Saint Teresa

THE story of Teresa de Cepeda has been retold in some form in every century since her death, and written afresh in many different languages. But the plain “unvarnished tale ” has been difficult to unravel from among the legends which have enveloped her history. We should observe her as closely from the human standpoint of Teresa the Sinner, the name she gave herself, as from that of Teresa the Saint, as the church has christened her. It is more than worth while to renew her acquaintance from her own letters and autobiography. The larger portion of such a familiar history must, of course, be compiled and translated, yet if translations and rearrangements will bring the reader of to-day to know and care for this woman of genius, this inspirer of the people, this warm, loving, human heart, it is reason enough for recalling once more the story of her life.

Teresa was born at Avila in Spain, in 1515, just at the time, according to one of her early biographers, when Luther was secreting the poison to be poured out two years later. She was one of a large family, eleven children in all, eight sons and three daughters. Her father, Don Alfonso de Cepeda, was twice married. Teresa’s mother was the second wife, Beatrice de Ahumada, a beautiful, imaginative woman, always in bad health. “ The Cepedas were of honorable descent; Don Alfonso was a gentleman of leisure and moderate fortune. He spent his time, when not engaged with works of charity, in reading Spanish literature —chiefly church history and lives of the saints. His library, if the Barber and Curate had sat upon it, would have been sifted as ruthlessly as the shelves of the Ingenious Knight of La Mancha, for half of it was composed of books of Knight Errantry — probably the same volumes which those stern Inquisitors condemned to the flames. These books were devoured as eagerly by the delicate Beatrice as were the graver pages by her husband, and her example was naturally imitated by her children. They sat late at night in their nursery over Rolando and Don Belianis and Amadis of Gaul. Teresa composed odes to imaginary cavaliers, who figured in adventures of which she was herself the heroine. They had to conceal their tastes from their father, who would not have approved of them. He was a very good man, exceptionally good, who treated his servants as if they were his sons and his daughters. He was never heard to swear, or to speak ill of any one. He was the constant friend of the Avila poor. If too indulgent, he had sense and information, and when he discerned what was going on, he diverted Teresa’s tastes into a safer direction.” By nature, she says of herself, she was the least religious of her family, but her imagination was impressible, and delighted in all forms of human heroism. “She early forgot her knights and devoted herself to martyrs ; and now, being concrete and practical, thought that she would turn her new enthusiasm to account. If to be in heaven was to be eternally happy, and martyrs went straight to heaven without passing through purgatory, Teresa concluded that she could do nothing more prudent than to become a martyr herself. When she was seven years old, she and her little brother Antonio actually started off to go to the Moors, who, they expected, would kill them. The children had reached the bridge on the stream which runs through the town, when an uncle met them and brought them back. As they could not be martyrs, their next decision was that they would be hermits, so they gave away their pocket money to beggars, and made themselves cells in the garden. She does not seem to have had much regular teaching; when she grew up she had difficulty in reading her Latin breviary. ” She was her father’s darling, and he taught her some extraordinary things for a child of her years, giving her scientific books to read and explaining them to her by the light of his own knowledge. Teresa must have been a delightful little child, pleasant to look at though not beautiful, but with round, bright, laughing eyes, very black and prominent, full of expression and of mocking glances. As she grew older and developed, she is described as having the fine colorless complexion belonging to the lands of the south, the skin very delicate, flushing with color when she blushed, which she did easily. She is also said to have “walked like a goddess. ”

