Wednesday, 27 February 2008

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain

Just thought I’d take advantage of a surge of blogging energy to blog about the half-term trip to Valladolid, Spain which some of us went on a month ago...

Valladolid is the home of St. Alban's Seminary, an English seminary begun by St. Robert Persons in 1589 in order to train priests to come back to England and minister to the Recusant Catholics. Among the martyrs associated with the seminary are St. Hernry Garnet, St. Henry Walpole and Blessed John Plessington. The seminary, following the example of other continental operations like Douai and Rome, was a gift of the Spanish Crown, and hence reverts back to the Crown once it fails to be used any longer for the training of priests. Today, because it is no longer feasible to use it as a full-time seminary, it is used by many dioceses as a pre-seminary year for accepted applicants, where they learn the Catechism, develop a life of communal prayer and liturgy, and experience a profoundly Catholic culture. Close by are the cities of Avila and Segovia, where the two friends St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross respectively led a renewal in the Church through the newly formed discalced Carmelites.


Situated on the top of a hill and closed in by a great stone, turreted wall, the city of Avila supposedly provided Teresa with the inspiration for her mystical work, The Interior Castle, which talks of the different steps on the way to perfect union with God. She was first a nun in the Convent of the Incarnation, which lies a 10 minute walk outside the city walls. For the first half of her life in the convent she was drawn between ‘friendship with God and friendship with the world’, but in mid-life she read the Confessions of St. Augustine, and underwent a conversion of spirit, desiring to live a more fervent life in the service of God. She also received many spiritual locutions from Our Lord, in one of which she saw ‘the sorely wounded Christ,’ and these helped her to search for God more single-mindedly. She founded the convent of St. Joseph’s which resides in the city walls, where the sisters lived a more primitive observance of the Carmelite life. Seeing her cell in the Convent of the Incarnation, small and dark, with a little ledge and a small fireplace from which to cook her supper, was the most humbling thing from our visit to Avila.

I also enjoyed seeing the musical instruments which are kept there, for they indicated that St. Teresa and the nuns were accustomed to living out their faith with joy and creativity.

More about Segovia (home of St. John of the Cross) later!

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