Monday, November 14, 2011

The Visitation of The Nunneries - Discussion - St. Teresa of Avila - Teresa of Jesus- The Book of the Foundations


          Discussion of  
  The Visitation Of The Nunneries
                
  The Book of the Foundations
              of S. Teresa of Jesus 
 of the Order of our Lady of Carmel  

                   Contents    of  
    The Visitation Of The Nunneries
1. Humility. — 
2. Temporals. — 
3. The visitor must be firm. — 
4. Danger of slight relaxations.— 
5. Time brings laxity. — 
6. Humility. — 
7. The visitor must be strict. — 
8. And remove unfit prioresses. — 
9. Of the endowed houses. — 
10. The houses unendowed. —
11. Handi-work of the nuns 
             not to be passed over. — 
12. Extravagance. — 
13.  The monasteries not 
             to be large houses. — 
14. Of the interior arrangements. — 
15. The inquisition to be strict. — 
16. Of the interior discipline of the house. — 
17. The nuns may not go from one house 
            to another to please themselves. — 
18. Particular friendships. — 
19. Of nuns who find fault. — 
20. Importance of keeping
            the Constitutions. — 
21. The visitor to be told everything. — 
22. Sincerity in the visited. — 
23. Innovations strictly forbidden. — 
24. The admission of novices. — 
25. Profession. — 
26. Lay Sisters. — 
27. The number of nuns. — 
28. Indiscreet devotions. — 
29. Of the singing in choir. — 
30. Precautions against negligence. — 
31. All faults to be manifested. — 
32. The visitor to keep the secret. — 
33. Especially from the prioress. — 
34. Poverty to be strictly observed. — 
35. Necessity of exactness in the visitor. — 
36. The obligations of nuns 
           under the visitation. — 
37. Of the confessor. — 
38. Economy. — 
39. Of the dress. — 
40. And language. — 
41. Lawsuits to be avoided. — 
42. The admission of novices. — 
43. The visitor to be cautious 
          in his conduct. — 
44. And diligent in his visit. — 
45. Entertainment of the visitor. — 
46. Fray Jerome of the Mother of God. — 
47. The visitor must not be too friendly 
          with the prioress. — 
48. Self-deceit. — 
49. Difficult to overcome. — 
Letter to Father Jerome Gratian. 


                 Discussion of 
   The Visitation Of The Nunneries

    "Written  at the request 
                of Father Jerome Gratian, 
            then provincial of the Discalced Carmelites" 
                  [ Foundation: Introduction ]

            "Fray Jerome Gratian 
               of the Mother of God, 
              (who was) Provincial at the time. 
                ...has ordered me to write;       
                       for the sake of which, 
                God, being all-mighty, 
                 will do the work without regard unto me."
                     [ Visitation of  the Nunneries: #1
                           & Foot Note #1 ]
            "I began this work, 
                   in the matter of obedience, 
                                 [ Visitation of  the Nunneries: #1
            
      Written in 1576 in Toledo 
          
               "It appears to have been written 
                     in August or September 1576. 
                                 [ Foundation: Introduction ]
               "1576 
                     9th August 
                     She is settled in Toledo...
                     In Toledo the Saint continues 
                      the Book of the Foundations 
                          as far as ch. xxvii, 
                     adding to it the account 
                        of the foundations of
                     Segovia, Veas, Seville, and Caravaca
                     and writes 
                     The Visitation of the Nunneries
                     She ceases to write 
                        about the middle of November
                         [Foundations: Introduction:
                            Annals of the Saint's Life ]
      Originally written at  what was "the end" 
              of the Book of the Foundations in 1576
           
                Written at a time 
                    when the founding of new convents
                         - was interrupted and  
                         -  was thought to be finished.
                         "for I shall now begin 
                           the end of the Foundations"    
                          "and it may have a place there, 
                           for it will be very useful."
                                  [ Visitation of the Nunneries:
                                     Letter to Fr. Gratian ]
                         "probably written 
                          in August or September 1576

                          ...as the series of foundations  
                           had been interrupted by the troubles 
                             which had overtaken the Reform,
                           Saint Teresa could not foresee 
                             that at a later period 
                          more convents would be founded,   
                          necessitating the addition 
                              of other chapters..."
                               [ Visitation of the Nunneries:
                                      Foot Note # 17]
                   "The foundations are interrupted, 
                     none being made 
                          for more than four years, 
                     owing to the troubles 
                         arising out of the quarrel 
                     between the friars 
                           of the old observance 
                      and those 
                           of the Saint's reform 
                        (see Foundation: ch. xxviii. i)."
                                     [Foundations: Introduction:
                                      Annals of the Saint's Life  ]

     
              Later, St. Teresa was authorized to 
                  continue founding new convents
                  and so, her  Book of the Foundation
                        also was resumed until 1582, 
                    well beyond the  1576 writing 
                  of the 'Visitation of the Nunneries'.


