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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.




When studying St. Teresa's actiuity as foundress of new female communities we dwelt almost exclusively on her own role. This was not to imply any lack of importance to other elements in their development; it is simply that they can easily be found in any biography of St. Teresa. As we have seen, these communities were rooted in Carmelite tradition and felt a close bond between themselves and the "ancient fathers", but they also offered a new and, in some respects, original version of religious life.

At the beginning of this chapter I would like to repeat the same remark, so that the reader will not be diorientated by the vast literature on the subject. The chief driving force, the author and person primarily responsible for the male religious movement which is about to unfold in the name of Teresa is indeed herself. But whereas in the development of the female branch she was always in the foreground as Mother Foundress, here many other circumstances and factors sometimes prevented the leading characters in the movement from seeing clearly what religious current they had committed themselves to. The various realities, often fused together without people being sufficiently aware that they were different, and even the different points from which one reality could be viewed, could cause confusion, discussion, and unyielding antagonism among those involved in this situation. Anyone who undertakes a study of the subject is liable to experience the same confusion unless he takes certain methodological precautions. Hence many of the misunderstandings which have been handed down to us even in printed books.

Today, the task has been greatly simplified with the publication of Fr. Gracián's Foundations (they are in many respects a kind of parallel to those of St. Teresa) and the appearance of a critical edition of all the documentation, official or otherwise, connected with the development of the Teresian Carmel in the first thirty years of its existence. To this latter work, Monumenta Historica Carmeli Teresiani, I refer anyone desirous of studying the subject thoroughly. Here I shall review the factors that played a part in the development of the undertaking which St. Teresa set in motion. The reader will then be in a position to follow the thread of this history more easily and be better equipped to benefit from tackling the mass of documentation available in the work cited above.

The idea of founding male communities on the lines of St. Joseph's, Avila, was something that occurred to Teresa quite soon after she began. Her formula for religious life had produced wonderful results in women; so why, she thought, should men not find it useful too? By founding male communities she could distribute her treasures more effectively and ensure her daughters an adequate service of spiritual guidance. Practically from the very beginning, Teresa foresaw a parallel development of the two new branches. What was to become of the traditional friars did not concern her; in fact it would not have surprised her if the Carmelite friars in Castille became extinct: "I even thought their days were numbered", she wrote in her Foundations (2,5).

But the Prior General, who saw things from a different point of view, could not give unqualified approval to ner project. His experience as General had convinced him that this was no time to found new reformed congregations of the kind tried in the past, when there were posing continual problems for the central government of the Order. The Order had now entered the stream of Tridentine Reform and to go along with this was, he felt, a better and surer way than to complicate matters by opting for a solution which promised many disadvantages. Thus it was that, despite his great admiration for Teresa and his exhortation to multiply her communities of nuns, when it came to the founding of male communities he chose to listen to those who warned of the risk to the peace of the province rather than to the arguments of Teresa and Don Alvaro de Mendoza. Rubeo, in a word, left Avila without authorizing the male foundations Teresa had been planning for.

St. Teresa did not let this discourage her. She continued to commend the matter to God and eventually wrote to the General "beseeching him to the best of my ability", as she put it (F.2,5).

This letter has been lost, so we do not know what arguments she used to finally break down his resistance. But it would certainly not be unreasonable to suppose that one of them was her proposal to commit the spiritual care of her daughters to this group of men she wished to establish. Rubeo himself seemed to be alluding to this when, on 8 January 1569, he wrote to the Medina community: "I should like to know whether the two friaries of Contemplative Carmelites, for ministry in them and the spiritual guidance of the nuns, have been finished"(1).

What had in fact happened as a result of Teresa's request to found "some" friaries was that, on 10 August 1567, Rubeo had replied authorizing her to found "two". In the letters patent he made it quite clear that those two houses were to remain always under the immediate jurisdiction of the provincial of Castille like all the rest, and that under no circumstances was that situation to be changed(2). The licence which Rubeo had granted Teresa concerning friars was incomparably more restricted than that concerning the nuns. It was not that he lacked esteem for what she was doing; he simply was afraid of the discord it could sow among his subjects.

Once the permission had been obtained, Teresa entered on a long phase of praying and searching. At first she turned towards the laity, as she had done at St. Joseph's (new wineskins for new wine), but as she found no response there, she turned back to the Carmelites. And as she went about the founding journies related in ch.3 of her Foundations, providence put two men at her disposal: Fr. Antonio de Heredia, who was the prior of the Medina community, and had been prior in Avila during the previous triennium, and young John of St. Matthias (afterwards John of the Cross), then studying theology at Salamanca. With these and a choir brother called José de Cristo she inaugurated her first foundation of friars at Duruelo on 28 November 1568(3).

