Takes up the course of her life again and tells how the Lord granted her great relief from her trials by bringing her a visit from the holy man Fray Peter of Alcantara, of the Order of the glorious Saint Francis. Discusses the severe temptations and interior trials which she sometimes suffered.

Now when I saw that I could do little or nothing to stop myself from experiencing these violent impulses, I began to be afraid of them, for I could not understand how distress and contentment could go together. I already knew that it was quite possible for physical distress and spiritual contentment to exist together in the same person but it bewildered me to experience such excessive spiritual distress and with it such intense joy. Though I still did not cease striving to resist, I could do so little that it sometimes fatigued me. I used to seek the protection of the Cross and to try to defend myself against Him Who through the Cross became the Protector of us all. I saw that no one understood me, though I understood it very clearly myself; I did not dare, however, to speak of it save to my confessor, for to have done so would certainly have been to proclaim that I had no humility.

The Lord was pleased to grant me relief from a great part of my trials, and, for the time being, from all of them, by bringing to this place the blessed Fray Peter of Alcantara, whom I mentioned earlier when I said something about his penitential life: among other things, I have been assured that for twenty years he continuously wore a shirt made of iron.[1] He is the author of some little books on prayer, written in Spanish,[2] which are being used a great deal nowadays; as he was a man with great experience of prayer, his writings are very profitable for those who practise it. He kept the Primitive Rule of the blessed Saint Francis in all its rigour, as well as doing those other things of which something has already been said.

In due course that servant of God -- the widow of whom I have spoken and who was a friend of mine[3] -- learned that this great man was here. She knew of my necessities, for she was a witness of my afflictions and used to afford me great consolation, her faith being so strong that she could not but believe that what most people said was of the devil was really the work of the Spirit of God; and, as she is a person of very great intelligence and is also most discreet and was receiving many favours from the Lord in prayer, His Majesty was pleased to enlighten her upon matters of which learned men were ignorant. My confessors gave me permission to relieve my mind by talking to her about certain things, because for a multitude of reasons she was a suitable person for such confidences. She sometimes shared in the favours which the Lord was granting me and would receive counsels which were of great benefit to her soul. Well, when she learned that this holy man was here, she said nothing to me but obtained leave from my Provincial for me to stay with her for a week so as to give me a better opportunity of consulting him. So on this occasion of his first visit I had many talks with him, both in her house and in several churches, and later I had a great deal to do with him on many occasions. I gave him a summary account of my life and method of prayer with the greatest clarity of which I was capable; for I have always acted on the principle of speaking with the utmost clarity and truth to those whom I consult about my soul. I would always try to reveal to them its very first motions and tell them even the most dubious and suspicious things about myself: indeed, in discussing these matters with them I would put forward arguments which told against me. I was able, therefore, to reveal my soul to Fray Peter without duplicity or concealment.

Almost from the beginning, I saw that, out of his own experience, he understood me. And that was all I needed; for I did not understand myself then as I do now, and I could not describe what I was experiencing. Since that time God has granted me the ability to understand and describe the favours which His Majesty sends me. But just then I needed someone who had gone through it all himself, for such a person alone could understand me and interpret my experiences. He enlightened me wonderfully about them. I had been unable, at least as regards the visions which were not imaginary, to understand what they could all mean: I did not see how I could understand the nature of visions which I saw with the eyes of the soul, for, as I have said, I had thought that only visions which can be seen with the bodily eyes are of any importance, and of these I had none.

This holy man enlightened me about the whole matter, explained it all to me and told me not to be distressed but to praise God and be quite certain that it was the work of the Spirit; with the exception of the Faith, he said, there could be nothing truer, and nothing in which I could more confidently believe. He derived great happiness from what I said to him, was helpful and kind to me in every way and ever afterwards took a great interest in me and told me about his own affairs and undertakings. When he saw that I had desires which he himself had already carried into effect -- for the Lord had bestowed very resolute desires upon me -- and when he found, too, that I was so full of courage, he delighted in talking to me about these things. For if the Lord brings anyone to this state he will find no pleasure or comfort equal to that of meeting with another whom he believes He has brought along the first part of the same road -- for at this time I could not, I think, have gone much farther than that: please God I may still be as far advanced as I was then.

He had the greatest compassion on me. He told me that the trial I had been suffering -- that is to say, the opposition of good people -- was one of the severest in the world and that there would be many more such trials awaiting me. I should therefore have continual need of someone who understood me and there was no such person in this city, but he would speak to the priest to whom I made my confessions, and also to one of those who caused me the deepest distress -- namely, that married man of whom I have already spoken. The latter, just because he bore me the greatest goodwill, opposed me more than anyone else: being a holy and God-fearing[4] soul, and having so recently seen how wicked I was, he could not bring himself to have any confidence about me. The saintly man did as he had said he would: he spoke to them both and put reasons and arguments before them as to why they should be reassured about me and not cause me any more disquiet. My confessor hardly needed the advice. This gentleman, however, even when he had heard it, was not completely convinced, but it was sufficient to prevent him from frightening me as much as he had been doing.

We arranged -- Fray Peter and I -- that from that time onward I should write and tell him of anything that happened to me and that we should commend each other earnestly to God; for so great was his humility that he thought that there was value in the prayers of this miserable creature, which made me very much ashamed. He left me greatly comforted and very happy, telling me to continue confidently in prayer and not to doubt that the prayer came from God. For my greater security, I was to report any doubts I might have to my confessor; and, provided I did this, I should feel safe all my life. I was unable, however, to experience this feeling of complete security, for the Lord was leading me by the road of fear, with the result that, whenever I was told that the devil was deceiving me, I would believe it. In reality, none of my advisers was able to make me feel either afraid enough or secure enough to believe in him rather than in the feelings which the Lord implanted in my soul. So, although Fray Peter comforted and calmed me, I had not sufficient trust in him to be wholly without fear, especially when the Lord left me with the spiritual trials which I shall now describe. But, on the whole, as I say, I was greatly comforted. I was never weary of giving thanks to God and to my glorious father Saint Joseph, who seemed to me to have brought Fray Peter here, as he was Commissary General of the Custody[5] of Saint Joseph, to whom, as to Our Lady, I used often to commend myself. I had sometimes to endure -- and still have, though to a lesser degree -- the sorest spiritual trials, together with bodily pains and tortures, so severe that I could do nothing to ease them. At other times I suffered from more grievous bodily ills, and, if I had no spiritual distress, I bore these with great joy. It was when both kinds of distress came upon me together that my trials were so great and caused me such deep depression. I would forget all the favours that the Lord had bestowed upon me: nothing would remain with me but the mere recollection of them, like the memory of a dream, and this was a great distress to me. For, when a person is in this condition, the understanding becomes stupid; and so I was tormented by a thousand doubts and suspicions. I thought that I had not understood it properly, and that it might have been my fancy, and that it was bad enough for me to be deluded myself, without deluding good men as well. I felt I was so evil that I began to think that all the evils and heresies that had arisen were due to my sins.

This is a false humility; and it was invented by the devil so that he might unsettle me and see if he could drive my soul to despair. I have had so much experience by now of the devil's work that he sees I know his tricks and so he troubles me much less with this kind of torture than he used to. His part in it is evident from the disquiet and unrest with which it begins, from the turmoil which he creates in the soul for so long as his influence lasts, and from the darkness and affliction into which he plunges it, causing it an aridity and an ill-disposition for prayer and for everything that is good. He seems to stifle the soul and to constrain the body, and thus to render both powerless. For, though the soul is conscious of its own wretchedness and it distresses us to see what we are and our wickedness seems to us to be of the worst possible kind -- as bad as that which has just been described -- and we feel it very deeply, yet genuine humility does not produce inward turmoil, nor does it cause unrest in the soul, or bring it darkness or aridity: on the contrary, it cheers it and produces in it the opposite effects -- quietness, sweetness and light. Though it causes us distress, we are comforted to see what a great favour God is granting us by sending us that distress and how well the soul is occupied. Grieved as it is at having offended God, it is also encouraged by His mercy. It is sufficiently enlightened to feel ashamed, but it praises His Majesty, Who for so long has borne with it. In that other humility, which is the work of the devil, the soul has not light enough to do anything good and thinks of God as of one who is always wielding fire and sword. It pictures God's righteousness, and, although it has faith in His mercy, for the devil is not powerful enough to make it lose its faith, yet this is not such as to bring me consolation, for, when my soul considers God's mercy, this only increases its torment, since I realize that it involves me in greater obligations.[6]

This is an invention of the devil, and one of the most grievous and subtle and dissembling that I have found in him, and so I should like to warn Your Reverence of it, so that, if he should tempt you in this way, you may have some light, and may recognize his hand, if he leaves you sufficient understanding for doing so. Do not suppose that learning and knowledge have anything to do with this, for I am wholly destitute of both, and yet, after escaping from the devil's wiles, I see quite clearly that this is folly. What I have learned is that the Lord is pleased to give him permission and leave to tempt us, just as He gave him leave to tempt Job, although, being so wicked, I am not myself tempted as severely as that.

I have, however, been tempted in this way -- once, I remember, on the day before the vigil of Corpus Christi, a festival to which I am devoted, though not so much so as I ought to be. On that occasion the temptation lasted only until the day of the festival: on other occasions it has lasted for a week or a fortnight, or even perhaps for three weeks, or it may have been even longer. In particular it used to come during Holy Week, a time when I would derive great comfort from prayer. What happens on such occasions is that the devil suddenly lays hold on my understanding, sometimes by making use of things so trifling that at any other time I should laugh at them. He confuses the understanding and does whatever he likes with it, so that the soul, fettered as it is and no longer its own mistress, can think of nothing but the absurdities which he presents to it -- things of no importance, which neither keep the soul in bondage nor allow it to be free, and enslave it only in the sense that they stupefy it until its control over itself is gone. It has sometimes seemed to me, indeed, that the devils behave as though they were playing ball with the soul, so incapable is it of freeing itself from their power. Its sufferings at such a time are indescribable. It goes about in search of relief and God allows it to find none; it has only the reasoning power derived from its free-will, and it is unable to reason clearly. I mean that its eyes seem to be almost blindfolded: it is like someone who has gone along a particular road again and again, so that, even if it is night, and quite dark, he knows by the instinct which comes from experience where he is likely to stumble, for he has seen the road by day and is therefore on his guard against that danger. Just so the soul, in avoiding giving offence to God, seems to be walking by habit. This explanation, however, leaves out of account the fact that the Lord has it in His keeping, which is the thing that matters.

At such a time, faith, like all the other virtues, is quite numbed and asleep. It is not lost, for the soul has a firm belief in what is held by the Church; but, though it can testify with the mouth, it seems in other respects to be oppressed and stupefied, and it feels as if it knows God only as something of which it has heard from afar off. So lukewarm does its love become that, if it hears Him spoken of, it listens, believing that He is Who He is, because this is held by the Church, but it retains no memory of its own experiences of Him. To go and say its prayers, or to be alone, only causes it greater anguish, for the inward torture which it feels, without knowing the source of it, is intolerable; and, in my opinion, bears some slight resemblance to hell. Indeed this is a fact, for the Lord revealed it to me in a vision: the soul is inwardly burning, without knowing who has kindled the fire, nor whence it comes, nor how to flee from it, nor with what to put it out. In vain does it seek a remedy in reading: it might as well be unable to read at all. Once I chanced to take up the Life of a saint, to see if I could become absorbed in the reading of it and find comfort in thinking of the saint's sufferings. But I read four or five lines as many times, and, though they were in Spanish, I understood less of them at the end than at the beginning; so I gave it up. This happened to me on many occasions but I have a particular recollection of that one.

To engage in conversation with anyone is worse still, for the devil then makes me so peevish and ill-tempered that I seem to want to snap everyone up. I cannot help this, but if I can keep myself in hand I feel I am doing something, or rather that the Lord is doing something when His hand restrains anyone in this condition from saying or doing anything which may harm his neighbour or offend God. Then again, it is certainly useless to go to one's confessor. I will tell you what often happened to me. Saintly as were those whom I was consulting at that time, and am consulting still, they would say such things to me, and reprove me with such asperity that, when I spoke to them about it later, they were astonished at it themselves but said that they had been unable to do otherwise. For, although they had previously made up their minds not to speak to me like this, and afterwards would be sorry they had done so, and even feel scruples about it because of these bodily and spiritual trials which I was suffering, the resolutions they had made to comfort me with words of compassion would fall to the ground.

