All’s Well That Ends Well

 

Doña Beatriz of Beaumonte and the Monastery of the Blessed Trinity in Soria

The Bishop of Osma, Dr. Alonso Velásquez, who had been a canon and professor in Toledo and was one of St. Teresa’s confessors, wrote to her from the city of Soria, in northeastern Spain.  A noblewoman and penitent of his there named Beatriz of Beaumonte and Navarra, a descendent of the kings of Navarra, “… a mild-mannered person, generous and penitent … (Foundations 30:4)” who was married but had no children wanted to establish a monastery of nuns there.

The monastery of the Blessed Trinity in Soria proved to be one of the easiest foundations for Saint Teresa thanks to this good woman and the bishop.  She donated her own house, which was well constructed and in a good location, along with a sum of money for an income that was stable.  The bishop donated a parish church with vaulted ceilings nearby, to which a covered passageway was built. 

The Bishop of Osma sent a stagecoach to transport seven nuns along with St. Teresa and her nurse-companion Sr. Anne of St. Bartholomew, who was beatified in 1917.  In the midst of all of this joy and solicitude, there is only one tremor of future trial:  because she had the use of the stagecoach, St. Teresa took along with her a friar named Father Nicholás of Jesus Maria and his lay brother companion, whom she trusted.  He was a middle-aged banker who had become a Discalced Friar, and was elected to the office of Provincial after her death.  This same man was the one who expelled Father Jerónimo Gracián from the Order in 1592.

When the nine nuns entered the diocese of Osma on the Wednesday before the octave day of the feast of the Blessed Sacrament (Corpus Christi), which was May 31, 1581, all of the people, who loved the bishop very much, directed them to the best inns, and they were able to receive Communion.  They slept that night in a church, since they were not able to reach Soria the same day, where they attended Mass and Communion the next day before arriving in Soria around 5 PM.  As they passed by the bishop’s house, he blessed them from his window. Doña Beatriz met them at the door of her house, where all was provided for them.  A hall was decorated, and they had their first Mass there on the feast of St. Elisha, June 14th, because the passageway was not yet constructed.

As soon as the passageway was completed and they had taken possession of the church, and provided for the enclosure, St. Teresa headed back to St. Joseph’s in Avila with her companion, Sr. Anne of St. Bartholomew, and Pedro de Ribera, who had come to Soria with them.  Father Nicholás Doria had already left, so these three struggled alone with the bad roads and weather, and overturned wagons, on the return journey, but despite the hardships St. Teresa writes that Ribera bore it all with patience, because “… he was so rooted in virtue that it doesn’t seem to me that I ever saw him angry, which amazed me very much and made me praise our Lord, for when one is rooted in virtue the occasions of sin are of little consequence (Foundations 30:13).”  These are the kind of people our Lord sent to help St. Teresa establish the foundations of reformed Carmelites, and they were never lacking.  In 1583, Doña Beatriz established another Carmelite monastery in Pamplona, where she entered as a nun.

 

A Difficult Archbishop, Another Bishop’s Friendship and the Seven Children of Catalina of Tolosa:  Burgos

Several members of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, had wanted St. Teresa to establish a foundation in the city of Burgos, which is northeast of Palencia.  The bishop of Palencia was the long-time friend and supporter of the foundations, Bishop Alvaro de Mendoza, who had helped the first foundation in St. Joseph’s in Avila and just recently requested and helped to establish a foundation in Palencia.  St. Teresa asked him to speak with the bishop of Burgos, Cristóbal Vela, for permission.  On his way to Burgos, he had stopped at the monastery of St. Jerome, near Valladolid, where Bishop Mendoza had a great feast and invested him with a pallium as archbishop.  In fact, the uncle of Bishop Vela, Francisco Nuñez Vela, was St. Teresa’s godfather, and her brother Antonio had served under the father of the bishop, Blasco Nuñez Vela, Viceroy of Peru, where both had died in the battle against Pizarro at Iñaquito in 1546.

From the very beginning, the foundation in Burgos was subject to miscommunications and the difficult vacillations of Bishop Vela.  St. Teresa records that he wrote to her, expressing his desire that she come to Burgos, and submitting the entire affair to the Bishop of Palencia.  He seemed to be hesitating because the permission of the people of the city was not yet obtained, and he wanted St. Teresa to discuss it with them.  She writes, “My impression was that the archbishop lacked enthusiasm (Foundations 31:7).”  Not wanting to cause disturbance of Bishop Mendoza’s friendship with Bishop Vela, St. Teresa politely backed out of the project.

