The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus
Category: History
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Teresa of Avila was given the distinction of a Doctor of the Church. Teresa was a Spanish nun, mystic, and author later called Saint Teresa of Jesus. She played a significant role in Catholic history and helped reform the Carmelite Orders. The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus is her autobiographical account of her journey. The book presents details about her religious life, work, and beliefs.

The Life
St. Teresa of Jesus

Of the Order of Our Lady of Carmel


The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus

Introduction to the Present Edition

When the publisher entrusted me with the task of editing this volume, one sheet was already printed and a considerable portion of the book was in type. Under his agreement with the owners of the copyright, he was bound to reproduce the text and notes, etc., originally prepared by Mr. David Lewis without any change, so that my duty was confined to reading the proofs and verifying the quotations. This translation of the Life of St. Teresa is so excellent, that it could hardly be improved. While faithfully adhering to her wording, the translator has been successful in rendering the lofty teaching in simple and clear language, an achievement all the more remarkable as in addition to the difficulty arising from the transcendental nature of the subject matter, the involved style, and the total absence of punctuation tend to perplex the reader. Now and then there might be some difference of opinion as to how St. Teresa’s phrases should be construed, but it is not too much to say that on the whole Mr. Lewis has been more successful than any other translator, whether English or foreign. Only in one case have I found it necessary to make some slight alteration in the text, and I trust the owners of the copyright will forgive me for doing so. In Chapter XXV., § 4, St. Teresa, speaking of the difference between the Divine and the imaginary locutions, says that a person commending a matter to God with great earnestness, may think that he hears whether his prayer will be granted or not: y es muy posible, “and this is quite possible,” but he who has ever heard a Divine locution will see at once that this assurance is something quite different. Mr. Lewis, following the old Spanish editions, translated “And it is most impossible,”whereas both the autograph and the context demand the wording I have ventured to substitute.

When Mr. Lewis undertook the translation of St. Teresa’s works, he had before him Don Vicente de la Fuente’s edition (Madrid, 1861-1862), supposed to be a faithful transcript of the original. In 1873 the Sociedad Foto-Tipografica-Catolica of Madrid published a photographic reproduction of the Saint’s autograph in 412 pages in folio, which establishes the true text once for all. Don Vicente prepared a transcript of this, in which he wisely adopted the modern way of spelling but otherwise preserved the original text, or at least pretended to do so, for a minute comparison between autograph and transcript reveals the startling fact that nearly a thousand inaccuracies have been allowed to creep in. Most of these variants are immaterial, but there are some which ought not to have been overlooked. Thus, in Chapter XVIII. § 20, St. Teresa’s words are: Un gran letrado de la orden del glorioso santo Domingo, while Don Vicente retains the old reading De la orden del glorioso patriarca santo Domingo. Mr. Lewis possessed a copy of this photographic reproduction, but utilised it only in one instance in his second edition.

The publication of the autograph has settled a point of some importance. The Bollandists (n. 1520), discussing the question whether the headings of the chapters (appended to this Introduction) are by St. Teresa or a later addition, come to the conclusion (against the authors of the Reforma de los Descalços) that they are clearly an interpolation (clarissime patet) on account of the praise of the doctrine contained in these arguments. Notwithstanding their high authority the Bollandists are in this respect perfectly wrong, the arguments are entirely in St. Teresa’s own hand and are exclusively her own work. The Book of Foundations and the Way of Perfection contain similar arguments in the Saint’s handwriting. Nor need any surprise be felt at the alleged praise of her doctrine for by saying: this chapter is most noteworthy (Chap. XIV.), or: this is good doctrine (Chap. XXI.), etc., she takes no credit for herself because she never grows tired of repeating that she only delivers the message she has received from our Lord. The Bollandists, not having seen the original, may be excused, but P. Bouix (whom Mr. Lewis follows in this matter) had no right to suppress these arguments. It is to be hoped that future editions of the works of S. Teresa will not again deprive the reader of this remarkable feature of her writings. What she herself thought of her books is best told by Yepes in a letter to Father Luis de Leon, the first editor of her works: “She was pleased when her writings were being praised and her Order and the convents were held in esteem. Speaking one day of the Way of Perfection, she rejoiced to hear it praised, and said to me with great content: Some grave men tell me that it is like Holy Scripture. For being revealed doctrine it seemed to her that praising her book was like praising God.”

