T E R E S I A N
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CHANGE OF SUPERIOR, CHANGE OF
C O N T E N T S
|I The Carmelite Order||XI The legacy of Father Doria.|
|II Teresa de Ahumada, Carmelite Nun||XII Break rather than Bend: the Discalced Split.|
|III St. Joseph's, Avila||XIII The Spanish Congregation.|
|IV The Teresian Constitutions||XIV A History that was difficult to write.|
|V The Radiation of a Charism||XV Leading figures in the Italian Congregation.|
|VI Teresa of Jesus, Foundress of Friars||XVI Reinforcements: Domingo Ruzola and Thomas of Jesus.|
|VII "Calced" and "Discalced" Carmelites||XVII The Spread of the Italian Congregation.|
|VIII The New Province under Father Gracián.||XVIII World-wide Expansion of the Daughters of St Teresa.|
|IX John of the Cross -The "Inner Man".||XIX Restoration (19th Century) and Renewed Expansion (20th Century) of the Order.|
Change of Superior, change of Direction:
Father Nicholas of Jesus and Mary, Doria.
|XX The Teresian Carmel and Vatican II Renewal.|
CHANGE OF SUPERIOR,
CHANGE OF DIRECTION
A year later, he decided to follow the example of his friend Ambrosio Mariano and join the Discalced at Los Remedios in Seville. He was professed on 25 March 1578, No.38 in the register of professions.
Because of the historical importance of the role he was about to play in the life of the Order, I think a few words about what we know of the training he received during his first years as a Carmelite are in order. (Of his childhood and earlier education we know nothing at all). After all, this is where the key to an understanding of his subsequent behaviour is to be found.
The novitiate of Los Remedios, which he entered in March 1577, had been established by Fr.Gracián on 6 January 1574 by transferring thither a few novices from San Juan del Puerto. The lifestyle there was what Fr.Diego de Santa María, an Andalusian Carmelite, had brought with him from Pastrana when the house was under the jurisdiction of Vargas. Gracián brought it under the provincial's jurisdiction, transferred the novices to it, and remained on as superior, in his capacity as Visitator and Apostolic Commissary, until Easter 1575 when Ormaneto summoned him to Madrid. From then on, Mariano was in charge. Luis de San Jerónimo, the man who was to be Nicholas Doria's novicemaster, entered there in June 1575.
Gregorio Nacianceno, who was to be prior during Doria's novitiate, also entered en 1575; he was already a priest when Gracián gave him the habit in Beas. He then accompanied St.Teresa to Seville in 1576 and made his profession there on 27 April of that year.
We have no need to draw on our imaginations to know what life was like at Los Remedios at that time. In December 1578 Fr.Doria wrote a long account of it to Fr.Caffardo, who had become vicar general on Fr.Rubeo's death. In order to show how innocent the Discalced were of the charges being levelled againts them and how unjustly they were being traeted, he described the holiness of their life at great length:
"As for the way of life here, the primitive Rule is observed most strictly; as well as the strict observance of the three vows, there is perpetual enclosure and no going out. With the help of the work done by the laybrothers and alms, the community is adequately supported but still poor. Obedience is very strictly observed, so much so that you cannot even wash your face or take a drink of water without permission. Poverty is such that, besides going barefooted, dressing roughly, sleeping on bare boards or on a mat, everything is provided from the common store. No one can receive anything as his own, whether it be food, clothing or anything else. Moreover, every month or so, what each one has in the way of clothing, books and such things is taken away and exchanged for similar things. This is done in order to eradicate not only possessiveness but any attachment to even the use of things, whether great or small. Thus, by strictness in regard to little things, the more important things are secured.
Being enclosed keeps all occasions of evil away from the soul, and also prevents it from being distracted from the Lord's continual presence. This is positively encouraged in the house with the exercises in choir, mental prayer, and the appointment of one person to remind everyone else of it continually. The choir exercises are those generally practised in the Order, but two hours of mental prayer are added, as well as discipline three times a week and examination of conscience for fifteen minutes before dinner and before going to bed at night. Every evening there is a session of self-accusation of faults committed that day againts such virtuous practices, so that the whole battle with ordinary temptations is directed at these faults and failings. Thus, by engaging the enemy of the outer fortifications we make the castle more secure.
