Translated from the original by Ana Giménez.
GRACIÁN AND TERESA´S LOVE
-When they met, Teresa was 60 and Gracián 30.It was love at first sight. She found the man she needed for her foundations on her last seven years of her life. Educated, a theologian , hard worker, man of prayer (three hours a day) transparent, verging on naivety, he used to read in public the private letters that she would send him, till she forbade him to do so; “Simplicity”, she says. Encrypted letters so as nobody could know about their secrets. He was Elijah, Eliseus,Paul…In brief, a man free from any ambition, with a prodigious memory. She was his tutor and his disciple, mother and friend; He would protect her from any risk with great care, Inquisition included. He knew he was superior in education, so he would freely look after and correct her writings; maybe, too much freedom, sometimes. An exemplary relationship, full of difficulties. That´s how Teresa defines it: “He was a man of much learning, intelligence and modesty along with other great virtues.” (Foundations 23.1) “A Man sent by God and his Blessed Mother. His devotion to her-and it is great-is what led him to the Order and helping me” (Letters 208.4)
– They met in Beas on 25th April 1575. They did completely trust each other “I would like to open my entrails to him” (Letters 124.4) She admires his “simplicity and frankness” among many other virtues, she writes to Gracián´s mother. They had endless conversations that Gracián relates in one of his many books. They talked for hours and asked each other about everything related to the foundations: “She taught me everything she knew, giving me so many doctrines, rules and counsels that I could have written a large book about what she taught me, because, as I say, there were many days and the whole day-apart from Mass and meals -all the time was spent on that. I was so submissive to her that from now on I didn´t do anything important without her advice”
She would pay very close attention to him, wishing to see him in person, to receive his letters, sometimes daily, attentive to his health, to what he would eat, always worried about his trips, his long hours in the confessional booth and in his preachings, along with many processes, which carried him many problems; so many that caused them to be expelled from his own Carmelite peers and latter readmitted, although he never returned to the Order. He walked around Europe: Portugal, Rome…he was a prisoner in northern Africa and he ended his days picked up by the Discalced Carmelites in Brussels. He died in the street. A real saint to me. A few years ago I read that Jerónimo Gracián´s reaction- the day he knew of Teresa´s trip to Heaven ( one week later she passed away) -was to go to the shrine and to his knees, he cried and prayed for her. At night, He would put an empty chair at the foot of his bed to keep on talking together. There are no words to describe so much beauty.
-The hearsay was inevitable, that friendship was beyond wisdom limits. The height of everything was their vow of obedience with Christ Himself, what he would order, she would obey without any complaint. She followed that to the letter: “I seemed to see close beside are Jesus Christ our Lord, in the form wherein His Majesty in wont to reveal Himself, with Gracián on His right. Our Lord took his right hand and mine, and, joining them together, said to me that He would have me accept him in His place for my whole life, and that we were both to have one mind in all things for it was fitting “ (Relation 40.2)
Nowadays their relation still is controversial. Not long ago a monk wrote an article entitled “God alone is not enough” with arguments against. Tomás Álvarez answered back with another article entitled: ”Talking about an inappropriate remark” (“A propósito de un despropósito”). Gracián himself was scared about so much slander and complaint. Teresa´s answer gives us the key to understand what happened. She writes him on 9th January 1577:
“Oh what Angela (Teresa herself) got with the present of her feeling that shows the page, after having written the letter she sent! (She is answering to Gracián dealing about the matter concerning him after the vow of obedience). She says that she would like to kiss your hands many times, and wants me to tell your Paternity that you can well be with no sorrow, the union (Christ) was so well done-and the knot was so tightly tied, that only death will break it-nay after death it will be firmer than before, and no foolish notions about perfection could do as much as that: the very thought of it helps her to praise the Lord. That freedom which she used to have has been nothing but a hindrance to her. Now she thinks her present bondage better and more pleasing to God, for she has found someone to help her bring souls to Him who will praise Him. And such is the relief and joy which overflows in her that a large part of it spreads to me. May he be blessed for everything. Your Paternity´s unworthy daughter and subject”
-What happened in Teresa´s heart so as to have such human loves, without any sexuality, as she confessed? The encounter with Jesus Christ goes from friendship to love due to a life-long relationship; at some point, the experience of indestructible union with Christ, is lived by means of raptures, the experience of being loved by Him with tender mercy. From reiterated proofs of unconditional love all her affective being rearranged and matured. No one and nothing would be able to separate her from that love, except that she herself would have liked to. That deep security gives her a wide freedom to maintain “great” bonds of friendship (her own expression) with other people, especially with Gracián. The secret seems to be to reach to a courtship relationship with Jesus Christ with wedding commitment.
Sometimes I wonder how easy it would be to take giant steps forward if we knew ourselves loved by Him who loved us to the end. Remember the step given by the prophets before being sent on mission, as we can see on the vocation of Isaiah 6. I many times ask myself about the reasons for that resistance, that is, to know we are loved by the innermost part of God, or about the reasons for harsh judgments towards ourselves. Or may it well be that Jesus Christ doesn´t give Himself completely to us if we don´t give ourselves completely?
(I inherited the devotion and admiration to Gracián through my mentor Tomás Álvarez. I have taken many pieces of information from “The Dictionary of Saint Teresa” (“El Diccionario de Santa Teresa” by Idelfonso Moriones and E.Renedo, published by Monte Carmelo and directed by Tomás Álvarez)
If you wish to read about Gracián´s autobiography, I leave the Spanish link here: