This passage is adapted from Chapter 2 of St. Teresa of Ávila’s The Way of Perfection, first published in 1577 and translated here by the Rev. John Dalton in 1852.
Think not, my sisters, that because you must not seek to please secular persons you shall therefore want support. I assure you this will not be the case, Never strive, by human artifices, to maintain yourselves, for then you will die of hunger. And as you have given up revenues, give up also all care about food -otherwise all is lost. Let those whom our Lord wishes to receive revenues attend to such cares in good time, since it is very proper-because it is their vocation.
But for us, sisters, it is improper. To be solicitous about an income from others seems to me to be thinking on what others enjoy. In spite of all your care, another does not alter his mind, nor does he intend the more to bestow an alms. This care leave to Him, who knows how to move all men, who is the Lord of revenues and of their possessors. By His command we have come here: His words are true; they cannot fail; let us not forsake Him, and we shall have no reason to fear.
Mind this, sisters, for it will concern you much when I am dead, and therefore I leave it to you in writing. When I have least, I am the most free from care. And our Lord knows that, to the best of my opinion, our superabundance afflicts me more than our wanting necessaries.
What do I care for kings and lords, if I desire none of their estates, nor strive to please them, and if I am obliged ever so little to offend God on their account? What care I for their honors, if I understand in what a poor man’s chief honor consists? True poverty has with it a certain dignity, so that none suffer by it (I speak of poverty undertaken only for God’s sake). It need not please anyone but Him: it is very certain that one acquires many friends by not being dependent on anyone.
These are the arms that must be inscribed on our banners: these things must we faithfully observe in the house, in apparel, in words, and much more in our thoughts. As long as these points are observed, have no fear about the decay of the discipline of this house, through the divine assistance. I am confident that if this be truly observed, both chastity and everything else will be much better fortified, than by very sumptuous buildings, against which I beseech you to be on your guard.
It looks very bad, my daughters, to erect stately houses out of the property of the poor. God forbid this should be done; let our houses be poor and mean in every way. As for those who build large houses, they have their reasons and other pious intentions. But any little corner is large enough for thirteen poor women. I tell you (since strict enclosure is necessary, and also conduces to prayer and devotion), that if they possess a piece of ground, with some small hermitages, to retire to prayer, well and good; but from stately buildings, large houses, and everything fine and beautiful, may God deliver us.
This passage has been excerpted and adapted from the original, including minor punctuation changes, spelling changes, and other modifications that have not substantially changed content or intent.