There are other exercises too, like internal and external mortifications. These serve to enkindle the flame of charity ever brighter, and they maintain the Lord's presence. But if I were to tell Your Reverence everything it would take me beyond the length which is fitting for a letter.
Is was this very religious behaviour that induced me to choose this Order above all others, in order to build myself uo from the bad life I led in the past. It makes me happier with every day that passes, and I believe that if we are left in peace this way of life cannot be improved upon"(1).
This quotation has been a long one, but it is important; it shows the neophyte fervour and enthusiasm with which Fr.Doria threw himself into the ascetical practices he found at Los Remedios.
No sooner had he finished his novitiate than he was made vicar of the house. Those were difficult days for the Discalced, and he proved an able and resolute leader from the very beginning. He went to Madrid to negotiate on Mother Foundress's behalf, and met with her at Avila for a few days in June 1579 (see her letters of 21-24 June). That same month he was made prior of Pastrana, an office he held until the end of March 1581.
Fr.Nicholas could hardly have become more rapidly established among the Discalced. A year after his profession he was prior of the Pastrana novitiate, the most important of their houses, and at the 1581 chapter he was elected first definitor, taking precedence ever Frs.John of the Cross and Antonio -second and third definitors respectively.
During Fr.Gracián's four years as provincial Fr.Doria spent most of his time abroad; he went to Italy twice in that time: the first trip took him away from July 1582 to May 1583, and the following November he went again, this time remaining there until he was recalled as provincial in November 1585(2).
Fr.Doria was welcomed wholeheartedly by everybody on his return; all hoped to find in him an able and sure guide along the road of religious fervour and continuing expansion. He, for his part, threw himself body and soul into his new task; his considerable talents were at everybody's disposal. He had already proved himself an excellent administrator and organiser, and his austerity and fidelity to the ascetical practices learned in the novitiate were well-known to all. But did he also possess the qualities and experience of a teacher of the spirit which were fundamental to St.Teresa's conception of religious life, an aspect in which many Dicalced prioresses and people like John of the Cross and Gracián excelled? This was a question to which no one yet knew the answer; only time would tell.
Let us try and follow, therefore, the main lines of Discalced
development under the leadership of Fr.Nicholas Doria.
The members of the first Consulta were elected by the chapter in the following order: Jerónimo Gracián, John of the Cross, Gregorio Nacianceno, Juan Bautista (nicknamed "El Rondeño", professed in Pastrana 25.7.1578). Fr.Nicholas divided the province in four and gave each member responsability for a different area: Portugal to Gracián, Andalusia to John of the Cross, Old Castille to Gregorio, and New Castille to Juan Bautista. Each was vicar provincial in his own area.
Fr.Doria's first priority was to consolidate the legal position of the province. His two years in Italy had taught him that the General was not entirely pleased at the way the Discalced were proceeding, and that he had no intention of granting them all they were looking for. So, to forestall any surprises from that quarter, he enlisted the support of King Philip II and obtained a Brief from de Pope confirming the Brief of separation already issued and granting two new privileges as well: that of substituting the Roman for the traditional Carmelite Divine Office, and that of allowing the Discalced to have their own representative in Rome to deal directly with the Holy See in matters concerning themselves, without having to go through the Carmelite procurator general(4).
The legal stability of the province, however, did not coincide with its internal stability and peace. As we saw in ch.8, not everybody agreed with Gracián's style of government; some complained that he was not strict enough and that he devoted too much of his time to study and preaching. The new provincial could certainly not be accused of these things; he tended, rather, to go to the opposite extreme.
The first skirmishes on record were not long in coming. Towards the end of 1585, Gracián published a little book in Lisbon, entitled Estímulo de la propagación de la fe. The provincial did not like such zealous promotion of the missions. He took Gracián to task, accusing him of publishing the work without his permission and of saying things that were offensive to those religious who were not of the same opinion as himself in this matter. He also ordered him to withdraw the book from circulation.
