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20

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 TERESIAN CARMEL AND VATICAN II RENEWAL

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 XX
 

THE TERESIAN CARMEL AND VATICAN II RENEWAL


The new nucleus which developed in Spain from 1868 onwards had that stamp of vitality and aunthenticity which people who have come through a difficult period of trial are noted for. The Teresian ideal continued to attract the generous, and their circumstances, like those of their brethreen in 1585, summoned them anew to the spiritual conquest of the Americas. Moreover, their amalgamation with the Italian Congregation brought them into contact with a glorious missionary tradition, and the dreams which were frustrated at the beginning of the 17th century became a reality at the beginning of the 20th. Already in 1894 the Spanish Carmelites established themselves at Kottayam near the southern tip of India, and from there the Navarre province launched its Verapoly mission and Alwaye seminary for native clergy in 1908. Men like Juan Vicente, Aureliano, and Zacarías were 20th century missionary sons of St.Teresa who could stand comparison with even the greatest figures of the 16th.

The new group fitted perfectly into the Italian Congregation, and soon everybody had the feeling of belonging to just one Order which had risen renewed from the ashes of persecution. If one compares the three phases of development -1560-1585 in Spain, 1597-1623 in Italy and 1868-1908 throughout the Church- one could almost speak of a third birth of the Teresian Carmel. In a little over forty years the followers of the Teresian ideal had reached a membership of 900 in Spain alone, while, if we look at the Order as a whole, membership rose from 728 in 1870 to 3.100 in 1920.

In the presence of so important a historical fact, it is only right to ask: what influence hadthe three centuries of history from the foundation of Duruelo to that of Marquina on the men who were now renewing Carmel? To what extent were they resurrecting the original ideal, following a tradition or simply responding to the new needs of their own day? It is a subject worth investigating in depth, and the hundreds of unpublished letters dating from the early years of the restoration will provide an excellent starting point for some future researcher. Meanwhile, I would offer a few reflections which may help to orientate those who read Carmelite histories written in the 20th century.

The fact that St.Teresa continued to be the undisputed teacher and point of reference for everybody, through her writings is very important. But it is also a fact of life that, as well as reading the works of St.Teresa and St.John of the Cross, those who restored the Order depended of the official History, on biographies of both Saints and the other works (collections of customs, etc.) which drew their inspiration from the 17th century. This caused some confusion, because while oral tradition was alive people had learned to take such books with a grain of salt; the later generation was less critical.

There are still some alderly men among us who can vouch for this; let this one example suffice: Fr.Hipólito of the Holy Family, who had spent many years collecting first hand sources on the early years of the Order, and lived to be over eighty years of age, once told me how during his novitiate (1908) he noticed the obvious contradiction between St.Teresa's letters, which he was reading in his cell, and the Chronicles, which were being read in the refectory, on the subject of Gracián. With that frankness which he retained to the end of his life, the young Hipólito went to the novicemaster and told him the chronicler had to be wrong since he contradicted St.Teresa. He was told that if he did not believe the History of the Order he had no vocation!

It should not really surprise anyone, therefore, that the Doria-Gracián question has received a great deal of attention in the course of the present century and still continues to exercise the minds of scholars today.

Fr.Silverius, who began to take a serious interest in our history from 1904 and became official historian of the Order in 1915, devoted volume VI of his Historia del Carmen Descalzo (1937) to the subject. He brought together in this volume most of what was available at the time, but he also tried to please everybody. At least, he showed his sympathy and liking for Gracián. When asked in 1950 why he had not taken a clearer stand on the questions he had raised in that volume, he replied that the time was not yet ripe for that.

Time, nevertheless, was ripening; the signs were beginning to show. Fr.Hipólito, the shocked novice of 1908, studied the problem in depth and his 400 page book P.Jérôme...Gratien, coadjuteur de Ste.Thérèse - Etude Historique-juridique was ready for the press in 1945. For various reasons it was never published, but it shows that one man's personal research had resulted in a very clear picture of the origins of the Order. Shortly afterwards, and quite independently, Fr.José de Jesús Crucificado (Valdivielso)(1914-1972) reached the same conclusions, as is obvious from the special courses he gave in the International College in 1951-52 on the internal development of the Order. Fr.Silverius personally approved his conclusions.