Her father counted among his ancestors a king of Leon, and her mother belonged to the oldest nobility of Castile. Both the father’s and the mother’s line possessed, in all its integrity, the limpieza ; that is to say, they had never been allied to the Moors, or to the Jews, or to other races of impure blood. This fact was of the highest importance in the Spain of that day, for public consideration and social status. The prejudice against impure blood was so strong that for lack of being able to prove the limpieza one was excluded from the larger part of public functions. Sancho himself understood that if he had this stain, his master could never make him duke or island governor. He was careful to say to him, “I am an old Christian and that is enough.” Later, Teresa, having become a Carmelite, scorned worldly distinctions as became her state. “Being made of the same clay,” she said, “to dispute over nobility of origin is like questioning whether one kind of earth is better than another for making bricks.” There remained in her heart all her life, without her knowledge, a little store of admiration for the kind of earth of which gentlemen are made. This escapes from her now and then. She has a way of saying, in speaking of a woman : “ She was eminently the daughter of a gentleman.” “In fact one perceives,” says a French writer, “under her coarse veil the great-granddaughter of a king.” A woman who has stamped the memory of her life upon the succeeding generations from her own time —■ the time of Philip the Second — to our own ; who lives an ardent, almost gay personality in the mist and gloom of the days of her king and of the stern Duke of Alva, may well challenge the reader and the thinker of to-day to observe the ways in which she walked and the spirit which inspired her. Happily this great saint was also a great writer. She has left in her simple native Castilian a long shelf full of books of incomparable interest. The Life Written by Herself, or The Soul, as she once wrote upon the title-page, is a wonderful production. Cervantes himself might have written her Book of the Foundations; and of The Way of Perfection, Mrs. Cunninghame Graham says, “It represents the finished and magnificent fabric of the spiritual life. ” There is also a large book called The Mansions which seems to have been a favorite with this truth-telling saint. She wrote a Commentary on the Song of Solomon, which her confessor commanded her to burn. She threw it into the flames, but one of her devoted nuns saved a few leaves. Her Seven Meditations on the Lord’s Prayer was in no such danger. Of this book Dr. Alexander Whyte says, “For originality and striking suggestiveness it stands alone.” Sixteen Exclamations after having Communicated, sixty Advices to her Daughters, and a small collection of hymns end the list. But her letters are her most precious legacy. They are the unrivaled production of her time. These eloquent, eager letters are almost as the sands of the sea in number, for her talent in this direction and her great love for her friends, putting aside the religious inspiration which was continually urging her to share her happiness with those near and dear to her, caused a constant overflow of expression.

Teresa’s native city of Avila, where she also grew up, was a cold and windy place, which may be seen to-day almost unchanged, except that it lies dead and dispeopled upon its rock. The fortifications built in the Middle Ages still remain, with the enormous walls, the round granite towers, and its nine lofty gates. The city is overlooked from the south by the bare cliffs of the Gredos Mountains, which are even to this day unexplored, and inhabited by an almost savage race. In the vicinity of Avila the ground is still strewn with enormous blocks of stone, some of them roughly carved into the forms of huge animals, cut and left there in some unknown epoch by rude artists. The people were a warlike race, which had sustained continual assaults for centuries. Their cathedral, vast and high, dominated the whole place like a fortress, and after the Moors were finally driven away, and the policy of Charles the Fifth and his son had accustomed the grandees to living in peace and idleness, the poor hidalgos were driven either into the church, or commerce, or the service of the king. The city was transformed into a vast hothouse of saints, carrying paradise by assault, and disciplining themselves by scourging just as their fathers had felled castles by blows of the sword. The city received a new surname. The people characterized the place and its inhabitants as Avila cantos y santos (stones and saints).

Teresa’s mother died early. Her elder sister was married soon after, and the result of these changes was that Don Alfonso’s gay, spirited daughter had no one to look after her except her fond father, who felt himself unequal to the task. He put her almost immediately into a religious house, without suspecting, she says, how great the necessity really was for this step.

The first eight days of this convent life were, she afterward wrote, “terrible ; the convent seemed to her a prison.” The second week, however, she yielded to the sway of the sister who took charge of the pupils and consoled herself by work. She had a great horror of convent life, which was not wonderful in a girl of fifteen.

Among the reasons, and they were many, why a Spanish woman of the sixteenth century should take the veil, the rarest and the most fearful to the very young was that of vocation, the calling of faith. To one who understood what she was doing, this imposed by far the severest burdens. Teresa struggled against the idea. To fully understand her sense of alarm one should be able to evoke the whole system of religious emotions of which Spain still keeps some remains, while in France they are scarcely more than historical memories even for the best Catholics.

