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Monday, April 23, 2007

~*~ Saint Teresa Of Avila ~ Holy Divine Mystic And Visionary ~*~

Chapter XL.

Visions, Revelations, and Locutions.
1. One day, in prayer, the sweetness of which was so great that, knowing how unworthy I was of so great a blessing, I began to think how much I had deserved to be in that place which I had seen prepared for me in hell,--for, as I said before, [1] I never forget the way I saw myself there,--as I was thinking of this, my soul began to be more and more on fire, and I was carried away in spirit in a way I cannot describe. It seemed to me as if I had been absorbed in, and filled with, that grandeur of God which, on another occasion, I had felt. [2] In that majesty it was given me to understand one truth, which is the fulness of all truth, but I cannot tell how, for I saw nothing. It was said to me, I saw not by whom, but I knew well enough it was the Truth Itself: "This I am doing to thee is not a slight matter; it is one of those things for which thou owest Me much; for all the evil in the world comes from ignorance of the truths of the holy writings in their clear simplicity, of which not one iota shall pass away." [3] I thought that I had always believed this, and that all the faithful also believed it. Then he said,: "Ah, My daughter, they are few who love Me in truth; for if men loved Me, I should not hide My secrets from them. Knowest thou what it is to love Me in truth? It is to admit everything to be a lie which is not pleasing unto Me. Now thou dost not understand it, but thou shalt understand it clearly hereafter, in the profit it will be to thy soul."

2. Our Lord be praised, so I found it; for after this vision I look upon everything which does not tend to the service of God as vanity and lies. I cannot tell how much I am convinced of this, nor how sorry I am for those whom I see living in darkness, not knowing the truth. I derived other great blessings also from this, some of which I will here speak of, others I cannot describe.

3. Our Lord at the same time uttered a special word of most exceeding graciousness. I know not how it was done, for I saw nothing; but I was filled, in a way which also I cannot describe, with exceeding strength and earnestness of purpose to observe with all my might everything contained in the divine writings. I thought that I could rise above every possible hindrance put in my way.

4. Of this divine truth, which was put before me I know not how, there remains imprinted within me a truth--I cannot give it a name--which fills me with a new reverence for God; it gives me a notion of His Majesty and power in a way which I cannot explain. I can understand that it is something very high. I had a very great desire never to speak of anything but of those deep truths which far surpass all that is spoken of here in the world,--and so the living in it began to be painful to me.

5. The vision left me in great tenderness, joy, and humility. It seemed to me, though I knew not how, that our Lord now gave me great things; and I had no suspicion whatever of any illusion. I saw nothing; but I understood how great a blessing it is to make no account of anything which does not lead us nearer unto God. I also understood what it is for a soul to be walking in the truth, in the presence of the Truth itself. What I understood is this: that our Lord gave me to understand that He is Himself the very Truth.

6. All this I am speaking of I learnt at times by means of words uttered; at other times I learnt some things without the help of words, and that more clearly than those other things which were told me in words. I understood exceedingly deep truths concerning the Truth, more than I could have done through the teaching of many learned men. It seems to me that learned men never could have thus impressed upon me, nor so clearly explained to me, the vanity of this world.

7. The Truth of which I am speaking, and which I was given to see, is Truth Itself, in Itself. It has neither beginning nor end. All other truths depend on this Truth, as all other loves depend on this love, and all other grandeurs on this grandeur. I understood it all, notwithstanding that my words are obscure in comparison with that distinctness with which it pleased our Lord to show it to me. What think you must be the power of His Majesty, seeing that in so short a time it leaves so great a blessing and such an impression on the soul? O Grandeur! Majesty of mine! what is it Thou art doing, O my Lord Almighty! Consider who it is to whom Thou givest blessings so great! Dost Thou not remember that this my soul has been an abyss of lies and a sea of vanities, and all my fault? Though Thou hadst given me a natural hatred of lying yet I did involve myself in many lying ways. How is this, O my God? how can it be that mercies and graces so great should fall to the lot of one who has so ill deserved them at Thy hands?

8. Once, when I was with the whole community reciting the Office, my soul became suddenly recollected, and seemed to me all bright as a mirror, clear behind, sideways, upwards, and downwards; and in the centre of it I saw Christ our Lord, as I usually see Him. It seemed to me that I saw Him distinctly in every part of my soul, as in a mirror, and at the same time the mirror was all sculptured--I cannot explain it--in our Lord Himself by a most loving communication which I can never describe. I know that this vision was a great blessing to me, and is still whenever I remember it, particularly after Communion.

9. I understood by it, that, when a soul is in mortal sin, this mirror becomes clouded with a thick vapour, and utterly obscured, so that our Lord is neither visible nor present, though He is always present in the conservation of its being. In heretics, the mirror is, as it were, broken in pieces, and that is worse than being dimmed. There is a very great difference between seeing this and describing it, for it can hardly be explained. But it has done me great good; it has also made me very sorry on account of those times when I dimmed the lustre of my soul by my sins, so that I could not see our Lord.

10. This vision seems to me very profitable to recollected persons, to teach them to look upon our Lord as being in the innermost part of their soul. It is a method of looking upon Him which penetrates us more thoroughly, and is much more fruitful, than that of looking upon Him as external to us, as I have said elsewhere, [4] and as it is laid down in books on prayer, where they speak of where we are to seek God. The glorious St. Augustin, [5] in particular, says so, when he says that neither in the streets of the city, nor in pleasures, nor in any place whatever where he sought Him, did he find Him as he found Him within himself. This is clearly the best way; we need not go up to heaven, nor any further than our own selves, for that would only distress the spirit and distract the soul, and bring but little fruit.

