Letter to Philip II, King of Spain, by Saint Teresa of Avila

[Saint Teresa of Avila]

The Saint implores the protection of his Majesty against certain individuals who were endeavouring to injure the character of Father Gracian, and also to prevent the reformation of the order. The persecution was raised in Seville. The date of the letter is about the year 1577. It is remarkable for the zeal and pious boldness with which the Saint addresses so illustrious a monarch.

Jesus. The grace of the holy Spirit be ever with your Majesty. Amen.

I have heard that a memorial has been presented to your Majesty against the Rev. Father Gracian. This stratagem of the devil and his ministers has indeed terrified me, because, not content with defaming the character of this servant of God (and he is truly such, for he gives great edification to all of us; and whenever he visits our monasteries, I am informed that he always fills the religious with renewed fervour), his enemies are now striving to injure those houses in which our Lord is so devoutly served.

For this purpose they have made use of two Carmelite Friars, one of whom was a servant in our monastery, before he took the habit; but he committed himself in such a way more than once, as plainly to show us he possessed but little judgment. The others who are opposed to Father Gracian (because he has the power of punishing them)–have induced these Carmelites to sign such foolish charges against the nuns, that I should certainly laugh at them, were I not fearful, lest the devil might be able to draw some evil from them. Such accusations, if true, would be monstrous, considering the habit we wear.

I beseech your Majesty, then, for the love of God, not to allow such scandalous charges to be made before a court of justice, because, should we give an occasion, the world might be inclined to believe we had done something evil, even though our innocence should be proved.

The reformation of the order, hitherto so blessed by the divine goodness, might be seriously injured by the least stain. Your Majesty would be able to form a judgment in the matter, should you be pleased to read the attestation which Father Gracian has thought proper to draw up, respecting these monasteries. It includes the testimony of those who have communication with the nuns, and they are persons of great weight and holiness.

Moreover, since the motive by which those are influenced who have written the memorial can easily be discovered, I beseech your Majesty to examine the matter, because the honour and glory of God are concerned; for if our enemies should see that some attention is paid to their charges, they will not hesitate, in order to prevent a visitation, to accuse as a heretic whoever shall undertake to make it: and this would not be difficult to do, where there is no fear of God.

I quite sympathize with the sufferings of this servant of God, which he endures with such patience and perfection; and this induces me to beseech your Majesty, either to take him under your protection, or to remove the cause of these dangers, for he belongs to a family that is extremely attached to your Majesty: independent of this consideration, he has great merits of his own. I consider him to be a man sent by God and our blessed Lady, for whom he has such a tender devotion. Our Lord conducted him to our order, that he might be of assistance to me: for as I have now laboured alone for more than seventeen years, my weak health will not allow me to endure much more.

I beg of your Majesty to pardon me for having entered so much into these particulars: but the great respect which I have for your Majesty, emboldened me to do so; for I considered, that as our Lord endured my indiscreet complaints, so also would your Majesty. May God be pleased to hear all the prayers of the religious, both men and women, that your Majesty may have a long life; for we have no other protector on earth.

I remain, your Majesty’s unworthy Servant, and Subject,

– Teresa de Jesus

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