St. Teresa of Avila nearly falls into Hell during a dangerous illness

November 12, 2021 • 4 min

From Life of St. Teresa of Avila written by Herself, page 31

The feast of our Lady, in August, came round; from April until then I had been in great pain, but I more especially during the last three months.

I made haste to go to confession, for I had always been very fond of frequent confession. They thought I was driven by the fear of death; and so my father, in order to quiet me, would not suffer me to go.

Oh, the unreasonable love of flesh and blood! Though it was that of a father so Catholic and so wise—he was very much so, and this act of his could not be the effect of any ignorance on his part—what evil it might have done me!

That very night my sickness became so acute that for about four days I remained insensible. They administered the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, and every hour, or rather every moment, thought I was dying; they did nothing but repeat the Credo, as if I could have understood anything they said.

They must have regarded me as dead more than once, for I found afterwards drops of wax on my eyelids. My father, because he had not allowed me to go to confession, was grievously distressed. Loud cries and many prayers were made to God: blessed be He Who heard them.

For a day and a half the grave was open in my monastery, waiting for my body; and the friars of our Order, in a house at some distance from this place, performed funeral solemnities.

But it pleased our Lord I should come to myself. I wished to go to confession at once. I communicated with many tears; but I do not think those tears had their source in that pain and sorrow only for having offended God, which might have sufficed for my salvation—unless, indeed, the delusion which I laboured under were some excuse for me, and into which I had been led by those who had told me that some things were not mortal sins which afterwards I found were so certainly.

Though my sufferings were unendurable, and my perceptions dull, yet my confession, I believe, was complete as to all matters wherein I understood myself to have offended God.

This grace, among others, did His Majesty bestow on me, that ever since my first Communion never in confession have I failed to confess anything I thought to be a sin, though it might be only a venial sin.

But I think that undoubtedly my salvation was in great peril, if I had died at that time—partly because my confessors were so unlearned, and partly because I was so very wicked. It is certainly true that when I think of it, and consider how our Lord seems to have raised me up from the dead, I am so filled with wonder that I almost tremble with fear.

Ribera, lib. i. cap. iv., says he heard Fray Banes, in a sermon, say that the Saint told him she had, during these four days, seen hell in a vision. And the chronicler says that though there was bodily illness, yet it was a trance of the soul at the same time (vol. i. lib. i. cap. xii. 3).

And now, O my soul, it were well for thee to look that danger in the face from which our Lord delivered thee; and if thou dost not cease to offend Him out of love, thou shouldst do so out of fear. He might have slain thee a thousand times, and in a far more perilous state.

I believe I exaggerate nothing if I say a thousand times again, though he may rebuke me who has commanded me to restrain myself in recounting my sins; and they are glossed over enough. I pray him, for the love of God, not to suppress one of my faults, because herein shines forth the magnificence of God, as well as His long-suffering towards souls.

May He be blessed for evermore, and destroy me utterly rather than let me cease to love Him any more!

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