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Ildefonso Moriones OCD


 Pages of history

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




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.




One of the questions to which the reader has been waiting since Ch.13 for an answer is probably: what happened to those 2.106 religious who were in the Spanish Congregation when it was suppressed? For the most part, this is one of those chapters of pain and suffering in the history of the Church which will remain hidden from us for ever. Some of the older members did not survive this misfortune for long. Others joined the ranks of the secular clergy or returned to the shelter of their families. A few went to Italy or Mexico in order to be able to continue to live in community with their brethren. A faithful handful dressed as secular priests and continued to minister in the Order's churches in the hope that the storm would pass and life would return to normal again. To these we owe the salvation of such monasteries as Avila, Segovia and Burgos. The Carmelite nuns gave shelter to others by taking them on as chaplains.

There were also those extraordinary young men who found themselves back on the street only a short time after their profession and who cultivated the seed of their vocation in their hearts until circumstances allowed them to restore the ruined edifice of the Teresian Carmel or to build an entirely new Congregation inspired by the same ideal.

Of the restorers the most outstanding were: Manuel de Sta.Teresa, Pedro José de Jesús María and Domingo de San José. To the second category belongs Francisco Palau y Quer. To him we shall now devote some attention, for he was the most outstanding Carmelite of the 19th century and the story of his spiritual adventure will give us some idea of what other contemporaries of his suffered and dreamt in their desire to see St.Teresa's ideal preserved, though they did not see the fruit of their labours.


The first thing I would like to emphasise is that, like all the other great figures of Carmelite history, Francisco Palau was captivated by St.Teresa through her writings. He had felt called to the priesthood from childhood, but a twenty he came across the writings of St.Teresa and his vocation became more clearly defined as that of a Carmelite. Thus it was that after completing his first year of theology at the diocesan seminary at Lerida he donned the Discalced Carmelite habit at Barcelona on 14 November 1832.

After slightly less than three years in this monastery, he was violently expelled by the rampaging mob on 25 July 1835. Still, that short period was sufficient for him to learn how to live the Teresian charism and to convince him of the reality of his religious vocation. He saw religious life as an abiding value in the Church, something that was worth laying down one's life for, and he was determined to follow out that vocation despite the circumstances.

"When I made my profession on 15 November 1833, he wrote, the Revolution had already lit the torch to burn down religious institutions and laid hold of the dagger to murder such as had taken refuge within them. I was well aware of the danger and the rules of prudence which would have enabled me to avoid it. Notwithstanding this, I bound myself by solemn vows to a station in life in which I believed I could observe its Rule until death, independently of all human events". Then he goes on yo distinguish clearly what is essential in the Carmelite vocation from what we might call the structures within which that vocation was enfleshed down the centuries -structures which in Fr.Palau's day were threatening to crumble and soon did: "To live in Carmel you need only one thing: a vocation. I was convinced of this and believed that in order to live as a hermit... I had no need of buildings which were soon to fall, nor did I find the mountains of Spain indispensable; I felt I could find plenty of caves on earth where I could establish my dwelling place". That was truly a vocation for times of crisis!(1).

Filled with the sentiments which the words just quoted reflect, Fr.Palau said goodbye to the conventual life he had so recently embraced and began a thirty year pilgrimage, full of adventure, suffering and persecution, in search of the best way to serve the Church.

On 2 April 1836 he was ordained to the priesthood, and, now aged 24, he immediately began his search. It led him through the eremitical life, penance and the apostolate; always beginning anew, always steadfastly trusting in God through every kind of difficulty, until the day came when he felt welling up inside him a great desire to gather other people about him and he knew he had found the way to live the religious life in the adverse circumstance in which he lived. He perceived quite clearly that the service which his Beloved, the Church, required of him was to launch a religious family; thus would the efficacy of his work be increased and the fruits of much suffering shared with others. This is the task to which he devoted himself body and soul during the last ten years of his life.

On the 7 July 1863 he wrote: "It is the will of God that a religious order or society be founded which bring together in itself all the perfection contained in the rules given by Patriarch Albert of Jerusalem to Carmel and reformed by St.Teresa of Jesus". And then, alluding perhaps to the image of Carmel contained in the laws to which he had professed obedience and which, as we have seen, did not fully reflect Teresa's ideal, he continued: "And it is the will of God, of St.Teresa and of men that the work of teaching be combined with the contemplative life, so that they can be separated or combined as the needs of the Church dictate"(2).