                   "This paper is generally inserted 
                          among the letters of the Saint, 
                      and as she says 
                      that she is about to begin 
                            the 'end of the Foundations '
                      it has been placed among those 
                           of March or April 1582, 
                      but it was more probably written 
                           in August or September 1576
                     At that time there remained indeed 
                        several chapters to be added 
                     to that work
                       (see...ch. xxvii. 21)"     
                            [ Visitation of the Nunneries:
                                Foot Note # 17]

     That This writing  may be of service 
           "May it please our Lord
            that I may say something to the purpose...  
            God, being all-mighty,  will do the work 
                   without regard unto me. 
                     [ Visitation of the Nunneries: # 1]

          ...for it will be very useful."
                    [ Visitation of the Nunneries:
                           Letter to Father Jerome Gratian ]
          • Contains instructions 
                regarding the 49 topics
             listed in the "contents"  section 
                at the top of the page.
             The instructions are 
                 for the Carmelite Apostolic Visitor
              who makes an annual  review 
                  of each  convent 
              with its Prioress and its nuns.
              The instruction serve 
                  to familiarize the Visitor
                     with those areas 
                       that need to be reviewed
                       that may be problematic.
             They also contain information 
                      regarding the visitations
                   which was needed to be understood 
                       specifically by the prioresses  and
                       generally by the nuns.             
                  
       St. Teresa  asks Fr. Jerome 
           • to write his own instructions for 
                   the  Visitation
                 
   
                   "I entreat you, my father...
                       by writing certain instructions 
                    for the visitors"
                              [ Visitation of the Nunneries:
                                 Letter to Father Jerome Gratian ]
              and 
           • to improve on her writing as needed
                    "If in this 
                      anything has been done 
                          as it ought to have been done, 
                     it may be put into better order, 
                           and 
                      will be of service"
                               [ Visitation of the Nunneries:
                                  Letter to Father Jerome Gratian ]
    The importance of the standardized Visitation
             as documented by these instructions
          For the benefit of the Nuns
           • To identify and address faults
                 should they exist
              before they can develop into serious errors
                  "This is the reason 
                   why monasteries, and even orders 
                       are so fallen in some places; 
                    Slight things are slightly regarded, 
                          and 
                     hence the most grievous falls".           
                          [ Visitation of the Nunneries: #20]
                 "...the visitation, 
                   in order to 
                      correct affectionately and 
                      root out imperfections gradually, 
                   is made but once a year.
                  Unless the nuns understand 
                   that their faults will be 
                       redressed and punished 
                             at the year's end, 
                   - one year after another may pass away, 
                         and 
                   - religious observances may be so relaxed
                   as to make it impossible 
                        to restore them at will"
                                [ Visitation of the Nunneries: #4]
                 "If this be done,
                      the nuns 
                        will grow in perfection 
                                more and more, 
                                 and 
                      will not go back, 
                     for women in general 
                           are reverent and timid. 
                 All this will have a great effect 
                    in keeping them from becoming careless"
                           [ Visitation of the Nunneries: #35 ]
           For the preparation and foresight 
                     of the Visitor 
                    "May our Lord send us always a visitor 
                        who is wise and holy, 
                    such an one His Majesty will enlighten, 
                         so that he shall 
                     understand us and make no mistakes, 
                    for so shall every monastery be governed 
                         in the best way, 
                    and souls grow in perfection, 
                         to the honour and glory of God."
                             [ Visitation of the Nunneries: #49 ]
                   "May you, my father, 
                       do what you can 
                    to carry into execution these instructions, 
                        as you are doing at present 
                    in your visitations; 
                    for our Lord will supply the rest 
                        in His compassion, 
                                  and 
                    through the merits of the sisters, 
                    seeing that their object throughout 
                         is to render Him true service, 
                   and for that end 
                         to be instructed. 
                              [ Visitation of the Nunneries:
                                  Letter to Fr Jerome Gratian ]

                  "It is necessary to carry on 
                   what is now done by the superior 
                         whom our Lord has given us 
                         — I speak to those 
                              who shall come after him — "
                             [ Visitation of the Nunneries: #43 ]
        For the Prioress in maintaining the Rule
                 and faithfulness to the Constitution

              • "the chief reason 
                  why they are in office is
                    - that they are to see
                         that the rules and constitutions 
                           -- are kept
                         -- not to take away from them 
                         -- nor to add to them 
                                  of their own head; 
                           and 
                     -  that there must be one 
                           to see to this, and
                           to tell the superior of it." 
                             [ Visitation of the Nunneries: #21 ]

              • "Everything will go on well 
                   provided the constitutions are kept" 
                             
                   "...If great care be not taken 
                                herein, and
                                in the keeping of the rule, 
                        visitations will be of little use 
                         — for that is the meaning of them —   
                            [ Visitation of the Nunneries: #22 ]
           •   St. Teresa wrote to Fr Jerome 
                "...before...the constitutions 
                   of both friars and nuns were drawn up...
               
