne fit rien qui fût contraire à l’honneur. " Sur ce point, j’étais, ce me semble, dit-elle, inébranlable. " Ibid. Après sa grande maladie et étant religieuse depuis plusieurs années, Thérèse connut une autre période d’infidélité, où l’esprit mondain pénétra son âme. Thérèse déclare qu’elle éprouvait un véritable effroi en pensant qu’elle s’était exposée à de " grands périls " pour son âme pendant ce temps de dissipation. Vie, c. V, VII.

Selon l’estimation des biographes de sainte Thérèse, ces fautes, qu’elle se reproche si sévèrement, ne constituent pas des péchés mortels. Lorsqu’elle composa le livre de sa Vie, en 1562, elle était arrivée aux états mystiques. Elle avait des lumières très vives sur la malice du péché. Elle était donc portée à exagérer la culpabilité des fautes commises trente ans plus tôt : " Quelque soin qu’elle ait pris d’exagérer ses infidélités, écrit de Villefore, le vice ne donna jamais d’atteinte mortelle à son innocence et tout se réduisit à des transgressions et à des légèretés qu’il ne faut nullement dissimuler, mais aussi qui ne doivent pas être empoisonnées. " La Vie de sainte Thérèse tirée des auteurs originaux espagnols et des historiens contemporains, Paris, 1748, t. I, p. 14. Ribera ramène les péchés de Thérèse à des fautes d’imprudence : " Pour mon regard, dit-il, je pense que ses péchés ne furent point autres sinon se mettre et exposer au danger de faire quelque péché ou d’en commettre de griefs par telle conversation, devis et familiarités qu’elle avait avec telles personnes. " La Vie de la Mère Thérèse de Jésus, fondatrice des Carmes déchaussés, trad. franç., Paris, 1645, t. I, c. VII.

Le pape Grégoire XV, dans la bulle de canonisation de Thérèse du 12 mars 1622, a solennellement sanctionné les vues des biographes : Inter cæteras ejus virtules… integerrima effulsit castitas, quam adeo eximie coluit, ut non solum propositu virginitatis servandæ a pueritia conceptum usque ad mortem perducerit, sed omnis expertem maculæ angelicam in corde et corpore servaverit puritatem. Le P. Bouix est si persuadé que la sainte exagère ses fautes qu’il n’hésite pas à changer, dans sa traduction de la Vie, les passages très affirmatifs où elle en parle. Au début de la vision de l’enfer, Vie, c. XXXII, Thérèse écrit : " Je compris que Dieu voulait me montrer la place que les démons m’y avaient préparée [dans l’enfer] et que j’avais méritée par mes péchés. " Œuvres complètes de sainte Thérèse, trad. des carmélites de Paris, t. II, 1907, p. 1. (Traduction que je citerai toujours.) Bouix modifie la phrase ainsi : " Je compris que Dieu voulait me faire voir la place que les démons m’y avaient préparée, et que j’aurais méritée par les péchés, où je serais tombée si je n’avais changé de vie. " Œuvres de sainte Thérèse, traduites d’après les manuscrits originaux, t. I, Paris, 1859, p. 400.

Thérèse, elle, paraît convaincue – son texte le prouve – qu’elle a offensé dieu gravement. Cette conviction a exercé une réelle influence sur sa sanctification. Elle lui a inspiré une profonde humilité. Dans le prologue de sa Vie elle s’exprime ainsi : " On m’a donné l’ordre d’écrire ma manière d’oraison… J’aurais bien voulu qu’on m’eût également laissée libre de faire connaître clairement, et dans tous leurs détails, mes grands péchés et ma triste vie. C’eût été pour moi une joie bien vive, mais on s’y est refusé et l’on m’a même imposé sur ce point beaucoup de réserves. Ainsi je conjure, pour l’amour de Dieu, ceux qui liront cette relation, de ne jamais oublier combien ma vie a été coupable. " Œuvres complètes, t. I, p. 41. Elle revient, pour la regretter, sur cette interdiction de préciser ses fautes aux c. V, VII, X de sa Vie. Au c. V, elle parle de la contrition qu’elle eut dans la confession faite durant sa grande maladie : " Cette contrition, dit-elle, eût été suffisante pour assurer mon salut, quand bien même Dieu ne m’aurait pas tenu compte de l’erreur où m’avaient engagée certains confesseurs, en m’assurant qu’il n’y avait point de péché mortel là où je reconnus ensuite, d’une manière positive, qu’il existait réellement. " Ibid., p. 85. Le P. Bouix, on le devine, atténue fortement ces passages.

Le sentiment de la crainte fut aussi renforcé dans l’âme de Thérèse par cette conviction d’avoir péché gravement : " Oui, en vérité, dit-elle, au sujet de sa jeunesse, arrivée à cet endroit de ma vie, j’éprouve un tel effroi en voyant de quelle manière Dieu me ressuscita en quelque sorte, que j’en suis, pour ainsi dire, toute tremblante… O mon âme ! Comment n’as-tu pas réfléchi au péril dont le Seigneur t’avait délivrée ? Et si l’amour ne suffisait pas pour te faire éviter le péché, comment la crainte ne te retenait-elle point ? Car enfin, la mort aurait pu mille fois te frapper dans un état plus dangereux encore. Et, en disant mille fois, je n’exagère, je crois, que de bien peu. " Vie, c. V, ibid., p. 86.

Cette grande crainte influa sûrement sur sa détermination à la vie religieuse : " Je me disais avec frayeur que la mort m’eût trouvée sur le chemin de l’enfer. Je n’avais pas encore d’attrait pour la vie religieuse, cependant je voyais que c’était l’état le plus excellent et le plus sûr, et peu à peu je me décidai à me faire violence pour l’embrasser. Ce combat dura trois mois… C’était moins l’amour, ce me semble, que la crainte servile qui me poussait à choisir cet état de vie. " Vie, c. III, ibid., p. 61-62.

" La voie de la crainte n’est pas celle qui convient à mon âme ", dira plus tard Thérèse. Vie, c. XXXII, t. II, p. 4. La crante chez elle ne tarda pas à être " absorbée dans l’amour ". Vie, c. VI, t. I, p. 91. Cependant la crainte filiale ne fut jamais absente de son âme. Vie, c. XV, p. 199. Ce n’était pas " la crainte du châtiment ", mais celle de perdre le Seigneur en l’offensant. Vie, c. XXXVII, t. II, p. 95. Dans Le chemin de la perfection, Thérèse recommande instamment à ses filles d’avoir cette crainte dans le cœur. Le " moyen de vivre sans trop d’alarme " au milieu du combat, " c’est, dit-elle, l’amour et la crainte. L’amour nous fera hâter notre marche, la crainte nous fera regarder où nous posons le pied, afin d’éviter les chutes ". C. XL, t. II, p. 288. " La crainte doit toujours avoir le premier pas. " C. XLI, p. 300. Vers la fin de sa vie, alors qu’elle était élevée au mariage spirituel depuis plusieurs années, elle parle encore de la crainte. Lorsqu’on songe, dit-elle, " à certains personnages que l’Ecriture mentionne comme ayant été favorisés de Dieu, un Salomon, par exemple, qui a eu tant de communications " avec Dieu, on ne peut " s’empêcher de craindre. Ainsi, mes sœurs, que celle d’entre vous qui se figurerait être le plus en sûreté, soit celle qui craigne davantage ". Château intérieur, 7e dem., c. IV, t. VI, p. 305-306. Cette craint était aussi motivée par la période d’infidélité qui suivit sa grande maladie. Elle était religieuse, dans le monastère de l’Incarnation, depuis plusieurs années et cependant elle fut en grand danger d’offenser Dieu. Vie, c. VII. Même dans la vie religieuse la sécurité n’est pas complète : " Quant à la sécurité, n’y comptons pas en cette vie, disait Thérèse à ses sœurs ; elle nous serait même très dangereuse. " Chem. De la perf., c. XLI, t. V, p. 301.

2° La maladie du début. – Quelle est la nature de la maladie dont souffrit Thérèse au début de sa vie religieuse ? – Pour essayer de la caractériser il faut tout d’abord en examiner les causes et ensuite la décrire d’après les témoignages de la sainte.

Les circonstances qui précèdent l’entrée de Thérèse au carmel de l’Incarnation, à Avila, semblent avoir été une épreuve pour sa santé. La précipitation avec laquelle son père, inquiet de la " vie frivole " de sa fille, décida de l’envoyer comme pensionnaire au couvent des augustines d’Avila, l’impressionna. Elle lui fit craindre d’avoir nui à sa réputation : " Les huit premiers jours, dit-elle, me furent très pénibles, beaucoup moins par l’ennui de me trouver dans cette maison, que par la crainte de voir ma vaine conduite mise au grand jour. " Vie, c. II, p. 56. Lorsque la pensée d’être religieuse s’empara de son âme, ce fut durant trois mois un rude combat, qui altéra ses forces physiques, entre son " aversion pour l’état religieux " et les aspirations à cet état qui naissaient en elle. Quoique décidée à faire la volonté de Dieu, " pourtant, dit-elle, je redoutais encore la vocation religieuse et j’eusse bien désiré que Dieu ne me la donnât point ". Vie, c. III, p. 59. Durant cette lutte intérieure elle avait été " saisie de grandes défaillances, accompagnées de fièvres ". Car sa santé " laissait toujours beaucoup à désirer ". Ibid., p. 62.

La décision prise d’entrer dans la vie religieuse fut exécutée par Thérèse avec une énergie et une fermeté d’âme peu ordinaires. Mais la violence qu’elle dut se faire ne laissa pas d’avoir de profondes répercussions sur son être physique. Elle partit malgré son père opposé à sa vocation : " Quand je quittai la maison de mon père, écrit-elle, j’éprouvai une douleur si excessive que l’heure de la mort ne peut, je pense, m’en réserver de plus cruelle. Il me semblait sentir mes os se détacher les uns des autres. Le sentiment de l’amour divin n’étant pas assez fort pour contrebalancer celui que je portais à mon père et à mes proches, j’étais obligée de me faire une incroyable violence et, si Dieu ne fût venu à mon aide, toutes mes considérations n’auraient pas été suffisants pour me faire passer outre. Mais en cet instant, il me donna le courage de me vaincre, et je vins à bout de mon entreprise. " Vie, c. IV, p. 66.

Thérèse fut heureuse pendant son noviciat. Elle déclare cependant avoir éprouvé " de grands troubles pour des choses en elles-mêmes peu importantes ". Vie, c. V, p. 76. Troubles assez fréquents, sans doute, chez les novices. Après sa profession, où elle goûta une " joie si vive ", la santé de Thérèse déclina : " Ma santé, dit-elle, souffrit du changement de vie et de nourriture. Mes défaillances augmentèrent, et je fus saisie de douleurs de cœur si aiguës qu’on ne pouvait me voir sans en être effrayé… Telle était la gravité de mon état, que je me voyais continuellement sur le point de perdre connaissance, et parfois je la perdais effectivement. " Vie, c. IV, p. 69. Thérèse, à la demande de son père, s’absenta du monastère pendant un an pour se soigner. Dieu la réconforta dans cette épreuve en lui accordant " l’oraison de quiétude et parfois même celle d’union ". Vie, c. IV, p. 72. Elle fut conduite chez la célèbre empirique de Bécédas qui devait, pensait-on, la guérir facilement. Le traitement dura trois mois et aggrava la maladie au lieu de la faire disparaître. C’est ici le commencement de la grande crise qui se prolongea, avec des intermittences, pendant " près de trois ans ". Vie, c. VI, p. 88. Le récit que fait Thérèse de son entrée dans la vie religieuse et de ses deux premières années au couvent de l’Incarnation, nous laisse supposer qu’une profonde dépression nerveuse s’était produite en elle.

Elle décrit avec précision ce qu’elle souffrit à Bécédas et après : " Mon séjour en ce lieu, dit-elle, fut de trois mois. J’y endurais d’indicibles souffrances, le traitement qu’on me fit suivre étant trop violent pour mon tempérament. Au bout de deux mois, à force de remèdes, on m’avait presque ôté la vie. Les douleurs causées par la maladie de cœur dont j’étais allée chercher la guérison étaient devenues beaucoup plus intenses. Il me semblait par moments qu’on m’enfonçait dans le cœur des dents aiguës. On finit par craindre que ce ne fût de la rage. A la faiblesse excessive – car un dégoût extrême me mettait dans l’impossibilité d’avaler autre chose que des liquides – à une fièvre continue, à l’épuisement causé par les médecines que j’avais prises tous les jours durant près d’un mois, vint se joindre un feu intérieur si violent que mes nerfs commencèrent à se contracter, mais avec des douleurs si insupportables que je ne pouvais trouver de repos ni de jour ni de nuit. " Ajoutez à cela une tristesse profonde. " Voilà ce que j’avais gagné, lorsque mon père me ramena chez lui. Les médecins me virent de nouveau. Tous me condamnèrent, disant qu’indépendamment des maux que je viens de dire, j’étais atteinte de phtisie. Cet arrêt me laissa indifférente, absorbée que j’étais par le sentiment des souffrances qui me torturaient également des pieds à la tête. De l’aveu des médecins, les douleurs de nerfs sont intolérables et, comme chez moi leur contraction était universelle, j’endurais un cruel martyre. La souffrance, à ce degré d’intensité, ne dura pas plus de trois mois, me semble-t-il ; mais on n’aurait jamais cru qu’il fût possible de supporter tant de maux réunis. Aujourd’hui je m’en étonne moi-même, et je regarde comme une grande faveur de Dieu la patience qu’il m’accorda. " Vie, c. V, p. 82-83.

" La fête de l’Assomption de Notre-Dame arriva. Mes tortures duraient depuis le mois d’avril, plus intenses cependant les trois derniers mois. Je demandais instamment à me confesser… On crut que ce désir m’était inspiré par la frayeur de la mort, et mon père, pour ne pas m’alarmer, ne voulut pas le satisfaire… Cette nuit-là même, j’eus une crise qui me laissa sans connaissance pendant près de quatre jours. Je reçus en cet état l’extrême-onction. A chaque heure, à chaque moment, on croyait me voir expirer, et l’on ne cessait de me dire le Credo, comme si j’eusse pu comprendre quelque chose. Parfois même on me crut morte, au point qu’on laissa couler sur mes paupières de la cire que j’y trouvais ensuite. Mon père était au désespoir de ne m’avoir pas permis de me confesser… Dans mon monastère, la sépulture était ouverte depuis un jour et demi, attendant mon corps, et dans une autre ville les religieux de notre ordre avaient déjà célébré à mon intention un service funèbre, quand le Seigneur permit que je revinsse à moi. " Ibid., p. 84-85.

" Au sortir de cette crise de quatre jours, je me trouvais dans un état lamentable. Dieu seul peut savoir les intolérables douleurs auxquelles j’étais en proie. J’avais la langue en lambeaux à force de l’avoir mordue, la gorge tellement resserrée par suite de l’absence d’aliments et de l’extrême faiblesse, que je suffoquais et ne pouvais même pas avaler une goutte d’eau. Tout mon corps paraissait disloqué, ma tête livrée à un désordre étrange. Mes membres contractés étaient ramassés en peloton, par suite de la torture des jours précédents. A moins d’un secours étranger, j’étais aussi incapable de remuer les bras, les pieds, les mains, la tête, que si j’eusse été morte : j’avais seulement, me semble-t-il, la faculté de mouvoir un doigt de la main droite. On ne savait comment m’approcher, toutes les parties de mon corps étant tellement endolories que je ne pouvais supporter le moindre contact. Pour me changer de position, il fallait se servir d’un drap que deux personnes tenaient, l’une d’un côté, l’autre de l’autre.

" Cette situation se prolongea jusqu’à Pâques-fleuries [Dimanche des Rameaux] avec cette seule amélioration que souvent, lorsqu’on s’abstenait de me toucher, mes douleurs se calmaient. Un peu de répit, à mes yeux, c’était presque la santé. Je craignais que la patience ne m’échappât : aussi je fus charmée de voir les douleurs devenir moins aiguës et moins continuelles. Pourtant, j’en éprouvais encore d’insupportables lorsque venaient à se produire les frissons d’une fièvre double-quarte très violente qui m’était demeurée. Mon dégoût de la nourriture restait aussi accentué.

" Il me tardait à tel point de retourner à mon monastère que je m’y fis transporter en cet état. On reçut donc en vie celle qu’on attendait morte, mais le corps en pire état que s’il eût été privé de vie ; sa seule vue inspirait la compassion. Impossible de dépeindre l’excès de mon épuisement : je n’avais que les os. Cette situation, je le répète, dura près de huit mois. Quant à la contraction des membres, malgré une amélioration progressive, elle se prolongea près de trois ans. Quand je commençais à l’aide des genoux et des mains, j’en remerciai Dieu avec effusion. " Vie, c. VI, p. 87-88. Sa patience fut admirable : " Dieu aidant, dira-t-elle, j’endurais patiemment de cruelles maladies. " Vie, c. XXXII, t. II, p. 6.

Cette longue citation était nécessaire pour avoir sous les yeux tous les détails, donnés par Thérèse, sur sa maladie. Celle-ci est évidemment à forme nerveuse : contraction violente des membres du corps, spasmes du cœur, suppression apparente, et une fois prolongée, de la vie par la suspension de la sensibilité extérieure et du mouvement volontaire ou catalepsie. La forte crise fut précédée de " défaillances " physiques assez fréquentes et même de pertes de connaissance. Vie, c. IV, p. 69. Sainte Thérèse paraît convaincue de ce caractère nerveux. La cessation progressive de la paralysie et des autres malaises, sans emploi de remède, confirme cette conviction. Thérèse eut recours, il est vrai, à la prière pour obtenir sa guérison. Vie, c. VI, p. 91. Thérèse n’obtint cependant pas une guérison subite mais plutôt lente. Voici son témoignage se rapportant aux années de sa vie qui suivirent la grande crise : " Bien remise de la terrible maladie dont j’ai parlé, j’en avais et j’en ai encore [des infirmités] de bien fâcheuses. Depuis peu, il est vrai, elles ont diminué d’intensité ; cependant, j’en souffre de bien des manières. Durant vingt ans, en particulier, j’ai eu tous les matins des vomissements… Il est très rare, ce me semble, que je n’éprouve à la fois des souffrances de diverses natures, et par moment bien intenses, celles du cœur par exemple. Seulement ce mal, qui autrefois était continuel, ne se fait plus sentir que de loin en loin. Quant à ces rhumatismes aigus et à ces fièvres qui m’étaient si ordinaires, j’en suis délivrée depuis huit ans. " Vie, c. VII, p. 106. Sainte Thérèse écrivait ceci en 1565, une quinzaine d’années après la grande maladie.

On a cru pouvoir qualifier d’hystérique la grande maladie de Thérèse. Ce mot doit être écarté, car sa signification, même atténuée, reste péjorative. Il est synonyme de déséquilibre foncier, donc durable, à la fois physique et mental. Or, cette maladie qui vient d’être décrite ne tient pas de l’état constitutif de la sainte. Elle fut, dans la vie de Thérèse, un accident passager, bien localisé durant trois années de sa vie et qui ne se reproduisit plus. Nous en avons discerné et énuméré les causes extérieures immédiates. Et d’ailleurs, d’après ce que nous savons du tempérament de la sainte, il n’y avait en lui aucune tare héréditaire chronique. Tous ses biographes font ressortir les qualités naturelles de Thérèse. Il y avait, en elle, écrit Ribera, " un naturel excellent si enclin de soi à [la] vertu, un entendement clair et fort capable, une grande prudence et quiétude, un courage pour entreprendre [de] grandes choses et industrie et manière pour les accomplir, une persévérance et force pour ne s’y lasser point, et une grande force et grande grâce en son parler, que si on l’eût laissée faire des discours de vertu, elle eût pu facilement gagner beaucoup d’âmes à Dieu. " La Vie de la Mère Thérèse de Jésus, tr. fr., Paris, 1645, l. I, c. V, p. 42. Son ferme bon sens dans l’appréciation de toutes choses, ses qualités d’écrivain, la sagesse de sa mystique et son œuvre de réformatrice du Carmel et de fondatrice de monastères sont incompatibles avec un tempérament hystérique et une psychologie maladive comme celle des anormaux.

Ce que nous savons de la constitution physique et mentale de la sainte cadre avec le caractère accidentel et passager de sa maladie nerveuse. Névrose, " état de nervosisme grave ", si l’on veut, mais ne provenant pas d’une altération complète de l’être physique et mental, comme le prouve surabondamment la vie de Thérèse postérieure à la crise. On peut comparer cette névrose à celle dont M. Olier souffrit pendant deux années. Le tempérament sanguin du fondateur du Saint-Sulpice ne le prédisposait pas, lui non plus, à cette névrose, bien circonscrite par ailleurs, dans la durée et qui n’eut pas de suites. Cf. P. Pourrat, Jean-Jacques Olier, Fondateur du Saint-Sulpice (Coll. les Grands Cœurs), p. 80 sq. Les années postérieures à ces accidents de santé furent, pour sainte Thérèse et pour M. Olier, les plus actives et les plus fécondes de leurs vies. L’hystérie, tare congénitale, ne saurait rien produire de semblable. Cf. A. Farges, Les phénomènes mystiques distingués de leurs contrefaçons humaines et diaboliques, Paris, 1923, t. II, p. 192 sq. ; J. de Tonquédec, Les maladies nerveuses ou mentales et les manifestations diaboliques, c. III, L’hystérie, Paris, 1938. Dans le plan providentiel, ces névroses fortuites sont, sans doute, des moyens dont Dieu se sert pour purifier intensément les saintes âmes. Sainte Thérèse, parlant des purifications préparatoires au mariage spirituel, s’exprime ainsi : " Le Seigneur envoie alors d’ordinaire de très grandes maladies. C’est là un tourment supérieur au précédent [les critiques et les moqueries], surtout si les douleurs qu’on éprouve sont aiguës. A mon avis, quand ces douleurs se font sentir avec intensité, c’est en quelque sorte le plus grand que l’on puisse endurer ici-bas : je parle des tourments extérieurs et du cas où les douleurs atteignent un degré excessif. " Château, 6e dem., c. I, t. VI, p. 171. Les peines intérieures sont, en effet, plus douloureuses encore. Thérèse fait ici allusion à sa grande maladie et semble la considérer comme une préparation aux états mystiques. Cf. Grégoire de Saint-Joseph, La prétendue hystérie de sainte Thérèse, Lyon, 1895 ; Dr Groix, Les extases de sainte Thérèse, dans Annales de philosophie chrétienne, mai-juin 1896 ; P. de San, Etude pathologico-théologique sur sainte Thérèse, Louvain, 1886.

Les écrivains catholiques qui croient pouvoir qualifier d’hystériques certains phénomènes de la vie de sainte Thérèse ne rejettent pas pour cela l’authenticité de ses états mystiques. Cf. Guillaume de Hahn, Les phénomènes hystériques et révélations de sainte Thérèse, dans Revue des questions scientifiques, Bruxelles, 1883, mis à l’index le 1er décembre 1885. A tort ou à raison, ils croient possible la conciliation des deux, ce qui nous paraît toutefois impossible. Il n’en est pas de même pour ceux qui nient le caractère surnaturel et divin de tout état mystique. Selon H. Delacroix, l’évolution mystique de sainte Thérèse est un produit de " son activité subconsciente ", préparé " par cet " état de nervosisme grave " que même les plus prévenus de ses biographes sont contraints de reconnaître ". Deux étapes dans cette évolution. Dans la première, celle de " l’excitation des images mentales ", Thérèse arrive à croire à la présence du Dieu mystique en elle, présence rare d’abord, ensuite continue. Dieu prit ainsi " possession de tous les états " de son âme et la dirigea par sa " parole intérieure ". Puis il s’opéra en Thérèse " comme un dédoublement " – c’est la deuxième étape – " certaines images s’exaltèrent et s’extériorisèrent : la parole intérieure s’objectiva, lui sembla venir d’un étranger… à qui elle les rapportait. " Ce furent d’abord des paroles qui vinrent du dehors, ensuite les visions. " Ainsi, pendant que se déroulait l’évolution interne qui réalisait en elle le Dieu confus, le divin au-delà de toute forme, il s’organisait au-dehors le Dieu objectivé, le Dieu qui parle et qu’on voit, le Dieu qui est le Dieu de l’Ecriture. " Les grands mystiques chrétiens (Bibl. de phil. contemp.), nouv. édit., 1938, p. 72-75. Vouloir expliquer les faits mystiques par l’activité subconsciente, par " l’irruption des phénomènes subconscients dans la personnalité ordinaire ", c’est faire preuve d’incompréhension, c’est prendre pour des états qui peuvent être parfois morbides les manifestations les plus hautes des communications de Dieu avec l’âme humaine. Conséquence du préjugé rationaliste qui rejette la réalité objective du surnaturel et du divin.

3° L’oraison comme moyen de sanctification. – Sainte Thérèse est l’apôtre de l’oraison mentale, elle en est aussi, on peut dire, le docteur. Elle a retiré, la première, les plus précieux avantages de cet exercice. Aussi est-ce avec les accents d’une éloquence entraînante qu’elle en recommande la pratique aux autres.

Chez les augustines, elle récitait " beaucoup de prières vocales ". La lecture méditée des livres de piété lui fit comprendre, avant son entrée dans la vie religieuse, " la vanité de tout ce qui est ici-bas, le néant du monde, la rapidité avec laquelle tout passe ". " J’avais pris goût aux bons livres, dit-elle, ils me donnèrent la vie. Je lisais les épîtres de saint Jérôme et j’y puisais tant de courage, que je me décidai à m’ouvrir à mon père de ma vocation religieuse ". Vie, c. III, p. 59, 62.

La vie d’oraison proprement dite sainte Thérèse commença à son entrée au monastère de l’Incarnation d’Avila. La méthode qu’elle suivait alors et les fruits qu’elle retirait de cet exercice sont exposés longuement dans la Vie. Elle se servit d’un livre pendant près de vingt ans : " Je n’osais, dit-elle, faire oraison sans un livre. L’aborder sans ce secours causait à mon âme autant d’effroi qu’un combat à soutenir contre une multitude ennemie. " Vie, c. IV, p. 74. Elle ne pouvait faire l’oraison discursive, car Dieu ne lui avait pas " donné le talent de discourir avec l’entendement ", ni celui de se " servir utilement de l’imagination ". Ibid., p. 72. Aussi recommande-t-elle beaucoup l’usage d’un livre aux personnes qui souffrent de cette impuissance. Ibid., p. 73.

Sainte Thérèse faisait ordinairement l’oraison affective où il y a peu de raisonnements. " Ne pouvant discourir avec l’entendement, je cherchais à me représenter Jésus-Christ au-dedans de moi. Je me trouvais bien surtout de le considérer dans les circonstances où il a été le plus délaissé ; il me semblait que, seul et affligé, il serait, par sa détresse même, plus disposé à m’accueillir. " Vie, c. IX, p. 128. Le point capital de l’oraison n’est pas " le travail de l’entendement ". " L’avancement de l’âme ne consiste pas à penser beaucoup mais à aimer beaucoup. " Fondations, c. V, t. III, p. 97-98.

L’impuissance à faire l’oraison discursive expose aux distractions et aux sécheresses. Les premières se combattent par l’usage du livre. Mais les autres doivent être subies. Sainte Thérèse parle des " grandes sécheresses " que lui " causait cette impuissance à discourir ". Vie, c. IV, p. 73. A cause de cela " et pendant des années, dit-elle, j’étais plus occupée du désir de voir la fin de l’heure que j’avais résolu de donner à l’oraison, plus attentive au son de l’horloge qu’à de pieuses considérations. " Elle devait vaincre sa répugnance, parfois extrêmement vive, pour entrer à l’oratoire où elle faisait son oraison. Vie, c. VIII, p. 122. Si elle insiste tant sur les difficultés qu’elle a rencontrées elle-même dans la pratique de l’oraison, c’est pour encourager ceux qui en souffriraient et les empêcher d’abandonner un exercice qui est " la porte par où pénètrent dans l’âme les grâces de choix ". Vie, c. VIII, p. 124.

Elle n’hésite pas à dire que, pendant une année, elle abandonna l’oraison, afin de faire éviter ce malheur à d’autres. Elle était cependant appelée à une oraison sublime ! Pendant les vingt années d’oraison difficile, elle fut gratifiée, en quelques circonstances, de " l’oraison de quiétude " et " quelquefois même " de " celle d’union ". Vie, c. IV, p. 72. Il y eut donc, dans sa vie, une infidélité qui explique cet abandon.

Cette circonstance de la vie de Thérèse est instructive et mérite d’être remarquée. Ce ne fut pas la violence qu’elle devait s’imposer pour se recueillir malgré les distractions, les sécheresses et les aridités qui la détourna de l’oraison. Ce fut la dissipation dans laquelle elle vécut après sa grande maladie. La coexistence dans une âme, disent les auteurs spirituels, de la pratique habituelle de l’oraison mentale et d’une vie de péché est impossible. Ou bien l’âme se convertira ou bien elle laissera l’oraison. Il semble, en effet, qu’il y ait une contradiction intolérable pour une âme que de se recueillir chaque jour en présence de Dieu pendant le temps de l’oraison, et rester cependant dans le péché. Sans doute, sainte Thérèse ne commit pas des péchés graves. Elle était portée à les croire tels cependant : " J’en vins à m’exposer à de si grands périls et à livrer mon âme à de telles frivolités que j’avais honte de m’approcher de Dieu par cet intime commerce d’amitié qui s’appelle l’oraison. " Le démon put facilement " sous prétexte d’humilité " lui tendre le piège et lui persuader qu’une " personne qui méritait d’habiter avec les démons ne devait pas faire oraison mentale et entretenir des relations si intimes avec Dieu ". Vie, c. VII, p. 97-98. La conviction de la sainte qu’elle péchait gravement fut ici nuisible à sa vie spirituelle. L’autre raison qu’elle donne de l’oraison est bien secondaire : " A mesure que mes fautes augmentaient, je ne trouvais plus dans les choses de la piété le même goût, la même douceur. " Ibid., p. 97. Elle avait bien souvent déjà triomphé de ce dégoût. Elle en aurait sûrement triomphé encore s’il eût été seul à la détourner de l’oraison.

Sainte Thérèse reprit l’oraison après la mort de son père, grâce à l’exhortation d’un dominicain, le P. Baron. Désormais cet exercice va élever son âme aux sommets de la perfection. Dans la lutte qui se livra alors en elle-même entre Dieu et l’esprit du monde, le rôle de l’oraison fut capital. Toujours la même alternative : ou abandonner l’oraison ou abandonner le monde : " La vie que je menais, dit-elle, était extraordinairement pénible, car l’oraison me faisait comprendre mes fautes. D’un côté, Dieu m’appelait ; de l’autre je suivais le monde. Je trouvais beaucoup de joie dans les choses de Dieu, et celles du monde me tenaient captive. Je voulais, ce semble, allier ces deux contraires, si ennemis l’un de l’autre : d’une part, la vie spirituelle avec ses consolations, de l’autre les divertissements et les plaisirs des sens. Je souffrais beaucoup dans l’oraison, parce que l’esprit, au lieu d’être le maître, se trouvait esclave. Je ne pouvais me renfermer au-dedans de moi-même, ce qui était toute ma méthode d’oraison, sans y renfermer en même temps mille futilités. Bien des années s’écoulèrent ainsi, et je m’étonne maintenant d’avoir pu supporter un pareil combat sans abandonner l’un ou l’autre. Mais, ce que je sais très bien, c’est qu’il n’était plus en mon pouvoir de renoncer à l’oraison, parce que Celui-là me retenait qui me voulait à lui afin de m’accorder de plus grandes faveurs. " Vie, c. VII, p. 111-112.

Notre-Seigneur punissait à sa manière les fautes de Thérèse " par de souverains délices ". " Avec ma nature, dit-elle, il m’était incomparablement plus pénible, quand j’étais tombée dans des fautes graves, de recevoir des faveurs que des châtiments ; aussi je le dis avec assurance, une seule de ces faveurs m’accablait, me confondait, me désolait plus que bien des maladies jointes à toutes sortes d’épreuves. " Ibid., p. 113.

C’est ainsi que Dieu sanctifia Thérèse par l’oraison. Elle a voulu s’étendre sur ce récit " pour montrer quelle grâce Dieu accorde en une âme, lorsqu’il met en elle la résolution bien arrêtée de s’appliquer à l’oraison, n’eût-elle pas encore pour cela toutes les dispositions requises ; c’est enfin pour montrer que, si l’âme persévère malgré les péchés, malgré les tentations, malgré les chutes de toutes sortes où le démon l’entraîne, Dieu, j’en suis convaincue, finira par la conduire au port du salut, comme il m’y a, ce semble, conduite moi-même ". Vie, c. VIII, p. 119.

Aussi, quels éloges elle fait de l’oraison ! Exercice " qui n’est autre chose qu’une amitié intime, un entretien fréquent seul à seul avec Celui dont nous nous savons aimés ". Vie, c. VIII, p. 120. Dieu lui " a fait trouver dans l’oraison le remède " à tous ses maux. P. 125. " La porte par où pénètrent dans l’âme les grâces de choix, comme celles que Dieu m’a faites, c’est l’oraison. " P. 124. " L’heureux sort des âmes qui se déterminent à suivre, par le chemin de l’oraison, Celui qui nous a tant aimés ", c’est de commencer " à être les esclaves de l’amour ". Vie, c. CI, p. 143. Enfin, dans son grand désir de voir pratiquer ce saint exercice, Thérèse, aux c. XII et XIII de la Vie, exhorte fortement les commençants à faire les efforts nécessaires à l’oraison de méditation. Elle donne les conseils pratiques pour y réussir. Voir aussi Le chemin de la perfection, c. XX-XXIII, t. V, p. 158 sq.

II. LA REFORMATRICE DU CARMEL. – Le 24 août 1562 fut établi à Avila le monastère de Saint-Joseph, le premier d’une réforme appelée à un succès si éclatant et si durable. Comment sainte Thérèse fut-elle amenée à entreprendre cette réforme et comment l’opéra-t-elle ?

En 1562, elle avait quarante-sept ans. Depuis plusieurs années elle était habituellement dans les oraisons mystiques. A la fin de 1559 ou au début de 1560, elle eut la célèbre vision de l’enfer, qui exerça sur son projet de réformer le Carmel une influence décisive, semble-t-il.

Dans la vision, sainte Thérèse ressentit effectivement les souffrances dont le spectacle était devant elle: " Il plut à Dieu, dit-elle, de me faire ressentir en esprit ces tourments et ces peines, aussi véritablement que si je les eusse soufferts en mon corps…Mon épouvante fut indicible. Au bout de six ans et à l’heure où je trace ces lignes, ma terreur est encore si vive que mon sang se glace dans mes veines. " Vie, c. XXXII, t. II, p. 4. Cette réalisation des souffrances des damnés lui a été, dit-elle, " d’une utilité immense ". Tout d’abord pour l’exciter " à remercier Dieu " de l’avoir " délivrée… de maux si terribles et qui seront sans fin ". Ensuite pour l’aider à supporter les souffrances de cette vie : " Tout ce qu’on peut souffrir ici-bas n’est plus rien à mes yeux, disait-elle, et il me semble en quelque sorte que nous nous plaignons sans sujet. " Enfin pour lui faire déplorer l’inexprimable malheur des âmes qui se damnent. Ibid.

Mais Thérèse ne se contente pas d’éprouver " la mortelle douleur " que lui cause " la perte de cette multitude " qui se jette en enfer. Elle éprouve " d’immenses désirs d’être utile aux âmes ". Pour " en délivrer une seule de si horribles tourments ", volontiers elle endurerait " mille fois la mort ". Ibid. Elle ressentait " un désir ardent " de faire, pour sauver les âmes, tout ce qui serait en son pouvoir, " absolument tout ". Ibid., p. 6. En particulier " faire pénitence ". C’est alors que la pensée d’un ordre plus sévère que le sien se présenta à son esprit. Le monastère de l’Incarnation où était Thérèse " comptait bon nombre de servantes de Dieu, et Notre-Seigneur y était bien servi ", mais la vie " y était trop douce ". Il suivait la règle mitigée en 1431 par le pape Eugène IV. Il n’était pas soumis à la clôture, ce qui était nuisible à la sanctification des religieuses. Vie, c. VII, p. 99 sq. Si un particulier qui " fait de généreux efforts pour atteindre, avec l’aide de Dieu, la cime de la perfection… ne va jamais seul au ciel… y mène à sa suite une troupe nombreuse ", que sera-ce d’un ordre religieux qui, grâce à sa réforme, priera mieux et fera de plus nombreuses et de plus généreuses pénitences ? Cf. Vie, c. XI, p. 146.

