T E R E S I A N
Pages of history
Pages from its history translated by
THE SPANISH CONGREGATION
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.|
THE SPANISH CONGREGATION
The Spanish Congregation bore the marks of Doria's nine years of government throughout its history. They influenced not only its legislation and general orientation at central government level but, above all, they shaped the young men who received their training at that time and who eventually came to be regarded as the only true expression of Carmelite life.
Thus it was that the efforts made to reform the laws during Fr.Elías's term as general were quickly neutralised by his successor, Francisco de la Madre de Dios. Fr.Elías had appointed a seven-man commission to review the legislation. They had worked for three months in Toledo, and the general chapter of 1600 was even postponed for a few months pending their report. All that came of all this, however, was that the chapter left the appointment of local superiors to the provincial chapter. Fr.Francisco (1600-1607) made sure that nothing changed; his 1604 edition of the Constitution brought everything back to where it was in 1592: the appointment of local superiors was once more reserved to the general chapter (giving it control of the wholw Congregation) and the perfection of the Discalced Carmelite was centred on withdrawal from the world and regular observance in the monasteries. Anything to do with Missions or any other form of apostolate that required one to leave the monastery or come into greater contact with people was left to other Orders and Congregations(1).
The Constitutions were revised again by the general chapters of 1640 to 1652, and approved by Pope Alexander VII in 1658. These re-affirmed withdrawal and enclosure, limited as much as possible the kinds of apostolate in which the friars could engage (they were practically confined to administring the sacraments to those who attended their churches), and left the election of local superiors still in the hands of the general chapter. In fact, this remained a reserved function of the general chapter until 1786, thanks to the intervention of the Papal Nuncio, it passed to the provincial chapters. But never again did the Order return to the custom of the Rule and of St.Teresa's Constitutions which allowed each community to elect its own superior.
Alonso de Jesús María (1607-1613 and 1619-1625) can be called the theorist par excellence of the Spanish Congregation's official orientation. His book Doctrina de Religiosos (Madrid 1613) was its most significant expression; in it he explicity denied St.Teresa's right to be called Foundress of the friars -she was "Foundress" only where the nuns were concerned, he said.
Efforts to return to St.Teresa failed one after another. Without doubt the most dramatic was that of Diego de San Rafael (general 1742-1748). He lectured his definitory and the Holy See alike quite openly on what the Order had suffered through its failure to follow the path laid down by the foundress. But once more the weeds of ambition and intrigue smothered the fruit of the seed sown by Teresa, which still lived on despite all the difficulties(2).
At the end of the 18th century there was a time when the Teresian current appeared to be on the verge of becoming really influential even at official level. Juan del Espíritu Santo (general 1790-1796) had the passages in which Alonso had denied St.Teresa the title "Foundress of the friars" erased from his book; he even order Doria's bones, which since Alonso's time had presided at general chapters in an urn, to be re-interred. But, as we shall see later, the suppressions of the 19th century put an end to any efforts at revewal and to the Congregation itself.
This Brief and very general outline could give a very negative impression, but all I really wanted to show by it was that the effects of Doria's nine-year rule were both deep and ineradicable. Naturally, this represented a real impoverishment of St.Teresa's ideal, but it did not destroy it or render it totally ineffective. The Order continued to bear fruits of holiness and learning, and both friaries and convents continued to be centres which radiated spirituality to the people of God(3).
When the Discalced were raised to the status of Congregation in 1588 they have five provinces. To these were added those of Portugal (1612), Aragón and Valencia (1685), Navarra (1706), and finally that of Murcia (1713). By the end of the 17th century there were eight provinces in Spain itself, as well as Portugal (of which Brazil was a subsidiary) and Mexico. The Congregation had 120 houses and a total membership of between 3.500 and 4.000 religious.
Very few foundations were made in the 18th century; the last was in 1735, just a century before the suppression.
The suppression took place by stages: on 22.4.1834 the religious were forbidden to receive any more novices, on 25.7.1835 came the suppression of all friaries with less than 12 members, and then the general suppression and sale of all monasteries on 8.3.1836. At the time of the final suppression, and after the difficulties of the years immediately before it, the Congregation had 2.106 religious in Spain. A breakdown of the membership gives us 1.071 priests, 124 deacons and subdeacons, 342 professed, 91 novices, and 478 laybrothers. They had 112 houses.
The suppression was a heavy blow for all the Orders, but for the Spanish Congregation, due in part perhaps to its lack of internal cohesion, it was a fatal one. The group as a whole disintegrated and never re-assembled as such. Some of the younger members, however, and just discovered the beauty of the Teresian ideal when the revolution threw them out on the street. These kept the flame burning in their hearts and from them the Teresian Carmel was later born again, as we shall see in ch.19.
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