The words they used were not wrong -- not offensive, I mean, to God -- but they were the strongest words of displeasure permissible in a confessor. Their aim must have been to mortify me, and, although at other times I delighted in mortification and was well able to bear it, it was now pure torture to me. Then, too, I used to think I was deceiving them, so I would go and warn them most earnestly to be on their guard against me in case I might be doing so. I knew quite well that I would not deceive them intentionally, or tell them a lie, but I was thoroughly afraid. One of them, realizing how I was being tempted, once told me not to be distressed, for, even if I tried to deceive him, he had discernment enough not to allow himself to be deceived.[7] This was a great comfort to me.

Sometimes -- almost habitually, indeed, or at least very frequently -- I would find relief after communicating. There were times, in fact, when the very act of approaching the Sacrament would at once make me feel so well, both in soul and in body, that I was astounded. I would feel as if all the darkness in my soul had suddenly been dispersed and the sun had come out and shown me the stupidity of the things I had been saying and doing. At other times, if the Lord spoke only one word to me (if, for example, as on the occasion I have already described, He said no more than "Be not troubled: have no fear"), that one word completely cured me, or, if I were to see some vision, it was as if there had been nothing wrong with me. I rejoiced in God and made my complaint to Him asking Him how He could allow me to suffer such tortures but telling Him that I was well rewarded for them, since when they were over, I almost invariably received favours in great abundance. My soul seemed to emerge from the crucible like gold, both brighter and purer, to find the Lord within it. So trials like these, unbearable as they may seem, eventually become light, and the soul becomes anxious to suffer again if by so doing it can render the Lord greater service. And, however numerous may be our troubles and persecutions, if we endure them without offending the Lord, but rejoice to suffer for His sake, they all work together for our greater gain -- though I do not myself bear them as they should be borne, but in a way which is most imperfect.

On other occasions these temptations came to me in another fashion, as they do still. At such times as these I seem to have been totally deprived of the possibility of thinking a single good thought or of desiring to put it into practice. My soul and body seem to be completely useless and merely a burden to me. But I do not then have these other temptations and discomforts: only a feeling of dissatisfaction -- with what, I do not know -- so that there is nothing in which my soul can take pleasure. I used to try to occupy myself with the outward performance of good works, and I would half force myself to do these, and I know well how little a soul can do when it is without grace. This did not cause me great distress, for I derived some satisfaction from realizing my own baseness. At other times I find myself unable to formulate a single definite thought, other than quite a fleeting one, about God, or about anything good, or to engage in prayer, even when I am alone; yet none the less I feel that I know Him.

It is the understanding and the imagination, I think, which are doing me harm here. My will, I believe, is good, and well-disposed to all good things; but this understanding is so depraved that it seems to be nothing but a raving lunatic -- no body can repress it and I have not myself sufficient control of it to keep it quiet for a moment. Sometimes I laugh at myself and realize what a miserable creature I am and then I keep an eye on my understanding and leave it alone to see what it will do; and for a wonder -- glory be to God! -- it never occupies itself with evil things, but only with indifferent ones, looking round for things to think about here, there and everywhere. I then become more conscious of the exceeding great favour which the Lord bestows on me when He keeps this lunatic bound and allows me to enjoy perfect contemplation. I sometimes reflect on what would happen if people who think of me as good were to see me in this condition of distraction. I am deeply grieved when I find that my soul is in such bad company. I want to see it free, so I say to the Lord: "When, my God, shall I at last see all the faculties of my soul united in Thy praise and having fruition of Thee? Permit my soul no longer, Lord, to be dispersed in fragments, with each fragment seeming to go its own way." This is an experience I often have, but sometimes I know quite well that my poor bodily health is having a great deal to do with it. I often think of the harm wrought in us by original sin; it is this, I believe, that has made us incapable of enjoying so much good all at once, and added to this are my own sins, for, had I not committed so many, I should have been more nearly perfect in goodness.

There was another great trial, too, which I suffered. I used to think I understood all the books dealing with prayer which I read, and that, as the Lord had bestowed this gift of prayer upon me, I no longer needed them. So I left off reading them and read only lives of saints, for, as I find myself falling so far short of the saints in the service which they rendered to God, such reading helps me and spurs me on to do better. Then it would occur to me that it showed a great lack of humility to suppose that I had received that gift of prayer, and, as I could not succeed in persuading myself of the contrary, I was greatly distressed, until learned men, and the blessed Fray Peter of Alcantara, told me not to let it trouble me. I realize perfectly that, although in granting me favours His Majesty treats me as He does many good people, I have not yet begun to serve Him, and that I am nothing but imperfection except in desire and love, with regard to which I know well the Lord has helped me so that I may render Him some service. I do really believe I love Him, but my actions and the many imperfections which I find in myself discourage me.

At other times my soul is troubled by what I should call a kind of foolishness: I seem to be doing neither good nor evil, but to be following the crowd, as they say, without experiencing either suffering or bliss. I care not whether I live or die, nor whether I experience pleasure or pain: I seem to feel nothing. The soul appears to me to be like a little ass, feeding and sustaining its life by means of the food which is given it and which it eats almost unconsciously. For the soul in this state cannot do otherwise than feed on some of God's great favours; it does not mind living this miserable life and bears its existence with equanimity, but it is quite unconscious of any motions or effects which might help it to understand its condition.

This, it now seems to me, is like sailing with a very calm wind: one makes great headway, but without knowing how, whereas in these other experiences the effects are so noticeable that the soul almost immediately becomes conscious of its improvement, for the desires begin at once to be aroused and the soul is never fully satisfied. This is the result of the violent impulses of love, which I have already mentioned, in those to whom God gives them. It reminds me of little springs which I have seen gushing up and which keep on incessantly stirring up the sand all around them. This, I think, is a very lifelike illustration or comparison to apply to souls which attain to this state. Love is continually bubbling up in them and thinking of the things it will do: it cannot remain where it is, just as the spring-water seems unable to remain in the earth, but issues forth from it. Just so, as a general rule, is it with the soul: such is the love it has that it can find no rest, nor can it contain itself, and it has already saturated the earth around. It would like others to drink of its love, since it has itself no lack of it, so that they might help it to praise God. Oh, how often do I remember the living water of which the Lord spoke to the woman of Samaria! I am so fond of that Gospel. I have loved it ever since I was quite a child -- though I did not, of course, understand it properly then, as I do now -- and I used often to beseech the Lord to give me that water. I had a picture of the Lord at the well, which hung where I could always see it, and bore the inscription: "Domine, da mihi aquam."[8]

This love is also like a great fire, which has always to be fed lest it should go out. Just so with the souls I am describing: cost them what it might, they would always want to be bringing wood, so that this fire should not die. For my own part, I am the sort of person who would be satisfied if she had even straw to throw upon it, and it is sometimes -- often, indeed -- like that with me. Now I am laughing; now I am greatly troubled. An inward impulse moves me to serve God in some way, but I am useless except for decking images with branches of trees and flowers, or for sweeping or tidying an oratory or doing other trifling things which I am ashamed of. If I did anything in the way of penance, it was all so insignificant that, unless the Lord would take the will for the deed, I realized how completely worthless it was and scoffed at my own self. It is no small trial, then, for souls to whom God in His goodness grants an abundance of this fire of His love, that they should lack bodily strength to enable them to do anything for Him. It is a very great grief; for, when a soul lacks the strength to throw any wood on this fire, and is frightened to death lest it should go out, I think it becomes consumed itself and turns into ashes, or melts into tears and is burned up; and this, though delectable, is severe torture.

Let the soul give great praise to the Lord when it has progressed as far as this, and when He has granted it bodily strength to enable it to do penance, or given it learning and talent and freedom to preach, hear confessions and bring souls to God. It has no knowledge or understanding of the blessing it possesses if it has not learned by experience what it is to be able to do nothing in the Lord's service and always to be receiving so much from Him. May He be blessed for all things and may the angels glorify Him. Amen.

I do not know if I am doing right to say so much about trifles. As Your Reverence has again sent me a message telling me not to mind writing at length and to omit nothing, I am continuing to give a true and clear description of everything that I remember. But I cannot help omitting a great deal, for otherwise I should have to devote much more time to this (and, as I said, I have so little time) without perhaps doing any good by it.


Treats of certain outward temptations and representations made to her by the devil and of tortures which he caused her. Discusses likewise several matters which are extremely useful for people to know if they are walking on the road to perfection.

Having described certain secret and inward disturbances and temptations inflicted upon me by the devil I shall now speak of others which he brought upon me almost in public and in which it was impossible not to detect his hand.

Once, when I was in an oratory, he appeared on my left hand in an abominable form; as he spoke to me, I paid particular attention to his mouth, which was horrible. Out of his body there seemed to be coming a great flame, which was intensely bright and cast no shadow. He told me in a horrible way that I had indeed escaped out of his hands but he would get hold of me still. I was very much afraid and made the sign of the Cross as well as I could, whereupon he disappeared, but immediately returned again. This happened twice running and I did not know what to do. But there was some holy water there, so I flung some in the direction of the apparition, and it never came back. On another occasion the devil was with me for five hours, torturing me with such terrible pains and both inward and outward disquiet that I do not believe I could have endured them any longer. The sisters who were with me were frightened to death and had no more idea of what to do for me than I had of how to help myself.

When the pains and the bodily suffering are quite intolerable, my custom is to make interior acts as well as I can, and to beseech the Lord, if it be His Majesty's good pleasure, to give me patience -- if only I have that I can keep on suffering in this way until the very end of the world. So, when on this occasion I found myself suffering so severely, I took to these acts and resolutions, using them as means which would enable me to bear the pain. The Lord evidently meant me to realize that this was the work of the devil, for I saw beside me a most hideous little negro, snarling as if in despair at having lost what he was trying to gain. When I saw him, I laughed and was not afraid. Some of the sisters who were with me were helpless and had no idea how to relieve such torture; for the devil had made me pound the air[9] with my body, head and arms and I had been powerless to resist him. But the worst thing had been the interior disquiet: I could find no way of regaining my tranquillity. I was afraid to ask for holy water, lest I should frighten my companions and they should discover what was wrong.

From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like holy water to put devils to flight and prevent them from coming back again. They also flee from the Cross, but return; so holy water must have great virtue. For my own part, whenever I take it, my soul feels a particular and most notable consolation. In fact, it is quite usual for me to be conscious of a refreshment which I cannot possibly describe, resembling an inward joy which comforts my whole soul. This is not fancy, or something which has happened to me only once: it has happened again and again and I have observed it most attentively. It is, let us say, as if someone very hot and thirsty were to drink from a jug of cold water: he would feel the refreshment throughout his body. I often reflect on the great importance of everything ordained by the Church and it makes me very happy to find that those words of the Church are so powerful that they impart their power to the water and make it so very different from water which has not been blessed.

Well, as my tortures did not cease, I said: "If you wouldn't laugh at me, I should ask for some holy water." So they brought me some and sprinkled me with it but it did me no good. Then I sprinkled some in the direction of the place where the little negro was standing and immediately he disappeared and all my troubles went, just as if someone had lifted them from me with his hand, except that I was as tired as if I had been dealt a great many blows. It edified me greatly to find that, when the Lord gives him permission, the devil can do so much harm to a soul and a body which are not his. For what, then, I thought, will he not do when he has them in his possession? And I felt a renewed desire to be freed from such pernicious companionship.

On another occasion, quite recently, the same thing happened to me, though it did not last so long and I was alone. I asked for holy water, and, after the devils had gone away, the next persons to come in (two nuns who may safely be believed, for they would not tell a lie for anything) noticed a very bad smell, like brimstone. I could not detect it myself but it had remained there long enough for them to have noticed it. On another occasion I was in choir when I felt a vehement impulse towards recollection. I went out, so that the sisters should not observe it, but all who were near me heard sounds where I was, like the noise of heavy blows, and I myself heard voices near me as though people were discussing something. I could not hear what they were saying, however: so deeply immersed was I in prayer that I heard nothing at all and I was not in the least afraid. This happened nearly always at times when the Lord was granting me the favour of allowing some soul, through my agency, to be making progress. What I am now going to describe is something which actually happened to me; and there are many people who will bear witness to this, in particular my present confessor,[10] who saw a written account of the occurrence in a letter. I did not tell him who the author of the letter was, but he knew quite well.