11. I should like to point out one result of a deep trance; it may be that some are aware of it. When the time is over during which the soul was in union, wherein all its powers were wholly absorbed,--it lasts, as I have said, [6] but a moment,--the soul continues still to be recollected, unable to recover itself even in outward things; for the two powers--the memory and the understanding--are, as it were, in a frenzy, extremely disordered. This, I say, happens occasionally, particularly in the beginnings. I am thinking whether it does not result from this: that our natural weakness cannot endure the vehemence of the spirit, which is so great, and that the imagination is enfeebled. I know it to be so with some. I think it best for these to force themselves to give up prayer at that time, and resume it afterwards, when they may recover what they have lost, and not do everything at once, for in that case much harm might come of it. I know this by experience, as well as the necessity of considering what our health can bear.

12. Experience is necessary throughout, so also is a spiritual director; for when the soul has reached this point, there are many matters which must be referred to the director. If, after seeking such a one, the soul cannot find him, our Lord will not fail that soul, seeing that He has not failed me, who am what I am: They are not many, I believe, who know by experience so many things, and without experience it is useless to treat a soul at all, for nothing will come of it, save only trouble and distress. But our Lord will take this also into account, and for that reason it is always best to refer the matter to the director. I have already more than once said this, [7] and even all I am saying now, only I do not distinctly remember it; but I do see that it is of great importance, particularly to women, that they should go to their confessor, and that he should be a man of experience herein. There are many more women than men to whom our Lord gives these graces; I have heard the holy friar Peter of Alcantara say so, and, indeed, I know it myself. He used to say that women made greater progress in this way than men did; and he gave excellent reasons for his opinion, all in favour of women; but there is no necessity for repeating them here.

13. Once, when in prayer, I had a vision, for a moment,--I saw nothing distinctly, but the vision was most clear,--how all things are seen in God and how all things are comprehended in Him. I cannot in any way explain it, but the vision remains most deeply impressed on my soul, and is one of those grand graces which our Lord wrought in me, and one of those which put me to the greatest shame and confusion whenever I call my sins to remembrance. I believe, if it had pleased our Lord that I had seen this at an earlier time, or if they saw it who sin against Him, we should have neither the heart nor the daring to do so. I had the vision, I repeat it, but I cannot say that I saw anything; however, I must have seen something, seeing that I explain it by an illustration, only it must have been in a way so subtile and delicate that the understanding is unable to reach it, or I am so ignorant in all that relates to these visions, which seem to be not imaginary. In some of these visions there must be something imaginary, only, as the powers of the soul are then in a trance, they are not able afterwards to retain the forms, as our Lord showed them to it then, and as He would have it rejoice in them.

14. Let us suppose the Godhead to be a most brilliant diamond, much larger than the whole world, or a mirror like that to which I compared the soul in a former vision, [8] only in a way so high that I cannot possibly describe it; and that all our actions are seen in that diamond, which is of such dimensions as to include everything, because nothing can be beyond it. It was a fearful thing for me to see, in so short a time, so many things together in that brilliant diamond, and a most piteous thing too, whenever I think of it, to see such foul things as my sins present in the pure brilliancy of that light.

15. So it is, whenever I remember it, I do not know how to bear it, and I was then so ashamed of myself that I knew not where to hide myself. Oh, that some one could make this plain to those who commit most foul and filthy sins, that they may remember their sins are not secret, and that God most justly resents them, seeing that they are wrought in the very presence of His Majesty, and that we are demeaning ourselves so irreverently before Him! I saw, too, how completely hell is deserved for only one mortal sin, and how impossible it is to understand the exceeding great wickedness of committing it in the sight of majesty so great, and how abhorrent to His nature such actions are. In this we see more and more of His mercifulness, who, though we all know His hatred of sin, yet suffers us to live.

16. The vision made me also reflect, that if one such vision as this fills the souls with such awe, what will it be in the day of judgment, when His Majesty will appear distinctly, and when we too shall look on the sins we have committed! O my God, I have been, oh, how blind! I have often been amazed at what I have written; and you, my father, be you not amazed at anything, but that I am still living,--I, who see such things, and know myself to be what I am. Blessed for ever be He who has borne with me so long!

17. Once, in prayer, with much recollection, sweetness, and repose, I saw myself, as it seemed to me, surrounded by angels, and was close unto God. I began to intercede with His Majesty on behalf of the church. I was given to understand the great services which a particular Order would render in the latter days, and the courage with which its members would maintain the faith.

18. I was praying before the most Holy Sacrament one day; I had a vision of a Saint, whose Order was in some degree fallen. In his hands he held a large book, which he opened, and then told me to read certain words, written in large and very legible letters; they were to this effect: "In times to come this Order will flourish; it will have many martyrs." [9]

19. On another occasion, when I was at Matins in choir, six or seven persons, who seemed to me to be of this Order, appeared and stood before me with swords in their hands. The meaning of that, as I think, is that they are to be defenders of the faith; for at another time, when I was in prayer, I fell into a trance, and stood in spirit on a wide plain, where many persons were fighting; and the members of this Order were fighting with great zeal. Their faces were beautiful, and as it were on fire. Many they laid low on the ground defeated, others they killed. It seemed to me to be a battle with heretics.

