St. Teresa of Avila and a Priest who both needed prudence and purity

November 7, 2021 • 6 min

From Life of St. Teresa of Avila written by Herself, page 27

I began, then, by going to confession to that priest of whom I spoke before. He took an extreme liking to me, because I had then but little to confess in comparison with what I had afterwards; and I had never much to say since I became a nun. There was no harm in the liking he had for me, but it ceased to be good, because it was in excess.

He clearly understood that I was determined on no account whatever to do anything whereby God might be seriously offended. He, too, gave me a like assurance about himself, and accordingly our conferences were many.

But at that time, through the knowledge and fear of God which filled my soul, what gave me most pleasure in all my conversations with others was to speak of God; and, as I was so young, this made him ashamed; and then, out of that great good-will he bore me, he began to tell me of his wretched state.

It was very sad, for he had been nearly seven years in a most perilous condition, because of his affection for, and conversation with, a woman of that place; and yet he used to say Mass. The matter was so public that his honour and good name were lost, and no one ventured to speak to him about it.

I was extremely sorry for him, because I liked him much. I was then so imprudent and so blind as to think it a virtue to be grateful and loyal to one who liked me. Cursed be that loyalty which reaches so far as to go against the law of God. It is a madness common in the world, and it makes me mad to see it.

We are indebted to God for all the good that men do to us, and yet we hold it to be an act of virtue not to break a friendship of this kind, though it lead us to go against Him. Oh, blindness of the world! Let me, O Lord, be most ungrateful to the world; never at all unto Thee. But I have been altogether otherwise through my sins.

I procured further information about the matter from members of his household; I learned more of his ruinous state, and saw that the poor man’s fault was not so grave, because the miserable woman had had recourse to enchantments, by giving him a little image made of copper, which she had begged him to wear for love of her around his neck; and this no one had influence enough to persuade him to throw away.

As to this matter of enchantments, I do not believe it to be altogether true; but I will relate what I saw, by way of warning to men to be on their guard against women who will do things of this kind.

And let them be assured of this, that women—for they are more bound to purity than men—if once they have lost all shame before God, are in nothing whatever to be trusted; and that in exchange for the gratification of their will, and of that affection which the devil suggests, they will hesitate at nothing.

Though I have been so wicked myself, I never fell into anything of this kind, nor did I ever attempt to do evil; nor, if I had the power, would I have ever constrained any one to like me, for our Lord kept me from this. But if He had abandoned me, I should have done wrong in this, as I did in other things—for there is nothing in me whereon any one may rely.

When I knew this, I began to show him greater affection: my intention was good, but the act was wrong, for I ought not to do the least wrong for the sake of any good, how great soever it may be.

I spoke to him most frequently of God; and this must have done him good—though I believe that what touched him most was his great affection for me, because, to do me a pleasure, he gave me that little image of copper, and I had it at once thrown into a river.

When he had given it up, like a man roused from deep sleep, he began to consider all that he had done in those years; and then, amazed at himself, lamenting his ruinous state, that woman came to be hateful in his eyes.

Our Lady must have helped him greatly, for he had a very great devotion to her Conception, and used to keep the feast thereof with great solemnity. In short, he broke off all relations with that woman utterly, and was never weary of giving God thanks for the light He had given him; and at the end of the year from the day I first saw him, he died.

He had been most diligent in the service of God; and as for that great affection he had for me, I never observed anything wrong in it, though it might have been of greater purity.

There were also occasions wherein he might have most grievously offended, if he had not kept himself in the near presence of God. As I said before, I would not then have done anything I knew was a mortal sin.

And I think that observing this resolution in me helped him to have that affection for me; for I believe that all men must have a greater affection for those women whom they see disposed to be good: and even for the attainment of earthly ends, women must have more power over men because they are good, as I shall show hereafter.

I am convinced that the priest is in the way of salvation. He died most piously, and completely withdrawn from that occasion of sin. It seems that it was the will of our Lord he should be saved by these means.

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