A person came to me who for two and a half years had been living in mortal sin -- one of the most abominable sins that I had ever heard of -- and during the whole of that time he neither confessed it nor amended his life, and yet went on saying Mass. And, though he confessed his other sins, when it came to that one, he would ask himself how he could possibly confess such a dreadful thing. He had a great desire to give it up but could not bring himself to do so. I was terribly sorry for him and very much distressed to find that God was being offended in such a way. I promised him that I would pray earnestly to God that He would help him and that I would get other people better than myself to do so too, and I wrote to a certain person who, he said, would be able to distribute the letters. And, lo and behold, at the first possible moment, he confessed; for through the many most saintly persons who at my request had prayed to Him on his behalf God was pleased to bestow this mercy upon his soul, and I, miserable though I am, had done what I could and taken the greatest pains about it. He wrote to me and said that he was now so much better that days passed without his falling into this sin, but he was suffering such tortures from temptation that his distress made him feel as if he were already in hell; and he asked me to commend him to God. I spoke about it again to my sisters, through whose prayers the Lord must have granted me this favour, and they took it very much to heart. (None of them could guess who he was.)[11] I begged His Majesty that these tortures and temptations might be assuaged and the devils be sent to torture me instead, provided I gave no offence to the Lord. This led me to suffer a month of the severest tortures and it was during that time that the two incidents happened which I have described.

It was the Lord's good pleasure that the devils should leave him; this I learned from letters, for I wrote to tell him what had been happening to me during the past month. His soul took new strength and he remained completely free from his sin and was never tired of giving thanks to the Lord and to me, as if I had done anything for him, unless he was helped by his belief that the Lord was granting me favours. He said that, when he found himself sorely oppressed, he would read my letters, and the temptation would leave him, and added that he was astounded to hear of what I had suffered and of how he had been delivered. I was astounded myself, for that matter, and I would have gone through as much for many years longer to set that soul free. May He be praised for everything, for the prayers of those who serve the Lord can do a great deal and I believe the sisters in this house do indeed serve Him. But the devils must have loosed most of their wrath on me because all this happened through my agency and the Lord permitted me to suffer on account of my sins.

One night, too, about this time, I thought the devils were stifling me; and when the nuns had sprinkled a great deal of holy water about I saw a huge crowd of them running away as quickly as though they were about to fling themselves down a steep place. So often have these accursed creatures tormented me and so little am I afraid of them, now that I see they cannot stir unless the Lord allows them to, that I should weary Your Reverence, and weary myself too, if I were to talk about them any further.

May what I have said help the true servant of God to make little account of these horrors, which the devils present us with in order to make us afraid. Let him realize that, every time we pay little heed to them, they lose much of their power and the soul gains much more control over them. We always derive some great benefit from these experiences, but of this benefit I will say nothing lest I should write too fully. I will only describe something that happened to me one night of All Souls. I was in an oratory: I had said one nocturn and was repeating some very devotional prayers which follow it -- they are extremely devotional: we have them in our office-book -- when actually the devil himself alighted on the book, to prevent me from finishing the prayer. I made the sign of the Cross and he went away. I then began again and he came back. I think I began that prayer three times and not until I had sprinkled some holy water on him could I finish it. At the same moment I saw several souls coming out of purgatory: their time there must have been nearly up and I thought that perhaps the devil was trying to impede their deliverance. I have seldom seen him in bodily shape, but I have often seen him without any form, as in the kind of vision I have described, in which no form is seen but the object is known to be there.

I want also to describe the following incident, which caused me great alarm. One Trinity Sunday, I was in the choir of a certain convent, and, while in a rapture, I saw a great battle between devils and angels. I could not understand the meaning of that vision, but before a fortnight had passed it had become clear that it referred to a conflict that had taken place between some persons who practised prayer and others who did not, which did the house great harm. It was a conflict which lasted a long time and caused a great deal of commotion. On other occasions I saw around me a great multitude of devils, and yet I seemed to be enveloped by a great light, which prevented them from coming nearer. I realized that God was guarding me so that they should not come near me and thus make me offend Him. From what I sometimes saw in myself, I knew the vision was a genuine one. The fact is, I realize so clearly now how little power the devils have, if I am not fighting against God, that I am hardly afraid of them at all: for their strength is nothing unless they find souls surrendering to them and growing cowardly, in which case they do indeed show their power. Sometimes, during the temptations I have already described, I would feel as if all my vanities and weaknesses of times past were re-awakening in me, and then I certainly had to commend myself to God. Until my confessor set my fears at rest, I was tormented by the idea that, because these thoughts came into my mind, I must be wholly possessed by the devil. For it seemed to me that not even the first impulse towards an evil thought ought to come to one on whom the Lord had bestowed so many favours. At other times I was greatly tormented -- and I still am even now -- by finding myself thought so much of, especially by people of importance, and so much good said of me. I have suffered a great deal from this, and suffer from it still. At such times I turn straight to the life of Christ and to the lives of the saints and realize that I am travelling in the opposite direction from that which they took, for they experienced nothing but contempt and insults. This makes me proceed very fearfully and as one who dares not lift her head, for I do not want to seem to be doing what I am not.

When I am undergoing persecutions, my body suffers and I am afflicted in other ways, but my soul is completely mistress of itself to an extent that I should not have thought possible. But that is how it is: on such occasions the soul seems to be in its own kingdom and to have all things under its feet. This happened to me several times and lasted for quite a number of days: it seemed to be a kind of virtue, and humility, but I can now see quite well that it was a temptation. A Dominican friar, who was a very learned man, gave me a clear explanation of this. When I thought that a knowledge of these favours which the Lord is granting me might become public, my torture grew so excessive that it greatly disturbed my soul. Such a pitch did it reach that, when I dwelt on the matter, I decided I would rather be buried alive than endure this. So, when these raptures or these periods of deep recollection began, and I could not resist them, even in public, I would become so ashamed after they were over as to want not to appear where anyone would see me.

Once, when I was very much troubled about this, the Lord asked me what I was afraid of, for only two things could happen -- people would either speak ill of me or praise Him. He meant that those who believed it was His work would praise Him, and those who did not would condemn me without my having done wrong, and that either course would be advantageous to me and therefore I must not be troubled. This calmed me a great deal and whenever I think of it, it still comforts me. The temptation reached such a point that I wanted and leave this place and go and take my dowry to another convent, much more strictly enclosed than the one I was then in, which I had heard remarkably well spoken of. It belonged to my own Order and was a long way away; it is the distance that would have given me the greatest relief, for I should have been where nobody knew me.[12] But my confessor never allowed me to go.

These fears robbed me of much freedom of spirit; later I came to see that all this restlessness on my part was not real humility. And the Lord revealed this truth to me: that if I believed resolutely and with conviction that anything good in me was not mine at all but came from God, then, just as I was not troubled at hearing other people praised but rather rejoiced and took comfort at seeing that God was showing His power in them, so, too, I should not be troubled if He were to show His works in me.

I also fell victim to another excess of zeal, which was to beseech God, and to make it my special prayer, that when a person thought there was any good in me, His Majesty would reveal my sins to him, so that he might see how utterly undeserving I was of these favours -- which is always my great desire. My confessor told me not to do this; but I continued to do it almost down to this day. If I observed that someone was thinking very well of me, I would manage, indirectly or in any way that I could, to make him aware of my sins. That seemed to bring me relief. My sins have made me very scrupulous about this.

This, however, I think, was not the result of humility, but often proceeded from a temptation. It seemed to me that I was deceiving everybody; and, though it is true that it was their own belief that there was some good in me which was deceiving them, I had no desire to deceive them, nor did I ever try to do so: for some reason the Lord permitted it. So, unless I saw that such a course was necessary, I said nothing about these things even to my confessors, for to do so would have caused me grave scruples. I realize now that all these little fears and troubles and this apparent humility were sheer imperfection, due to my lack of mortification. For a soul left in the hands of God cares nothing whether good or evil is spoken of it if it has a right understanding. And, when the Lord is pleased to grant it the grace of understanding, it must understand clearly that it has nothing of its own. Let it trust its Giver and it will learn why He reveals His gifts, and let it prepare itself for persecution, which at a time like the present is sure to come to a person when the Lord is pleased for it to be known that He is granting him such favours as these. For upon a soul like this are fixed a thousand eyes, whereas upon a thousand souls of baser texture there will not be fixed a single one.

In truth, there is no small reason here for being afraid, and I certainly ought to have been so -- I was being, not humble, but pusillanimous. For a soul which God allows to walk in this way in the sight of the whole world may well prepare itself to be martyred by the world, for, if it will not die to the world of its own free will, the world itself will kill it. Really, I can see nothing in the world that seems to me good save its refusal to allow that good people can ever do wrong and the way it perfects them by speaking ill of them. I mean that more courage is necessary for following the way of perfection, if one is not perfect, than for suddenly becoming a martyr; for perfection cannot be acquired quickly, except by one to whom by some particular privilege the Lord is pleased to grant this favour. When the world sees anyone setting out on that road it expects him to be perfect all at once and detects a fault in him from a thousand leagues' distance; yet in that particular person the fault may be a virtue, and his critic, in whom it is a vice, may be judging him by himself. They will not allow him to eat or sleep -- they will hardly let him breathe, as we say: the more highly they think of him, the more they seem to forget that he is still in the body. For, however perfect his soul may be, he is still living on earth, and however resolutely he may trample earth's miserable limitations beneath his feet, he is still subject to them. And so, as I say, he needs great courage. His poor soul has not yet begun to walk, and men expect it to fly. He has not yet conquered his passions, and men expect him to rise to great occasions and be as brave as they read the saints were after they had been confirmed in grace. What happens here gives us cause for praising the Lord and also for great sorrow of heart, since so many poor souls turn back because they have no idea what to do to help themselves. And I believe my soul would have been like them had not the Lord Himself had such compassion on me and done everything for me. Until He of His goodness had done everything, I myself did nothing, as Your Reverence will know, but fall and rise again.

I wish I knew how to express this, for many souls, I believe, go wrong here and want to fly before God gives them wings. I think I have made this comparison somewhere before, but it is very much to the point, so I will attempt it again, for I find that some souls are very much distressed by this. They begin with good desires, and fervour, and determination to advance in virtue, and some of them give up all external things for God. Then they see in others who are more fully grown in grace many notable fruits, in the shape of virtues given them by the Lord -- for we cannot acquire these ourselves. They see in all the books written on prayer and contemplation a description of things which we must do in order to rise to that dignity. And, as they themselves cannot manage to do all these things, they lose courage. I refer to such things as not caring if people speak ill of us, but being more pleased than when they speak well; holding our own reputation in little esteem; cultivating detachment from our kindred and, unless they be persons of prayer, not desiring converse with them but finding it wearisome; and many other things of that kind. These, I think, must be bestowed upon us by God, for they seem to me to be supernatural blessings, contradicting our natural inclinations. They must not be troubled, but hope in the Lord; for what they now are in desire His Majesty will, if they pray and do what they can for themselves, make them to be in very deed. It is most necessary that this weak nature of ours should have great confidence, and not be dismayed or think that, if we do our utmost, we can fail to come out victorious.

As I have a great deal of experience here, I will say something to Your Reverence by way of counsel. Do not think, even though it may seem so to you, that anyone has acquired a virtue when he has not tested it by its corresponding vice. We must always guard our misgivings, and never, all our lives long, grow careless, for much of the world will cling to us, if, as I say, God has not given us the grace fully to understand the nature of everything; and there is never anything in this life which is not attended by many dangers. A few years ago, I believed, not merely that I was not attached to my relatives, but that they were wearisome to me, and this was certainly true, for I could not endure their conversation. Then a matter of great importance cropped up and I had to go and stay with a sister of mine of whom, in the past, I had been extremely fond.[13] Though she is a better woman than I am, I could not get on with her at all in conversation; for as she is married, and therefore lives a different kind of life, we could not always be talking of the things I should have liked, and all I could do was to try to be alone. But I found that when she was distressed it affected me much more than when my neighbours were; sometimes, in fact, I would be quite concerned about her. In short, I discovered that I was not as free from attachment as I had supposed and indeed that I needed to avoid occasions of sin, so that this virtue, which the Lord had begun to implant in me, might grow; and with His help I have done my utmost to cultivate it ever since.