C’est donc une pensée de zèle apostolique qui a été l’inspiratrice de la réforme du Carmel. Thérèse le redit avec précision au début du Chemin de la perfection. " J’appris, dit-elle, les calamités qui désolaient la France, les ravages qu’y avaient fait les malheureux luthériens, les accroissements rapides que prenait cette secte désastreuse. J’en éprouvai une douleur profonde… J’aurais, me semblait-il, donné mille vies pour sauver une seule de ces âmes qui se perdaient en si grand nombre dans ce pays ; mais je le voyais, j’étais femme et bien misérable… Je résolus donc de faire le peu qui dépendait de moi, c’est-à-dire de suivre les conseils évangéliques avec toute la perfection dont je serais capable, et de porter les quelques âmes qui sont ici à faire de même. Enfin, il me semblait qu’en nous occupant toutes à prier pour les défenseurs de l’Eglise, pour les prédicateurs et les théologiens qui soutiennent sa cause, nous viendrions selon notre pouvoir au secours de mon Maître bien-aimé. " Chemin de la perfection, c. I, t. V, p. 33-34. Thérèse cherchait à inspirer à ses carmélites " le zèle de l’avancement des âmes et de l’exaltation de l’Eglise ". Cette intention apostolique, catholique doit être préférée par elles à toute intention particulière de prier. Chemin de la perfection, c. I, t. V, p. 35 ; Fondations, c. I, t. III, p. 58 sq.

Les exceptionnelles qualités naturelles de sainte Thérèse se manifestent dans l’exécution de son projet de réforme du Carmel : la sûreté du coup d’œil qui prévoit les difficultés et les moyens d’en triompher, la promptitude à saisir toutes les occasions favorables, la patience qui sait s’arrêter lorsque l’opposition est violente, tout en gardant la ferme résolution de faire aboutir coûte que coûte l’œuvre commencée, l’habileté à tourner l’obstacle, enfin le charme que ses séduisantes qualités de relation exerçaient même sur ses plus irréductibles adversaires. Sans doute, elle consultait Dieu dans ses oraisons. Elle agissait cependant comme si tout eût dépendu d’elle. Aux c. XXXII-XXXVI de sa Vie, Thérèse raconte les curieuses péripéties de cette difficile réforme qui a consisté à rétablir la règle des carmes donnée par saint Albert en 1209 et approuvée en 1226 par le pape Honorius III. Cette règle aura été révisée sur la demande de saint Simon Stock, général de l’ordre, par le pape Innocent IV en 1248, date du Bullaire des carmes. La règle ainsi révisée est celle qui s’observe dans toute la réforme de sainte Thérèse. Elle " prescrit l’abstinence perpétuelle de viande, sauf le cas de nécessité, le jeûne huit mois de l’année ", la clôture la plus rigoureuse " et bien d’autres choses qu’on peut voir dans la règle primitive ". Vie, c. XXXVI, t. II, p. 86-87. Le premier monastère des carmes déchaussés fut fondé en 1568 par sainte Thérèse et saint Jean de la Croix à Duruelo. Fondations, c. XIII, t. III, p. 179 sq.

Un des points de la réforme causa quelques hésitations. Les monastères devaient-ils avoir des revenus ou vivre dans la plus stricte pauvreté, attendant leur subsistance uniquement des aumônes reçues ? Saint Pierre d’Alcantara, consulté par la sainte à ce sujet, se prononça énergiquement en faveur de la pauvreté absolue. Vie, c. XXXV, t. II, p. 56. Thérèse adoptait aussi cette manière de voir. Cependant son bon sens lui faisait craindre que la préoccupation de trouver les aumônes nécessaires aux monastères ne fût une cause de trouble pour les religieuses. Finalement elle consentit à créer des monastères avec des revenus, Fondations, c. IX, et il y eut des monastères sans revenus et d’autres avec revenus. Les premiers ne devaient pas avoir plus de treize ou quatorze religieuses. " De nombreux avis, joints à ma propre expérience, dit Thérèse, m’ont appris que pour conserver l’esprit intérieur qui est le nôtre et vivre d’aumônes, sans faire de quêtes, il ne faut pas être davantage. " Vie, c. XXXVI, t. II, p. 88. Les monastères dotés de revenus peuvent avoir vingt religieuses, y compris les sœurs converses. Enfin, de même qu’elle avait obtenu de Rome l’autorisation de fonder des monastères sans revenus, elle obtint aussi que les monastères des carmélites fussent soumis à la juridiction des évêques. Et ceci, comme dit saint Pierre d’Alcantara, pour mieux établir l’observance de la première règle du Carmel. Cf. Œuvres complètes de sainte Thérèse, t. II, p. 423. Les carmes mitigés, s’ils eussent dirigé les carmels, auraient eu peu de zèle pour leur faire observer la règle primitive.

III. LA FONDATRICE. – Sainte Thérèse, dit Ribera, n’eut pas tout d’abord l’intention " de faire un nouvel ordre et religion, mais seulement de perfectionner son ordre ancien de Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel. Depuis, considérant les grandes nécessités de l’Eglise, et désirant avec sa grande charité aider, en ce qu’elle pourrait, à ceux qui bataillent pour elle, elle éleva plus haut ses pensées ". Vie de la Mère Thérèse de Jésus, l. II, c. I. Et d’ailleurs, n’était-il pas plus facile de fonder des carmels selon la réforme que de réformer des carmels mitigés ? Sainte Thérèse fut donc une fondatrice. Son important ouvrage : Les fondations montre un aspect nouveau de sa riche nature. Aussi bien douée pour l’action que pour la contemplation, elle dut bien vite quitter le monastère réformé de Saint-Joseph d’Avila, où elle passa cinq années, " les plus douces de ma vie ", dit-elle, Fondations, c. I, et aller sur les routes de la Castille, de la Manche et de l’Andalousie répandre, dans tout le centre de l’Espagne, les fleurs du nouveau Carmel. Dans ses voyages, nous la voyons aux prises avec les difficultés et les embarras de notre vie de chaque jour. Par sa patience, son entrain, sa gaîté et sa bonne humeur dans les incidents même les plus pénibles de la route, elle nous apparaît souvent héroïque. Et quelle habileté à se tirer d’affaires parfois très compliquées !

La pieuse caravane se composait d’ordinaire de cinq ou six religieuses renfermées dans un lourd véhicule à roues pleines, recouvert d’une toile et traîné par plusieurs paires de mules. Monastère ambulant où les religieuses vivent en carmélites, faisant tous les exercices de piété ordinaires, annoncés par une petite cloche. Mais beaucoup de chemins sont mauvais ou dangereux. Il faut assez souvent descendre de voiture, faire un long trajet à pied sous la pluie ou les ardeurs du soleil. Il y avait aussi des prêtres qui accompagnaient les religieuses : des prêtres séculiers comme Julien d’Avila, des carmes réformés comme saint Jean de la Croix et Jérôme Gratien. Des laïques, gens de grande piété, montés sur des mules escortaient le véhicule des religieuses. Car il fallait veiller sur les carreteros ou conducteurs des chars " trop souvent maladroits et négligents " et sur les mozos de caminos, jeunes gens à pied chargés de tirer les chars des mauvais pas, de les aider à franchir les passages périlleux, et de les relever quand ils avaient versé, accident assez fréquent. Thérèse veillait sur tout ce monde, réconfortant et égayant dans les moments difficiles, oubliant elle-même les souffrances que lui causait sa santé souvent chancelante. Lorsqu’elle voyageait seule ou avec une compagne, c’était à dos de mulet ou d’âne.

Que dire des auberges ou ventas, où la pieuse troupe devait passer la nuit ? Malpropreté, encombrement, cris, jurements, impossibilité de se ravitailler, c’est ce qu’on y trouvait le plus souvent. Un jour, en 1575, avant d’arriver à Cordoue, sous un soleil brûlant, Thérèse en proie à une forte fièvre fut contrainte de s’arrêter dans l’une de ces auberges. Elle eut " une petite chambre, à simple toit sans plafond ; il ne s’y trouvait pas de fenêtre, et dès qu’on ouvrait la porte, le soleil y pénétrait en plein… On me mit, dit-elle, dans un lit si singulièrement conditionné que j’eusse bien préféré m’étendre à terre. Il était si haut d’un côté et si bas de l’autre que je ne savais quelle position prendre : je me serais crue sur des pierres pointues… Finalement, je crus plus sage de me lever et de me remettre en route avec mes compagnes, le soleil du dehors me paraissant plus tolérable que celui de cette pauvre chambre ". Fondations, c. XXIV, t. IV, p. 40. Julien d’Avila avait raison de dire qu’à peine avait-on franchi le seuil de ces hôtelleries qu’on ne songeait qu’en sortir le plus vite possible.

Sainte Thérèse commença ses voyages le 13 août 1567, à l’âge de cinquante-deux ans. Elle avait reçu du général des carmes, le P. Jean-Baptiste Rossi, alors à Avila, l’autorisation de fonder des monastères réformés. " Dans un espace de quatre ans (1567-1571), elle établit neuf monastères, sept de religieuses : Medina del Campo, Malagon, Valladolid, Tolède, Pastrana, Salamanque et Albe, et deux de religieux : Duruelo et Pastrana. Son priorat de trois ans au couvent de l’Incarnation d’Avila (1571-1574) arrête pour un temps les fondations : une seule exception est faite pour Ségovie. Rendue à la liberté, elle reprend ses voyages et ses travaux. En moins d’un an (février 1575-janvier 1576), elle donne trois nouveaux couvents de religieuses à la réforme : Beas, Séville et Caravaco. Alors la persécution se déchaîne contre son œuvre et la met à deux doigts de la ruine. Toute fondation est suspendue jusqu’en 1580. En revanche les trois dernières années qu’elle passe sur terre (1580-1582) verront s’élever cinq nouveaux monastères : Villanueva de la Jara, Palencia, Soria, Grenade, et Burgos. " Œuvres compl. de sainte Thérèse, t. III, p. 17.

Le succès de la réforme de sainte Thérèse fut donc rapide et éclatant. Des personnes appartenant aux plus illustres familles d’Espagne demandaient de fonder des monastères dans les villes où elles habitaient. D’autres fois ces demandes étaient faites par les évêques. Cf. Fondations, c. IX, X, XX, XXVII, XIX, XXX. Des enfants de famille noble quittaient le monde pour entrer au Carmel, ce qui produisait une grosse impression dans les populations espagnoles. Fondations, c. X, XI, XII, XXII. Enfin la réforme atteignit les carmes eux-mêmes. Fondations, c. XIII, XIV, XVII. Tant de succès devaient amener la persécution.

Elle ne vint cependant pas tout de suite. Au contraire, ce fut un heureux événement, précieux résultat du commencement de la réforme, qui arriva tout d’abord. Le P. Pierre Fernandez, O. P., avait été chargé par une bulle de saint Pie V de travailler à la réforme du Carmel dans la province de Castille. Il dut donc s’occuper du monastère mitigé de l’Incarnation d’Avila. Depuis que Thérèse l’avait quitté, le relâchement n’avait fait qu’y grandir. Pour le réformer, le P. Fernandez décida d’y envoyer sainte Thérèse comme prieure. Le 6 octobre 1571, il conduisit au monastère la nouvelle prieure, qu’il fit accepter sans peine aux religieuses, pour la plupart hostiles à la réforme. Thérèse triompha des résistances par sa douceur et sa sagesse. Elle fut bien aidée par saint Jean de la Croix qui devint aumônier de l’Incarnation. Enfin les trois années de son priorat écoulées, en février 1575, Thérèse reprit ses voyages.

Elle dut les cesser en 1576 jusqu’en 1580. La persécution violente se déchaîna contre la réforme et faillit la ruiner. On connaît cette période douloureuse de l’histoire de l’ordre des carmes. Les supérieurs des couvents espagnols de carmes mitigés et, à leur tête, le général Tostado, s’assemblèrent en chapitre et tentèrent de détruire la réforme en imposant à tous les carmes réformés l’obligation de vivre dans des couvents mitigés. Libre à eux de suivre d’une manière privée leur règle plus sévère ! Le P. Jérôme Gratien, si apprécié de sainte Thérèse, Fondations, c. XXXII-XXXIV, fut chargé de faire triompher la réforme. Etait-il à la hauteur de cette difficile tâche ? Heureusement le nonce, Mgr Nicolas Ormaneto, et surtout Philippe II étaient favorables à l’entreprise. Les décisions des carmes mitigés furent cassées et les déchaussés gardèrent la possibilité de faire valoir leurs droits. Mais la mort de Mgr Ormaneto, 18 juin 1577, aggrava la situation. Son successeur à la nonciature d’Espagne, Mgr Philippe Séga " semblait, dit sainte Thérèse, envoyé de Dieu pour nous exercer à la patience. Il était un peu parent du pape [Grégoire XIII], et nul doute qu’il ne fût serviteur de Dieu. Mais il prit fort à cœur la cause des mitigés et, se basant sur ce que ces pères lui disaient de nous, arrêta qu’il fallait empêcher les progrès de la réforme ". Fondations, c. XXVIII, t. IV, p. 96.

Sainte Thérèse suivait avec soin tous ces événements. Elle écrivait aux pères déchaussés, chargés de défendre les intérêts de la réforme, pour les conseiller et les encourager. Sa correspondance avec le P. Gratien est particulièrement abondante dans ces années douloureuses. Elle n’hésita pas à s’adresser directement, le 18 septembre 1577, à Philippe II pour le supplier de prendre en main la cause des réformés : " Notre catholique monarque, don Philippe, dit-elle, Fondations, c. XXVIII, fut instruit de ce qui se passait et comme il connaissait la vie très parfaite des déchaussés, il prit en main notre cause. " Le 4 décembre 1577, elle écrivit de nouveau au roi pour lui demander de faire délivrer saint Jean de la Croix, incarcéré par les mitigés dans leur couvent de Tolède. Elle comprit ; dès le début de la persécution, que la solution du conflit était dans la séparation des mitigés et des déchaussés. Elle écrivait au P. Gratien, vers le 20 septembre 1576 : " On m’a dit que vous avez formé le projet d’obtenir une province séparée par la voie de notre T. R. P. Général et d’employer pour cela tous les moyens en votre pouvoir ; de fait, c’est une guerre intolérable que de lutter contre le supérieur de l’ordre. " Elle conseille un voyage à Rome à faire au plus tôt. " Si l’on ne pouvait rien obtenir du P. Général on traiterait avec le pape. " Ce conseil fut approuvé le 9 octobre 1578 au chapitre d’Almodovar, qui nomma le P. Antoine de Jésus provincial et envoya deux religieux à Rome négocier en faveur de la réforme. Le nonce Séga, considérant ce chapitre comme un attentat à son autorité, en cassa les actes, assujettit les réformés aux mitigés et fit emprisonner dans trois couvents de Madrid les PP. Gratien, Antoine de Jésus et Mariano de Saint-Benoît. Thérèse est traitée " de femme inquiète et vagabonde ". Sur la plainte de personnages de marque, Philippe II " ne voulut pas, dit Thérèse, que le nonce fût notre seul juge : il lui adjoignit quatre assesseurs, personnages graves, dont trois appartenaient à des ordres religieux ". Fondations, c. XXVIII. Le 1er avril 1579, le nonce dut retirer aux mitigés tout pouvoir sur les déchaussés. Ceux-ci eurent un vicaire général pour les gouverner et en mai deux pères de la réforme s’embarquèrent pour Rome afin de solliciter la séparation des déchaussés et des mitigés. Cette séparation ne devait être faite qu’en 1593 par un bref du 20 décembre du pape Clément VIII : chacune des deux observances aurait son supérieur général. Le 27 juin 1580, Grégoire XIII décida seulement que les réformés formeraient une province autonome sous l’autorité d’un provincial réformé qui fut le P. Gratien. Sainte Thérèse put continuer ses fondations. Le couvent de Burgos fut le dernier qu’elle créa, déjà bien malade. De Burgos elle se rendit à Albe où elle mourut le 4 octobre 1582.

Malgré les angoisses causées par cette persécution, sainte Thérèse rédigea l’Ecrit sur la visite des monastères en août ou septembre 1576. Puis en octobre de la même année, elle reprit la composition du Livre des fondations. Et du 2 juin au 29 novembre 1577 elle écrivit le Château intérieur. En sainte Thérèse, l’écrivain n’est pas inférieur à la fondatrice.

IV. SAINTE THERESE ECRIVAIN MYSTIQUE. – L’analyse complète des écrits mystiques de sainte Thérèse, leur explication et la solution des problèmes théologiques qu’ils pourraient soulever sont réservées au Dictionnaire de spiritualité. Il suffira d’indiquer ici les qualités d’écrivain de la sainte, les circonstances où elle a composé ses ouvrages et d’énumérer, en les caractérisant brièvement, les degrés d’oraison auxquels elle a été élevée.

1° Qualités de l’écrivain. – Ce qui se remarque tout d’abord en sainte Thérèse écrivain, c’est sa prodigieuse facilité à écrire : " Elle écrivait ses ouvrages, dit le P. Gratien, sans faire de ratures et avec une extrême vélocité. Son écriture était très nette et sa rapidité à écrire égalait celle des notaires publics. " Dilucidario del verdadero spiritu…, Ia, part., c. I. La promptitude de sa conception et la maîtrise de son style lui permettaient de composer rapidement ses ouvrages au milieu de la correspondance et des démarches nécessitées par ses fondations. Elle écrivit, à Tolède, vingt-huit chapitres du Livre des fondations, du début d’octobre 1576 au 14 novembre de la même année. Et pendant la persécution livrée par les mitigés à sa réforme, elle composa, du 2 juin au 29 novembre 1577, le Château intérieur, ouvrage de haute mystique exigeant une réflexion soutenue.

Cette facilité supposait une connaissance étendue de la langue espagnole. Les lectures des romans d’Amadis de Gaule et de sa considérable lignée servirent le talent de la sainte. Elle lut aussi beaucoup de livres spirituels anciens traduits en castillan, et de modernes composés en cette langue. Cf. Morel-Fatio, Les lectures de sainte Thérèse, dans le Bulletin hispanique, t. X, 1908, p. 17-67 ; Gaston Etchegoyen, L’amour divin, Essai sur les sources de sainte Thérèse, Bordeaux-Paris, 1923, p. 33 sq. Thérèse maniait la langue espagnole d’une manière géniale. Avec les écrivains mystiques de son époque elle a forgé cette langue et lui a fait parler " le langage des anges ". Sainte Thérèse, saint Jean de la Croix, l’augustin Louis de Léon et autres encore eurent une part dans la formation de la langue espagnole aussi grande peut-être que celle de Cervantès, l’immortel auteur de Don Quichotte.

Sainte Thérèse a un style imagé. Elle sait trouver les comparaisons excessives qui symbolisent toute une doctrine ou dépeignent des états d’âme. Ainsi les quatre manières d’arroser un jardin caractérisent les quatre degrés d’oraison dont elle parle dans le Livre de la vie. Son imagination est remplie d’images de chevalerie. Pour elle, comme pour saint Ignace de Loyola, le Christ est un roi, un conquérant. Elle l’appelle " sa Majesté ". Sa vision de l’enfer rappelle les oubliettes des châteaux forts dont elle avait lu la description dans les romans. On sait que, pour les visions imaginatives, Dieu se sert d’ordinaire des images qui sont déjà dans l’imagination. Le Château intérieur est révélateur : " La veille de la fête de la très sainte Trinité [1577], dit Diego de Yepez, Tandis qu’elle était à se demander quelle serait l’idée fondamentale de ce traité, Dieu, qui dispose de tout avec sagesse, exauça ses vœux et lui fournit le plan de l’ouvrage. Il lui montra un magnifique globe de cristal en forme de château, ayant sept demeures. Dans la septième, placée au centre, se trouvait le Roi de gloire, brillant d’un éclat merveilleux, dont toutes ces demeures jusqu’à l’enceinte se trouvaient illuminées et embellies. Plus elles étaient proches du centre, plus elles participaient à cette lumière. Celle-ci ne dépassait pas l’enceinte : au-delà il n’y avait que ténèbres et immondices, des crapauds, des vipères et autres animaux venimeux. " Œuvres complètes de sainte Thérèse, t. VI, p. 6.

Aux qualités de l’imagination s’ajoute une sensibilité délicate qui sent vivement la valeur des dons divins ou la portée des événements providentiels et qui sait communiquer aux autres ses impressions. Cet art de faire partager ses propres sentiments était perfectionné en sainte Thérèse par un abandon plein de simplicité et de charme. Elle écrit souvent comme l’on cause familièrement avec des intimes. Car elle n’écrivait pas pour le public, mais pour ses confesseurs qui voulaient connaître son âme ou pour ses carmélites qu’elle désirait initier à ses expériences religieuses.

Enfin un ferme bon sens maintient toutes ces qualités dans la juste mesure. Bon sens tout viril. Si Thérèse a la sensibilité féminine, elle a la maîtrise de l’homme. Elle appréciait le bon sens des personnes avec lesquelles elle traitait les affaires de ses fondations. Fondations, c. XV. Elle sait éviter, dans l’exposé de ses états mystiques, toute exagération, toute expression outrée qui indiquerait que le sentiment a le pas sur la raison, ce qui n’est jamais en sainte Thérèse. Cf. R. Hoornaert, Sainte Thérèse écrivain, Paris-Bruges, 1922.

Quelques défauts cependant déparent, fort légèrement d’ailleurs, de si riches qualités. La facilité si grande d’écrire a fait tomber Thérèse dans quelques longueurs. Les digressions sont parfois trop abondantes. Et sa mauvaise mémoire – dont elle se plaint souvent – lui a fait commettre des contradictions, parfois assez notables pour qu’on ne puisse pas avoir, avec certitude, sa vraie pensée sur quelques points de la mystique. Sa chronologie est souvent défectueuse. Elle écrivait longtemps après les événements et, comme elle ne pensait pas que ses écrits seraient publiés, elle se préoccupait peu de l’exactitude des dates. Bien petites ombres dans de ravissants tableaux !

2° Caractères de la mystique thérésienne. – Signalons tout d’abord le don qu’a sainte Thérèse d’étaler ses états mystiques. Don d’introspection. Elle sait discerner ce qui se passe dans son âme avec une sûreté rare. Elle peut sans doute prendre pour des communications surnaturelles de Dieu de pieux mouvements de son âme. Mais elle tient compte de cette possibilité qu’elle reconnaît. Aussi, malgré les révélations, elle n’entreprendra rien de tant soit peu important sans avoir l’avis de théologiens instruits et l’approbation de ses supérieurs. A cette sûreté de coup d’œil psychologique s’ajoutait la facilité d’analyser finement ses états mystiques et enfin la talent de les décrire clairement et avec précision : " Recevoir de Dieu une faveur, disait-elle, est une première grâce, savoir en quoi elle consiste en est une seconde ; enfin, c’en est une troisième de pouvoir en rendre compte et en donner l’explication. " Vie, c. XVII, t. I, p. 213. " Dans la sublimité des choses qu’elle traite et dans la délicatesse et la clarté dont elle les déduit, disait Louis de Léon, elle surpasse beaucoup d’esprits, et dans la manière de les dire, dans la pureté et facilité du style, dans la grâce et l’agencement des paroles, et dans une élégance naïve qui délecte au dernier point son lecteur. Je doute que dans toute notre langue [espagnole] il y ait rien qu’on lui puisse comparer. " Lettre à la Mère Anne de Jésus, prieure du carmel de Madrid.

La mystique de sainte Thérèse n’est pas spéculative mais pratique, en ce sens qu’elle consiste dans des analyses psychologiques de ses états mystiques. Saint Jean de la Croix nous montre ses expériences mystiques au travers de théories théologiques. La mystique thérésienne, elle, est dépourvue de théories. Elle se trouve dans la description psychologique des faits mystiques vécus par la sainte. A peine, de loin en loin, contient-elle des allusions aux explications des théologiens. Aussi la mystique thérésienne est-elle très personnelle, puisqu’elle consiste dans les états par où la sainte a passé et qu’elle décrit. Tous les mystiques ne suivent pas nécessairement la même voie qu’elle. Bien souvent elle le laisse entendre. Les écrits de sainte Thérèse sont ainsi son autobiographie mystique, mais leur lecture édifie tout le monde.

Sur l’origine et les sources de la mystique thérésienne deux opinions sont en présence : celle des anciens biographes de sainte Thérèse et celle des écrivains modernes. Selon les anciens thérésiens, tout ce que sainte Thérèse a écrit vient de Dieu. Elle n’a rien appris dans les livres. Elle a lu fort peu d’ouvrages spirituels ; elle en a donné les titres, mais elle ne prend en eux aucune citation. Sa mauvaise mémoire ne le lui aurait pas permis, du reste : " Encore, si Dieu m’avait donné un peu de capacité et de mémoire ! dit-elle en gémissant. Je pourrais alors mettre à profit ce que j’ai lu ou entendu. Mais j’en suis aussi dépourvue que possible. Si donc je dis quelque chose de bon, c’est que le Seigneur l’aura ainsi voulu, pour en tirer quelque bien. " Vie, c. X, Œuvres, t. I, p. 140. Thérèse ne devrait donc qu’à Dieu la doctrine qu’elle nous enseigne. Diego de Yepez, religieux hiéronymite, puis évêque de Terrassone dit à ce sujet : " Dieu versa dans l’âme de la sainte Mère cette sagesse admirable [de la théologie mystique]. Car étant si rude et si grossière, non seulement pour déclarer les choses spirituelles, mais encore pour les entendre, Notre-Seigneur en fort peu de temps lui donna tant de lumière et d’intelligence des choses surnaturelles et divines que de grands théologiens en plusieurs années d’étude n’eussent su parvenir jusque-là… Cette intelligence et science qu’elle eut des choses divines fut presque soudaine et tout à coup enfin comme infuse de Dieu. " Vie de la sainte Mère Thérèse de Jésus, 2e part., c. XVIII, trad. fr., Paris, 1656.

Cette manière de voir commence à se modifier, à la suite d’études plus attentives des sources littéraires auxquelles la sainte a puisé. Thérèse n’a pas négligé les moyens humains de s’instruire des voies surnaturelles. Elle savait interroger ses confesseurs et les théologiens. Elle a lu, souligné et annoté des livres spirituels traduits en castillan. Les exemplaires de ces livres annotés de sa main ont été conservés. Ce sont : les Lettres de saint Jérôme (Vie, c. III, XI ; Château, 6e dem., c. IX) ; les Morales sur le livre de Job de saint Grégoire le Grand (Vie, c. V) ; Les Chartreux ou la Vita Christi de Ludolphe le Chartreux (Vie, c. XXXVIII) ; les Confessions de saint Augustin (Vie, c. IX). Elle a étudié trois écrivains espagnols franciscains ses contemporains : Alonso de Madrid, auteur de l’Art de servir Dieu publié à Séville en 1521 (Vie, c. XII) ; Francisco de Osuna, qui a composé les Abécédaires, dont sainte Thérèse a lu le troisième (Vie, c. IV ; cf. Un maître de sainte Thérèse : le P. François d’Osuna, par le P. Fidèle de Ros, Paris, 1927) ; enfin Bernardino de Laredo, à qui on doit La montée du Mont Sion. Cet ouvrage rassura Thérèse au sujet de l’oraison de quiétude et d’union auxquelles elle était arrivée et dont elle ignorait la nature. Vie, c. XXIII. " Je consultai des livres, dit-elle, afin de voir s’ils m’aideraient à m’expliquer sur mon oraison. Dans un ouvrage intitulé : L’ascension de la Montagne, à l’endroit où il est parlé de l’union de l’âme avec Dieu, je rencontrai toutes les marques de ce que j’éprouvais relativement à l’impuissance de réfléchir. Et c’est précisément cette impuissance que je signalai surtout à propos de cette oraison. Je marquai d’un trait les endroits en question. " Sainte Thérèse trouva aussi dans les livres la terminologie classique dont on se sert pour parler des divers degrés d’oraison et des faits mystiques. Les images et les métaphores empruntées à la Bible, à la nature ou à la vie familiale et sociale lui furent aussi révélées par eux. Elle reçut sans doute pour écrire des lumières spéciales de Dieu, mais elle ne négligea pas l’étude personnelle.

Les écrits de sainte Thérèse furent rédigés de 1562 à 1582, année de sa mort. Le Livre de la vie fut écrit en 1562, sur l’ordre de son confesseur, puis retouché et complété en 1565 à Saint-Joseph d’Avila. Le Chemin de la perfection fut rédigé une première fois en 1565 au même monastère, puis une seconde fois, probablement à Tolède, pendant les fondations, en 1569 et 1570. Les Constitutions, destinées aux seules religieuses, furent composées à Avila, vers 1563. Les Exclamations, ou accents passionnés d’amour divin, semblent écrites de 1566 à 1569, dans plusieurs monastères. Les Pensées sur le Cantique des Cantiques datent sans doute de 1574, la sainte étant à Ségovie. Le Livre des fondations fut commencé à Salamanque en 1573, continué à Tolède en 1576 et terminé à Burgos en 1582. L’Ecrit sur la visite des monastères remonte à 1576, à Tolède. Le Livre du château intérieur ou des Demeures de l’âme fut composé en 1577. Commencé le 2 juin à Tolède, il fut achevé à Avila à la fin de novembre. Le Château intérieur devait remplacer le Livre de la vie dont le manuscrit était gardé par les inquisiteurs. Les Avis et les Relations spirituelles sont d’époques diverses qu’il est difficile de préciser. Cf. Œuvres complètes de sainte Thérèse, t. I, c. XXI-XXII. Les écrits thérésiens sont une autobiographie de la sainte, une description de son âme séraphique, une histoire du développement de ses états mystiques. Thérèse, merveilleusement psychologue, se raconte elle-même d’une façon captivante.

3° Les diverses oraisons d’après sainte Thérèse. – Nous avons deux classifications thérésiennes des oraisons : celle du Livre de la vie et celle du Livre du château intérieur. La première est symbolisée par la célèbre comparaison de l’arrosage d’un jardin (Vie, c. XI) : l’oraison de méditation, qui consiste à tirer l’eau du puits à force de bras pour arroser, c’est-à-dire " travailler avec l’entendement " pour produire des considérations ; l’oraison de quiétude, où l’âme " touche au surnaturel " et a moins de peine, comme le jardinier qui arrose en se servant " noria et de godets mis en mouvement au moyen d’une manivelle " ; l’oraison du sommeil des puissances, où les puissances de l’âme, " sans être entièrement suspendues, ne comprennent point comment elles opèrent ", c’est l’arrosage par l’eau courante amenée d’une rivière ou d’un ruisseau ; enfin l’oraison d’union où Dieu agit pleinement : l’âme n’a aucune peine, comme le jardinier qui voit son jardin arrosé par " une pluie abondante ".

En 1577, quand elle composait le Château intérieur, sainte Thérèse avait expérimenté un degré de plus d’oraison mystique : le mariage spirituel. Elle modifia donc la classification du Livre de la vie. En allant de l’extérieur à l’intérieur du Château, les trois premières demeures correspondent aux exercices des commençants dans la vie spirituelle qui font l’oraison ordinaire de méditation. Cf. Chemin de la perfection, c. XXV. Les quatre autres demeures concernent respectivement l’oraison de recueillement, qui ne peut s’obtenir " par le travail de l’entendement… ni par celui de l’imagination ", c’est Dieu qui produit ce recueillement. Cf. Vie, c. XIV-XV ; Relations spirituelles, I, LIV ; l’oraison de quiétude ou des goûts divins, où l’âme recueillie par Dieu jouit d’un parfait repos et goûte un suave plaisir. Cf. Vie, ibid. ; chemin de la perfection, c. XXXI ; Relations, LIV ; l’oraison d’union, avec ou sans extase, où Dieu fait sentir soudainement et intensément sa présence dans l’âme. Cf. Vie, c. XVIII-XIX ; Relations, LIV ; enfin le mariage spirituel, Château, 7e dem. Cf. R. Hoornaert, Le progrès de la pensée de sainte Thérèse entre la " Vie " et le " Château ", dans Revue des sciences phil. et théol., janvier 1924.

Entre l’oraison d’union et le mariage spirituel, sainte Thérèse parle des préparations habituelles à ce mariage. L’oraison d’union est comme une " entrevue " de l’âme avec Notre-Seigneur, qui annonce d’ordinaire, mais pas toujours, le mariage spirituel. Celui-ci est préparé par les purifications passives, Vie, c. XXX-XXXI ; Château, 6e dem., c. I-II, les ravissements, l’extase, les visions et les révélations. Vie, c. XX, XXIV-XXIX, XXXII, XXXVII-XL ; Château, 6e dem., c. III-XI ; Fondations, c. VI, VIII ; Relations, LIV. Sainte Thérèse rapporte les visions intellectuelles, imaginatives et corporelles dont elle fut favorisée. Elle analyse avec précision l’extase et le ravissement. Elle parle aussi de l’ivresse spirituelle, Château, 6e dem., c. VI, et du fait mystique de la transverbération, grâce personnelle à la sainte. Vie, c. XXIX. Il suffira d’énumérer ici ces grâces mystiques. Ce n’est pas le lieu de les expliquer. Cette étude appartient aux publications de spiritualité proprement dite.

I. EDITIONS DES ŒUVRES DE SAINTE THERESE. – Le chemin de la perfection fut la première œuvre de sainte Thérèse publiée. La sainte en avait préparé l’impression. Edité à Evora en 1583, réédité à Salamanque avec les Avis en 1585, puis à Valence en 1587 et en 1588 avec l’édition des Œuvres de la sainte par Louis de Léon. Il y a deux textes assez différents du Chemin, celui du ms. de l’Escurial et celui du ms. de Valladolid. En plus une copie de Tolède, révisée par la sainte, contient des variantes. A cause de cette différence, et les chapitres des deux textes ne concordant pas, il est difficile de donner les références des citations empruntées au Chemin.

L’édition princeps des Œuvres de sainte Thérèse parut à Salamanque en 1588 par les soins de Louis de Léon : Los libros de la Madre Teresa de Jesus, fondatora… Elle contenait la Vie avec ses Additions, le Chemin de la perfection, les Avis, le Château intérieur et les Exclamations. Le Livre des fondations ne put figurer dans cette édition, trop de personnes encore vivantes y étant mentionnées, ni l’Ecrit sur la visite des monastères, ni les Pensées sur le Cantique des Cantiques. Louis de Léon déclare dans sa lettre à la Mère Anne de Jésus qu’il a rétabli les écrits de Thérèse " en leur première pureté ". Il les a confrontés " avec les originaux " qu’il a eus entre les mains. Il n’a rien changé " ni dans la matière ni dans les termes " du texte de la sainte, comme l’avaient fait témérairement les auteurs des copies remises à Louis de Léon. Malgré cela cette édition n’est pas parfaite.

En 1589 parut à Salamanque une seconde édition, simple réédition, semble-t-il, de l’œuvre de Louis de Léon.

Nombreuses éditions espagnoles dans les années suivantes : en 1597 (Madrid), 1604 (Naples), 1622-1627 (Madrid), 1630 (Anvers, édition qui contient pour la première fois les Fondations, les Pensées sur le Cantique des Cantiques, et l’Ecrit sur la visite des monastères), 1635, 1661 et 1670 (Madrid), 1674 et 1675 (Bruxelles), avec deux volumes de Lettres, en 1678 (Madrid), 1724 (Barcelone), 1752 (Madrid). Ces éditions espagnoles ne remédiaient pas aux défectuosité de l’édition princeps ; souvent elles en ajoutaient de nouvelles. Encore en 1851 l’édition de Castro Palomino (Madrid) est imparfaite.

C’est l’édition de don Vincente de la Fuente, laïque, professeur à l’université de Madrid qui accuse un réel progrès : Escritos de santa Teresa, añadidos e illustrados por don Vicente de la Fuente… dans Biblioteca de autores españoles, t. LIV et LV, Madrid, Rivadeneyra, 1861-1862, 2 vol. gr. in-8°. En 1881 Vincente de la Fuente publia une édition populaire réduite. Dans cette édition se trouvent pour la première fois les Relations spirituelles en entier, les Poésies et la collection des Lettres était aussi augmentée. Les introductions et les notes de l’édition de la Fuente ont renouvelé l’histoire des origines du Carmel réformé et , par cela même, ont suscité la contradiction sur quelques points.

Vincente de la Fuente a commencé à Madrid la reproduction photo-lithographique des manuscrits de sainte Thérèse. En 1873 reproduction de la Vie, en 1880 une autre des Fondations. En 1882, le cardinal Lluch fit exécuter à Séville celle du Château. En 1883, don François Herrero-Bayona reproduisit à Valladolid le Chemin de la perfection et l’Ecrit sur la visite des monastères. Les traducteurs peuvent travailler maintenant sur des fac-simile des originaux.

Enfin l’édition de Silverio de Santa Teresa, O. C. D., Obras de Santa Teresa de Jesus, Burgos, 6 vol., 1915-1919. Epistolario, t. I-III, 1922-1924.

III. TRADUCTIONS FRANCAISES. – La première fut publiée à Paris en 1601, en 3 vol. in-18, par Jean de Quintanadoine de Brétigny. Elle contenait la Vie avec les Additions, le Chemin de la perfection avec les Avis, le Château et les Exclamations. Traduction revue par les chartreux de Bourgfontaine. Traduction lue, sans doute, par saint François de Sales et par les auteurs de l’école française.

En 1630 traduction du P. Elisée de Saint-Bernard, O. C. D., et en 1644 à Paris, celle du P. Cyprien de la Nativité de la Vierge. Elles contiennent en plus de la traduction de Brétigny les Fondations, les Pensées sur le Cantique des Cantiques et l’Ecrit sur la visite des monastères.

En 1670 traduction des Œuvres de sainte Thérèse par Arnauld d’Andilly, souvent rééditée. L’abbé Martial Chanut traduisit en 1681 le Chemin de la perfection, les Exclamations et les Avis et en 1691 la Vie.

Dans la première partie du XIXe siècle (1836), traduction des abbés Grégoire et Collombet ; mais la traduction du XIXe siècle la plus célèbre est celle du P. Bouix, S. J., traduction faite non plus sur les éditions espagnoles, mais sur les manuscrits originaux. En 1852 parut le t. Ier, en 1854 et 1856 le t. II et III ; les trois volumes des Lettres en 1861. Traduction reçue avec enthousiasme et souvent rééditée. Mais la traduction n’est pas fidèle ; elle a été corrigée au début du XXe siècle.

Au XXe siècle les carmélites de Paris, sous la direction de Mgr Manuel-Marie Polit, évêque de Cuenca, (Equateur), ont publié à Paris une traduction nouvelle des Œuvres complètes de sainte Thérèse, t. I et II, 1907, III et IV, 1909, t. V et VI, 1910 ; traduction citée ici.

Enfin traduction par le P. Grégoire de Saint-Joseph ; édition de la Vie spirituelle ; traduction des Lettres de sainte Thérèse par le même, 2e éd., 4 vol., édit du Cerf, 1939.

III. BIOGRAPHIES DE SAINTE THERESE. – Jean de Jésus-Marie et Jean de Saint-Jérôme, des premiers carmes déchaussés, ont laissé une vie abrégée de sainte Thérèse en latin : Vita et mores, spiritus, zelus et doctrina servæ dei Theresæ de Jesu (1610) ; François de Ribera, S. J., La vida de la Madre Teresa de Jesus fundadora de las delcaças y descalços carmelitas, Salamanque, 1590, rééd. en 1606 ; trad. fr. La vie de la Mère Thérèse de Jésus fondatrice des carmes déchaussés, par de Brétigny, Paris, 1602 (Œuvres complètes de Ste-Thérèse, Introd., t. I, p. XLV, note 2). Autre trad. fr. par J.-D.-B. P., 1607, nouv. éd., Paris, 1645 ; Fray Diego de Yepez, religieux hiéronymite, puis évêque de Terrassone, Vida, virtudes y milagos de la bienaventurada virgen Teresa de Jesus…, Saragosse, 1606, traduction française publiée à Paris vers 1644 ; Fray Luis de Léon, De la vida, muerte, virtudes y milagos de la santa madre Teresa de Jesus, biographie inachevée de publiée en 1883 seulement, dans les œuvres complètes de Louis de Léon éditées en 1883 à Madrid par Antolin Merino, O. S. A., et dans la Revista agustiniana, t. V, 1883 ; Julian de Avila, Vida de santa Teresa de Jesus, éd. Par la Fuente en 1881 ; Fr. Antonio de la Encarnacion, O. C. D., Vida, milagos… de santa Teresa de Jesus, 1614 ; Miguel Mir, Santa Teresa de Jesus, Madrid, 1912 ; les bollandistes, Acta Sanctorum, Octobr. T. VII, Bruxelles, 1843, cf. L’histoire de sainte Thérèse d’après les bollandistes, ses divers historiens et ses œuvres complètes, par une carmélite de Caen, Paris, 1882 ; de Villefore, La vie de sainte Thérèse…, Paris, 1748 ; Henri Joly, Sainte Thérèse, coll. Les Saints, Paris, 1902 ; Cazal, Sainte Thérèse, Paris, 1921 ; Louis Bertrand, de l’Académie fr., Sainte Thérèse, Paris, 1927 ; Coleridge, The life and letters of S. Teresa ; Histoire générale des carmes et des carmélites de la réforme de sainte Thérèse, composée en Espagne par le P. François de Sainte-Marie, trad. fr., 5 vol., Abbaye de Lérins, 1896 ; Antonio de San Joaquin, Año Teresiano, Madrid, 1743 à 1766, 12 vol. in-4° ; M. Marie du S.-Sacrement, carmélite, La jeunesse de sainte Thérèse, Paris, 1939.

IV. ETUDES SUR SAINTE THERESE. – Il est impossible de les citer toutes. Consulter H. de Curzon, Bibliographie thérésienne, Paris, 1902 ; Serrano y Sanz : Apuntes para una biblioteca de escritoras españolas desde el año 1401 al 1833, art. Teresa de Jesu, Madrid, 1905, t. II ; la Bibliografia Teresana préparée par Silverio de Santa-Teresa ; R. Hoornaert, Sainte Thérèse écrivain, bibliographie, p. XIII-XIX.

Voici quelques travaux les plus récents : Gaston Etchegoyen, L’amour divin, Essai sur les sources de sainte Thérèse (Bibliothèque de l’Ecole des hautes études hispaniques, fasc. IV), Bordeaux-Paris, 1923 ; J. Maréchal, S. J., Etudes sur la psychologie des mystiques, Bruges-Paris, 1924 ; Poulain, S. J., Les grâces d’oraison, 10e éd., Paris, 1922 ; Saudreau, Les degrés de la vie spirituelle, Paris, 1905 ; du même, L’état mystique, sa nature, ses phases…, 3e éd., Paris, 1921 ; La Vie spirituelle, oct. 1922 ; A. Tanquerey, Précis de théologie ascétique et mystique, p. 889 ; J. de Guibert, Theologia spiritualis ascetica et mystica, Rome, 1937 ; P. Pourrat, La spiritualité chrétienne, t. III, 9e mille, p. 187-268 ; Albert Farges, Les phénomènes mystiques distingués de leurs contrefaçons humaines et diaboliques, 2 vol., Paris, 1923 ; Montmorrand, Psychologie des mystiques catholiques orthodoxes, Paris, 1920 ; Mgr Lejeune, Manuel de Théologie mystique, Paris, 1897 ; du même, Introduction à la vie mystique, Paris, 1899 ; Garrigou-Lagrange, Les trois âges de la vie intérieure, Paris, 1940 ; Boutroux, La psychologie du mysticisme, 1902 ; Bulletin de la société française de philosophie, janv. 1906 ; Ribot, Psychologie de l’attention, 9e éd., Paris, 1905.

Auteurs disposés à voir dans les faits mystiques des cas pathologiques ou des produits du subconscient : Dr A. Marie, Mysticisme et folie, 1906 ; Dr Murisier, Les maladies du sentiment religieux, 2e éd., Paris, 1903 ; W. James, The variety of religions experience, London, 1904, trad. fr. L’expérience religieuse ; Pierre Janet, Automatisme psychologique, Paris, 1889 ; L’état mental des hystériques, Paris, 1892 ; Conférences sur une extatique, Paris, 1901 ; Leuba, Les tendances fondamentales des mystiques chrétiens, dans rev. Phil., t. LIV, 1902 ; Psychologie du mysticisme religieux, trad. fr., Paris, 1923 ; Norrero, L’union mystique chez sainte Thérèse, Paris, 1905.

P. POURRAT. « Sainte Thérèse d'Avila, docteur de l'église catholique », Dictionnaire de Théologique Catholique

SOURCE : http://jesusmarie.free.fr/therese_d_avila.html



Chapitre 20 du Manuscrit Autobiographique de Sainte Thérèse d'Avila

Je voudrais pouvoir expliquer, avec le secours de Dieu, la différence qui existe entre l'union et le ravissement, qu'on appelle aussi élévation, vol, enlèvement de l'esprit. Tous ces noms expriment une même chose; on lui donne aussi le nom d'extase [1]. Le ravissement l'emporte de beaucoup sur l'union; outre qu'il produit des effets beaucoup plus grands, il a plusieurs opérations qui lui sont propres. Car, quoiqu'il semble que l'union soit, comme elle l'est en effet quant à l'intérieur, le commencement, le milieu et la fin des autres grâces surnaturelles; celles-ci néanmoins étant dans un degré plus éminent, opèrent non seulement dans l'intérieur, mais aussi à l'extérieur. Daigne le Seigneur m'accorder sa lumière pour un tel sujet, comme il me l’a accordée pour ce qui précède; car très certainement, s'il ne m'eût lui-même enseigné de quelle manière je pouvais en donner quelque intelligence, jamais je ne l'aurais su.

Représentons-nous maintenant que cette dernière eau, dont nous avons parlé, tombe avec tant d'abondance, que si la terre ne se refusait à un tel bonheur, nous pourrions croire à juste titre avoir avec nous, dans cet exil, la nuée de la majesté de Dieu. Nous voit-il répondre à un si grand bienfait par la reconnaissance et par les œuvres, autant que nos forces nous le permettent, alors, de même que les nuées attirent les vapeurs de la terre, de même il attire notre âme tout entière. La nuée s'élève vers le ciel, emportant l'âme avec elle, et Dieu commence à lui dévoiler quelques-unes des merveilles du royaume qui lui est préparé. Je ne sais si la comparaison est juste, mais je sais très bien que cela se passe de la sorte.

Dans ces ravissements, l'âme semble ne plus animer le corps. On s'aperçoit d'une manière très sensible que la chaleur naturelle va s'affaiblissant, et que le corps se refroidit peu à peu, mais avec une suavité et un plaisir inexprimables. Ici il n'y a aucun moyen de résister à l'attrait divin. Dans l'union, nous trouvant encore comme dans notre pays, nous pouvons presque toujours le faire, quoique avec peine et un violent effort; mais il n'en est pas de même dans le ravissement, on ne peut presque jamais y résister. Prévenant toute pensée et toute préparation, il fond souvent sur vous avec une impétuosité si rapide et si forte, que vous voyez, vous sentez cette nuée vous saisir, et cet aigle puissant vous emporter sur ses ailes.

Je l'ai dit l'on voit, l'on comprend que l'on est enlevé, mais on ne sait où l'on va; de sorte que la faible nature éprouve à ce mouvement, si délicieux d'ailleurs, je ne sais quel effroi dans les commencements. L'âme doit montrer ici beaucoup plus de résolution et de courage que dans les états précédents. Il faut, en effet, qu'elle ose tout risquer, advienne que pourra, qu'elle s'abandonne sans réserve entre les mains de Dieu, et se laisse conduire de bon gré où il lui plaît; car on est enlevé, quelque peine qu'on en ressente. J'en éprouvais une si vive, par crainte d'être trompée, que très souvent en particulier, mais surtout quand j'étais en public, j'ai essayé de toutes mes forces de résister. Parfois, j'obtenais quelque chose; mais comme c'était en quelque sorte lutter contre un fort géant, je demeurais brisée et accablée de lassitude. D'autres fois, tous mes efforts étaient vains; mon âme était enlevée, ma tête suivait presque toujours ce mouvement sans que je pusse la retenir, et quelquefois même tout mon corps était enlevé de telle sorte qu'il ne touchait plus à terre.

J'ai été rarement ravie de cette manière. Cela m'est arrivé un jour où j'étais au chœur avec toutes les religieuses, agenouillée et prête à communier. Ma peine en fut extrême, dans la pensée qu'une chose si extraordinaire ne pouvait manquer de causer bientôt une grande sensation. Comme ce fait est tout récent, et s'est passé depuis que j'exerce la charge de prieure, je défendis aux religieuses d'en parler. D'autres fois, m'apercevant que Dieu allait renouveler cette faveur (et un jour en particulier, à la fête du titulaire de notre monastère (Saint Joseph), tandis que j'assistais au sermon devant des dames de qualité), je me jetais soudain à terre; mes sœurs accouraient pour me retenir; malgré cela, le ravissement ne pouvait échapper aux regards. Je suppliai instamment Notre Seigneur de vouloir bien ne plus me favoriser de ces grâces qui se trahissent par des signes extérieurs; j'étais déjà fatiguée de la circonspection à laquelle elles me condamnaient, et il me semblait qu'il pouvait m'accorder les mêmes grâces sans que l'on en sût rien. Il paraît avoir daigné dans sa bonté entendre ma prière, car depuis, rien de tel ne m'est arrivé; à la vérité, il y a très peu de temps que je lui ai demandé cette faveur.

Lorsque je voulais résister, je croyais sentir sous mes pieds des forces étonnantes qui m'enlevaient; je ne saurais à quoi les comparer. Nulle autre des opérations de l'esprit dont j'ai parlé n'approche d'une telle impétuosité. J'en demeurais brisée. C'est un combat terrible et qui sert de peu. Quand Dieu veut agir, il n'y a pas de pouvoir contre son pouvoir.

Quelquefois, il daigne se contenter de nous faire voir qu'il veut nous accorder cette faveur, et qu'il ne tient qu'à nous de la recevoir. Alors, si nous y résistons par humilité, elle produit les mêmes effets que si elle eût obtenu un plein consentement.

Ces effets sont grands. Le premier est de montrer le souverain pouvoir de Dieu. Quand il le veut, nous ne pouvons pas plus retenir notre corps que notre âme nous n'en sommes pas les maîtres. Malgré nous, nous voyons Qu'il y a un être supérieur, que de telles faveurs sont un don de sa main, et que de nous-mêmes nous n'y pouvons rien, absolument rien; ce qui imprime dans l'âme une humilité profonde. Au commencement, je l'avoue, j'étais saisie d'une excessive frayeur en voyant ainsi mon corps enlevé de terre. Car, quoique l'âme l'entraîne après elle avec un indicible plaisir quand il ne résiste point, le sentiment ne se perd pas; pour moi, du moins, je le conservais de telle sorte, que je pouvais voir que j'étais élevée de terre. A la vue de cette Majesté qui déploie ainsi sa puissance, les cheveux se dressent sur la tête, et l'on se sent pénétré d'une vive crainte d'offenser un Dieu si grand. Mais cette crainte est mêlée d'un très ardent amour; et cet amour redouble, en voyant jusqu'à quel point Dieu porte le sien à l'égard d'un ver de terre qui n'est que pourriture. Car non content d'élever l'âme jusqu'à lui, il veut élever aussi ce corps mortel, ce vil limon, souillé par tant d'offenses.

Un autre effet du ravissement est un détachement étrange, que je ne saurais expliquer. Tout ce que j'en puis dire, c'est qu'il diffère en quelque manière des autres détachements, qu'il est même de beaucoup supérieur à celui qu'opèrent les grâces qui n'affectent que l'âme. Dans ce dernier cas, le détachement, quelque parfait qu'il soit, n'est qu'un détachement d'esprit; mais ici, Dieu semble vouloir que le corps lui-même en arrive de fait à ce détachement absolu. On devient ainsi plus étranger que jamais aux choses de la terre, et on trouve la vie incomparablement plus pénible.

Vient ensuite une peine qu'il n'est en notre pouvoir ni d'appeler, ni d'enlever de l'âme quand elle s'en est emparée. Je voudrais bien faire connaître cette peine si douloureuse, Mais je crois que je n'y arriverai pas; j'en dirai néanmoins quelque chose, si je le puis. Auparavant je dois faire observer ceci: cet état est postérieur de beaucoup à toutes les visions et révélations dont je ferai le récit, postérieur aussi à cette époque où Notre Seigneur me donnait d'ordinaire dans l'oraison des faveurs et des délices si grandes. Il est vrai, il daigne encore de temps en temps me les prodiguer; mais l'état le plus ordinaire de mon âme, c'est d'éprouver cette peine dont je vais traiter. Elle est tantôt plus intense et tantôt moins; je parlerai ici de sa plus grande intensité.

Je rapporterai plus loin les transports impétueux que je ressentais lorsqu'il plut à Dieu de m'envoyer des ravissements (cf. chap. 29); mais je tiens à dire ici qu'entre la souffrance que me causaient ces transports, et la peine dont je traite maintenant, il n'y a pas, à mon avis, moins de différence qu'entre une chose très corporelle et une très spirituelle. Je ne crois pas faire là une exagération. En effet, si l'âme souffre dans ces transports c'est en compagnie du corps, qui partage sa souffrance; d'ailleurs, elle est bien loin de se voir dans cette extrémité d'abandon où la réduit la peine dont je parle. Ainsi que je l'ai dit, nous ne sommes pour rien dans cette peine: souvent, à l'improviste, un désir naît en l'âme, on ne sait comment, et ce désir, en un instant, la pénètre tout entière, lui causant une telle douleur qu'elle s'élève bien au-dessus d'elle-même et de tout le créé. Dieu la met dans un si profond désert, qu'elle ne pourrait, en faisant les plus grands efforts, trouver sur la terre une seule créature qui lui tînt compagnie; d'ailleurs, quand elle le pourrait elle ne le voudrait pas, elle n'aspire qu'à mourir dans cette solitude. C'est en vain qu'on lui parlerait et qu'elle se ferait la dernière violence pour répondre; rien ne peut enlever son esprit à cette solitude. Quoique Dieu me semble alors très éloigné de l'âme, souvent néanmoins il lui découvre ses grandeurs d'une manière si extraordinaire, qu'elle dépasse toutes nos conceptions. Aussi les termes manquent pour l'exprimer, et il faut, selon moi, l'avoir éprouvé pour être capable de le concevoir et de le croire. Cette communication n'a pas pour but de consoler l'âme, mais de lui montrer à combien juste titre elle s'afflige de se voir absente d'un bien qui renferme en soi tous les biens. Par cette vue, l'âme sent croître et sa soif de Dieu et la rigueur de sa solitude. Elle est en proie à une peine si délicate et si pénétrante, elle se sent dans un tel désert, qu'elle peut à la lettre dire avec David: “Je veille et je me plains comme un passereau solitaire sur le toit”. (Psaume 102, 8)

Le royal prophète dut sans doute prononcer ces paroles quand il était lui-même dans cette solitude intérieure, avec cette différence qu'à un saint, le Seigneur devait la faire ressentir d'une manière plus excessive. Ce verset se présente à ma pensée, et j'éprouve, me semble-t-il, ce qu'il exprime. Ce m'est une consolation de voir que d'autres personnes, et surtout de telles personnes, ont senti comme moi une si extrême solitude. Dans cet état, l'âme ne paraît plus être en elle-même; mais, comme le passereau sur le toit, elle habite dans la partie la plus élevée d'elle-même, dominant de cette hauteur toutes les créatures; je dirai plus encore: c'est au-dessus de la partie la plus élevée d'elle-même qu'elle a sa demeure.

D'autres fois, l'âme semble dans un tel excès d'indigence et de besoin, qu'elle se dit et se demande à elle-même: Où est ton Dieu? Je ferai remarquer ici que je ne savais pas bien en auparavant quel était le sens de ces versets en castillan; aussi, après en avoir reçu l'intelligence, j'éprouvais une grande consolation de voir que Notre Seigneur, sans aucun effort de ma part, les avait présentés à ma mémoire.

En d'autres occasions, je me souvenais de ce que disait saint Paul, « qu'il était crucifié au monde » (cf. Ga 6, 14). Je ne dis pas que cet état soit le mien, j'ai une claire vue du contraire; mais, selon moi, il se passe alors dans l'âme quelque chose de semblable. Il ne lui vient de consolation, ni du ciel où elle n'habite pas encore, ni de la terre à laquelle elle ne tient plus et d'où elle ne veut pas en recevoir; elle est comme crucifiée entre le ciel et la terre, en proie à la souffrance, sans recevoir de soulagement ni d'un côté ni de l'autre. Du côté du ciel, il est vrai, lui vient cette admirable connaissance de Dieu dont j'ai parlé, et qui dépasse de bien loin tout ce que l'on peut souhaiter; mais cette vue accroît encore son tourment en augmentant davantage ses désirs, en sorte que l'intensité de la peine lui fait quelquefois perdre le sentiment; à la vérité, ce dernier effet dure peu. Ce sont comme les angoisses de la mort; mais il y a dans cette souffrance un si grand bonheur, que je ne sais à quoi le comparer. C'est un martyre de douleur et de délices. En vain offrirait-on à cette âme toutes les satisfactions de la terre, même celles qui jusque-là avaient pour elle le plus d'attraits, elle n'en veut pas et elle les repousse avec dédain. Elle connaît bien qu'elle ne veut que son Dieu, mais elle n'aime rien de particulier en lui; elle aime en lui tout ce qui est lui, et elle ne sait point ce qu'elle aime. Je dis qu'elle ne le sait pas, parce que l'imagination ne lui représente rien; d'ailleurs, durant une grande partie du temps qu'elle passe de la sorte, ses puissances, à mon avis, demeurent sans action. Elles sont ici suspendues par la peine, comme elles la sont par le plaisir dans l'union et dans le ravissement.

O Jésus! qui pourrait faire de ceci une fidèle peinture. J'en aurais, mon père, le plus ardent désir, quand ce ne serait que pour savoir de vous la nature de cet état dans lequel mon âme se trouve toujours maintenant. Le plus souvent, l'instant où elle se voit libre d'occupations est celui où elle est saisie par ces angoisses de mort; elle les redoute pourtant quand elle les voit fondre sur elle, parce qu'elle ne doit pas en mourir. Mais une fois qu'elle est dans ce martyre, elle voudrait y passer tout ce qui lui reste de vie: il faut le dire néanmoins, il est d'une rigueur si excessive, que la nature a bien de la peine à le supporter.

J'ai été quelquefois réduite à une telle extrémité, que j'avais presque entièrement perdu le pouls. C'est ce qu'affirment celles de mes soeurs qui m'entouraient alors, et qui ont maintenant plus de connaissance de mon état. De plus, j'ai les bras très ouverts, et les mains si raides que parfois je ne puis les joindre. Il m'en reste jusqu'au jour suivant, dans les artères et dans tous les membres, une douleur aussi violente que si tout mon corps eût été disloqué. Il me vient quelquefois en pensée que si cela continue de la sorte, Dieu me fera la grâce de trouver dans ce tourment la fin de ma vie, car il est assez violent pour donner la mort; mais, hélas! je n'en suis pas digne. Tout mon désir alors est de mourir. Je ne me souviens ni du purgatoire, ni de ces grands péchés par lesquels j'ai mérité l'enfer; tout s'efface de ma mémoire et s'absorbe dans ce brûlant désir de voir Dieu. Ce désert et cette solitude ont plus de charme pour mon âme que toutes les compagnies du monde. Si quelque chose pouvait la consoler, ce serait de s'entretenir avec des âmes qui eussent éprouvé le même tourment; mais personne, à ce qu'il lui semble, ne la croirait, ce qui est pour elle un autre tourment.

Cette peine arrive quelquefois à un tel excès, que l'âme ne voudrait plus comme auparavant se trouver dans la solitude; elle ne voudrait pas non plus de compagnie, mais seulement. rencontrer une âme dans le sein de laquelle elle pût exhaler ses plaintes. Elle est comme le supplicié qui, ayant déjà la corde au cou et se sentant étouffer, cherche à reprendre haleine. Ce désir de compagnie ne part, selon moi, que de la faiblesse de notre nature, qu'un tel martyre met en danger de mort. Je puis affirmer avec certitude qu'il en est ainsi. M'étant vue plus d'une fois dans la vie réduite à cette extrémité, soit par ces grandes maladies, soit par ces crises dont j'ai fait mention, je crois pouvoir dire que ce dernier danger de mort ne le cède à aucun des autres. Ainsi, dans cette agonie, c'est l'horreur naturelle qu'ont l'âme et le corps de se séparer qui leur fait demander secours, afin de respirer. S'ils cherchent à parler de leur souffrance, à s'en plaindre, à faire diversion, c'est pour conserver la vie; tandis que, par un désir contraire, l'esprit ou la partie supérieure de l'âme voudrait bien ne point sortir de cette peine.

Je ne sais si ce que j'ai dit est juste, et si je me suis bien expliquée. Mais il me semble que cela se passe de la sorte. Jugez par là, mon père, du repos que je dois avoir en cette vie, puisque celui que je goûtais dans l'oraison et dans la solitude où Dieu me consolait se trouve maintenant presque toujours changé en ce tourment que je viens de dépeindre. Mais l'âme le trouve si agréable, elle en voit tellement le prix, qu'elle le préfère à toutes les joies spirituelles dont Dieu la favorisait auparavant. Ce chemin lui parait plus sûr, parce que c'est celui de la croix. Le bonheur qu'elle y goûte est, selon moi, d'un grand prix, parce que le corps n'y a point de part; il en a seulement à la peine, et l'âme savoure seule les délices de ce martyre. Je ne comprends pas comment cela peut se faire, je sais seulement qu'il en est ainsi; et je n'échangerais pas, je l'avoue, cette faveur visiblement surnaturelle, que je tiens de la pure bonté de Dieu et nullement de mes efforts, contre toutes celles dont il me reste à traiter. Je parle non de l'ensemble de ces faveurs, mais de chacune en particulier.

Il ne faut pas oublier que les transports de cette peine me sont venus après toutes les grâces rapportées avant celle-ci, et après toutes celles dont ce livre contiendra le récit; j'ajoute que c'est l'état où je me trouve maintenant.

Comme presque chaque nouvelle faveur que je reçois me cause des craintes jusqu'à ce que Notre Seigneur me rassure, celle dont je parle me donnait aussi dans les commencements certaines alarmes. Mais le divin Maître me dit de ne pas craindre, et de plus estimer cette grâce que toutes celles qu'il m'avait faites: l'âme se purifiait dans cette peine, elle y était travaillée et purifiée comme l'or dans le creuset, afin que la main divine pût mieux étendre sur elle l'émail de ses dons; enfin, elle endurait là les peines qu'elle aurait endurées dans le purgatoire.

J'avais bien compris que c'était là une insigne faveur, mais ces paroles me laissèrent dans une sécurité beaucoup plus grande; mon confesseur me dit aussi que c'était véritablement l'œuvre de Dieu. A la vérité, quelque crainte que m'eût inspirée cette peine à cause du peu de vertu que je voyais en moi, jamais je n'avais pu croire qu'elle ne vînt point de Dieu; mon appréhension procédait uniquement de ce que je me trouvais indigne d'une grâce aussi excessive. Béni soit le Seigneur, dont la bonté est si grande! Amen.

Je m'aperçois que je suis sortie de mon sujet, car j'avais commencé à traiter des ravissements; mais cette peine dont je viens de parler est plus qu'un ravissement, et voilà pourquoi elle produit les effets que j'ai décrits.

Je reviens donc aux ravissements et à leurs effets ordinaires. Souvent mon corps en devenait si léger, qu'il n'avait plus de pesanteur; quelquefois c'était à un tel point, que je ne sentais presque plus mes pieds toucher la terre. Tant que le corps est dans le ravissement, il reste comme mort, et souvent dans une impuissance absolue d'agir. Il conserve l'attitude où il a été surpris: ainsi, il reste sur pied ou assis, les mains ouvertes ou fermées, en un mot, dans l'état où le ravissement l'a trouvé. Quoique d'ordinaire on ne perde pas le sentiment, il m'est cependant arrivé d'en être entièrement privée; ceci a été rare, et a duré fort peu de temps. Le plus souvent, le sentiment se conserve, mais on éprouve je ne sais quel trouble: et bien qu'on ne puisse agir à l'extérieur, on ne laisse pas d'entendre; c'est comme un son confus qui viendrait de loin. Toutefois, même cette manière d'entendre cesse lorsque le ravissement est à son plus haut degré, je veux dire lorsque les puissances, entièrement unies à Dieu, demeurent perdues en lui. Alors, à mon avis, on ne voit, on n'entend, on ne sent rien. Comme je l'ai dit précédemment dans l'oraison d'union, cette transformation totale de l'âme en Dieu est de fort courte durée; mais tant qu'elle dure, aucune puissance n'a le sentiment d'elle-même, ni ne sait ce que Dieu opère. Cela dépasse sans doute la portée de notre entendement sur cette terre, et nous devons être incapables de recevoir une si haute lumière; du moins, Dieu ne veut pas nous la donner. C'est ce que j'ai vu par ma propre expérience.

Ici peut-être vous me demanderez, mon père, comment le ravissement se prolonge quelquefois plusieurs heures. D'après ce que j'ai souvent éprouvé, le ravissement, comme je l'ai dit de l'oraison précédente, n'est pas continu; l'âme en jouit seulement par intervalles. A diverses reprises elle s'abîme, ou plutôt Dieu l'abîme en lui; et après qu'il l'a tenue en cet état un peu de temps, la volonté seule demeure unie à lui. Dans les deux autres puissances, il se manifeste un mouvement semblable à celui de l'ombre de l'aiguille des cadrans solaires, laquelle ne s'arrête jamais. Mais quand le soleil de justice le veut, il sait bien les faire arrêter; et c'est là ce qui, à mon sens, est de très courte durée. Cependant, comme le transport ou élévation de l'esprit a été puissant, la volonté, malgré les nouveaux mouvements des deux autres facultés, reste abîmée en Dieu. En même temps, agissant en souveraine, elle produit sur le corps l'opération que j'ai marquée, afin que si les deux autres puissances s'efforcent par leur agitation de troubler sa paix, elle soit libre du moins des attaques de ses sens, les moindres de ses ennemis. Elle les suspend donc, parce que telle est la volonté du Seigneur. Les yeux demeurent presque tout le temps fermés, quoiqu'on ne voulût pas les fermer; et si quelquefois ils s'ouvrent, ils ne distinguent ni ne remarquent rien, ainsi que je l'ai déjà dit. En cet état, le corps a perdu en grande partie le pouvoir d'agir, d'où il résulte que lorsque la mémoire et l'entendement s’unissent de nouveau à la volonté, ces deux puissances rencontrent moins de difficulté.

Que celui à qui Dieu fait une si grande faveur n'ait donc pas de peine de se trouver, pendant plusieurs heures, le corps comme lié, et parfois, la mémoire et l'entendement distraits. Le plus souvent, à la vérité, la distraction de ces deux puissances ne consiste qu'à se répandre en louanges de Dieu, dont elles sont comme enivrées, ou à tâcher de comprendre ce qui s'est passé en elles. Encore ne peuvent-elles le faire à leur gré, vu que leur état ressemble à celui d'un homme qui, après un long sommeil rempli de rêves, n'est encore qu'à demi éveillé.

Si je m'explique sur ce sujet avec tant d'étendue, c'est que je sais qu'il y a maintenant, et même en cet endroit (à Avila), des âmes à qui Notre Seigneur accorde de telles grâces, Si ceux qui les dirigent n'ont point passé par là, surtout si la science leur manque, il leur semblera peut-être que dans le ravissement ces personnes doivent être comme mortes. Ce que de telles âmes ont à souffrir de la part des confesseurs qui ne les comprennent pas, est vraiment digne de compassion, comme je le dirai dans la suite. Peut-être ne sais-je moi-même ce que je dis. C'est a vous, mon père, de juger si je rencontre juste en quelque chose, puisque le Seigneur vous a donné une connaissance expérimentale de ces grâces; mais comme elle est encore assez récente chez vous, il pourrait se faire que vous n'eussiez pas observé ces faits avec autant d'attention que moi.

C'est en vain qu'après le ravissement je fais des efforts pour remuer les membres; le corps demeure longtemps sans forces, l'âme les lui a toutes enlevées. Souvent, infirme auparavant et travaillé de grandes douleurs, il sort de là plein de santé et admirablement disposé pour l'action. Dieu se plaît ainsi à faire éclater la grandeur du don qu'il fait; il veut que le corps lui-même, qui déjà obéit aux désirs de l'âme, participe à son bonheur. Quand l'âme revient à elle, si le ravissement a été grand, il peut arriver qu'elle se trouve encore pendant un ou deux jours, et même trois, comme interdite et hors d'elle-même, tant ses puissances restent profondément absorbées.

C'est alors qu'on éprouve le tourment de rentrer dans la vie. L'âme sent qu'elle a des ailes pour voler, et que le léger duvet a disparu. Le moment est venu pour elle de déployer hautement l'étendard de Jésus-Christ. Devenue gouverneur de la citadelle, l'âme monte ou plutôt est transportée à la plus haute tour, pour y arborer la bannière de Dieu. De cette hauteur où elle se voit en sûreté, elle regarde ceux qui sont dans la plaine; loin de redouter les dangers, elle les désire, parce que Dieu lui donne comme la certitude de la victoire. Celui qui est placé en un lieu élevé porte au loin son regard: ainsi l'âme découvre très clairement le néant de tout ce qui est ici-bas, et le peu d'estime qu'on doit en faire. Désormais elle ne veut plus avoir de volonté propre; elle voudrait même ne plus avoir de libre arbitre, afin d'être délivrée des combats qu'il lui suscite. Elle supplie le Seigneur de. lui accorder cette grâce: elle lui remet les clefs de sa volonté. La voilà donc, cette âme, de jardinier devenue gouverneur de citadelle. Elle ne veut faire en tout que la volonté de son maître. Elle ne veut être maîtresse ni d'elle-même ni de quoi que ce soit, non pas même du moindre petit fruit du jardin confié à ses soins. S'il produit quelque chose de bon, que le maître le distribue comme il le jugera à propos. Quant à elle, son unique vœu désormais est de ne rien posséder en propre, et de voir le Seigneur disposer de tout, selon les intérêts de sa gloire et de son bon plaisir.

La vérité est que tout cela se passe de la sorte. Ce sont là les effets que produisent dans l'âme ces ravissements, quand ils sont véritables. S'ils ne les produisaient pas, et si l'âme n'en tirait pas ces précieux avantages, non seulement je douterais beaucoup que ces transports vinssent de Dieu, mais je craindrais que ce ne fussent plutôt de ces transports de rage dont parle saint Vincent Ferrier [2].

Quant à moi, je sais très bien, et j'ai vu par expérience, qu'un ravissement d'une heure, d'une durée même plus courte, suffit, quand il vient de Dieu, pour donner à l'âme l'empire sur toutes les créatures, et une liberté telle, qu'elle ne se connaît plus elle-même. Elle voit bien qu'un si grand trésor ne vient point d'elle; elle ne sait même pas comment il lui a été donné; mais elle voit, avec évidence, les immenses avantages que lui apporte chacun de ces ravissements.

Pour le croire, il faut l'avoir éprouvé. Aussi, l'on ne donne point de créance à une pauvre âme qu'on a connue très imparfaite et qu'on voit soudain prétendre à des choses héroïques. Très promptement en effet, l'âme ne peut plus se contenter de servir le Seigneur d'une manière vulgaire, elle aspire à le faire de toute l'étendue de ses forces. On s'imagine qu'il y a là tentation et folie. Mais si l'on savait que tout cela ne vient point de cette âme, mais du Seigneur à qui elle a remis les clefs de sa volonté, on cesserait de s'étonner. Pour moi, j'en suis convaincue, lorsqu'une personne est élevée à cet état, ce souverain Roi prend un soin particulier de tout ce qu'elle doit faire. Oh! que l'on saisit bien alors le sens du verset dans lequel David demande les ailes de la colombe! (cf. Psaume 55, 7) Que l'on comprend clairement combien il avait raison de faire à Dieu cette prière, et à combien juste titre nous devrions tous la lui adresser! On le voit avec évidence, l'esprit prend alors son vol pour s'élever au-dessus de tout le créé et avant tout au-dessus de lui-même; mais c'est un vol suave, un vol délicieux, un vol sans bruit.