20. I have seen this glorious Saint occasionally, and he has told me certain things, and thanked me for praying for his Order, and he has promised to pray for me to our Lord. I do not say which Orders these are,--our Lord, if it so pleased Him, could make them known,--lest the others should be aggrieved. Let every Order, or every member of them by himself, labour, that by his means our Lord would so bless his own Order that it may serve Him in the present grave necessities of His Church. Blessed are they whose lives are so spent.

21. I was once asked by a person to pray God to let him know whether his acceptance of a bishopric would be for the service of God. After Communion our Lord said to me: "When he shall have clearly and really understood that true dominion consists in possessing nothing, he may then accept it." I understood by this that he who is to be in dignity must be very far from wishing or desiring it, or at least he must not seek it.

22. These and many other graces our Lord has given, and is giving continually, to me a sinner. I do not think it is necessary to speak of them, because the state of my soul can be ascertained from what I have written; so also can the spirit which our Lord has given me. May He be blessed for ever, who has been so mindful of me!

23. Our Lord said to me once, consoling me, that I was not to distress myself,--this He said most lovingly,--because in this life we could not continue in the same state. [10] At one time I should be fervent, at another not; now disquieted, and again at peace, and tempted; but I must hope in Him, and fear not.

24. I was one day thinking whether it was a want of detachment in me to take pleasure in the company of those who had the care of my soul, and to have an affection for them, and to comfort myself with those whom I see to be very great servants of God. [11] Our Lord said to me: "It is not a virtue in a sick man to abstain from thanking and loving the physician who seems to restore him to health when he is in danger of death. What should I have done without these persons? The conversation of good people was never hurtful; my words should always be weighed, and holy; and I was not to cease my relations with them, for they would do me good rather than harm."

25. This was a great comfort to me, because, now and then, I wished to abstain from converse with all people; for it seemed to me that I was attached to them. Always, in all things, did our Lord console me, even to the showing me how I was to treat those who were weak, and some other people also. Never did He cease to take care of me. I am sometimes distressed to see how little I do in His service, and how I am forced to spend time in taking care of a body so weak and worthless as mine is, more than I wish.

26. I was in prayer one night, when it was time to go to sleep. I was in very great pain, and my usual sickness was coming on. [12] I saw myself so great a slave to myself, and, on the other hand, the spirit asked for time for itself. I was so much distressed that I began to weep exceedingly, and to be very sorry. This has happened to me not once only, but, as I am saying, very often; and it seems to make me weary of myself, so that at the time I hold myself literally in abhorrence. Habitually, however, I know that I do not hate myself, and I never fail to take that which I see to be necessary for me. May our Lord grant that I do not take more than is necessary!--I am afraid I do.

27. When I was thus distressed, our Lord appeared unto me. He comforted me greatly, and told me I must do this for His love, and bear it; my life was necessary now. And so, I believe, I have never known real pain since I resolved to serve my Lord and my Consoler with all my strength; for though he would leave me to suffer a little, yet He would console me in such a way that I am doing nothing when I long for troubles. And it seems to me there is nothing worth living for but this, and suffering is what I most heartily pray to God for. I say to Him sometimes, with my whole heart: "O Lord, either to die or to suffer! I ask of Thee nothing else for myself." It is a comfort to me to hear the clock strike, because I seem to have come a little nearer to the vision of God, in that another hour of my life has passed away.

28. At other times I am in such a state that I do not feel that I am living, nor yet do I desire to die but I am lukewarm, and darkness surrounds me on every side, as I said before; [13] for I am very often in great trouble. It pleased our Lord that the graces He wrought in me should be published abroad, [14] as He told me some years ago they should be. It was a great pain to me, and I have borne much on that account even to this day, as you, my father, know, because every man explains them in his own sense. But my comfort herein is that it is not my fault that they are become known, for I was extremely cautious never to speak of them but to my confessors, or to persons who I knew had heard of them from them. I was silent, however, not out of humility, but because, as I said before, [15] it gave me great pain to speak of them even to my confessors.

29. Now, however,--to God be the glory!--though many speak against me, but out of a zeal for goodness, and though some are afraid to speak to me, and even to hear my confession, and though others have much to say about me, because I see that our Lord willed by this means to provide help for many souls,--and also because I see clearly and keep in mind how much He would suffer, if only for the gaining of one,--I do not care about it at all.

30. I know not why it is so, but perhaps the reason may in some measure be that His Majesty has placed me in this corner out of the way, where the enclosure is so strict, and where I am as one that is dead. I thought that no one would remember me, but I am not so much forgotten as I wish I was, for I am forced to speak to some people. But as I am in a house where none may see me, it seems as if our Lord had been pleased to bring me to a haven, which I trust in His Majesty will be secure. Now that I am out of the world, with companions holy and few in number, I look down on the world as from a great height, and care very little what people say or know about me. I think much more of one soul's advancement, even if it were but slight, than of all that people may say of me; and since I am settled here it has pleased our Lord that all my desires tend to this.

31. He has made my life to me now a kind of sleep; for almost always what I see seems to me to be seen as in a dream, nor have I any great sense either of pleasure or of pain. If matters occur which may occasion either, the sense of it passes away so quickly that it astonishes me, and leaves an impression as if I had been dreaming,--and this is the simple truth; for if I wished afterwards to delight in that pleasure, or be sorry over that pain, it is not in my power to do so: just as a sensible person feels neither pain nor pleasure in the memory of a dream that is past; for now our Lord has roused my soul out of that state which, because I was not mortified nor dead to the things of this world, made me feel as I did, and His Majesty does not wish me to become blind again.