When the Lord begins to implant a virtue in us, it must be esteemed very highly and we must on no account run the risk of losing it. So it is in matters concerning our reputation[14] and in many others. Your Reverence can be quite sure that we are not all completely detached when we think we are and it is essential that we should never be careless about this. If any person wishing to make progress in spiritual matters finds that he is becoming punctilious about his reputation, let him believe what I say and put this attachment right behind him, for it is a chain which no file can sever; only God can break it, with the aid of prayer and great effort on our part. It seems to me to be an impediment on this road and I am amazed at the harm it does. I see some people whose actions are very holy and who do such wonderful things that everyone is astonished at them. God bless me, then! Why are such souls still on earth? How is it that they have not reached the summit of perfection? What is the reason for this? What can it be that is impeding one who is doing so much for God? Why, simply his punctiliousness about his reputation! And the worst of it is that this sort of person will not realize that he is guilty of such a thing, the reason sometimes being that the devil tells him that punctiliousness is incumbent upon him.

Let such persons believe me, then: for the love of the Lord let them believe this little ant, for she speaks because it is the Lord's will that she should do so. If they fail to remove this caterpillar, it may not hurt the whole tree, for some of the other virtues will remain, but they will all be worm-eaten. The tree will not be beautiful: it will neither prosper itself nor allow the trees near it to do so, for the fruit of good example which it bears is not at all healthy and will not last for long. I repeat this: however slight may be our concern for our reputation, the result of it will be as bad as when we play a wrong note, or make a mistake in time, in playing the organ -- the whole passage will become discordant. Such concern is a thing which harms the soul whenever it occurs; but in the life of prayer it is pestilential.

You are trying to attain to union with God. We want to follow the counsels of Christ, on Whom were showered insults and false witness. Are we, then, really so anxious to keep intact our own reputation and credit? We cannot do so and yet attain to union, for the two ways diverge. When we exert our utmost efforts and try in various ways to forgo our rights, the Lord comes to the soul. Some will say: "I have nothing to forgo: I never get an opportunity of giving up anything." But if anyone has this determination I do not believe the Lord will ever allow him to lose so great a blessing. His Majesty will arrange so many ways in which he may gain this virtue that he will soon have more than he wants. I would urge you, then, to set to work and root out things which are of little or no consequence, just as I used to do when I began -- or, at least, some of them. They are mere straws; and, as I have said, I throw them on the fire. I am incapable of doing more than that, but the Lord accepts it: may He be blessed for ever.

One of my faults was this: I knew very little of my office book, and of what I ought to do in choir, and of how to behave, simply because I was careless and absorbed in other vanities. I saw other novices who could have taught me these things, but I did not ask them to do so, lest they should become aware how little I knew. But good example soon prevails: that, at least, is the general rule. Once God opened my eyes a little, I would ask the other girls' opinion[15] even when I knew something but was the slightest bit in doubt about it; and my doing so damaged neither my honour[16] nor my credit -- in fact I think the Lord has been pleased since then to give me a better memory. I was bad at singing and I felt it very deeply if I had not studied what was entrusted to me: not for my shortcomings in the Lord's eyes -- that would have been virtue -- but because of all the nuns who were listening to me. Merely out of concern for my own honour I was so much perturbed that I did much worse than I need have done. Later, when I did not know my part very well, I made a point of saying so. At first, this hurt me terribly but after a time I began to take pleasure in it. And when I ceased caring if my ignorance were known or not, I got on much better. So this miserable concern for my honour prevented me from being able to do what I really regarded as an honour, for everyone interprets the word "honour" to mean what he chooses.

By means of these nothings, which after all actually are nothing (and I, too, am certainly nothing, to be hurt by a thing like this), one's actions gradually become worthier. And if we take trouble over such trifling things, to which God attaches importance because they are done for Him, His Majesty helps us to do greater ones. And so it was with me in matters concerning humility; seeing that all the nuns except myself were making progress (for I myself was always a good-for-nothing) I would collect their mantles when they left the choir. I felt that by doing this I was serving angels who were praising God there, until -- I do not know how -- they came to hear of it, which made me not a little ashamed. For my virtue had not reached the point of desiring them to know of these things -- not out of humility, but lest they should laugh at me over something so unimportant.

O my Lord, how ashamed I am at having to confess all this wickedness! I go on counting these little grains of sand, which as yet were not being stirred up in the riverbed for Thy service, but were embedded in all kinds of filth.[17] The water of Thy grace was not yet flowing beneath all this sand to stir it up. O my Creator, if only amid so many things that are evil I had a few that were worthy of enumeration, to set beside the great favours that I have received from Thee! But thus it is, my Lord, and I know not how my heart can bear it or how anyone who reads this can fail to abhor me when he sees how ill I have requited such exceeding great favours and that despite all this I am not ashamed to reckon any services that I may have rendered Thee as my own. In reality, my Lord, I am ashamed to do so, but the fact that I have nothing else of my own to enumerate makes me speak of such mean beginnings so that those who began better may be hopeful that, as the Lord has taken notice of these, He will take notice of theirs still more. May it please His Majesty to give me grace so that I may not always remain a beginner. Amen.


Tells how the Lord was pleased to carry her in spirit to a place in hell which she had merited for her sins. Describes a part of what was shown her there. Begins to tell of the way and means whereby the convent of Saint Joseph was founded in the place where it now is.

A long time after the Lord had granted me many of the favours which I have described, together with other very great ones, I was at prayer one day when suddenly, without knowing how, I found myself, as I thought, plunged right into hell. I realized that it was the Lord's will that I should see the place which the devils had prepared for me there and which I had merited for my sins. This happened in the briefest space of time, but, even if I were to live for many years, I believe it would be impossible for me to forget it. The entrance, I thought, resembled a very long, narrow passage, like a furnace, very low, dark and closely confined; the ground seemed to be full of water which looked like filthy, evil-smelling mud, and in it were many wicked-looking reptiles. At the end there was a hollow place scooped out of a wall, like a cupboard, and it was here that I found myself in close confinement. But the sight of all this was pleasant by comparison with what I felt there. What I have said is in no way an exaggeration.

My feelings, I think, could not possibly be exaggerated, nor can anyone understand them. I felt a fire within my soul the nature of which I am utterly incapable of describing. My bodily sufferings were so intolerable that, though in my life I have endured the severest sufferings of this kind -- the worst it is possible to endure, the doctors say, such as the shrinking of the nerves during my paralysis[18] and many and divers more, some of them, as I have said, caused by the devil -- none of them is of the smallest account by comparison with what I felt then, to say nothing of the knowledge that they would be endless and never-ceasing. And even these are nothing by comparison with the agony of my soul, an oppression, a suffocation and an affliction so deeply felt, and accompanied by such hopeless and distressing misery, that I cannot too forcibly describe it. To say that it is as if the soul were continually being torn from the body is very little, for that would mean that one's life was being taken by another; whereas in this case it is the soul itself that is tearing itself to pieces. The fact is that I cannot find words to describe that interior fire and that despair, which is greater than the most grievous tortures and pains. I could not see who was the cause of them, but I felt, I think, as if I were being both burned and dismembered; and I repeat that that interior fire and despair are the worst things of all.

In that pestilential spot, where I was quite powerless to hope for comfort, it was impossible to sit or lie, for there was no room to do so. I had been put in this place which looked like a hole in the wall, and those very walls, so terrible to the sight, bore down upon me and completely stifled me. There was no light and everything was in the blackest darkness. I do not understand how this can be, but, although there was no light, it was possible to see everything the sight of which can cause affliction. At that time it was not the Lord's will that I should see more of hell itself, but I have since seen another vision of frightful things, which are the punishment of certain vices. To look at, they seemed to me much more dreadful; but, as I felt no pain, they caused me less fear. In the earlier vision the Lord was pleased that I should really feel those torments and that affliction of spirit, just as if my body had been suffering them. I do not know how it was, but I realized quite clearly that it was a great favour and that it was the Lord's will that I should see with my own eyes the place from which His mercy had delivered me. It is nothing to read a description of it, or to think of different kinds of torture (as I have sometimes done, though rarely, as my soul made little progress by the road of fear): of how the devils tear the flesh with their pincers or of the various other tortures that I have read about -- none of these are anything by comparison with this affliction, which is quite another matter. In fact, it is like a picture set against reality, and any burning on earth is a small matter compared with that fire.

I was terrified by all this, and, though it happened nearly six years ago, I still am as I write: even as I sit here, fear seems to be depriving my body of its natural warmth. I never recall any time when I have been suffering trials or pains and when everything that we can suffer on earth has seemed to me of the slightest importance by comparison with this; so, in a way, I think we complain without reason. I repeat, then, that this vision was one of the most signal favours which the Lord has bestowed upon me: it has been of the greatest benefit to me, both in taking from me all fear of the tribulations and disappointments of this life and also in strengthening me to suffer them and to give thanks to the Lord, Who, as I now believe, has delivered me from such terrible and never-ending torments.

Since that time, as I say, everything has seemed light to me by comparison with a single moment of such suffering as I had to bear during that vision. I am shocked at myself when I think that, after having so often read books which give some idea of the pains of hell, I was neither afraid of them nor rated them at what they are. What could I have been thinking of? How could anything give me satisfaction which was driving me to so awful a place? Blessed be Thou, my God, for ever! How plain it has become that Thou didst love me, much more than I love myself! How often, Lord, didst Thou deliver me from that gloomy prison and how I would make straight for it again, in face of Thy will!

This vision, too, was the cause of the very deep distress which I experience because of the great number of souls who are bringing damnation upon themselves -- especially of those Lutherans, for they were made members of the Church through baptism. It also inspired me with fervent impulses for the good of souls: for I really believe that, to deliver a single one of them from such dreadful tortures, I would willingly die many deaths. After all, if we see anyone on earth who is especially dear to us suffering great trial or pain, our very nature seems to move us to compassion, and if his sufferings are severe they oppress us too. Who, then, could bear to look upon a soul's endless sufferings in that most terrible trial of all? No heart could possibly endure it without great affliction. For even earthly suffering, which after all, as we know, has a limit and will end with death, moves us to deep compassion. And that other suffering has no limit: I do not know how we can look on so calmly and see the devil carrying off as many souls as he does daily.

This also makes me wish that in so urgent a matter we were not ourselves satisfied with anything short of doing all that we can. Let us leave nothing undone; and to this end may the Lord be pleased to grant us His grace. I recall that, wicked creature though I was, I used to take some trouble to serve God and refrain from doing certain things which I see tolerated and considered quite legitimate in the world; that I had serious illnesses, and bore them with great patience, which the Lord bestowed on me; that I was not given to murmuring or speaking ill of anyone, nor, I think, could I ever have wished anyone ill; that I was not covetous and never remember having been envious in such a way as grievously to offend the Lord; and that I abstained from certain other faults, and, despicable though I was, lived in the most constant fear of God. And yet look at the place where the devils had prepared a lodging for me! It is true, I think, that my faults had merited a much heavier punishment; but none the less, I repeat, the torture was terrible, and it is a perilous thing for a soul to indulge in its own pleasure or to be placid and contented when at every step it is falling into mortal sin. For the love of God, let us keep free from occasions of sin and the Lord will help us as He has helped me. May it please His Majesty not to let me out of His hand lest I fall once more, now that I have seen the place to which that would lead me. May the Lord forbid this, for His Majesty's sake. Amen.

After I had seen this vision, and other great things and secrets which, being what He is, the Lord was pleased to show me, concerning the bliss reserved for the good and the affliction for the wicked, I desired to find some way and means of doing penance for all my evil deeds and of becoming in some degree worthy to gain so great a blessing. I desired, therefore, to flee from others and to end by withdrawing myself completely from the world. My spirit was restless, yet the restlessness was not disturbing but pleasant: I knew quite well that it was of God and that His Majesty had given my soul this ardour to enable me to digest other and stronger meat than I had been in the habit of eating.

I would wonder what I could do for God, and it occurred to me that the first thing was to follow the vocation for a religious life which His Majesty had given me by keeping my Rule with the greatest possible perfection. And although in the house where I was living[19] there were many servants of God, and He was well served in it, yet, as it was very needy, we nuns would often leave it for other places where we could live honourably and keep our vows. Furthermore, the Rule was not observed in its primitive rigour but, as throughout the Order, according to the Bull of Mitigation.[20] There were also other disadvantages, such as the excessive amount of comfort which I thought we had, for the house was a large and pleasant one. But this habit of frequently going away (and I was one who did it a great deal) was a serious drawback to me, for there were certain persons, to whom my superiors could refuse nothing, who liked to have me with them, and so, when importuned by these persons, they would order me to go and visit them. So things went on until I was able to be in the convent very little; the devil must have had something to do with my being away so much, though at the same time I was in the habit of repeating to some of the nuns the things taught me by the people I met and these did them a great deal of good.