Quel empire est comparable à celui d'une âme qui, de ce faîte sublime où Dieu l'élève, voit au-dessous d'elle toutes les choses du monde, sans être captivée par aucune? Qu'elle est confuse de ses attaches d'autrefois! Comme elle s'étonne de son aveuglement! Quelle compassion elle porte à ceux qu'elle voit dans les mêmes ténèbres, surtout si ce sont des personnes d'oraison, et envers qui Dieu se montre déjà prodigue de ses faveurs! Elle voudrait élever sa voix pour leur faire connaître combien ils s'égarent; quelquefois même elle ne peut s'en défendre, et alors mille persécutions pleuvent sur sa tête. On l'accuse de peu d'humilité; elle prétend, dit-on, instruire ceux de qui elle devrait apprendre. Si c'est une femme, on lui fait encore plus vite son procès. Et on a raison de la condamner, parce qu'on ignore le transport qui la presse. Souvent, incapable d'y résister, elle ne peut s'empêcher de détromper ceux qu'elle aime. Elle voudrait les voir libres de la prison de cette vie, où elle a été enchaînée elle-même; car, elle le voit clairement, c'est bien d'une prison qu'elle a été tirée.

Elle gémit d'avoir été jadis sensible au point d'honneur, et de l'illusion qui lui faisait regarder comme honneur ce que le monde appelle de ce nom. Elle n’y voit plus qu’un immense mensonge, dont nous sommes tous victimes. Elle comprend que l'honneur digne de ce nom n’est point mensonger, mais très véritable, qu'il estime ce qui mérite de l'être qu'il considère comme un néant ce qui est un néant, car tout ce qui prend fin et n'est pas agréable à Dieu est néant, et moins encore que le néant. Elle se rit d'elle-même en songeant qu'il y a eu un temps dans sa vie où elle a fait quelque cas de l'argent, et où elle en a eu quelque désir. A la vérité, je n'ai jamais eu à me confesser d'un tel désir; c'était une assez grande faute pour moi d'avoir accordé quelque estime aux richesses. Si l'on pouvait avec elles acheter le bonheur dont je jouis, je les priserais extrêmement; mais je vois au contraire que pour obtenir ce bonheur, il faut renoncer à tout.

Qu'achète-t-on avec cet argent dont on a soif? Est-ce un bien de quelque prix? est-ce un bien durable et pourquoi le veut-on? Quel lugubre repos on se procure, et qu'il coûte cher! Souvent, avec cet argent, on descend en enfer et l'on achète un feu qui ne s'éteint pas, Un supplice sans fin. Oh! si les hommes pouvaient tous le regarder comme un peu de boue inutile, quelle harmonie régnerait dans le monde! Quel affranchissement des soucis qui nous troublent! Avec quelle amitié tous se traiteraient mutuellement, si l'intérêt de l'honneur et de l'argent disparaissait de la terre! Pour moi, je tiens que ce serait le remède à tout.

L'âme voit de quel aveuglement sont frappés les esclaves des plaisirs, et comment, par ces plaisirs, ils n'acquièrent, dès cette vie même, que des peines et des troubles amers. Quelle inquiétude quel peu de contentement! comme ils travaillent en vain!

En elle-même, l'âme découvre, à la lumière du Soleil divin, non seulement les toiles d'araignée ou les grandes fautes, mais encore les grains de poussière, si petits qu'ils soient. Elle a beau faire tous ses efforts pour tendre à la perfection, dès que ce Soleil l'investit de ses rayons, elle se trouve extrêmement trouble: semblable à l'eau dans un verre, qui, loin du soleil, semble pure et limpide, mais qui, exposée à ses rayons, paraît toute remplie d'atomes. Cette comparaison est parfaitement juste. Quand Dieu n'a pas encore accordé d'extase à l'âme, elle croit éviter avec soin toute offense, et faire pour son service tout ce qui dépend d'elle. Mais lorsque, dans l'extase, le Soleil de justice donne sur elle et lui fait ouvrir les yeux, elle découvre tant d'atomes d'imperfections qu'elle voudrait les refermer aussitôt. Comme le jeune aiglon, elle n'est pas encore assez forte pour regarder fixement ce Soleil, mais pour peu qu'elle tienne les yeux ouverts, elle se voit comme une eau très trouble. Elle se rappelle ces paroles: « Seigneur, qui sera juste devant vous? » (Cf. Psaume 143, 2) Quand elle considère ce divin Soleil, elle est éblouie de sa clarté; et quand elle se considère elle-même, la boue de ses misères lui met un bandeau sur les yeux, et cette petite colombe se trouve aveugle. Oui, très souvent, elle demeure complètement aveugle, absorbée, effrayée, évanouie, devant les merveilles si grandes qu'elle contemple. C'est là qu'elle trouve ce trésor de la vraie humilité, qui fait qu'elle n'a plus de peine à dire ou à entendre dire du bien d'elle-même. Que le maître du jardin en distribue les fruits à son gré: c'est à lui, et non à elle, de le faire. Ainsi, ne gardant rien entre les mains, elle fait hommage au Seigneur de tout le bien qu'elle possède, et si elle parle de soi, c'est uniquement pour la gloire de son Dieu. Elle sait que dans ce jardin rien ne lui appartient en propre; et voulût-elle l'ignorer, cela n'est pas en son pouvoir, car elle le voit d'un œil que Dieu, malgré elle, ferme aux choses du monde et tient ouvert à la vérité.

* * * * *

[1] Voici le jugement que portait saint Jean de la Croix, après avoir lu l'écrit de sainte Thérèse sur cette haute matière: « Ce serait ici le lieu de parler des différents caractères qui distinguent les ravissements, les extases, les élévations et les vols d'esprit dont les âmes spirituelles sont souvent favorisées. Mais je laisse ce travail à quelque autre qui s'en acquittera mieux que moi. D'ailleurs notre bienheureuse mère Thérèse de Jésus a écrit admirablement de ces matières; et j'espère de la bonté divine que ses ouvrages seront imprimés, et donnés au public sous peu de temps. » (Cantique spirituel, strophe XIII.)

[2] Sainte Thérèse se sert ici d'un mot qui n'est pas espagnol. Modifiant tant soit peu l'expression arrobamiento, qui signifie ravissement, elle dit rabamiento, mot de sa façon, auquel répondrait dans notre langue celui d'enragement. Par ce terme qu'elle invente, elle rend mieux l'énergie de celui qu'emploie saint Vincent Ferrier, dans son Traité de la vie spirituelle, pour flétrir et stigmatiser les faux ravissements. Voici le passage auquel la sainte fait visiblement allusion:« Tenez pour certain que la plus grande partie des ravissements, ou plutôt des rages des messagers de Antéchrist, vient de cette manière. »

Chapitre 20 du Manuscrit Autobiographique de Sainte Thérèse d'Avila, carmélite réformatrice, docteur de l'église (1512-1582)

SOURCE : http://livres-mystiques.com/partieTEXTES/Avila/Autobiographie/autobiographie4.html


St. Teresa of Avila

Less than twenty years before Teresa was born in 1515, Columbus opened up the Western Hemisphere to European colonization. Two years after she was born, Luther started the Protestant Reformation. Out of all of this change came Teresa pointing the way from outer turmoil to inner peace.

Teresa’s father was rigidly honest and pious, but he may have carried his strictness to extremes. Teresa’s mother loved romance novels but because her husband objected to these fanciful books, she hid the books from him. This put Teresa in the middle — especially since she liked the romances too. Her father told her never to lie but her mother told her not to tell her father. Later she said she was always afraid that no matter what she did she was going to do everything wrong.

When she was five years old she convinced her older brother that they should, as she says in her Life, “go off to the land of the Moors and beg them, out of love of God, to cut off our heads there.” They got as far as the road from the city before an uncle found them and brought them back. Some people have used this story as an early example of sanctity, but this author think it’s better used as an early example of her ability to stir up trouble.

After this incident she led a fairly ordinary life, though she was convinced that she was a horrible sinner. As a teenager, she cared only about boys and clothes and flirting and rebelling — like other teenagers throughout the ages. When she was 16, her father decided she was out of control and sent her to a convent. At first she hated it but eventually she began to enjoy it — partly because of her growing love for God, and partly because the convent was a lot less strict than her father.

Still, when the time came for her to choose between marriage and religious life, she had a tough time making the decision. She’d watched a difficult marriage ruin her mother. On the other hand being a nun didn’t seem like much fun. When she finally chose religious life, she did so because she though that it was the only safe place for someone as prone to sin as she was.

Once installed at the Carmelite convent permanently, she started to learn and practice mental prayer, in which she “tried as hard as I could to keep Jesus Christ present within me….My imagination is so dull that I had no talent for imagining or coming up with great theological thoughts.” Teresa prayed this way off and on for eighteen years without feeling that she was getting results. Part of the reason for her trouble was that the convent was not the safe place she assumed it would be.

Many women who had no place else to go wound up at the convent, whether they had vocations or not. They were encouraged to stay away from the convents for long period of time to cut down on expenses. Nuns would arrange their veils attractively and wear jewelry. Prestige depended not on piety but on money. There was a steady stream of visitors in the parlor and parties that included young men. What spiritual life there was involved hysteria, weeping, exaggerated penance, nosebleeds, and self- induced visions.

Teresa suffered the same problem that Francis of Assisi did — she was too charming. Everyone liked her and she liked to be liked. She found it too easy to slip into a worldly life and ignore God. The convent encouraged her to have visitors to whom she would teach mental prayer because their gifts helped the community economy. But Teresa got more involved in flattery, vanity and gossip than spiritual guidance. These weren’t great sins perhaps but they kept her from God.

Then Teresa fell ill with malaria. When she had a seizure, people were so sure she was dead that after she woke up four days later she learned they had dug a grave for her. Afterwards she was paralyzed for three years and was never completely well. Yet instead of helping her spiritually, her sickness became an excuse to stop her prayer completely: she couldn’t be alone enough, she wasn’t healthy enough, and so forth. Later she would say, “Prayer is an act of love, words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love.”

For years she hardly prayed at all “under the guise of humility.” She thought as a wicked sinner she didn’t deserve to get favors from God. But turning away from prayer was like “a baby turning from its mother’s breasts, what can be expected but death?”

When she was 41, a priest convinced her to go back to her prayer, but she still found it difficult. “I was more anxious for the hour of prayer to be over than I was to remain there. I don’t know what heavy penance I would not have gladly undertaken rather than practice prayer.” She was distracted often: “This intellect is so wild that it doesn’t seem to be anything else than a frantic madman no one can tie down.” Teresa sympathizes with those who have a difficult time in prayer: “All the trials we endure cannot be compared to these interior battles.”

Yet her experience gives us wonderful descriptions of mental prayer: “For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything.”

As she started to pray again, God gave her spiritual delights: the prayer of quiet where God’s presence overwhelmed her senses, raptures where God overcame her with glorious foolishness, prayer of union where she felt the sun of God melt her soul away. Sometimes her whole body was raised form the ground. If she felt God was going to levitate her body, she stretched out on the floor and called the nuns to sit on her and hold her down. Far from being excited about these events, she “begged God very much not to give me any more favors in public.”

In her books, she analyzed and dissects mystical experiences the way a scientist would. She never saw these gifts as rewards from God but the way he “chastised” her. The more love she felt the harder it was to offend God. She says, “The memory of the favor God has granted does more to bring such a person back to God than all the infernal punishments imaginable.”

Her biggest fault was her friendships. Though she wasn’t sinning, she was very attached to her friends until God told her “No longer do I want you to converse with human beings but with angels.” In an instant he gave her the freedom that she had been unable to achieve through years of effort. After that God always came first in her life.

Some friends, however, did not like what was happening to her and got together to discuss some “remedy” for her. Concluding that she had been deluded by the devil, they sent a Jesuit to analyze her. The Jesuit reassured her that her experiences were from God but soon everyone knew about her and was making fun of her.

One confessor was so sure that the visions were from the devil that her told her to make an obscene gesture called the fig every time she had a vision of Jesus. She cringed but did as she was ordered, all the time apologizing to Jesus. Fortunately, Jesus didn’t seem upset but told her that she was right to obey her confessor. In her autobiography she would say, “I am more afraid of those who are terrified of the devil than I am of the devil himself.” The devil was not to be feared but fought by talking more about God.

Teresa felt that the best evidence that her delights came from God was that the experiences gave her peace, inspiration, and encouragement. “If these effects are not present I would greatly doubt that the raptures come from God; on the contrary I would fear lest they be caused by rabies.”

Sometimes, however, she couldn’t avoid complaining to her closest Friend about the hostility and gossip that surrounded her. When Jesus told her, “Teresa, that’s how I treat my friends” Teresa responded, “No wonder you have so few friends.” But since Christ has so few friends, she felt they should be good ones. And that’s why she decided to reform her Carmelite order.

At the age of 43, she became determined to found a new convent that went back to the basics of a contemplative order: a simple life of poverty devoted to prayer. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? Wrong.

When plans leaked out about her first convent, St. Joseph’s, she was denounced from the pulpit, told by her sisters she should raise money for the convent she was already in, and threatened with the Inquisition. The town started legal proceedings against her. All because she wanted to try a simple life of prayer. In the face of this open war, she went ahead calmly, as if nothing was wrong, trusting in God.

“May God protect me from gloomy saints,” Teresa said, and that’s how she ran her convent. To her, spiritual life was an attitude of love, not a rule. Although she proclaimed poverty, she believed in work, not in begging. She believed in obedience to God more than penance. If you do something wrong, don’t punish yourself — change. When someone felt depressed, her advice was that she go some place where she could see the sky and take a walk. When someone was shocked that she was going to eat well, she answered, “There’s a time for partridge and a time for penance.” To her brother’s wish to meditate on hell, she answered, “Don’t.”

Once she had her own convent, she could lead a life of peace, right? Wrong again. Teresa believed that the most powerful and acceptable prayer was that prayer that leads to action. Good effects were better than pious sensations that only make the person praying feel good.

At St. Joseph’s, she spent much of her time writing her Life. She wrote this book not for fun but because she was ordered to. Many people questioned her experiences and this book would clear her or condemn her. Because of this, she used a lot of camouflage in the book, following a profound thought with the statement, “But what do I know. I’m just a wretched woman.” The Inquisition liked what they read and cleared her.

At 51, she felt it was time to spread her reform movement. She braved burning sun, ice and snow, thieves, and rat-infested inns to found more convents. But those obstacles were easy compared to what she face from her brothers and sisters in religious life. She was called “a restless disobedient gadabout who has gone about teaching as though she were a professor” by the papal nuncio. When her former convent voted her in as prioress, the leader of the Carmelite order excommunicated the nuns. A vicar general stationed an officer of the law outside the door to keep her out. The other religious orders opposed her wherever she went. She often had to enter a town secretly in the middle of the night to avoid causing a riot.

And the help they received was sometimes worse than the hostility. A princess ordered Teresa to found a convent and then showed up at the door with luggage and maids. When Teresa refused to order her nuns to wait on the princess on their knees, the princess denounced Teresa to the Inquisition. In another town, they arrived at their new house in the middle of the night, only to wake up the next morning to find that one wall of the building was missing. Why was everyone so upset? Teresa said, “Truly it seems that now there are no more of those considered mad for being true lovers of Christ.” No one in religious orders or in the world wanted Teresa reminding them of the way God said they should live.

Teresa looked on these difficulties as good publicity. Soon she had postulants clamoring to get into her reform convents. Many people thought about what she said and wanted to learn about prayer from her. Soon her ideas about prayer swept not only through Spain but all of Europe.

In 1582, she was invited to found a convent by an Archbishop but when she arrived in the middle of the pouring rain, he ordered her to leave. “And the weather so delightful too” was Teresa’s comment. Though very ill, she was commanded to attend a noblewoman giving birth. By the time they got there, the baby had already arrived so, as Teresa said, “The saint won’t be needed after all.” Too ill to leave, she died on October 4 at the age of 67.

She is the founder of the Discalced Carmelites. In 1970 she was declared a Doctor of the Church for her writing and teaching on prayer, one of two women to be honored in this way. St. Teresa is the patron saint of Headache sufferers. Her symbol is a heart, an arrow, and a book. She was canonized in 1622.


St. Teresa of Avila

Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada

Born at Avila, Old Castile, 28 March, 1515; died at Alba de Tormes, 4 Oct., 1582.

The third child of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda by his second wife, Doña Beatriz Davila y Ahumada, who died when the saint was in her fourteenth year, Teresa was brought up by her saintly father, a lover of serious books, and a tender and pious mother. After her death and the marriage of her eldest sister, Teresa was sent for her education to the Augustinian nuns at Avila, but owing to illness she left at the end of eighteen months, and for some years remained with her father and occasionally with other relatives, notably an uncle who made her acquainted with the Letters of St. Jerome, which determined her to adopt the religious life, not so much through any attraction towards it, as through a desire of choosing the safest course. Unable to obtain her father's consent she left his house unknown to him on Nov., 1535, to enter the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at Avila, which then counted 140 nuns. The wrench from her family caused her a pain which she ever afterwards compared to that of death. However, her father at once yielded and Teresa took the habit.

After her profession in the following year she became very seriously ill, and underwent a prolonged cure and such unskillful medical treatment that she was reduced to a most pitiful state, and even after partial recovery through the intercession of St. Joseph, her health remained permanently impaired. During these years of suffering she began the practice of mental prayer, but fearing that her conversations with some world-minded relatives, frequent visitors at the convent, rendered her unworthy of the graces God bestowed on her in prayer, discontinued it, until she came under the influence, first of the Dominicans, and afterwards of the Jesuits. Meanwhile God had begun to visit her with "intellectual visions and locutions", that is manifestations in which the exterior senses were in no way affected, the things seen and the words heard being directly impressed upon her mind, and giving her wonderful strength in trials, reprimanding her for unfaithfulness, and consoling her in trouble. Unable to reconcile such graces with her shortcomings, which her delicate conscience represented as grievous faults, she had recourse not only to the most spiritual confessors she could find, but also to some saintly laymen, who, never suspecting that the account she gave them of her sins was greatly exaggerated, believed these manifestations to be the work of the evil spirit. The more she endeavoured to resist them the more powerfully did God work in her soul. The whole city of Avila was troubled by the reports of the visions of this nun. It was reserved to St. Francis Borgia and St. Peter of Alcantara, and afterwards to a number of Dominicans (particularly Pedro Ibañez and Domingo Bañez), Jesuits, and other religious and secular priests, to discern the work of God and to guide her on a safe road.

The account of her spiritual life contained in the "Life written by herself" (completed in 1565, an earlier version being lost), in the "Relations", and in the "Interior Castle", forms one of the most remarkable spiritual biographies with which only the "Confessions of St. Augustine" can bear comparison. To this period belong also such extraordinary manifestations as the piercing or transverberation of her heart, the spiritual espousals, and the mystical marriage. A vision of the place destined for her in hell in case she should have been unfaithful to grace, determined her to seek a more perfect life. After many troubles and much opposition St. Teresa founded the convent of Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Primitive Rule of St. Joseph at Avila (24 Aug., 1562), and after six months obtained permission to take up her residence there. Four years later she received the visit of the General of the Carmelites, John-Baptist Rubeo (Rossi), who not only approved of what she had done but granted leave for the foundation of other convents of friars as well as nuns. In rapid succession she established her nuns at Medina del Campo (1567), Malagon and Valladolid (1568), Toledo and Pastrana (1569), Salamanca (1570), Alba de Tormes (1571), Segovia (1574), Veas and Seville (1575), and Caravaca (1576). In the "Book of Foundations" she tells the story of these convents, nearly all of which were established in spite of violent opposition but with manifest assistance from above. Everywhere she found souls generous enough to embrace the austerities of the primitive rule of Carmel. Having made the acquaintance of Antonio de Heredia, prior of Medina, and St. John of the Cross, she established her reform among the friars (28 Nov., 1568), the first convents being those of Duruelo (1568), Pastrana (1569), Mancera, and Alcalá de Henares (1570).

A new epoch began with the entrance into religion of Jerome Gratian, inasmuch as this remarkable man was almost immediately entrusted by the nuncio with the authority of visitor Apostolic of the Carmelite friars and nuns of the old observance in Andalusia, and as such considered himself entitled to overrule the various restrictions insisted upon by the general and the general chapter. On the death of the nuncio and the arrival of his successor a fearful storm burst over St. Teresa and her work, lasting four years and threatening to annihilate the nascent reform. The incidents of this persecution are best described in her letters. The storm at length passed, and the province of Discalced Carmelites, with the support of Philip II, was approved and canonically established on 22 June, 1580. St. Teresa, old and broken in health, made further foundations at Villanuava de la Jara and Palencia (1580), Soria (1581), Granada (through her assistant the Venerable Anne of Jesus), and at Burgos (1582). She left this latter place at the end of July, and, stopping at Palencia, Valladolid, and Medina del Campo, reached Alba de Torres in September, suffering intensely. Soon she took to her bed and passed away on 4 Oct., 1582, the following day, owing to the reform of the calendar, being reckoned as 15 October. After some years her body was transferred to Avila, but later on reconveyed to Alba, where it is still preserved incorrupt. Her heart, too, showing the marks of the Transverberation, is exposed there to the veneration of the faithful. She was beatified in 1614, and canonized in 1622 by Gregory XV, the feast being fixed on 15 October.

St. Teresa's position among writers on mystical theology is unique. In all her writings on this subject she deals with her personal experiences, which a deep insight and analytical gifts enabled her to explain clearly. The Thomistic substratum may be traced to the influence of her confessors and directors, many of whom belonged to the Dominican Order. She herself had no pretension to found a school in the accepted sense of the term, and there is no vestige in her writings of any influence of the Areopagite, the Patristic, or the Scholastic Mystical schools, as represented among others, by the German Dominican Mystics. She is intensely personal, her system going exactly as far as her experiences, but not a step further.

A word must be added on the orthography of her name. It has of late become the fashion to write her name Teresa or Teresia, without "h", not only in Spanish and Italian, where the "h" could have no place, but also in French, German, and Latin, which ought to preserve the etymological spelling. As it is derived from a Greek name, Tharasia, the saintly wife of St. Paulinus of Nola, it should be written Theresia in German and Latin, and Thérèse in French.


SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14515b.htm


October 15

St. Teresa, Virgin


        
The life of St. Teresa, written by herself, holds the first place in the church among books of this kind after the Confessions of St. Austin, says Baillet. The French translation of this work published by Abbé Chanut, in 1691, is far preferable to that which was the last production of D’Andilly in his old age, in 1670, and to that of F. Cyprian in 1657. The saint finished this work in 1562, twenty years before her death; she afterwards added to it a relation of the foundation of her convent at Avila. In this book we have the history of her life to the reformation of her Order, with an account of the visions, &c. she received during the three first years she was favoured with such graces; those which she continued frequently to receive from that time to the end of her life were never published by her, except some things through the channel of persons whom she consulted. The history which she wrote of her Foundations furnishes us, however, with a continuation of her life till within two years, or a year and a half, before her death. F. Ribera, a Jesuit, well known by his learned comments On the Twelve Lesser Prophets, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Apocalypse, who had been sometimes confessarius of the saint, wrote her life with great care and fidelity. The same was also written soon after by Didacus Yepez, bishop of Tarragona, confessor to King Philip II. and sometimes to St. Teresa, with whom he frequently conversed and corresponded during the space of fourteen years. See also the Epistles of St. Teresa published by Bishop Palafox in the four tomes. We have her own life and her other works, except her letters, translated into English by Mr. Abr. Woodhead, in two vols. 4to. 1669. Also an abstract of her own Life and Foundations by R. C. in 1757. Her life is compiled in French by M. de Villefort.

A.D. 1582.


[Foundress of the Reformation of the Barefooted Carmelites.]  THE HUMBLE relation which St. Teresa has left us of her own life, in obedience to her confessors, is the delight of devout persons, not on account of the revelatippons and visions there recorded, but because in it are laid down the most perfect maxims by which a soul is conducted in the paths of obedience, humility, and self-denial, and especially of prayer and an interior life. St. Teresa was born at Avila in Old Castile, on the 28th of March, 1515. Her father, Alphonsus Sanchez of Cepeda, was a gentleman of a good family, and had three children by a first wife, and nine by a second. The name of the latter was Beatrice Ahumada, mother to our saint, another daughter, and seven sons. Don Alphonsus delighted much in reading good books, with which he was well stocked; he was also very charitable to the poor, compassionate to the sick, and tender towards his servants; remarkable for his strict veracity, modesty, and chastity, and very averse from detraction and swearing. Our saint’s mother, likewise, was very virtuous, suffered much from frequent sickness, and died happily at the age of three-and-thirty, when Teresa was twelve years old. By the means of the pious instructions and example of her parents, God inclined the tender heart of Teresa from her infancy to his service. Being only seven years old she took great pleasure in reading the lives of the saints, and other pious books, in which she spent much time with a little brother called Rodrigo, who was nearly of the same age. They were much amazed at the thought of eternity, and learned already to despise all that passes with time. With feeling sentiments they used to repeat often together: “For ever, for ever, for ever;” and admiring the victories of the saints, and the everlasting glories which they now possess, they said to one another: “What! for ever they shall see God.” The martyrs seemed to them to have bought heaven very cheap by their torments; and after many conferences together on this subject, they resolved to go into the country of the Moors, in hopes of dying for their faith. They set out privately with great fervour, praying as they went that God would inspire them with his holy love, that they might lay down their lives for Christ; but, upon the bridge over the Adaja, near the town, they were met by an uncle, and brought back to their mother, who was in the greatest frights, and had sent to seek them. They were chid by their parents for their unadvised project, and Rodrigo laid all the blame on his sister. Teresa continued the same course, and used often to say to herself: “O Eternity! Eternity! Eternity!” She gave to the poor all the alms she could, though this was very little; and studied to do all the good works in her power. The saint and the same little brother formed a design to become hermits at home, and built themselves little hermitages with piles of stones in the garden, but could never finish them. Teresa sought to be much alone, and said very long prayers with great devotion, especially the Rosary; for her mother inspired her tender soul with a singular devotion to the Blessed Virgin. She had in her room a picture of our Saviour discoursing with the Samaritan woman at the well, with which she was much delighted, and she often addressed those words to our Saviour with great earnestness: “Lord, give me of that water;” meaning that of his grace and holy love. In the twelfth year of her age, upon the death of her mother, in great grief, she threw herself upon her knees before a picture of the Blessed Virgin, and besought her, with many tears, that she would vouchsafe to be her mother. The saint adds, that this action which she did with great simplicity, she thought afterwards very profitable to her; and found the Blessed Virgin favourable to her in all her requests, and looked upon herself as much indebted to her intercession for the great mercy by which God was pleased to bring her back to a sense of her duty after she had begun to go astray. She aggravates exceedingly her own malice, by which she had been ungrateful for so great and so early favours she had received from God in her tender age; she never ceased to grieve that she should have ever defiled the tabernacle of her heart, in which he was to dwell for ever, and to thank his goodness for having called her back into the path of her duty, begging that he would be pleased to conduct her soul to eternal salvation.

  1
  The most dangerous snare into which she fell was that of idle books, and vain company. Romances, 1 or fabulous histories of knight-errantry, were at that time much in fashion in Spain. Teresa got hold of some such books a little before her mother died, and began to read them much more after her death, though always unknown to her father, who would have been highly provoked. About that time, a certain cousin-german, a worldly young woman, addicted to vanity, and fond of reading such books, began to visit her, and by her conversation wrought such a change in Teresa, that forgetting the greatest part of her former devotions, she spent several hours both of the day and night in reading romances with great pleasure. She began at the same time to curl and trim her hair, to use perfumes, to love fine clothes, and the like, out of a desire of pleasing others, though without any bad intention; for she would not for the world have given to any one an occasion of offending God. She continued some years without imagining there was in this any sin; but she afterwards found it was a great one. None but this kinswoman and some other near relations were allowed by the father to visit his daughter: but even these proved dangerous company to her; and she listened to them with pleasure in their discourse on vanities, toys, and follies, never criminal, yet not good. Thus she gradually fell off from her fervour during three months. Her father perceived her to be much changed, and her devotion cooled. She laments grievously this her dangerous fall, and from her own fatal experience, earnestly conjures all parents to watch over their children, that they may never fall into idle, vain, and dangerous company, or such books; for if she had not dashed against these two rocks, she thinks she should have always increased in fervour, instead of falling back. Ribera, from his strictest examination of the saint, assures us that she could not be thought to have incurred the danger of any mortal sin; for this reading and company, though very dangerous, did not appear to her any more than an innocent amusement; so that her simplicity extenuated the fault. Bishop Yepez 2 makes this evident from what the saint herself acknowledges, 3 notwithstanding her inclination to exaggerate this offence; saying, that though she was delighted with agreeable conversation and diversions, she had always an extreme horror of any open evil: but she exposed herself to the danger, and therefore condemns herself so severely, attributing her preservation from falling down the precipice to God’s pure mercy and assistance, in preserving in her heart a great sense of the honour of virtue. She indeed says, 4 that notwithstanding her confessors judged nothing in these actions could amount to the guilt of a mortal sin, she afterwards understood them to have been mortal sins; where she expresses her own apprehensions. For those vanities and books were dangerous occasions of greater evils than she was aware of. When she fell into these faults, she confessed them, for she always confessed during the lukewarm period of her life all known venial sins as she assures us. After her perfect conversion, her timorous conscience and vehement compunction made her speak of these sins in stronger terms than her confessors approved; and she testifies that she desired to say much more on this subject, to publish to the whole world her ingratitude against God, had they not forbid her. Her father took notice that her devotion was much cooled, and not being able handsomely to forbid this vain relation his house, he placed his daughter, who was then fifteen years of age, in a very regular convent of Austin nuns in Avila, where many young ladies of her quality were educated. Teresa found a separation from her companions grievous; but as her attachments proceeded only from the natural affectionate disposition of her heart, they were soon forgot, and a secret sentiment of honour and of her reputation made her disguise this repugnance. From the precaution which her father had taken, she saw that her fault had been greater than she imagined, and began severely to condemn herself for it. The first eight days in the convent seemed tedious to her; but having by that time forgot her former amusements, and broken the ties she had contracted in the world, she began to be pleased with her new situation. A devout nun, who was mistress of the pensioners, used frequently to instil into her mind serious reflections on virtue, and repeated often to her that dreadful truth: Many are called, but few are chosen. By the discourse and counsel of this servant of God, Teresa recovered her fervour, and earnestly recommended herself to the prayers of the nuns that God would place her in that state in which she might be likely to serve him best; though she had not then the courage to desire to be a nun herself; for the thoughts of a perpetual engagement affrighted her.


  After a year and a half spent in this convent, the saint fell dangerously sick, and her father took her home. When she had recovered her health she went to see her eldest sister in the country, who tenderly loved her; and calling to see an uncle, her father’s brother, was detained by him some time. His name was Peter Sanchez of Cepeda: he was a widower, and a very discreet and pious man. He lived retired in the country, where he employed his time in his devotions, and in reading good books. He gave several to Teresa to read, and his discourse was most commonly of God, and of the vanity of the world. When she returned to her father’s house, she began for some time to deliberate with herself about embracing a religious state of life. She at first thought the convent of the Austin nuns, where she lived, was too severe, and was inclined to choose a house in which she had a particular great friend; by which circumstance she afterwards feared she had then more regard to the subtle gratification of a secret sensual satisfaction and vanity, than to the greater spiritual advancement of her soul. After a violent fever at home (for she had often bad health) she was determined, by reading St. Jerom’s epistles, to become a nun. Her father would by no means give his consent; but said, that after his death she might dispose of herself as she pleased. The saint fearing from former experience she might again relapse, though she felt an excessive severe interior conflict in leaving her dear father, went privately to the convent of the Incarnation of the Carmelite nuns without the walls of Avila, where her great friend, sister Jane Suarez, lived, though at that time she says she sought only the good of her soul making no account at all of rest or ease. Upon her taking the habit, God changed the dryness under which she had laboured for some time into an extreme tenderness of devotion, and all her religious observances gave her great delight. Whilst she was sweeping the house, or employed in other such actions, the remembrance that she had formerly spent those hours in dressing herself, or in other vanities, overwhelmed her heart with such an extraordinary joy as amazed her. But during her novitiate she felt many severe interior trials, notwithstanding her constant great contentment in this state. She made her profession with extraordinary fervour in November, 1534, in the twentieth year of her age. A sickness, which seized her before her profession, increased very much on her after it, with frequent fits of fainting and swooning, and a violent pain at her heart, which sometimes deprived her of her senses. Physicians finding no remedy for her extraordinary case, her father got her removed out of her convent, in which the law of inclosure was not then established. Sister Jane Suarez bore her company, and she remained partly at her sister’s in the country, and partly at Bazeda, almost a year in the hands of certain able physicians. Their medicines served only to increase her distempers, insomuch, that for the space of three months she suffered such excessive torments, with a continual burning fever, that her sinews began to shrink up, and she could take no rest either day or night. She was also oppressed with a profound sadness of mind. Her father, after this, caused her to be brought to his own house, where the physicians gave her over; for her distempers had then terminated in a hectic fever, and her sharp pains never left her, and afflicted her all over from head to foot. God, however, gave her incredible patience; and she was much comforted by reading the book of Job, with St. Gregory’s Morals or Commentary, and had often in her mouth some of the aspirations of holy Job which expressed his resignation to God. She at length, in August, 1537, lay near four days in a trance or lethargic coma, during which time, it was expected that every moment would be her last. It being once imagined that she was dead, a grave was dug for her in the convent, and she would have been buried if her father had not opposed it, and testified that he still perceived in her body certain symptoms of life. Through excess of pain she had bit her tongue in many places, when out of her senses; and for a considerable time she could not swallow so much as a drop of water, without almost choking. Sometimes her whole body seemed as if the bones were disjointed in every part, and her head was in extreme disorder and pain. She could neither stir hand, nor foot, nor head, nor any other part, except, as she thought, one finger of her right hand. She was so sore, that she could not bear any one to touch her in any part, and she had often a great loathing of all food. Her pains being somewhat abated, she so earnestly desired to return to her monastery, that she was carried thither, though her body seemed reduced to skin and bone, and worse than dead, through the pain she endured. She continued thus above eight months, and remained a cripple near three years.

  3
  The saint endured these sufferings with great conformity to the holy will of God, and with much alacrity and joy. Under these afflictions she was much helped by the prayer which she had then begun to use. When, in the beginning of this sickness, she was taken out of her convent, and soon after carried into the country, her devout uncle Peter put into her hands a little book of F. Ossuna, called The Third Alphabet, treating on the prayer of recollection and quiet. Taking this book for her master, she applied herself to mental prayer, according to the manner prescribed in it, was favoured with the gift of tears, and the prayer of Quiet, (in which the soul rests in the divine contemplation,) so as to forget all earthly things, and sometimes, though not for a longer space than an Ave Maria at a time, she arrived at the prayer of Union, in which all the powers of the soul are absorbed in God. However, for want of an experienced instructor, she made little progress, was not able to hold any discourses in her understanding, or to meditate without a book, her mind being immediately distracted. Yet she was wonderfully delighted with this holy meditation, and received a heavenly light, in which she saw clearly the nothingness of all earthly things, looked upon the whole world as under her feet, and beneath the regard of a soul, and pitied all persons who vainly pursue its empty bubbles. The paralytic disorder in which her fevers, violent headaches, and convulsions and contractions of her sinews had terminated, began so far to be abated, that she was able to crawl upon her hands and feet. After three years’ suffering, she was perfectly restored to her health: and she afterwards understood that she had received of God this favour and many others, through the intercession of the glorious St. Joseph, which she had humbly and earnestly implored. 5 She declares, that she trembled exceedingly, and praised and thanked the divine mercy with all the powers of her soul, as often as she remembered that “God might have bereaved her of life, when she was in a dangerous state: and I think,” says she, “I may safely add a thousand times, though I be blamed by him who commanded me to use moderation in the recital of my sins. I have disguised them enough. I beseech him for God’s sake that he will not extenuate my faults; for by them the great goodness of God is more manifested, since he so long beareth with an unfaithful soul. Praise be to Him for ever. May he rather annihilate me, than I should ever hereafter cease to love him.” 6 Her confessor, by whose order she wrote, knew her great propensity to magnify her faults; for which reason he gave her this charge. If, when she was arrived at the most perfect purity of heart and divine love she could discern such faults and dangers in her soul, at a time whilst she seemed already a saint in the eyes of men, and received the gift of supernatural prayer, and other eminent virtues, how much ought we to fear in our lukewarm state, and excite ourselves to watchfulness and compunction? St. Teresa attributes the good opinion which others then had of her to her own cunning and hypocrisy, though she acknowledges that she was never designedly guilty of any dissimulation, having always abhorred such a baseness. Two great means by which she preserved her soul from many difficulties and snares were, her constant and tender charity and goodness towards all persons, by she always gained the esteem and good-will of all those with whom she lived or conversed; secondly, an extreme dread and abhorrence of the least shadow of detraction, insomuch, that no one durst in the least reflect on any other person in her presence, and from her infancy she had had this rule always before her eyes, in discoursing of others to speak of them in the same manner she would desire others should speak of her.

