Teresa & the Priest in Becedas . As a young nun St Teresa of Avila was flattered by a ‘womanising’ priest; an experience she remembered years later and wrote about in her autobiography. Teresa was 21 and suffering from a mysterious illness. Her father took her to Becedas, a small village, a day’s journey to the west of Avila. She went to regular confession to the parish priest of Becedas, a Fr. Peter Hernandez, whom she discovered to be a learned man: Teresa had a lifelong appreciation of learned men. Being so honest and uncomplicated the priest came to like and admire this young attractive nun. She was charmed by him and looked forward to their meetings. The following is a conversation between St Teresa and this Priest, which I have made up, it’s pure speculation on my part, but I believe some conversation like this could have taken place between Teresa and the Priest. Fr. Peter: ‘Good morning, Teresa, how are you this morning.’ Teresa: ‘I’m fine, but it’s Sister Teresa, if you don’t mind,’ she said trying hard not to smile. This made the Priest smile. He smiled a lot when he was with her. ‘You know, Sister Teresa, he said, emphasizing the word ‘Sister,’ ‘don’t misunderstand me, but I really like you. You’re not in the least bit nunnish.’ ‘Oh, dear, replied Teresa, I’m not quite sure how I should take that. I am a nun.’ ‘You know what I mean, (and in truth she did) you look at me when we speak, you don’t keep your eyes lowered all the time, you’re not pious, I can talk to you about anything; you’re different from other nuns.’ ‘That’s because you don’t know many nuns,’ replied Teresa, trying to deflect Fr. Peter’s backhanded compliment. She knew that in many ways she was different from most of the nuns she knew, not that she minded being different. ‘Where did you learn to be so human, so normal?’ continued the Priest. ‘Am I normal?’ replied Teresa; ‘…anyway, what’s normal look like. I am just myself. I try to be a good nun and leave the rest to Almighty God and the Holy Spirit.’ ‘Ah yes, the Holy Spirit… (after a longish pause):What made you become a nun? You’re intelligent, you’re pretty, you have a nice figure…’ ‘Excuse me, you’re not supposed to be looking at my figure,’ interrupted Teresa again trying hard not to smile and quietly enjoying the flattery. Ignoring this Fr. Peter continued, smiling, ‘…you make people laugh. How come no young man has swept you off your feet? You must have had plenty of suitors.’ ‘You’ll have to ask the Holy Spirit,’ said Teresa, once again deflecting his compliments. ‘I don’t want to ask the Holy Spirit, I’m asking you,’ responded Fr. Peter, pressing Teresa for an answer. ‘I could respond, she replied, by saying that it’s none of your business… but,’ and now she was deadly serious, ‘I suppose the honest answer is I don’t really know. I never intended to be a nun. In fact, I never liked nuns, or priests for that matter.’ Teresa emphasized the word ‘priests.’ Once again this made him smile. ‘However, now that I am a nun I can honestly say that I couldn’t be happier, and I am so grateful to God for calling me.’ ‘Don’t let them change you, Teresa. Sorry… Sister Teresa; try and always be as you are now.’ The man came to like and trust this young nun so much that he confessed to her that he’d been having an affair with a local woman for seven years. It had become public knowledge. The woman had given the cleric a lucky charm which he wore around his neck. Teresa believed that somehow this charm had a bad influence on the man, and being a woman, blamed the woman. However, Teresa’s attitude was not to condemn him but to feel sorry for him; in her own mind she said, ‘but for the grace of God go I.’ The priest became so fond of Teresa that he would do anything for her; even give up the charm that the woman had given him. Teresa liked him too. She was fascinated by him and in her own naïve way innocently flirted with him. Later on she admitted that his affection for her wasn’t totally pure. The cleric then began to avoid the woman he was having an affair with, till eventually, he stopped having anything to do with her. Exactly one year since the day he first met Teresa he died suddenly.

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