One day it happened that a person to whom I was talking,[21] with some other sisters, asked me why we should not become Discalced nuns,[22] for it would be quite possible to find a way of establishing a convent. I had had desires of this kind myself, so I began to discuss the matter with a companion -- that widowed lady who, as I have said before, had the same desire. She began to think out a way to find the money for such a house; I see now that that would not have got us very far, though our desire to achieve our object made us think that it would. But, for my own part, I was most happy in the house where I was, for I was very fond both of the house and of my cell, and this held me back. None the less, we agreed to commend the matter very earnestly to God.

One day, after Communion, the Lord gave me the most explicit commands to work for this aim with all my might and made me wonderful promises -- that the convent would not fail to be established; that great service would be done to Him in it; that it should be called Saint Joseph's; that He[23] would watch over us at one door and Our Lady at the other; that Christ would go with us; that the convent would be a star giving out the most brilliant light; and that, although the Rules of the religious Orders were mitigated, I was not to think He was very little served in them, for what would become of the world if it were not for religious? I was to tell my confessor this[24] and to say that it was He Who was giving me this command and that He asked him not to oppose it nor to hinder me in carrying it out.

So great was the effect upon me of this vision and such was the nature of these words which the Lord addressed to me that I could not doubt that it was He Who had uttered them. This caused me the deepest distress, because I had a fairly good idea of the serious disturbances and trials which the work would cost me. I was very happy, too, in that house, and, though in the past I had been accustomed to speak of such a foundation, it had not been with any great degree of determination or certainty that the thing would be done. I felt now that a great burden was being laid upon me, and, when I saw that I was at the beginning of a very disturbing time, I became doubtful what I should do. But the Lord appeared and spoke to me about it again and again, and so numerous were the motives and arguments which He put before me, in such a way that I saw that they were valid and that the project was His will, that I dared not do otherwise than speak to my confessor about it and give him a written account of everything that took place.

He did not venture to tell me expressly to give up the idea, but he saw that, humanly speaking, there was no way of putting it into practice, since my companion, who was to be the person to effect this, had no resources at all, or very scanty ones. He told me to talk it over with my Superior, and to do what he advised. I did not discuss these visions with the Superior, but the lady who was desirous of founding this convent had a talk with him, and the Provincial,[25] who is well-disposed to the religious Orders, took to the idea very well, gave her all necessary help and told her he would give the house his sanction. They discussed the revenue which the convent would need, and we decided that, for many reasons, the number of nuns in the convent ought never to exceed thirteen. Before beginning to discuss the matter we had written to the holy Fray Peter of Alcantara and told him all that was happening. He advised us not to desist from our work and gave us his opinion about the whole matter.

Hardly had news of the project begun to be known here than there descended upon us a persecution so severe that it is impossible in a few words to describe it: people talked about us, laughed at us and declared that the idea was ridiculous. Of me, they said that I was all right in the convent where I was living, while my companion was subjected to such persecution that it quite exhausted her. I did not know what to do, for up to a certain point I thought these people were right. Worn out with it all as I was, I commended myself to God and His Majesty began to give me consolation and encouragement. He told me that I could now see what those saints who had founded religious Orders had suffered: they had had to endure much more persecution than any I could imagine and we must not allow ourselves to be troubled by it. He told me certain things which I was to say to my companion, and to my absolute amazement we at once felt comforted by what had happened and courageous enough to resist everybody. And it is a fact that, at that time, both among people of prayer and in the whole place, there was hardly anyone who was not against us and did not consider our project absolutely ridiculous.[26]

There was so much commotion and talk of this kind in my own convent that the Provincial thought it would be hard for him to set himself against everybody; so he changed his mind and refused to sanction the plan. He said that the revenue was not assured, that in any case there would be too little of it, and that the plan was meeting with considerable opposition. In all this he appeared to be right. So he dropped the matter and refused to sanction the new convent. We, on whom the first blows now seemed to have fallen, were very much distressed at this, and I myself was particularly so at finding the Provincial against me, for his previous approval of the plan had justified me in the eyes of all. My companion was refused absolution unless she would give up the idea; it was incumbent on her, she was told, to remove the scandal.

She went to talk the matter over with a very learned man, a most devout servant of God, of the Order of Saint Dominic,[27] and to him she detailed the whole story. This she did even before the Provincial withdrew his support from us, for we had no one in the whole place who would advise us in the matter; and it was for that reason that they said the whole thing had come out of our own heads. The lady gave this holy man an account of everything and told him how much revenue she derived from her estate; she hoped very much that he would help us, since at that time he was the most learned man in the place, and there are few more learned than he in his entire Order. I myself told him all that we were proposing to do and some of the reasons for it. I said nothing to him about any of the revelations I had had, but only described the reasons, other than supernatural, which were prompting me, for it was these alone that I wanted him to take into account when giving us his opinion. He told us that we must allow him a week to think the matter over before answering and asked if we were definitely going to act upon whatever he said. I told him we were; but although I said this, and I think I would have acted upon it,[28] I never for a moment lost my confidence that the foundation would be made. My companion had more faith; and, whatever people might say to her, nothing would persuade her to abandon it.

For my own part, although, as I say, the abandonment of the project seemed to me impossible, I believed the revelation to be true only in the sense that it was not contrary to what is in Holy Scripture or to the laws of the Church which we are obliged to keep; for, despite my belief that it really came from God, if that learned man had told me that we could not act upon it without offending Him and that we were acting against our conscience, I think I should at once have abandoned the plan and sought some other way. But the Lord showed me no other way than this. Later, this servant of God told me that at one point he had definitely decided to urge us to give the project up, because his attention had been directed to the popular clamour, and also because to him, as to everyone else, it had seemed folly; that a certain gentleman, on hearing that we had gone to him, had sent to advise him to be careful what he did and not to help us; but that, when he had begun to consider what he should say to us, to think over the matter, and to reflect upon the intentions that were prompting us, the way we were setting to work and our concern for our Order, he became convinced that we should be rendering God a great service and that the scheme must not be abandoned. And so his answer was that we should make haste to carry it out; he told us by what ways and methods this should be done; and, although our income was small, we must be prepared to some extent to trust God. Anyone, he said, who offered further opposition should be referred to him for an answer; and he always helped us in this way, as I shall show later.

We were greatly comforted by this, and also by the fact that several saintly persons, who had previously been against us, were now better disposed and some of them actually helped us. One of these was the saintly gentleman whom I have already mentioned. He now felt that the project, being founded, as in fact it was, on prayer, would lead to great perfection, and though he thought it would be difficult and impracticable to find the necessary means for making the foundation, he gave up his former view and decided that the idea might be from God, in which decision the Lord Himself must have inspired him. He also inspired that Master, the cleric and servant of God to whom, as I said, I had spoken first of all, who is a pattern to the whole place and a person whom God keeps there for the help and profit of many souls.[29] He, too, came forward to help me in the matter. And while things were in that position, and many people were continually helping us by their prayers, we practically completed the negotiations for purchasing the house. It was a small one, but that did not trouble me in the least, for the Lord had told me to start work as well as I could and in due course I should see what His Majesty would do for us. (And how clearly I have seen it!) And so, though I realized our income would be small, I believed that the Lord would have other ways of arranging things for us and would give us His help.


Proceeds with the same subject -- the foundation of the convent of the glorious Saint Joseph. Tells how she was commanded not to continue it, how for a time she gave it up, how she suffered various trials and how in all of them she was comforted by the Lord.

It was when matters had reached this position and were so near completion that the deeds were to be signed on the following day that the attitude of our Father Provincial suddenly changed. I believe, and it has since become apparent, that this change was by Divine appointment; for, while all these prayers were being offered for us, the Lord was perfecting His work and arranging for it to be accomplished in another way. As the Provincial would not now sanction the foundation, my confessor at once forbade me to go on with it, though the Lord knows what sore trials and afflictions it had cost me to bring it to its present state. When the project was given up, and remained unaccomplished, people became still more certain that it was all some ridiculous women's idea, and the evil-speaking against me increased, though until then I had been acting on my Provincial's orders.

I was now very unpopular throughout my convent for having wanted to found a convent more strictly enclosed. The nuns said that I was insulting them; that there were others there who were better than myself, and so I could serve God quite well where I was; that I had no love for my own convent; and that I should have done better to get money for that than for founding another. Some said I ought to be thrown into the prison-cell;[30] others came out on my side, though of these there were very few. I saw quite well that in many respects they were right and I could sometimes make allowances for them; although, as I could not tell them the principal thing -- namely, that I had been obeying the Lord's command -- I did not know what to do and so was silent. At other times God was so gracious to me that none of this worried me in the slightest; I gave up the project as easily and happily as though it had cost me nothing. This nobody could believe, not even the very persons, given to prayer as they were, with whom I had to do: they supposed I must be very much distressed and ashamed -- even my confessor could not really believe that I was not. It seemed to me that I had done all I possibly could to fulfil the Lord's command and that therefore I had no further obligation. So I remained in my own house, quite content and happy. I could not, however give up my belief that the task would be duly accomplished and, though I was unable to forecast the means and knew neither how nor when the work would be done, I was quite sure that it would be done in time.

What troubled me a great deal was that on one occasion my confessor[31] wrote me a letter of a kind which suggested that I had in some way been acting against his wishes. It must have been the Lord's will that I should not be immune from trials coming from the source which would cause me the greatest pain. For, amid this multitude of persecutions, my confessor, whom I had expected to console me, wrote that I must now have realized that all that had happened was just a dream and that henceforth I must lead a better life and not try to do anything more of the kind or talk about it any further, since I now saw what scandal it had occasioned. He said other things, too, all of them very distressing. This troubled me more than everything else put together, for I wondered if I had myself been an occasion of sin to others, if it had been my fault that offence had been given to God, if these visions were illusory, if all my prayer had been a deception and if I was sorely deluded and lost. These thoughts oppressed me to such an extent that I was quite upset by them and plunged into the deepest affliction. But the Lord, Who never failed me, and in all these trials which I have enumerated often comforted and strengthened me, in a way that need not here be described, told me at once not to distress myself and said that I had not offended Him in the matter at all but had rendered Him great service. He told me to do what my confessor ordered me and to keep silence for the present and until the time came for the project to be resumed. This brought me such comfort and satisfaction that all the persecution which I was undergoing seemed nothing at all.

The Lord now showed me what a signal blessing it is to suffer trials and persecutions for His sake, for so great was the growth in my soul of love for God and of many other graces that I was astounded, and this made me incapable of ceasing to desire trials. The other people thought I was very much ashamed -- as indeed I should have been had the Lord not helped me in these straits by granting me such great favours. It was now that I began to experience the increasingly strong impulses of the love of God which I have described, and also deeper raptures, although I was silent on this subject and never spoke to anyone of what I had gained. The saintly Dominican[32] did not cease to share my certainty that the project would be accomplished; and, as I myself would take no further part in it, lest I should run contrary to the obedience which I owed my confessor, he discussed it with my companion and they wrote to Rome and sought a way out.

And now the devil began to contrive that one person after another should hear that I had received some kind of revelation about this matter, and people came to me in great concern to say that these were bad times and that it might be that something would be alleged against me and I should have to go before the Inquisitors. But they only amused me and made me laugh, because I never had any fear about this. I knew quite well that in matters of faith no one would ever find me transgressing even the smallest ceremony of the Church, and that for the Church or for any truth of Holy Scripture I would undertake to die a thousand deaths. So I told them not to be afraid, for my soul would be in a very bad way if there were anything about it which could make me fear the Inquisition. If ever I thought there might be, I would go and pay it a visit of my own accord; and if anything were alleged against me the Lord would deliver me and I should be very much the gainer. I discussed this with my Dominican Father, who, as I say, was a very learned man, so that I knew I could rely on anything he might say to me. I told him, as clearly as I could, all about my visions, my way of prayer and the great favours which the Lord was granting me, and I begged him to think it all over very carefully, to let me know if there was anything in them contrary to Holy Scripture and to tell me his feelings about the whole matter. He reassured me a great deal and I think it was a help to him too; for, although he was very good, from that time onward he devoted himself much more to prayer, and retired to a monastery of his Order where there is great scope for solitude, so that he might the better practise prayer; and here he stayed for over two years.[33] He was then commanded under obedience to leave, which caused him great regret, but he was such an able man that they needed him.

