Images de page

The foundation of the convent of San Antonio at Montemayor el Nuevo, a rich and flourishing town of Alemtejo. 3. The annexation of the wealthy monastery of Ansede, in the diocese of Oporto, with its scanty community and large revenues to the large and poor convents of S. Dominic at Lisbon, an affair of considerable importance to the Order, in which he would probably have been unsuccessful but for the firm protection of the Queen Doña Catalina. 4. After he had ceased to be Provincial, he promoted the foundation of the convent of S. Sebastian at Setubal. It was founded by King Dom Sebastian.


That virtuous and religious princess, Queen Catalina, not only made choice of Fray Luis for her confessor, and consulted him on the most important affairs of the state, but on the death of Dom Fray Baltasar de Lempe, Archbishop of Braga, she resolved to confer the vacant mitre upon him. Even before this intention had been publicly declared, a rumour had spread abroad, and it had been received with approval by the public in general, but with regret by Fray Luis' more intimate friends, who, knowing the exceeding gentleness of his character, and the kindness of his heart, dreaded the many disappointments and vexations to which he would be subjected in a city notorious for the depravity of its inhabitants. His especial and most worthy friend, Fray Bartolomé de los Martires, Prior of Benfica, wrote to beg him most earnestly not to accept so perilous and anxious a charge.

Fray Luis was then at Santarem, recovering from the effects of a dangerous fall. The Prior sent him congratulations about his health, but none about his mitre. He earnestly recommended him to pray to GOD that, as He had been pleased to save his foot in the fall, so He would now rescue him from the Braga" (which in Portuguese means fetters) with which the world threatened him, which he held to be a worse kind of fall. The Queen was incessantly solicited by members of her family


and court with requests in favour of other candidates, so much so that she expressed a wish that all the prelates in Spain might be immortal, at least during her rule, that she might not again be exposed to such a contest. But she determined to follow the impulses of her own conscience, and sent for Fray Luis to Lisbon.

On his arrival she first reminded him that she had before vainly offered him the bishopric of Viseu, and then intimated to him her present desire in the most peremptory terms; saying that demoralisation and impiety had made such alarming progress in Braga, that a man of courage and reputation such as his was absolutely needed to check such extreme disorder; that, after long consideration, she had not been able to find any one more capable of undertaking that difficult task, and that she had begun to despair of the salvation of those misguided souls, unless by his example and exhortations he would hasten to their succour. To these arguments the Queen added the claims of her friendship, showing plainly, by her voice and looks, how great would be her satisfaction at seeing this elevated post occupied by a man who had so entirely merited her confidence, and from whose intercourse she had gained so much benefit for her own soul.

Fray Luis heard this discourse with profound humility and silent respect, and when the Queen had ended, skilfully preparing her mind by an exordium full of gentleness and gratitude, he represented to her the exceeding magnitude of the undertaking, and concluded by refusing, with a bold and holy firmness, to accept a distinction as much at variance with his personal temper as with the modest, retired, and laborious habits of his life.

The Queen knew the veracity and rectitude of her confessor too well to persist in the fruitless design of subduing him to her wishes. Suppressing, therefore, the deep regret that this refusal occasioned her, she changed her plan, and placed the choice of the new Archbishop in Fray Luis' hands.

He accepted this commission with pleasure, and requested to be allowed time to meditate upon its execution. The Queen gave him three days, at the end of which he again presented

himself at the palace, and designated Fray Bartolomé de los Martires as a person eminently fitted for so eminent and delicate an office. The Queen approved of the nomination, and Fray Bartolomé was summoned to her presence. It is impossible, says one of his biographers, to describe the consternation of his soul on hearing from the mouth of the princess the resolution which had been made in his favour. The same reasons with which he had forewarned Fray Luis of the perils with which this high dignity was surrounded now presented themselves to his mind; and as soon as he had somewhat recovered from his surprise, he laid before the Queen the motives which prompted him on this occasion to refuse obedience to her commands. The Queen, apprehensive of the new perplexities which would ensue, should she again be forced to seek for a fitting individual, not one of the many who were anxiously soliciting the appointment, had a long conversation with Fray Bartolomé, but gained nothing from it but vexation and discouragement, seeing her good intentions now for the second time frustrated, and the hope she had entertained of making a nomination to which no objection could be made so completely baffled.

