[News] [Curia] [Addresses] [Carmelite sites] [o.c.d.s.


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.




Gracián's mission as the newly appointed provincial of the Discalced, from 4 March 1581(1), was to carry on the work entrusted to him by Mother Teresa in Beas back in 1575, a task which had been interrupted by Sega's intervention. This was to consolidate and unite the group, heal it, so to speak, of past hurts, educate it in making prayer a way of life, and orientate it towards the next phase of its development.

It was no easy task. There were over 300 Discalced and there were many among them who still lacked adequate training, who did not know Mother Teresa personally, and who had never seen a community of her nuns. Gracián's preparation for his mission could not have been better. We know that the Pastrana nuns regarded his vocation as their own achievement, so to speak, especially Sr. Isabel de Santo Domingo. As early as 1572 Gracián had written to Mother Teresa: "Only that I've seen them with my own eyes, I couldn't have believed such nuns existed as I've seen here"(2). We know too that long years of prayer and study had made him ideally amenable to Teresa's message(3)

His government bore fruit in abundance: the new province extended rapidly in Spain and beyond it. The foundations made during his four year term of office were:

A) Friars: Valladolid, Salamanca, Daimiel, Lisbon, Málaga, and Genoa. Coimbra, Guadalcázar and Setúbal were also ready for official inauguration.

B) Nuns: Burgos, Granada, Pamplona, Málaga, Lisbon, with that of Sabiote just about to be founded.

Over and above those already mentioned there were numerous petitions from many other places, petitions that had to be deferred until such time as the necessary manpower was available.

The petitions so deferred were:

A) Friars: Córdoba, Valencia, Belchite, Zaragoza, Pamplona, San Sebastián, Segovia, La Manchuela, Miranda de Duero, Calahorra, Medina de Rioseco, Aguilafuente, Fuensalida, Olivares, Arceniega, Alaejos, Manzanares, Alandroal (Alentejo), Allandra (Lisbon), Santo Tomé (Congo).

B) Nuns: Toledo (a second foundation), Cuerva, Lucena, Coca, Estella, Ebora, Olivenza, Barcelona, and Madrid(4)

In the four years of the first provincials term of office, then, the teresian Carmel passed the frontiers of Castille, assigned to it by the central government of the Order, and those of Andalusia, whither the intervention of Vargas had brought it, and spread to Navarre(5), Portugal, Africa and Italy; it even had plans for further expansion into the kingdoms of Valencia, Aragón and Catalonia.

Not only that; Fr. Gracián was already discussing a foundation in Flanders with Pedro Cerezo Pardo and corresponding with Juan de Quintanadueñas about expanding into France.

A religious movement possessed of so much drive and vitality could hardly have remained insensitive to the missionary problem, so keenly felt in 16th century Spain. Gracián himself tells us that already when he was Commissary to the Discalced he had found many who shared his own missionary zeal and wanted to go off to pagan lands. He preferred to wait, however, until the province had consolidated its position before raising the matter at a chapter(6). Actually, the question was raised at the 1581 chapter and one of the resolutions passed was "that our Fathers go to the Congo to convert the pagans"(7).

To give that resolution effect, the provincial chose six religious for the Teresian Carmel's first missionary expedition. They embarked at Lisbon on 6 April 1582, but perished a few days later when their ship was wrecked. Among their number was Fr. Francisco de la Cruz who had made his profession in Fr. Gracián's hands on 3 May 1573. In the record of that profession Gracián wrote a marginal note for the benefit of posterity: "While it might be right to pass the unfortunate death of this father over in silence, I shall not be silent as to the manner of it. Answering the call of holy obedience, he deserved its reward at the end of his young life - he was only thirty-three years old. This father and eight of his brethren set out last year (1582) for the Congo in Ethiopia. Their ship sank at sea and six religious were drowned, among whom Fr. Francisco de la Cruz, beloved by all for the holiness of his life. He studied Arts and Theology at Alcalá and always gave good example in all he did"(8).

Undaunted by this disaster, the provincial organised a second expedition; in April 1583 six religious set out from Lisbon bound for Angola. This expedition, too, failed to reach its destination. The ship in which they travelled fell into the hands of English pirates, who, after ill-treating the missionaries, abandoned them on the Island of Santiago. Shortly afterwards, one of them (Fr. Sebastian) took ill and died. The four survivors had little option but to embark on the first ship back to Seville.

A third expedition set sail in April 1584. This time only three missionaries went, but they had an assurance from their superiors that annual reinforcments would be sent. These reached their destination safely.