In one way, I was very sorry when he went, because I too needed him badly. But I did nothing to unsettle him, for I realized that the gain was his; and, when I was feeling very much grieved at his departure, the Lord told me to take comfort and not be distressed, because he was being led in the right way. When he came back, his soul had made such progress and his spiritual growth had been so great that he told me after his return that he would not have missed going for anything. And I too could say the same thing; for previously he had been reassuring and comforting me only by his learning, whereas now he did so as well by the ample spiritual experience which he had acquired of things supernatural. And God brought him back just at the right time, for His Majesty saw that he would be needed to help with this convent, the foundation of which was His Majesty's will.

For five or six months I remained silent, taking no further steps with regard to the plan and never even speaking about it, and the Lord gave me not a single command. I had no idea what was the reason for this, but I could not get rid of my belief that the foundation would be duly made. At the end of that time, the priest who had been Rector of the Company of Jesus having left, His Majesty brought a successor to him here who was a very spiritual man, of great courage, intelligence and learning, at a time when I was in dire need.[34] For the priest who at that time was hearing my confessions had a superior over him, and in the Company they are extremely particular about the virtue of never doing the slightest thing save in conformity with the will of those who are over them. So, although he thoroughly understood my spirit and desired its progress, there were certain matters about which, for very good reasons, he dared not be at all definite. My spirit, which was now experiencing the most vehement impulses, was greatly troubled at being constrained in this way; I did not, however, depart from his orders.

One day, when I was in great affliction, thinking that my confessor did not believe me, the Lord told me not to be worried, for my distress would soon be over. I was very glad, supposing His meaning to be that I was soon going to die, and whenever I thought of this I was very happy. Later I realized that He was referring to the arrival of this Rector whom I have mentioned; for I never had any reason to feel so distressed again, because the new Rector placed no restrictions upon the minister who was my confessor, but told him that, as there was no cause for fear, he should comfort me and not lead me by so strait a path, but allow the Spirit of the Lord to work in me, for sometimes it seemed as if these strong spiritual impulses prevented my soul even from breathing.

This Rector came to see me and my confessor told me to consult him with the utmost frankness and freedom. I used to dislike very much speaking about the matter, and yet, when I went into the confessional, I felt something in my spirit which I do not recall having felt in the presence of anyone else, either before or since. I cannot possibly describe its nature or compare it with anything whatsoever. For it was a spiritual joy: my soul knew that here was a soul that would understand and be in harmony with mine, although, as I say, I do not know how this happened. If I had ever spoken to him or had been told great things about him, it would not have been strange that I should have felt happy and been sure that he would understand me; but I had never spoken a word to him before, nor had he to me, nor was he a person about whom I had ever previously heard anything. Later I discovered that my instinct had not been wrong, and my contact with him has in every way been of great benefit to me and to my soul; for he knows how to treat persons whom the Lord seems to have brought to an advanced state: he makes them run, not walk a step at a time. His method is to train them in complete detachment and mortification, and for this, as for many other things, the Lord has given him the greatest aptitude.

When I began to have dealings with him, I realized at once what type of director he was, and saw that he had a pure and holy soul and a special gift from the Lord for the discernment of spirits. From this I derived much comfort. Soon after I came under his direction, the Lord began to lay it upon me again that I must take up the matter of the convent and put all my reasons and aims before my confessor and this Rector so that they should not hinder me. Some of the things I said made them afraid, but this Father Rector never doubted that I was being led by the Spirit of God, having studied and thought very carefully about the effects which would be produced by the foundation. In short, after hearing these numerous reasons, they did not dare to risk hindering me.

My confessor now gave me leave once more to take up the work again with all my might. I saw clearly with what a task I was burdening myself, since I was quite alone and there was so very little that I could do. We agreed that the work should be done in all secrecy, and so I arranged that a sister of mine,[35] who lived outside the town, should buy the house and furnish it, as if it were to be for herself, the Lord having given us money, from various sources, for its purchase. It would take a long time to tell how the Lord continued to provide for us. I thought it of great importance to do nothing against obedience, but I knew that, if I told my superiors about it, everything would be ruined, just as it was on the last occasion, and this time things might be even worse. Getting the money, finding a convent, arranging for its purchase and having it furnished cost me many trials, some of which I had to suffer quite alone; my companion did what she could, but that was little -- so little as to be hardly anything beyond allowing the work to be done in her name and with her approval. All the most difficult part of the work was mine and there were so many different things to do that I wonder now how I was able to go through with it. Sometimes in my distress I would say: "My Lord, how is it that Thou commandest me to do things which seem impossible? If only I were free, woman though I am -- ! But being bound in so many ways, without money or means of procuring it, either for the Brief or for anything else, what can I do, Lord?"

Once, when I was in a difficulty and could not think what to do, or how I was going to pay some workmen, Saint Joseph, my true father and lord, appeared to me and gave me to understand that money would not be lacking and I must make all the necessary arrangements. I did so, though I had not a farthing, and the Lord, in ways which amazed people when they heard of them, provided the money.[36] I thought the house very small, so small that it seemed impossible to turn it into a convent.[37] I wanted to buy another, but had not the wherewithal, so there was no way of buying it, and I could not think what to do. There was a house near our own, but it was also too small to make into a church. One day, after I had communicated, the Lord said to me: "I have already told you to go in as best you can," and then added a kind of exclamation: "Oh, the greed of mankind! So you really think there will not be enough ground for you![38] How often did I sleep all night in the open air because I had not where to lay My head!" This amazed me, but I saw that He was right. So I went to look at the little house, and worked things out, and found that it would just make a convent, though a very small one. I thought no more then about buying another site but arranged to have this house furnished so that we could live in it. Everything was very rough and it had only enough done to it not to make it injurious to the health. And that is the principle that should be followed everywhere.

On Saint Clare's day, as I was going to Communion, that Saint appeared to me in great beauty and told me to put forth all my efforts and proceed with what I had begun and she would help me. I conceived a great devotion for her and her words turned out to be the exact truth, for a convent of her Order, which is near our own, is helping to maintain us. What is more, she has gradually brought this desire of mine to such perfection that the poverty observed by the blessed Saint in her own house is being observed in this and we live upon alms. It has cost me no little trouble to get this principle quite definitely and authoritatively approved by the Holy Father -- this, of course, being essential -- so that we shall never have any income.[39] And -- at the request, it may be, of this blessed Saint -- the Lord is doing still more for us. Without any demand on our part His Majesty is providing amply for all our needs. May He be blessed for it all. Amen.

At this same period, on the festival of the Assumption of Our Lady, I was in a monastery of the Order of the glorious Saint Dominic, thinking of the many sins which in times past I had confessed in that house and of other things concerning my wicked life, when there came upon me a rapture so vehement that it nearly drew me forth out of myself altogether.[40] I sat down and I remember even now that I could neither see the Elevation nor hear Mass being said, and later this caused me a certain amount of scruple. While in this state, I thought I saw myself being clothed in a garment of great whiteness and brightness. At first I could not see who was clothing me, but later I saw Our Lady on my right hand and my father Saint Joseph on my left, and it was they who were putting that garment upon me. I was given to understand that I was now cleansed of my sins. When the clothing was ended, and I was experiencing the greatest joy and bliss, I thought that Our Lady suddenly took me by the hands and told me that I was giving her great pleasure by serving the glorious Saint Joseph and that I might be sure that all I was trying to do about the convent would be accomplished and that both the Lord and they two would be greatly served in it. I was not to fear that there would be any failure whatever about this, although the nature of the obedience which it would have to render might not be to my liking. They would keep us safe and her Son had already promised to go with us: as a sign that that was true, she said, she would give me this jewel. Then she seemed to throw round my neck a very beautiful gold collar, to which was fastened a most valuable cross. The gold and stones were so different from earthly things of the kind that no comparison between them is possible: their beauty is quite unlike anything that we can imagine and the understanding cannot soar high enough to comprehend the nature of the garment or to imagine the brightness of the vision which it was the Lord's will to send me, and by comparison with which everything on earth looks, as one might say, like a smudge of soot.

The beauty which I saw in Our Lady was wonderful, though I could discern in her no particularly beautiful detail of form: it was her face as a whole that was so lovely and the whiteness and the amazing splendour of her vestments, though the light was not dazzling, but quite soft. The glorious Saint Joseph I did not see so clearly, though I could see plainly that he was there, as in the visions to which I have already referred and in which nothing is seen. Our Lady looked to me quite like a child. When they had been with me for a short time and caused me the greatest bliss and happiness -- more, I believe, than I had ever before experienced, so that I wished I need never lose it -- I seemed to see them ascending to Heaven with a great multitude of angels. I remained quite alone, but so greatly comforted and exalted and recollected in prayer, and so full of tender devotion, that I stayed for some time where I was, without moving, and unable to speak, quite beside myself. I was left with a vehement impulse to melt away in love for God, and with other feelings of a like kind, for everything happened in such a way that I could never doubt that this was of God, however hard I tried. It left me greatly comforted and full of peace.

As to what the Queen of the Angels said about obedience the point of it is that it was a grief to me not to make over the convent to the Order, but the Lord had told me that it would not be wise for me to do so. He gave me reasons for which it would be extremely unwise and told me to send to Rome, and to follow a certain procedure, which He also described to me. He would see to it that that procedure should bring security. And so it came about. I sent as the Lord had told me -- had I not, we should never have concluded the negotiations -- and it turned out very well. As to the things which have happened since, it proved a very wise arrangement that we should be under the Bishop's obedience, but at the time I did not know this, nor did I even know who that prelate would be. But the Lord was pleased that he should be good and helpful to this house, as has been necessary, in view of all the opposition it has met with, which I shall recount later, and in order to bring it to the state it is now in.[41] Blessed be He Who has brought all this to pass! Amen.


Describes how about this time she had to leave the place, for a reason which is given, and how her superior ordered her to go and comfort a great lady who was in sore distress. Begins the description of what happened to her there, of how the Lord granted her the great favour of being the means whereby His Majesty aroused a great person to serve Him in real earnest and of how later she obtained help and protection from Him. This chapter should be carefully noted.

Despite all the care I took that nothing should be known of all this work that I was doing, it could not be done so secretly but that a few people heard of it: of these, some believed in it, while others did not. I was sorely afraid that they would say something about it to the Provincial when he came, and that he might then order me to stop, in which case all would be up with it. The Lord provided against this as follows. It happened that, in a large city,[42] more than twenty leagues from here, there was a lady in great distress because of the death of her husband: her grief had reached such a pitch that there were fears for her health.[43] She had heard about this poor sinner -- for the Lord had ordained that people should speak well to her about me for other good purposes which resulted from this. This lady was well acquainted with the Provincial, and as she was an important person and knew that I lived in a convent where the nuns were allowed to leave the house, the Lord gave her a very great desire to see me: she thought that I might bring her comfort, which she could not find herself. So she began at once to use all possible means to get me to visit her, sending a great distance, for that purpose, to the Provincial. He sent me an order to go at once, under obedience, with a single companion. This message I received On Christmas night.

It disturbed me a little and distressed me a great deal to think that she wanted me to come to her because she believed there was some good in me: knowing myself to be so wicked, I could not bear this. I commended myself earnestly to God; and, during the whole of Matins, or for a great part of it, I was in a deep rapture. The Lord told me I must go without fail and must not listen to people's opinions, as there were few who would advise me otherwise than rashly: to go might bring trials upon me, but God would be greatly served, and, as far as the convent was concerned, it would be as well if I were absent until the Brief arrived, because the devil had organized a great plot against the arrival of the Provincial; I was to fear nothing, however, for He would help me in this. I found this assurance a great strength and comfort. I told the Rector about it. He told me to go by all means, whereas others were telling me that I should not stand it, that it was an invention of the devil to bring some evil upon me there, and that I ought to send word about it to the Provincial.

