Jesuit spiritual writer; b. Cervera del Rio Alhama (Logroño), 1533; d. Belmonte, July 25, 1580. Álvarez entered the Society of Jesus at Alcalá, on May 3, 1555. After a period in the apostolic ministry in Avila (1558–66), he was made rector in Salamanca (1573–76) and from 1576 to 1580 held the posts of both rector and novice master at Medina del Campo and Villagarcía. He was also visitor for the province of Aragón, designated provincial of Peru, and finally, for a few months, provincial of Toledo. St. Teresa of Avila called upon him for counsel in certain critical moments of her life, and for six years he was her confessor.
Álvarez's prayer of silence was considered incompatible with the spirit of the society and was condemned by the Superior General E. Mercurian at the instigation of the provincial Juan Suarez and the visitor Diego Avellaneda. The opposition stemmed in part from caution begotten by the then recent condemnation of the illuministic ideas of the Alumbrados, and in part from the disfavor with which superiors in the society at the time viewed the tendency of some Jesuits to encourage involvement in contemplation at the expense of the apostolic ministry, which was the principal end of the society.
The influence of the spiritual doctrine of Álvarez was due not only to his own accomplishment but also to the
popularity of his biography, which was written by Luis de la puente, SJ. His frequent assignments to administrative office in the society prevented him from dedicated and extensive writing. His works include commentaries on the rule for novices; retreat sermons; two "reports" about his prayer, short but valuable treatises on the prayer of silence. He excelled in the expression of true fervor and the intensity of his personal spiritual experience.
Bibliography: b. Álvarez, Escritos espirituales: Introducción biográfica, ed. c. m. abad and f. boado (Barcelona 1961), complete ed. of his works. l. de la puente, Vida del v. p. B. Álvarez (new ed. Madrid 1882). i. iparraguirre, Répertoire de spiritualité ignatienne (Rome 1961) 177–178. e. hernÁndez, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique. Doctrine et histoire, ed. m. viller et al. (Paris 1932—) 1:405–406. h. bremond, Histoire littéaire du sentiment réligieux en France depuis la fin des guerres de religion jusqu'à nos jours, 12 v. (Paris 1911–36) 8:228–269. j. tarrago, "La oración de silencio … del Padre Baltasar Álvarez y los ejercicios … ," Manresa, 4 (1928) 165–174, 258–270.