Her father took her away from the convent when she was sixteen and a half years old, and amused her with gayeties and carried her about to their friends’ houses. Meanwhile to the great and important reasons why she did not wish to become a nun lesser reasons were added. She had a physical fear of austerities, and pious books bored her. On the other hand, she was attracted to the cloister, apart from “vocation,” by a feeling which many women will understand. She was too independent a character to marry. It was one thing to obey God, but quite another to obey a man. “Religion in Spain was as severe as their customs. There were high virtues but no humanity. Her painters loved to represent suffering. Philip the Fourth commanded Velasquez to paint the portraits of four hideous fools; the idea of causing the deformities of an unhappy creature to be immortalized by a great artist could only possess a mind in which the expression ' our human brother ' found no meaning. The God of the Catholic kings was as sombre as they. ”

Teresa was too intelligent not to see that the celestial joys to which she was invited could be purchased only at a great price; she understood very well that apart from marriage there was no very desirable position in a society organized like theirs for a girl, motherless and spirited and impatient of control. She ended by asking her father’s permission to take the veil. He refused. She struggled again with the question, “but God drew her to it.”

The second day of November, 1533, she rose very early in the morning and went away, “wrung by terrible grief,” and threw herself into the convent of the Carmelites of the Incarnation outside of Avila. She was then eighteen years old and was torn by many temptations, but she relates that a deep sense of peace overcame her when she found herself at last putting on the robe of the novice. In this convent she abode for twenty-five years, not in strict cloisterhood by any means. When her father was ill or needed her she could always go to him, and when he died she was with him, watching over him.

By degrees the life that she led there became as unsatisfactory as it was insipid. She accuses herself bitterly in her Life for the disgust she had often felt for her devotional exercises, and also for the pleasure she took in the conversation of distinguished men. “There was nothing in this, ” writes Madame Arvède Barine, “to fill a girl with remorse who had always made a point of leaving to fools, foolish scruples.” On the other hand, when she considered what had become of the noble enthusiasm and the aspirations with which she had entered upon her career, and what they had amounted to, she was deeply discontented. It is the custom to cry out against the lack of severity in the ancient convents. Without pretending to justify them, it seems but fair to remember that the convent had become, by the force of things, a social as well as a religious institution. It was unreasonable to expect a zeal for austerities among a company of girls, many of whom had taken the veil without desiring it, and often against their will, because a place must be found where a girl could go when she was a burden at home and there was no hope of dowry. The opinion of the world therefore was toward indulgence.

About one hundred years before the birth of Teresa, the strict laws of the Order of Mount Carmel, which were brought from Palestine in the thirteenth century, had been mitigated by order of the Pope. From the time of the Mitigation the severities of the order had grown less and less for eleven years, until Jean Loreth, a monk of Normandy, tried to restore the old austerities. He was pursued by the hatred of monks and nuns, and was finally given poison in a peach at a convent in Nantes. Teresa was about forty-five years old, a century after the death of Jean Loreth, when the idea of restoring something of these ancient austerities of Carmel fairly took shape in her mind. She could no longer endure the conditions under which she had struggled for so long a time. She found three or four friends who sympathized with her religious aspirations, and many days and nights were spent in talk together over the ways and means by which they could make for themselves a shelter somewhere for the purpose of devoting themselves to the welfare of others and to a true life.