During those along maturing years, Fr.Palau had rediscovered the ideal of the beginnings of the Order, had built up a new synthesis in his soul, a synthesis he felt capable of passing on to others without being bound by the way of life learned in the novitiate, yet in a way which he was certain was faithful to his vocation to the Teresian Carmel. Writing on 15 August 1863, he said: "What we need to do now is to decide where to make the first foundation, that being the most difficult one". The graces which he had received from God were not for himself alone; the founding charism had matured in his soul. His letter continued: "I have commended this matter to God a great deal and, having studied certain incidents related to my vocation to the Order of St.Teresa, I believe He called me to her Order for this task. As long as the contemplative life is safeguarder and sustained, it will perfect the active life and give action the perfection which it does not possess of itself"(3).

Just as St.Teresa of Jesus, while perfectly responding to her call to Carmel, founded the Teresian Carmel, Fr.Francisco Palau founded the Missionary Carmel while fully responding to his call to the Teresian Carmel(4).


Manuel of St.Teresa (Elósegui)(1817-1889), was born in Lazcano (Guipúzcoa), where the Discalced Carmelites had a novitiate. At fifteen years of age he took the habit, and was still a student when, in 1839, the suppression of monasteries spread to the Basque region. At the age of twenty-two, Manuel preferred to leave his country rather than his vocation, and he took refuge in France.

Pedro José de Jesús María (Alcorta)(1822-1892) was a native of Marquina in Vizcaya. He frequented the Carmelite church there as a boy and was on the point of entering the Order when the suppression came. Undaunted ny such adverse circumstances he entered the seminary at Logroño, and when he found out that Spanish Carmelites were founding monasteries in France he went to loin them. That was in 1845, and he was 23.

The man mainly responsible for those foundations in France was Domingo de San José (1799-1870), a native of Puente la Reina in Navarre. Having first tried a military career in the military academy at Compostela, Domingo made Carmel his definitive choice when he entered the Lazcano novitiate in 1817. After a brilliant academic career as a student, he went on to teach philosophy in Calahorra and theology at Pamplona. In 1833 Fr.Domigo incurred the wrath of the liberals for a sermon he preached at a funeral service for King Ferdinand VII and had to flee his monastery. He was given asylum in the Carlist camp and became their chaplain for a time. The following year, Don Carlos appointed him preacher to his court and chaplain to the Royal Guard. The events of 1839 affected Fr.Domingo directly: he was on General Maroto's list of personae non gratae and had to flee to France.

He reached Bordeaux on the 4th March 1839 (shortly before his 40th birthday) and had every intention of going from there to Mexico to resume his Carmelite life, but obtaining a passport caused difficulties where this plan was concerned. His feelings at that time are still on record in a letter he wrote to Fr.Marcos, procurator in Rome for the suppressed Spanish Congregation. On 1 August 1839 he wrote: "I can't stay long in France. There is a danger that the means of subsistence which I have had until now could cease when I least expect it. And there is the further reason that as long as there is a monastery of my Order anywhere in the world I am determined not to remain outside. However, I think I'll wait till mid-autumn to see how things go in our misfortunate country. If by then there is no more hope than there is at present I hope you will give me your blessing and allow me to retire to some house in the Italian Congregation. For my purposes the differences in character, temperament and customs between our Italian brethren and us are of no consequence"(5).

Provindence, too, had chosen autumn as the moment to show Fr.Domingo the way forward. Mother Batilde of the Child Jesus, prioress of the Carmelite convent in Bordeaux, had been trying unsuccessfully for several years to do something towards restoring her brethren in France, suppressed since 1793, and she now suggested that Fr.Domingo might start a community in the chaplain's little house. He responded enthusiastically to this idea and immediately set to work. On 14 October 1839, after First Vespers of St.Teresa, he took possession and began to make the necessary alterations. Two months later Fr.Luis del SS.Sacramento and Brother Manuel of St.Teresa (whom we mentioned above), who was still a deacon, arrived from Spain at his invitation. Their legal position was a bit complicated, because they were members of the Spanish Congregation founding in Italian Congregation territory. To clarify this situation, Domingo set out for Rome in person. When he had explained the position to the Spanish procurator and the Italian general, it was decided to incardinate the Bordeaux house into the Italian Congregation.