  4
  Who ought not always to tremble for himself, and excite himself by humility and holy fear to watch continually with the utmost attention over his own heart, to apply himself with his whole strength to all his duties, and with the greatest earnestness to call in Omnipotence to his assistance, since this holy virgin, after receiving so many favours from God, fell again from her fervour and devotion? Her prudence and other amiable qualifications gained her the esteem of all who knew her. An affectionate and grateful disposition inclined her to make an obliging return to the civilities which others showed her. And, finding herself agreeable to company, she began to take delight in it, by which she lost that love of retirement which is the soul of a religious or interior life, and in which she had been accustomed to spend almost her whole time in prayer and pious reading. By an irregular custom of her convent she seemed authorized to indulge this dangerous inclination, and spent much time in conversing with seculars at the grate or door of the monastery, and she contracted an intimacy with one whose company was particularly dangerous to her. Such conversation, besides a great loss of time, dissipated her mind, and infused earthly affections and inclinations, which do infinite mischief to a soul whose affections are or ought to be spiritual, and expose her to the utmost dangers. Teresa therefore began to neglect mental prayer, and even persuaded herself that this was a part of humility, as her dissipated life rendered her unworthy to converse so much or familiarly with God, by mental prayer. So subtle is the devil in his snares, knowing that no virtuous person can be deceived but under the appearance or cover of good. Teresa also said to herself there could be no danger of sin in what so many others did, more virtuous than she was, who received frequent visits of secular persons in the parlour. The remonstrances which a senior nun made to her on the impossibility of reconciling so much dissipation of mind and worldly conversation with the spirit and obligations of a religious life, were not sufficient to open her eyes.

  5
  One day, whilst she was conversing at the grate with a new acquaintance, she seemed to see our Lord, who represented himself to the eyes of her soul with much rigour in his countenance, testifying that her conduct displeased him. She took this for the effect of imagination, and being much importuned to it, still persuaded herself, by the example of others, that there could be no harm in so much exterior conversation, and that no damage resulted from it to her soul. She grievously accuses herself of this fault, and of her blindness in shutting her eyes to many warnings and inspirations, by which she ought to have been made sensible of so great an evil, which she conjures all religious persons to beware of. Her father had been induced by her, when she first learned the use of mental prayer, to apply himself earnestly to it, as to the great means of acquiring all perfect interior virtues, and within five or six years he was much improved by that holy exercise. He often called to see her, and to converse with her on spiritual things. He thought she assiduously conversed with God, as she had formerly done, when she had lived a year or more in that state of dissipation, having left off mental prayer, contenting herself with only vocal, of which she says: “This was the greatest and worst temptation that ever I had; for by this means I ran headlong upon my own ruin.” 7 At length finding her father’s mistake, she disabused him, telling him she no longer used mental prayer, for which she alleged the frequent infirmities to which she was subject. But she adds: “This reason of bodily weakness was not a sufficient cause to make me give over so good a thing, which requires not corporeal strength, but only love and custom. In the midst of sickness the best of prayer may be made; and it is a mistake to think that it can only be made in solitude.” Her father, out of the good opinion he had of her, looked upon her excuse as just, and pitied her, because she had enough to do to be able to attend the choir. In 1539, she suffered a great affliction in the loss of her good father, whom she always loved with the most dutiful and tender affection. Though ill herself, she went out of her monastery to assist him in his last sickness, and strained very hard to do him all the service, and procure him all the comfort she was able. Giving great praise to the divine mercy for him, she has left us an edifying account of his preparation for his last passage; and mentions the desire which he had to leave this world, and the good advice he gave to his children, and all that were about him, whom he charged earnestly to recommend his soul to God, faithfully to serve him themselves, and to have constantly before their eyes, that all this world must come to an end. He added with many tears how much he was grieved at the heart for not having served God with greater fervour. His sickness began with a very grievous pain in the shoulders. St. Teresa told him, that since he had been much devoted to the mystery of our Saviour carrying his cross, he would do well to conceive, that Christ, in his great mercy, had been pleased to give him a feeling of some part of that suffering. With this consideration he was so much comforted, that he mentioned his pain no more, nor did he ever let fall the least word of complaint. He expired whilst he was saying the creed. His confessor, F. Vincent Barron or Varron, a learned and pious Dominican friar, whom Teresa at that time also made use of, took pains to make her understand that her soul was in a dangerous way, and that she must not fail to make use of mental prayer. She therefore began to use it again, in the twenty-fourth year of her age, and from that time never left it. Yet for a long time she continued still to pursue her amusements of worldly dissipation, and receiving visits at the grate, as if she had a mind to reconcile two contraries, which are so much at enmity with one another; a spiritual life and sensual pastimes, or the spirit of God and that of the world. The use she made of prayer made her see these faults; yet she had not courage to follow God perfectly, or entirely to renounce secular company. Describing the situation of her divided soul at that time, she says that she neither enjoyed the sweetness of God, nor the satisfactions of the world; for amidst her amusements, the remembrance of what she owed to God gave her pain; and whilst she was conversing with God in prayer, worldly inclinations and attachments disturbed her. Yet God was pleased often to visit her in her devotions with sweet consolation; and to bestow upon her great favours, even in that very time of her life when she offended him most, namely, by her frequent amusing conversations with seculars, contrary to the recollection and spirit which her state required.

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  This goodness of God towards her, notwithstanding her sloth and rebellions, was to her a subject of continual astonishment, and a motive of the strongest love and most feeling gratitude. “Hence,” says she, “proceeded my tears, together with a grievous indignation which I conceived against myself when I considered what a wretched creature I was; for I saw that I was still upon the point of falling again, though my purposes and desires of amendment (as long as those favours lasted) seemed to be firm and strong. I should be glad that all such persons as may read this account of my proceedings should abhor me, seeing my soul so obstinate and ungrateful towards him who had vouchsafed me so great favours. And I wish I could get leave to declare the multitude of times that I failed in my obligation to God in this number of years, because I was not supported by the strong pillar of mental prayer. I passed through this tempestuous sea almost twenty years, between these fallings and risings, though I rose very imperfectly, since I so soon relapsed.” These relapses are meant of those venial sins and imperfections which stopped her progress in the divine service. She adds, that as she was obliged to write this account with exact and entire truth, she must acknowledge, that within this term there were many months, and perhaps a whole year, that she gave herself much to prayer, without relapsing into vain amusements; but because she remembered little of these good days, she believed they were few; though few days passed in which she had not given a considerable time to mental prayer; and the worse she was in health, the more her soul was united to God, and she procured that those who were with her might be so too, and they spoke often of God. Thus, out of twenty-eight years which had passed when she wrote this, since she began to employ herself diligently in mental prayer, except that one year in which she laid it aside, she spent more than eighteen in this strife. Bishop Yepez assures us from his own knowledge of the saint’s interior, and demonstrates from her own words, 8 that she passed these eighteen years in frequent trials of spiritual dryness, intermingled with intervals of heavenly consolation in prayer; and that these faults and dangers which she continually deplores and extremely exaggerates, consisted chiefly in serious entertainments with affectionate visitants, to which the sweetness of her temper, and the goodness of her heart, inclined her, and which her confessors at that time approved and recommended, though she discovered them to be obstacles to her spiritual perfection and prayer. She conjures every one for the love of God to be assiduous in endeavouring to obtain and cherish the spirit of prayer, and adds the most pathetic exhortations that no one deprive himself of so great a good, in which nothing is to be feared, but much to be desired. By mental prayer we learn truly to understand the way of heaven; and this is the gate through which God conveys himself and his graces and favours into our souls. Nobody ever made choice of God for a friend, whom his Divine Majesty did not well requite for his pains; for mental prayer is a treaty of friendship with God, and a frequent and private communication with him, by whom we know we are beloved;” and they who love him not yet must force themselves to be much in his company by prayer, and pass on through this gate till they arrive at his love. “I do not see how God can come to us,” says the saint, “or enrich us with his graces, if we shut the door against him. Though he is infinitely desirous to communicate himself to us with all his gifts, he will have our hearts to be found disengaged, alone, and burning with a desire to receive him. O Joy of the angels, my Lord, and my God, I cannot think of conversing with you without desiring to melt like wax in the fire of your divine love, and to consume all that is earthly in me by loving you. How infinite is your goodness to bear with, and even caress those who are imperfect and bad: recompense the short time they spend with you, and, upon their repentance, blot out their faults! This I experienced in myself. I do not see why all men do not approach you, to share in your friendship. Even the wicked, whose affections have no conformity to your spirit, ought to approach you, that they may become good, even though they at first abide with you sometimes with a thousand distractions, as I did, &c. Since our Lord suffered so wicked a creature as myself so long a time, and all my miseries were redressed by this means of prayer, what person, how wicked soever, can find anything to fear in this exercise? For how wicked soever any person may have been, he will never have been so bad as I was, after having received such great favours from our Lord,” &c. 9 The saint says, that during the time of her most slothful dispositions, she was never tired with hearing sermons, though ever so bad; but that she was a long time before she perfectly understood that all endeavours are good for nothing, unless first we strip ourselves entirely of all confidence in ourselves, and place it wholly in God alone. This foundation of a spirit of prayer is seldom sufficiently laid; so apt is pride imperceptibly to persuade us that there is something in us of strength, or by which we deserve the divine compassion.

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  After twenty years thus spent in the imperfect exercise of prayer, and, with many defects, the saint found a happy change in her soul. One day, going into the oratory, seeing a picture of our Saviour covered with wounds in his passion, she was exceedingly moved, so that she thought her very heart was ready to burst. Casting herself down near the picture, and pouring forth a flood of tears, she earnestly besought our Lord to strengthen her, that she might never more offend him. She had long been accustomed every night before she composed herself to rest to think on our Lord’s prayer in the garden, and bloody sweat, and was particularly affected with that mystery. From this time she made the sufferings of Christ the ordinary object of her interior conversation with him during the day and night. Being particularly devoted to St. Mary Magdalen, she was delighted to place herself in spirit with her at the feet of Jesus, earnestly beseeching her Redeemer not to despise her tears. She always found particular comfort in those saints, who, after having been sinners, were converted to our Lord, hoping that by their means he would forgive her, as he had done them. Only this reflection discouraged her—that he called them but once, and they returned no more to sin, whereas she had so often relapsed, which afflicted her to the very heart; but the consideration of the love our Lord bore her, made her always confide entirely in his mercy. St. Austin, who was an admirable penitent, and the patron of the first nunnery in which she had lived, was one of those saints towards whom she was most tenderly affected. In reading his confessions, in the twentieth year of her age, she applied to herself that voice by which his conversion was wrought in so lively a manner as to remain for a considerable time even dissolved as it were in tears, with very great affliction and anguish; and she prayed with the greatest earnestness that our Lord would hear her cries, have regard to so many tears, and have compassion on her miseries. From that time she withdrew herself more than ever from all occasions of vain amusements and dissipations, and gave her time more entirely to the exercises of compunction and divine love. The saint had scarcely formed her resolution of serving God perfectly, when he vouchsafed to visit her soul with new and extraordinary consolations and favours, regaling her with heavenly sweetness in great abundance: for, she tells us, he did not require, as in others, that she should have disposed herself for such favours, but only that she was content to receive them. “I never presumed,” says she, “to desire that he should give me so much as the least tenderness of devotion: I begged only for grace never to offend him, and for pardon of my past sins; and I never durst deliberately desire any spiritual delights. It was an infinite mercy that he would suffer me to appear in his presence. Only once in my whole life, being in great spiritual dryness, I desired him to afford me some little spiritual comfort; but as soon as I had reflected what I had done, I was filled with confusion, and the grief I felt for my want of humility obtained for me that which I had presumed to beg.” The saint, before she gives an account of the supernatural favours she had received, conjures her confessor, Garzia de Toleda, (by whose order, and to whom she wrote this relation,) entirely to conceal all she says on that head, and publish only her sins, imperfections, and the indifferent actions of her life. 10

  8
  Describing the state of her soul with regard to her manner of prayer, she says she began to consider Christ as present in her soul, in the same manner as she had been accustomed to do after communion; thus she entertained herself with him in her ordinary actions, and in mental prayer. From the twentieth year after she had first applied herself to this exercise, she made little use of interior discoursing or reasoning to inflame her affections; the intuitive consideration of any motive or object immediately raising in her heart the most ardent acts of divine love, thanksgiving, compunction, or earnest supplications. 11 The tenderness of her love, and her feeling sense of her own wants formed for her a prayer without studied or chosen words, or long reasoning and reflection in meditation. St. Teresa says she had been before accustomed to feel often a tender heavenly sweetness in her devotions: but at this time her soul began to be frequently raised by God to the sublimer degrees of supernatural passive prayer. For she observes, that the servants of divine love, in which they chiefly advance by prayer, arrive not on a sudden at the highest degree of prayer. True love is a precious gift, and the soul must be more and more prepared and disposed as she advances. The gift of prayer and an interior life have difficulties to be overcome, which cost much to flesh and blood, especially in the beginning or first steps by which a soul is prepared to receive it.

  9
  St. Teresa distinguishes four degrees in mental prayer. In the first, the soul applies herself to holy meditation, for which a calm state of mind, and a retired place are necessary, and the life of Christ one of the first and most important subjects. No state of dryness or difficulties from distractions must make a person lay it aside: he is not to seek his own satisfaction, and ought to be content with humbling himself before God, and knowing that his Divine Majesty regards the desire of our hearts to love him, and knows and compassionates our miseries and weakness more than we ourselves can do. We must be willing to bear our cross, to pay as well as to receive: and the saint says 12 she afterwards experienced that one hour of consolations abundantly paid, even in this life, for all the crosses she had sustained. Our desire ought to be ever to acquiesce in the will of God, to rejoice in carrying our cross with our Lord, and sincerely to acknowledge ourselves infinitely unworthy to be admitted into the divine presence, much more to receive the least drop of the dew of his consolations, which only the pure excess of his infinite goodness could ever bestow on the most unworthy of his creatures, out of mere condescension to their weakness, which engages him by these sensible caresses to overcome their obstinacy, and draw them to his love. St. Teresa assigns the second degree of prayer to be that of Quiet, in which the powers of the soul are recollected, but not absorbed in God; the will or affections being strongly captivated in God, and employed in acts of love, and the understanding and memory aiding some little the will to enjoy this its sovereign good and quiet, though the will is so taken up in God as not to regard or be distracted by the concurrence of these powers. This state is accompanied with an exceeding great interior comfort or delight, the powers of the soul are applied without labour or pains (so that this prayer never wearies how long soever it continues) and often tears flow with joy of their own accord, or without being procured. 13 The intellect here may suggest certain humble silent reflections of thanksgiving, love, or the like, which increase the flame of the will; but, if the intellect raises too great a tumult, or the will strives to silence or recollect it, or the memory or imagination, this quiet is lost and vanishes. This recollection or quiet in the exercise of divine love inspired and produced by the Spirit of God, differs infinitely from a pretended quiet of the will which human industry may strive to produce in it; but which is without any effect or sublime operation; it quickly expires and is succeeded by great dryness in the affections. The devil sometimes by working upon the imagination endeavours to imitate the visits of the Divine Spirit; but an experienced soul easily discovers his illusions, as St. Teresa remarks; for he leaves the mind disturbed, not calm, as the Holy Ghost always does: neither does he leave any impression of profound infused humility, (but generally an inclination to pride;) nor any strong dispositions to virtue: nor great spiritual light in the understanding; nor steady resolution or constancy in virtue: which are the effects of heavenly visitations, as the saint remarks. 14 The third degree of prayer she calls the repose of the soul: it is the prayer of Union; in which the soul overflows with incomparably greater joy, ardour and delight in the divine love, than in the former; she consumes herself in the most sublime affections of love and praise, as St. Teresa explains at large; and is not inactive, as the false mystics or Quietists pretended, though she knows not at all how she acts. 15 The fourth degree of prayer distinguished by her is a more perfect union of all the powers of the soul, suspended and absorbed in God, as she explains at large. 16 This is accompanied with so great interior joy and delight, that the saint assures us, a single moment would be, even in this life, a sufficient recompence for all the pains we can have undergone. 17 St. Teresa distinguishes the prayer of Union, in which her soul was able to resist the divine operation, from a rapture or ecstacy in which it could not resist, and in which her body lost all the use of its voluntary functions and every part remained in the same posture, without feeling, hearing, or seeing, at least so as to perceive it; though she says, on such occasions the soul knows she is in a rapture, whilst she is by the most ardent love ravished in God. These raptures continue sometimes for hours, though not all that time in the same degree. In them the soul sees in a wonderful and clear manner the emptiness of earthly things, the greatness and goodness of God, and the like. Though before she saw nothing in herself but desires of serving God, in a rapture she beholds herself covered with spots, defects, and faults, for the smallest are clearly visible in a bright beam of divine light, darting in upon her: she sees that she is all misery, and imperfection, and cries out: Who shall be justified before thee? As the vessel which seemed before clear in a crystal glass, appears full of atoms if it be placed in the beams of the sun: so this divine sun, by darting its bright beams upon the soul, sets before her eyes all her imperfections and sins as so many hideous spots. At this sight she is confounded and humbled on one side beyond expression, and on the other astonished at the greatness and goodness of God, and transported in an ecstacy of love and adoration. St. Teresa mentions, that having suffered two raptures in the church which could not escape the observation of others, she prayed that this might no more happen to her in public, and from that time it had not when she wrote: but this was not long after. She says she was sometimes raised from the ground in prayer, though she endeavoured to resist it. 18

  St. Teresa, after having exercised himself twenty years in mental prayer, began to withdraw herself from the conversation of secular persons, and other occasions of dissipation and little faults which she exceedingly exaggerates, and was favoured by God very frequently with the prayer of Quiet, and also with that of Union, which latter sometimes continued a long time with great improvement of her soul, and with excessive heavenly joy and love. The examples of certain women who had been miserably the dupes of a deluded imagination and of the devil, much terrified her; and though she was persuaded her favours were from God, she was so much perplexed with these fears that she resolved to take advice: and she consulted so many persons, though obliging them to secrecy, that the affair was divulged abroad, to her great mortification and confusion. The first person to whom she opened herself was a gentleman of the town, named Francis of Salsedo a married man, who for thirty-eight years had practised mental prayer with great assiduity, and with his virtuous lady, who concurred with him in his great charities, fasts, and other exercises of piety, was an example of virtue to the whole country. This gentleman introduced to her Dr. Daza, a learned and virtuous priest; and after an examination from what she declared of herself, both judged her to be deluded by the devil, saying, such divine favours were not consistent with a life so full of imperfections as she exposed hers to be. Her alarms being increased by this decision, the gentleman advised her to speak with one of those first fathers of the Society of Jesus, who were lately come into Spain, and were eminent for their manner of prayer, and their experience in virtue and an interior life. This gentleman (to whom the saint says she owed her salvation and her comfort) bade her not be discouraged, because she was not delivered from all her imperfections in one day; for God would do it by little and little, and said that he himself had remained whole years in reforming some very light things. By the means of certain friends one of these fathers of the Society visited her, to whom she made a very careful general confession, in which, with the confession of her sins, she gave him an account of all the particulars through the course of her whole life relating to her manner of prayer, and her late extraordinary favours. The father assured her these were divine graces; but told her she had neglected to lay the true foundation of an interior life by the practice of a universal self-denial and mortification, by which a person learns to govern his senses, subdue entirely his passions, and cut off all inordinate attachments in the heart. That spiritual builder attempts to raise an edifice of devotion upon a quick-sand, who does not begin by laying the foundation by humility and that spirit of compunction and practice of general self-denial, which being joined with a life of prayer will be a crucifixion of the old man, and a reformation of the affections of the soul. By the advice of this confessor, St. Teresa made every day a meditation on some part of our Lord’s passion, and set herself heartily to practise some kinds of penance which were very inconsistent with her weak health; for, on pretence of her great infirmities, she had thought little of any other mortifications than such as were general. By the prudent order of the same servant of God, though he judged her extraordinary gusts in prayer to be from God, she endeavoured for two months to resist and reject them. But her resistance was in vain: and when she laboured the most to turn herself from heavenly communications, our Lord overwhelmed her most abundantly with them. St. Francis Borgia, at that time commissary-general of the Jesuits in Spain, coming to Avila, was desired to speak to the saint, and having heard her account of her prayer and state, he assured her, without hesitation, that the Spirit of God was the author of her prayer; commended her resistance for a trial during the two months past, but advised her not to resist any elevations if our Lord was pleased to visit her so in prayer, provided she had no hand in endeavouring to procure them: and he prescribed her greater mortifications than she had hitherto undertaken.

  11
  Her confessor being called away, she chose another of the Society of Jesus. This was F. Balthasar Alvarez du Paz, a very spiritual man, who, through severe interior trials during the space of twenty years, arrived at the perfection of holy contemplation and an interior life. 19 This excellent director took notice of certain immortifications in the conduct of St. Teresa, contrary to her perfect sanctification, especially in her remaining still sensible to the satisfaction of ingenious, witty, and learned conversation, of which he put her in mind. Her answer was, that she had hoped her motive in it had been always for the best, and that it seemed a kind of ingratitude in her entirely to deny herself to certain friends. He told her she would do well to beg of God that he would direct her to do what was most pleasing to him, and for that purpose to recite every day the hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus. She did so for a considerable time, and one day whilst she was reciting that hymn she was favoured with a rapture, in which she heard these words, which were spoken to her in the most interior part of her soul: “I will not have thee hold conversation with men, but with angels.” She was exceedingly amazed at this voice, which was the first she heard in that manner: from that time she renounced all company but what business or the direct service of God obliged her to converse with. 20 The saint had afterwards frequent experience of such interior speeches after raptures, and explains how they are even more distinct and clear than those which men hear with their corporal ears, and how they are also operative, producing in the soul the strongest impressions and sentiments of virtue, and filling her with an assurance of their truth, and with joy and peace; whereas all the like illusions of the devil leave her much disquieted and disturbed, and produce no good effects, as she experienced two or three times. 21 The saint earned these great heavenly comforts by severe sufferings; or rather God purified and improved her soul in his love and all virtues, both by his sweetest consolations, and the sharpest trials. She says of herself, under the name of a third person, what follows: “I know one who for these forty years (since God hath vouchsafed to honour her with special favours) hath not passed one day without anguish and various kinds of sufferings, besides sicknesses and great fatigues.” 22 Whilst F. Balthasar Alvarez was her director she suffered grievous persecutions, for three years, and, during two of them, extreme interior desolation of soul intermixed with gleams of spiritual comfort and favours. 23 It was her earnest desire that all her heavenly communications should be kept secret: but they were become the common subject of discourse in every conversation, and even in the public schools, and she was every where censured and ridiculed as an enthusiast or hypocrite: her confessor was persecuted on her account. Six religious men of note who had been her friends, after a conference on this subject, decided that she seemed deluded by the devil, and prevailed on F. Balthasar to go with them to her, and to order her not to communicate so frequently, (which was her greatest support and comfort,) not to live so strictly retired, and not to prolong her meditations beyond the time prescribed by the rule of her house. Her very friends reviled and shunned her as one who had a communication with the devil, and some scrupled not to call her a devil. F. Balthasar, indeed, bade her be of good courage; for if she was deluded by the devil, he could not hurt her, provided she laboured only to advance in charity, patience, humility, and all virtues. One day the saint, after having suffered a long and grievous desolation and affliction of spirit, suddenly fell into a rapture, and heard a voice interiorly saying to her: “Fear not daughter; for it is I, and I will not forsake thee: do not fear.” 24 Her mind was instantly quieted and composed, and filled with light; her soul was drowned in heavenly sweetness and joy, and being endued with strength and courage, she challenged the devils, making no more reckoning of them than of so many flies, and saying to herself, that God whose servant she desired to be, is all-powerful, and under his protection nothing could hurt her; and as she pretended and desired no other thing than to please him, she joyfully met all sufferings, and renounced all ease and contentment if she could only be so happy as to accomplish in all things his holy will.

  12
  A confessor whom the saint made use of once during the absence of F. Balthasar, told her that her prayer was an illusion, and commanded her when she saw any vision, to make the sign of the cross, and to insult the vision, as of a fiend. The saint assures us, that these visions and raptures carried with them their own evidence and demonstration, so that whilst they continued it was impossible for her to harbour the least doubt but they were from God. Nevertheless, she knew them to be subordinate to the ordinary means which God has established to conduct our souls to him: and as all pretended visions must be false and condemned which should contradict the scripture or the authority of the church, so no such visions can exempt us from any duty towards the church or others: for God never derogates by private revelations from his general laws and established rules. Therefore, in simplicity, she obeyed this order of her confessor; and the saint assures us that Christ himself in several visions approved her conduct in so doing. 25 She adds, that in these visions to use some exterior action of scorn was a terrible thing to her, as she could not possibly believe but that it was God. “And I besought our Lord,” says she, “with much earnestness to free me from being deceived; and this I did continually, and with abundance of tears. I begged it also by the prayers of SS. Peter and Paul; because, as I had my first vision on their festival, our Lord told me they would take such care of me, that I should not be deceived. Accordingly, I have often seen very clearly these two glorious saints, my very good patrons, upon my left hand. But this making signs of scorn when I saw the vision of our Lord, gave me excessive pain and trouble. For when I saw him present before my eyes, it was impossible for me to believe it was the devil. That I might not be perpetually crossing myself, I took a cross into my hands, and this I did almost always. I used not the signs of scorn often; for this afflicted me too much, and I remembered the affronts which the Jews put upon our Lord; and I humbly besought him to pardon me, since I did this in obedience to those whom he had appointed in his own place. He bid me not be troubled at it, for I did well in obeying them; but he said he would bring them to understand the truth;” which they afterwards did. “When they forbade me the use of mental prayer, our Lord appeared angry at it, and bade me tell them this was tyranny. He also gave me reasons to know that this was not the devil. Once when I held in my hand the cross which was at the end of my beads, he took it into his hand; and when he gave it me again, it appeared to be of four great stones, incomparably more precious than diamonds—a diamond is but a counterfeit in comparison of these. They had the five wounds of our Lord engraved upon them after a most curious manner. He told me I should always see this cross so from that time forward, and so I did; for I no longer saw the matter of which the cross was made, but only those precious stones: though no other saw them but myself. When I was commanded to use this resistance to those favours, they increased much more, and I was never out of prayer. Even whilst I slept I was uttering amorous complaints to our Lord, and his love was still increased in me. Nor was it in my power to give over thinking on him, and least of all when I endeavoured to do so. Yet I obeyed as well as I could, though I was able to do little or nothing in that respect. Our Lord never freed me from obeying them: yet he gave me all assurance that it was he, and instructed me what I should say to them. There grew in me so impetuous a love of God, that I found myself even dying through a desire to see him, (my true life,) nor did I know how or where to find this life, but by death,” &c. 26 Bishop Yepez informs us, 27 that this cross fell afterwards into the hands of the saint’s sister, Jane of Ahumada, who died at Alva; and he relates some miracles wrought by it. Pope Gregory XV., in the bull of the canonization of St. Teresa, commends this example of her obedience as the test of her spirit and of her visions, &c. “By the command of her confessor she humbly showed marks of contempt under the visions of our Lord, not without a great recompence of her obedience. She was wont to say, that she might be deceived in discerning visions and revelations; but could not in obeying superiors,” says this pope.

  13
  Though after two years spent in frequent interior desolation, the visits of the Holy Ghost restored her interior peace with great sweetness and spiritual light, which dispelled her former darkness, she continued to suffer a whole year longer a persecution from her friends, which seemed general. F. Balthasar Alvarez, who was a spiritual man, but exceedingly timorous, durst not oppose the torrent, or decide with confidence that the Holy Ghost was the author of the wonderful operations in her prayer, though he continued to hear her confessions, which scarcely any other person in the country would have done; and he comforted her, saying, that so long as she improved herself in virtue, the devil could do her no prejudice. She had learned to be so perfectly dead to herself, that with regard to herself she was not the least concerned what the whole world said or did concerning her; but the judgment of others, as to her state, gave her still frequent great alarms and fears, which contributed both to purify her soul, and to prove more clearly her spirit of prayer. In 1559, St. Peter of Alcantara, commissary-general, and visiter of the Franciscans, coming to Avila, conversed several days with St. Teresa. Few saints seem to have been more experienced in an interior life, or better versed in the supernatural gifts of prayer than this holy man. He discovered in Teresa the most certain marks of the wonderful graces of the Holy Ghost, expressed great compassion for her sufferings from the contradictions and slanders even of good men and learned doctors, and publicly declared, that except the truths of holy faith, nothing appeared to him more evident than that her soul was conducted by the Spirit of God; but he foretold her that she was not come to an end of her persecutions and sufferings. The authority of this glorious saint, the reputation of whose judgment and sanctity gave his confident decision the greatest weight, turned the stream exceedingly in favour of the holy virgin. It is not to be expressed what comfort and advantage she received from the conversation of this holy man who strongly recommended her defence and direction to F. Balthasar, at that time her ordinary confessor, though he was shortly after removed to another place. After the trials already made, and the judgment passed by St. Peter of Alcantara, not only F. Balthasar, but many other persons of the greatest piety, learning, and authority, declared confidently that the marks and reasons were most clear and convincing that in her ecstacies and prayer, she was conducted in a supernatural manner by the Divine Spirit. In her life, written by herself, we have a general account of the wonderful things she experienced. She sometimes suffered interior trials of darkness in the mind, and great anguish of soul, joined with extreme pain of bodily sickness, so that the powers of her soul seemed, on some occasions suspended through excessive sorrow, almost as they were usually in raptures through excess of joy. For these afflictions God made her very ample amends; for they were always followed with a great abundance of favours, and her soul seemed to come out of them like gold more refined and pure out of the crucible, to see our Lord within herself. Then those troubles appeared little, which before seemed insupportable, and she was willing to return again to suffer still greater tribulations and persecutions; for all in the end bring more profit, though the saint says she never bore hers as she ought. Besides interior troubles and temptations, she sometimes met with exterior afflictions, and frequently saw devils in hideous figures; but she drove them away by the cross or holy water; and when the place was sprinkled with holy water they never returned. 28 One day, whilst she was in prayer, she had a vision of hell, in which she seemed in spirit to be lodged in a place which she had deserved, that is, into which the vanities and dangerous amusements of her youth would have led her, had she not been reclaimed by the divine mercy. Nothing can be added to the energy with which she describes the pain she felt from an interior fire and unspeakable despair: the thick darkness, without the least glimpse of light, in which she knew not how, she says, one sees all that can afflict the sight: from torturing discontent and anguish, the dismal thought of eternity, and the agony of the soul by which she is her own executioner, and tears herself, as it were, to pieces, of which it is too little to say that it seems a butchering and a rending of herself. The saint says, that in comparison of these pains all torments of this world are no more than pictures, and burning here a trifle in respect of that fire. This was but a representation of those torments; yet she says that after this vision all things seemed easy to her in this life, in comparison of one moment of those sufferings. She continued ever after most heartily to thank God for having mercifully delivered her, to weep for sinners, and to compassionate the blindness of so many who swallow down, as if they were nothing, even most grievous sins, which though she had been most wicked, she had by the divine mercy always shunned, as murmuring, detraction, covetousness, envy, and the like. 29

  If the various proofs by which it pleased God to try Teresa served only to purify her virtue, the heavenly communications with which she was favoured gave her a new lustre. In her ecstacies revelations were imparted to her, with visions and other great favours, all which served continually to humble and fortify her soul, to give her a strong disrelish of the things of this life, and to inflame her with the most ardent desires of possessing God. In raptures she was sometimes elevated in the air, of which she gives the following description. 30 Having said that the soul has a power of resisting in the prayer of Union, but not in raptures in which her soul was absolutely carried away, so that she could not stop it, she adds: “Sometimes my whole body was carried with it, so as to be raised up from the ground, though this was seldom. When I had a mind to resist these raptures, there seemed to me somewhat of so mighty force under my feet, which raised me up, that I know not what to compare it to. All my resistance availed little; for when our Lord hath a mind to do a thing, no power is able to stand against it. The effects of this rapture are great. First, the mighty power of the Lord is hereby made manifest; for when he is pleased, we are no more able to detain our bodies than our souls: we are not masters of them, but must, even against our will, acknowledge that we have a superior, that these favours come from him, and that of ourselves we are able to do nothing at all: and a great impression of humility is made on the soul. Further I confess it also produced in me a great fear (which at first was extreme) to see that a massy body should be thus raised up from the earth. For though it be the spirit which draws it after it, and though it be done with great sweetness and delight, (if it be not resisted,) yet our senses are not thereby lost; at least I was so perfectly in my senses, that I understood I was then raised up. There also appears hereby so great a majesty in him who can do this, that it makes even the hair of the head to stand on end; and there remains in the soul a mighty fear to offend so great a God. Yet this fear is wrapped up in an excessive love, which the soul conceives afresh towards him, whom she finds to bear so great a love to such wretched worms as we are. For he seems not content with drawing the soul to himself, but he will needs draw up the very body too, even whilst it is mortal, and compounded of so filthy an earth, as we have made it by our sins. This favour also leaves in the soul a wonderful disengagement from all the things of this world. In raptures of the spirit alone there seems a total loosening of the soul from all things, as it concerns the spirit. But here it seems that also the body partakes of this disengagement. And it breeds such a new aversion and disgust of the things of this world, that it makes even our life much more painful to us.” &c.

  Bishop Yepez relates, 31 that the saint, when she was prioress of the convent of St. Joseph at Avila, as she was going to receive the communion at the hands of the bishop Don Alvarez of Mendoza, was raised in a rapture higher than the grate through which (as is usual in nunneries) she was to receive the holy communion; of which also sister Mary Baptist, prioress of Valladolid, was an eye-witness with others. Likewise Bannes, a very learned theologian of the Order of St. Dominic, whose name is famous in the schools, and who was for sometime confessor of St. Teresa, testified that the saint one day, in public, as she was raised in the air in the choir, held herself by some rails, and prayed thus: “Lord suffer not, for such a favour, a wicked woman to pass for virtuous.” He mentions other instances in the public choir; but says, that at her earnest request, this never happened to her in public during the last fifteen years of her life. Richard of St. Victor 32 teaches, that raptures arise from a vehement fire of divine love in the will, or from excessive spiritual joy, or from a beam of heavenly light darting upon the understanding. We learn from St. Teresa, that these three effects of an external grace usually concur in raptures. She says, the faculties or powers of the soul are lost by being most straightly united to God, so that she thought she neither saw, nor heard, nor perceived any thing about her; but this was only for a very short space during the highest part of some raptures; during the rest of the rapture, the soul, though she can do nothing of herself as to the exterior or the voluntary motions of the body, understands and hears things as if they were spoken from afar off. When she returns to herself, her powers continue in some degree absorbed sometimes for two or three days. In these raptures a soul clearly sees, and, as it were, feels how perfectly a nothing all earthly things are: how gross an error, and abominable a lie it is, to give the name of honour to what the world calls so; real honour being built on truth, not on a lie. A like idea she has of the vanity and folly of the love of money, and of the baseness of earthly pleasures; and she learns that nothing is really true but what conduces to virtue, and makes no account of any thing which brings us not nearer to God. The greatness and goodness of God, the excess of his love, the sweetness of his service, and such other great truths are placed in a great light, and made sensibly manifest to her; all which she understands with a clearness which can be no way expressed: the impression whereof remains afterwards in the soul. In the rapture she acquires also a liberty and dominion, which results from her perfect disengagement from creatures, upon which she looks down, as raised above them, and above herself; and she is filled with confusion that she should have been so miserable as to have ever been entangled by them. She looks back upon her former blindness with amazement; and considers with compassion the misery of those who still remain in the like. But no effects of a rapture are so remarkable or profitable as the clear sight which the soul receives in it of her own imperfections, baseness and nothingness; together with the most profound sentiments of humility, and, on the other side, a great knowledge of the goodness, majesty, and boundless power of God, with the most ardent love and desires of speedily possessing him for ever. 33 Hence, St. Teresa, when her soul was deeply wounded, and totally inflamed, as it were, by a spark falling from the immense fire of the love our Lord bore her, often repeated, with incredible earnestness, that verse: As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. 34 Among the visions which the saint had of the joys of heaven, in one she saw her parents in bliss; 35 in others, much greater secrets of that glorious kingdom were shown her, at which she remained amazed, and was ever after exceedingly moved entirely to despise all things below: but she found it impossible to give any description of the least part of what she saw, the brightness of the sun being mean and obscure in comparison of that light, which no human imagination can paint to itself, nor any of the other things which she then understood, and that with a sovereign delight, all the senses enjoying a superior degree of sweetness which cannot be declared. She remained once about an hour in that condition, and our Lord showing most admirable things, said to her: “See what they lose who are against me: do not forbear to tell them of it. But, O Lord,” said the saint, “what good will my telling do them, whom their own malice blindeth, unless thou givest them light?” She adds, that the contempt of this world, and the desires of heaven with which these visions inspired her, could not be declared. “Hence also,” says she, “I lost the fear of death, of which I had formerly a great apprehension.” Such was the value she learned to set upon the glory and happiness of loving and praising God in his eternal kingdom, that for the least degree of increase in it, she should have been most willing to suffer all that can be imagined to the end of the world, though to her, who deserved hell, the lowest place in heaven would be an infinite and most undeserved mercy.

