St. Teresa of Avila recounting being sent to a monastery at about age 16

October 25, 2021 • 5 min

From Life of St. Teresa of Avila written by Herself, page 10

In the beginning these conversations did me harm—I believe so. The fault was perhaps not hers, but mine; for afterwards my own wickedness was enough to lead me astray, together with the servants about me, whom I found ready enough for all evil. If any one of these had given me good advice I might perhaps have profited by it; but they were blinded by interest, as I was by passion.

Still, I was never inclined to much evil—for I hated naturally anything dishonourable—but only to the amusement of a pleasant conversation.

The occasion of sin, however, being present, danger was at hand, and I exposed to it my father and brothers. God delivered me out of it all, so that I should not be lost, in a manner visibly against my will, yet not so secretly as to allow me to escape without the loss of my good name and the suspicions of my father.

I had not spent, I think, three months in these vanities when they took me to a monastery in the city where I lived, in which children like myself were brought up, though their way of life was not so wicked as mine.

This was done with the utmost concealment of the true reason, which was known only to myself and one of my kindred. They waited for an opportunity which would make the change seem nothing out of the way; for, as my sister was married, it was not fitting I should remain alone, without a mother, in the house.

So excessive was my father’s love for me, and so deep my dissembling, that he never would believe me to be so wicked as I was; and hence I was never in disgrace with him.

Though some remarks were made, yet, as the time had been short, nothing could be positively asserted; and, as I was so much afraid about my good name, I had taken every care to be secret; and yet I never considered that I could conceal nothing from Him Who seeth all things.

O my God, what evil is done in the world by disregarding this, and thinking that anything can be kept secret that is done against Thee! I am quite certain that great evils would be avoided if we clearly understood that what we have to do is, not to be on our guard against men, but on our guard against displeasing Thee.

For the first eight days I suffered much, but more from the suspicion that my vanity was known, than from being in the monastery; for I was already weary of myself—and, though I offended God, I never ceased to have a great fear of Him, and contrived to go to confession as quickly as I could.

I was very uncomfortable; but within eight days, I think sooner, I was much more contented than I had been in my father’s house. All the nuns were pleased with me; for our Lord had given me the grace to please every one, wherever I might be. I was therefore made much of in the monastery. Though at this time I hated to be a nun, yet I was delighted at the sight of nuns so good; for they were very good in that house—very prudent, observant of the rule, and recollected.

Yet, for all this, the devil did not cease to tempt me; and people in the world sought means to trouble my rest with messages and presents. As this could not be allowed, it was soon over, and my soul began to return to the good habits of my earlier years; and I recognized the great mercy of God to those whom He places among good people. It seems as if His Majesty had sought and sought again how to convert me to Himself. Blessed be thou, O Lord, for having borne with me so long! Amen.

Were it not for my many faults, there was some excuse for me, I think, in this: that the conversation I shared in was with one who, I thought, would do well in the estate of matrimony; and I was told by my confessors, and others also, whom in many points I consulted, used to say, that I was not offending God. One of the nuns slept with us who were seculars, and through her it pleased our Lord to give me light, as I shall now explain.

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