ON 28 November 1840 (anniversary of 28 November 1568) the first foundation of Discalced Carmelites friars in France in the 19th century was canonically established. The ferveur and example of this new community found a response among other exclaustrated Spaniards and among French youths who came in contact with them. New communities began to spring up rapidly, and in 1853 the province of Aquitaine was formally erected. It comprised the friaries of Broussey, Agen, Carcasonne, Bordeaux, and Montigny, and had 80 religious, half of them French, with Fr.Domingo as their provincial. Twenty years after Fr.Domingo's arrival, 15 friaries had been founded in France. In 1859 he was elected definitor general; in 1865 he became general of the Italian Congregation. The new group could not have been more completely assimilated into the Congregation.

When Fr.Domingo was general of the Italian Congregation, his companion Fr.Manuel of St.Teresa was prior of Agen.In 1867 Fr.Manuel had to go home to Spain to accompany a sick nephew of his. Returning to his native Lazcano and seeing the house which was once a flourishing novitiate now lying idle and empty, the desire to do for the Order in Spain what he had been doing in France for the past twenty-five years became keener than ever. He decided to go to Madrid and find out how people were thinking just then. Fr.Maldonado, who had been appointed Commisary for all exclaustrated Carmelites in Spain, received him well, listened with sympathy, and praised the idea of restoration. Don Cándido Gaitán de Ayala, Count of Villafranca, placed himself completely at his disposal and offered his services to the cause of St.Teresa with the same enthusiasm which his ancestor Antonio Gaitán had shown in Teresa's day.

All agreed that the appoach most likely to lead to success was to ask the Queen for permission to found a College for Foreign Missionaries to Cuba, and this was done. It was also agreed that the most suitable site for such a college would be the monastery at Lazcano; its present owner, the Marquis of Valmediano, had offered to give it back.

A delighted Fr.Manuel returned northwards, sure that the foundation was as good as made. He also noted with satisfaction that the people of Spain still remembered the Carmelites with affection, in spite of their forced absence. As he walked the streets of Madrid, Pamplona, Avila, Alba de Tormes, Medina del Campo, Burgos, Vitoria and San Sebastián, dressed in his white mantle, he heard many express the desire to have the sons of St.Teresa once more in their midst.

But, while the legalities of the undertaking were being attended to in Madrid, the first difficulties appeared. Fr.Manuel had made his petition in the name of his province of Aquitaine and of the general in Rome, forgetting entirely the Bull of Clement VIII which forbade members of the Italian Congregation to found in Spain. Fr.Maldonado took this as an unwarranted interference in his domain and a violation of his rights; so he secretly began to put onstacles in the way of Fr.Manuel's petition and tried to obtain the authorisation for himself instead. This setback, though hurtful, did not arrest the progress of the affair. Two unequal forces confronted one another: on one side the old and antiquated conception of Maldonado, who continued to proclaim his legal titles but had never achieved anything worthwhile during his long term as Commisary and might, indeed, be accused of letting the Congregation slowly disintegrate; on the other, the renewer vitality of Manuel and his companions who had spent nearly thirty years in religious communities which they had created out of nothing amid difficulties and sacrifices. We don't know if anyone else shared Maldonado's attitude. The exclaustrated religious were certainly serious about restoration, had lost all confidence in Maldonado, and placed their hopes in the general of the Italian Congregation. Only he, they felt, could intervene effectively to send the help they need to begin again.

The best description of the situation of the Carmelites in Spain in 1867 (when about 500 of those exclaustrated in 1835 were still alive) is that of Fr.Goiri. In a letter encouraging Fr.Manuel not to give in to difficulties, written about mid-June 1867, he wrote: "What you tell me about Fr.Maldonado does not surprise me. I am not judging his intentions, of course, but he did become more of a politician than a religious. You have heard this yourself often enough on your travels in Spain, and I now repeat what I once said to you, namely: if the restoration of Carmel in Spain is to be undertaken with any chance of success, five or six observant Spaniards must come from France to begin it; I trust in God that there will be no lack of novices for them to train in the religious spirit.