The situation was a most difficult one. Teresa’s health, we cannot be surprised to learn, was far from good; indeed, slie had suffered from strange nervous affections, and at times her life was in great danger. Her fastings and austerities were far too much for her frail body, and even while she was seeking to increase the severities of her order she doubtless had secretly suffered far more than she ever wished to impose upon others ; besides, she was poor, without resources, and without support. Teresa was possessed of wonderful powers of persuasion, and a friend, some woman who felt the contagion of her religious zeal, gave the money to make a beginning. At the first word upon the subject, this friend and Teresa were subjected to the indignation of the entire place. They learned from experience what Saint Vincent de Paul has said, “that a good work talked about is already half defeated.” Then arose a tempest indeed in which the nuns of her own convent took part, but Teresa had used her good sense as well as her enthusiasm. Before proceeding even so far as to speak of it among the few who might possibly join her in the undertaking, she sought advice from several of the great dignitaries of the church, who privately gave her their approval ; but the Provincial Director retracted his words later, and very few, with the dangers of the Inquisition before them, dared to brave the hostility of the public. She obtained, however, the assistance of one of the most distinguished men of the Dominican Order, which was more powerful then than the younger Order of the Jesuits. “ She did not hesitate to describe the conventual life as she had known it as ' a short cut to hell.’” While she was obtaining encouragement from outside, the Provincial Father became alarmed at all the noise made in Avila against the project, and commanded the two friends to relinquish their design. “Avila breathed and slept once more, ” whereupon Teresa took courage and at once quietly asked authority from Rome to establish her small convent for a more perfect life. The messenger was a nun of noble family who could not read! While she was gone a small house was bought of an anonymous friend where twelve sisters could live, and when the permission from Rome reached Teresa she installed herself there, under some pretext caused grated windows to be put in, and called it the Convent of Saint Joseph. This was in June, 1562. In August she was joined by the four ladies of the Incarnation, who had been her supporters, and a priest clothed them with the habit of the new order. The ceremony was scarcely ended when the news flew from one end of Avila to the other. “A sudden appearance of the Moors could scarcely produce greater excitement, ” said an eye-witness. The Prioress of the Incarnation caused Sister Teresa to he brought back to the convent through an excited crowd, received her like a criminal, and put her into her cell. The people demanded loudly the destruction of the new convent, and the governor himself went with an escort to Saint Joseph’s with the intention of demolishing it, but finding four novices behind the grating retired without action. Meanwhile a monk harangued the crowd, calmed it, and gained time.

Thanks to this friendly monk no violence was done, but a lawsuit was begun against Teresa. No man of law was found willing to defend her. Therefore she herself arranged the papers and a good abbé spoke for her. Another churchman pleaded her cause at the Council of the King in Madrid. She was patient, determined, skillful, struggling for seven months against the city of Avila. At the end of that time she gained her cause, and reëntered the little convent in triumph. Thus was the first of her many foundations brought into being.

These simple facts, however interesting, are clothed with peculiar significance when we consider Teresa’s character at that period. Her convent life had singularly unfitted her for stepping out bravely and independently before the world. Her native humility was almost converted into timidity by the subjugation to the powers that were. Her greatest difficulties were not those of personal suffering and sacrifice, but in being obliged to oppose herself against every prejudice in Avila and every inherited idea of the position of woman. Whatever she undertook from her new standpoint was sure to be misjudged and blamed. But she was what has been called a mystic, and with all her gifts of heart and mind, if she had not possessed an exquisite faith in the nearness of the Divine and in the hearing of God’s voice, she could never have become a leader of souls toward a higher spiritual life. One of her biographers writes of her: “Ayoung woman, a confirmed invalid, singularly susceptible to outward impressions, she found herself exposed to all the subtle and nameless influences of the cloister, and for a moment was subjugated by them. With returning health, the vague reveries, the efforts to obtain perfection beyond the limits of human nature, departed. . . . Her mysticism was only the accompaniment, the undersong as it were, to the melody of her life. Happy are they who can steep themselves in some such ideal existence of the spirit or the brain, without having their energies blunted for the colder struggles of reality! But although her mysticism undoubtedly lends her a strange and potent charm, yet herein is not her greatness. Her greatness is in her life; in her own valor, confidence, and courage; in her boundless activity; in her supreme devotion, not to an Ideal, but to Duty! ” Sister Teresa’s extraordinary gifts and experiences as a mystic were dominated by her educated intelligence and native common sense. The biographer has found the subject a difficult one, especially as Teresa herself after the first seemed to hold the light which came to her in wonderful subjection to the necessities of life. At first she consulted the fathers, superiors, and confessors, who were within her reach, but their advice being not only contradictory but ineffectual, she soon ceased to make any public reference to the matter. The Archbishop of Westminster said of her, “She is an example of a great moral truth, that spiritually perfects common sense.”