Outside of Teresa~s own account of them in ch. 14 of the Foundations, we have very little first hand information about the first steps of this new Teresian community. I refer the reader to that source for details, and confine myself here to one observation which I believe is important. It was clearly St. Teresa's intention that the lifestyle of this community should reflect that of her Carmels in Avila, Medina, Malagón, etc., with one difference: these men were priests and as such their zeal for the good of the Church ought to be manifested too in the apostolic ministry. Nevertheless, the realisation of this project had other difficulties to contend with: the house had to be governed in accordance with the legislation then in force in tne Order, and Fr. Antonio could hardly be expected to be uninfluenced by his many years in the Order, the last ten or so of which he had been superior in Requena, Toledo, Avila, and Medina. He had also taken part in the general chapter of 1564 and was consequently well-aware of all that had been done to promote reform within the Order.
It is not surprising, therefore, that on some points he should prefer his own opinions to St. Teresa's; moderation in penance is a case in point. The Saint remarked in the Foundations on how little notice they took of her words on this subject. She expanded on this in one of her letters: "I was amused at Fr. Juan de Jesús saying I wanted them to go barefooted; I always forbade Fr. Antonio to do so. He must have made a mistake. Had he taken my advice, he would have realised that what I had in mind was to attract talented people, who were bound to be frightened off by too much severity"(4)

In fact, many years later, Fr. Antonio himself was to write; "I was governed not by Mother Teresa but by the Constitutions of the Order and by the reform laid down by a general chapter in Venice in 1524. It was from that that I took the present form of our habit and mantle, the wearing of sanddle, and all the rest. And it is with this that I afterwards defended myself against the accusation of having introduced new things"(5).

For that reason I believe it was wrong to include Fr. Antonio's transcript of St. Teresa's Constitutions as one of her works(6)

It was not a literal copy, so it has little to contribute to the reconstruction of the original in a critical edition of the text. Not only that; it actually introduces changes in the law - the recitation of matins and an hour's prayer at midnight, comnunity meditation in choir, examination of conscience in choir at midday, a quarter of an hour's thanksgiving after Mass, prohibition of speaking to women, etc - and can therefore lead people into the error of attributing to St. Teresa what are in fact corrections entirely foreign to her mentality.

It should be borne in mind too that Durnelo was founded as a residence, and, according to the constitutions, this meant that novices could not be received there. From the province of Castille, only one friar (Fr. Lucas de Celis, whose health forced him to leave again) joined the original three, which meant that 22 months after Rubeo's granting of permissiom for two friaries, St. Teresa was rather worried to see no development in the first and no sign of the second.

Hence her joy when, in June 1569, she was told in Madrid (on her way from Toledo to found at Pastrana) that there was an Italian hermit there who was anxious to meet her. "As I had only two friars, it struck me that it would be great if this man became one too," Teresa wrote.

The memorable meeting between Ambrosio Mariano Azaro, the hermit of Tardón, and the Mother Foundress has been immortalised in Ch.17 of the Foundations. With Mariano, who henceforth called himself Mariano de San Benito, and his companion Juan Narduch, who became Juan de la Miseria, Teresa had what she needed to set the second foundation in motion. "I prepared their habits and mantels and did all I could to get them to receive the habit immediately." The problem of finding a house for them was solved by Ambrosio himself; he decided to use the hermitage

which Prince Ruy Gómez had placed at his disposal just outside Pastrana "for hermits of discalced friars". The inauguration took place on the feast of the Visitation, 2 July 1569, the provincial being represented by Fr. Muriel. The superior, to quote St. Teresa, was "a man advanced in years - not very old, but not young either- a very good preacher called Baltasar de Jesús." Baltasar was 45 years old and was in Castille at the time because Fr. Rubeo had expelled him from his native Andalusia on the occasion of his visitation. (Perhaps he saw the new house as an opportunity to make a new life for himself, and thus accepted the office).

Mariano (aged about 60) and Juan de la Miseria (who was about 43 years old) were to be the first novices to make their profession in accordance with the "Primitive Rule"; they did so on 10 July 1570(7).

The clothing of Mariano and Juan took place in the prince's palace; it marked the solemn inauguration of the foundation. The event made such an impression in the town that in August two young natives of Pastrana joined the hermits - Gabriel de la Asunción and Bartolomé de San Alberto - and were duly professed on 20 August 1570. In November 1569 another man from Pastrana, about 30 years of age, entered and took the name Bernardo de Santa Maria.

The record of the first profession to take place in Pastrana (10.7.1570) is signed by four priests, in addition to Baltasar de Jesús. These were Pedro de los Apóstoles, as novicemaster, Pedro de San Pablo, Pedro de San Martín and Francisco de la Concepcion. It would appear that Baltasar found more friends among his Andalusian brethren than Antonio had done among the Castilians.

Meanwhile Duruelo had begun to develop. In November 1569 it was raised to the rank of priory, with Fr. Antonio as prior and Fr. John of the Cross as subprior and novicemaster. Two novices were received: Pedro de los Angeles as a lay brother, Juan Bautista as a choir brother. On 11 June 1570 the community moved to nearby Mancera and there Fr. John of the Cross~s first two novices made their profession on 8 October 1570(8).

St. Teresa was only setting the stage for her male foundations, so to speak, when a new factor came into play and complicated matters. Perhaps a little digression on the general state of reform in Spain at the time is in order here, to help us understand the wider background against which st. Teresa's activity must be viewed.