A notable feature in Mr. Lewis’s translation is his division of the chapters into short paragraphs. But it appears that he rearranged the division during the process of printing, with the result that a large number of references were wrong. No labour has been spared in the correction of these, and I trust that the present edition will be the more useful for it. In quoting the Way of Perfection and the Interior Castle (which he calls Inner Fortress!) Mr. Lewis refers to similar paragraphs which, however, are to be found in no English edition. A new translation of these two works is greatly needed, and, in the case of the Way of Perfection, the manuscript of the Escurial should be consulted as well as that of Valladolid. Where the writings of S. John of the Cross are quoted by volume and page, the edition referred to is the one of 1864, another of Mr. Lewis’s masterpieces. The chapters in Ribera’s Life of St. Teresa refer to the edition in the Acts of the Saint by the Bollandists. These and all other quotations have been carefully verified, with the exception of those taken from the works on Mystical theology by Antonius a Spiritu Sancto and Franciscus a S. Thoma, which I was unable to consult. I should have wished to replace the quotations from antiquated editions of the Letters of our Saint by references to the new French edition by P. Grégoire de S. Joseph (Paris, Poussielgue, 1900), which may be considered as the standard edition.

In note 2 to Chap. XI. Mr. Lewis draws attention to a passage in a sermon by S. Bernard containing an allusion to different ways of watering a garden similar to St. Teresa’s well-known comparison. Mr. Lewis’s quotation is incorrect, and I am not certain what sermon he may have had in view. Something to the point may be found in sermon 22 on the Canticle (Migne, P. L. Vol. CLXXXIII, p. 879), and in the first sermon on the Nativity of our Lord (ibid., p. 115), and also in a sermon on the Canticle by one of St. Bernard’s disciples (Vol. CLXXXIV., p. 195). I am indebted to the Very Rev. Prior Vincent McNabb, O.P., for the verification of a quotation from St. Vincent Ferrer (Chap. XX. § 31).

Since the publication of Mr. Lewis’s translation the uncertainty about the date of St. Teresa’s profession has been cleared up. Yepes, the Bollandists, P. Bouix, Don Vicente de la Fuente, Mr. Lewis, and numerous other writers assume that she entered the convent of the Incarnation on November 2nd, 1533, and made her profession on November 3rd, 1534. The remaining dates of events previous to her conversion are based upon this, as will be seen from the chronology printed by Mr. Lewis at the end of his Preface and frequently referred to in the footnotes. It rests, however, on inadequate evidence, namely on a single passage in the Life where the Saint says that she was not yet twenty years old when she made her first supernatural experience in prayer. She was twenty in March, 1535, and as this event took place after her profession, the latter was supposed by Yepes and his followers to have taken place in the previous November. Even if we had no further evidence, the fact that St. Teresa is not always reliable in her calculation should have warned us not to rely too much upon a somewhat casual statement. In the first chapter, § 7, she positively asserts that she was rather less than twelve years old at the death of her mother, whereas we know that she was at least thirteen years and eight months old. As to the profession we have overwhelming evidence that it took place on the 3rd of November, 1536, and her entrance in the convent a year and a day earlier. To begin with, we have the positive statement of her most intimate friends, Julian d’Avila, Father Ribera, S.J., and Father Jerome Gratian. Likewise doña Maria Pinel, nun of the Incarnation, says in her deposition: “She (Teresa of Jesus) took the habit on 2 November, 1535.” This is corroborated by various passages in the Saint’s writings. Thus, in Relation VII., written in 1575, she says, speaking of herself: “This nun took the habit forty years ago.” Again in a passage of the Life written about the end of 1564 or the beginning of the following year, she mentions that she has been a nun for over twenty-eight years, which points to her profession in 1536. But there are two documents which place the date of profession beyond dispute, namely the act of renunciation of her right to the paternal inheritance and the deed of dowry drawn up before a public notary. Both bear the date 31 October, 1536. The authors of the Reforma de los Descalços thought that they must have been drawn up before St. Teresa took the habit, and therefore placed this event in 1536 and the profession in 1537, but neither of these documents is necessarily connected with the clothing, yet both must have been completed before profession. The Constitutions of Blessed John Soreth, drawn up in 1462, which were observed at the convent of the Incarnation, contain the following rule with regard to the reception and training of novices: Consulimus quod recipiendus ante susceptionem habitus expediat se de omnibus quae habet in saeculo nisi ex causa rationabili per priorem generalem vel provincialem fuerit aliter ordinatum. There was, indeed, good reason in the case of St. Teresa to postpone these legal matters. Her father was much opposed to her becoming a nun, but considering his piety it might have been expected that before the end of the year of probation he would grant his consent (which in the event he did the very day she took the habit), and make arrangements for the dowry. One little detail concerning her haste in entering the convent has been preserved by the Reforma and the Bollandists, though neither seem to have understood its meaning. On leaving the convent of the Incarnation for St. Joseph’s in 1563, St. Teresa handed the prioress of the former convent a receipt for her bedding, habit and discipline. This almost ludicrous scrupulosity was in conformity with a decision of the general chapter of 1342 which said: Ingrediens ordinem ad sui ipsius instantiam habeat lectisternia pro se ipso, sin autem recipiens solvat lectum illum. As St. Teresa entered the convent without the knowledge of her father she did not bring this insignificant trousseau with her; accordingly the prioress became responsible for it and obtained a receipt when St. Teresa went to the new convent. The dowry granted by Alphonso Sanchez de Cepeda to his daughter consisted of twenty-five measures, partly wheat, partly barley, or, in lieu thereof, two hundred ducats per annum. Few among the numerous nuns of the Incarnation could have brought a better or even an equal dowry.