Never again will we have as good an opportunity as we have now of making the Order just one body, subject to one head. What is called the Spanish Congregation exists only in name; there is no reality. Almost all the friars who have survived are ministring in parishes, acting as chaplains to convents, or are living own lives with their families. After thirty years of this it is virtually impossible that they would go back to the old observance, if this is to be re-established properly.

After you left here something happened which augurs well for religious orders generally. The subject of their restoration has been raised in the House of Deputies; eloquent speeches have been made defending them and vindicating them against the calumnies of their enemies. What's more, the Minister for Justice has accepted the petition in the name of the government and has acknowledged that their re-instatement in Spain is a matter of urgent necessity. Tell that to Fr.Domingo. Ask him to take this matter seriously in hand and not to forget that it was this province which reared and trained him. I believe that if, with God's help, he restores our Order in Spain, he will have done it an even greater service than he rendered it in that kingdom (France)"(6).

On 6 June 1868, Fr.Domingo obtained from the Holy See the necessary authorization for a foundation in Spain, notwithstanding Clement VIII's Bull, and the way was finally open for the restoration. Shortly before that, the last difficulties in Madrid were overcome, and on 7 May 1868 the government authorized Fr.Domingo to found "a College for Missionaries of his Order destined for the Island of Cuba"(7).

As the Marquis of Valmediano withdrew his promise to give back the Lazcano monastery, Marquina (1691-1838) was chosen instead for the first foundation. The General, Domingo de San José, was present in person for the opening on 14 August 1868. A month later this house was raised to the rank of priory, with Pedro José de Jesús María as prior, and Fr.Manuel himself as subprior and master of novices. With two such solid and experienced men at the helm, the was very soon undergoing a remarkable recovery. The first year. there were still some legal and organizational difficulties to be ironed out, but on 8 November they received the first eight novices and never looked back thereafter; from Marquina the Order spread anew throughout Spain and across the sea to America.

To facilitate the spread of new communities in Spain, Rome was asked in 1874 to suppress the Spanish Congregation (by now there was a community of 40 in Marquina). The Holy See granted this on 2 February 1875 with the Brief Lectissimas Christi turmas, and made it a condition that any exclaustrated religious who wished to rejoin should renew their profession according to the Constitutions of the Italian Congregation.

There is no meed to list the monasteries which now grew up in rapid succession; the formation of provinces tells the story of this recovery eloquently enough. In June 1876 the semi-province of Navarre was canonically established, with Pedro José as vicar provincial; in 1879 it became a full province once more. In 1889 the province of Old Castille was formed from this, with, again, Fr.Pedro José at the helm. This was followed in 1895 with the restoration of the province of Aragón and Valencia, the semi-province of Andalusia in 1905, and the province of Catalonia in 1906.

Fr.Silverius summarises the progress of the first fifty years after the re-founding of Marquina thus: "From the time of their respective restoration, all the provinces progressed steadily. Between them they have 82 houses in Spain, America and India. Of these, 16 belong to Castille, 10 (not counting the six they had in Mexico before the recent revolution) belong to Aragón and Valencia, 40 belong to Navarre, 8 to Andalusia, and 9 to Catalonia. According to the latest figures available (1917), Castille has 166 members, Aragón and Valencia 159, Navarre 449, Andalusia 88, and Catalonia 73, which adds up to 935. This does not include, of course, the 150 or so boys in juniorates. In the Appendices we shall list the houses belonging to each province, both in Spain and overseas"(8).

I too refer the reader to those appendices for further information adding only that since the publication of the Resumen the province of Burgos was founded in 1927 from that of Navarre. That completes the picture of the way the Order is structured in Spain to this day(9).

The restoration of the Fathers also influenced the nuns: after a century without a new foundation they resumed their expansion and added a further 16 convents to the 80 they already had since the 18th century(10).

While this miracle was taking place in Spain, the Teresian Carmel began to show signs of renewed vitality throughout the rest of the world too. At the general chapter of 1889 representation showed a marked improvment: the four Italian provinces of Genoa, Rome, Lombardy and Tuscany; the two French provinces of Avignon and Aquitaine, restored through Fr.Domingo's initiative, as we have seen: those of Flanders, Austria, Bavaria, England, Ireland and Brabant were all present and showing signs of new life. The number of religious, including the Spaniards, had risen to 1.443. Shortly afterwards, the provinces of Venice (1896), Naples (1905), and Poland (1911) were restored, and new provinces were established in Malta (1896) and Hungary (1903).

