"NOT ALL NUNS MAY DO THIS"
by Erika Lorenz, trans Cyprian Blamires OCDS
(Gracewing & Freedom Publishing, 2013, 176pp, $19.95, ISBN: 9781781829950
Throughout the history of the Church there have been famous friendships/associations, such as that between Francis of Assisi and Clare.
This short volume explores the lesser-known spiritual friendship between St Teresa of Avila and Fr Jerome Gracian.
This work was first published in German in 1983. The author, Erika Lorenz (1923-2003) was a Professor at the University of Hamburg, her speciality being 16th century Spanish spirituality and lyric poetry.
Although a generation younger than St Teresa (b. 1515), as her spiritual director, Fr Gracian had an important influence in the development of St Teresa's spiritual life.
Born at Valladolid, Spain, in 1545, his father intended for him to succeed him as a royal secretary. However, during an illness as a young man, he decided to pursue theological studies for the priesthood.
As a young priest, Fr Jerome became drawn to the Carmelites, which he entered in 1572.
Against considerable opposition, Fr Jerome sought to introduce the discalced reforms. He first met St Teresa in 1575, and they collaborated in extending the discalced reform.
Much of this volume explores their correspondence as St Teresa wrote regularly, in some instances almost daily, to Fr Jerome, and this work contains numerous extracts from her letters to him.
As her spiritual director, Fr Jerome guided St Teresa's spiritual development in significant ways.
One important role he played was in insisting she write her spiritual autobiography, a work that has become a classic. She in turn encouraged Fr Jerome in his work.
In 1580, he was to be appointed Superior of the Discalced Carmelites, after the Carmelites granted them approbation.
However, after St Teresa's death, he would suffer persecution, and ultimately be expelled from the Discalced Carmelites in 1592.
En route to Rome from the port of Gaeta, Fr Jerome was captured and enslaved in Tunis.
His slavery gave him the opportunity to minister to fellow Christian slaves, before he was ransomed. Arriving in Rome, he was readmitted to the Calced Carmelites, and died in Brussels in 1614, five months after witnessing St Teresa's beatification.
Not All Nuns May Do This is an interesting portrait of a unique spiritual friendship. In particular, it highlights the overlooked role of Fr Jerome in St Teresa's spiritual development.