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A very special relationship

Some years ago I translated from the German of Erika Lorenz a book about the delightful relationship between St Teresa and Father Gracian. I have had occasion to dip into it again these past days, and once again find myself captivated by Teresa's charm. For centuries Fr Gracian's name fell into virtual oblivion because he ended up in exile, evicted from the Discalced Order (not through any sin but because of the internal politics of the Order) and taking refuge in Brussels, where he found refuge with the Calced. In the present millennium his important role in Teresa's work has been highlighted and his name brought back into honour. She and he enjoyed what is known as a 'spiritual friendship', an intimate closeness which is not based on any physical relationship but on a meeting of souls. The two met when he was in his late twenties and she in her fifties, and despite the disparity in ages she felt able to share with him her hopes, dreams, and plans for Carmel. Astonishingly, as a result of a series of visions she had, she boldly subjected herself in obedience to this rookie priest. However, things were not quite that simple, as Gracian himself records:

'It often happened to me that after a conversation with her I reached some particular conclusion contrary to hers, only to find myself changing my mind overnight. When I then went to her and told her that what she had proposed was definitely the best way forward, she would smile. When I asked her why she was smiling, her answer was that the Lord had already assured her I could come round to her view. If her Superior commanded her to do the opposite of what she considered right, then she would go to Our Lord and say to him, "Lord, if you agree with the view that I favour, then change the heart of my Superior and make him command it so that I can remain obedient to him.'

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