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17

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

 

THE SPREAD OF 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 XVII
 

THE SPREAD OF THE ITALIAN CONGREGATION


The pattern of the Italian Congregation's initial expansion was very similar to that of the Spanish Congregation. By 1617 it had spread so widely that six provinces were created: three in Italy, one in Poland, one in France, and a sixth which embraced Belgium and Germany. Others were being added all the time: Sicily and Paris in 1626, Ireland in 1638(1), Aquitaine in 1641, Piedmont and Burgundy in 1643. Fifty years after its inception there were 14 provinces, with 149 friaries and a total professed membership of 2.326 religious. As well as that it had about one hundred missionaries scattered throughout Persia, India, Arabia, Syria, The Lebanon, England(2), and Holland. Three special seminaries -in Rome, Louvain and Malta- were established for the training of missionaries, and, thanks to the alertness of Fr.Prospero of the Holy Spirit, the Discalced were also able to renew the Carmelite presence on Mount Carmel in 1631.

During the second half of the 17th century, growth continued at almost the same pace as before: six new provinces in Belgium, France and Italy; missions to Malabar and Mogul in India, and to Patrax in Greece. By 1701 membership had reached 3.855 in 181 friaries.

Entering the second sentury of their existence, the rate of growth slowed down, and levelled off about mid-way through it at 4.270 religious, distributed among 23 provinces, (those of Austria (1701), Lithuania (1743), Lorraine (1740), Bavaria (1740), and Flanders (1761), having been aded in the meantine). There were also some 200 missionaries in Persia, Mesopotamia, India, Syria, The Lebanon, China, Lousiana, England, Holland, and Ireland(3).

The last monastery to be founded was that of Imola (1735), and then came the persecutions and suppressions of the late 18th and early 19 th centuries. Sorely though these tried the Congregation its international character enabled it to survive in one place while persecuted in another. Perhaps it also had more vitality than its counterpart in Spain, having been less troubled by the problems and tensions that sapped the vitality of the latter.

The first signs of trouble to come were the dispositions of the "Commission des Réguliers" in 1766. These affected the 750 religious who made up the six French provinces. The Constitutions were reformed, and approved by Pope Pius VI with the Brief Iniunctae nobis of 15 March 1776, but to no avail, for the French Revolution became increasingly anti-clerical and, in 1793, suppressed all 79 monasteries. The religious were dispersed and subjected to evil laws; those who refused to comform were either guillotined, shot or deported(4).

Things were not much better in the Hapsburg dominions; Josph II suppressed most of the houses in Austria in 1782-83, and those in Poland and Lithuania in 1783-84. From 1797 suppressions spread to Italian territories: Lombardy, Piedmont, Liguria, Venice, and, eventually, Tuscany and Naples.

In 1802 many houses were lost in Germany. In 1810 a general law suppressed all the houses in Italy and Belgium, though some of these were afterwards recovered. In 1864, the Polish province practically disappeared; some of its members were even deported to Siberia. A new general decree of suppression was issued in Italy in 1866; this took effect in and around Rome in 1873-74.

The acts of the general chapters of the Congregation reflect this disturbed state of affairs: in 1785 only 16 out of 23 provincials attended; in 1789, 19 failed to attend; in 1791 only six turned up, and no general chapter was held from then until 1823. Even the definitory general ceased to meet in the period May 1797-November 1801.

In 1823, when the Congregation had been reduced to 278 members and it seemed in imminent danger of extinction, the provincials of the five Italian provinces began to meet in Florence. They, or their representatives, met every six years after that, though it was illegal to do so, and sought to reorganise the Order and enable it to survive the calamities of the times.

In 1859, the membership had risen to 970, but slipped back again over the next ten years or so to 728. That they survived at all in the face of wholesale suppression was due chiefly to the fact that many took refuge on Mount Carmel or went out to swell the ranks of the missionaries in the East(5).

________

1. On the Irish province cf. S.C.O'Mahony, The Irish Dicalced Carmelites, 1625-1653, Ph.D. thesis at the University of Dublin, 1976 (unpublished).
2. For a history of the English Mission, see B.Zimmerman, Carmel in England, 1615-1849, London, 1899.
3. The banishment of all clergy from Ireland in 1653 led to this province being suppressed by the general chapter of that year.
4. For the history of the Teresian Carmel in France, see the excellent synthesis: E.Alford, Annales breves des Carmes Déchaux de France, 1600-1973, 4 vols., Avon 1972-73.
5. For further details see V.Macca, Carmelitani Scalzi, col.533-536. Here too one can read something of the Portuguese Congregation (1773-1824) "of Our Lady of Mount Carmel". The birth of this third Carmelite Congregation was due to external political factors which necessitated the separation of the houses in Portugal and Brazil from those of the Spanish Congregation. For this reason it did not have an "origin and development" period like the other two. Cf.David do C.J., A Reforma Teresiana em Portugal, Lisbon 1962.

     
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