The date of St. Teresa’s profession being thus fixed on the 3rd of November, 1536, some other dates of the chronology must be revised. Her visit to Castellanos de la Cañada must have taken place in the early part of 1537. But already before this time the Saint had an experience which should have proved a warning to her, and the neglect of which she never ceased to deplore, namely the vision of our Lord; her own words are that this event took place “at the very beginning of her acquaintance with the person” who exercised so dangerous an influence upon her. Mr. Lewis assigns to it the date 1542, which is impossible seeing that instead of twenty-six it was only twenty-two years before she wrote that passage of her life. Moreover, it would have fallen into the midst of her lukewarmness (according to Mr. Lewis’s chronology) instead of the very beginning. P. Bouix rightly assigns it to the year 1537, but as he is two years in advance of our chronology it does not agree with the surrounding circumstances as described by him. Bearing in mind the hint St. Teresa gives as to her disposition immediately after her profession, we need not be surprised if the first roots of her lukewarmness show themselves so soon.

From Castellanos she proceeded to Hortigosa on a visit to her uncle. While there she became acquainted with the book called Tercer Abecedario. Don Vicente remarks that the earliest edition known to him was printed in 1537, which tells strongly against the chronology of the Bollandists, P. Bouix, and others. Again, speaking of her cure at Bezadas she gives a valuable hint by saying that she remained blind to certain dangers for more than seventeen years until the Jesuit fathers finally undeceived her. As these came to Avila in 1555 the seventeen years lead us back to 1538, which precisely coincides with her sojourn at Bezadas. She remained there until Pascua florida of the following year. P. Bouix and others understand by this term Palm Sunday, but Don Vicente shows good reason that Easter Sunday is meant, which in 1539 was April the 6th. She then returned to Avila, more dead than alive, and remained seriously ill for nearly three years, until she was cured through the miraculous intervention of St. Joseph about the beginning of 1542. Now began the period of lukewarmness which was temporally interrupted by the illness and death of her father, in 1544 or 1545, and came to an end about 1555. Don Vicente, followed by Mr. Lewis, draws attention to what he believes to be a “proof of great laxity of the convent,” that St. Teresa should have been urged by one of her confessors to communicate as often as once a fortnight. It should be understood that frequent communion such as we now see it practised was wholly unknown in her time. The Constitutions of the Order specified twelve days on which all those that were not priests should communicate, adding: Verumtamen fratres professi prout Deus eis devotionem contulerit diebus dominicis et festis duplicibus (i.e., on feasts of our Lady, the Apostles, etc.), communicare poterunt si qui velint. Thus, communicating about once a month St. Teresa acted as ordinary good Religious were wont to do, and by approaching the sacrament more frequently she placed herself among the more fervent nuns.