32. This is the way I live now, my lord and father; do you, my father, pray to God that He would take me to Himself, or enable me to serve Him. May it please His Majesty that what I have written may be of some use to you, my father! I have so little time, [16] and therefore my trouble has been great in writing; but it will be a blessed trouble if I have succeeded in saying anything that will cause one single act of praise to our Lord. If that were the case, I should look upon myself as sufficiently rewarded, even if you, my father, burnt at once what I have written. I would rather it were not burnt before those three saw it, whom you, my father, know of, because they are, and have been, my confessors; for if it be bad, it is right they should lose the good opinion they have of me; and if it be good, they are good and learned men, and I know they will recognise its source, and give praise to Him who hath spoken through me.

33. May His Majesty ever be your protector, and make you so great a saint that your spirit and light may show the way to me a miserable creature, so wanting in humility and so bold as to have ventured to write on subjects so high! May our Lord grant I have not fallen into any errors in the matter, for I had the intention and the desire to be accurate and obedient, and also that through me He might, in some measure, have glory,--because that is what I have been praying for these many years; and as my good works are inefficient for that end, I have ventured to put in order this my disordered life. Still, I have not wasted more time, nor given it more attention, than was necessary for writing it; yet I have put down all that has happened to me with all the simplicity and sincerity possible.

34. May our Lord, who is all-powerful, grant--and He can if He will--that I may attain to the doing of His will in all things! May He never suffer this soul to be lost, which He so often, in so many ways, and by so many means, has rescued from hell and drawn unto Himself! Amen.

The Holy Spirit be ever with you, my father. [17] Amen. It would not be anything improper if I were to magnify my labour in writing this, to oblige you to be very careful to recommend me to our Lord; for indeed I may well do so, considering what I have gone through in giving this account of myself, and in retracing my manifold wretchedness. But, still, I can say with truth that I felt it more difficult to speak of the graces which I have received from our Lord than to speak of my offences against His Majesty. You, my father, commanded me to write at length; that is what I have done, on condition that you will do what you promised, namely, destroy everything in it that has the appearance of being wrong. I had not yet read it through after I had written it, when your reverence sent for it. Some things in it may not be very clearly explained, and there may be some repetitions; for the time I could give to it was so short, that I could not stop to see what I was writing. I entreat your reverence to correct it and have it copied, if it is to be sent on to the Father-Master, Avila, [18] for perhaps some one may recognise the handwriting. I wish very much you would order it so that he might see it, for I began to write it with a view to that I shall be greatly comforted if he shall think that I am on a safe road, now that, so far as it concerns me, there is nothing more to be done.

Your reverence will do in all things that which to you shall seem good, and you will look upon yourself as under an obligation to take care of one who trusts her soul to your keeping. I will pray for the soul of your reverence to our Lord, so long as I live. You will, therefore, be diligent in His service, in order that you may be able to help me; for your reverence will see by what I have written how profitable it is to give oneself, as your reverence has begun to do, wholly unto Him who gives Himself to us so utterly without measure.

Blessed be His Majesty for ever! I hope of His mercy we shall see one another one day, when we, your reverence and myself, shall see more clearly the great mercies He has shown us, and when we shall praise Him for ever and ever. Amen. This book was finished in June, 1562.
"This date refers to the first account which the holy Mother Teresa of Jesus wrote of her life; it was not then divided into chapters. Afterwards she made this copy, and inserted in it many things which had taken place subsequent to this date, such as the foundation of the monastery of St. Joseph of Avila, as in p. 169. [19]--Fray Do Bañes."

3. St. Matt. v. 18: "Iota unum aut unus apex non præteribit a lege."

5. "Ecce quantum spatiatus sum in memoria mea quærens Te, Domine; et non Te inveni extra eam. . . . Ex quo didici Te, manes in memoria mea, et illic Te invenio cum reminiscor Tui et delector in Te" (Confess. x. 24). See Inner Fortress, Sixth Mansion, ch. iv.

7. Ch. xxv. § 18, ch. xxvi. § 4. See St. John of the Cross, Mount Carmel, bk. ii. ch. xxii.

9. Yepez says that the Order here spoken of is the Carmelite, and Ribera understands the Saint to refer to that of St. Dominic. The Bollandists, n. 1638-1646, on the whole, prefer the authority of Ribera to that of Yepez and give good reasons for their preference, setting aside as insufficient the testimony of Fray Luis of the Assumption, who says he heard himself from the Venerable Anne of St. Bartholomew that the Order in question is the Order of our Lady of Mount Carmel. Don Vicente, the Spanish editor, rejects the opinion of Ribera, on the ground that it could not have been truly said of the Dominicans in the sixteenth century that the Order was in "some degree fallen," for it was in a most flourishing state. He therefore was inclined to believe that the Saint referred to the Augustinians or to the Franciscans. But, after he had printed this part of his book, he discovered among the MSS. in the public library of Madrid a letter of Anne of St. Bartholomew, addressed to Fray Luis of the Assumption, in which the saintly companion of St. Teresa says that the "Order was ours." Don Vicente has published the letter in the Appendix, p. 566.

10. Job xiv. 2: "Nunquam in eodem statu permanet."

17. This letter, which seems to have accompanied the "Life," is printed among the other letters of the Saint, and is addressed to her confessor, the Dominican friar, Pedro Ibañez. It is the fifteenth letter in the first volume of the edition of Madrid; but it is not dated there.

