Word and life… Saint Teresa and the imperative of the real

The coordinates in which the Teresian style moves, like those of many mystics, are not others but the very currents of life that provoke it (wide and deep currents) and the currents of the other life (readers) in which they are poured through the word.

Teresa de Jesus is an exceptional communicator. His contemporaries succumbed fascinated to the magic and charm of his word: «he had a mouth so full of grace that there was no one who could separate from it». The first-time readers confessed that her writings were her, that the sound of her voice, the modulations of her writing, was a faithful reflection of her spoken word.

As soon as we approach the bibliographic volume that revolves around Teresa of Jesus, we are wonder and we must ask where is the secret of such profusion, treating one as a woman and spiritual, at a time when both a group (the women) as the others (the spiritual ones) were viewed with suspicion.

If her spiritual experience and her readings, and the claim of his daughters, gave to her pen the most brilliant material (that we could call the «claim of the real»), his spirit also learned to know himself better in that daily exercise, not rarely ascetic, to pour on the blank page. She knew very early that certain things were not understood until they were put in writing: «And it is so when I started to write about this last water (kind of prayer), that it seemed impossible to know how to deal with anything, other than to speak in Greek, that’s how difficult it is» (V 18,8).

If in the past, people often have said about Teresa that she is an illiterate woman, without proper education, who wrote under obedience (Br Luis de León says that she «wrote by force and command»), nevertheless we discover that Teresa has a determined will to write and she control what she writes. The context recommends it, the reality of the person in front of her recommends it, and life itself claims it.

The need to control her expression was something vital, first of all so that her words had the desired effect, so that she effectively spread her message in an environment in which any pretense of intellectuality among women was frowned upon:«… to wish that everyone be very spiritual is not bad; to procure it could hard, if there is not much discretion and dissimulation in doing it in a way that does not seem to teach» (V 13,8).

As knowledgeable as anyone else about the terrain that she stepped on, it would have been unwise to start writing -and she did not want it as we will see- in the style or line of the intellectuals; what would have immediately awakened inquisitorial suspicions. In addition to the typical self-deprecation, for being a woman «illiterate» and having a «heavy style» (Foundations, prologue 3), with the idea of ​​capturing the benevolence of the reader, she is almost always placed under the obedience of her confessors. This explains: «they ordered me to write» that, without being a lie, but we know it is an expression more useful than sincere.

For whatever reasons, for an antifeminist environment, to win the benevolence of the reader, or to divert suspicion around her condition and lineage, the truth is that our Carmelite is very attentive to what she says and how she says it, controls her expressive ways, because -among other things- like any author worth his work, she wants to arrive with truth and transparency and with effect to the greatest number of readers: «… because we are in a world that needs to think what they can think of us, so that our words will have effect» (F 8,7).

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