I obeyed the Rector, and, after what I had learned in prayer, went without any fear, though not without the greatest confusion when I saw the reason of their sending for me and knew all the time how completely they were mistaken. This made me beseech the Lord still more earnestly that He would not abandon me. It was a great comfort to me that there was a house of the Company of Jesus in the place where I was going[44]: I thought I should feel fairly safe if I continued to be subject to their direction, as I was here. The Lord was pleased that the lady should be so much comforted that she began at once to grow markedly better: she felt more comforted every day. This was a notable achievement, for, as I have said, her distress was causing her great depression: the Lord must have brought it about in response to the many prayers for the success of my enterprise which had been offered by the good people whom I knew. She was a most God fearing lady and so good that her most Christian spirit made up for what was lacking in me. She conceived a great affection for me, as I also did for her when I saw how good she was. But almost everything was a cross for me: the comforts in her house were a real torment and when she made so much of me I was filled with fear. My soul had such misgivings that I dared not be careless, and the Lord was not careless of me, for while I was there He showed me the most signal favours[45] and these made me feel so free and enabled me so to despise all I saw -- and the more I saw, the more I despised it -- that I never treated those great ladies, whom it would have been a great honour to me to serve, otherwise than with the freedom of an equal. From this I derived great profit, and I told my lady so. I saw that she was a woman, and as subject to passions and weaknesses as I was myself. I learned, too, how little regard ought to be paid to rank, and how, the higher is the rank, the greater are the cares and the trials that it brings with it. And I learned that people of rank have to be careful to behave according to their state, which hardly allows them to live: they must take their meals out of the proper time and order, for everything has to be regulated, not according to their constitutions but according to their position; often the very food which they eat has more to do with their position than with their liking.

So it was that I came to hate the very desire to be a great lady. God deliver me from this sinful fuss -- though I believe that, despite her being one of the most important in the kingdom, there are few humbler and simpler people than this woman. I was sorry for her, and I still am when I think how often she has to act against her own inclination in order to live up to her position. Then, with regard to servants, though hers were good, one can really place very little trust in them. It is impossible to talk more to one of them than to another; otherwise the favoured one is disliked by the rest. This is slavery; and one of the lies which the world tells is that it calls such persons masters, whereas in a thousand ways, I think, they are nothing but slaves. The Lord was pleased that, during the time I spent in that house, its inmates should come to render His Majesty better service, though I was not free from trials, or from certain jealousies on the part of some of them, on account of the great love which my lady had for me. They must surely have thought that I was working for some interest of my own. The Lord must have allowed such things to try me to some extent so that I should not become absorbed in the comforts which I was enjoying there, and He was pleased to free me from all this to my soul's profit.

While I was there, it chanced that a religious arrived with whom for many years I had been in communication on various occasions and who was a person of great importance.[46] When I was at Mass in a monastery of his Order, which was near the house where I was staying,[47] the desire came to me to know about the state of his soul, for I wished him to be a great servant of God; so I got up in order to go to speak to him. But then, as I was already recollected in prayer, this seemed to me a waste of time. What right, I thought, had I to interfere with him? So I sat down again. This happened, I believe, no less than three times, but finally my good angel got the better of my evil angel and I went to ask for him and he came to one of the confessionals to speak to me. I began to question him about his past life, and he to question me about mine, for we had not seen one another for many years. I began to tell him that mine had been a life of many spiritual trials. He urged me to tell him what the trials were. I said that they were not such as could be told and that I ought not to say anything about them. He replied that, as the Dominican Father to whom I have alluded[48] knew of them and was a great friend of his, he would tell him about them at once, so that I need not mind doing so myself.

The truth is, he could not help importuning me, any more, I think, than I could help talking to him; for, despite all the regret and shame which I used to feel when I discussed these things with him and with the Rector whom I have mentioned,[49] I was not now in the least distressed -- in fact, I found it a great comfort. I told him everything under the seal of confession. I had always taken him for a man of great intelligence, but now he seemed to me shrewder than ever. I thought what great talents and gifts he had and what a deal of good he could do with them if he gave himself wholly to God. For some years now I have felt like this -- I never see a person whom I like very much without immediately wishing that I could see him wholly given to God, and sometimes this yearning of mine is so strong that I am powerless against it. Though I want everybody to serve God, my desire that those whom I like may do so is particularly vehement, and so I become extremely importunate for them with the Lord. This is what happened in the case of the religious I am referring to.

He asked me to commend him often to God: he had no need to do so, for my state of mind was such that I could not do otherwise, so I went to the place where I am in the habit of praying in solitude, and, with extreme recollection, began to speak to the Lord in that silly way in which I often speak to Him without knowing what I am saying; for it is love that speaks, and my soul is so far transported that I take no notice of the distance that separates it from God. For the love which it knows His Majesty has for it makes it forget itself and it thinks it is in Him, and that He and it are one and the same thing without any division, and so it talks nonsense. I shed copious tears, and begged Him that that soul might really give itself up to His service, for, good as I thought him, I was not satisfied but wanted him to be better still. And after praying in that way, I remember saying these words: "Lord, Thou must not refuse me this favour. Think what a good person he is for us to have as our friend."

Oh, the great goodness and humaneness of God, Who regards not the words but the desires and the good-will with which they are uttered! To think that His Majesty should allow such a person as myself to speak to Him thus boldly! May He be blessed for ever and ever.

That night, I remember, I was greatly troubled during those hours of prayer, wondering if I had incurred the enmity of God. I could not be sure if I were in grace or no -- not that I wanted to be sure, but I wanted to die, so as to find myself no longer in a life in which I was not sure if I were dead or alive. For there could be no worse death for me than to think I had offended God and my distress about this caused me great depression: then I felt quite happy again, and, dissolving into tears, besought Him not to permit such a thing. I soon learned that I might safely take comfort and be certain[50] that I was in grace, since my love for God was so strong and His Majesty was working these favours in my soul and, of His compassion, giving it feelings which He would never give to a soul that was in mortal sin. I became confident that the Lord must surely do for this person what I begged of Him. He told me to say certain things to him. I was troubled about this, as I had no idea how to say them, and the thing I most dislike, as I have said, is having to take messages to a third person, especially if I am not sure how he will receive them or even that he will not make fun of me. So I was sorely distressed. But in the end I was quite persuaded that I must do it without fail, and I believe I promised God that I would, but I was so shy about it that I wrote down the message and handed it to him.

The effect which it produced upon him showed clearly that it came from God, for he made a most earnest resolve to give himself to prayer, though he did not fulfil that resolve immediately. As the Lord desired to have him for Himself, He had sent through my instrumentality to tell him certain truths which, without my knowing it, were so apposite that he was astounded. The Lord must have prepared him to believe that they came from His Majesty. And for my part, miserable creature though I am, I kept beseeching the Lord to bring him right back to Himself and make him hate the pleasures and affairs of this life. And -- praised be God for ever! -- so he did, to such an extent that, every time he speaks to me, he astounds me. If I had not seen it for myself, I should have thought it doubtful that in so short a time God could have shown him such increased favours, and led him to become so completely immersed in Him that, so far as things of earth are concerned, he no longer seems to be alive. May His Majesty hold him in His hand, for he has such profound self knowledge that, if he advances farther, as I hope in the Lord he may, he will be one of the most notable of His servants and bring many souls great advantage. For in spiritual things he has had a great deal of experience in a short time, these being gifts bestowed by God when He wills and as He wills and having nothing to do either with time or with service. I do not mean that these latter things are unimportant but that often the Lord grants to one person less contemplation in twenty years than to others in one: His Majesty knows why. We are wrong if we think that in the course of years we are bound to understand things that cannot possibly be attained without experience, and thus, as I have said, many are mistaken if they think they can learn to discern spirits without being spiritual themselves. I do not mean that, if a man is learned but not spiritual, he may not direct a person of spirituality. But in both outward and inward matters which depend upon the course of nature, his direction will of course be of an intellectual kind, while in supernatural matters he will see that it is in conformity with Holy Scripture. In other matters he must not worry himself to death, or think he understands what he does not, or quench the spirits, for these souls are being directed by another Master, greater than he, so that they are not without anyone over them.

He must not be astonished at this or think such things are impossible: everything is possible to the Lord. He must strive to strengthen his faith and humble himself, because the Lord is perhaps making some old woman better versed in this science than himself, even though he be a very learned man. If he has this humility, he will be of more use both to other souls and to himself than if he tries to become a contemplative without being so by nature. I repeat, then, that if he has neither experience nor the deepest humility which will reveal to him how little he understands and show him that a thing is not impossible because he cannot understand it, he will gain little himself and the people who have to do with him will gain less. But, if he is humble, he need not fear that the Lord will allow either him or them to fall into error.

Now this Father of whom I am speaking, and to whom in many ways the Lord has granted humility, has studied these matters and done his utmost to discover all that study can reveal. For he is a very good scholar, and when he has no experience of a thing he consults those who have; and, as the Lord also helps him by granting him great faith, he has rendered a great deal of service both to himself and to certain souls, of which mine is one. For, as the Lord knew of the trials I had to endure, His Majesty, having seen good to call to Himself some who were directing me,[51] seems to have provided others who have helped me in numerous trials and done me a great deal of good. The Lord has almost completely transformed this religious, until, as one might say, he hardly knows himself. Though formerly he had poor health, He has given him physical strength, so that he can do penance, and has made him valiant in all that is good, and has done other things for him as well. He seems, then, to have received a very special vocation from the Lord. May He be blessed for ever.

All this good, I believe, has come to him from the favours which the Lord has granted him in prayer, for there is no mistaking their reality. The Lord has already been pleased to test him in a number of situations, and from all these he has emerged like one who has amply proved the reality of the merit which we gain by suffering persecutions. I hope the Lord in His might will grant that much good may come through him to various members of his Order and to that Order itself. This is already beginning to be understood. I have seen great visions and the Lord has told me a number of very wonderful things about him and about the Rector of the Company of Jesus, whom I have already mentioned,[52] and about two other religious of the Order of Saint Dominic:[53] especially about one of them, to whom, for his own profit, the Lord has taught certain things which He[54] had previously taught me. From this Father of whom I am now speaking I have learned a great deal.

To one of my experiences with him I will refer here. I was with him once in the locutory, and so great was the love that my soul and spirit felt to be burning within him that I became almost absorbed, as I thought of the wonders of God, Who had raised a soul to so lofty a state in so short a time. It filled me with confusion to see him listening so humbly to what I was telling him about certain things concerning prayer. There was little enough humility in me that I could talk in this way with such a person, but the Lord must have borne with me because of the earnest desire that I had to see him make great progress. It helped me so much to be with him that he seemed to have left my soul ablaze with a new fire of longing to begin to serve the Lord all over again. O my Jesus, how much a soul can do when ablaze with Thy love! What great value we ought to set on it and how we should beseech the Lord to allow it to remain in this life! Anyone who has this love should follow after such souls if he is able.

For one who has this sickness it is a great thing to find another stricken by it too. It is a great comfort to him to see that he is not alone: the two are of mutual help in their sufferings and their deservings. They stand shoulder to shoulder, ready for God's sake to risk a thousand lives and longing for a chance to lose them. They are like soldiers who, in order to win booty and grow rich upon it, are spoiling for war, realizing that without fighting they can never become rich at all. Toiling in this way, in fact, is their profession. Oh, what a great thing it is, when the Lord gives this light, to know how much we are gaining in suffering for His sake! But we cannot properly understand this until we have given up everything; for, if there is a single thing to which a man clings, it is a sign that he sets some value upon it; and if he sets some value upon it, it will naturally distress him to give it up, and so everything will be imperfection and loss. "He who follows what is lost is himself lost": that saying is appropriate here. And what greater loss, what greater blindness, what greater misfortune is there than to set a great price on what is nothing?

Returning, then, to what I was saying: As I looked at that soul I rejoiced exceedingly and I think the Lord was desirous that I should have a clear view of the treasures He had laid up in it. So when I became aware of the favour which He had done me in bringing this to pass through my intervention, I realized how unworthy I was of it. I prized the favours which the Lord had bestowed upon him and considered them more my own than if they had actually been granted to me, and I praised the Lord repeatedly when I found that His Majesty was fulfilling my desires and had heard my prayer that He would awaken such persons as this. And then my soul, in such a state that it could not endure so much joy, went out from itself, and lost itself for its own greater gain. It abandoned its meditations, and, as it heard that Divine language, which seems to have been that of the Holy Spirit, I fell into a deep rapture, which caused me almost to lose my senses, though it lasted but for a short time. I saw Christ, in the greatest majesty and glory, manifesting His great satisfaction at what had been taking place. This He told me, and said that He wanted me to realize clearly that He was always present at conversations of this kind, for He was very pleased when people found their delight in talking of Him.

