Sunday, February 22, 2009

Letter of St Teresa written in 1579 to Fr Prior of the Carthusian Monastery - in time of Carmelite's persecution

The Saint gives this holy man an account of the persecutions which the Carmelites of Seville had suffered, and she recommends to his notice the bearer of the letter. Let us read carefully this letter and think how St Teresa's account of what happened is balanced and although the persecution and deposition of St Joseph's Carmelite convent Prioress was very unjust, she bears no grudge against the persecutors. Recommended and edifying reading in particular in these days when Traditional Catholicism is so despised, misunderstood and misinterpreted by 'modern/liberated minds' .

To the very Reverend Father Prior of the Carthusian Monastery at Seville.

JESUS. The Grace of the Holy Spirit be ever with your Reverence.

What do you think, my father, of what has taken place in our house of the glorious St. Joseph? What do you think of those who have treated (and do still treat) the poor sisters so ill? What do you think of the spiritual trials and troubles which they have now endured so long–from those even who ought to have consoled them? For my part, I think that if they have besought our Lord to send them these troubles, He has, indeed, heard their prayers. May He be blessed for ever.

I assure you I am not at all troubled about those Religious who came with me for the foundation. Sometimes I even rejoice to see what great advantages they derive from this war, which the devil has excited against them. But I am certainly grieved for those who have taken the habit since that time; for instead of their being occupied with the care of acquiring interior peace and of learning the rules of the Order, everything is in confusion; and this may do a great deal of harm to their souls, as they have only lately given themselves to the service of our Lord. May he send a remedy. I assure your Reverence, it is now some time since the devil began his machinations against them. I have written to the prioress, and told her to mention all her troubles to you. Perhaps she did not venture to do so. It would be a great comfort for me if I could speak plainly to your Reverence, but I dare not trust to a letter, I should not have said so much now, had I not sent this by a trusty messenger.

The young man who brings this letter came to ask me, if I knew any one, at Seville who would be responsible for his taking a place in the service of some lady, for he cannot live in this part of the country, as the air is too cold for him, although he was born in it. He has been a servant to a canon of this city, who is a friend of mine, and who assures me the young man is very good and honest. He can write and cast up accounts very well. Do keep him with you, if you can: this favour I beg of your Reverence, for the love of God. If any opportunity of getting him a place should present itself, please to be responsible for him, according to the character I have given him; your Reverence may do this with perfect security, for he who spoke about him to me is incapable of telling any untruth.

When he told me of his intention of going to Seville, I was delighted to have so good an opportunity of consoling myself, by writing to your Reverence, and begging of you to act in such a manner that the deposed prioress may read my letter, and all the letters I or others may send her from this part. No doubt your Reverence is already aware, how she has been deprived of her office, and how one of those who took the veil in that convent has been chosen in her place. I do not now dwell on many other persecutions which they have endured, which were so great, that the sisters were forced to give up the letters which I wrote to them, and which the Nuncio now possesses.

The poor souls stood in great need of some advice, for even the lawyers here are astonished at what they were made to do, through fear of excommunication. I am afraid they said many things against their conscience, and perhaps they did not understand matters properly; for they asserted many things in their depositions which are altogether false, for I myself was at that time in the convent, and what they deposed never happened there. But I do not wonder at their being made to utter so many most untrue things and such extravagances, for one of the nuns was examined for six hours together, and some of the sisters, through want of judgment, would have signed everything that their enemies wished. We have learned a lesson here by what has happened, for we considered what we signed, and so there has been nothing which could be turned against us.

For a year and a half our Lord has afflicted us in all kinds of ways: but I feel the greatest confidence that He will protect His servants, and enable them to discover the snares which the devil has raised against this house. The glorious St. Joseph will bring the truth to light, and make known the virtues of those sisters who went forth to found the convent: as regards those who took the habit there, I know them not: I know, however, that they have great influence over her who governs them, and this has caused much harm in many things.

I entreat your Reverence, for the love of God, not to forsake them, but to help them with your prayers in this their tribulation, for they have no one but God in Heaven, and upon earth none but yourself to comfort them. But His Majesty knows their heart will protect them, and will give you the charity to do the same.

This letter I send open, so that if the sisters should be commanded to give up the letters they receive from me to the provincial, you will arrange matters so that some one may read it, and then some relief may be given in seeing my letter.

It is thought that the provincial would wish them to leave the monastery: if this should be the case, the novices must accompany them. What I understand by this is–that the devil cannot bear the Carmelites: it is for this reason that he wages such a cruel war against them: but I trust in our Lord, that all his stratagems will avail him little.

I hope your Reverence will consider that you have been the protector of the Religious at Seville; and now, as they stand in such need of assistance, help them, I beg of you, through your love of the glorious St. Joseph. I know the favours which your Reverence has bestowed on our fathers: may His Divine Majesty be pleased to grant you a long life for the protection of these poor Religious, and to give you that sanctity which I always beg for you. Amen.

Your Reverence's unworthy Servant, and Subject,


P.S.–Your Reverence may read the letters I send to the sisters, provided they do not tire you too much.