St. Teresa wrote quite a number of different accounts of her life. The first, addressed to Father Juan de Padranos, S.J. and dated 1557, is now lost. The second, written for St. Peter of Alcantara, is Relation I. at the end of this volume; a copy of it, together with a continuation (Relation II.) was sent to Father Pedro Ibañez in 1562. It is somewhat difficult to admit that in the very same year she wrote another, more extensive, account to the same priest, which is generally called the “first” Life. At the end of the Life such as we have it now, St. Teresa wrote: “This book was finished in June, 1562,” and Father Bañez wrote underneath: “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.” Elsewhere Father Bañez says: “Of one of her books, namely, the one in which she recorded her life and the manner of prayer whereby God had led her, I can say that she composed it to the end that her confessors might know her the better and instruct her, and also that it might encourage and animate those who learn from it the great mercy God had shown her, a great sinner as she humbly acknowledged herself to be. This book was already written when I made her acquaintance, her previous confessors having given her permission to that effect. Among these was a licentiate of the Dominican Order, the Reverend Father Pedro Ibañez, reader of Divinity at Avila. She afterwards completed and recast this book.” These two passages of Bañez have led the biographers of the Saint to think that she wrote her Life twice, first in 1561 and the following year, completing it in the house of Doña Luisa de la Cerda at Toledo, in the month of June; and secondly between 1563 and 1565 at St. Joseph’s Convent of Avila. They have been at pains to point out a number of places which could not have been in the “first” Life, but must have been added in the second; and they took it for granted that the letter with which the book as we now have it concludes, was addressed to Father Ibañez in 1562, when the Saint sent him the “first” Life. It bears neither address nor date, but from its contents I am bound to conclude that it was written in 1565, that it refers to the “second” Life, and that whomsoever it was addressed to, it cannot have been to Father Ibañez, who was already dead at the time. Saint Teresa asks the writer to send a copy of the book to Father Juan de Avila. Now we know from her letters that as late as 1568 this request had not been complied with, and that St. Teresa had to write twice to Doña Luisa for this purpose; but if she had already given these instructions in 1562, it is altogether incomprehensible that she did not see to it earlier, especially when the “first” Life was returned to her for the purpose of copying and completing it. The second reason which prevents me from considering this letter as connected with the “first” Life will be examined when I come to speak of the different ends the Saint had in view when writing her Life. It is more difficult to say to whom the letter was really addressed. The Reforma suggests Father Garcia de Toledo, Dominican, who bade the Saint write the history of the foundation of St. Joseph’s at Avila and who was her confessor at that convent. It moreover believes that he it is to whom Chapter XXXIV. §§ 8-20 refers, and this opinion appears to me plausible. As to the latter point, Yepes thinks the Dominican at Toledo was Father Vicente Barron, the Bollandists offer no opinion, and Mr. Lewis, in his first edition gives first the one and then the other. If, as I think, Father Garcia was meant, the passage in Chapter XVI. § 10, beginning “O, my son,” would concern him also, as well as several passages where Vuestra Merced—you, my Father—is addressed. For although the book came finally into the hands of Father Bañez, it was first delivered into those of the addressee of the letter.

Whether the previous paper was a mere “Relation,” or really a first attempt at a “Life,” there can be no dispute about its purpose: St. Teresa speaks of it in the following terms: “I had recourse to my Dominican father (Ibañez); I told him all about my visions, my way of prayer, the great graces our Lord had given me, as clearly as I could, and begged him to consider the matter well, and tell me if there was anything therein at variance with the Holy Writings, and give me his opinion on the whole matter.” The account thus rendered had the object of enabling Father Ibañez to give her light upon the state of her soul. But while she was drawing it up, a great change came over her. During St. Teresa’s sojourn at Toledo she became from a pupil an experienced master in Mystical knowledge. “When I was there a religious” (probably Father Garcia de Toledo) “with whom I had conversed occasionally some years ago, happened to arrive. When I was at Mass in a monastery of his Order, I felt a longing to know the state of his soul.” Three times the Saint rose from her seat, three times she sat down again, but at last she went to see him in a confessional, not to ask for any light for herself, but to give him what light she could, for she wished to induce him to surrender himself more perfectly to God, and this she accomplished by telling him how she had fared since their last meeting. No one who reads this remarkable chapter can help being struck by the change that has come over Teresa: the period of her schooling is at an end, and she is now the great teacher of Mystical theology. Her humility does not allow her to speak with the same degree of openness upon her achievements as she did when making known her failings, yet she cannot conceal the Gift of Wisdom she had received and the use she made of it.

