Letter to the Reverend Father John de Jesu Roca, Carmelite, at Pastrana, by Saint Teresa of Avila

[Saint Teresa of Avila]

The Saint having been imprisoned by the decree of a general chapter, shows in this letter the greatest patience and joy in sufferings. Date, 1579.

Jesus. Mary and Joseph be in the soul of my father John de Jesu.

I received your Reverence’s letter in this prison, where I am now filled with the greatest delight, because I endure all my troubles for my God and for my order. That which grieves me, my father, is the affliction your Reverence feels for me; this it is that troubles me. Do not, however, my son, be troubled, nor any one else, since I may say, like another Paul, though not his equal in sanctity, That prisons, labours, persecutions, torments, ignominies, and insults for my Saviour, and for my order, are to me delights and favours.

I never knew myself to be more free from troubles than I am now. It belongs to God to help the afflicted and imprisoned with His favour and assistance. I give my God a thousand thanks; and it is proper we should all thank Him for the favour He has done me by this imprisonment. My son and father, can there be a greater delight or sweetness, than in suffering for our good God? When were the saints at the height of their joy, but when they were suffering for their God and Saviour? This is the most secure and certain path that leads to God, since the cross should be our joy and delight. Let us, then, my father, seek the cross: let us desire the cross; let us embrace afflictions; and whenever we have none, woe to the Carmelite order, woe to us.

You tell me in your letter how the Nuncio has given orders, “That no more convents of our order should be founded, and that those already erected must be taken down, by the request of the father general.” You also mention that the Nuncio is exceedingly angry against me, and considers me a troublesome woman, and of a roving disposition; that the world is in arms against me, and my sons, who hide themselves in the rocks of the mountains, and the most retired places, in order not to be found and taken. This is what I lament – what I feel – what grieves me, that for such a sinner and wicked nun as I am, my sons should endure so many persecutions and afflictions, and should be abandoned by all men; but not by God; for of this I am certain, He will not forsake us, nor abandon those who love Him so tenderly.

But in order that you, my son, and the rest of your brothers may rejoice, I will tell you something very consoling; but this must be in confidence between myself, your reverence, and Father Mariano; for I should be grieved if others knew it. You must know then, my father, how a certain nun of this house, being in prayer on the vigil of the feast of my Father Saint Joseph, he appeared to her in company with the Blessed Virgin and her Son; and she noticed how they stood, asking for the reformation (of the order); and our Lord told her, “that many both in hell and on earth rejoiced greatly to see, as they supposed, the order dissolved; but that when the Nuncio commanded its dissolution, God confirmed it.” He told her to have recourse to the king, who in everything would be to her and her sons as a father. Our Lady and Saint Joseph said the same, and several other things not fit to be mentioned in a letter. She was also told that within twenty days I should be delivered from prison, God so willing. Let us then all rejoice, for from this day forward the reform will continue to advance more and more.

What your Reverence should do is, to continue in the house of Madame Maria de Mendoza till you hear again from me; and Father Mariano must go and present this letter to the king, and another to the duchess of Pastrana. I hope your Reverence will not leave the house, least you might be apprehended, for we shall soon see ourselves at liberty.

I am well and strong, thanks be to God. My companion is displeased. Recommend us to God, and say a mass of thanksgiving in honour of my Father Saint Joseph. Do not write to me till I tell you. May God make you a holy and perfect Carmelite.

Father Mariano advises your Reverence and Father Jerome de la Madre de Dios, to consult in secret the Duke de Infantado.

– Teresa de Jesus, Wednesday, 25th of March, 1579

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