Thursday, December 04, 2014
It is very fitting to read and reflect today upon the letter written by St Teresa to the King Don Philip II on 4th December 1577. During the previous night, St John of the Cross was taken prisoner and no one knew his whereabouts. The whole city was scandalized and Teresa is worried sick for his life. The situation was aggravated by the on-going oppression of the nuns at the Incarnation. St Teresa highly regarded Fray John of the Cross and considered him a saint. St John was taken prisoner on the night December 3rd 1577 and transferred to the Carmelite monastery in Toledo. He was horribly mistreated during nine months of imprisonment, suffered public lashes in front of a community of friars at least once a week, he was kept in a tiny cell with tiny window placed near the ceiling and his diet was of the strict penitential character. He managed to escape one night on August 15th 1578. During his imprisonment he wrote most of his famous ‘Spiritual Canticle’.
El Greco painting of the Carmelite Monastery in Toledo, where St John was kept prisoner.
The grace of the Holy Spirit be with your majesty, amen. I strongly believe that our Lady has chosen you to protect and help her order. So, I cannot fail to have recourse to you regarding her affairs. For the love of our Lord, I beg you to pardon me for so much boldness. I am sure your majesty has received news of how the nuns at the Incarnation tried to have me go there, thinking they would have some means to free themselves from the friars, who are certainly a great hindrance to the recollection and religious observance of the nuns. And the friars are entirely at fault for the lack of observance previously present in that house. The nuns are very much mistaken in their desire that I go there, for as long as they are subject to the friars as confessors and visitators, I would be of no help -- at least not of any lasting help. I always said this to the Dominican visitator, and he understood it well. Since God allowed that situation to exist, I tried to provide a remedy and placed a discalced friar (St John of the Cross) in a house next to them, along with a companion friar (German de San Matias). He is so great a servant of our Lord that the nuns are truly edified, and this city is amazed by the remarkable amount of good he has done there, and so they consider him a saint; and in my opinion he is one and has been one all his life. When the previous nuncio through a long report sent him by the inhabitants of the city was informed of the things that were happening and of the harm that the friars of the cloth were doing, he gave orders under pain of excommunication that the confessors be restored to their house (for the Calced friars had driven them from the city heaping abuse on them and giving much scandal to everyone). And he also ordered that no friar of the cloth under pain of excommunication go to the Incarnation for business purposes, to say Mass, or hear confessions, but only the discalced friars and secular clergy. As a result, the house was in a good state until the nuncio died. Then the Calced friars returned -- and so too the disturbance -- without demonstrating the grounds on which they could do so. And now a friar (Hernando Maldonado) who came to absolve the nuns caused such a disturbance without any concern for what is reasonable and just that the nuns are deeply afflicted and still bound by the same penalties I have been told. And worst of all he has taken from them their confessors (St John of the Cross and German de San Matias). They say that he has been made vicar provincial, and this must be true because he is more capable than the others of making martyrs. And he is holding these confessors captive in his monastery after having forced his way into their cells and confiscating their papers. The whole city is truly scandalized. He is not a prelate nor did he show any evidence of the authority on which these things were done, for these confessors are subject to the apostolic commissary. Those friars dared so much, even though this city is so close to where your majesty resides, that it doesn't seem they fear either justice or God. I feel very sad to see these confessors in the hands of those friars who for some days have been desiring to seize hold of them. I would consider the confessors better off if they were held by the Moors, who perhaps would show more compassion. And this one friar (St John) who is so great a servant of God is so weak from all that he has suffered that I fear for his life. I beg your majesty for the love of our Lord to issue orders for them to set him free at once and that these poor Discalced friars not be subjected to so much suffering by the friars of the cloth. The former do no more than suffer and keep silent and gain a great deal. But the people are scandalized by what is being done to them. This past summer in Toledo, without any reason, the same superior took as prisoner Fray Antonio de Jesús -- a holy and blessed man, who was the first discalced friar. They go about saying that with orders from Tostado they will destroy them all. May God be blessed! Those who were to be the means of removing offenses against God have become the cause of so many sins. And each day matters will get worse if your majesty does not provide us with some help. Otherwise, I don't know where things will end up, because we have no other help on earth. May it please our Lord that for our sakes you live many years. I hope in him that he will grant us this favour. He is so alone, for there are few who look after his honour. All these servants of your Majesty's, and I, ask this of him continually. Your Majesty's unworthy servant and subject, Teresa of Jesus, Carmelite
Posted by Jay at 6:09 pm