Gracián replied that he had proceeded in accordance with the law in force at the time regarding the permissions required for publication, and that there was consequently no disobedience to punish by withdrawal of the book. If, however, is was the teaching contained in the book which was alleged to be wrong, then Doria could be judge, and, as such, hear both sides of the argument. But if Doria was merely expressing his own personal dislike of the teaching, he could not be accuser and judge at the same time; he would have to submit the book to the universities of Salamanca and Alcalá(5).
Among the nuns, too, the change of direction indicated by Fr.Doria's government very soon set alarm bells ringing. The earliest testimony of this is contained in a long poem, full of foreboding, in which, as early as 1586, María de San José exhorts her sisters to maintain the style and legislation which they had inherited from the Mother Foundress. As this poem is rather wellknown, I shall quote only a few of its more significant stanzas(6):
Be not deceived by their talk
In other words, some of the things which Fr.Doria was laying down for the sisters as being normal, because he had learned them in the novitiate, sounded totally new to María de San José, anf few were better acquainted with St.Teresa'style than she was. María also pointed out that the new provincial had failed to grasp the spiritual and pedagogical importance of Teresa's gentleness and moderation:
They will leave the lowland pastures,
You'll see them jump about
María's keen intuition perceives the tragedy that is about to befall the Teresian family: the new provincial's only aim is to restore his own conception of what the Order should be, where he considers this to have faded, or to introduce it a new where he sees it is ansent. That in doing so he is highly motivated makes il all the sadder, because it lessens the likelihood of his ever changing his ways:
The greater is their zeal, alas,
a man who thinks sincerely
It's a very common trick
All his machinations
Another document which has survived to this day is the circular which, on 19 February 1587, Gracián addressed to all the nuns, warning them of the danger their Constitutions were in. Among other things, he tells them: "I warn you that many of the friars are in a mood for reforming nuns, and since they have not had the experience which the nuns have had, they think several things in the Constitutions would be better otherwise. If two or three of these get together on a definitory they might make some changes that could lead to great unrest"(8). He went on to suggest they write to the next provincial chapter asking that their Constitutions should not be changed, that those of the friars should not be imposed on them, and that no new Constitutions should be drafted without prior consultation with the nuns.
At that time, the chapter which elected the provincial was held every four years, but half way through his term of office an intermediate chapter was held to discuss the affairs of the Order and to change definitors. Accordingly, an intermediate chapter was held in Valladolid in April 1587. Here those who had elected Doria had an opportunity to evaluate his first eighteen months in office. He had plenty to show by way pf positive contribution, and a few things that needed correcting.
In what concerned the nuns, we already know from María de San José that they written to the chapter expressing their fears and asking that their laws should not be changed. The chapter reassured them that nobody had any intention of doing such a thing; some friar must have been upsetting them, they said(9).
In what concerned the friars, we know from Gracián that one of the most discussed subjects at this chapter was the Consulta. The fathers discussed whether, after a year and a half's trial, they should continue the new system of government or return to the traditional way. The ex-provincial, Gracián, spoke at length on the essence of religious government and emphasised the advantages of the old system over the new one. In consequence, the majority voted to abandon the Consulta experiment and return to their previous form of government.
This was a crucial moment in the life of Nicholas Doria and in the history of the Teresian Carmel. Doria was being asked to make a sacrifice whichi he was not ready for. He had only barely begun to restore the perfection of the province, when here were the nuns and the majority of the friars going against him, giving him to understand that they had been better off before, that they preferred to go the way his predecessor had led them, because they regarder it as being more in line with what they had learned from the Mother Foundress.
It is very likely that Fr.Doria gave a lot of serious thought to such conduct, and sought to discover the rood of it. The cause of such opposition, he reasoned, could only be one of two things: either his subjects knew what the perfection of the Order was better than he did, and so spoke their minds against him at the chapter, or human weakness was intervening and making them choose to follow the easier way, with the consequent rejection of the stricter programme for perfection put forward by the provincial. To admit the first hypothesis would have required of Doria a degree of humility and open-mindedness which perhaps his whole background never gave him an oppostunity to learn. The second hypothesis, on the other hand, rang very true for him, and sparked off a reaction which was very typical of the man. It practically invited him to go through with his reform programme undaunted by any difficulty, even if it meant defying the wishes of the majority; after all, there would always be a select minority on whose support he could count.