18. Juan de Avila, commonly called the Apostle of Andalusia.

19. I.e. of the MS. See p. 337 of this translation.

Relations or Manifestations
of Her
Spiritual State
St. Teresa Submitted to Her Confessors.

The Relations.

Relation 1.

Sent to St. Peter of Alcantara in 1560 from the Monastery of the Incarnation, Avila. [1]

1. The method of prayer I observe at present is this: when I am in prayer, it is very rarely that I can use the understanding, because the soul becomes at once recollected, remains in repose, or falls into a trance, so that I cannot in any way have the use of the faculties and the senses,--so much so, that the hearing alone is left; but then it does not help me to understand anything.

2. It often happens, when I am not even thinking of the things of God, but engaged in other matters, and when prayer seems to be beyond my power, whatever efforts I might make, because of the great aridity I am in, bodily pains contributing thereto, that this recollection or elevation of spirit comes upon me so suddenly that I cannot withstand it, and the fruits and blessings it brings with it are in a moment mine: and this, without my having had a vision, or heard anything, or knowing where I am, except that when the soul seems to be lost I see it make great progress, which I could not have made if I had laboured for a whole year, so great is my gain.

3. At other times certain excessive impetuosities occur, accompanied with a certain fainting away of the soul for God, so that I have no control over myself; [2] my life seems to have come to an end, and so it makes me cry out and call upon God; and this comes upon me with great vehemence. Sometimes I cannot remain sitting, so great is the oppression of the heart; and this pain comes on without my doing anything to cause it, and the nature of it is such that my soul would be glad never to be without it while I live. And the longings I have are longings not to live; and they come on because it seems as if I must live on without being able to find any relief, for relief comes from the vision of God, which comes by death, and death is what I cannot take; and with all this my soul thinks that all except itself are filled with consolations, and that all find help in their troubles, but not itself. The distress thus occasioned is so intense that, if our Lord did not relieve it by throwing it into a trance, whereby all is made calm, and the soul rests in great quiet and is satisfied, now by seeing something of that which it desires, now by hearing other things, it would seem to be impossible for it to be delivered from this pain.

4. At other times there come upon me certain desires to serve God, with a vehemence so great that I cannot describe it, and accompanied with a certain pain at seeing how unprofitable I am. It seems to me then that there is nothing in the world, neither death, nor martyrdom, that I could not easily endure. This conviction, too, is not the result of any reflection, but comes in a moment. I am wholly changed, and I know not whence cometh such great courage. I think I should live to raise my voice, and publish to all the world how important it is for men not to be satisfied with the common way, and how great the good is that God will give us if we prepare ourselves to receive it. I say it again, these desires are such that I am melted away in myself, for I seem to desire what I cannot have. The body seems to me to hold me in prison, through its inability to serve God and my state [3] in anything; for if it were not for the body, I might do very great things, so far as my strength would allow; and thus, because I see myself without any power whatever to serve God, I feel this pain in a way wholly indescribable; the issue is delight, recollection, and the consolation of God.

5. Again, it has happened, when these longings to serve Him come upon me, that I wish to do penance, but I am not able. It would be a great relief to me, and it does relieve and cheer me, though what I do is almost nothing, because of my bodily weakness; and yet, if I were to give way to these my longings, I believe I should observe no moderation.

6. Sometimes, if I have to speak to any one, I am greatly distressed, and I suffer so much that it makes me weep abundantly; for my whole desire is to be alone, and solitude comforts me, though at times I neither pray nor read, and conversation--particularly of kindred and connections--seems oppressive, and myself to be as a slave, except when I speak to those whose conversation is of prayer and matters of the soul,--in these I find comfort and joy; [4] yet these occasionally are too much for me, and I would rather not see them, but go where I might be alone: though this is not often the case, for those especially who direct my conscience always console me.

7. At other times it gives me much pain that I must eat and sleep, and that I see I cannot forego these things, being less able to do so than any one. I submit that I may serve God, and thus I offer up those actions to him. Time seems to me too short, and that I have not enough for my prayer, for I should never be tired of being alone. I am always wishing I had time for reading, for I have been always fond of reading. I read very little, for when I take up a book I become recollected through the pleasure it gives me, and thus my reading is turned into prayer: and it is but rarely, for I have many occupations; and though they are good, they do not give me the pleasure which reading would give. And thus I am always wishing for more time, and everything becomes disagreeable, so I believe, because I see I cannot do what I wish and desire.

8. All these desires, with an increase in virtue, have been given me by our Lord since He raised me to this prayer of quiet, and sent these raptures. I find myself so improved that I look on myself as being a mass of perdition before this. These raptures and visions leave me in possession of the blessings I shall now speak of; and I maintain that, if there be any good in me, they are the occasions of it.

9. I have made a very strong resolution never to offend God, not even venially. I would rather die a thousand deaths than do anything of the kind knowingly. I am resolved never to leave undone anything I may consider to be the more perfect, or more for the honour of our Lord, if he who has the care of my soul and directs me tells me I may do it. Cost me what pain it might, I would not leave such an act undone for all the treasure of the world. If I were to do so, I do not think I could have the face to ask anything of God our Lord, or to make my prayer; and yet, for all this, I have many faults and imperfections. I am obedient to my confessor, [5] though imperfectly; but if I know that he wishes or commands anything, I would not leave that undone, so far as I understand it; if I did so, I should think myself under a grievous delusion.

