Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Book of the Foundations - Chapter 1 - St. Teresa of Avila - Teresa of Jesus

   The Book of the Foundations
              of S. Teresa of Jesus 
 of the Order of our Lady of Carmel  
          CHAPTER 1

    Here beginneth 
  the Foundation of S. Joseph
  of the Carmel of Medina del Campo 
            CHAPTER I 
 1. Praise of the Monastery 
     of S. Joseph, Avila. — 
 2. Obedience of the  nuns. — 
 3. Faith of one of the nuns. — 
 4. The love of solitude. — 
 5. The Saint's longing. — 
 6. Fray A. Maldonado. — 
 7. A Divine locution. _

1. Praise of the Monastery 
       of S. Joseph, Avila. — 
1. I remained fivc years after its foundation 
     in the house of S. Joseph, Avila, 
and I believe, 
    so far as I can see at present,
that they were the most tranquil years
    of my life,
    the calm and rest 
    of which my soul very often greatly misses. 

During that time certain young persons 
     entered it as religious, 
whose years were not many, 
but whom the world, 
as it seemed, 
    had already made its own, 
if we might judge of them 
     by their outward manners and dress. 
Our Lord very quickly 
   - set them free from their vanities, 
   - drew them into His own house, and 
   - endowed them with a perfection so great 
  as to make me very much ashamed 
      of myself. 
We were thirteen in number, 
   which is the number 
 we had resolved never to exceed
I took my delight in souls 
     so pure and holy, 
whose only anxiety was 
     to praise and serve our Lord

His Majesty sent us everything 
     we had need of 
without our asking for it ; 
and whenever we were in want
     which was very rarely, 
their joy was then the greater
I used to praise our Lord 
      at the sight of virtues so high, 
especially for 
      the disregard of everything 
      but His service.
2. Obedience of the  nuns. — 
2. I, who was prioress there, 
     do not remember 
that I ever had any thoughts 
     about our necessities, 
     for I was persuaded
       that our Lord would never fail those 
    who had 
       no other care 
       but that of pleasing Him
 And if now and then 
    there was not sufficient food 
           for us all, 
    on my saying 
           that what we had 
    was for those who wanted it most

           not one of them would think 
    that she was in need
     and so it remained 
           till God sent enough for all. 

As for the virtue of obedience
   for which I have a very great attraction — 
       though I knew not 
           how to observe it 
       till these servants of God taught me, 
           so that I could not be ignorant of it 
       if there had been any goodness in me — 
   I could tell much  that I saw in them. 
One thing I remember, 
   which is this: 
once in the refectory 
   we had cucumbers given 
        to us for our portions, 
        to me a very small one, rotten within. 
 Pretending not to be aware of this, 
   I called a sister,* 
 one of the most able and sensible 
   in the house, 
 and, to try her obedience, 
   told her to go and plant it 
 in a little garden we had. 
She asked me 
whether it was to be planted 
   endways or sideways. 
I told her sideways. 
She went and planted it, 
   without thinking 
that it could not possibly fail to die. 
The fact 
  that she was acting under obedience 
    made her natural reason blind, 
  so that she believed 
    that what she did was perfectly right. 
I happened also 
   to charge another with six or seven offices
inconsistent with each other, 
   all of which she accepted 
          without saying a word, 
thinking it possible 
   for her to discharge them. 

* See 
   "Life" ch. xxxii. 16, 
       especially the note, and 
       ch. xxxvi. 31 ; 
  "Way of Perfection"  ch.11. 7. 
  "Life"  ch. xxxix. 14 