There lived in Burgos a holy widow by the name of Doña Catalina de Tolosa who had seven children, all of whom entered the Discalced Carmelites.  Two daughters entered Valladolid, two entered in Palencia, and one, Elena of Jesus, entered in Burgos.  Her two sons both became Carmelite priests.  This woman herself entered the Carmel in Palencia as a nun when she was fifty years of age.  St. Teresa had written to her, asking her to acquire a house and what was needed for the foundation in Burgos, and to charge everything to her.  This was before the foundation had been at least temporarily abandoned.  Not knowing this, Catalina spoke with another devout woman of the town named Maria Manrique whose son Alonso was a city magistrate.  He spoke with Catalina de Tolosa, who pledged to provide a house and all that was necessary for the foundation.  With this assurance, he was able to obtain the license from the city council.  Still sick and fearing the cold weather,  St. Teresa resisted the idea until our Lord spoke to her saying, “Don’t pay attention to the cold weather for I am the true warmth.  The devil uses all his strength to hinder that foundation.  Use yours with My help so that it may be realized and do not fail to go in person, for great good will be done (Foundations 31:11).”

St. Teresa feared opposition on this foundation, but could not see from where it would come.  The weather was cold, the roads bad, and the dangers many, but St. Teresa trusted that God’s words to her would be fulfilled.  The Father Provincial, who was Fr. Gratián, gave permission and accompanied the nuns to Burgos.  St. Teresa was consoled by his peaceful disposition on the journey, which took longer than usual because of the mud, the overturned wagons, and the bridge crossing over a river, which was covered in water and very dangerous.  St. Teresa was very sick with a sore throat and fever.  And yet it was not from any of these difficulties that her greatest trials were to come, but from the archbishop.

It had been decided that the foundation should be made based upon the word of the archbishop received by Catalina de Tolosa and her friend’s daughter Catalina, but permission was not in writing.  St. Teresa had letters in hand for the friends and family of her friend Canon Salinas, who had helped with the foundation in Palencia and lived in Burgos.  The city council came out to greet them, very pleased that a foundation would be made there. They had entered the city in secret for fear of stirring up controversy.  It seemed that all was well.  They stayed that night at the home of Catalina of Tolosa, who wanted to give her own house for the foundation.  The rain was heavy, and Catalina had a large fire made for them.  This caused even more suffering for Saint Teresa because the fire dried out her throat so that the next day she could only speak with difficulty, while lying down, through a grate covered with a curtain.

Because of the heavy rain, Fr. Gratián did not go to see the archbishop until the next morning. 

Archbishop Vela was very disturbed and angry that the founders had come into the city “… without his permission, acting as if he had not ordered me to come or discussed anything about the foundation …. He ended the visit with Father Provincial by saying that if we did not have an income and our own house he would not grant the license (Foundations 31:21).”

This change proved to be a major setback for the foundation.  The archbishop demanded that no money for the foundation could come from the nuns.  He would not allow them to have the Mass there in a room that had been used as a chapel by the Jesuits, despite the pleas of two canons.  He told them they would need to move out of Catalina’s house because it was too damp and noisy.  In other words, he set up so many obstacles that it seemed the foundation would not be made.

Feeling disturbed that the nuns had to go out of their enclosure in the home of Catalina to go to Mass, Fr. Gratián obtained some rooms for them at the hospital, but a widow who had rented a room there was upset because the nuns’ rooms had a door to her room, although she would not be there for another six months.  Also, the hospital confraternity were afraid that the nuns would take over the hospital and so made them sign before a notary that they would leave if told to.  In the end, they gave them only two rooms and a kitchen until the man in charge of the hospital, Hernando de Matanza, “a great servant of God (Foundations 31:26),” gave them two more for a parlor.  

Catalina de Tolosa suffered greatly when the nuns moved to the hospital, which was very far from her house.  She went to see them every day and provided for their needs from her own charity, but many people were critical of her:  “They told her she was on her way to hell and asked her how she could do what she was doing since she had children (Foundations 31:30).” The business matters of the monastery were done in secret, so they did not know that she was always acting in good conscience; however, “She answered with prudence, for she has a great deal of it, and suffered the remarks in such a way that it truly seemed God was teaching her and gave her the ability to please some and to bear with others (Foundations 31:30).”  