From the foundation of the Convent of Saint Joseph’s to the end of Teresa’s life, a period of fifteen years, her story is one almost to transcend belief. To say that she established during this time thirty-two houses in all, seventeen houses for women, and fifteen for men, is to state in the baldest fashion the labors most apparent to the eyes of her contemporaries. But when we remember the scorn and contumely which accompanied her foundation of Saint Joseph’s, and then read the account of one of her last journeys when “the whole population streams out into the road, children on their knees beside her cart,” with bishops and nobles in attendance, we are forced to understand that it was true saintliness, true character, which wrought the change. Not the work alone, but the life behind the work. It was not the founding of religious houses, but her holy personal influence over the men and women of her time. The supervision which she kept over all her convents, her anxieties and labors of a more difficult sort for the houses for men, this never ending work was far greater than the labor of the first foundations. The energy and genius for organization shown by this infirm woman, assailed by ills of every description, seem never to fail when she can have time to gather herself together and to pray. “Out of Thee, O Lord,” she wrote once, “I can find no consolation in this world. Since we must live let us live for Thee. Let us cease to follow our own desires and our own interests, for what better can we seek or gain but to please Thee? Wait, then, wait O my soul, for thou knowest neither the day nor the hour; watch diligently, for all shall pass away quickly, though to thy eager desire what is certain seems doubtful, and what is short seems long.”

One of the signs of her genius was that she understood how it was necessary to bring to bear a new spirit under new conditions. She took every possible care to select the proper persons for her houses, and used the greatest courage in putting aside the petitioners who wished to impose upon her, — “founders and foundresses, benefactors and benefactrices, protectors and protectrices, and other scourges. God preserve me, ” she said, “ from these great nobles who can do everything, yet who are such strange cranks.” God did not preserve her from them, but she remained unmoved in her own convictions, and declared that, “ if the world should go to pieces, ” she could not be made to take a person whom she thought unfit into her new foundation; above all, she dreaded the “melancholics.” They were her terror because she observed that melancholy was contagious. She had her own treatment for this, both of the body and of the soul. “What is called Melancholy,” she said, “is at bottom only a desire to have one’s own way.” She said also that the seat of this evil is in the imagination; it is rarely cured, and it rarely causes death; but it may become madness, and it is always insupportable.

She made a great point of learning, but she put judgment above all, and hated pedants and boasters. Once she found nine good girls, of whom only one could read, passing the day in spelling out the offices from different books in such a way that they did not go together; she declared without hesitation that God “accepted their pious efforts,” which were certainly very great. She loved youth and its “charming gayety, ” and nothing ever took away that gift from her. It must have been good to hear her when she was nearly sixty years old tell of the alarm of Sister Maria (old and very unlikely in every way to awaken evil thoughts) at the idea of sleeping in a former dormitory for students. Sister Maria could not get it out of her mind that one of the students had remained in hiding for her sake in the house. “I cannot think of it without wanting to laugh,” wrote Sister Teresa.

“Her enemies said she was a gadabout and a restless woman, ” says one writer; “ so she might have been — gadabout and restless — if she had gone to please herself ; although I imagine there was little pleasure to be found, except the satisfaction that comes from duty done, to pant all day in a wooden cart without springs, and be jolted over leagues of Spanish mediæval road under the fierce June sun of Andalusia.”

It is said of Teresa that she admitted but one luxury into her convents, a great luxury indeed, and one for the sake of which she did what appeared to others some foolish things, — the luxury of a fine view. It seemed to her, as she said, “quite a secondary matter to have to cut her sardine into four parts if she could only look at a lovely prospect while she was eating her half of the tail! ”

A strange and unexpected trial overtook her in the height of her career. In spite of all her enemies her fame was gaining on them fast, and her superiors in the church decided that Teresa should be sent back to her old convent of the Incarnation to be its Prioress, and to change the place according to her faith into the new order.