 * Maria Bautista, 
     -  in the world, Maria de Ocampo,
            the niece of the Saint, 
     - who was with her in the Monastery 
           of the Incarnation, and 
     - who offered a thousand ducats 
           for the foundation of a house wherein 
           greater strictness might be observed 
           ["Life" ch. xxxii. 13; ch. xxxvi. 25 ]. 
     She was now a novice in S. Joseph's, 
     and was afterwards prioress of Valladolid    
     [Reforma, bk. i. ch. xxxv. 6, and ch. L11. 9.]
3. Faith of one of the nuns. — 
3. We had a well, 
   - the water in which was very bad 
       according to their account who tested it, 
   - out of which, 
         because it was very deep, 
     it seemed impossible 
       to make the water flow. 
I sent for workmen to make a trial, 
  who laughed at me 
because I was going to throw money away. 
I said to my sisters, 
  ' What think you of it' ?
One of  them answered, *
    'Let us try. 
    Our Lord must find some one to 
       - supply us with water and 
       - give us wherewithal to support him; 
     now, it will cost His Majesty less 
          to find water for us in the house, 
     He will therefore not fail to do it.' 

* Maria Bautista, 
   mentioned in the preceding note.
Considering the great faith and resolution 
    with which she said this,  
     - took it for granted 
           it would be so, 
     - had the work done, 
          against the will of the well-sinker, 
               who had experience of water. 
Our Lord was pleased, 
and we have a flow of water 
    quite enough for us, 
    good to drink, to this day. 
I do not count this as a miracle — 
    The miraculous water flowed 
           for eight years, 
     then,  almost ceased 
           when the city of Avila 
                  supplied the monastery 
           with water from another source, 
                  [ Reforma,  bk. i. ch. L111.1]. 
I could tell many other things — 
but I tell it 
   ▪ to show the faith of the sisters, 
          for the facts occurred 
     as I am describing them, and 
   ▪ because my chief purpose 
          is not to praise the nuns 
     of these monasteries, 
          all of whom, 
     by the goodness of our Lord, 
          walk in the same path. 
It would be tedious to write 
    of these and many other things, 
yet not unprofitable, 
for those who come in from time to time 
   are hereby encouraged 
to follow in their steps
However, if our Lord will have it done, 
   the superiors might order the prioresses 
to put them in writing. 
4. The love of solitude. — 
4. I, wretch that I am, 
  was living among these angelic souls. 
I think they were nothing less, 
  for they concealed from me, 
no fault, 
  however interior; 
       - the graces, 
       - the high desires
       - detachment 
  which our Lord gave them, 
       were exceedingly great. 
Their joy was in being  alone, 
they assured me 
    they were never long enough alone; 
and so they looked on it as a torment
   whenever any one came to see them, 
even though it were a brother. 
She who had the most opportunities 
   of being alone in a  hermitage 
considered herself the happiest. 
5. The Saint's longing. — 
5. Very often, 
when thinking 
      - of the great worth of  these souls, 
      - of the great courage 
                — certainly a greater courage 
                than that of women — 
      which God gave them
           that they might 
                - bear suffering 
                - serve Him,

   it would often strike me
      that it was for some great end 
   that He gave them this wealth. 

But what came to pass afterwards 
    never entered into my mind, 
for then it seemed impossible, 
    because there was no reason 
           in the world 
    for imagining it; 
still, as time went on, 
    my desires to do something 
for the good of some soul or other 
    grew more and more, 
and very often I looked on myself 
   as on one 
   - having great treasures in her keeping
         wished all to have the benefit of it, 
   - but whose hands were restrained 
         from distributing it
Accordingly it seemed to me 
   that my soul was in bonds, 
   for the graces our Lord gave me 
        during those years 
               were very great, 
    all of which 
         seemed to be wasted in me. 
I waited on our Lord always 
   with my poor prayers, 
and got my sisters 
    to do the same, 
    to have a zeal 
         for the good of souls, and 
         for the increase of the Church
they always edified every one 
   who conversed with them
and herein my great longings were satisfied. 