St. Teresa’s development, if extraordinary considering the degree of spirituality she reached, was nevertheless gradual and regular. With her wonderful power of analysis, she has given us not only a clear insight into her interior progress, but also a sketch of the development of her understanding of supernatural things. “It is now (i.e., about the end of 1563) some five or six years, I believe, since our Lord raised me to this state of prayer, in its fulness, and that more than once,—and I never understood it, and never could explain it; and so I was resolved, when I should come thus far in my story, to say very little or nothing at all.” In the following chapter she adds: “You, my father, will be delighted greatly to find an account of the matter in writing, and to understand it; for it is one grace that our Lord gives grace; and it is another grace to understand what grace and what gift it is; and it is another and further grace to have the power to describe and explain it to others. Though it does not seem that more than the first of these—the giving of grace—is necessary, it is a great advantage and a great grace to understand it.” These words contain the clue to much that otherwise would be obscure in the life of our Saint: great graces were bestowed upon her, but at first she neither understood them herself nor was she able to describe them. Hence the inability of her confessors and spiritual advisers to guide her. Her natural gifts, great though they were, did not help her much. “Though you, my father, may think that I have a quick understanding, it is not so; for I have found out in many ways that my understanding can take in only, as they say, what is given it to eat. Sometimes my confessor used to be amazed at my ignorance: and he never explained to me—nor, indeed, did I desire to understand—how God did this, nor how it could be. Nor did I ever ask.” At first she was simply bewildered by the favours shown her, afterwards she could not help knowing, despite the fears of over anxious friends, that they did come from God, and that so far from imperilling her soul made a different woman of her, but even then she was not able to explain to others what she experienced in herself. But shortly before the foundation of St. Joseph’s convent she received the last of the three graces mentioned above, the Gift of Wisdom, and the scene at Toledo is the first manifestation of it.