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  She sometimes saw the mystery of one God in three persons in so clear and wonderful a manner, as much comforted and amazed her: sometimes Christ in the bosom of his Father, and frequently his humanity in its glorified state so beautiful and delightful, that she comprehended that to behold one glorified body, especially the adorable humanity of Christ, would alone be a great felicity. 36 She often heard his Majesty say to her with demonstration of great love: “Thou shalt now be mine, and I am thine.” She was favoured with many visions in the holy eucharist; and sometimes with apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, and other saints; and frequently of angels of different orders standing near her, though she did not know their orders; for they never told her this. One of these visions she describes as follows: 37 “I saw an angel very near me, towards my left side, in a corporal form, (which is not usual with me; for though angels are often represented to me, it is only by the intellectual vision.) This angel appeared rather little than big, and very beautiful; his face was so inflamed that he seemed to be one of those highest angels called seraphim, who seemed to be all on fire with divine love. He had in his hand a long golden dart, and at the end of the point methought there was a little fire; and I conceived that he thrust it several times through my heart after such a manner that it passed through my very bowels; and when he drew it out, methought it pulled them out with it, and left me wholly inflamed with a great love of God.” She says that this wound caused a great pain in her soul, which also affected her body; but this extremity of pain was accompanied by excessive delight, and whilst it continued, she went up and down like one transported, not caring to see or speak, but only to burn and be consumed with that pain, which was a greater happiness to her than any that can be found in created things. The saint’s desire to die, that she might be speedily united to God, was tempered by her ardent desire to suffer for his love: and the excess of his love for her, and of the comforts which he so often afforded her, made her esteem it as if no account that she should desire to suffer afflictions for his sake. And she writes: “It seems to me there is no reason why I should live but only to suffer; and accordingly this is the thing which I beg with most affection of God. Sometimes I say to him with my whole heart: Lord, either to die, or to suffer, I beg no other thing for myself. It comforts me also to hear the clock strike; for so methinks I draw a little nearer to the seeing of God; since one hour more of my life is past.” 38 The saint mentions several instances of persons of remarkable virtue, some in a secular, others in a religious state, of her own nunnery, and of several other Orders, whose souls she saw in visions freed from purgatory through the prayers of devout persons, and carried up to heaven, several hours or days after their departure; though their penitential and holy lives, their patience in long illnesses, their great regularity in their convent, and their tears, humility, and compunction at their death, which edified all who knew them, had persuaded her they would be admitted straight to glory. Besides the particular instances she relates, she adds she had seen the same of many others. “But among all the souls which I have seen, I have not known any one to have escaped purgatory, except three, F. Peter of Alcantara, a religious man of the Order of St. Dominic (F. Peter Ivagnez), and a Carmelite friar.” 39 She was given to understand that this last was exempted from purgatory by the indulgences granted to those of his Order, he having been a religious man, and having faithfully observed his profession: “which,” says she, “I suppose was signified to me to imply, that more is required to make a religious man than the wearing of the habit,” namely, the spirit and faithful observance of his rule. Spiritual graces require this condition. All these visions and raptures tended exceedingly to the spiritual improvement of the saint in humility, divine love, and all other virtues. By them she was advertised of all her failings, and made continually more and more courageous, and perfect in the practice of all virtues; she learned that it is a misery, and a subject of patience, to converse in the world, to behold the comedy or puppet-show of this life, and to be employed in complying with the necessities of a mortal body by eating and sleeping, which captivate the mind, and are the occupation of our banishment from God. When she once grieved that all her Spanish pious books were taken from her, our Lord said to her: “Let not this trouble thee; I will give thee a living book.” 40 This she experienced by mental prayer, and his heavenly communications. She learned by these raptures great heavenly mysteries, secrets, and things to come, which she foretold; and as she assures us, not the least tittle of what was thus revealed to her, ever failed to come to pass, though, at the time of her revelation and prediction, all appearances were contrary. She mentions that God, through her prayers, brought several sinners to repentance, and granted great graces to many others, as she learned by revelations. Also, that at her earnest request he restored sight to one that was almost quite blind, and health to some others labouring under painful and dangerous distempers. 41

  The account which this saint has drawn up of these visions, revelations, and raptures, carries with it the intrinsic marks of evidence. It is not possible attentively to peruse it, and not be convinced of the sincerity of the author, by the genuine simplicity of the style, scrupulous nicety, and fear of exaggerating the least circumstance, making what might be doubtful appear certain, or in the least advancing anything which might be false, or allowing anything to conjectures; also by her unfeigned humility, which makes her speak everywhere against herself, omit nothing that could tend to her disgrace, magnify the least faults of her life, according to the apprehensions of her pure and timorous conscience, and leave everywhere the strongest impressions of her guilt, though she was commanded by her confessor not to exceed moderation in speaking of her sins: and though, as Bishop Yepez (who was thoroughly acquainted with her, and knew her whole life) observes, could she have instanced in any other sins in particular, she would certainly have been more explicit; and she was obliged to acknowledge that God had preserved her from detraction, envy, impurity, and the like vices. The saint assures us, that she may be deceived, but would not lie in the least point, and would rather die a thousand times. 42 Her doctrine is called by the church, in the prayer of her festival, heavenly, is conformable to the spirit of the saints, and highly approved by the most experienced proficients in divine contemplation. All acknowledge that the most secret adyta of the sanctuary are here laid open, and the most abstruse maxims which experience alone can teach but no words utter, are explained with greater perspicuity than the subject seemed capable of bearing; and this was done by an illiterate woman, 43 who wrote alone without the assistance of books, without study, or acquired abilities, who entered upon the recital of the divine favours with sentiments of humility and reluctance, submitting everything without reserve to the judgment of her confessor, and much more to that of the church, and complaining that by this task she was hindered from spinning. The circumstances and the manner of the narration in each part furnish a chain of corroborating proofs in favour of the work; and as Mr. Woodhead observes, 44 her frequent pertinent digressions, the devotions, ejaculations, and colloquies with our Lord, which she everywhere intersperses from her habit of prayer, the prolix parentheses, and the iterated apologies for these surprises of herself, show that neither her matter nor her method were pre-designed. The heroic sentiments and practice of all the most sublime virtues, with which this book is interspersed in every page, suffice alone to evince that what is here written could not be founded on chimerical illusions, or be the effect of a heated imagination. In the raptures and visions of this saint we admire indeed the divine goodness in his infinite condescension; but what we ought chiefly to consider and study herein are the great lessons of virtue which we meet with in the relation of these miraculous favours, and in the wonderful example of this saint.

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  How perfectly she excelled in obedience appears from this circumstance, that on all occasions she preferred this virtue to her revelations, saying in them she might be deceived by the devil, but could not in obedience. In founding her convents and many other things, when she had received a command from Christ, she availed not herself hereof, but waited till, by the rules of obedience, she was authorized to execute the divine commission, depending however steadfastly on him who promised or commanded the undertaking, that he would carry the same by the regular means into execution: in which she was never disappointed. F. Balthasar Alvarez said of her: “Do you see Teresa of Jesus? What sublime graces has she received of God! yet she is like the most tractable little child with regard to everything I can say to her.” She called obedience the soul of a religious life, the short and sure road to perfect sanctity, the most powerful means to subject our will perfectly to that of God, and to overcome our passions, and which is the sacrifice of our whole lives to God. “I esteem it a greater grace,” said she, “to pass one day in humble obedience, putting forth sighs to God from a contrite and afflicted heart, than to spend several days in prayer. Is it nothing great to abandon in some sense the enjoyment of God, in order to do his will manifested to us in obedience? Long prayer will not advance a soul at a time when she is called to obedience,” &c. 45 She used often to repeat: “Obedience is put to the test in different commands.” All murmuring, excuses, or delays she condemns as contrary to obedience. As for her own part, even when superior, she studied by many contrivances to obey others, and always obeyed her confessor as she would have done God himself.

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  A desire most perfectly to obey God in all things, moved her to make a vow never with full knowledge to commit a venial sin, and in every action to do what seemed to her most perfect; a vow which, in persons less perfect, would be unlawful, because it would be an occasion of transgressions. Humility, the root of true obedience, and the fruitful parent of other virtues, was that in which she placed her strength, and her humility increased in proportion as she received from God the more extraordinary favours, which she saw to be his pure gifts, without her contributing any to them; and, because she profited so little by them, she condemned and humbled herself the more. The virtues of others seemed to her more meritorious, and she conceived that there was not in the world one worse than herself. 46 Hence she was the more inflamed to love and praise the gracious goodness of God, to whom alone she entirely ascribed his gifts, not usurping an atom of them to herself, and separating from them her infidelities and miseries, which was all that was of her own growth, and of which, by an infused light, she had the most extensive and fullest knowledge, and the most sincere feeling. Hence, seated in the centre of her own baseness and unworthiness, she was always covered with confusion and shame in the divine presence, as a spouse blushing at the remembrance of her treasons and infidelities towards the best and greatest of lords and husbands. She treated with all men confounded in herself, as unworthy to appear before them. She sincerely looked upon herself as deserving every sort of disgrace and contempt, as one who deserved hell, and whose only support against despair was the infinite mercy of God: and she endeavoured to convince others of her wretchedness and grievous sinfulness with as great solicitude and affection as an ambitious proud man desires to pass for virtuous. There are many who affect to use this language of themselves, but cannot bear from others any contempt or injurious treatment. This St. Teresa received on all occasions with great inward joy, and exceedingly desired; and all honours and marks of esteem were most grievous to her. This satisfaction which the heart feels in its own just contempt is, as it were, the marrow and pith of true humility, says Bishop Yepez. 47 These dispositions were in her so perfect as to surprise above all other things those who were best acquainted with her interior, and are sufficiently discoverable in her writings.

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  Nothing is more dangerous or nice, and nothing more difficult than for a man to speak much of himself without discovering a complacency in himself in speaking superfluously concerning what belongs to him, and without discovering symptoms of secret self-love and pride, even in a studied affectation to disguise them, or in colouring or suppressing his own disgraces or weaknesses, and in displaying covertly his own talents and advantages. 48 And nothing seems a clearer proof how perfectly our saint was dead to herself by sincere humility than the artless manner in which she constantly, and not on certain occasions only, speaks of herself with a view to debase herself in every thing. Her exterior conduct breathed this sincere disposition of her soul. Though superior and foundress, she chose unaffectedly the greatest humiliations that could be practised in her Order. If she pronounced a word in the divine office with a false accent, she prostrated herself in penance; confessed in chapter, and humbled herself for the least faults of inadvertence with surprising humility and alacrity, and underwent the most humbling penances in the refectory and elsewhere with the same. It was her pleasure to steal secretly into the choir after the office, to fold up the cloaks of the sisters, to choose for her part of work to sweep the most filthy places in the yard, and to perform the lowest offices in serving at table, or in the kitchen, in which place she was often seen suddenly absorbed in God, with the utensils or instruments of her business in her hands; for every place was to her a sanctuary, and no employment hindered her from offering to God a continual sacrifice of humility, and of ardent love and praise. Nothing is more admirable than the lessons of humility which she gives in her writings, and which she inculcates to her religious, recommending to them especially never to excuse themselves in faults; never to murmur, but to rejoice in abjection; never to justify themselves when accused falsely (unless charity or prudence make it necessary); to abhor every thought or mark of preeminence or distinction of ranks, which she extremely exaggerates as the bane of all true humility and virtue in a religious community, &c. 49 It was her usual exhortation that, though we cannot arrive at the perfection of other virtues, or at a perfect imitation of our Blessed Redeemer, we can humble ourselves low enough, and be ashamed to fall so far short of Christ, our model, in the cordial love of contempt, and in embracing humiliations, which he underwent for our sake, but which are our due and remedy. She teaches that false humility is attended with interior trouble, uneasiness, and darkness in the mind in the confession of faults, and in embracing humiliations; but that true humility does these things with alacrity and interior light. She used to repeat to her sisters that sincere humility is the groundwork of prayer, this whole edifice being founded in it; and that as humility is the foundation, so is it the measure of our progress in the spirit of prayer, and all other virtues.

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  Her spirit of penance was not less edifying than her humility. Who, without floods of tears for his own insensibility, can call to mind the wonderful compunction with which the saints wept and punished themselves their whole lives for the lightest transgressions? St. Teresa having had the misfortune in her youth to have been betrayed into certain dangerous amusements and vanities, though she would not for the world have ever consented knowingly to any mortal sin, had always hell and her sins before her eyes, penetrated with the compunction of a Magdalen or a Thais. Her love of penance, after she was well instructed in that virtue, made her desire to set no bounds to her mortifications, by which she chastised and subdued her flesh by long watchings in prayer, by rigorous disciplines, hair cloths, and austere fasts. Moved by this spirit of penance, she restored the original severity of her rule, and, notwithstanding her bad health, observed its fasts of eight months in the year, and other austerities, unless some grievous fit of illness made them absolutely impossible. On such occasions it was with great repugnance that she consented to use some small dispensations, but said she understood this repugnance proceeded rather from self-love than from a spirit of penance. Her prudence and pious zeal for religious discipline and penance, appear in the caution with which she guarded against the granting dispensations too easily on account of weak health, which opens a wide door to all relaxations in religious Orders. She tells her nuns, that it is often the devil that suggests the idea of imaginary indispositions, or that sloth and immortification magnifies those that are slight; that it is often a mark of self-love to complain of little ailments, and that the more the body is indulged, the more numerous and craving its demands and necessities grow. 50 She insists on the universal self-denial, by which a religious person studies to do his own will in nothing: which practice, if it sounds harsh, will be found sweet, and will bring much contentment, holy peace, and comfort. 51 St. Francis of Assisium seems not to have carried the love of holy poverty higher than St. Teresa, though she mitigated some points of her first reform in this particular. If, even in secular princes, excess, vanities, and superfluities are sinful, how carefully ought the shadow of such abuses to be banished a religious life! It was her saying, that the least inordinate attachment hinders the flight of a soul upwards; to prevent which she obliged her nuns often to change every thing they used; reduced every thing in their mean clothing, coarse diet, and cells to what was indispensably necessary. She speaks most pathetically against superfluous or stately buildings. 52 She worked with her hands to gain a subsistence. The modesty of the countenance of this holy virgin was a silent strong exhortation to the love of purity, as bishop Yepez testifies, who was persuaded she never felt in her whole life any importunate assaults against that virtue. 53 When one asked her advice about impure temptations, she answered that she knew not what they meant. A noble and generous disposition of soul inclined our saint to conceive the most tender sentiments of gratitude towards all men from whom she had ever received the least service. The gratitude she expressed to God for his immense favours was derived from a higher source. 54 In her writings she every where speaks with respect and affection of her persecutors; and, putting pious constructions on their words and actions, represents them always as perfect servants of God, and her true friends. Contumelies she always bore in silence and with joy. She often said of those that reviled her, that they were the only persons that truly knew her. Under grievous slanders with which she was attacked at Seville, one asked her how she could hold her peace. She answered, with a smile, “No music is so agreeable to my ears. They have reason for what they say, and speak truth.” Her invincible patience under all pains of sickness, provocations, and disappointments; her firm confidence in God, and in her crucified Redeemer under all storms and difficulties; and her undaunted courage in bearing incredible labours and persecutions, and in encountering dangers cannot be sufficiently admired. God once said to her in a vision, “Dost thou think that merit consists in enjoying? no: but rather in working, in suffering, and in loving. He is most beloved by my Father, on whom he lays the heaviest crosses, if these sufferings are accepted and borne with love. By what can I better show my love for thee than by choosing for thee what I choose for myself?”

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  An eminent spirit of prayer, founded in sincere humility, and perfect self-denial, was the great means by which God raised this holy virgin to such an heroic degree of sanctity. If she remained so long imperfect in virtue, and was slow in completing the victory over herself, it was because for some time she did not apply herself with a proportioned assiduity to the practice of devout prayer, some of her confessors having diverted her from it on account of her ill health and exterior employments: which mistaken advice was to her of infinite prejudice, as she grievously laments. F. Balthasar Alvarez took much pains with very little progress for twenty years on the same account. 55 And sister Gertrude Moor, the devout Benedictin nun, complains she had been led into the like false persuasion by directors unacquainted with the rules of an interior life. A right method of prayer replenished all the saints with a spirit of devotion which wrought a wonderful reformation of their affections, and changed their interior so as to make them on a sudden spiritual men. St. Teresa inculcates above all things in her writings the incomparable advantages of this spirit of prayer, and gives excellent lessons upon that important subject. 56 Our divine Redeemer, and the mystery of his incarnation and death were a great object of her adoration and most tender devotion. She suggests this often as the most easy method for beginners to accustom themselves to the familiar use of aspirations, that they imagine themselves in spirit conversing with Christ, representing his humanity as present with them, whether by their side or in their heart. She observes that all religious persons are not called to contemplation, 57 but all can use assiduous prayer with aspirations. It is a maxim which she strongly inculcates, that the most advanced ought not entirely to abandon the method of sometimes representing to themselves Christ as man, and considering him as the object of their devotions, and this sometimes occupied her soul in her highest raptures. 58 The opposite doctrine, that to contemplate the humanity of Christ belongs only to the imperfect, and that perfect contemplatives consider only things purely spiritual, is an illusion of the false mystics. 59 Her singular devotion to the holy sacrament of the altar appears in her works. She used to say, that one communion is enough to enrich a soul with all spiritual treasures of grace and virtue, if she put no obstacles. To unite ourselves most frequently and most ardently with Christ in the holy eucharist she called our greatest means of strength and comfort in our state of banishment till we shall be united to him in glory. Her ardour to approach the holy communion, and her joy and comfort in presence of the blessed sacrament are not to be expressed. In her most earnest prayers she conjured Almighty God, for the sake of his divine Son present on our altars, to stem the torrent of vice on earth, and preserve the world from those horrible profanations by which his mercy is insulted. 60 This her devotion sprang from that inflamed love of God which all her actions and writings breathe. 61 From the same source proceeded her burning zeal for the conversion of sinners, whose souls she continually recommended to the divine mercy with many tears, 62 charging her religious never to cease from that office of charity, and from praying also for those ministers of God who labour for the salvation of souls. 63 Her grief for the wicked was inexpressible, and she was ready to suffer with joy a thousand deaths for one soul. She will have the divine love in all souls to be both contemplative and active, yet so that the exterior actions proceed from, and be animated by the interior fire; or be flowers of this plant, the root of which is the vehement affection of love reigning in the heart, from which they must draw their whole substance without any foreign mixtures: thus a preacher ought so entirely to have the divine honour in view as not to think even indirectly of pleasing men. 64 The first among the external actions in which divine love is exercised, she every where reckons patience in suffering persecutions and trials; and she says, that he who loves, finds his delight in sufferings, and gathers strength from them. 65 The second great exterior employment of love consists in labouring to extend the kingdom of God by advancing the sanctification of souls, but of our own in the first place. These and other exercises of love, and above all things the will of God (perfectly to acquiesce in which is our sovereign happiness) were the motives which tempered the earnestness of her desire immediately to see God in his glory, 66 which yet she indulged by the most ardent and amorous sighs, crying out: “O death, I know not who can fear thee, since it is by thee that we find life!” &c. 67 And, “O life, enemy to my happiness, when will it be allowed to close thee? I have care of thee, because God is pleased to preserve thee, and thou belongest to him; but be not ungrateful. How is my banishment prolonged! All time indeed is short to gain eternity.” No saint expresses stronger or more lively sentiments of fear of being eternally separated from God; 68 but these fears she resolved into humble hope in the pure clemency of God. The operations of the same divine Spirit are various. Though fear, humility, love, and compunction reign in all devout souls, the Holy Ghost excites in some this, and in others that, virtue in a more sensible manner, and in some this, in others that, gift appears more eminent. 69

  St. Teresa, burning with a desire to promote with her whole strength the greater gratification of her own soul and that of others, and of labouring to secure by the most perfect penance her eternal salvation, concerted a project of establishing a reform in her Order. The rule which had been drawn up by Albert, patriarch of Jerusalem, was very austere: but in process of time several relaxations were introduced, and a mitigation of this Order was approved by a bull of Eugenius IV. in 1431. In the convent of the Incarnation at Avila, in which the saint lived, other relaxations were tolerated, especially that of admitting too frequent visits of secular friends at the grate in the parlour or speak-house. St. Teresa one day expressing a great desire of living according to the original institute of the Order, her niece Mary d’Ocampe, then a pensioner in that house, offered one thousand ducats to found a house for such a design, and a secular widow lady Guyomar d’Ulloa zealously encouraged the design; which was approved by St. Peter of Alcantara, St. Lewis Bertrand, and the Bishop of Avila, and the saint was commanded by Christ in several visions and revelations which she recounts, to undertake the same, with assured promises of success and his divine protection. The lady Guyomar procured the license and approbation of F. Angelo de Salazar, provincial of the Carmelites in those parts. No sooner had the project taken wind but he was obliged by the clamours which were raised against it, to recal his license, and a furious storm fell upon the saint, through the violent opposition which was made by all her fellow nuns, the nobility, the magistrates, and the people. She suffered the most outrageous calumnies with perfect calmness of mind and silence, contenting herself with earnestly recommending to God his own work. In the mean time, F. Yvagnez, a Dominican, esteemed one of the most virtuous and learned men of that age, secretly encouraged the saint, and assisted Madam Guyomar to pursue the enterprise, together with Madam Jane of Ahumada, a married sister of the saint, who began with her husband to build a new convent at Avila, in 1561, but in such a manner that the world took it for a house intended for herself and her family. Their son Gonzales, a little child, happened to be crushed by a wall which fell upon him in raising this building, and was carried without giving any signs of life to Teresa, who taking him in her arms, put up her ardent sighs to God, and after some minutes restored him perfectly sound to his mother, as was proved in the process of the saint’s canonization. 70 The child used afterwards often to tell his aunt, that it was a duty incumbent on her to secure his salvation by her prayers and instructions, seeing it was owing to her that he was not long ago in heaven. After a most virtuous life he died soon after St. Teresa in extraordinary sentiments of piety. A great strong wall of this house falling in the night as soon as it was finished, many were discouraged; but the saint said it was the effect of the impotent rage and jealousy of the devil. The Lady Louisa de la Cerda, sister to the Duke of Medina Celi, being in the deepest affliction for the loss of her husband, Count Arias Pardo, prevailed upon the provincial of the Carmelites to send an order to Teresa at Avila, sixty miles from Toledo, to repair to her in that city. The saint remained in her house above half a year, and promoted exceedingly the spirit and practice of eminent virtue, not only with the lady, who had for her the highest veneration, but with her whole household and many other persons. All this time she abated nothing of her usual mortifications and devotions, and her provincial no sooner released her from the tie of obedience which he had imposed on her of living in the house of this lady, and left it to her choice, either to go or stay, but she returned to her monastery of the Incarnation at Avila. A little before she came back, at the time of the election of a prioress, several of the nuns were very desirous she should be chosen for that office, the very thought of which very much afflicted her: and though she was willing readily to endure any kind of torment for God, she could not prevail with herself to accept of this charge: for, besides the trouble in a numerous community, such as this was, and other reasons, she never loved to be in office, fearing it would greatly endanger her conscience. She, therefore, wrote to the nuns who were warmest for having her chosen, earnestly entreating them not to be so much her enemies. Our Lord one day when she was thanking him that she was absent during the noise of the election, said to her in a vision: “Since thou desirest a cross a heavy one is prepared for thee. Decline it not, for I will support thee: go courageously and speedily.” Fearing this cross was the office of prioress, she wept bitterly; but soon after heard that another person was chosen: for which she gave God most sincere thanks, 71 and set out for Avila. The same evening that she arrived at Avila the pope’s brief for the erection of her new convent was brought thither. St. Peter of Alcantara, who happened to pass that way, Don Francisco de Salsedo, (a pious gentleman with whom St. Peter lodged,) and the famous Dr. Daza persuaded the bishop to concur, and the new monastery of St. Joseph was established by his authority, and made subject to him, on St. Bartholomew’s day in 1562, the blessed sacrament being placed in the church, and the saint’s niece, who had given a thousand ducats, and three other novices taking the habit. Hereupon a great noise was raised against the saint in the town; the prioress of the Incarnation sent for her from St. Joseph’s, and the provincial being called, the saint was ordered to remain in her old monastery of the Incarnation, though they were somewhat pacified when the saint had clearly shown them that she had not taken the least step contrary to her rule, or against the duty of obedience. The governor and magistrates would have had the new monastery demolished, had not F. Bannes, the learned Dominican, dissuaded them from so hasty a resolution. Amidst the most violent slanders and persecutions the saint remained calm, recommending to God his own work, and was comforted by our Lord who said to her in a vision: “Dost thou not know that I am Mighty? What dost thou fear? Be assured the monastery shall not be dissolved. I will accomplish all I have promised thee.” In the mean time Don Francis of Salsedo and other friends to the new establishment deputed a very pious priest named Gonzales de Aranda to go to court to solicit in its favour, and at length all things were successfully concluded by a new brief from Rome, by which the foundation of the house without rents was confirmed, and towards the end of the year 1562 the bishop prevailed with the provincial to send Teresa to this new convent, whither she was followed by four fervent nuns from the old house. One of these was chosen prioress; but the bishop soon after obliged Teresa to take upon herself that charge, and her incomparable prudence in governing others appeared henceforward in her whole conduct. The mortification of the will and senses, and the exercise of assiduous prayer were made the foundation of her rule: strict inclosure was established with almost perpetual silence. The most austere poverty was an essential part of the rule, without any settled revenues; the nuns wore habits of coarse serge, and sandals instead of shoes, lay on straw, and never ate flesh. St. Teresa admitted to the habit several fervent virgins; but would not have above thirteen nuns in this house for fear of dangers of relaxations and other inconveniences which are usually very great in numerous houses. In nunneries which should be founded with revenues, and not to subsist solely on alms, she afterwards allowed twenty to be received. But this regulation as to the number is not everywhere observed in this Order. The fervour of these holy nuns was such that the little convent of St. Joseph seemed a paradise of angels on earth, every one in it studying to copy the spirit of the great model before them. The general of the Order, John Baptist Rubeo of Ravenna, who usually resided at Rome, coming into Spain and to Avila in 1566, was infinitely charmed with the conversation and sanctity of the foundress, and with the wise regulations of the house, and he gave St. Teresa full authority to found other convents upon the same plan. 72

  Out of an ardent zeal for the conversion of sinners she asked his leave to establish also some convents of religious men, and the general allowed her at first to erect two. St. Teresa passed five years in her convent of St. Joseph, with thirteen fervent nuns, whom she discreetly exercised in every sort of mortification, obedience, and all religious exercises, being herself the first and most diligent not only at prayer, but also in spinning, sweeping the house, or working in the kitchen. Among these holy virgins many were of high birth: but having renounced the world they thought of no distinction but that of surpassing each other in humility, penance, and affection for one another and for their holy mother: they abounded with heavenly consolations, and their whole lives were a continued course of penitential exercises and contemplation; they never suffered their prayer to be interrupted night or day as far as the weakness and frailty of our mortal state would admit. For St. Teresa declared assiduous prayer, silence, close retirement, and penance to be the four pillars of the spiritual edifice she had raised, and the fundamental constitutions of their state. In August 1567, St. Teresa went to Medina del Campo, and having conquered many difficulties, founded there a second convent. In her history of the foundation of this house she gives her spiritual daughters excellent advice concerning mental prayer, saying that it consists not so much in thinking or forming reflections (of which every one is not equally capable) as in loving; in resolving to serve God, to suffer for him joyfully, and to do his will; and in asking grace for this. Her instructions concerning obedience are not less important; for it is happy obedience and perfect resignation that give the inestimable treasure of liberty of spirit, by which a soul desires nothing, yet possesses all things; neither fears nor covets the things of this world, and is neither disturbed by crosses nor softened by pleasures. The Countess de la Cerda, whom St. Teresa had visited at Toledo, most earnestly desiring to found a convent of this Order at her town of Malagon, the saint and the countess attended that work. Thence St. Teresa went to Valladolid, and there founded another nunnery. She was much affected with the virtue and happy death of a young nun in this house, and has given an amiable description of her perfect humility, meekness, patience, obedience, fervour, and perpetual silence and prayer. She never meddled in any matter that concerned her not, and therefore she discerned no defect in any one but in herself. In her last sickness she said to her sisters: “We ought not so much as turn our eyes but for the love of God, and to do what is acceptable to him.” Another time she said: “It would be a torment to her to take satisfaction in any thing that was not God,” (or for him.) St. Teresa made her next foundation at Toledo. She met here with violent opposition, and great obstacles, and had no more than four or five ducats when she began the edifice. But she said: “Teresa and this money are indeed nothing: but God, Teresa, and these ducats suffice for the accomplishment of the undertaking.”

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  At Toledo a young woman who had gained a reputation of virtue, petitioned to be admitted to the habit, but added: “I will bring with me my bible.” “What!” said the saint, “your bible? Do not come to us. We are poor women who know nothing but how to spin, and to do what we are bid.” By that word she discovered in the postulant an inclination to vanity, and dangerous curiosity and wrangling; and the extravagancies into which that woman afterwards fell, justified her discernment and penetration. St. Teresa had met with two Carmelite friars at Medina del Campo, who were desirous to embrace her reform, F. Antony of Jesus, then prior there, and F. John of the Cross. As soon, therefore, as an opportunity offered itself, she founded a convent for religious men at a poor village called Durvelo, in 1568, (of which F. Antony was appointed prior,) and, in 1569, a second for men at Pastrana, both in extreme poverty and austerity, especially the latter. After these two foundations St. Teresa left to St. John of the Cross the care of all other foundations that should be made for the religious men. At Pastrana she also established a convent for nuns. Prince Ruy Gomez de Sylva, a favourite courtier of Philip II. who had founded these convents at Pastrana, dying, his princess in the sudden excess of her grief made her religious profession in this nunnery; but when this passion abated, claimed many exemptions, and would still maintain the dignity of princess; so that St. Teresa, finding she could not be brought to the humility of her profession, lest relaxations should be introduced in her Order, sent a precept to the nuns to leave that house to her, and retire to people a new convent in Segovia. Afterward she would not easily admit ladies who had been long accustomed to rule. When bishop Yepez entreated her once to admit to the habit a certain postulant, who was a lady of the first quality, advanced in years, and very rich both in money and vassalages, she would never hear of it, saying, that great ladies who have been long accustomed to have their own will, seldom sufficiently learn humility, obedience, and simplicity, without which they are more likely to overturn than to support a religious Order. 73 In 1570 St. Teresa founded a convent at Salamanca, and another at Alva. Pope Pius V. appointed apostolical visiters to inquire into relaxations in religious Orders, that they might be reformed. Dr. Peter Fernandez, a Dominican friar famous for his virtue and learning, was nominated visiter of the Carmelites in that part of Spain, and in the discharge of his office, coming to Avila, he found great fault in the monastery of the Incarnation, in which were fourscore nuns, that inclosure and solitude were not better observed. To remedy these disorders he sent for St. Teresa, who had formerly consulted him in her doubts, and commanded her to take upon her the charge of prioress. It was a double affliction to the saint to be separated from her own dear daughters, and to be placed at the head of a house which opposed her reform with jealousy and warmth. The nuns also refused to obey her. She told them that she came not to command or instruct, but to serve and be instructed by the last amongst them. It was her custom to gain the hearts first before she laid her commands; and having by sweetness and humility won the affections of this whole community, she easily re-established discipline, shut up the parlours, and excluded the frequent visits of seculars. At the end of the three years of her superiority, the nuns much desired to detain her, but she was appointed prioress of her reformed convent of St. Joseph in the same town. The provincial ejected St. John of the Cross and other fathers whom St. Teresa had appointed confessors to the house of the Incarnation, and involved her in the persecution he raised against them. She, however, continued to settle new foundations at Segovia, Veas, Seville, Caravaca, Villa-Nuova, Palencia, Granada, Soria, (in the diocess of Osma,) and Burgos. The mitigated Carmelites complained loudly of the great number of foundations which she made, fearing lest in the end they themselves should be subjected to her severe rule. The general, who had favoured her, was compelled to order her not to found any more convents. There was among the barefooted Carmelites a man of great reputation called F. Gratian, who was son to one who had been principal secretary of state to Charles V. and Philip II. As he had been very active in propagating the reform, the mitigated Carmelites proceeded so far as to pronounce a sentence of deposition against him.

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  St. Teresa felt most severely the persecutions which Saint John of the Cross, F. Gratian, and others suffered: yet bore everything with admirable patience and resignation, and wrote to the general with perfect submission and wonderful tranquillity and cheerfulness of mind. Bishop Yepez, who was at that time her spiritual director, was amazed at her constant joy, courage, meekness, and invincible greatness of soul under all manner of afflictions, and the most atrocious slanders with which even her chastity was attacked. In the mean time, she did all the good offices in her power to every one of them that persecuted her, always spoke well of them, and would never hear the least sinister construction put upon any of their actions. She felt only the sufferings of others, being entirely insensible to her own. When FF. Gratian, Marian, and the rest gave up all for lost, she assured them: “We shall suffer, but the Order will stand.” The only answer she made to calumnies which were whispered against her, was: “If they thoroughly knew me, they would say much worse things of me.” She told her persecuted friends, that nothing seemed to her a surer mark of the divine mercy towards them, and that nothing is more advantageous or necessary than to suffer, that we may learn better to know both God and ourselves, and be assisted more perfectly to extirpate pride and the love of the world out of our hearts. “I return God a thousand thanks,” said she, writing to a friar of her Order, “and you ought also to thank him on my account. What greater pleasure can we enjoy than to suffer for so good a God! The cross is the secure and beaten road to lead our souls to him. Let us then love and embrace it. Woe to our reform, and woe to every one of us, if crosses fail us.” 74 After recommending her undertaking with many tears to God for the honour of his divine name, she wrote to the king, imploring his protection, and his majesty, upon the information of certain Dominican friars of great reputation, warmly espoused her cause, and that of her establishments; and an order was obtained at Rome to exempt the reformed from the jurisdiction of the mitigated Carmelites, so that each should have their own provincials. This expedient satisfied both parties, and put an end to these troubles in 1577.

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  Though the wonderful success of this saint in her enterprises undertaken for the divine honour, was owing to the blessing of God, and to the divine light and assistance which she drew down upon her actions by the spirit of holy prayer, the great channel of grace, she was certainly a person endowed with great natural talents. The most amiable sweetness and meekness of her temper, the affectionate tenderness of her heart, and the liveliness of her wit and imagination, poised with an uncommon maturity of judgment, gained her always, in the first part of her life, the particular love and esteem of all her acquaintance. Bishop Yepez assures us, that her deportment in the latter part of her life was not less agreeable than it was edifying; and that the gravity, modesty, and discretion of her words and carriage had such a dignity and gracefulness, and such charms, that even her looks composed the hearts, and regulated the manners of those who conversed with her. He adds, that her prudence and address were admirable. Such was her love of simplicity, truth, and sincerity, that if she heard any nuns repeat something they had heard with ever so trifling an alteration in a single word, she reprimanded them with extreme severity; and often said, that a person could never arrive at perfection who was not a scrupulous lover of candour and truth. This appeared in all her dealings, and she would have rather suffered the most important affairs to miscarry, than to have said any word in which there could be the least shadow or danger of a lie or equivocation. 75 She used to say, that our Lord is a great lover of humility because he is the great lover of truth, and humility is a certain truth, by which we know how little we are, and that we have no good of ourselves. For true humility takes not from us the knowledge of God’s gifts which we have received; but it teaches us to acknowledge that we no way deserve them, and to admire and thank the divine goodness so much the more as we more perfectly see our own baseness and unworthiness, and the infidelities and ingratitude with which we repay the divine graces. The wonderful confidence in God, and constancy and firmness of soul which she showed under all difficulties and dangers, arose from her distrust in herself, and in all creatures, and her placing her whole strength in God alone. To have neglected the means of human industry and prudence, would have been to have tempted God, who will have us employ them, though we expect the whole issue from him who is pleased to make use of these, or perhaps other instruments if he rejects these: but St. Teresa had recourse to the succours of the world so as to place no part of her confidence in them, and she says of them: “I perceive clearly they are all no better than so many twigs of dried rosemary, and that there is no leaning upon them: for upon the least weight of contradiction pressing upon them, they are presently broken. I have learned this by experience, that the true remedy against our falling is to lean on the cross, and to trust in him who was fastened to it.” 76 As one unworthy of all heavenly consolation, she never durst ask any comfort of God, whether she suffered the most painful aridities, or abounded with spiritual favours, a conduct of which Dr. Avila and other experienced directors exceedingly approved, regarding it as a mark that her visions and raptures were not illusions. Humiliations and sufferings she looked upon as her due and her advantage. “When I am in prayer,” said she, 77 “I cannot though I should endeavour it, ask of our Lord, nor desire rest, because I see that he lived altogether in labours; which I beseech him to give me likewise, bestowing on me first grace to sustain them.”