Fr.Nicholas of Jesus and Mary opted for the second hypothesis, therefore, and maintained this attitude consistently as a norm of behaviour of the end of his days. The man we see from now on is a businessman, expert and ruthless, wholly devoted to the task which he had set himself, a task which immortalised his name for several centuries: to establish among the Discalced friars and nuns the highest standard of religious perfection and a system of governement which would guarantee that they maintained this forever.
From the Valladolid chapter many left for new destinations: Gracián was destined for Mexico as vicar provincial; John of the Cross went as prior to Granada; Ambrosio Mariano became prior of Madrid; Juan de Jesús Roca left for Rome with instructions to obtain from the Pope a Brief which would arrange the affairs of the province to Fr.Doria's liking.
The most important points contained in the Brief Cum de Statu, issued on 10 July 1587, can be summarised as follows: because of the size to which the Discalced province has grown, it can be made a Congregation and be sub-divided into whatever number of provinces would be adequate for the number of houses in it. In the next provincial chapter, therefore, a vicar-general will be elected instead of a provincial, and as many provincials as there shall be provinces. The chapter shall also elect the priors of all the monasteries and six councillors, with whose help the vicar general will govern. The vicar general shall have a six year term of office, the provincials three. No one can be re-elected at the end of his term in office. (There will be a chapter for the election of Vicar every six years, therefore, and an intermediate one every three years, at which a fresh election of provincials, councillors, and priors will take place).
Those entitled to attend such chapters henceforth shall be the Vicar general, the provincials with one socius (companion) from each province, the chapter definitors and the six councillors(10).
Upon receipt of this Brief, Fr.Doria took every precaution to ensure that its implementation would also be as he wanted. He made sure it was promulgated with authoritative explanations of certain points by the Nuncio, Speziano(11).
Obviously, since Gracián and the majority of the chapter Fathers were opposed to his plans, Doria's presence at the head of the Congregation was necessary to their successful implementation. To have himself elected Vicar General of the new Congregation Doria used two ploys: the first was to bring the date of the chapter forward by one year. That way he could present himself as a provincial in office rather than one whose term had expired, which would make him ineligible. The second was to deprive Gracián of active and passive voice. The majority were openly in favour of Gracián and his office as Vicar of Mexico would have given him the right to attend(12).
The extraordinary chapter which solemnly ratified this change of direction imposed on the Teresian Carmel by Fr.Nicholas of Jesus and Mary Doria was celebrated in Madrid in the latter half of June 1588. Apart from the elections, which had been vistiated by the irregularities commited in convoking the chapter, the only business on the agenda for the 56 participants was to sign the official instrument establishing the Congregation, and accept what had already been decided by the Holy See and by the Nuncio to the court of Spain(13).
For many this was the end of active involvement in the progress of the Order; henceforth, personal involvement was reserved to just a few. To crown everything, Doria succeeded in persuading the chapter to delegate to the Consulta the authority to make laws; he promised that it was only a question of a few matters which could be discussed again at the next chapter, after they had been introduced experimentally for a time. What he actually did was to consolidate the laws of the Consulta and then (10.9.1588) have the Nuncio confirn them as permanent(14).
The government of the Congregation thus became centralised in the hands of the Consulta, i.e. the vicar general and his six councillors. These, in the order of their election, were: Antonio de Jesús, Ambrosio Mariano, John of the Cross, Juan Bautista (el Rondeño), Luis de San Jerónimo (Doria's novicemaster), and Bartolomé de Jesús. (The latter had been Gracián's secretary; he soon felt obliged to resign and his place was taken by Gregorio de San Angelo, an ardent Doria supported).
From this on, Fr.Doria went his inexorable way, shielded by the vote of the Consulta. An outnumbered John of the Cross had little influence in this body. Anyway, he was absent most of the time: he was in Segovia, the nominal seat of the Consulta, attending to correspondence and administration, while most of the decision-making went on in Madrid, where Doria and Mariano had great influence et the court of Philip II.
As these years are well-studied and documented(15), I shall confine myself to recalling the three principal fronts on which Doria concentrated his activity: the correction of the wayward, the permanent formation of his subjects, and the perfecting of structures.
