[News] [Curia] [Addresses] [Carmelite sites] [o.c.d.s.

 

15

Ildefonso Moriones OCD

T E R E S I A N
C A R M E L

 Pages of history

Pages from its history translated by
S.C. O'Mahony  
Rome

 

LEADING FIGURES IN THE ITALIAN CONGREGATION

C O N T E N T S

Introduction Bibliographic Note
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.
X Change of Superior, change of Direction:
Father Nicholas of Jesus and Mary, Doria.
XX The Teresian Carmel and Vatican II Renewal.

 

 CHAPTER XV
 

LEADING FIGURES IN THE ITALIAN CONGREGATION


Sometimes Fr.Doria is blamed for all the harm that befell the Teresian Carmel in the Spanish Congregation. He was, indeed, responsible for most of it, but he also had his teachers and collaborators. It is fitting, therefore, that we should open this chapter by recalling that it is to him too that most of the credit is due for laying the foundation of what was to become in time the Congregation of St.Elías and afterwards the ony "Order of the Discalced Brethren of Our Lady of Mount Carmel".

It was Doria who gave effect to the decision taken at the chapter of Almodóvar (1583) to found a house in Genoa, thus starting the series of houses established outside the Iberian Peninsula. It was inaugurated on 1 December 1584, nad Doria's personal prestige, not to mention that of his family name, assured it of a solid beginning. He remained on as prior of this house until 1585, when he returned to Spain to take up office as provincial.

As provincial, he took care to send capable, well-trained men to nurture this new community, and, when the time came, these led the new Congregation into a phase of rapid expansion that had all the impetus of a new beginning. It is sufficient to recall that in 1597 just two houses -Genoa and Rome- were cut off from the Spanish Congregation. In 1600 these became an independent Congregation which by 1614 numbered about 300 religious and had spread into almost every country in Europe.

The leading figures in what we might justly call the refoundation of the Teresian Carmel were: Fernando de Santa María, John of Jesus and Mary, Pedro de la Madre de Dios, and slightly later, Domingo de Jesús María (Ruzola) and Thomas de Jesus.

Fernando de Santa María (1558-1631)

A native of Astorga (León), Fernando went to Salamanca at the age of fourteen and there came into contact with the Carmelites through frequenting their church. At nineteen he decided to throw in his lot with the sons of St.Teresa, and entered the Mancera novitiate in 1577.

After profession he studied at Alcalá until, in 1585, he was sent to Genoa. Almost from the start he was subprior, and was elected prior in 1591 and 1593.

Fr.Fernando soon became very popular in Genoa; so much so that some of those in Spain thought he might be going a bit farther than what they considered to be proper for a Discalced Carmelite. To bring him home, they elected him prior of Barcelona in 1594, but the Genoese authorities objected and he was allowed to continue his ministry in Genoa.

In 1605, at 45 years of age, he became the first general of the nascent Congregation; a post to which he was elected again in 1614 and in 1629. Among the qualities which made him a good ruler, Fr.Silverius highlights his gentleness, "something all to frequently lacking in the government of the Spanish Congregation"(1).

John of Jesus and Mary (1564-1615)

A native of Calahorra (Logroño), John came into contact with the Carmelites when studying philosophy at Alcalá University. At eighteen he joined the Order in Pastrana, and made his profession there on 30 January 1583. After his theological studies, probably at Salamanca, he was sent to Genoa in 1585, along with Fr.Fernando.

His chief role in the young Congregation was in the field of formation, something at which he was extremely talented. He is looked upon as the novicemaster par excellence, having filled that post almost without interruption from 1598 to 1611. The profession registers at Santa María della Scala testify to the fact that over 140 novices passed through his hands. We can still sample the fruit of his knowledge and experience in the two books that grew out of them: Instructio novitiorum and Instructio magistri novitiorum, two books which influenced other Orders as well as our own(2).

After three terms as definitor general, and having been general from 1611-1614, John of Jesus and Mary died at Montecompatri, where his body lies incorrupt to this day.
 

Pedro de la Madre de Dios (1565-1608)

Pedro Villagrasa, a native of Daroca (Zaragoza), was also studying at Alcalá when, at the early age of sixteen and a half, he joined the Carmelites at Pastrana, where he had John of Jesus and Mary as a fellow-novice. After his profession on 23 January 1583, he completed his studies for the priesthood at Alcalá. Very soon he was showing signs of the great oratorical talent for which he was so deservedly famous in later years.