The most important document from which we can understand the spirit which gave the provincial and his subjects the courage to persevere in this missionary undertakings and learn something of the style of missiomary approach which typified the Teresian Carmel, is the letter patent which Gracián signed on 19 March 1582, when sending out the first expedition. He begins by setting before then the example of Christ and the Apostles, whose mission priests have a duty to carry on. He recalls the testimony of so many holy Carmelites who, in imitation of the prophet Elias, had burned with zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, and he concludes with some practical recommendations intended to help them become incarnate, as it wwere, in the environnent which they wished to evangelise. Two of these practical recommendations are worth paying special attention to: "In the first place, try to bear within you a desire for the greater honour and glory of God and the triumph of your holy catholic faith. Be determined to die if necessary in order to carry this ambition through, and let no considerations that are of this world deflect you."

"In what concerns the Order's regulations regarding dress, food, and other matters laid down in our Constitutions, act as the circunstances of time and place will dictate, provided you are guided above all by the salvation of those souls."(9)

At the end of his term of office (May 1535), tnere was a project under way to send missionaries to the newly discovered kingdoms of America; there was even talk of sending men to India and China. Re-election was forbidden, out the chapter which was held at the end of Gracián's term of office elected him first definitor. Since the new provincial had to come from ltaly, Gracián remained a little longer at the helm. In those circumstances, and wishing to avail of the fact that the fleet was due to sail in June, Gracián, with tne consent of the other definitors (the second of whom was St Jonn of the Cross), signed letters natent authorising twelve missionaries to proceed to Mexico(10).

Gacián's concern for spiritual and missionary development in the Province was accompanied by a great solicitude for study. Writing later about his first years as superior he said: "The best way to increase the membership of an Order is to found seminaries where there are universities. There, good quality candidates will take the habit, as I know from my experience in Alcalá, Baeza, Seville and Granada, where there are centres of learning. I still had not founded in Salamanca (he did in 1581), Toledo or Valladolid (also founded in 1581), which are university cities. I was invited to found in many towns and villages, but I was always of the opinion that our communities should be few, with carefully chosen candidates, situated in the most important cities, especially those which had a university, if this Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary was to spread and do good to souls all over the world, as the Society of Jesus had done"(11).

To complete our picture of Gracián's term as provincial, we must remember too all those who prior to the Alcalá chapter organised a campaign in favour of Fr. Antonio de Jesús. ( He received 7 votes for provincial to Gracián's ll). These did not always share Gracián's outlook and they looked on his method of governing as too soft. There were also those who had grown accustomed to the atmosphere of accusations, memoranda and appeals which had prevailed formerly, and now continued their custom of complaining to the King and the General about their provincial. Gracián gives an acccunt of all this and justifies his own approach in the Apologia (Defence), which can be consulted in the Monumenta Historica(12).

What kind of superior his detractors would have liked is summed up in an epithet used by them - "zealous and reformed". They felt that the man whom St. Teresa ha~ seen as a possible alternative to Fr. Antonio in 1581 fitted that description: writing to Gracián on 28 February, she said: "I've been told that some of those who have a vote are anxious to see Fr. Macario (her nickname for Antonio) succeed. If God does this after so much prayer, it will be for the best; they are his judgements. I have noticed that one of the people who are talking like that is very much incline towards Fr. Nicholas; so if they change it will be to him. May God direct the outcome and keep your reverence. After all, however badly it turns out, the most important thing has been accomplished. May He be praised forever."

This time, with the province considerably consolidated and matured, Gracián himself proposed the opposition candidate to succeed him, and, at the Lisbon chapter in May 1585, he was elected almost unanimously. The new provincial was Fr. Nicholas of Jesus and Mary, Doria. We shall deal with his provincialate in chapter X.


1. MHCT 2, doc.238.
2. BMC 17, p.289.
3. For a documented study of Gracián's thinking and how it parallels that of Sto Teresa, see Ana de Jesús, pp.65-99, or, more briefly, The Teresian Charism, pp.81-105.
4. For a more detailed account see Gracián's report to the 1585 chapter, MHCT 3, pp.51-90, of which there is an off-print available.
5. On p.54 of the above report Gracián has a special word of praise for the aptitude of the people of Navarre for the Carmelite life.
6. Cf. MHCT 3, p.671.
7. MHCT 3, p.629.
8. Libro de profesiones..., f.l6v.
9. MHCT 3, doc. 260. Cf. I. Moriones, El Carmelo Teresianonació misionero in Vida espiritual, Bogota, 54 (1977) 32-37.
10. MHCT 3, doc. 277, dated 17 May.
11. BMC 17, p.194.
12. MHCT 3, doc.276, pp.51-90.

 English] [ Italiano] [ Español] [ Français ] [ Deutsch]
[ ] [  ]

Updated 02 giu 2003  by OCD General House
Corso d'Italia, 38 - 00198 Roma - Italia
 ++39 (06) 854431  FAX ++39 (06) 85350206