Letter to the Most Illustrious Lady Anne Henriquez, of Toro, by Saint Teresa of Avila

[Saint Teresa of Avila]

The Saint expresses her great desire to see this lady, and praises two of the nuns, etc. The date is 1574.

Jesus. The grace of the Holy Spirit be ever with your ladyship.

It gave me great comfort to find your ladyship in this place. I do not regret the journey, as I now have more leisure to enjoy your company than I had at Salamanca. I have not deserved this favour from our Lord: may He be for ever praised. The prioress is quite well and happy; she is much better than I am, and she is also exceedingly devoted to your ladyship.

I was much pleased on hearing that you have been entertaining Father Baltasar Alvarez for a few days, for he requires some repose from his numerous labours. Our Lord be praised for giving you better health than usual. Mine is better now than it has been for several years past, and this is saying a great deal, considering the season of the year.

I have found such pure souls in this house, that I have praised our Lord for such a blessing. I consider Sister Stephanie to be a saint, and I feel great pleasure in beholding the merits of Sister Casilda, and the favours which our Lord bestows upon her ever since she put on the habit. May our Lord advance them more and more in perfection, for we should esteem those souls highly, whom He chooses so early for Himself.

I cannot help admiring the simplicity of Sister Stephanie in everything relating to God, when I consider the wisdom and truth of her words. The Father Provincial has made the visitation of this house, and the election has taken place. The prioress has been unanimously re-elected. One of the sisters of Saint Joseph’s of Avila has been chosen sub-prioress; she takes the name of Antonia of the Holy Spirit. Lady Guiomar is acquainted with her; she is a very devout soul.

The foundation of Zamora has been deferred, at least, for the present, and I am on the point of resuming my long journey. I intend to pass through your place, in order to have the pleasure of paying my respects to your ladyship. It is now some time since I received a letter from my Father Baltasar Alvarez; neither have I written to him, not, however, through any desire of mortification, for I never profited by his advice as I ought to have done. But you cannot conceive what difficulty I have in writing these letters; even when they are for my own pleasure, I can never find time. Blessed be God whom we hope to enjoy in security for ever; for upon nothing can we rely in this world, with all its trials and changes. I live with the hope of arriving at this end; people say “it is amidst sufferings,” but I find none.

The mother prioress compliments me on my charge; he appears in her eyes to be as charming a child as he does in mine. I beseech our Lord to make him a great saint. Do not forget to give my respects to your husband, and the same also to Don Juan Antonio: I often recommend them to our Lord. Do not, madam, for the love of God, forget me in your prayers, for I always stand in need of them. As you remark, there is no occasion for us to trouble ourselves about Lady Guiomar, and so she tells me herself in stronger words. I should be glad to hear some beginning has been made towards so good a work. I wish to know what it is, and to enjoy the same delight that you feel. May our Lord give your ladyship abundance of joy during this feast, as great as I pray you may have.

To-day being the feast of Saint Thomas, Father Dominic (BaƱez) gave us a sermon, in which he so highly extolled the merit of suffering, that I felt a great desire to endure many, and I requested of our Lord to give me some for the future. The Father’s sermons give me very great pleasure. He has been chosen prior. I do not know if his election will be confirmed. He has been so much engaged, that I have enjoyed but little of his company; however, I shall be content, if I can enjoy yours as long.

May our Lord direct your Ladyship, and give you such health and rest as may be necessary for arriving at that happiness which has no end.

Your Ladyship’s unworthy Servant,

– Teresa de Jesus

– translated from the Spanish by the Reverend John Dalton, London, 1902