Saturday, August 8, 2015

Our Holy Mother St. Teresa and Fr. Domingo Bañez

On St. Dominic's day we cannot forget how much his spiritual sons helped Our Holy Mother St. Teresa in her spiritual struggles, in her writings and in her foundations of monasteries. The friar who perhaps helped St. Teresa the most was Fr. Domingo Bañez. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
In another way, Bañez in his prime was rendering memorable service to the Church as director and confessor of St. Teresa (1515-82). Her own words mark him as the spiritual adviser who was most relied upon as a guide and helper, both in her interior life and in her heroic work of the Carmelite reform. "To the Father Master Fra Dominie Bañez, who is now in Valladolid as Rector of the College of St. Gregory, I confessed for six years, and, whenever I had occasion to do so, communicated with him by letter. . . . All that is written and told, she communicated to him, who is the person with whom she has had, and still has, the most frequent communications." (See "Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, by herself", tr. by David Lewis, 3d ed., London, 1904, Relation VII, 448, 450.) Of the first foundation of the reform, St. Joseph's Monastery at Avila, she wrote that Bañez alone saved it from the destruction resolved upon in an assembly of civil and religious authorities (op. cit., ch. xxxvi, 336 sqq.). He did not then know the saint, but "from that time forth he was one of her most faithful friends, strict and even severe, as became a wise director who had a great saint for his penitent." He testifies, in the process of her beatification that he was firm and sharp with her, while she herself was the more desirous of his counsel the more he humbled her, and the less he seemed to esteem her (op. cit., p., xxxvi). He looked for the proof of her love of God in her truthfulness, obedience, mortification, patience, and charity towards her persecutors, while he avowed that no one was more incredulous than himself as to her visions and revelations. In this his mastery of the spiritual life was shown to be as scientific as it was wholesome and practical. "It was easy enough to praise the writings of St. Teresa and to admit her sanctity after her death. Fra Bañez had no external help in the applause of the many, and he had to judge her book as a theologian and the saint as one of his ordinary penitents. When he wrote, he wrote like a man whose whole life was spent, as he himself tells us, in lecturing and disputing" (ibid.).
The Holy Mother had earlier gone through a great deal of persecution and calumnies from certain religious who did not understand her gifts and accused her of being either crazy or possessed by the devil. The sound judgment and discernment of directors such as Fr. Bañez helped her not only to grow in sanctity but probably saved her as a person.

Of the Saint's Autobiography, Fr. Bañez penned the following words:
Of one of her books, namely, the one in which she recorded her life and the manner of prayer whereby God had led her, I can say that she composed it to the end that her confessors might know her the better and instruct her, and also that it might encourage and animate those who learn from it the great mercy God had shown her, a great sinner as she humbly acknowledged herself to be.
Then as now, there is no replacement for a learned and holy priest. Let us pray for those priests who persevere in their vocation to shepherd and guide us.

2 comments:

Mary333 said...

Thank you for printing this. Saint Teresa is my patron saint, I was born on her feast day and I always ask for her intercession in my walk with the Lord. I love hearing things about her that I have not yet heard.

elena maria vidal said...

Mary, what a powerful saint to have as your patroness! Thank you!

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