10. I have a longing for poverty, though not free from imperfection; however, I believe, if I had wealth, I would not reserve any revenue, nor hoard money for myself, nor do I care for it; I wish to have only what is necessary. Nevertheless, I feel that I am very defective in this virtue; for, though I desire nothing for myself, I should like to have something to give away: still, I desire no revenue, nor anything for myself. [6]

11. In almost all the visions I have had, I have found good, if it be not a delusion of Satan; herein I submit myself to the judgment of my confessors.

12. As to fine and beautiful things, such as water, fields, perfume, music, etc., I think I would rather not have them, so great is the difference between them and what I am in the habit of seeing, and so all pleasure in them is gone from me. [7] Hence it is that I care not for them, unless it be at the first sight: they never make any further impression; to me they seem but dirt.

13. If I speak or converse with people in the world--for I cannot help it--even about prayer, and if the conversation be long, though to pass away the time, I am under great constraint if it be not necessary, for it gives me much pain.

14. Amusements, of which I used to be fond, and worldly things, are all disagreeable to me now, and I cannot look at them.

15. The longings, which I said I have, [8] of loving and serving and seeing God, are not helped by any reflections, as formerly, when I thought I was very devout, and shed many tears; but they flow out of a certain fire and heat so excessive that, I repeat it, if God did not relieve them by throwing me into a trance, wherein the soul seems to find itself satisfied, I believe my life would come to an end at once.

16. When I see persons making great progress, and thus resolved, detached, and courageous, I love them much; and I should like to have my conversation with such persons, and I think they help me on. People who are afraid, and seemingly cautious in those things, the doing of which is perfectly reasonable here, seem to vex me, and drive me to pray to God and the saints to make them undertake such things as these which now frighten us. Not that I am good for anything myself, but because I believe that God helps those who, for His sake, apply themselves to great things, and that He never abandons any one who puts his trust in Him only. And I should like to find any one who would help me to believe so, and to be without thought about food and raiment, but leave it all in the hands of God. [9]

17. This leaving in the hands of God the supply of all I need is not to be understood as excluding all labour on my part, but merely solicitude--I mean, the solicitude of care. And since I have attained to this liberty, it goes well with me, and I labour to forget myself as much as I can. I do not think it is a year ago since our Lord gave me this liberty.

18. Vainglory [10]--glory, be to God!--so far as I know, there is no reason why I should have any; for I see plainly that in these things which God sends me I have no part myself; on the contrary, God makes me conscious of my own wretchedness; for whatever reflections I might be able to make, I could never come to the knowledge of such deep truths as I attain to in a single rapture.

19. When I speak of these things a few days after, they seem to me as if they had happened to another person. Previously, I thought it a wrong to me that they should be known to others; but I see now that I am not therefore any the better, but rather worse, seeing that I make so little progress after receiving mercies so great. And certainly, in every way, it seems to me that there was not in the world anybody worse than myself; and so the virtues of others seem to me much more meritorious than mine, and that I do nothing myself but receive graces, and that God must give to others at once all that He is now giving unto me; and I pray Him not to reward me in this life; and so I believe that God has led me along this way because I am weak and wicked.

20. When I am in prayer, and even almost always when I am able to reflect at all, I cannot, even if I tried, pray to God for rest, or desire it; for I see that His life was one of suffering, and that I ask Him to send me, giving me first the grace to bear it.

21. Everything of this kind, and of the highest perfection, seems to make so deep an impression on me in prayer, that I am amazed at the sight of truths so great and so clear that the things of the world seem to be folly; and so it is necessary for me to take pains to reflect on the way I demeaned myself formerly in the things of the world, for it seems to me folly to feel for deaths and the troubles of the world,--at least, that sorrow for, or love of, kindred and friends should last long. I say I have to take pains when I am considering what I was, and what I used to feel.

22. If I see people do anything which clearly seems to be sin, I cannot make up my mind that they have offended God; and if I dwell upon this at all,--which happens rarely or never,--I never can make up my mind, though I see it plainly enough. It seems to me that everybody is as anxious to serve God as I am. And herein God has been very gracious unto me, for I never dwell on an evil deed, to remember it afterwards and if I do remember it, I see some virtue or other in that person. In this way these things never weary me, except generally: but heresies do; they distress me very often, and almost always when I think of them they seem to me to be the only trouble which should be felt. And also I feel, when I see people who used to give themselves to prayer fall away; this gives me pain, but not much, because I strive not to dwell upon it.

23. I find, also, that I am improved in the matter of that excessive neatness which I was wont to observe, [11] though not wholly delivered from it. I do not discern that I am always mortified in this; sometimes, however, I do.

24. All this I have described, together with a very constant dwelling in thought on God, is the ordinary state of my soul, so far as I can understand it. And if I must be busy about something else, without my seeking it, as I said before, [12] I know not who makes me awake,--and this not always, only when I am busy with things of importance; and such--glory be to God!--only at intervals demand my attention, and do not occupy me at all times.

25. For some days--they are not many, however--for three, or four, or five, all my good and fervent thoughts, and my visions, seem to be withdrawn, yea, even forgotten, so that, if I were to seek for it, I know of no good that can ever have been in me. It seems to have been all a dream, or, at least, I can call nothing to mind. Bodily pains at the same time distress me. My understanding is troubled, so that I cannot think at all about God, neither do I know under what law I live. If I read anything, I do not understand it; I seem to be full of faults, and without any resolution whatever to practise virtue; and the great resolution I used to have is come to this, that I seem to be unable to resist the least temptation or slander of the world. It suggests itself to me then that I am good for nothing, if any one would have me undertake more than the common duties. I give way to sadness, thinking I have deceived all those who trusted me at all. I should like to hide myself where nobody could see me; but my desire for solitude arises from want of courage, not from love of virtue. It seems to me that I should like to dispute with all who contradict me; I am under the influence of these impressions, only God has been so gracious unto me, that I do not offend more frequently than I was wont to do, nor do I ask Him to deliver me from them, but only, if it be His will I should always suffer thus, to keep me from offending Him; and I submit myself to His will with my whole heart, and I see that it is a very great grace bestowed upon me that He does not keep me constantly in this state.

26. One thing astonishes me; it is that, while I am in this state, through a single word of those I am in the habit of hearing, or a single vision, or a little self-recollection, lasting but an Ave Maria, or through my drawing near to communicate, I find my soul and body so calm, so sound, the understanding so clear, and myself possessing all the strength and all the good desires I usually have. And this I have had experience of very often--at least when I go to Communion; it is more than six months ago that I felt a clear improvement in my bodily health, [13] and that occasionally brought about through raptures, and I find it last sometimes more than three hours, at other times I am much stronger for a whole day; and I do not think it is fancy, for I have considered the matter, and reflected on it. Accordingly, when I am thus recollected, I fear no illness. The truth is, that when I pray, as I was accustomed to do before, I feel no improvement.

27. All these things of which I am speaking make me believe that it comes from God; for when I see what I once was, that I was in the way of being lost, and that soon, my soul certainly is astonished at these things, without knowing whence these virtues came to me; I did not know myself, and saw that all was a gift, and not the fruit of my labours. I understand in all truthfulness and sincerity, and see that I am not deluded, that it has been not only the means of drawing me to God in His service, but of saving me also from hell. This my confessors know, who have heard my general confession.

28. Also, when I see any one who knows anything about me, I wish to let him know my whole life, [14] because my honour seems to me to consist in the honour of our Lord, and I care for nothing else. This He knows well, or I am very blind; for neither honour, nor life, nor praise, nor good either of body or of soul, can interest me, nor do I seek or desire any advantage, only His glory. I cannot believe that Satan has sought so many means of making my soul advance, in order to lose it after all. I do not hold him to be so foolish. Nor can I believe it of God, though I have deserved to fall into delusions because of my sins, that He has left unheeded so many prayers of so many good people for two years, and I do nothing else but ask everybody to pray to our Lord that He would show me if this be for His glory, or lead me by another way. [15] I do not believe that these things would have been permitted by His Majesty to be always going on if they were not His work. These considerations, and the reasons of so many saintly men, give me courage when I am under the pressure of fear that they are not from God, I being so wicked myself. But when I am in prayer, and during those days when I am in repose, and my thoughts fixed on God, if all the learned and holy men in the world came together and put me to, all conceivable tortures, and I, too, desirous of agreeing with them, they could not make me believe that this is the work of Satan, for I cannot. And when they would have had me believe it, I was afraid, seeing who it was that said so; and I thought that they must be saying what was true, and that I, being what I was, must have been deluded. But all they had said to me was destroyed by the first word, or recollection, or vision that came, and I was able to resist no longer, and believed it was from God. [16]

29. However, I can think that Satan now and then may intermeddle here, and so it is, as I have seen and said; but he produces different results, nor can he, as it seems to me, deceive any one possessed of any experience. Nevertheless, I say that, though I do certainly believe this to be from God, I would never do anything, for any consideration whatever, that is not judged by him who has the charge of my soul to be for the better service of our Lord, and I never had any intention but to obey without concealing anything, for that is my duty. I am very often rebuked for my faults, and that in such a way as to pierce me to the very quick; and I am warned when there is, or when there may be, any danger in what I am doing. These rebukes and warnings have done me much good, in often reminding me of my former sins, which make me exceedingly sorry.

30. I have been very long, but this is the truth,--that, when I rise from my prayer, I see that I have received blessings which seem too briefly described. Afterwards I fall into many imperfections, and am unprofitable and very wicked. And perhaps I have no perception of what is good, but am deluded; still, the difference in my life is notorious, and compels me to think over all I have said--I mean, that which I verily believe I have felt. These are the perfections which I feel our Lord has wrought in me, who am so wicked and so imperfect. I refer it all to your judgment, my father, for you know the whole state of my soul.

1. Fra Anton. a Sancto Joseph, in his notes on this Relation, usually published among the letters of the Saint, ed. Doblado, vol. ii. letter 11, says it was written for St. Peter of Alcantara when he came to Avila in 1560, at the time when the Saint was so severely tried by her confessors and the others who examined her spirit, and were convinced that her prayer was a delusion of Satan: see the Life, ch. xxv. § 18. The following notes were discovered among the papers of the Saint in the monastery of the Incarnation, and are supposed to refer to this Relation. The Chronicler of the Order, Fra Francis a Sancta Maria, is inclined to the belief that they were written by St. Peter of Alcantara, to whom the Relation is addressed, and the more so because Ribera does not claim them for any member of the Society, notwithstanding the reference to them in §§ 22, 28.

"1. The end God has in view is the drawing a soul to himself; that of the devil is the withdrawing it from God. Our Lord never does anything whereby anyone may be separated from Him, and the devil does nothing whereby any one may be made to draw near unto God. All the visions and the other operations in the soul of this person draw her nearer unto God, and make her more humble and obedient.