Already in 1563 the Council of Trent had decreed the Reform of religious orders, but the implementation of its decrees was proceeding too slowly for Philip II's liking. The king thought the most expeditious way of proceeding with this was to entrust it to the bishops; so he obtained from Pope Pius V the Briefs Maxime cuperemus (2.12.1566) and Cum gravissimis de causis (12.12.1566) charging the bishops with the Reform of male and female religious under their jurisdiction. Each bishop, accompanied by the provincial, was to visit every community in his diocese and personally guarantee the implenentation oŁ the Council's decrees. It very soon became apparent that this solution had one loophole: anyone who had something to hide from the visitor could simply absent himself until the storm blew over and then calmly return to carry on as before. Philip II took care of that little inconvenience by obtaining a new brief, Superioribus mensibus of 16 April 1567, which authorised the bishops to use delegates for this task; it allowed the provincial,too, to appoint a trustworthy delegate for this task. Where the Carmelites, Trinitarians and Mercedarians were concerned, it was decided to appoint two Dominicans to accompany the episcopal visitator, as they were not deemed to have sufficient reformed members to whom the task could be entrusted.

This new brief set in motion a planned programme of reform, known as "the King's Reform"; it was to be implemented simultaneously throughout the Kingdom during the month of October 1567.

As one might have expected, the success of the operation was not proportionate to the forces brought into action. Things remained pretty much as they had been; in some places they were a little more confused than before. Faced with these facts Philip II gave way to some extent (the three briefs were withdrawn on 31.10.1570), and the Pope adopted a different approach. He allowed the Generals to continue the work of reform in their Orders, but here again the Carmelites, Trinitarians and Mercedarians were declared exceptions: their reform wae entrusted to the Dominicans. Papal Commissaries would be appointed from their ranks, to hold office for four years, with provision for extending this term where necessary .

The Brief Singularis of 20 August 1569 named Fr. Pedro Fernández as visitator to the Carmelites in Castille, Fr. Francisco Vargas in Andalusia, Fr. Miguel de Hebrera in Aragon and Catalonia(9). This new situation obviously had important repercussions on the development of St. Teresa's work.

Fr. Pedro Fernández thought he could speed up the work of reformation if he mixed the new and the old: he told St. Teresa to go back and put the Incarnation in order instead of founding new convents, so she had to accept the office of prioress there for three years, starting on 6 October 1571; he made Fr. Antonio prior in Toledo. He also placed other Discalced friars in positions of responsibility in other friaries that they might contribute to the work of reform. This, of course, damaged the new communities, which were only beginning to find their feet. On 22 January 1573, Pedro Pernández wrote from Avila; "I have remained here for the past fortnight putting the friary in order, so that it can become a help rather than a hindrance to the nuns. I have brought hither some Discalced friars, not to make it a Discalced friary but to govern it according to its own laws; if they keep those properly, they will become holy. I am leaving Fr. Antonio, prior of Toledo, in charge and another father from Mancera as subprior. To give these fathers encouragement the Mother's presence is necessary."(10).

Francisco Vargas, too, wanted some reformed friars in his territory. So, he wrote on 20.11.1571 to Fr. Mariano ordering him to found a house like that of Pastrana in Seville; it would be

exempt from the provincial's jurisdiction and receive novices only from among the laity. Exactly the opposite of what Fr. Rubeo had laid down when granting licence for the first two foundations of Contemplative Carmelites and again when authorising those of Altomira and La Roda on 14 September 1571(11).

The Dominican papal visitators clearly gave the Discalced their unqualified support and regarded them as the best expression of reform in the Order. But this support lead them to authorise foundations beyond and even against what the General had laid down, and it implicated Teresa's work, with its emphasis on new communities, in a growing reform movement which she would have preferred not to be associated with.

The Discalced foundations made at this time came in the following order: Alcalá, November l570; Altomira (Cuenca), November 1571; La Roda, April 1572; San Juan del Puerto (Huelva), November 1572; Granada, May 1573; La Peńuela, June 1573; Los Remedios (Seville), January 1574, with novices from San Juan del Puerto, which was given back to the Calced; Almodóvar del Campo, March 1575. The last named was also authorised by Fr. Rubeo at Fr. Antonio's request.

With the reminder that the details of the events can be found in Gracián's Fundaciones and the more important sources consulted in Monumenta Historica Carmeli Teresiani, we shall now examine more closely the complex phenomenon of the Discalced Carmelite friars.


1. MHCT 2, p.318.
2. MHCT 1. doc.21. He had granted permission for foundations of convents of nun~ on 27 April 1567, lbid., doc.l9.
3. MHT 1, doc. 23.
4. See Foundations, 14,12 and her letter of 12.12.1576 to Mariano.
5. Quoted in Tiempo y Vida, p.328, footnote 34.
6. Obras completas, ed. by Efrén de la Madre de Dios and Otger Steggink,3rd. edition, Madrid 1972, p.ó33-645.
7. Cf. MHCT 1, doc.30.
8. Ibidem. The information on Pastrana is taken from the Libro de Profesiones
9. MHCT 1, doc.25.
10. MHCT 1, doc.47, p.l39.
11. MHCT 1, doc.38.

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