At another time, when I was a long way from here,[55] I saw him being carried up to the angels in great glory.[56] By this vision I understood that his soul was making great progress, as indeed it was. For a cruel slander against his reputation had been started by a person whom he had helped a great deal and to whose reputation and to whose soul he had rendered a great service; and he had endured this very happily and had done other things which tended greatly to the service of God and had undergone other persecutions. I do not think it suitable to say more about this just now, but Your Reverence knows about it all, and in the future, if you think well, it can all be set down to the glory of the Lord. All the prophecies about this house to which I have already referred, and others of which I shall speak later, concerning both this house and other matters, have been fulfilled. Some the Lord made to me three years before they became known; others, before that time, and others, again, since. And I always mentioned them to my confessor and to that widow who was a friend of mine, and with whom, as I said before, I was permitted to discuss them. She, I have learned, repeated them to other people, who know that I am not lying. God grant that I may never, in any matter, speak anything but the whole truth, especially on so serious a subject as this!

Once, when I was in great distress because a brother-in-law of mine[57] had died suddenly without being careful[58] to make his confession, I was told in prayer that my sister, too, would die in the same way and that I must go to see her and get her to prepare for death. I told my confessor about this, but he would not let me go; I then heard the same thing several times more. When he found that this was so, he told me to go, as no harm could possibly come of it. She lived in a village,[59] and I went there without telling her the reason but giving her what light I could about everything. I got her to go to confession very frequently and always to think of her soul's profit. She was very good and did as I said. Some four or five years after she had adopted these habits and begun to pay great heed to her conscience, she died in such circumstances that nobody could come to see her or hear her confession. So it was a fortunate thing that, following her usual custom, she had made her last confession little more than a week previously. When I heard of her death, it made me very happy to think that she had done so. She remained only a very short time in purgatory.

It could hardly have been a week later when, just after I had communicated, the Lord appeared to me and was pleased to let me see her as He was taking her to glory. During all those years between the time when the Lord spoke to me and the time of her death, neither my companion[60] nor I forgot what I had been told, and, when she died, my companion came to me in amazement at the way in which it had all been fulfilled. God be praised for ever, Who takes such care of souls so that they are not lost!

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[1][Hoja de lata. Lit.: "tinplate."]

[2][The only one of these "little books" still extant is the Treatise of Prayer and Meditation: S.S.M., II, 106.]

[3]Do–a Guiomar de Ulloa.

[4][This word, temerosa, might also be translated "timorous", "timid" but St. Teresa's use of "and", rather than of "but", to connect it with "holy" seems to indicate the meaning given in the text.]

[5][The Franciscan term for a group of religious houses not large enough to form a province.]

[6][The sudden and characteristic change of person is reproduced exactly from the original.]

[7]P. Baltasar çlvarez, according to Gracián.

[8]St. John iv, 15 "Sir, give me this water." These words, which form part of the Gospel for the Friday after the third Sunday in Lent, the Saint could have read as a child beneath a picture of the scene in the Gospel. On her father's death the picture was given to the Convent of the Incarnation, where it is still preserved.

[9][Lit.: "had made me give great blows."]

[10]This would be either P. B‡–ez or P. Garc’a de Toledo, who were the Saint's confessors from about 1563 to 1566.

[11][The brackets here are mine. The sentence is an excellent example (and there are many others in the Life) of St. Teresa's inconsequent way of writing. An idea comes into her head and at once she writes it down, even if (which is not the case here) doing so completely dislocates her sentence.]

[12]P. Federico de S. Antonio (Vita della Santa Madre Teresa di Gesś, Bk. I, Chap. XXII) thinks the Saint had contemplated going to a convent in Flanders or Brittany. The Parisian Carmelites (Oeuvres de Sainte ThŽrŹsa, Vol. I, p. 409) suggest that she had in mind a convent established near Mantes, in 1477, by B. FranŤoise d'Ambroise. But there seems no reason to assume that she ever thought of going to a house outside Spain.

[13]This reference is probably to a stay which St. Teresa made with her younger sister, Juana, and her husband, Don Juan de Ovalle. From letters which the Saint wrote to her brother, Don Lorenzo, it is clear that lack of means, together with Don Juan's difficult temperament, made Do–a Juana's married life anything but a smooth one. The two came from Alba to Avila, for reasons connected with the foundation of St Joseph's, in August 1561.

[14][Honra; and so throughout this and the following paragraphs. Cf. n. 68.]

[15]["Girls'," may seem an unduly colloquial word, but the Spanish is even more unexpected: ni–as, "young girls", "children".]

[16][Cf. n. 247. "Reputation" would be a better word here, but the wordplay in the last sentence of the paragraph requires "honour".]

[17][This is evidently a reminiscent reference to Ch. XXX. The application of the figure, however, it will be seen, is slightly different.]

[18][See Ch. V.]

[19]The Convent of the Incarnation, Avila.

[20]A Bull published by Pope Eugenius IV on February 15, 1432.

[21]Mar’a de Ocampo, daughter of Don Diego de Cepeda and Do–a Beatriz de la Cruz y Ocampo, who were St. Teresa's cousins. She herself took the Discalced habit at Avila in 1563.

[22]Another account of this conversation [cit. P. Silverio, I, 268, n.] says that it arose out of a discussion on the hermit-saints. Some of the nuns suggested the establishment of a small convent in which a few of them could lead a more penitential life. St. Teresa then said they ought to restore the primitive Rule and one nun offered her financial help if she would found a convent of the kind described. At this point, Do–a Guiomar de Ulloa (the "widowed lady" of the text) arrived, and, on being told of the conversation, said that she too would help in the good work.

[23][I translate "He" in deference to P. Silverio's capitalization of the pronoun, but a likelier reading seems to me "he" (St. Joseph). Sixteenth-century manuscripts do not capitalize pronouns which refer to God, so the matter must remain one for conjecture.]

[24]P. Baltasar çlvarez.

[25]This was not, as is often said, P. Angel de Salazar, but P. Gregorio Fern‡ndez, who was Provincial from 1551 to 1553 and again from 1559 to the end of 1561.

[26]The Saint's niece Teresita related [cf. P. Silverio, I, 270, n.] that the proposed reform was even publicly denounced from çvilan pulpits. On one occasion, she says, St. Teresa and her sister Do–a Juana went to hear a sermon at St. Thomas's and to Do–a Juana's discomfiture the preacher ("a religious of a certain Order") began to inveigh against "nuns who left their convents to go and found new Orders". But when she turned indignantly to see how St. Teresa was taking it, she found that she was having a quiet laugh (con gran paz se estaba riendo). [Cf. ch. XXIII, para. 5.] The identity of the preacher has been guessed at, but is not known.

[27]P. Pedro Ib‡–ez, one of the Saint's chief supporters in the early days of her Reform, of which, however, he saw very little, for he died in 1565.

[28]A line is obliterated here, presumably by P. B‡–ez.

[29]Master Gaspar Daza. [The title of "Master" was conferred by the Orders upon certain religious in virtue of teaching posts held by them, or as a distinction.

[30]The prison-cell of the Incarnation still exists. It was quite common in those days for religious communities to imprison their recalcitrant members.

[31]P. Baltasar çlvarez.

[32]P. Pedro Ib‡–ez.

[33]At Trianos, in the province of Le—n. Actually he died there, at about the time when St. Teresa was completing this book, so his return to Avila, referred to in the text below, can have been only temporary.

[34]The Rector who left Avila was P. Dionisio V‡zquez, confessor of St. Francis Borgia and famous in the history of the Society of Jesus for his negotiations with Philip II, the Inquisition and the Holy See, the aim of which was to remove the Spanish houses of the Society from the jurisdiction of the General in Rome. He was succeeded, in 1561, by P. Gaspar de Salazar. Disagreements which arose between St. Giles' College and Don çlvaro de Mendoza, Bishop of Avila, led to P. Salazar's removal early in 1562: he had gone when St. Teresa returned from her visit to Toledo. She had a great regard for him and speaks highly of him in a number of her letters.

[35]Do–a Juana who lived at Alba. Cf. n. 246.

[36]The benefactor was St. Teresa's brother Lorenzo, who had emigrated to America, settled in what to-day is the capital of Ecuador and married a daughter of one of the conquistadores of Peru. He came back to Spain a wealthy man and did a great deal of good with his money. See Letters, 2.

[37]The house, which St. Teresa bought through the agency of her brother-in-law Don Juan de Ovalle, was indeed so small that all her biographers have compared it to the "little porch of Bethlehem" (cf. Foundations: Vol. III, p. 66). Julian de Avila (Vida de Santa Teresa, Part II, Chap. VIII) describes the chapel as "hardly more than ten paces in length". The diminutive bell used in this first convent was restored in 1868 to Avila from Pastrana, where it was taken in 1634, and now hangs beside the great bell which calls the religious to offices.

[38][The second personal pronouns in this quotation are in the singular, but the phraseology is markedly colloquial, and to bring this out I have used "you" in preference to "thou".]

[39]The original Brief (February 7, 1562), addressed to Do–a Aldonza de Guzm‡n and her daughter Do–a Guiomar de Ulloa, authorized them to hold property in common, as the Saint had not at that time decided to forgo an endowment. A Rescript dated December 5, 1562, however, confirmed by Brief of July 17, 1565, granted the Convent permission to live on public charity, without a fixed revenue.

[40]This rapture is believed to have come to the Saint in 1561, in the chapel known as that of the Sant’simo Cristo in the Dominican church of St. Thomas, Avila.

[41]The Bishop, when the foundation was made, was Don çlvaro de Mendoza (n. 267, above), who had taken possession of his office on December 4, 1560. He was greatly devoted to St. Teresa and a strong supporter of her Reform.


[43]This lady was Do–a Luisa de la Cerda, widow of Don Arias Pardo de Saavedra, who died in 1561, and daughter of the Duke of Medinaceli, who was in the direct line of descent from Alfonso X.

[44]A Jesuit house had been founded at Toledo in 1558 by St. Francis Borgia. Its first Superior, P. Pedro Domenech, later became St. Teresa's confessor.

[45]Some of these favours are described in the Relations (cf. pp. 315-16).

[46]Ribera, Yepes and St. Teresa's early biographers in general suppose this religious to have been P. Vicente Barr—n, but modern editors follow Gracián, who, in the notes already referred to (pp. 62-3), identifies him as P. Garc’a de Toledo. Of aristocratic stock (n. 174) this Dominican went to the Indies as a child with the Viceroy of Mexico, and professed in the capital of the Viceroyalty in 1535. Returning to Spain, he became Superior of the çvilan monastery in 1555. Later, he accompanied his cousin, who was appointed Viceroy of Peru, to that country, returning shortly before St. Teresa's death.

[47]This monastery, dedicated to St. Peter Martyr, was in fact near the palace of the Duke of Medinaceli, which has been a Discalced Carmelite convent since 1607, and is not far from the Puerta del Cimbr—n.

[48]P. Pedro Ib‡–ez.

[49]P. Gaspar de Salazar.

[50]Luis de Leon substituted "trust" (confiar) for the "be certain" (estar cierta) of the original manuscript, and other editors have followed him. But St. Teresa felt that the joint witness of a good conscience and her interior locutions gave her the moral certainty which she describes.

[51]Probably St. Peter of Alc‡ntara (d. October 18, 1562) and P. Ib‡–ez (d. February 2, 1565). [If P. Ib‡–ez is included, the reference has a bearing upon the date of this book: cf. n 340.]

[52]A. Gaspar de Salazar.

[53]PP. Pedro Ib‡–ez and Domingo B‡–ez, especially the first-named.

[54][P. Silverio reads "he", as though St. Teresa could have learned things from the Dominican which the Lord taught him later! The pluperfect and the word "previously" (antes) seem to settle the matter.]

[55]I.e., from Avila.

[56]According to Gracián, this was P. Garc’a de Toledo.

[57]Don Mart’n de Guzm‡n y Barrientos, husband of the Saint's half-sister Mar’a (ch. IV).

[58]Thus St. Teresa in the autograph; but P. Banez emended the phrase so that it read: "without having had the opportunity The early editions follow the author, but later editors have tended to adopt the emendation.

[59]Cf. n. 74.

[60]Do–a Guiomar de Ulloa.

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