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  St. Teresa lived to see sixteen nunneries of her Reformed Order founded, and fourteen convents of Carmelite friars. One of these latter was founded by a famous lady, called Catherine de Cardona, who had led an eremitical life in a cave in a desert eight years, when she built this friary, near her hermitage in the diocess of Cuënza. She was of the family of the dukes of Cardona: had been governess to Don Carlos and Don John of Austria, and was much caressed at court. In the world she had been much given to the practice of penitential severities; but the austerities with which she treated her body after she had retired into the desert seemed to exceed the ordinary strength of her sex. St. Teresa, who corresponded with her, very much commends her piety and virtue. This lady died in her cave in 1577, five years after she had built the friary, which she called Our Lady of Succour. St. Teresa was returning from founding a convent at Burgos to Avila, where she was prioress, when she was sent for by the Duchess of Alva. She was at that time very ill of her usual distemper of a palsy and frequent violent vomitings. Yet when she arrived at Alva, on the 20th of September, she conversed with the duchess several hours; then went to her convent in the town, understanding that our Lord called her to himself. On the 30th of that month she was seized with a bloody-flux, and after communicating at mass, took to her bed, and never rose out of it any more. The duchess visited her every day, and would needs serve her with her own hands. Sister Anne of St. Bartholomew, the saint’s individual companion, never left her. 78 On the 1st of October, having passed almost the whole night in prayer, she made her confession to F. Antony of Jesus. He afterwards, in the presence of the nuns, entreated her to pray that God would not yet take her from them. She answered, she was no way needful to them, nor useful in the world. She gave every day many wholesome instructions to her nuns with greater energy and tenderness than usual. She besought them for the love of God to observe their rules and constitutions with the utmost diligence, and not to consider the bad example such a sinner had given them, but to forgive her. The holy viaticum being brought into her chamber on the 3d of October, in the evening, she sprung up in her bed, though exceedingly weak, and among other fervent ejaculations, said: “O my Lord, and my spouse, the desired hour is now come. It is now time for me to depart hence. Thy will be done. The hour is at last come, wherein I shall pass out of this exile, and my soul shall enjoy in thy company what it hath so earnestly longed for.” At nine o’clock the same evening she desired and received extreme unction. F. Antony asked her if she would not be buried in her own convent at Avila? To which she answered: “Have I any thing mine in this world? Or will they not afford me here a little earth?” She recited often certain verses of the Miserere psalm, especially those words: A contrite and humble heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. This she repeated till her speech failed her. After this she remained fourteen hours, as it were, in a trance, holding a crucifix fast in her hand; and calmly expired at nine o’clock in the evening, on the 4th of October, 1582, the next day (by the reformation of the calendar 79 made that year by cutting off those ten days) being reckoned the 15th, the day which was afterwards appointed for her festival. She lived sixty-seven years, six months, and seven days, of which she passed forty-seven in a religious state, and the latter twenty in the observance of her reformed rule. 80 Her body was honourably buried at Alva; but three years after, by a decree of the provincial chapter of the Order, secretly taken up, and removed to Avila, in 1585. The Duke of Alva resenting this translation, obtained an order at Rome that the relics should be restored to Alva, which was done in 1586, the body being always found entire, of the same colour, and the joints flexible. There it remains incorrupt to this day. Saint Teresa was canonized by Gregory XV. in 1621. The history of many miracles wrought by her relics and intercession may be seen in Yepez, 81 and in the acts of her canonization.

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  St. Teresa having tasted so plentifully the sweetness of divine love, earnestly exhorts all others by penance and holy prayer to aspire to the same. She cries out: 82 “O admirable benignity of thine, O my God, who permittest thyself to be looked upon by those eyes which have abused their sight so much as these of my soul have done! O great ingratitude of mortals! O you souls which have true faith, what blessings can you seek which may anyway be compared to the least of those which are obtained by the servants of God, even in this mortal life, besides the happy eternity hereafter! Consider it is most true, that God, even here gives himself to such as forsake all things else for the love of him. He is no exceptor of persons: he loves all, nor hath any one an excuse, how wicked soever he hath been, since our Lord hath dealt with me so mercifully. Consider also, that this which I am saying, is not so much as a cipher of that which may be said. It is no way in my power to declare that which a soul finds in herself, when our Lord is pleased to impart to her these his secrets; a delight so highly superior to all that can possibly be imagined here, that with good reason it makes those who possess it abhor all the pleasures of the earth: which, all put together, are no more comparatively than mere dung and dirt; nay, it is loathsome to bring these into comparison at all with them, even though they might be enjoyed for ever. Yet of these celestial consolations, what kind of mean proportion is that which God is pleased to bestow in this world? No more than, as it were, one single drop of water of that great full-flowing river, which is prepared for us. It is a shame, and I apply it to myself, (and if it were possible for souls to be ashamed in heaven, I should be justly ashamed there more than any other,) that we should desire such great blessings, and infinite glory, all at the cost of the good Jesus, and not weep at least over him with the daughters of Jerusalem. If we will not help him to carry the cross, O how can we ever think of coming to enjoy, by the way of pleasures, and pastimes, that which he purchased for us, at the expense of so much blood! This can never be. We take quite a wrong course; we shall never arrive at our journey’s end by such an erroneous way. Your reverence must cry out aloud to make these truths be heard. O how rich will he find himself another day, who left all the riches he had for Christ! How full of honour, who rejected all worldly honour, and took pleasure in seeing himself much debased and despised for the love of him! How wise will he see himself then, who rejoiced to see the world hold him for a fool, since they called wisdom itself by that name!” &c.


Note 1. Romances are so called, because in the first invention of such compositions, whilst other writings in France continued still to be published in Latin, these fictitious histories of imaginary adventures were the first compositions that were committed to writing in the vulgar language called Romanciere, when the Latin began to be corrupted among the common people. Rivet, (Hist. Littér. t. 6, et t. 7, præf. p. 66,) his continuator, (t. 9, p. 19,) and Henault, (Hist. Chron. de la Fr. t. 1,) prove that this kind of books was first produced in the tenth century, two hundred years before Fleury, Calmet, and the last historian of the city of Paris date their original. Such compositions are extremely pernicious both to morals and to true literature. In them the laws neither of order or method, nor of truth or probability are usually observed. Those few that are written with some degree of elegance and spirit, yet are generally very defective in these particulars, and tend to destroy all true taste in studies, being quite different from the parables and fables under which the ancients sometimes couched moral precepts, to render them more agreeable, and the better to strike the senses. Secondly, Romances by substituting falsehood for true history, and a foolish idle amusement instead of solid instruction, destroy in the mind that laudable thirst after truth which the author of nature imprinted in it, and inspire a baneful love of trifles, vanity, and folly. A third most pernicious effect of such reading is, that instead of forming, it perverts and depraves the heart, poisons the morals, and excites the passions, which it is the great business of a Christian to restrain. This is true even of those writings of this kind which seem least dangerous, since such fictions only please by insensibly flattering vanity, pride, ambition, and the like criminal inclinations. If this be so with regard to those romances, which by some persons in the world are called innocent, what censures shall we find harsh enough for the generality of such compositions which are filled with scenes and intrigues of love, and tend to awaken, cherish, and entertain the most dangerous of the passions. St. Teresa writes thus of herself: (c. 2,) “This fault (of reading romances) failed not to cool my good desires, and was the cause of my falling insensibly into other defects.—I was so enchanted with the extreme pleasure I took herein, that methought I could not be content if I had not some new romance in my hands. I began to imitate the mode, to take delight in being well dressed, to take great care of my hands, to make use of perfumes, and to affect all the vain trimmings which my condition permitted. Indeed my intention was not bad; for I would not for the world, in the immoderate passion which I had to be decent, give any one an occasion of offending God; but I now acknowledge how far these things, which for several years appeared to me innocent, are effectually and really criminal. These empoisoned lectures change all the good inclinations a person has received from nature and a virtuous education; they chill, by little and little, pious desires, and in a short time banish out of the soul all that was there of solidity and virtue. By them, young girls on a sudden lose a habit of reservedness and modesty, take an air of vanity and gallantry, and make show of no other ardour than for those things which the world esteems, and which God abominates. They espouse the maxims, spirit, conduct, and language of the passions, which are there artfully instilled under various disguises, and what is more dangerous, they cloak all this irregularity with the appearance of civility, and an easy, complying, gay humour and disposition. Let all young persons avoid this dangerous snare, laid to entrap their innocence. “Let them not be hurried away with this dismal torrent,” says St. Austin, (Conf. l. 1, c. 16,) “which drags along the children of Eve into that vast and dangerous sea, out of which even they scarcely can escape and save themselves who pass over upon the wood of the cross of Christ:” that is, by a penitential Christian life of mortification, modesty, and devotion.

  St. Teresa writes of the danger of vain or bad company as follows: (c. 2,) “I had some cousins-german who came frequently to my father’s house. He was very circumspect to forbid all entrance to any but to them, (and would to God he had used the same caution as to them also!) for I now see the danger there is, when one is in an age proper to receive the first seeds of virtues, to have commerce with persons who knowing the vanity of the world, entice others to engage themselves therein.—Were I to give counsel to parents, I would warn them to be well advised what persons frequent their children in that age; because the bent of our corrupt nature bears us rather to bad than to good. I found this by myself: for I made no profit of the great virtue of one of my sisters, who was much elder than myself; whereas I retained all the evil example which a relation gave me who haunted our house.” She afterwards says: “I am sometimes seized with astonishment when I consider the evils that come from bad company.” She laments that the familiarity she had with a vain female cousin, and one other person who lived in the same folly, so changed her, as to leave no sign of former impressions of virtue. What would St. Teresa have said of herself, had she ever frequented balls, assemblies, and public dancings, in which the flesh and the devil assault the minds and hearts of young people by all the ways whereby vice can be instilled into them, and where a general conspiration of all the allurements and charms of the senses enervate the soul, and flatter its several passions? St. Chrysostom, exhorting parents to keep their children at a distance from such places, and to teach them to fly them as a plague, the poison whereof is mortal to their souls, says: “Surely when we see a servant bearing about a lighted torch, we seriously forbid him to carry it into places where there is straw, hay, or such combustible matter, for fear when he least thinks of it, a spark should fall into it, and set fire to the whole house. Let us use the same precaution towards our children, and not carry their eyes to such places. If such persons dwell near us, let us forbid our children to look upon them, or to have with them any commerce or conversation; lest some spark falling into their souls should cause a general conflagration, and an irreparable damage.” 
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Note 2. Ribera, l. 1, c. 8. Yepez, part 1, c. 3 et 5. [back]

Note 3. Her own Life, c. 2, &c. [back]

Note 4. Ib. c. 2 and 5. [back]

Note 5. Ib. c. 6. [back]

Note 6. Ib. c. 5. [back]

Note 7. Ib. c. 7. [back]

Note 8. Ib. c. 5. [back]

Note 9. Ib. c. 8. [back]

Note 10. Ib. c. 10. [back]

Note 11. Supernatural passive prayer is infused so totally by the Holy Ghost as not to have the least dependence upon human industry or endeavours, though it requires certain remote dispositions in the soul. It comprises the prayer of Quiet or Recollection, and that of Union; of both which St. Teresa often speaks. In the former, a soul is so perfectly shut up within herself, that is, in her own faculties, as to receive no impressions from without; the avenues of the senses and imagination, by which external objects seek to press in upon her, being at that time stopped; by which means she converses entirely with God alone, being wholly employed on him by contemplation and love. St. Teresa calls this prayer of Quiet, Mystical Theology, because it is the first degree of supernatural passive prayer, which is the object of Mystical Theology. She says that in it God suspends or stops the operation of the intellect, (c. 12, p. 65,) by which term she means, that he represents to the intellect supernatural and divine things, and pours into it a clear heavenly light, by which it sees them in a single or intuitive view, without discoursing, reasoning, or painful application, and this so strongly, that it is not able to turn away its attention, or think of anything else. Nor does this operation stop in the intellect; the aforesaid light passes from the mirror of the understanding to the will, which converts it with itself into a fire. Hence the understanding is strongly fixed on the object which it sees, and is astonished beyond expression at this clear sight; and the will burns with the love of the same object; the memory remaining idle, because the soul being entirely filled with the object that is present to her, admits at that time no other. The saint calls this elevation or suspension supernatural, because in it the soul is passive much more than active, though under this operation she produces acts of adoration, love, praise, &c. St. Teresa lays down two important rules with regard to this and other degrees of passive prayer: that no one must ever desire them, nor use any efforts to obtain them. For such efforts would be in vain, the operation being supernatural; and they would leave the soul cold, without devotion, and under the dangerous influence of a deceitful imagination or illusion. Secondly, such desires or efforts would always be a presumption or want of humility. “This edifice,” says the saint, (c. 12,) “being founded on humility, the nearer a soul approaches to God, the more must this virtue grow in her. If it be not so, the whole fabric will fall to ruin.” (c. 12.) From this prayer of Quiet arises sometimes a most delicious repose of the powers of the soul, which then seems to herself to want nothing, and would willingly do nothing but love. This repose of the soul commonly lasts but a little while, as St. Teresa remarks. (Ed. Ang. nov. p. 51, vet. p. 309, vol. 1.)

  The second and more sublime passive prayer is that of Union. By this term is not meant a union of the presence or place, by which God is present to all creatures: nor that of sanctifying grace, by which every just man is partaker of the friendship of God: nor that of actual love of God, which agrees to souls in all acts of the divine love; but this mystical union is that of the powers, or of the understanding and will, which, by their vital actions, are closely united to God. For the intellect, divested of all corporeal images, is penetrated with the clear light and infinite brightness of the divine wisdom, and the will is closely joined to God by the most ardent love, which is like a fire consuming all earthly affections. In this state the soul is dissolved into tenderness and sweetness, and being, as it were, reduced to nothing, falls into the abyss of eternal love, in which, being dead to itself, it lives only to God, knowing and feeling nothing but love, with inexpressible joy and pleasure, that manifests itself even in the body, which almost faints away, and loses all its strength. The soul shuts her eyes without intending it, and if she opens them again, scarcely sees anything with them. St. Teresa experienced this union at first of very short continuance, but it always left a wonderful light which the infinitely bright sun had poured into her understanding, and she found her soul, as it were, quite melted with sweet and ardent love. Afterwards it was very long if this suspension of the powers continued half an hour, nor is it easy, during the time, for a person to know how long it lasts. The saint being at a loss how to express what passes within the soul on such occasions, heard our Lord say to her: “She annihilates and loses herself to pass more perfectly into me. It is no longer she that lives, but I live in her. And as she comprehends not what she hears, it is as if hearing she did not hear.” She adds, that those who had experienced this, would understand something of it; but she was not able to say anything clearer to express it. The fruits of this prayer are most ardent desires, heroic resolutions, an abhorrence and clear knowledge of the vanity of the world, and this in a more sublime manner than in the foregoing degrees. Above all, her humility is much more perfect: for the soul here sees manifestly the excess and infinite magnificence of the divine goodness and mercy; her own entire inability to do the least thing towards deserving it, and her utter unworthiness and baseness. As when the sun casts its full light into a chamber, every mote becomes visible, so the soul in this prayer has so distinct and full a view of all her miseries, that she seems even incapable of any vain-glory. (c. 19.) The manner of this perfect union is, according to St. Teresa, pretty uniform; but its effects vary, and it is often accompanied with many other heavenly communications and interior inebriations of spirit, on which Richard of St. Victor, Dionysius the Carthusian, Rusbrochius, Thauler, Happius, and others have treated at large; but their language can only be understood by those who have some experience in those matters.

  This supernatural passive prayer is called Mystical Theology, which has no affinity with the Positive or Scholastic; it neither consists in study, nor tends to acquire knowledge, but to improve divine love. Though it be not obtained by human industry, it requires certain conditions as dispositions in the soul; chiefly a great purity of heart, and disengagement of the affections from earthly things, with the mortification of the senses and the will, and a rooted habitual renunciation, and crucifixion of self-love, of the gratifications of sense, human consolations, vain amusements, unprofitable conversation, and all superfluous curiosity. The soul must always be prepared for this grace by the most ardent desire always to advance, a most profound and steady humility, great love both of interior and exterior solitude and silence, assiduous mental prayer, and constant recollection, with the practice of frequent and fervent aspirations. See Card. Bona, (Via compendii ad Deum, c. 4.) Thomas a Jesu, (De div. Orat. l. 4,) Dionysius the Carthusian, (l. de Fonte lucis,) Gerson, (de Mystica Theolog.) Richard of St. Victor, (l. de Præpar. ad Contempl.) St. Francis of Sales, (On the love of God,) &c.

  The means above-mentioned lead a soul to true Christian virtue: they form the path to an interior life. We learn from the most eminent contemplatives ancient and modern, and from the most experienced directors, that God in his tender mercy, like the good father in the parable of the prodigal son, sometimes regales the soul of a penitent sinner with the sweetness of his love and heavenly banquet, that by this earnest she may learn more perfectly to deplore her ingratitude and infidelities against so gracious a God, and be encouraged to serve him with her whole strength. He afterwards tries her by severe exterior and interior afflictions, as persecutions, pains, spiritual dryness, desolation, anguish of mind, and anxious scrupulosity and fears, in order to assist her in the perfect crucifixion and purgation of her senses, affections, and powers. He usually again visits her with his sweet consolations, of which mention is so often made in the lives and writings of devout persons, in the promises of Christ himself, in the Psalms and other divinely inspired books. The use of these comforts consists in infusing a clearer light to enable the soul to despise earthly things and discern her own imperfections, in kindling in her affections a great flame of holy love, and in producing in her a more perfect knowledge of herself, and a sincere humility. The soul which pleases herself in these favours, or applies herself to consider them, loses that fear which is the anchor of her safety, forgets the Giver, (to whom alone she ought with the greatest compunction and love to raise all her thoughts and affections,) and abuses his gifts to her own destruction. These favours are often withdrawn for a trial; and a single sensual delight, or inordinate affection of the will suffices often to deprive a soul of this spiritual grace. The more sublime gifts of passive prayer God bestows on few, and on them, in general, rarely. St. Bernard, upon those words: The king hath brought me into his wine-cellar, (Cantic.) speaking of this prayer, this sanctuary of the great king, in which he enters with few whom he hides for that hour from the world; this place of quiet; this vision which does not affright; but cherish; does not weary, but calm; does not bring cravings or distractions, but pacifies, and fully satisfies, says of himself: “But, alas! the hour is rare, and the duration short.”
Sed heu! rara hora, et parva mora. (Serm. 23, in Cant. n. 17.) And again: (Serm. 85, ib. n. 13,) “Oh sweet commerce! but the moment is short, and the experience rare. Some one may ask what this is, to enjoy the divine Word? Let him seek one who has experienced it. Or if that happiness were granted me, do you think I can explain what is unspeakable? It is one thing that passes between my soul and God, and another between you and me. That I could feel, but could not utter.—If you are desirous to know what it is to enjoy the Word, prepare for him, not your ear, but your soul. The tongue cannot express this; yet grace teaches it. It is concealed from the prudent and the wise, and is revealed to little ones. Humility is a great and sublime virtue which obtains what is not taught; which acquires what cannot be learned,” &c.

  With regard to passive prayer, the learned Bossuet, and other prelates, assembled at Issy, in 1695, to examine certain errors of Quietism, declare: (art. 21,) “The prayer of the single presence of God, or Pure Faith, or of Quiet, and other extraordinary degrees of prayer, even those that are passive, approved by St. Francis of Sales and other spiritualists received by the church, cannot be rejected.” (art. 22.) “Without any of these degrees of prayer, a person may become a very great saint.” (art. 23.) “To reduce the interior state or perfection, and purification of a soul to these extraordinary degrees of prayer, is a manifest error.” The interior life and the perfection of a soul consists in the crucifixion of the old man with his vices and irregular desires; in the fervour and purity of charity, humility, and all other virtues in the heart, and in the most perfect disposition to do everything that is most pleasing to God, and to do nothing that can displease him. Passive prayer is a means to this state, but not a necessary means. Few attain it, partly because God confers it rarely, and partly because there are few truly devout and spiritual persons, or who have the courage strenuously to deny and mortify themselves so as to subdue their passions, and purify their affections from all inordinate attachments, and very few learn truly and perfectly to know and humble themselves, which condition God usually requires in these favours. Hence Bartholomew a Martyribus observes, that, “This gift is sooner and more sublimely conferred on simple idiots who have no other care than to work their salvation in fear and trembling, and to please God, than on great and learned theologians, unless these have given themselves up with their whole hearts to the study of humility.” (Compend. Docum. Spirit. par. 2, c. 3, § 3.) Which is also the remark of Richard of St. Victor, (Præp. ad Contempl.) Card. Bona, Boudon, &c. Extraordinary favours in prayer are never to be desired, this desire generally arising from presumption, and exposing souls to most dangerous illusions of their own imagination and pride, or of the devil. If God bestows them, they are to be received with gratitude and fear. A soul under them must so much the more abhor her own infidelities, and admire and love the divine goodness; must the more perfectly fear and distrust herself, as St. Teresa strongly inculcates: (c. 18 and 19,) must never speak of such favours, unless it be necessary for advice; and even shudder at the thought of any one imagining her worthy of such a privilege, which she knows herself most unworthy of. She must not afterwards dwell much on the remembrance, which must arise from a complacency in herself, and be a disguised pride. To be admitted to weep at the feet of Jesus is too great an honour and mercy; let a soul humble herself here. Sublime favours show not her sanctity or desert, but a greater condescension in God to her weakness; and she must dread the thought of ever looking upon them as any way due to her, or of others judging her highly favoured by God. 
[back]

Note 12. Her own Life, c. 11. [back]

Note 13. Her own Life, c. 14; Way of Perfection, c. 25, 28, 33. [back]

Note 14. Her own Life, c. 15, p. 87. [back]

Note 15. Ib. c. 16. [back]

Note 16. Ib. c. 18, 19. See the Note, or the authors there referred to. [back]

Note 17. Ib. c. 18, p. 103. [back]

Note 18. Ib. c. 20. [back]

Note 19. See his edifying life, written by the venerable servant of God, F. Lewis de Ponte. Also an account of his manner of prayer in F. Baker’s Sancta Sophia. F. Balthasar Alvarez was born in 1533; admitted among the Jesuits in 1555: was rector at Medina del Campo; then procurator of the province of Castile in 1571; afterwards rector at Salamanca, master of novices, and, in 1576, rector at Villagarcia: then visiter of Arragon: after his visitation he was nominated provincial of Peru, but this destination being changed, was made provincial of Toledo, in which office he died in 1580. [back]

Note 20. Her own Life, c. 24. [back]

Note 21. Ib. c. 25. [back]

Note 22. St. Teresa, Castell. animæ. Mans. 6. [back]

Note 23. Her own Life, c. 25; Yepez, c. 12, p. 86. [back]

Note 24. Her own Life, c. 25. [back]

Note 25. Ib. c. 26 and 29. [back]

Note 26. Ib. c. 29. [back]

Note 27. Ib. c. 14, p. 109. [back]

Note 28. Ib. c. 31. [back]

Note 29. Ib. c. 32. [back]

Note 30. Ib. c. 20. [back]

Note 31. Yepez, c. 15, p. 117. [back]

Note 32. L. 5, de Contempl. c. 5. [back]

Note 33. Her own Life, c. 20, 21, 22, 23. [back]

Note 34. Ib. c. 29, Ps. xlii. 1. [back]

Note 35. Ib. c. 28. [back]

Note 36. Ib. c. 28. [back]

Note 37. Ib. c. 29. [back]

Note 38. Ib. c. 40. [back]

Note 39. Ib. c. 38. [back]

Note 40. Ib. c. 27. [back]

Note 41. Ib. c. 39. [back]

Note 42. Castle of the Soul, Mans. 4, c. 2, p. 271. [back]

Note 43. St. Teresa wrote her own life, out of obedience to F. Garzia of Toledo, a Dominican friar of great reputation, at that time commissary of the Indies, and her confessarius, who with Don Francisco Soto del Salazar, one of the inquisitors, afterwards bishop of Salamanca, advised her to consult concerning her visions, &c., the holy priest, John of Avila, the great preacher in Andalusia, as Bishop Yepez informs us, and therefore to send him an exact relation of her life. (Part 1, c. 21, p. 172, and part 2, l. 3, c. 18, p. 150.) Sending the copy to this confessarius, she entreats him to keep it secret, and get it transcribed before it was shown to Dr. D’Avila, that it might not be presented to him in her hand-writing, least she should be discovered. Dr. D’Avila, the most learned and experienced master of an interior life, then residing at Montiglia in Andalusia, having perused the saint’s relation, returned an answer worthy his prudence, piety, and erudition, extant among his letters. He is careful, in the first place, to cherish the humility of the author; declares that her raptures had the marks of the spirit of God; that visions represented in the imagination (under corporal images) or seen by corporal eyes are more doubtful than those that are purely intellectual: he advises the former to be shunned as much as possible; (but not treated with contempt unless it be certain they are caused by an evil spirit:) and will have a person to pray that God conduct him rather by the plain beaten road. If the visions continue, increase humility and spiritual profit, and infuse peace and inward satisfaction, and the words that are spoken are conformable to sound doctrine, there is no cause for shunning them. But the person must never rely upon his own judgment. He says God gives sometimes to sinners very delicious relishes of himself, as he had seen: that visions are given not because persons are the most perfect, but sometimes that the bad may be made good. “Though,” says he, “these be good, others may be intermingled by the devil, and therefore one must always be suspicious. Since holiness consists only in having an humble love of God and our neighbour, we ought to place our whole study in getting true humility, and the love of our Lord. It is expedient not to adore the visions, but Christ in heaven, and to consider the vision only as an image to conduct the mind to him.” He exhorts her to go on in her way, but ever with a suspicion of thieves; and recommends above all things, the knowledge of herself, charity, and the lore of penance and the cross. St. Lewis Bertrand, who then lived at Valentia, also approved the book of her life, and her spirit, by a letter which was printed with his life, says F. Gracian (long the assistant of St. Teresa) in his treatise on her books. When Dominic Bannes was the confessor of St. Teresa, he obliged her to enlarge this work; and through his hands it was presented to the Spanish inquisition, by which, after a rigorous examination, it was much commended; and Cardinal Quiroga, archbishop of Toledo, grand inquisitor of Spain, in a letter to the saint upon that subject, begged he might be her humble chaplain. It was printed after the death of the saint at the charges of the Spanish inquisition; the original in the saint’s hand-writing was placed in the library of the Escurial, in a rich case, the key of which King Philip II. carried about with him. Her other works were printed in Spain in 1587, and shortly after translated into Italian, Latin, and French. [back]

Note 44. Pref. to his Trans. [back]

Note 45. Foundat. c. 5. [back]

Note 46. Relation of herself to her confessors, p. 195, &c. [back]

Note 47. B. 2, c. 7. [back]

Note 48. From these faults even the ingenious description which Flechier, bishop of Nismes, has left of himself, is not exempt. Cæsar, with all his care to shun this odious fulsomeness in his elegant commentaries, betrays it to a degree of childishness in his description of the bridge which he built, and is charged with cunning misrepresentations of facts in the history. [back]

Note 49. Way of Perfection, c. 36, 37. Her own Life, c. 30, 31, &c. [back]

Note 50. Way of Perfection, c. 10, 11. [back]

Note 51. Ib. c. 13. [back]

Note 52. Ib. c. 2. [back]

Note 53. Yepez, l. 2, c. 4. [back]

Note 54. Her own Life, c. 39. [back]

Note 55. See his Life by Veil. F. Lewis de Ponte. [back]

Note 56. St. Teresa having, in 1562, written her own life immediately after she had established the reformation of her Order, whilst she was prioress of St. Joseph’s at Avila, wrote, in 1564, by an order of Bannes, who was then her confessor, a book entitled, The Way of Perfection, for the direction of her nuns. She recommends to them a perfect disengagement of the heart, mortification, and humility, earnest prayer for the conversion of sinners, and for the ministers of God who labour in so great a work, (c. 3,) caution against all partiality or fond or particular friendships for one another, as the source of great impediments to virtue, of many sins, and of public troubles. (c. 4.) She will have no confessors employed whose conduct seems infected with vanity, a spirit extremely contagious. (c. 5.) She calls prayer the most important of all their duties, explains at large vocal and mental prayer, and the prayer of Quiet and of Union, with excellent instructions, and a sublime paraphrase on the Lord’s Prayer. She speaks also of the love of God, and expresses a great dread of venial sin, and shudders at the thought of any one having so far lost the fear of God as to be capable of offending, with full reflection, his infinite majesty by the least sin. (c. 41.) Another treatise of Meditations on the Lord’s Prayer, though very useful, is falsely attributed to St. Teresa; nor is it mentioned amongst her works by Yepez, Gratian, &c. F. Ripald, a Jesuit, her confessarius at Salamanca, gave her an order to write the history of her foundations of her convents, in 1573. She had then founded seven monasteries; an account of others she added afterwards. This work, which may be called a continuation of her life, contains a recital of many supernatural favours she received from God in her undertaking, and of many difficulties with which she had to struggle. In the relation of these adversities, and in her letters, the natural cheerfulness of her temper is remarkable.

  Her fourth work is called the Interior Castle of the Soul. She began it at Toledo, on Trinity Sunday in 1577, and finished it at Avila on St. Andrew’s eve the same year. It was composed in obedience to Dr. Velasquez, her confessor at Toledo, (afterwards bishop of Osma, and at length archbishop of Compostella,) who obliged her to draw up the principles of divine contemplation, and of the supernatural communications of the Holy Ghost. In it she declares that scarce any action of obedience could have been so much against her inclinations, or have cost her so dear; but that obedience removes all difficulties. She laboured also at that time under a most severe persecution. The clearness, majesty, and smoothness of the style shows the calmness of her soul in the midst of the most furious storms; and in this work the saint conducts a soul from the first elements of prayer by steps, as it were, to the seventh mansion, the palace of the heavenly spouse, the king of glory. She teaches, that without the gift of prayer a soul is like a paralytic, without the use of his limbs; mental prayer is the gate by which she enters into herself, and learns first to know herself and the riches of grace to which she ought to aspire: so that the knowledge of her own miseries, which is the foundation of humility, and the knowledge of God, are the first step or mansion. In the three following mansions the saint explains the state of interior conflicts and spiritual dryness and desolation with intervals of heavenly sweetness in prayer, till the soul arrives at the prayer of Quiet. In the fourth mansion, chap. 3, she teaches that Quiet or recollection in which the soul remains inactive and without sentiments of God, is an illusion, and to be shunned; for in all supernatural prayer the soul is active and vigorous, and has lively sentiments of God. This remark is a precondemnation of the fanaticism of the Quietists. The fifth mansion she calls the prayer of Union, which produces in the soul an ardent desire speedily to enjoy God, which only his will, that she should still remain in this exile, can mitigate. In the sixth mansion are explained the grievous interior pains, and also the raptures and visions which sometimes befal a soul in this habitual state. The seventh mansion is a higher degree of the prayer of Union, in which a soul (not by an intuitive vision, which is the beatitude of heaven, but by an intellectual vision with created species or images) receives a kind of distinct knowledge of the Trinity and other high mysteries in a clear light, and with a supreme degree of delight and jubilation. In this state the soul feels no intervals of interior pains, but enjoys an habitual jubilation and feast, though such elevations only happen as the Holy Ghost is pleased to favour a soul with them in prayer. There is no state in which a soul may not forfeit the divine grace by falling into sin, nor is the most sublime prayer of Union an absolute assurance that a soul is even then in the state of grace, though it be with the divine light and favours that attend it, a probable or presumptive proof. St. Teresa pretends not that all perfect souls arrive at these states of supernatural prayer; many more perfect than several of them, and several great saints are conducted to God by different paths. Nor are all contemplatives raised to the prayer of Union by passing through these degrees, or in the same order or manner. The books of meditations digested by the purgative, the illuminative, and unitive ways, cannot be meant as if such an order is to be prescribed to the Holy Ghost, though the affections or will must be first purged, and the practical errors of the understanding banished by the light of prayer before the soul can be fitted for progress in the interior life, or in contemplation. It is a most important caution that no man apply himself to the interior exercises of prayer with the expectation or desire of the least extraordinary favour; but deeming himself evidently most unworthy of the least, he must beg only the necessary virtues of a penitent and servant of God. Such desires expose to certain dangerous illusions, and banish not only such favours, but what is of greatest importance, all the fruits of divine grace. If any one receive extraordinary favours, let him never dwell upon, or much consider them, but endeavour with the greater fear and ardour to improve in his soul true humility, patience, compunction, and charity, in which alone sanctity consists, and which the servants of God best improve by trials.

  Another work of St. Teresa was an Exposition on the Book of Canticles; which she composed out of obedience to some person whose request she thought herself bound to comply with; but a certain priest to whom she soon after went to confession, without having ever seen it, ordered her to burn it, thinking it dangerous that an illiterate woman should write upon so difficult a book of the holy scripture. She immediately obeyed. Thus this piece is lost, except the seven first chapters, which another person had privately copied before the original was burnt. The part that is preserved, is an excellent commenced treatise on divine love, and makes the rest exceedingly regretted. She says here that the great riches of love, and the mysteries couched in a single word of this divine book are incomprehensible to us: yet our weak meditation and humble admiration will not displease God, as a great king is not offended if he sees a little child pleased and surprised with beholding the splendour of his ornaments and throne. After explaining the false notions of such souls as make little account of venial sins, or, in a religious state, habitually neglect any of those regular constitutions which oblige not under any sins, she shows the value and sweetness of the true kiss of peace, which is the fruit of divine love; for this love, like the manna, has every taste a soul can desire, and is a tree which by its shade covers the soul, comforts her by the drops of its delicious dew, strengthens and enriches her with the fruits of patience and all interior virtues, and adorns her with the flowers of good works, especially of charity. Every verse she applies to the spiritual joy, delight, and other effects which the divine spouse produces in a soul, especially in the sublime gifts of prayer, of which he speaks in raptures of humility, joy, and holy love. This imperfect work is to devout souls a great treasure, and the loss of the continuation not to be repaired. Bannes informs us, in the relation he gave of the saint in order to her canonization, that when he heard her confessions, for a trial of her obedience, he bade her to throw her life which she had then written, into the fire; and she had certainly done it without the least reply, if he had not immediately recalled that order. (See Yepez, b. 3, c. 18, pp. 155, 156.) The meditations of St. Teresa before and after communion are full of affective sentiments of humility, fear, love, and other virtues. Many sinners by reading these meditations have been converted to God, and embraced a course of perfect virtue.