This explains the difference of the “Life” such as we know it from the first version or the “Relations” preceding it. Whatever this writing was, it still belonged to the period of her spiritual education, whereas the volume before us is the first-fruit of her spiritual Mastership. The new light that had come to her induced her confessors to demand a detailed work embodying everything she had learned from her heavenly Teacher. The treatise on Mystical theology contained in Chapters X. to XXI., the investigation of Divine locutions, Visions and Revelations in the concluding portion of the work could have had no place in any previous writing. While her experiences before she obtained the Gift of Wisdom influenced but three persons (one of them being her father), a great many profited by her increased knowledge. The earlier writings were but confidential communications to her confessors, and if they became known to larger circles this was due to indiscretion. But her “Life” was written from the beginning with a view to publication. Allusions to this object may be found in various places as well as in the letter appended to the book, but the decisive utterances must be sought for elsewhere, namely in the “Way of Perfection.” This work was written immediately after the “Life,” while the Saint was as yet at the convent of St. Joseph’s. It was re-written later on and is now only known in its final shape, but the first version, the original of which is preserved at the Escurial and has been reproduced photographically, leaves no doubt as to the intentions of St. Teresa in writing her “Life.” “I have written a few days ago a certain Relation of my Life. But since it might happen that my confessor may not permit you (the Sisters of St. Joseph’s) to read it, I will put here some things concerning prayer which are conformable to what I have said there, as well as some other things which appear to me to be necessary.” Again: “As all this is better explained in the book which I say I have written, there is no need for me to speak of it with so much detail. I have said there all I know. Those of you who have been led by God to this degree of contemplation (and I say that some have been led so far), should procure the book because it is important for you, after I am dead.” At the end she writes: “Since the Lord has taught you the way and has inspired me as to what I should put in the book which I say has been written, how they should behave who have arrived at this fountain of living water and what the soul feels there, and how God satiates her and makes her lose the thirst for things of this world and causes her to grow in things pertaining to the service of God; that book, therefore, will be of great help for those who have arrived at this state, and will give them much light. Procure it. For Father Domingo Bañez, presentado of the Order of St. Dominic who, as I say, is my confessor, and to whom I shall give this, has it: if he judges that you should see this, and gives it to you, he will also give you the other.” While the first and second of these quotations may be found, somewhat weakened, in the final version of the “Way of Perfection,” the last one is entirely omitted. Nor need this surprise us, for Father Bañez had his own ideas about the advisability of the publication of the “Life.” In his deposition, already referred to, he says: “It was not convenient that this book should become public during her lifetime, but rather that it should be kept at the Holy Office (the Inquisition) until we knew the end of this person; it was therefore quite against my will that some copies were taken while it was in the hands of the bishop Don Alvaro Mendoza, who, being a powerful prelate and having received it from the said Teresa of Jesus, allowed it to be copied and showed it to his sister, doña Maria de Mendoza; thus certain persons taking an interest in spiritual matters and knowing already some portions of this treatise (evidently the contents of the divulged Relations) made further copies, one of which became the property of the Duchess of Alba, doña Maria Enriquez, and is now, I think, in the hands of her daughter-in-law, doña Maria de Toledo. All this was against my wish, and I was much annoyed with the said Teresa of Jesus, though I knew well it was not her fault but the fault of those to whom she had confided the book, and I told her she ought to burn the original because it would never do that the writings of women should become public property; to which she answered she was quite aware of it and would certainly burn it if I told her to do so; but knowing her great humility and obedience I did not dare to have it destroyed but handed it to the Holy Office for safe-keeping, whence it has been withdrawn since her death and published in print.” From this it will be seen that Bañez, who had given a most favourable opinion when the “Life” was denounced to the Inquisition (1574), resulting in the approbation by Cardinal de Quiroga to the great joy of St. Teresa, returned it to the Holy Office for safety’s sake. It was withdrawn by the Ven. Mother Anne of Jesus when the Order had decided upon the publication of the works of the Saint, but too late to be utilised then. Father Luis de Leon, the editor, had to content himself with the copy already alluded to.

St. Teresa wrote her “Life” slowly. It was begun in spring, 1563, and completed in May or June, 1565. She complains that she can only work at it by stealth on account of her duties at the distaff; but the book is written with so much order and method, the manuscript is so free from mistakes, corrections and erasures, that we may conclude that while spinning she worked it out in her mind, so that the apparent delay proved most advantageous. In this respect the “Life” is superior to the first version of the “Way of Perfection.” This latter work was printed during her lifetime, though it appeared only after her death. In 1586 the Definitory of the province of Discalced Carmelites decided upon the publication of the complete works of the Saint, but for obvious reasons deemed not only the members of her own Order but also Dominicans and Jesuits ineligible for the post of editor. Such of the manuscripts as could be found were therefore confided to the Augustinian Father, Luis de Leon, professor at Salamanca, who prepared the edition but did not live to carry it through the press. The fact that he did not know the autograph of the “Life” accounts for the numerous inaccuracies to be found in nearly all editions, but the publication of the original should ensure a great improvement for the future.

St. Teresa’s canonisation took place before the stringent laws of Urban VIII. came into force. Consequently, the writings of the Saint were not then enquired into, the Holy See contenting itself with the approbations granted by the Spanish Inquisition, and by the congregation of the Rota in Rome. A certain number of passages selected from various works having been denounced by some Roman theologians as being contrary to the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas and other authorities, Diego Alvarez, a Dominican, and John Rada, a Franciscan, were commissioned to examine the matter and report on it. The twelve censures with the answers of the two theologians and the final judgment of the Rota seem to have remained unknown to the Bollandists. The “heavenly doctrine” of St. Teresa is alluded to not only in the Bull of canonisation but even in the Collect of the Mass of the Saint.