6. Fray A. Maldonado. — 
6. After four years 
              — I think a little more —
there came to see me 
     a Franciscan friar, Father Maldonado,
     a great servant of God, 
  having the same desires
     that I had for the good of souls
He was able to carry his into effect, 
  for which I envied him enough. 
He had just returned from the Indies. 
He began by telling me 
   of the many millions of souls there 
perishing through the want of  instruction,
   and preached us a sermon  
encouraging us to do penance, 
   and then went his way. 
I was so distressed 
  because so many souls were perishing
that I could not contain myself. 
I went to one of  the hermitages, 
   weeping much, 
and cried unto our  Lord, 
    beseeching Him to show me
                  when the devil was carrying 
                  so many away, 
       - how I might do something 
             to gain a soul for His service
       - how I might do something by prayer 
             now that I could do nothing else, 
   I envied very much those 
      who for the love of our Lord 
   could employ themselves
       in this work for souls, 
   though they might suffer a thousand deaths. 
Thus, when I am reading 
       in the lives of the saints 
   how they converted souls
       I have 
              more devotion, 
              more tenderness and envy, 
       than when I read all the pains 
              of martyrdom they underwent; 
       for this is an attraction 
       which our Lord has given me
and I think He prizes one soul 
    which of His mercy 
we have gained for Him 
     by our prayer and labour
 more than all the service 
     we may render Him. 

       Note to Paragraph #6
       regarding Fray A. Maldonado

    "Saint Teresa writes of  A. Maldonado 
     which may stand 
       either for Alphonso
     as her editors have thought, 
       or for Antonio
 The former ( Fr. Alphonso Maldonado) 
 belonging to the province 
 of S. James of the Franciscan Order was
   Apostolic preacher  and 
   Commissary General of the West Indies. 
 He dedicated to Philip II 
 a book written in Spanish 
 for the defence of the Religious orders, 
 entitled, "Defensa de los Pequehos". 
 [Oeuvres completes de Sainte Terese de Jesus. 
 Traduction nouvelle par les Carmelites 
 du premier monastere de Paris. 
 Paris, 1909, t. in., p. 58 n.1]. 
 The latter ( Fr. Antonio Maldonado)
 was actually carrying on missionary work 
 in the West Indies and had returned shortly 
 before the interview took place. 
 [ Kindly communicated 
   by Rev. Fr. Thaddeus, O.F.M. ] "

7. A Divine locution. 
7. During this great distress 
    I was one night in prayer, 
when our Lord 
     - appeared to me 
           in His wonted manner, 
    - shewed me great love, 
          as if he wished to comfort; 
He then said to me, 
   'Wait a little, my child, 
    and thou shalt see great things.' 
These words were so impressed 
  on my heart 
that I could not forget them; 
and though I 
   - could not find out, 
       after long thinking over them, 
      what they could mean, 
  - did not see any way 
        even to imagine it, 
I was greatly comforted, 
    and fully persuaded
that the words would be found true; 
but it never entered my imagination 
   how they could be. 
Another six months went by 
     — so I think and believe — 
and then that happened 
    which I will now relate. 
         End of Chapter 1
                 of the 
     Book of the Foundations 


Anonymous said...

I am impressed with the way the Sisters in St. Theresa's monastery valued solitude. I will take this as a lesson and value more the times when I am not bound by human companions and make use of the opportunities of solitude which God allows me to have.

student self-study said...

That is very true.
She urges daily time for solitude and prayer.

Being able to reserve time
for Solitude with God in prayer
was one of the reasons for wanting to return to the primitive rule.

This, she saw as the way, With the help of God, to dispose one self to grace, to progress in prayer to God and the growth of virtu.

But, Chapter 5 is interesting- she
discusses a balance between solitude (silent prayer)
and service (Charity)
[ like Mary and Martha]

In Chapter 5, she clarifies that
labors (service) for God must be included
in the day also according to one's situation in life.

- That solitude and prayer should not impede the
helping of others (fraternal love) in need.

In chapter 5, it is referred to as
"leaving God for God"
( putting aside prayer to do the work of God)

But one can still pray at times when
one is busy.
"know that even if you are in the kitchen,
Our Lord moves amidst the pots and pans,
helping us both within and without".