  The instructions of St. Teresa, On the Manner of visiting the Monasteries of Nuns, contain the most excellent maxims of prudence and piety for the government of religious houses that are any where extant; and her short advice or Counsels to her nuns are a summary of the best rules by which a person who desires perfectly to serve God, ought to regulate his conduct, though some are peculiar to a religious state. The saint’s song on the divine love expresses the most ardent desires of a soul deeply wounded with divine love, speedily by death to enjoy God, each stanza ending with this Spanish refert, (or verse repeated throughout,) Que muero porque no muero. “I die (of languishing desire) because I do not die.” It is Englished by Mr. Woodhead. The Latin translation is in rhyme; but not comparable to the last excellent French translation given us by Mons. de la Monnoye. The letters of St. Teresa were published in four small volumes by Don Palafox, bishop of Osma; they are most of them less interesting than her other works, but are a standing proof of her eminent virtues, and of her prudence and great natural parts, especially penetration poised by an excellent judgment. A lively wit and spirit reigns through them all, and her natural cheerfulness discovers itself on every occasion. See particularly ep. 32, upon sending her brother a present of a hair shirt, in return for an alms to her monastery, and ep. 31, upon sending certain devout verses she had composed to her religious sisters. She gives very useful instructions on mental prayer, which she calls the elements of prayer, ep. 23, (to F. Gratian,) and ep. 8, (to Dr. Velasquez, bishop of Osma.) The approbations and commendations bestowed on her writings are too long to be here inserted. Baillet, the most reserved of critics on such works, was obliged to give his suffrage to these as follows: “She discovers in her writings the most impenetrable secrets of true wisdom in what we call mystical theology, of which God has given the key to a very small number of favoured servants. This may something diminish our surprise that a woman without learning should have expounded what the greatest doctors never attained, because God employs in his wonders what instruments he pleases, and we may say that the Holy Ghost had the principal share in the works of St. Teresa.” It is authentically related, that one night whilst she was writing her meditations, a nun came into her cell, and sat by her a good while in great admiration, beholding her, as it were, in an enraptured state, holding a pen in her hand, but often interrupting her writing, laying down her pen, and fetching deep sighs; her eyes appeared full of fire, and her face shone with a bright light, so that the nun trembled with awe and respect, and went out again without being perceived by the saint.
See her life by Villefore. [back]

Note 57. Way of Perfection, c. 17. [back]

Note 58. Her own Life, c. 27, &c. Castle of the Soul, Mans. 6, c. 7. [back]

Note 59. See Molinos’s condemned prop. in Argentre, Collect. Judic. de novis error. t. 3. [back]

Note 60. Way of Perfection, c. 4. [back]

Note 61. See especially Med. 16, and her thoughts or conceptions of divine love, or Exp. on the Canticles. [back]

Note 62. Med. 10, &c. [back]

Note 63. Way of Perfection, c. 1, 3, 35; Med. 10, Castle of the Soul, Mans. 7. [back]

Note 64. Conc. of Love in Cant. c. 7, p. 861. [back]

Note 65. Ib. p. 863. [back]

Note 66. Med. 16. [back]

Note 67. Ib. 6. [back]

Note 68. Med. 17. [back]

Note 69. An English poet who frequently consecrated his verses to the praises of this saint, celebrates the ardour of her holy love as follows:

Scarce had she learn’d to lisp a name
Of martyr, yet she thinks it shame
Life should so long play with that breath,
Which spent can buy so brave a death.
She never undertook to know
What death with love should have to do:
Nor has she e’er yet understood,
Why to show love she should shed blood.
Yet though she cannot tell you why,
She can love, and she can die.
Scarce has she blood enough to make
A guilty sword blush for her sake:
Yet has a heart dares hope to prove
How much less strong is death than love, &c.
Crashaw, whilst yet a Protestant, p. 62.

  The same poet, after he was become a Catholic, in another poem on St. Teresa, makes this prayer, p. 197.

O thou undaunted daughter of desires!
By all thy dow’r of lights and fires.
By all of God we have in thee,
Leave nothing of myself in me.
Let me so read thy life that I
Unto all life of mine may die.

  Upon reading her works he composed, and chose for his motto, the following epigram:

Live Jesus, live; and let it be
My life to die for love of thee.

  The sincere piety of Mr. Crashaw after his conversion is ingeniously celebrated by his friend Mr. Cowley, especially in the verses he composed on his death, which happened at Loretto, where Mr. Crashaw was newly chosen canon. “Poet and Saint!” &c. p. 32. Cowley designed to imitate his friends, Woodhead and Crashaw, in their happy retreats, but was prevented by death. [back]

Note 70. Yepez, b. 2, c. 5. Acta Canoniz. S. Teresiæ, Parisiis, 1625. Villefore, Vie de St. Terese, t. 2. [back]

Note 71. Her own Life, c. 33. [back]

Note 72. The austere rule of the Carmelites given by Albert, patriarch of Jerusalem, in 1205, according to Lezana, (Annales Ord. B. M. V. de Monte Carmelo, in four vol. fol. Romæ, an. 1656,) or in 1209, according to F. Papebroke, approved by Innocent IV. in 1248, having been mitigated, it was reformed by Ven. John Soreth, the twenty-sixth general, in 1466, who died in the odour of sanctity at Angers in 1471. This Order had no houses of women till the Ven. John Soreth instituted them in 1452, establishing four convents of Carmelite nuns, of which one was founded at Liege, (since removed to Huy,) and another at Vannes in Brittany. This latter was built by Frances of Amboise, duchess of Brittany, wife to the Duke Peter II. After his death she took the habit in this nunnery in 1457; but, for the sake of greater solitude, founded a second nunnery of this Order at Goets near Nantz, where she died in the odour of sanctity, in 1485. The Reformation of Mantua of this Order which was set on foot in 1413, has about fifty convents in Italy. The original of the reformation of St. Teresa is dated in 1562, when the constitutions she had drawn up, were approved by Pius IV. The perfection and discretion of this rule eclipsed all former reformations of this Order. The Discalceated or Barefooted Carmelites who profess the Order as reformed by St. Teresa, are divided into two distinct bodies, those of Spain which consists of six provinces, having their own general, and being more austere than the rest. The others have seven provinces in Italy, France, Poland, Germany, and Persia; their general resides in their convent of our Lady of Scala at Rome. The first religious men of this Order having been hermits who lived under the inspection of a superior, it was made a rule amongst the Discalceated Carmelites, that in each province there should be one monastery, to which should be annexed a hermitage. This monastery is to be built like the Chartreuses, but with larger gardens or a forest, in which there ought to be other cells, in which the friars may live with the leave of the superior, observing the hours of monastic duties privately. Only twenty are allowed to live at once in the hermitage, each for about three weeks; after which they return to their own convents. The austerities they practise in the hermitages are very great; and no one is allowed to study there, or to read any books but those of piety and devotion, and scarcely ever to speak to one another. For want of such large hermitages in France many convents have a cell or hermitage in their garden. But, in 1660, Lewis XIV. founded for these religious men a great hermitage at Louviers in Normandy near Evreux, the description of which is given by Villefore, in his Vies des Pères du Désert d’Occident, t. 2. [back]

Note 73. Yepez, b. 2, c. 21. [back]

Note 74. Ep. 26. [back]

Note 75. Yepez, part 2, c. 15. [back]

Note 76. Relat. 3, p. 203, ed. Angl. nov. [back]

Note 77. Relat. 3, p. 169. [back]

Note 78. The venerable Anne of St. Bartholomew, when very young, was one of the first who took the habit in St. Teresa’s reformed convent of St. Joseph at Avila, in Old Castile, of which city she was a native. Her soul being raised by the sublime views of holy faith above all temporal things, in this solitude she lived in God, disentangled from all that is not God, for whom alone she was created, and by the same occupation of divine contemplation, in which God himself is occupied to all eternity, she endeavoured to form in herself his perfect image, and to trace in herself the lineaments of all virtues of which he is the infinitely perfect model and original. Her eminent spirit of humility and prayer endeared her to St. Teresa in a particular manner. After that saint had expired in her arms in 1582, she was sent into France with Anne of Jesus, and was appointed by the venerable Peter Berulle, afterwards cardinal, prioress of the first nunnery of her Order founded at Pontoise, and soon after of that founded in Paris. Being called into Flanders by the princess Albert and Isabel, she laid the foundation of a nunnery at Antwerp in 1611, where she died, in the odour of sanctity, on the 7th of June, in the year 1626, the sixty-seventh of her religious profession, and seventy-sixth of her age. Several miracles ascribed to her after her death were approved by John Malderus, bishop of Antwerp. Others, more modern, by an order of the holy see, were examined by the late bishop of Ghent, and the process sent to Rome. By the order of superiors, she wrote her own life, which was printed at Antwerp in 1646: and again, together with her life compiled by another hand, and an account of many miracles, at Brussels, in 1708, in 8vo.

  
On Ven. Anne of Jesus, see Vida de Anna de Jesus por Manrique, Brussella, 1652, folio. [back]

Note 79. The word Calendar is derived from Calendæ, and this from the obsolete Latin verb Calare, borrowed from the Greek [Greek], to call. The application of this word relates to a custom in ancient Rome on the day of the calends, when the people were assembled in the capitol every new moon, and one of the inferior priests called over as many days as were between that and the nones. Thus the first day of the month began to be known by Calendæ. They were remarkable for the expiration of debts, and the commencement of contracts; and hence the name Calendar was given to the publications which notified the distribution of time, its seasons, fairs, and solemn days. This term still obtains, though our reckoning by the calendæ be no longer in use. However, the necessity of something equivalent to a calendar has always been experienced. There are none of the events or businesses of life either past or to come, that do not need, in a great measure, stated periods for regular recourse: but it is one thing to be convinced of the necessity of a calendar, and another to furnish such as may fully answer the end. How many ages, how many observations and calculations were wanting to arrive at the present regulation! which, after all, is not absolutely perfect. However, the ingenious and painful researches of the learned have reached a nearness of perfection, which would be yet unknown but for the labours of antiquity, which happily paid more attention to a matter of this importance than generally modern manners seem fond of. Indeed, without a calendar, ancient history at this period would be embroiled in impenetrable confusion.

  Rome received its calendar from Romulus and Numa; but this calendar was very defective. Julius Cæsar reformed it, but he did not give it that degree of exactness which might render another reformation unnecessary. The error that remained by his calculation so increased by degrees, that in 1582, a surplus of ten days was at once struck off, which happened the very night St. Teresa died.

  This mistake proceeded from an oversight in the astronomer Sosigenes, whom Cæsar had consulted. He laid down for the basis of his calculation, that the sun was three hundred and sixty-five days and six hours performing it course, through the ecliptic; whereas the astronomers of the sixteenth century have discovered that this revolution is performed in three hundred and sixty-five days, five hours and forty-nine minutes. Consequently he supposed the year to be eleven minutes longer than it really is: which, every hundred and thirty-four years, increases the error to the length of a day; insomuch, that from the council of Nice in 325, till the reformation of the calendar in 1582, ten days too many crept into the Ephemeris: thus the vernal equinox, which, in 325, was fixed on the 21st of March, in the year 1582, happened on the 11th, though the calendar always fixed it on the 21st.

  This difference increasing from age to age, the seasons at length would be so erroneously indicated by the calendar, that we might imagine ourselves in spring, when the sun had already gone through all the signs. Blondel, who in the last century published a valuable work on the calendar, ingeniously remarks: “The prayers, then, which the church hath judiciously ordered in correspondence to the seasons would become utterly absurd: how ridiculous to pray that God would graciously moderate the raging heats of the sun, at a time that the earth was covered with snow; or to petition for rain to help the growth of corn already reaped and stored in our granaries!” This error was one of the principal motives which induced Pope Gregory XIII. to reform the calendar. It was caused, as has been remarked, on account of the days of the year having crept forward in regard of the equinoxes and solstices, and consequently of the seasons. But of all the faults of the calendar, this seemed the easiest to correct. It was in effect only bringing back the vernal equinox to the 21st of March, as it had been in 325, by counting it the twenty-first day of the month, which in the old calendar was reckoned but the eleventh. The pope might have waited for March, 1583, to make this suppression; but he chose to do it in the month of October preceding, on the day after the feast of St. Francis, finding there were fewer feasts from this day to the 15th, than in the other months.

  To obviate this error in future, he instituted a new form of years, called the Gregorian, in which three leap-days are left out in every four hundred years; by which the excess of eleven minutes yearly accumulating, making one day in one hundred and thirty-four years, was regulated thus; that after the year 1600, every hundredth year (which in the Julian form would be leap-year or bissextile) be reckoned common years only of three hundred and sixty-five days; except the four hundredth to be of three hundred and sixty-six days; so that the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 be common; the year 2000 bissextile: but 2100 common, and so in course. By this regulation the vernal equinoxes are fixed (almost) for ever to the 20th or 21st of March. The method is so simple, and even so accurate, that a difference of one day could not happen in loss than twenty-six thousand eight hundred years. The suppression of a day, renewed each of the three first hundred years, is called the Solar Equation.

  The ancient manner of counting days is called the Old Style: and that introduced by Pope Gregory XIII. the New Style. The Catholic states adopted it almost as soon as it was in use at Rome; and by degrees it became general in the Protestant countries. Russia still uses the old style, so that their year begins eleven days later than ours. But to conform the Russian dates to those of the other European nations, they are expressed like fractions, whose numerators point out the day of the month according to the Gregorian calendar, and denominators the day of the same or foregoing month, according to the ancient calendar. For example, these fractions, 22/11 March, signify an event to have happened in Russia the 11th of March: to signify an event which happened the 21st of December, 1774, is written thus,

1 January, 1775.
———————
21 December, 1774.

  Some time after the use of ciphers became common in Europe, they were adopted to mark the days of the month; till then the Roman manner had been followed which divided each month into three principal epochs; viz. Calends, Nones, and Ides. The calends always corresponded to the first day of the month, the nones to the fifth or seventh, and the ides being always eight days after the nones, fell consequently on the thirteenth or fifteenth of the month. The months in which the nones fell on the seventh were four, March, May, July, and October. Every month had eight ides; March, May, July, and October had six nones, and the rest only four each month. These parts of the Julian months are reckoned backward, so that the calends being the first day of the month, and supposing it to have four nones, the fifth day of the month will be called Nonæ, i. e. Nones, or Primus Nonarum, the second day is called Quartus, the third Tertius, and the fourth Pridie Nonas, i. e. the Eve of the Nones. In like manner the thirteenth day will be the Idus, and sixth, VIII Idus, the seventh, VII Idus, &c. After the idus of any month, the following days are numbered backwards from the calends of the next month, so that the 14th of January (for instance) is called XIX Calendas Februarii: the fifteenth, XVIII Calendas Februarii, and so on, decreasing in order till the last day of the month, which is called Pridie Calendas Februarii. This ancient manner of reckoning the days is still retained in the Roman Datary; and in general, in Latin inscriptions, or any work written in the Latin tongue. Hence we have the term Bissextile, (which we call Leap-year,) a year consisting of three hundred and sixty-six days: the day also which is this year added is called Bissextile, from its being inserted by the Romans next after the sixth of the calends of March, which was to be reckoned twice, and was distinguished by Bissexto Calendas Martii, agreeing with our 25th of February.

  Hence proceeds the interruption every fourth year, in the cycle of the dominical letters. Every revolution of a fixed time, after which things return to the same order as before, is called a cycle: and the seven first letters of the alphabet are called Dominical, because their chief use is to mark each Sunday or Lord’s-day, Dies Domini, so called in memory of the resurrection of our Saviour.

  When the church adopted the Roman calendar, instead of their Nundinal Letters, by which the Roman markets or fairs were kept, many alterations were necessary relative to its own customs. Among others, the division of weeks, marking each day by one of the seven letters, that which marked the Sundays during the year was called the Dominical Letter. By this arrangement the letter A is invariably placed against the 1st of January; B against the 2nd of January; and so on to the seventh, G, which is placed against the 7th of January; after which the Letter A is placed against the eighth, &c. to the end of the year. But the Sunday letter changes every year, once in every common year, and in every fourth or leap-year, twice. And the reason is, first, because the common year does not consist of exact weeks, having a day over, that is, fifty-two weeks and one day. So that as the year begins with A, set before new-year’s day; so it ends with A, set before the last day, December 31st. And the year again beginning with A, there will be AA falling together, December 31st, and January 1st; so if the former happen to be Sunday, the other of course must stand for Monday: then reckoning forward Sunday must fall on G, which will be the dominical letter that ensuing year. Thus the odd day shifts back the dominical letter every year in retrograde order. And this revolution would be terminated in seven years; but, secondly, there comes in another odd day every fourth year, being leap-year: and in that year there are consequently two interruptions, the Sunday letter being changed twice: once at the beginning of the year, and the second time towards the latter end of February, by the interposition of the bissextile or intercalary day, which is placed next after the 24th of February; and consequently leap-years have two dominical letters; the first serves till the 24th of February, the second the remainder of the year. By this interruption each letter must be in its turn changed, and consequently a revolution of four times seven, (i. e. twenty-eight years) brings the dominical letters to their first order. This cycle is called, from Sunday, the Solar Cycle. This cycle in strictness belongs only to the ancient Julian calendar; for the solar equation in the new style requiring the suppression of the bissextile three times every four hundred years, there must then result an unavoidable derangement in the dominical letters. This however does not hinder that this cycle be marked as usual in the Liturgy and Ephemeris, under the necessary corrections in the tables of the dominical letters.

  The error which crept into the ancient calendar, through the inaccurate calculation of the length of the year, was not the most difficult to be corrected. The faultiness of the lunar cycle offered difficulties vastly greater. But a minute detail of these, to show the value we ought to set on the labours which adjusted them, would be too much in this place. The Lunar Cycle is a revolution of nineteen years, in which time the new moons return to the same days they were on before, and in the same order. About four hundred and thirty-nine years before the birth of our Saviour, there was at Athens a famous astronomer named Meton, who in comparing the ancient observations with those of his own time, thought he discovered that the new moons regularly appeared the same day, and in the same part of the heavens every nineteen years. The prediction of eclipses became by this discovery quite easy, which rendered it very interesting; and was written at Athens in letters of gold, whence it was called the Golden number. Although, since the reformation of the calendar, these numbers have no real utility, they are still retained according to the old custom in almanacs, and other works of the like kind.

  Let us now see what influence the lunar cycle can have in the calendar. It was ordered by the old law to celebrate the Passover the very day of the full moon of the vernal equinox. The synagogue constantly observed this precept; and the first converted Jews conformed to the same observance. Consequently the Christians celebrated their Easter when the Jews ate their Paschal Lamb, on whatever day of the week fell the full moon. But as their object was very different, so the generality of the Christians put off the celebration of Easter to the Sunday following. However, in either case, a sure rule was needful to know the variations of the Paschal full moons; but the research was intricate; and, in the first ages, the church was much disturbed. But when it began to rest in security under the Emperor Constantine, after mature discussion it was decreed in the council of Nice; 1st, That the feast of Easter should be always celebrated on Sunday. 2ndly, That this Sunday should always be that which immediately followed the fourteenth day of the moon of the first month; but if this fourteenth day fell on Sunday, the feast of Easter was put off till the Sunday following, to avoid celebrating it the same day with the Jews. 3rdly, That the month counted first by the council, was that on which the fourteenth day of the moon either exactly corresponded with the vernal equinox, or the very next after the equinox. There remained therefore no more than to know invariably the day of the vernal equinox, and that of the Paschal full moon; but this belonged to astronomers. Those of Alexandria being then in the first repute, were consulted. They answered that the equinox in that age happened on the 21st of March; it was therefore decided that this equinox should be always fixed on the 21st of that month. As to the day of the Paschal full moon, they declared that this day might vary from the 21st of March to 18th of April inclusively. For, in reckoning fourteen days, beginning with the 8th of March, the 14th would answer to the 21st, the very day of the equinox; then if this day were Saturday, the day after would be Easter Sunday, the earliest that can possibly happen: for if Sunday were the 21st, Easter day would be removed to the Sunday following. But if the preceding new moon should fall on the 7th of March, it would then be full moon the 20th, and consequently before the equinox. The Paschal moon would then be the following, and must fall on the 5th of April; because the preceding lunar month having no more than twenty-nine days, and commencing the 7th of March, it must end the 4th of April. Thus the 18th of April would be in this case the 14th day of the Paschal moon, and as this might fall on Sunday, it is evident that then Easter could not be celebrated till the Sunday following, that is, the 25th of April; the latest date possible for the celebration of that feast.
  Those astronomers not knowing the exact length of the year, nor the error in the lunar cycle, which was found afterwards by the best observations to be an hour and a half too slow; this error, though it seems little, yet at the end of twelve ages it made a difference of four days between the astronomical new moons and those of the calendar.

  The first effect of this difference was often to put back the celebration of Easter an entire month; the second was to authorize the ridiculous practice of marking the new moons many days after their appearance. This error was too gross to escape notice, and though many attempts were made to remedy it, it could not be abolished till Gregory XIII. happily executed the reformation of the calendar, which the council of Trent had so earnestly recommended to the sovereign pontiff.

  He consulted the learned of his time; invited many of them to Rome, and intrusted the revisal of their labours to Ciaconius, a priest of Toledo, and Clavius, a Jesuit, both eminent in astronomy; among the works of the latter is found a large treatise on the calendar, wherein he relates all the corrections made in it.

  The most important was that of the suppression of the lunar cycle, and substituting one much more commodious, called the Cycle of Epacts. It was invented by the famous Lilius, known in the history of the calendar under the name of Aloysius Lilius or Lewis Lilio. He was a physician, and very eminent in the sciences necessary for this invention. This cycle is a succession of numbers from one to thirty, so disposed in each month of the year, that they perpetually give the new moons, as may be seen in the following exposition; hence the Gregorian calendar obtained the epithet perpetual.

  To understand these successions, let us see how they are found. By the Epact is meant, the number of days which the lunar year differs from the solar corresponding to it. But to make this definition more intelligible, it must be observed, that years are of two kinds: those which the course of the sun regulates, by its return to the same point of the firmament, are called Solar years, or Civil years with us, and ordinarily consist of three hundred and sixty-five days, divided into twelve months; and those called lunar years because regulated by the course of the moon. The lunar year consists of twelve lunations or lunar months. Now a lunar month is the interval between one new moon and the next. This interval was computed by the ancient astronomers to be twenty-nine days and a half; but to avoid the embarrassment of this fraction of a day, it was agreed that the lunar months should consist alternately of thirty and twenty-nine days, calling the former Full, the latter Cave or Hollow months. Now six full and six hollow months make only three hundred and fifty-four days, consequently the lunar year is eleven days shorter than the common solar year. Therefore, if a lunar year begins the 1st of January, it will end the 20th of December. Thus the second common solar year will only commence when the second lunar year is already advanced eleven days. This second lunar year then will have eleven for epact. The two luminaries proceeding regularly in their course, it is evident that at the end of the third solar year the moon will be twenty-two days before the sun; twenty-two then will be the epact of the third year. At the end of the third year the moon will be advanced thirty-three days, which makes a lunation of thirty days to be added to the thirty-six lunar months already passed, in order to rank with the thirty-six correspondent solar months. The three days over are the epact of the fourth year. In general, the age of the moon at the 1st of January, is always the epact of the new year.

  The intercalation of the thirteenth moon was introduced among the Greeks, with the cycle of nineteen years. These intercalations they called Embolisms; and the years of thirteen lunations Embolismic.

  These things being premised, we come to the investigation of the cycle of epacts. Suppose that the 1st of January of the first year of a lunar cycle be the day of a new moon, the moon then this year will have no age, consequently the current epact will be a o, or cipher; that of the following year will be eleven, i. e. the thirteenth moon will be eleven days old at the commencement of the thirteenth solar month. This being an odd moon should have thirty days, according to the alternate order of full and hollow months, (for it was agreed to make the odd lunations to consist of thirty days each,) nineteen days more were then wanting to complete the thirteenth moon, and consequently the fourteenth cannot commence sooner than the 20th of January. Thus the epact eleven must directly answer to the twentieth day; and successively answer to all the other days of new moon in the same year; but the fourteenth lunation consisting only of twenty-nine days, the fifteenth must consequently begin the 18th of February; and it is opposite to this that Lilius placed the epact eleven. Then he reckoned thirty days for the fifteenth lunation (and thirty-one in leap-years on account of the intercalated day in February;) and he found that the sixteenth moon commenced the 20th of March. He there placed the current epact, and so on to the end of the second year of the cycle.

  The third having for epact twenty-two, i. e. the twenty-fifth moon being twenty-two days advanced at the 1st of January the third year, the twenty-sixth moon must begin the 9th of January. So Lilius placed opposite this day the epact twenty-two, which he afterwards carried to the 7th of February, the 9th of March, &c.

  By this disposition the thirty numbers designed to stand for all epacts possible were arranged in a retrograde order; so that the number thirty answered to the 1st of January, and the number twenty-nine, twenty-eight, twenty-seven, twenty-six, &c., to one, answered respectively to the second, third, fourth, fifth, &c., to the 30th of the same month. After which a new reckoning began, always following the same order. But as twelve times thirty make three hundred and sixty, Lilius imagined, that to reduce these three hundred and sixty epacts to three hundred and fifty-four, being the number of days in the lunar year; it would suffice to double six epacts. This reduction ought to have two conditions; the first, that all the even months (being hollow) should consist of twenty-nine days only; the second, that in conformity to the ancient custom, all the Paschal moons should consist also of twenty-nine days only. To accomplish the first condition, he doubled an epact each even month, such as February, April, &c., and by this means reduced the epacts to three hundred and fifty four; to accomplish the second condition, it was necessary to re-unite two epacts under one of the twenty-nine days, comprised under the two limits of the Paschal moons; these limits are the 8th of March, and the 5th of April, inclusively. This reunion he was obliged to effect not only under one of these twenty-nine days, but also in the month of April: this could only be done the first five days of this month; he chose the fifth; and as epact twenty-five corresponded to this day, he joined to it the following epact twenty-four. He did the same in the other even months: and this is the reason we see in them the two epacts joined. With this precaution and some others which equally denote Lilius’s singular foresight, the new calendar is brought to that perfection which precludes any essential error.

  We shall conclude this note with some definitions relative to the subject treated of therein. There are two principal and distinguished periods in chronology, viz. the Dionysian and the Julian. The Dionysian period was invented by Victor of Aquitain, and from him is also called the Victorian Period; but better known under the name of the Dionysian, on account of Dionysius, surnamed the Little, who first introduced it about the beginning of the sixth century, in order to determine the day of Easter. It is a revolution of five hundred and thirty-two years, produced by multiplying the solar cycle twenty-eight by the lunar cycle nineteen. Victor, in forming it, intended to comprehend all the variations possible of the golden numbers combined with the numbers of the solar cycle, so that in the course of each period, there would not be two years having the same golden number and the same solar cycle.

  To the Dionysian period Joseph Julius Scaliger substituted the Julian, so called, because it was formed of Julian years, every fourth of which is bissextile. This period is of seven thousand nine hundred and eighty years, and is produced by the continual multiplication of the three cycles; viz. That of the solar twenty-eight, of the lunar nineteen, and of the Roman indiction a cycle of fifteen years. The origin of this cycle seems as high as the time of Augustus; but according to Baronius it was instituted by Constantine, about the year 312. There are commonly reckoned three sorts of indictions; 1st, The Cæarean or Imperial, by which the times of paying taxes were indicated to the Roman subjects; also the dating of papers from the current year of indiction. It began on the eighth of the calends of October. 2nd, The Constantinopolitan, by which they marked (as they do at this day) the more Oriental calendars, as appears in the briefs of the Hieremian patriarch, and of Crusius’s Turco-Græcia. This begins on the calends of September. The third is called the Pontifical, or the Roman, which begins on the calends of January, and is now used. None of these hath any connexion with the celestial motions, being only a series of numbers from one to fifteen, a number for each year. The fourth year of this cycle corresponded with the first year of our Saviour’s nativity, according to the most received system among the chronologists. The Julian period, consisting of such a vast number of years, hath this advantage, that in the interval of seven thousand nine hundred and eighty years, there are not two which agree in the same golden number, in the same solar cycle, and the same indiction.

  All the Latins agree, that the first year of Dionysius’s Christian era had for its characters, the solar cycle ten, the lunar two, the Roman indiction four; which three cycles are found to coincide in the year 4714 of the Julian period only, as Scaliger noted; and Petavius remarks, “The beginning of the years of Christ, which men call the Christian era, is, as it were, the limit and hinge of chronology, and the common term in which the reasonings of all chronologers meet, as if they were drawn through many turnings and windings into the same computation.”

  It is to Dionysius the Little we owe the custom of counting the years by the birth of our Saviour. Till then, the Christians had followed in this respect the custom established in their several countries. The most part, however, reckoned from the foundation of Rome, or the succession of consuls, or that of emperors. But in the sixth age the Christian era of Dionysius was generally adopted in the church. It begins the 25th of March, the day of our Saviour’s incarnation; and this is the epoch whence all the dates of bulls and briefs of the court of Rome are supposed to derive. The ordinary custom, however, is to date the beginning of the year from the 1st of January. Thus the era of Dionysius begins nine months before the era ordinary among Christians.

  There is a crowd of other eras which may be seen in Petau’s Rationarium Temporum. Du Cange hath also made very large tables of all these matters, especially for the principal epochs of the Orientals.

  The opinion most followed, places the birth of our Saviour under the year 4000, from the creation of the world. But there are good reasons for supposing it later. According to the common system, the beginning of our era answers to the seven hundred and seventy-sixth year of the Olympiads, the seven hundred and fifty-second from the foundation of Rome, and to the seven hundred and forty-seventh of the era of Nabonassar, king of Babylon: this last is famous among the astronomers, on account of the great use which Ptolemy, among others, made of it. It commenced the 26th of February. But if we would compare it with the Christian era, we must remember that its years consisted only of three hundred and sixty-five days.

  In the Roman Martyrology published by the authority of Pope Gregory XIII., and revised by the command of Pope Urban VIII., we find these following words, which are every year on the 25th day of December read in public: “In the 5199th year from the creation of the world, when God created heaven and earth; in the 2957th after the deluge; the 2015th from the birth of Abraham; the 1510th from Moses, and the time of the Israelites leaving Egypt; in the 1032nd from the time of David’s being anointed king; in the sixty-fifth week, according to the prophecy of Daniel; in the hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; in the seven hundred and fifty-second year since the building of Rome: in the forty-second of the reign of the Emperor Octavius Augustus, when the whole world was blessed with peace; in the sixth age of the world, Jesus Christ, Eternal God, and Son of the Eternal Father, conceived of the Holy Ghost, was born of the Virgin Mary, in Bethlehem of Judea.”

  The years of the Turks and Arabs have only three hundred and fifty-four days; these are lunar years: hence their principal feast, the Bairam, happens successively in all the seasons of the year. The flight of Mahomet, or the Hegira, answers to the six hundred and twenty-second year of our era. It commences the 16th of July. The calendar of the Persians is much better digested than that of the other Mahometans. See in Herbelot, and in L’Histoire des Mathématiques of M. Montucla, the ingenious correction which the two sultans Gelaliddin made therein the four hundred and sixty-seventh year of the Hegira, near five ages before the calendar of the Christians had received its present degree of exactness.

  That also of the Jews deserves praise for its precision. A comparison of it with the Ephemeris justifies the advantageous idea we ought to have of the rabbins who laid the foundations of it. The lunar year still regulates the Hebrew feasts. They use, however, the solar year, and with us distinguish two kinds, the common and the bissextile year, denominations which they even apply to the lunar year. They afterwards subdivide the common lunar year and the bissextile lunar year into three others; so that the lunar common year, being never composed but of twelve moons, it can, however, be either defective, perfect, or common. In the 1st, it consists of three hundred and fifty-three days; in the 2d, of three hundred and fifty-five days; and, in the 3d, of three hundred and fifty-four.

  The lunar bissextile year is always of thirteen months; but if it be defective, it has but three hundred and eighty-three days, if perfect, three hundred and eighty-five, and if common three hundred and eighty-four days. They call the intercalated moon, Veader; and, as we do, make it return seven times in the course of a lunar cycle. By this means they obtain a constant rule to ascertain their three principal feasts to the time prescribed by the law; these feasts are Pessah, or the feast of unleavened bread; Sebuhot, or the feast of weeks; Succot, or the feast of the tabernacles. Pessah, or the passover, always falls on the 15th day of the month Nisan, which answers to a part of March and a part of April. Sebuhot, or Pentecost, is celebrated seven weeks after; Succot, the 15th of the month Tisri, which answers partly to the month of September.

  The Jewish months are lunar, and have alternately thirty and twenty-nine days, according as they are perfect or defective; that is to say, according as they are full or hollow months. The first is called Nisan, the second Jiar, then follow in course, Sivan, Tamuz, Ab, Elul, Tisri, Hesvan, Casleu, Tebeth, Schebhat, and Adar. Of these twelve months, five are always perfect—viz., Nisan, Sivan, Ab, Tisri, and Schebhat; five others are defective, Jiar, Tamuz, Elul, Tebeth, and Adar. These two others, Hesvan and Casleu, are sometimes both perfect, sometimes both defective. Sometimes one is perfect and the other defective. When they are both perfect, the year is perfect; if they are defective, the year also is defective; in fine, the year is common when one is perfect and the other not. In the leap-year, the Jews make their month Adar of thirty days.

  Their civil year begins with the month Tisri: that of their ancient kings began with the month Nisan, which is still the first of their legal year; they reckon 1780, to begin from the 26th of September, the 5541st civil year since the creation of the world, and 1713th since the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Titus.

  The Jews call the commencement of each month Roshodes. Now the roshodes generally happen the same day with the new moon, or the day following, or two days after at furthest. When roshodes hath two days, they date the beginning of the month from the second day. If this month is preceded by a perfect month, there are in it two days of roshodes; if it is preceded by a defective month, there is but one day. The roshodes follow exactly the days of the week, so that if the roshodes Nisan happens on Saturday, the roshodes Jiar happens on Sunday and Monday; the roshodes Sivan on Tuesday, the roshodes Tamuz on Wednesday and Thursday; and so of the rest.

  The Jews still hold to the ancient manner of reckoning the days from the setting of the sun to the next setting. They make them consist of twenty-four hours, which they reckon one after another, as the Italians: but these hours are not equal, as ours, except at the equinoxes; because they divide them into twelve hours of day-light, while the sun is above the horizon, and into twelve hours of night, while the sun is below the horizon; consequently they cannot be equal. Instead of dividing the hour into sixty parts or minutes, they divide theirs into one thousand and eighty parts. See on the feasts of the Jews, and manner of calculating the new moons, Calendrier Hébraique qui contient tous les Roshodes, Samedis, Solennités et Jeùnes de l’Année, by M. Venture, Amsterdam, 1770.

  The origin of numeral figures, used in arithmetical computations, has been a subject of dispute in the republic of letters. It is allowed that we are indebted for them to the genius of the eastern nations; the Indians being reckoned the inventors of the notation, which we call Arabian, because we had it from them, and they from the Indians, as themselves acknowledge. But when the Indians invented this method, and how long it was before the Arabs got it, is uncertain. These things only we know: 1. That we have no ground to believe the ancient Greeks or Romans were acquainted with it; for Maximus Planudes, the first Greek writer who treats of arithmetic according to this notation, lived about the year 1370, as Vossius says; or about 1270, according to Kircher, long after the Arabian notation was known in Europe; and owns it for his opinion that the Indians were the inventors, from whom the Arabs got it, as the Europeans from them. 2. That the Moors brought it into Spain, whither many learned men from other parts of Europe went to seek that and the rest of the Arabic learning, (and even the Greek learning from the Arabic versions, before they got the originals, imported there by the Saracens.) As to the time when this new art of computation was first known in Europe, Vossius thinks it was not before the year 1250, but Doctor Wallis has, by many good authorities, proved that it was before the year 1000; particularly that Gerbertus, afterwards pope by the name of Sylvester II., who died in 1003, was acquainted with this art, and brought it from Spain into France, long before his death. The doctor shows that it was known in Britain before 1150, and brought a considerable length, even in common use, before 1250, as appears by the Treatise of Arithmetic of John de Sacra Bosco, who died about 1256. He also gives an instance from a mantel-tree of a chimney in the parsonage-house of Helendon, in Northamptonshire, wherein is inscribed in basso-relievo, Mo. 133, being the date of the year 1133. (Philos. Trans., No. 255.) Another instance was discovered in the window of a house, part of which is a Roman wall, near the marketplace in Colchester, where between the carved lion stands an escutcheon with the figures 1090. (Philos. Trans. loc. cit.) Though our present numerals are somewhat different in figure from the Arabian, having been changed since they first came among us; yet the art of computation by them is still the same.
See Malcolm’s Arith. Lond., 1730. Wallis, &c. [back]

Note 80. Ribera, l. 3, c. 15; Yepez, l. 2, c. 38, p. 471. [back]

Note 81. Yepez, l. 4. [back]

Note 82. Her own Life, c. 26. [back]


Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume X: October. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.


Sainte Thérèse d'Avila. Autobiographie (écrite par elle-même) / Le Chemin de la perfection (traduction d’Arnauld d'Andilly) / Le Château Intérieur ou Les Demeures (1577, traduction de Marcelle Auclair, copyright DDB) : http://livres-mystiques.com/partieTEXTES/Avila/table.html