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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 she had completed her three years as prioress of the Incarnation (6.10.1574), St. Teresa returned to St. Joseph's, Avila, where she enjoyed a short period of rest and reflection before taking up once more her founding activity. We don't know how well informed she was at the time regarding the development of her two male communities in Duruelo and Pastrana, but we feel sure that if she could have met Fr. Rubeo again they would have had plenty to say on the subject.

In the four years during which the Dominican visitators governed the Order the whole scene had so changed that everyone was alarmed: the provincials, the general and the Mother Foundress. The provincials, because they saw new communities coming into being in their territories, which were practically autonomous and were introducing innovations and customs alien to Carmelite tradition; Rubeo, because he could not bear to see friaries founded without any reference to him and even in direct defiance of his orders; Mother Foundress, because she saw that her friars were taking a different direction to what she had had in mind for them herself.

The Discalced themselves, on the other hand, continued to expand in a great burst of fervour and enthusiasm, recruiting both from within the Order and elsewhere. In Pastrana alone 45 novices had made their profession by the end of 1574; most of the recruited from among the laity, but some from other Orders and from the Calced themselves. To crown their success, Fr. Vargas had appointed Jerónimo Gracián Apostolic Visitator to the Carmelites of Andalusia (13.6.1574) though it was little more than a year since his profession in the Discalced(1).

The first step towards clarifying a situation which was rapidly becoming more complicated was to restore their authority to the Superiors of the Order. Rubeo petitioned the Pope to terminate the apostolic commissaries'mandate and Pope Gregory XIII granted this on 13 August 1574, with the proviso that what they had done should be allowed to stand(2).

Then, at the General Chapter held at Piacenza (Italy) in May 1575, measures were taken to restore to the new Carmelites the name ("Contemplative", not Discalced") and the legal and disciplinary structure which the General had originally given them. As a result, they were given three days notice to quit the Granada, Los Remedios and La Peńuela houses; in future they were to keep more strictly to the guidelines for recruitment laid down by the General - hermits and religious from other Orders were not allowed; nor were Carmelites unless they had obtained the permission of their superiors.

Mother Teresa had meanwhile recommended her series of foundations for the sisters with that of Beas on 24 February 1575. Her anxiety regarding the friars finds expression in chapter 23 of the Foundations; "Only that I have great confidence in God's mercy, there are times when I would be sorry it ever started. The houses of friars, I mean, because those of the nuns have always done well up to now, thank God." "In each house they were doing whatever they liked." "Some preferred one thing, others another." The one ray of light to penetrate this darkness was her meeting with Gracián at Beas in April-May of that year (1575): "Our Lord remedied the situation through the Father Master Jerónino Gracián, because he was appointed apostolic commisary with authority to govern Calced and Discalced alike." 'What had happened was that the papal nuncio, Ormaneto, had re-appointed Gracián visitator of the Carmelites in Andalusia on 22 September 1574(3) and then, on meeting him, extended that brief to include the Discalced of Castille as well(4).

What her discovery of Fr. Gracián meant to St. Teresa remains on record in a letter she wrote on 12 May 1575: "Oh! Mother, how I wish you were with me these days! I'm not exaggerating when I tell you they have been the best days of my life. Father Master Gracián has been here for some three weeks, and I'm telling you that in spite of all the time I've spent with him I still don't fully appreciate his value. To my mind, he is perfect and better for us than anyone we could have asked God for. What you and the rest of the sisters must do nou is to pray God to give him to us as our superior. Then I can rest from the management of all these houses; I have never seen perfection combined with such gentleness.. God watch over him and protect him; I wouldn't have missed meeting him and conversing so much with him for anything."

The impression which Teresa made on the young visitator was no less dramatic: "I spent many days in Beas, " he tells us, "and we discussed all the affairs of the Order - what had happened, what was happening at the time, and how best to provide for the future. Besides, we discussed every aspect of living in the spirit and how this could be sustained in both friars and nuns. She examined me thoroughly on everything I knew on this subject, whether from books or experience. She taught me all she knew herself and gave me so much teaching and advice that I could write a large book on what she taught me here., for the days were many and this is what we did all day every day, except for the time spent at Mass and meals. She gave me an account of her whole life, her spirit and her plans. I was so impressed that I have never since made a serious decision without consulting her"(5).

From Beas both went their separate ways - Gracián to Madrid, where, as we have said, the nuncio appointed him visitator to the Discalced, and Teresa to Seville, where Gracián, in his capacity as visitator, had ordered her to make a foundation. We might note in passing that this foundation took place (19.5.1575) just when the Discalced Friars in Andalusia were about to be suppressed (30.6.1575).

As one attempts to piece together the changing fortunes of the Discalced in the years 1575-1580 from the Foundations of St. Teresa, from those of Gracián and from the documents of the MHCT, it is well to remember how complex the situation was and how diverse the positions occupied by those who played a leading role in them.

l. The position of the central government of the Order was clear from the start: houses of Contemplative Carmelites could be founded and maintained as explained to Rubeo by St. Teresa. They were to be limited to the province of Castille, subject to the provincial and no innovations in dress or customs were to be permitted.

2. St. Teresa wanted to continue making male and female foundations, convinced by her learned advisors and confessors that they were God's work. She was prepared to obey the pope's representatives and it pained her that in doing so she caused offence to the General of the Order she loved so much (F.28,2).

3. The Discalced formed a pretty united front (very few of them returned to the Calced) for the purpose of advancing their own cause. But there was quite a variety of opinion among them when it came to defining the undertaking to which they had devoted their lives. Opinions ranged from those of them who had been captivated by the original contributions St. Teresa had made and wanted to assimilate them, to those who saw themselves as called to reform the whole Carmelite Order and restore it to the severity of the ancient Fathers.

By the time the General's new orders came from Rome, the Discalce movement was too advanced to turn back. The Discalced friars were numerous, they had acquired a good name among the people and at the Court, and, with the Nuncio, Ormaneto, supporting them, they had no difficulty in resisting the new measures. On Gracián's authority they even went so far as to declare themselves and independent "Province or Congregation" on 3 August 1576. This comprised nine friaries, ten existing convents and many others that would be founded in future(6).

While Ormaneto lived, the Discalced had an unconditional champion and experienced little difficulty in defending themselves. The man in difficulties was Jerónimo Tostado the commissary appointed to implement the decisions taken at the general chapter. Then, at the end of August 1577, a new nuncio, called Sega, arrived and the balance of power was tipped in favour of the Calced. Sega deposed Gracián from the office of visitator(7) and went on to declare the Discalced friars and nuns subject to the jurisdiction of the provincials(8). The situation now became really critical, but King Philip II intervened: he forced the Nuncio to reconsider the attitude he had adopted and opened the way to the definitive solution when he enabled the Discalced to form an independent province and thereby put an end to "these great trials which described so briefly you will think they did not amount to much, but which suffered for a long time were very serious indeed"(9)


1. MHCT 1, doc.710
2. MHCT 1, doc.74.
3. MHCT 1, doc.75
4. MHCT 1, doc-84
5. J. Gracián, Scholias y adiciones al libro de la Vida, published in El Monte Carmelo 68(1960) p.l25, and in MHCT, 3, p.571.
6. MHCT 1, doc.ll5
7. MHCT 2, doc.159 (23 July 1578)
8. MHCT 2, doc.l65 and 182 (16 October)
9. F. 28,8. Concerning St. Teresa's worries on the eve of the chapter in which the Discalced became a separate province, see Ana de Jesús, pp.58-63 and The Teresian Charism, pp.69-80.

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