Concerning the English translations of the “Life” noticed by Mr. Lewis it should be mentioned that the one ascribed to Abraham Woodhead is only partly his work. Father Bede of St. Simon Stock (Walter Joseph Travers), a Discalced Carmelite, labouring on the English Mission from 1660 till 1692, was anxious to complete the translation of St. Teresa’s works into English. He had not proceeded very far when he learnt that “others were engaged in the same task. On enquiry he found that a new translation was contemplated by two graduates of the University of Cambridge, converts to the Faith, most learned and pious men, who were leading a solitary life, spending their time and talents in the composition of controversial and devotional works for the good of their neighbour and the glory of God.” One of these two men was Woodhead, who, however, was an Oxford man, but the name of the other, who must have been a Cambridge man, is not known. They undertook the translation while Father Bede provided the funds and bore the risks of what was then a dangerous work. As there existed already two English translations of the “Life,” the first volume to appear (1669) contained the Book of Foundations, to which was prefixed the history of the foundation of St. Joseph’s from the “Life.” When, therefore, the new translation of the latter appeared, in 1671, this portion of the book was omitted. The translation was made direct from the Spanish but “uniformly with the Italian edition.”

Mr. Lewis, whose translation is the fifth, was born on the 12th of November, 1814, and died on January the 23rd, 1895. The first edition was printed in 1870, the second in 1888. It is regrettable that the latter edition, of which the present is a reprint, omitted the marginal notes which would have been so helpful to the reader.

St. Teresa’s life and character having always been a favourite study of men and women of various schools of thought, it may be useful to notice here a few recent English and foreign works on the subject:—

The Life of Saint Teresa, by the author of “Devotions before and after Holy Communion” (i.e., Miss Maria Trench), London, 1875.

The Life of Saint Teresa of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Edited with a preface by the Archbishop of Westminster (Cardinal Manning), London, 1865. (By Miss Elizabeth Lockhart, afterwards first abbess of the Franciscan convent, Notting Hill.) Frequently reprinted.

The Life and Letters of St. Teresa, by Henry James Coleridge, S.J. Quarterly Series. 3 vols (1881, 1887, 1888).

And, from another point of view:

The Life of St. Teresa, by Gabriela Cunninghame-Graham, 2 vols, London, 1894.

Histoire de Sainte Thérèse d’après les Bollandistes. 2 vols, Nantes, 1882. Frequently reprinted. The author is Mlle. Adelaide Lecornu (born 5 July, 1852, died at the Carmelite convent at Caen, 14 December, 1901. Her name in religion was Adelaide-Jéronyme-Zoe-Marie du Sacré-Coeur).

An excellent character sketch of the Saint has appeared in the “Les Saints ”series (Paris, Lecoffre, 1901):

Sainte Thérèse, par Henri Joly.

Although the attempt at explaining the extraordinary phenomena in the life of St. Teresa by animal Magnetism and similar obscure theories had already been exploded by the Bollandists, it has lately been revived by Professor Don Arturo Perales Gutierrez of Granada, and Professor Don Fernando Segundo Brieva Salvatierra of Madrid, who considered her a subject of hysterical derangements. The discussion carried on for some time, not only in Spain but also in France, Germany, and other countries, has been ably summed up and disposed of by P. Grégoire de S. Joseph: La prétendue Hystérie de Sainte Thérèse. Lyons.

The Bibliographie Thérèsienne, by Henry de Curzon (Paris, 1902) is, unfortunately, too incomplete, not to say slovenly, to be of much use.

Finally, it is necessary to say a word about the spelling of the name Teresa. In Spanish and Italian it should be written without an h as these languages do not admit the use of Th; in English, likewise, where this combination of letters represents a special sound, the name should be spelt with T only. But the present fashion of thus writing it in Latin, German, French, and other languages, which generally maintain the etymological spelling, is intolerable: The name is Greek, and was placed on the calendar in honour of a noble Spanish lady, St. Therasia, who became the wife of a Saint, Paulinus of Nola, and a Saint herself. See Sainte Thérèse, Lettres au R. P. Bouix, by the Abbé Postel, Paris, 1864. The derivation of the name from the Hebrew Thersa can no longer be defended (Father Jerome-Gratian, in Fuente, Obras, Vol. VI., p. 369 sqq.).