               'I wish we had the constitutions printed, 
                for they are not everywhere alike, 
                   and 
                there are prioresses who, 
                  without thinking they are doing anything, 
                add or omit what they please 
                   when they copy them. 
               Let a clear decree be made,
               that no one is to 
                 add to them or 
                 take anything from them' "     
                                [ Visitation of the Nunneries: 
                                   Foot Note #10 ]
  
        •    "It is to be observed 
              that there may be prioresses 
                 who will ask leave to be at liberty 
                       to do certain things 
                            contrary to the constitutions, 
                                   and 
                 who probably will give 
                   what they perhaps think sufficient reasons
                       to justify them, 
                          because they know no better, 
                                     or 
                          because they wish 
                               to make the superior 
                               understand it to be necessary. 
             And,  though what they ask 
                 may not be contrary to the constitutions, 
             still it may be such 
                 as will work mischief if  allowed"
                        [ Visitation of the Nunneries: #23 ]

       •    "It is necessary to ascertain 
              whether the prioresses add 
                    to the obligations of the nuns, 
               either in the matter of  prayers
               or in their penances. 
               It may happen 
               that each prioress  may add something 
                   at her own pleasure, 
                   of so special a nature, 
                           and 
               be so severe in exacting it, 
               that the nuns, overburdened, 
                     may lose their health, 
                          and 
                     be made thereby unable to discharge
                           their real obligations. 
                This is not meant as a prohibition
                     of all additions, 
                 if on any particular day 
                     some special need should be felt; 
                 some prioresses, however, 
                     may be so unwise
                 as to make almost a habit of it, 
                 as it often happens, 
     
                 and the nuns dare not speak out, 
                    thinking, if they were to do so, 
                 that it would show them 
                     to have but little devotion: 
                 nor is it right 
                 they should speak to any one 
                     but the superiors. 
                      [ Visitation of the Nunneries: #28 ]

       Because self-evaluation is  
                   subject to self-deception
                St. Teresa discusses the importance
                  of  the visitation 
                    to observe firsthand the convent's status
                   because of the difficulty 
                          of those, living there
                    to be objective in their self-examination.
                "...I had such trust 
                  that it seemed to me impossible 
                     for things to be otherwise
                  than as they represented them. 
                  But when I remained some days
                     in the house 
                  I was amazed to see everything 
                     so different from the account 
                          they gave me...
   
                 Accordingly, I have made up my mind 
                     never to trust any one 
                 before I have made inquiries enough...
    
                 for if that be not done 
                 what is wrong can hardly be set right."
                             [ Visitation of the Nunneries: #48]

              • The Prioress, herself, can be deceived
                "and yet it was the prioress 
                    who did not know herself, 
                  as she afterwards 
                     came to understand. 
                  I believe, myself, 
                  that Satan, 
                      not having many opportunities 
                         of tempting the sisters,
                   tempts the prioress in some things 
                        to think differently from the rest; 
                  "...I have made inquiries enough, 
                    that I may make her 
                      who is thus deceived 
                    feel that she is deceived; 
                    for if that be not done 
                     what is wrong can hardly be set right." 
                             [ Visitation of the Nunneries: #48]

                   "All this does not take place 
                        in grave matters, 
                     but out of them 
                        great evils may arise 
                     if we do not proceed with caution. 
                     I am amazed 
                     when I consider the cunning of Satan — 
                     how he makes every one think 
                     she is telling the greatest truth 
                         in the world: 
                    that is why I said
                     that the prioress is 
                         not to be altogether trusted, 
                         nor any one of the nuns either,
                    but inquiries should be made of many, 
                    if the matter be of importance, 
                      in order that a certain remedy 
                      might be provided."
                            [ Visitation of the Nunneries: #49]

            Conversely, the  Visitor can correct
                  fault-finding where there is no fault
         
              Regarding "nuns who find fault":

                  "There are some 
                     who in their own opinion 
                         are so excessively perfect 
                     that they consider everything they see
                         to be a fault, 
                      being always themselves 
                      the very persons 
                          who have the most faults, 
                      but, seeing none of them, 
                      they lay the whole blame 
                          on the poor prioress 
                                  or 
                          on the others."
                        [ Visitation of the Nunneries: #19]

                End of  the Discussion 
                                of
       The Visitation of The Nunneries
             
            The Book of the Foundations
                   of S. Teresa of Jesus 
            of the Order of our Lady of Carmel  

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