“At this news there was a great outcry among the nuns. ‘ What!’ they exclaimed, ‘ to be shut up in a nunnery, behind the grating ? To have no parties of pleasure outside, no receptions for young men in the parlor, no intimate evening parties in the cells? ’ That was not to be endured. The nuns decided that nothing would tempt them to receive the new Prioress, and they invited to come to their assistance the gilded youth of the town, who needed no second call, because their own pleasure and their great resource was being snatched away, that of singing duets and flirting in this land of jealous husbands.

“ When Saint Teresa arrived escorted by the Provincial Father in person, they found the Incarnation occupied by the gentlemen of Avila. The nuns, crying, gesticulating, elbowing one another, closed the entrance. The newcomers wished to pass in and reach the choir with twelve of the sisters who took their part; but they found themselves surrounded by two hundred furious women, howling, menacing, pulling, pushing, reviling, making one think of Vert-Vert on his return from his fatal voyage on the Loire. The Provincial Fathers turned perfectly pallid. The gentlemen threatened, and were ready to sustain their allies; the faithful sisters sang the Te Deum, and this mixture completed the comic opera. Mother Teresa stood modest, sweet, and unmoved. The tumult lasted several hours; after which, following the invariable course of feminine rage at that period, the nuns began to weep and to faint away. Mother Teresa restored them without the help of even a glass of water.” To still these enraged women an incredible amount of diplomacy, kindness, and patience was expended by the “little woman.” This was not an easy task, but Mother Teresa was a clever woman, and it goes without saying that cleverness is always useful, even for a saint. She was so delightful that the bitterest could not resist her. The gentlemen of Avila were more tenacious. They came again in a band to ask for their friends, and to clamor at the grating. One fine day Mother Teresa appeared and menaced them in the name of the king. Then they went away and returned no more.

First and above all Teresa was very human, very loving, and wonderfully outspoken. Some of the Fathers who joined her reform party were given to multiplying rules and austerities when they visited her monasteries. But she with a delightful wit endeavors in her correspondence to redress these wrongs in her gayest and most charming manner. “It is a queer thing,” she wrote one day, “that these Fathers can never visit a monastery without increasing the Rules. To act in this way is to destroy all the fruit of the visit. For in speaking of recreation merely, if there is to be no recreation on communion days, yet if the priests are to say Mass every day, it is evident there is to be no recreation. And if some are allowed to dispense with this law, is it just to make others keep it, who being younger have still greater need of recreation? I am so tired with just having to read all these ‘Rules,’ that I don’t know what would become of me if I were obliged to keep them. Believe me, my father, our Constitution does not make room for austere persons. It is austere enough in itself. What visitors have to do is to insist always upon exact observance of the Constitution, and to ask nothing more. However slight might be the added work commanded, it would become a very painful charge for our Sisters, and for me first of all! ” She could not forget that her early religious life had been imperiled by the ignorance of some of her confessors. Therefore she sought out instructed men for the direction of her monasteries. “Piety is useful,” she said, “even necessary, but it is not sufficient. God is the God of knowledge as well as of miracles. ” “The further one advances, ” she said, “in the way of the Lord, the more one has need of the light of science to guide him. I should prefer to have to deal with a man of learning who was not religious than with a pious man who had no learning, because this last could neither instruct me in the truth nor ground his own conduct on it.”

The biographers of Saint Teresa all refer to her strong common sense as a highly developed quality of her character. “Once a dear brother of hers, who had bought a country estate where he might live with his children and end his days peacefully, complained to her that the labor of taking care of it was so great that perhaps he should have done better to sell everything and devote himself to the church! ‘ What! ’ she writes, ‘ do you think that rents can be gathered in without any labor at all ? You say you are always in questions of law! Well, everybody who has possessions has to do with these things. Don’t imagine if you had more time to yourself you would pray any more! Disabuse yourself of this idea! Time so well employed as yours in looking after your children’s well-being does no harm to your prayers. God often gives in a moment of prayer more grace than is granted in a much longer time of devotion. Don’t lose courage; we must serve God in the way he wishes, not according to our fancy. Tell Teresita she must not fear I shall love any one else as well as I do her.’ ”

This little human touch brings her into sisterly union with ourselves; and we find it recorded that Teresa never once touches on any question of dogma. With instinctive mistrust —for which we must blame the age if she can be blamed for such wisdom —she let the red-hot cinders drop from her fingers without being burned by them.