The House of Their Dreams

Instructing them to find a house to purchase as soon as possible, Father Provincial Gratián left them, placing them in the care of his friends, particularly Dr. Pedro Manso, who served as St. Teresa’s confessor and later became bishop Callahora where he established foundations for the discalced nuns and friars. They decided to proceed without telling the archbishop, because he seemed to oppose the foundation, although St. Teresa was personally convinced that he wanted it and that he was a very good Christian, but the devil wanted to test them all.  For about three weeks they searched for a house, but found nothing suitable, until St. Teresa heard of a house that some other religious people had looked at and rejected.  At least three religious communities were attempting to establish foundations there: the Victorines (Minims), founded by St. Francis of Paola; the calced Carmelite friars; and the Basilians. She decided to send a friend, Dr. Antonio Aguiar, a physician who had been a classmate and friend of Fr. Gratián, to look at the house.  He was so pleased with it that he wanted to buy it immediately.

St. Teresa and Dr. Aguiar were both pleased with the price of the house, offered by the priest who was in charge of selling it, but decided to wait “since the money belonged to the order (Foundations 31:35)” and some others thought it was too much. The nuns had been recommending the matter to St. Joseph.  After the Mass of the vigil of his feastday, God spoke to her again with the words, “Do you hesitate over money (Foundations 31:36)?” Providentially, Dr. Aguiar found the notary at the door, and finalized the contract on the vigil of the feast of Saint Joseph.  Though many people had seen the house and did not want to buy it, upon hearing of the sale many of these same people came to see the house and demanded that the sale be nullified.  The good priest who had been put in charge of the sale of the house was criticized for selling it too cheaply.  The priest suffered very much from their criticism, but when the owners of the house were informed that their house would be a monastery they were so pleased they wanted to complete the sale immediately.  St. Teresa takes the time to tell of the purchase of this house because of the fact that so many religious orders and wealthy people had looked at it and did not want it.  Truly it seemed that God had saved it for them: “… everything was as though made to order for us and done so quickly it seemed like a dream.  By bringing us to such a paradise, our Lord repaid us generously for what we had suffered.  Because of the garden, the view and the water, the property is nothing else but that (Foundations 31:39).”

The founders decided to move into the house as quickly as possible, although a resident who refused to leave was still living there.  This they did for fear of losing the house, since some people were trying to stop them.  When the archbishop learned they had moved into the house and had put up the grates and turn, he was very angry again, thinking that they had gone ahead without a license granting his permission.  St. Teresa explained “that in a house for persons living a life of recollection these are customary (Foundations 31:40).” Although the house had a room that had been used as a chapel, the archbishop made the nuns go out for Mass for over a month from the time they had moved.  He came to see the house and was very pleased with it, but he still refused to grant the license.  Catalina of Tolosa provided furnishings and all they needed for the house, desiring as she did to see the foundation accomplished.  St. Teresa finally wrote to her old friend, the bishop of Palencia (Bishop Mendoza), who wrote to Bishop Vela and convinced him to grant the license.  Dr. Manso offered their first Mass there the next day.  St. Teresa writes that almost the entire city were very pleased, having felt sorry for what the archbishop was doing, and the Sisters were filled with joy at seeing themselves enclosed at last. 

“Lord, what do these your servants seeks other than to serve You and see themselves enclosed for You in a place they will never leave?  No one but those who experience it will believe the joy that is felt in these foundation once we are enclosed where no secular person can enter, for however much we love them it is not enough to take away this great consolation in finding ourselves alone.  It seems to me comparable to taking many fish from the river with a net:  they cannot live until they are in the water again.  So it is with souls accustomed to living in the running streams of their Spouse.  When taken out of them, and caught up in the net of worldly things, they do not truly live until they find themselves back in those waters.  This I always observe in each of these Sister; this I know from experience (Foundations 31: 45-46).”

Providentially, the foundation in Burgos ended up being founded in poverty after all when Father Gratián and St. Teresa had the contracts they had made with the good Catalina de Tolosa nullified because of “certain difficulties that could have given rise to a lawsuit (Foundations 31:48).”  She provided the inheritances of two daughters who had entered the Carmel in Palencia and another daughter who would enter the Carmel in Burgos, but since these could not be drawn upon until after her death the nuns were forced to depend on alms, as St. Teresa had wanted.

About one month later, the archbishop gave the habit to Sr. Elena of Jesus, a daughter of Catalina of Tolosa.  During the ceremony he preached, and publicly accused himself for not having given the license sooner, and he asked pardon from St. Teresa and the nuns for the pain he had caused. 

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