Fray Bartolomé likewise departed from this interview, disturbed and disquieted. He shut himself up in his cell, and resolved, at the risk of being held discourteous, to avoid every occasion of returning to the Court, and exposing himself to fresh annoyances.

The Queen had formed so high an opinion of Fray Bartolomé, that she would not desist from her intention. She sent for Fray Luis de Granada, and desired him to employ all possible means to induce his friend to accede to her wishes, exercising his authority as Superior, if he found persuasions and entreaties insufficient.

Fray Luis determined to obey this mandate, being convinced of its justice and propriety, on account of the special qualities which fitted the Prior of Benfica in his judgment for the office which she intended to confer on him. He went accordingly to visit him, and they had a long and animated conversation and argument on the subject. At length finding all other means unavailing, on Monday, 8th August 1558, he commanded the

bell to be rung for the assembling of a Chapter, and when the whole community had assembled, he ordered Fray Bartolomé to stand up, and, after addressing to him a discourse full of sound doctrine and affectionate feeling, he solemnly imposed upon him the obligation of accepting the Archbishopric of Braga, to which he had been presented by the Queen, under the penalty of excommunication. Fray Bartolomé having now no resource left, exhibiting the most unequivocal signs of grief and dejection, protested that he obeyed solely to avoid breaking his vow, and disobeying the precept of his Superior, and promised to make no alteration in his rule of life, and to spend none of the revenues of his See except in accordance with the canons, and with the examples and counsels of the Saints. To this Fray Luis replied by giving the Archbishopdesignate some salutary admonitions as to the conduct proper to be observed in his new dignity, which Fray Bartolomé immediately reduced to writing on a paper that served as a mark in the breviary which he commonly used.

Queen Catalina resigned the government which she had exercised for some years as Regent for her grandson, Dom Sebastian, and imitating the example of her brother, Charles V., not willing that death should surprise her while involved in affairs of state, she retired from public life, and became wholly absorbed in preparation for another world.

The Infante Enrique assumed the government. Fray Luis followed his steps, and those of the Queen, whose spiritual director he had now become, and who therefore needed a more constant communication with her confessor. His office as Provincial Master had come to an end shortly before, in October 1572, and he came to Lisbon, and became an inhabitant of the Convent of S. Dominic, where he passed the last years of his life, observing all the duties of a Christian and religious life with the most scrupulous exactness, and striving to advance more and more in the way of perfection, and in union with his Creator.


Fray Luis preached constantly before the Court, and was keeper of the royal conscience, which charge never led him to neglect the exercises of composing, preaching, and receiving confessions. He was accustomed to rise every night for matins, till his great age excused him, and did not lie down again, but occupied himself throughout the deep silence of the night in converse with GOD, at one time in prayer, at another in meditation on the Divine mysteries, until the sun appeared. The remainder of the day he spent in studying, in hearing confessions, in giving ghostly counsel, in Sacred offices in the choir, in visiting the sick, in other works to procure the salvation of souls, and the glory of GOD. It is a great thing to be said of him that he was never seen idle.

He may be said to have passed his whole life in prayer, for it was in prayer that he meditated and prepared what he afterwards wrote.

In his latter years, he ordinarily rose at four in the morning; until six, he applied himself to mental prayer and preparation for saying Mass. He never missed a single day in his attendance at the holy Altar, for it was an opinion he expressed that the best preparation for celebrating was a daily celebration, and he strongly reprobated those who, out of excessive fear and reverence, deprive themselves of this great good. The sacrifice was followed by prayer and thanksgiving at some length. He continued in these holy occupations till eight. Going then to his cell, he ordinarily called some one to write for him. He had recited his hours before Mass. He would then continue his studies, the chief was writing.

The manner of proceeding was this: First, he would desire some book to be read to him, for his failing sight needed such help; the reading lasted an hour. Then he would begin to dictate, generally walking up and down, and dictating as fluently as if he were reading out of a book. The dictation lasted till ten. He then dismissed the amanuensis, and taking the pen himself, wrote till eleven on some other subject. At meal-time

« PrécédentContinuer »