However, for this awareness to spread from being the preserve of a few specialists and become accepted in the Order as a whole Vatican Council II was necessary. By inviting religious of all Orders to meditate on their origins, to look back in order to find the right way forward, it offered the Teresian Carmelites an opportunity which was, to use the words of Fr.Miguel Angel in his closing address to the Special Chapter of 1968, "unique in its history".

A careful reading of the speeches made by those who attended the Special Chapter (1967-68) and an examination of the documents produced by various commissions in the ten years from 1966 to 1976 make it clear -as was perfectly predictable- that the Teresian Carmel needed the revision recommended by the Council as much as anybody else; some of the elements which had blurred the Teresian vision of religious life were still with us.

This statement might seem too generic, superfluous even, considering the nature of all human institutions; so the reader will probably expect some further details. I understand his interest in the subject, but he too must understand that this is not the time or place for a detailed analysis of the ten years in question from a historical point of view. For the purposes of this book a few reflections which will help the reader to appreciate the immense historical value and significance of the Special Chapter must suffice.

The first question raised was logically St Teresa's role in the Order of Discalced Carmelites. All were agreed on the need to return to the origins, but what origins? Elías or Teresa? Here opinions began to differ. Everyone who attended the chapter was aware of this, but few bothered to find out why. Let us listen to the testimony of a man who was there: In an article entitled Santa Teresa: Fundadora o Reformadora?, Fr.Gustavo Vallejo wrote: "So fascinating is this problem within Carmel today that in the last general chapter quite a spiritual and political crisis developed regarding these two titles of St.Teresa's. The French wingwanted to go home with a St.Teresa who was the Reformer of a branch of the ancient Elian-Carmelite tree, a view which found sympathy on the Italian wing. The Spanish wing, on the other hand, wanted a clean break; they wanted to go home with a National Teresa, Foundress of brothers and sisters whom they wanted to simply call Teresians. The uncommitted tried in vain to mediate, but were not heard. Finally, a compromise formula was found and used in the book of Decrees, enabling Teresa to keep both titles: she "founded" a new Order, but did not leave the Ancient Carmel"(1).

This personal impression of one who attended the chapter may be somewhat over-simplified. But what interests us here is not the details of the fact of division but its causes, and his reference to linguistic groups provides the key. One has only to look through the literature of this century on the Order to form a fairly accurate idea of the sources of historical information from which each of the chapter Fathers drew.

In Spanish new sources have been published -Gracián in 1905 and 1913, María de San José in 1909 and 1913-, and the Chronicles have been superseded by Silverio in some respects and by Crisógono's life of St.John of the Cross in others, to name but the more important contributions. But in France the old version of our history has been perpetuated by a new translation of the Reforma (first volume in 1896, second and incomplete in 1926-30) and Fr.Bruno's biography of St.John of the Cross (1929), which contributed to giving a modern literary form to the thesis introduced by Quiroga-Jerónimo-Francisco, of which we spoke in chapter XIV. Since Fr.Bruno's book was also published in English (1932, 1936, 1957) and in Italian (1938, 1963), it is not surprising that its influence should have been felt by quite a large section of the Order.

Since the chapter had to produce a document that would be acceptable to everybody, it was only natural that its historical exposition of the origins should contain residual elements of what was once the official version; the emphasis given to the Teresian charism, however, more than compensated for this deficiency and would have justified the great effort put into this chapter even if nothing else had come from it.

Other problems, which we might call traditional in the history of the Order, were also raised:

Whether to return to St.Teresa's legislation or to continue on the road mapped out by the first generals.

The relation between contemplation and apostolate, epitomised in the controversy over the compatibility or otherwise of parishes.

The question of how best to promote a life of prayer, whether at individual or community level.

Whether we should call ourselves Discalced or Teresian Carmelites.

It would be a relatively easy task to analyse the opinions expressed on these and other problems in the light of the historical and theological sources they were based on. This, however, is a study which we shall leave for future historians of the Order.

We prefer to bring our own study to a close at this point. One thing that emerges clearly from reading that abundant material, however, in the comforting impression of the great love of the Order demonstrated by all and the grow conviction that it is in the person of St.Teresa that the Carmelite of today and tomorrow will find his surest guide in the following of Christ for the glory of God and the service of the Church.

St.Teresa is still repeating that injunction of Foundations 29,32:

"We are beginning now, and let everybody always continue to begin to go from good to

better".

___________________

1. See Vida Espiritual, n.29 (Bogotá 1970), pp.66-67.

     
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