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BREAK RATHER THAN BEND: THE DISCALCED SPLIT
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.|
BREAK RATHER THAN BEND: THE DISCALCED SPLIT
The sentiments of tha latter, and they comprised nearly all of the nuns and the majority of the friars, have been put on record for us by María de San José. After describing the mysterious circumstances surrounding Doria's death, she says: "Fr.Elías de San Martín was elected peacefully, to the great delight of the whole Order. His election fills us with hope of perfect peace and the restoration of all we have lost, especially the loss suffered by the whole Order when we lost that holy man, Fr.Jerónimo Gracián"(1).
On the other hand, those friars who had supported the idea of Doria's re-election saw his death as a loss and tried to minimise its consequences to the best of their ability. Fr.Elías's task, therefore, was no easy one. His government was clearly marked throughout by the efforts of both parties to regain lost ground; and the shadow of Gracián continued to loom over them -a symbol of hope for some and a threat of ruin for others-.
During this period (1594-1600) both friars and nuns made a further thirteen foundations each in various parts of Spain. This proves that Teresa's work still had plenty of vitality, in spite of the difficulties it had recently experienced.
As I've said, the touchstone for discerning the direction in which the Order would finally move continued to be Fr.Gracián. He had been expelled by a sentence signed on 17 February 1592 and had immediately set out for Rome in search of justice. On finding that Doria's arguments, supported by Philip II's ambassador, carried more weight than his own protestations of innocence, he retired to Sicily and continued the priestly ministry -catechising soldiers and assisting the sick in hospitals- while waiting for Rome to decide his future. On 27 January 1593 Pope Clement VIII gave his verdict: in the Brief Uberes fructus, he upheld the Madrid verdict, forbade Gracián to return to either the Calced or Discalced Carmelites, and ordered him to join the Hermits of St.Augustine (Augustinians).
Gracián resigned himself to the Pope's decision and was returning to Rome to abey it when, on 11 October 1593, he was captured by the Turks off Gaeta and taken to Tunis. Upon his release from captivity in April 1595, he learned of Doria's death and the consequent change of superiors. This raised his hopes of returning to the Order, so on 25 November 1595 he petitioned the Pope to review his case. This time he obtained a more favourable response: the Brief Apostolicae Sedis benignitas, dated 5 March 1596, revoked the sentence of expulsion, restored his seniority and privileges in the Order, and commanded the superiors to re-admit him.
Gracián hastened to communicate the good news to his mother Doña Juana, his sister Juliana (the Discalced nuns at Seville still have the copy of the Brief) and Fr.Elías de San Martín. That this news should cause quite a furore among the friars, however, was a bitter disappointment to Gracián and further proof, if such were needed, that the mark left by Doria on many of the Discalced during his years in office was by now indelible.
While the Teresian party was overjoyed, the rest began to think that the good name of those who had expelled him and, indeed, the reputation of the Order as a whole, which they had reformed, demanded the definitive sacrificie of Gracián. To buy time, they took the line that this was too important a decision for the definitors to decide; better to wait until the next general chapter, they said.
Once more we find Gracián's admirers trusting the Order's organs of government and waiting patiently and optimistically for the chapter, while the opposition appealed to the King and prepared to impose their own point of view on everyone else, as was their wont.
The first warning of what was afoot came from the Discalced procurator in Rome. On 18 June 1596 the Duke of Sessa wrote to King Philip II: "The procurator of the Discalced Carmelites of Your Majesty's realms tells me that he has heard that the reform is going to be extended to Italy and that Jerónimo Gracián will join it there. He pointed out to me some of the disadvantages which this could have in the course of time. However, being aware of how this was going to be done, he felt that the move should not be prevented and, indeed, that I would not be possible to do so. He suggested that in the event of this happening a sufficient safeguard would be to obtain the Pope's agreement that the habit be different from that of the Discalced in Spain and that under no pretext should friars be permitted to transfer from one to the other. Unless Your Majesty commands otherwise, I shall endeavour to obtain this".
The most eloquent testimony we possess to the reaction from Gracián's supporters, on the other hand, is that of Fr.Angel de Jesús, prior of Lérida. In a letter to Gracián, dated 5 July 1596, and written to encourage him to overcome this latest rebuff from some of his brethren, he wrote: "I passed through Toledo two weeks after the Brief arrived. I heard most of what is going on and how some of the definitors did not receive it too well; we still have some "Jebusites"..." He went on to remind him that there were still many in the Order who loved him dearly and favoured his re-admission, and he named several chapter fathers whom he could rely on to do
their utmost to this end. In the event of the chapter's refusing to take him back in Spain, he said, there were several fathers, including himself, who intended going to Rome and founding a house there with Gracián as superior -a house where it would be like the good old days(2).
It is clear from these two almost contemporaneous letters that reactions among the Discalced differed widely, yet both sides parallelled one another closley in their contingency plans.
The rejoicing of the Teresians must have been so obvious and the possibility of the chapter's re-admitting Gracián so real that the "Jebusites" had no option but to resort to one of those drastic measures which they found congenial but the consequences of which they would not appear to have bothered to weigh. They simply petitioned the Pope, through Philip II, to separate definitively the Discalced who had founded in Italy (and any who might do so in the future) from those in Spain, and to include an explicit prohibition to transfer from one group to the other. That way the doors were closed on Gracián's possible return: he could not found a Teresian house in Italy with the help of his friends in Spain, and, if admitted in Italy, there was no danger of his return to Spain either as a subject or as a visitator.
The Brief Sacrarum Religionum of 20 March 1597 (the chapter was due to take place in May) placed the houses of the Discalced friars and nuns in Genoa and the priory which was in the process of being founded in Rome (inaugurated 1 April) under the jurisdiction of Cardinal Pinelli and exempted them from that of the superiors in Spain. Shortly afterwards, with the Brief In Apostolicae dignitatis of 13 November 1600, the separation became definitive: the Congregation of St.Joseph was confined to the dominions of the King of Spain, leaving the rest of the world for the handful of barely 30 friars who became the Congregation of St.Elías to conquer.
From this time onwards, as we shall see in Ch.15, the new Congregation, or rather Order, begins its own cycle of growth and expansion. Before long it would outgrow the trunk from which it had been so violently wrenched.
1. Cf.The Teresian Charism, p.180.
Frs.Elías and Gracián made their profession together at Pastrana on
the same day, 25.4.1573.
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