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The Letters of Saint Teresa
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Saint Teresa of Avila wrote many letters, which are collected here. Her correspondence was most extensive, including bishops, archbishops, kings, ladies of rank, gentlemen of the world, abbots, priors, nuncios, her confessors, her brothers and sisters, rectors of colleges, fathers provincial of the Society of Jesus, nuns and superiors of her convents and monasteries, learned doctors of different religious orders, and even most eminent saints, such as .St. Peter of Alcantara, St. Francis Borgia, St. John of the Cross, &c. In the Letters of St. Teresa it seems to me that all her admirable endowments, both of nature and of grace, can be more clearly discovered than in any of her other works. When we peruse her Life, or The Interior Castle, one is at first inclined to imagine that the Saint was altogether unearthly, unfit for the cares and troubles of life that all her time must have been spent in holding sweet converse with her Beloved, and sighing for the hour when she should be united with Him for ever, and that visions and raptures must have engrossed all the powers of her soul. Others, again, might fancy that the Saint must have been very grave, austere, solemn, exceedingly scrupulous, and given to melancholy. Some might also be inclined to believe that she was quite an enthusiast, led away by the ardent temperament of her character, or the vagaries of an unsteady imagination. But how quickly are such erroneous ideas scattered, when we read her admirable Letters. They soon convince us that the Saint possessed what we call common sense" in a most remarkable manner that so fur from being an enthusiast, she was endowed with a solidity of judgment, and a prudence and sweetness in all her actions, which won the admiration of everyone; that she was so careful to guard against melancholy, as never to allow any one to enter the Order who seemed to be the least infected with it. With regard to herself, we shall see, by perusing her Letters, that she was cheerfulness itself, even in the midst of her greatest trials and afflictions, and withal exceedingly witty, lively, and jocose; indeed, her naivetr is one of the greatest charms of her Letters. These will show us, too, that her raptures and visions did not, in the least, interfere with her ordinary duties, for she was an excellent and most admirable woman of business. Considering her numerous labours, duties, journeys, sicknesses, and infirmities, is it not surprising how she could find time to carry on such an extensive correspondence? Juan de Palafox, the celebrated bishop of Osma, remarks, "that it was principally by her Letters the Saint was enabled to effect the reform of the Carmelite Order."
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