She took wide views, was possessed of a man’s courage, was tranquil and of even spirit. Blushing for the monks and nuns of her time, and knowing what great chivalrousness was in the Spanish character, she understood well that the more cruel treatment she called for, the severer renouncement of follies according to the flesh and the world, the greater would be her chance of success. She bravely required superhuman things, and she had them; she would have got nothing had she asked less. What proves the justice of her idea is that she was carried much further than she wished, and was incessantly obliged to restrain and to tell her nuns that we have a body, and that this body when disregarded revenges itself upon the mind.

The stability of the reform was in great peril while this brave woman was thus absorbed in personal work for her establishments. She saw that the only hope was in getting a new order established by the Pope and the king, which would be quite independent of the superiors of the old order. The crisis came upon her suddenly when after dire struggles, chiefly among the monks, a decree was sent forth by the nuncio demanding the destruction of all the reformed monasteries. Teresa for a moment was in despair, but she soon rallied and saved the whole cause by her efforts. She wrote to King Philip the Second, who had been always favorable to her work, beside writing to his council, dispatching a cloud of messengers to barefoot Carmelites, great lords, and others in authority. The letters themselves are lost; we only know the effect they produced. Philip said curtly to the nuncio: “ Oblige me, my lord, by protecting Virtue. You do not love the barefoot Carmelites, and you make it felt too much,” The nuncio retired in agitation and made his peace as quickly as possible. The Holy See confirmed the peace by making the “barefoots ” into a separate province, independent of the “Mitigated. ” Mother Teresa was given her liberty, and mounted again at once her traveling chariot. Happily for the convents, whenever matters of business were in question, Teresa set aside all fine phrases and far-fetched sentiment. “A cat was then a cat and had no chance of being taken for a seraphim! ” The victorious barefoots were united in a general chapter at Alcala in 1581.

Mother Teresa profited by the opportunity, and revised and corrected the Rules. She had one inscription from the book of Tobias, which she put up with her own hands over the door of every new foundation: “We lead a life of poverty, but we shall be very rich if we have the fear of the Lord.” She had triumphed, writes Father Plesse, over all the obstacles she had met in the establishment of her reform, and she rejoiced at last over the success of her enterprise in her dear “petite retraite de Dieu ” in the Convent of Saint Joseph. Nevertheless this great soul had ever present in her mind the progress that heresy was making in Europe, and the many faults of the Christians who were still in the bosom of the church, also the shadows of idolatry brooding over the lands then newly discovered. At the thought of all these evils she felt the same holy indignation that inflamed the hearts of the disciples at the sight of the defilers of the temple, when they remembered the words of the Psalmist, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” Teresa envied the fate of saints who have converted souls rather than the joy of those who have suffered martyrdom ; because she believed that of all the services we can render to our Saviour the one He esteems most is that of bringing souls to Him. Thus to save one she was willing to suffer a thousand deaths. “O my sisters,” she cried in the ardor of her zeal, “aid me to pray for the many souls who may otherwise be lost! It is for this end that our Lord has brought us together in this house. To this end should all our wishes tend, all our tears, all our supplications; that is the object of our vocation. We have nothing to do here with temporal interests.”

In this way she gave a special direction to her reform. She changed nothing of the primitive rules for the hermits of Mount Carmel, she only added to them one particular end, — the conversion of the world, of which these holy living rules did not speak. The endless difficulties into which she was plunged can easily be believed, but the joy and grace with which she bore her burdens can only be understood by those who know the efficacy of prayer. She said once, when she found herself with only four ducats and the plan of a new foundation before her, “Teresa and four ducats can do nothing, but God, Teresa, and four ducats can do everything.”