"2. It is the teaching of St. Thomas that an angel of light may be recognised by the peace and quietness he leaves in the soul. She is never visited in this way, but she afterwards abides in peace and joy; so much so, that all the pleasures of earth together are not comparable to one of these visitations.

"3. She never commits a fault, nor falls into an imperfection, without being instantly rebuked by Him who speaks interiorly to her.

"4. She has never prayed for nor wished for them: all she wishes for is to do the will of God our Lord in all things.

"5. Everything herein is consistent with the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church, and most true, according to the most rigorous principles of scholastic theology.

"6. This soul is most pure and sincere, with the most fervent desires of being pleasing unto God, and of trampling on every earthly thing.

"7. She has been told that whatever she shall ask of God, being good, she shall have. She has asked much, and things not convenient to put on paper lest it should be wearisome; all of which our Lord has granted.

"8. When these operations are from God, they are always directed to the good of the recipient, to that of the community, or of some other. That she has profited by them she knows by experience, and she knows it, too, of other persons also.

"9. No one converses with her, if he be not in evil dispositions, who is not moved thereby to devotion, even though she says nothing about it.

"10. She is growing daily in the perfection of virtues, and learns by these things the way of a higher perfection. And thus, during the whole time in which she had visions, she was making progress, according to the doctrine of St. Thomas.

"11. The spirit that speaks to her soul never tells her anything in the way of news, or what is unbecoming, but only that which tends to edification.

"12. She has been told of some persons that they were full of devils: but this was for the purpose of enabling her to understand the state of a soul which has sinned mortally against our Lord.

"13. The devil's method is, when he attempts to deceive a soul, to advise that soul never to speak of what he says to it; but the spirit that speaks to this soul warns her to be open with learned men, servants of our Lord, and that the devil may deceive her if she should conceal anything through shame.

"14. So great is the progress of her soul in this way, and the edification she ministers in the good example given, that more than forty nuns in her monastery practise great recollection.

"15. These supernatural things occur after long praying, when she is absorbed in God, on fire with His love, or at Communion.

"16. They kindle in her a most earnest desire to be on the right road, and to escape the delusions of Satan.

"17. They are in her the cause of the deepest humility; she understands that what she receives comes to her from the hand of our Lord, and how little worth she is herself.

"18. When they are withheld, anything that occurs is wont to pain and distress her; but when she is in this state, she remembers nothing; all she is conscious of is a great longing for suffering, and so great is it that she is amazed at it.

"19. They are to her sources of joy and consolation in her troubles, when people speak ill of her, and in her infirmities--and she has fearful pains about the heart, sicknesses, and many other afflictions, all of which leave her when she has these visions.

"20. With all this, she undergoes great penances, fasting, the discipline, and mortifications.

"21. All that on earth may give her any pleasure, and her trials, which are many, she bears with equal tranquillity of mind, without losing the peace and quiet of her soul.

"22. Her resolution never to offend our Lord is so earnest that she has made a vow never to leave undone what she knows herself, or is told by those who understand the matter better, to be the more perfect. And though she holds the members of the Society to be saints, and believes that our Lord made use of them to bestow on her graces so great, she told me that, if she knew it would be more perfect to have nothing more to do with them, she would never speak to them again, nor see them, notwithstanding the fact that it was through them that her mind had been quieted and directed in these things.

"23. The sweetnesses she commonly receives, her sense of God, her languishing with love, are certainly marvellous, and through these she is wont to be enraptured the whole day long.

"24. She frequently falls into a trance when she hears God spoken of with devotion and earnestness, and cannot resist the rapture, do what she can; and in that state her appearance is such that she excites very great devotion.

"25. She cannot bear to be directed by any one who will not tell her of her faults, and rebuke her; all that she accepts with great humility.

"26. Moreover, she cannot endure people who are in a state of perfection, if they do not labour to become perfect, according to the spirit of their rule.

"27. She is most detached from her kindred, has no desire to converse with people, and loves solitude. She has a great devotion to the saints, and on their feasts, and on the days on which the Church celebrates the mysteries of the faith, is filled with most fervent affections for our Lord.

"28. If all the members of the Society, and all the servants of God upon earth, tell her that her state is an effect of the operations of Satan, or were to say so, she is in fear and trembling before the visions occur; but as soon as she is in prayer, and recollected, she cannot be persuaded, were they to tear her into a thousand pieces, that it is any other than God who is working in her and speaking to her.

"29. God has given her a most wonderfully strong and valiant spirit: she was once timid; now she tramples on all the evil spirits. She has put far away from herself all the littleness and silliness of women; she is singularly free from scruples, and most sincere.

"30. Besides, our Lord has given her the gift of most sweet tears, great compassion for her neighbours, the knowledge of her own faults, a great reverence for good people, and self-abasement; and I am certain that she has done good to many, of whom I am one.

"31. She is continually reminding herself of God, and has a sense of His presence. All the locutions have been verified, and every one of them accomplished; and this is a very great test.

"32. Her visions are a source of great clearness in her understanding, and an admirable illumination in the things of God.

"33. It was said to her that she should lead those who were trying her spirit to look into the Scriptures, and that they would not find that any soul desirous of pleasing God had been so long deceived."

3. De la Fuente thinks she means the religious state.

8. See § 3, above.

9. St. Matt. vi. 31: "Nolite ergo solliciti esse, dicentes: Quid manducabimus. . . . aut quo operiemur?"

12. § 2, above.



Chapter XL. Visions, Revelations, and Locutions. 1. One day, in prayer, the sweetness of which was so great that, knowing how unworthy I was of so great a...


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