It was probably about mid 1590 that Fr.Doria sent him to Rome to accompany and assist Juan de San Jerónimo who was going there as Procurator. Pedro's work included going to the market to do the shopping and this gave him the opportunity to mix with people and learn Italian quickly, an invaluable opportunity for so promising a young preacher. There is evidence that he was in Genoa from 1593 to 1595, and it was here that his oratorical talent began to be noticed in high places. It even reached the ears of Cardinal Pinelli, protector of the Order, and that brought an invitation to preach the Lenten sermone in Rome in 1596. Such was the effect which his sermons produced in Rome that Pope Clement VIII immediately appointed him Papal Preacher, an office in which he was confirmed by both Leo XI and Paul V. It was Pedro's fame that moved the Pope to request a Discalced monastery in Rome. So, when the superiors in Spain tried to raise difficulties lest Gracián find a way back and sought to bring the Carmelites who were in Rome back to Spain, the Pope exempted them from the jurisdiction of Spain and appointed Pedro Commissary of the new Congregation pending the election of a general by a chapter in due course. As we have said, the first general was Fr.Fernando in 1605. He was succeeded by Pedro in 1608, but Pedro died prematurely on 26 August of that year.

These thumb-nail biographical sketches of the men who played a leading part in the development of the Italian Congregation are very brief. Nevertheless, they show clearly that all three had assimilated the Teresian ideal at its source, that they were well-educated, and they received their training in religious life during Gracián's term of government.

To complete the picture in this respect, the first two priors of Genoa are worth mentioning. The first, Cristóbal de San Alberto (1585-1587) had impeccably Teresian credentials: he was chaplain to the Carmelite nuns at Caravaca from its foundation in 1576, St.John of the Cross received him in 1581, and he was professed the following year by Fr.Gracián. In fact, from that on Gracián took him as his companion, because, as he put it, he found him "a man of spirit, virtue and holiness"(3). When he was sent to Genoa to inform Fr.Doria of his election as provincial, he stayed on to take his place.

The intimacy of Genoa's second prior, Pedro de la Purificación, with Sts.Teresa and John of the Cross, as well as with Gracián, is well-known and, consequently, does not need to be dwellt on here(4).

The conclusion which follows from all these premises is that the Genoa community was truly Teresian. It was made up of first class people, followed its own line of development, and was scarcely affected by the changes in direction which were taking place in Spain. Hence, when the time for independent decisions came, they felf they could appeal to Teresa's authority to defend foreign missions as an integral part of their vocation. In this they broke openly with the attitude which had prevailed at official level in the Spanish Congregation(5).

The origins of the Italian Congregation have not yet been properly studied. Recently, the Constitutions approved in 1599 and in 1605 have been published, and show that the Italian Congregation departed from the 1592 edition on some important points. Indeed, the draft text contained some paragraphs on Carmelite apostolate and on St.Teresa which were not included in the published version, probably out of respect for the Sapnish Constitutions of 1604(6).

Another subject that has recieved very little attention is that of the mutual influence which both Congregations exercised over one another after the separation. It is clear that he sympathies of many Spaniards lay with the Italian Congregation. Fr.Juan Roca even went so far as to try and bring the province of Catalonia into it, but his intentions were discovered and he was deposed from office by Francisco de la Madre de Dios in 1604. While Francisco and Alonso were in power, Roca had to remain in exile from his province(7).

On the other hand, the Crónicas of the Spanish Congregation were translated into other languages and influenced the internal development of the Italian Congregation, a development which would be interesting to study(8).

Quite recently Fr.Anastasio Roggero completed, but has not yet published, a doctoral thesis entitled "The beginnings of the Teresian Reform in Italy". It is a work that could provide a good starting point for the study which still needs to be made of the origins. Fr.Anastasio concentrates more on Genoa, but, while he makes a valuable contribution, the basic problem was outside the parameters of his study and is therefore still untouched(9).

_______________________________

1. Cf.HCD,8,p.45.
2. On John of Jesus and Mary there is a doctoral thesis which deals mainly with his role in formation. It was written in 1690 by the Yugoslavian Carmelite, Anthony of the Child Jesus. For an appreciation of real range of Fr.John's literary output see his Opera omnia, three large volumes, published in Florence, 1771-1774.
3. Cf. MHCT,3, p.660.
4. He was a fellow-novice of Gracián's at Pastrana. For his feelings about what was happening to Gracián, cf. MHCT 3, 399.
5. For a good aynthesis of the whole subject of missions, see E.Alford, Les missions des Carmes Déchaux, 1575-1975, Desclée (París-Tournai) 1977. (Présence du Carmel, n.13).
6. Fr.Valentino Macca edited the 1599 Constitutions in Rome in 1973.
Fr.Giovanni Strina edited those of 1605 in Genoa in 1969. His edition includes the various drafts made between 1605 and 1608.
7. Cf. HCD 8, pp.786-789.
8. The Italian Congregation began its own "Historia Generalis..." but it stopped even earlier than that of Spain: the frist tome (1668) reached 1606, the second (1671) stopped at 1612.
9. Cf. Anastasio Roggero, Gli inizi delle Riforma Teresiana in Italia. Dissertatio ad Lauream. Roma, Pont.Univ.Gregoriana, 1975.

     
 [
 English] [ Italiano] [ Español] [ Français ] [ Deutsch]
[ ] [  ]

Updated 02 giu 2003  by OCD General House
Corso d'Italia, 38 - 00198 Roma - Italia
 ++39 (06) 854431  FAX ++39 (06) 85350206