Benedict Zimmerman,
Prior O.C.D.

St. Luke’s Priory,
Wincanton, Somerset.
16th July, 1904.

St. Teresa’s Arguments of the Chapters


J.H.S. Chapter I. —In which she tells how God began to dispose this soul from childhood for virtue, and how she was helped by having virtuous parents.

Chapter II.—How she lost these virtues and how important it is to deal from childhood with virtuous persons.

Chapter III.—In which she sets forth how good company was the means of her resuming good intentions, and in what manner God began to give her some light on the deception to which she was subjected.

Chapter IV.—She explains how, with the assistance of God, she compelled herself to take the (Religious) habit, and how His Majesty began to send her many infirmities.

Chapter V.—She continues to speak of the great infirmities she suffered and the patience God gave her to bear them, and how He turned evil into good, as is seen from something that happened at the place where she went for a cure.

Chapter VI.—Of the great debt she owes God for giving her conformity of her will (with His) in her trials, and how she turned towards the glorious St. Joseph as her helper and advocate, and how much she profited thereby.

Chapter VII.—Of the way whereby she lost the graces God had granted her, and the wretched life she began to lead; she also speaks of the danger arising from the want of a strict enclosure in convents of nuns.

Chapter VIII.—Of the great advantage she derived from not entirely abandoning prayer so as not to lose her soul; and what an excellent remedy this is in order to win back what one has lost. She exhorts everybody to practise prayer, and shows what a gain it is, even if one should have given it up for a time, to make use of so great a good.

Chapter IX.—By what means God began to rouse her soul and give light in the midst of darkness, and to strengthen her virtues so that she should not offend Him.

Chapter X.—She begins to explain the graces God gave her in prayer, and how much we can do for ourselves, and of the importance of understanding God’s mercies towards us. She requests those to whom this is to be sent to keep the remainder (of this book) secret, since they have commanded her to go into so many details about the graces God has shown her.

Chapter XI.—In which she sets forth how it is that we do not love God perfectly in a short time. She begins to expound by means of a comparison four degrees of prayer, of the first of which she treats here; this is most profitable for beginners and for those who find no taste in prayer.

Chapter XII.—Continuation of the first state. She declares how far, with the grace of God, we can proceed by ourselves, and speaks of the danger of seeking supernatural and extraordinary experiences before God lifts up the soul.

Chapter XIII.—She continues to treat of the first degree, and gives advice with respect to certain temptations sometimes sent by Satan. This is most profitable.

Chapter XIV.—She begins to explain the second degree of prayer in which God already gives the soul special consolations, which she shows here to be supernatural. This is most noteworthy.

Chapter XV.—Continuing the same subject, she gives certain advice how one should behave in the prayer of quiet. She shows that many souls advance so far, but that few go beyond. The matters treated of in this chapter are very necessary and profitable.

Chapter XVI.—On the third degree of prayer; she declares things of an elevated nature; what the soul that has come so far can do, and the effect of such great graces of God. This is calculated to greatly animate the spirit to the praise of God, and contains advice for those who have reached this point.

Chapter XVII.—Continues to declare matters concerning the third degree of prayer and completes the explanation of its effects. She also treats of the impediment caused by the imagination and the memory.

Chapter XVIII.—She treats of the fourth degree of prayer, and begins to explain in what high dignity God holds a soul that has attained this state; this should animate those who are given to prayer, to make an effort to reach so high a state since it can be obtained in this world, though not by merit but only through the goodness of God.

Chapter XIX.—She continues the same subject, and begins to explain the effects on the soul of this degree of prayer. She earnestly exhorts not to turn back nor to give up prayer even if, after having received this favour, one should fall. She shows the damage that would result (from the neglect of this advice). This is most noteworthy and consoling for the weak and for sinners.

Chapter XX.—She speaks of the difference between Union and Trance, and explains what a Trance is; she also says something about the good a soul derives from being, through God’s goodness, led so far. She speaks of the effects of Union.

Chapter XXI.—She continues and concludes this last degree of prayer, and says what a soul having reached it feels when obliged to turn back and live in the world, and speaks of the light God gives concerning the deceits (of the world). This is good doctrine.

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