Fr.Gracián's case has become a symbol of the first aspect. His presence in the Order was a continual reminder of its Teresian origins and, for many, too effective a point of reference; Doria saw no alternative but to expel him as incorrigible.
On the second point, one need only recall the endless stream of pastoral letters which were always being read in the refectories. (They started in Pastrana in January 1588 and elsewhere from April 1589).
We still lack a proper overall critical study of the third aspect, the one which arguably left the most indelible mark of all on the life of the Order(16). Remember, Doria held another extraordinary chapter in 1590. This, too, he brought forward by one year so that he could rely on the votes of those elected in 1588. At this chapter the whole Discalced legislation was definitively recast. It was then approved by Pope Clement VIII on 19 February 1592(17). (The sentence expelling Gracián from the Order was signed two days previously).
In vain did Gracián and other Discalced friars appeal to King and Pope against the legislative changes being made by Doria; the latter's preaching of observance and strictness and his habit of branding anyone who dared disagree with him as lax gained more credit at court than the theological and spiritual discourses of Gracián and his friends.
For a time the nuns were more successful than the friars in this matter; having a separate legal identity, they found it easier to reach the Holy See. They even obtained from Pope Sixtus V the Brief Salvatoris (5.6.1590) in which he confirmed St.Teresa's Constitutions and revoked the innovations which Doria had introduced. But their joy was short-lived, and soon turned to tragedy for many. The Vicar general opposed the execution of the Brief, anf though the nuns, led by Anne of Jesus, took him to court, they were unable to overcome his stubborn determination. On 25 April 1591 Pope Gregory XVI issued the Brief Quoniam non ignoramus, in which he came down firmly on Doria's side.
It was in this climate of victory for Fr.Doria that the intermediate chapter of 1591 was held - a chapter which left John of the Cross without office and destined for Mexico. His departure was prevented only by his death on 14 December of that year.
In 1592 Doria prepared new Constitutions for friars and nuns alike, and forbade them to use any edition other than those sent them by the Consulta(18).
In June 1593 the Carmelite Order held its general chapter at Cremona (Italy), to elect a successor to the Fr.Caffardo who had died in office on 3 April 1592. Fr.Nicholas Doria, in his capacity as vicar general, was present at that chapter and brought with him three provincials and ten socii to represent the Discalced Congregation. The Discalced took advantage of so solemn an occasion to reveal, in the form of a petition to the definitor general and general chapter, their intention of requesting the Pope to grant them complete separation from the Order, so that henceforth the Discalced would not attend the general chapter nor would the Order have any jurisdiction over them. The chapter reacted favourably to the idea, and Pope Clement VIII, in the Brief Pastoralis Officii dated 20 December, separated "The Discalced Brethren of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel" definitively from the prior general's jurisdiction. So, Fr.Nicholas Doria had the honour of being the Order's first general. He was authorised to continue as such until the next ordinary chapter was due -Pentecost 1594- when a new general would be elected.
But as the date of the chapter drew closer the superiors realised that Doria's work was not yet fully consolidated, that a few more years would be required for all those laws of the preceding nine years to be fully assimilated and become an habitual part of the regular observance. Besides, there was the possibility that a general of the Teresian school of thought might be elected; so, just to be safe, the Pope was petitioned to extend Doria's mandate for another six years, or three at least. On 30 March 1594, Pope Clement VIII conceded the latter(19).
On his way to the chapter which was to give effect to the papal brief confirming him in office, Fr.Doria suddenly took ill at Alcalá and died there on 9 May 1594 after receiving the last rites.
On 18 June the Nuncio, Gaetani, informed Cardinal Aldobrandini in Rome of Fr.Doria's death and repported on the outcome of the chapter. The new general, he said, was Fr.Elías de San Martín, whom Fr.Doria had recommended as the most suitable choice shortly before he died. At the end of the letter, the Nuncio wrote: "Father Doria's death has not caused any upset. Indeed, it has had a good effect, because, although he was a man of many merits, his election as general would not have been a very good thing; his unending government was resented and had begun to cause divisions within the Order"(20).
1. MCHT 2, doc.178.
4. MHCT 3, doc.295, dated 20 September 1586. See
also Fr.Hipólito's article cited in note 2 above.
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