- she wants to avoid self-love/ self-indulgence
(when meditation becomes self-indulgent
if it is of too long a duration when
there is work needed to be done)

So, it seems to take forethought
to reserve time for solitude
yet get one's work done.

student self-study said...

Thank you for your observation.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post about the balance between everyday activity and quiet prayer. God help us find that balance in our busy lives! She commented that those sisters who had no visitors felt most blessed and at times I have not recognized the blessing in my life of my home being far from my own family, thus creating a situation of natural solitude since family gatherings are harder to get to and close friendships in adult life are harder to form, so I have had a lot of natural solitude and at times have missed the since of companionship. I now see that this was actually a gift which perhaps I could have used to greater advantage than I have. I pray God will help me in that.

I also understand what you are saying that long periods of silent prayer can at times bring about a sense of pleasure which could become a form of temptation and lead away from a correct balance of work and realting to others at home and in the world we live in. This balance is indeed important and the recognition that too much time spent in solitude is not necessarily wise or good is also a healthy thing to keep in mind. Thank you for your wise and prudent response.

student self-study said...

St. Teresa wrote that silent prayer
- was of primary importance.
- The way toward union with God;
- that they were degrees of prayer; and
- that through silent solitary prayer,
with the help of God, one can advance in prayer and virtue.

The charism of the Carmelite order is prayer.

But, She, wanting not to be misunderstood,
often clarified
- that the nuns had taken vows of obedience
(as well as other vows).
- that solitary prayer time should not preclude their obligations
to obedience and the needs of fraternal charity.
They rose early in the am and kept a long day routine in order to allow for
solitary prayer, Mass, group prayer, work, and recreation.

Its interesting to see that some of the websites of the Carmelite
Nuns and Friars provide a sample of their daily routine schedule
and how they organize their time.

Regarding the above Paragraph #4
"the love of solitude" vs visitors:
This Book of Foundations is the story of how
she established convents
and the challenges she faced.
She is often discussing with the Mother Superiors
of these convents, the various topics of formation
and spiritual direction for their nuns.

"The Way of Perfection" Ch 9 which was written
for the education of the nuns
provides more detail about visitors.

It seems that especially In the earlier stages
of their formation, the nuns were striving for detachment.
But the frequent visiting would interrupt the nuns' schedule
and prayer time and would foster
their continued attachment to "news" and worldly matters.
So, discernment, moderation, and prudence
regarding visitations
were necessary in order to assist the nuns in their formation
while also being responsive to their parents and families.

They always prayed for their relatives
and tried to help them in their need.
In Ch5 of the Foundations,
she talks about the extreme of spending too much
time in solitary prayer to the exclusion of obedience
and fraternal charity.

student self-study said...

More on this:

And in the Interior Castle, St. Teresa writes:

“I insist again:

Your foundation must not consist
of prayer and contemplation alone:

unless you
acquire the virtues
practice them,
you will always be (stagnant or impeded)”
[ Interior Castle: mansion 3: Ch. 4: #13 ]

. . . . . . .

Therefore, sisters,
take care to lay a firm foundation
by seeking to be
the least of all
the slave of others,
watching how you can please and help them,
for it will benefit you more than them.

Built on such strong rocks,
your castle can never go to ruin.
[ Interior Castle: mansion 3: Ch. 4: #13 ]


Do you suppose
that St. Paul hid himself
to enjoy these spiritual consolations
at leisure
did nothing else?

You know
that he never took a day's rest
so far as we can learn,
nor could he have slept much
since he worked all night to get his living
[ Interior Castle: mansion 3: Ch. 4: #8 ]


This is the end and aim of prayer,
my daughters;

This is the reason of the spiritual marriage
whose children are always good works.

Works are the unmistakable sign
which shows these favours come from God,
[ Interior Castle: mansion 3: Ch. 4: #10]


If His Majesty proved His love for us
by such stupendous labours and sufferings,
how can you seek to please Him
by words alone?
[ Interior Castle: mansion 3: Ch. 4: #11 ]

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