This great saint’s fine intellect and common sense in its maturity demanded high qualities from the books she read. “She was one of those sovereign souls that are born from time to time, as if to show what our race was created for at first, and for what it is still destined. ” It was extraordinary that she never insisted upon her revelations or peculiar guidance in dealing with others. Once she said expressly that she acted by the advice of her young superior, Gratian, in opposition to the divine voice, and she found reason to regret the step that she took. “She never quitted a foundation,” says Father Plesse, “until she could leave her daughters at peace in their own house, and go elsewhere to expose herself to other contradictions, other miseries, and conquer a thousand other difficulties.” A soul less strong, less confident in God, less one with the Sovereign Master, would have yielded twenty times under the weight of so many labors in so much fatigue. Teresa did not sink under the burden, and what is especially admirable in her is that her faculties were never absorbed by these overwhelming occupations. She always preserves a free mind and the freshness of feeling necessary to write charming letters, like the one sent from Valladolid to her old friend Francesco de Salcedo.

“God be praised,” she said to him, “ that after having written seven or eight letters upon indispensable business, amoment is left when I may rest myself in a talk with you, and assure you that I receive all your letters with true joy. Do not think, please, that time is lost when you are writing me. I have sometimes need of this consolation, I assure you; but with one condition, that you do not say so often that you are old. You give me pain by this; do even young people have any assurance of their lives ? I hope God will keep you until I die; but once on high without you, I shall make sure that the Lord calls you as soon as possible.”

In modern times we have had glimpses of the same kind of trials which beset Teresa, — Florence Nightingale with her foundations, and others of less famous name. Men and women are still engaged in like struggles. How often the sufferings of Teresa have been lived over again before the reforms of to-day have been inaugurated. As with her, the first struggle has not been caused by the prospect of self-sacrifice, but in breaking with old habits, old ideas, a quiet life in exchange for public responsibilities. The cloister which might limit her opportunities to-day was then her most promising field of influence. Again, we learn from her story that it is not the thing done, but the spirit and life with which it is done, the vast overflowing love for those who are lost in darkness of either riches or poverty, which moves the heart of humanity.

In the month of September, 1582, Teresa found herself very ill, but another foundation at Alba being called for, she insisted upon keeping on her way from Valladolid to that place. It was her last journey; in two weeks she was buried at Alba, in the Convent of the Carmelites.

“Every evening from ten to eleven o’clock,” writes Madame Arvède Barine, “throughout the whole Christian world, the barefoot Carmelite prays. Her prayer is not for herself. . . . The Prioress has just repeated to her, as is done every evening, that the Carmelite occupied with her own salvation is an unworthy member of the order; she has come there to succor the souls of others and not her own. She has been told that it was the hour when the evil of the world prepares to come forth. . . . Therefore she prays and can seem to see the vast army of the wicked silently invading the dark earth. The crowd increases, it is about to cover the world, but across the path a group is prostrated. These are poor nuns covered with coarse veils. Before them the dark army draws back, and some are saved who would have been lost. The Carmelite carries back into her cell the vision of her victory and sleeps, happy. She owes this magnificent strain of poetry to Saint Teresa, who believed in making any sacrifice in the hope of expiating the sins of others.”

“Hope,” said Saint Basil, “is the dream of a man who watches.” The hope that “the poor little woman ” bequeathed to Carmel is a sublime dream.

One can easily gather, after all these years, proofs of the wide influence of such a great woman, a woman so devoted to the uplifting of her fellow creatures. This foundation of convents carried with it a personal relation with hundreds of souls, who in their turn influenced and taught by example if not by precept. Beside the power given in this way we must remember always that she was an affectionate and faithful friend, and a constant writer of letters to those she loved and cared for. Priests, bishops, and abbesses, men and women of distinction in the world, became more and more eager to seek her counsels as the years went on. Teresa was a faithful believer in prayer, and her reward even in this world was great. She was enabled to elevate and to make rejoice the children of men. Her gayety, her charm, her sweetness, the liveliness of her conversation were irresistible. She could cast all her cares away, and lay them at the feet of the Father and Lover of all men.

Annie Fields.