The flourishing renewal in France, however, suffered a severe blow from further waves of suppression in 1880 and especially in 1901 when the Carmelites there had to take refuge in Spain, Belgium, Italy, and the Missions of the East until after World War I. In 1921 they were again able to form a province, that of Avignon-Aquitaine, and this was divided into the present two provinces in 1932, though official recognition of these provinces dates from 1947.

The Irish and English provinces, on the other hand, were amalgamated in 1927, becoming known henceforth as the Anglo-Irish province. This province brought Carmel to California, Australia and the Philippine Islands. In the latter country, however, they shared this distinction with the Washington Province.

Carmelites in Germany suffered hardship under Bismarck, and this caused some members of the Bavarian province to seek refuge in Holland in 1896. Some of these moved on to the United Stated and thus laid the foundations for the provinces of Holland (1935) and Washington (1940-47).

The Spaniards lived up to the title of "College for Foreign Missionaries" given to Marquina by spreading throughout Latin America: Cuba (1880), the Argentine and Chile (1899), Peru and Uruguay (1910), Brazil (1911). The Roman province also established itself in Brazil that year. The first foundation in Colombia was also in 1911, followed by Ecuador (1929), Bolivia (1930), Panamá (1943) and Nicaragua (1945).

The restoration of the Order in Portugal was undertaken by the Navarre province, beginning in 1927.

The province of Oklahoma was established in 1935 by religious from Aragón and Valencia who were expelled from Mexico. The Mexican province itself, which had a long and glorious tradition, was restored in 1932.

From foundations made in India by Belgian Carmelites in 1902 came the province of Malabar in 1937, followed later by that of Manjummel in 1964, as a result of the incorporation into the Order of a Congregation of latin rite Carmelite Tertiaries.

The Spanish Civil War did a lot of harm to the Order in Spain, especially to the provinces of Castille, Catalonia and Aragón-Valencia (104 religious killed and many houses destroyed), and World War II made itself felt particularly in Poland, Austria and Bavaria.

When it celebrated its fourth centenary in 1962, the Order had 25 provinces, 3 semiprovinces and 7 missions; it had 3.978 religious living in 261 monateries, as well as 239 missionaries in 55 residences(11).


1. Indispensable to the study of Fr.Palau is the commemorative volume published by the review El Monte Carmelo, entitled Una figura carismática del siglo XIX. El P.Francisco Palau y Quer, O.C.D., Apóstol y Fundador. Burgos 1973. The above quotation is from p.127.
2. The above-cited volume, p.498.
3. Ibidem, p.498.
4. For the history of this Congregation see Gregorio de J.C., Las Carmelitas Misioneras. Volume I: Sus orígenes, Barcelona 1967. For an appreciation of the spirit of the Founder one can consult the very fine critical edition of his chief work: Mis relaciones con la Iglesia, Rome 1977. The introduction and notes are by Fr.Eulogio Pacho.
5. HCD 13, p.326.
6. For the history of the restoration, as well as vol.13 of the HCD, see Silverio de Santa Teresa, Resumen histórico de la restauración de los Carmelitas Descalzos en España, 1868-1918. Burgos 1918. The quotation is from pp.51-52.
7. Ibidem, pp.45-46 for the Queen's decree.
8. Resumen histórico, p.118.
9. The basic historical information about each of these provinces is available in their official bulletins and centenary publications. There are also histories of individual monasteries or provinces, that of Andalusia by S.Puerta being a model of its kind.
10. For a detailed account see Resumen histórico, pp.278-305. In the fifty years that followed, the Carmelite nuns founded a further 58 convents, thanks to th untiring efforts of such great souls as Mother Maravillas de Jesús, María Pilar and others like them.
11. Cf. V.Macca, Carmelitani Scalzi, col.538-549, and Conspectus Ordinis Carmelitarum Disc., Rome 1971.
We practically said goodbye to the Carmelite Order (Calced) in 1581. Since then they have followed the path of all the other Orders, losing almost all their monasteries and suffering the dispersal of most of their 15.000 members in the 19th century. They too had their restoration and in 1973 had 20 provinces and three commissariates. Its membership of 2.190 lived in 349 houses. Its enclosed nuns numbered 940 in 59 convents (cf. L.Saggi, Carmelitani, col.475).

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