the Brothers and Sisters of Carmel
To the Members of the Carmelite Family
To the Benefactors
To Everyone who is interested in the Carmelite Missions
missionary day, par excellence, which is the Feast of Pentecost,
I would like to remind you of the triple missionary commemoration that
we are celebrating this year, 2004: 1) The first journey of Carmel
to Persia (July 6); 2) The foundation of the Carmelite convent in Paris
(October 18); and, 3) The first foundation, also of a Carmelite convent,
on Latin American soil (December 27). Different events but all
occurred in the year 1604. They are three fourth-centenaries that
it is right to recall.
three occasions have a special significance for the Order: first, they
definitively confirmed its missionary dimension; then they broke the
mould by opening up Carmel’s frontiers and making them closer to her
origins, in the Holy Land; they also presumed a cultural leap of
unexpected proportions. It was not only the fact that the sons and
daughters of our Saint Teresa of Avila dared to move away from the
shores of the Mediterranean (to make their way to central and northern
Europe, to the Germanic and Slavic people), it was also their immersion
into distant cultures, the first contact with ecumenism and Islam,
arriving in the East, founding the first cloistered Carmel on the other
side of the Ocean in Mexico.
to affirm that 1604 was the greatest missionary year of the Order, when
it made a most daring and charismatic start in pointing the way
ahead and shaping the Order’s future. These events have left their mark,
even today. The Order has always moved forward, never giving in to
is every reason to be thankful with this triple fourth-centenary in
2004. It should be considered a privilege to celebrate it, being
so important, because these are the roots of the universal Carmelite
missionary vocation. For further information I offer a few brief
pages that recall the events, describing them and their historical
enough to say for now, having reminded you of these events of our past.
They are truly great and should never be forgotten. I hope
that this effort will help to increase your appreciation of the
past and, at the same time, to reflect on the present. This is
what I hope.
Damaso Zuazua, ocd,
Secretary for the Missions
1604 - 6th July
IV Centenary of the Missionary
Expedition to Persia
result of the missionary fervour of the Italian Congregation, Fr Pedro
of the Mother of God proposed to Pope Clement VIII the readiness of the
Order to send Carmelite missionaries to the Holy Land. However the
response of the Pope was that there were enough missionaries in the land
of Jesus. He considered that the missionary desire of Carmel could
be realized in Persia where there was more need.
the confiding of the Persian mission to the Carmelites, Clement VIII was
able to respond to the Legate of the Shah Abbas the Great (1587-1628),
who came to Rome on the 5th April 1601 to propose to the Pope
an alliance against the Turks and, at the same time, asking for Priests
to assist the Catholics in Persia. The first mission to Persia was
undertaken by the Jesuits in 1601 but did not succeed due to the
interference of the Viceroy of India, in Goa. In 1602 a group of
Spanish Augustinians made a foundation in Isfahan, under the
patronage of King Philip III and with the financial support of the
Archbishop of Goa, Mgr. A. Meneses.
though Ludovic von Pastor spoke of six Carmelites in fact there were
just four; three Priests and a Brother, who left for Persia, the first
Carmelite mission to the Orient. Their names were: Paul-Simon (Rivarola)
of Jesus, from Genova, aged 28; Juan-Tadeus (Roldan) of St Elijah, from
Calahorra, Spain, who was to become the first Bishop of the Teresian
Carmel; Vincente (Gambart) of St Francis, from Valencia, Spain; and
Giovanni (Angeli) of the Assumption, a Brother from Umbria, Italy. A
Spanish soldier, Don Francisco Riodolid, from Peralta,whom they met in
Naples accompanied them - he was going to lend his services to the Shah.
The expedition was received by the Pope on the 4th July 1604.
The Pope asked them to make the following additional vows: 1) to go and
evangelize where ever their Superiors sent them; 2) if required,
to accept death for the faith,; 3) not to receive gold, nor silver, nor
precious stones. Two days later, on the 6th July, they
left the Priory of Saint Maria della Scala in Rome. The
missionaries carried with them seven papal letters of introduction to
the Rulers and Nuncios through whose countries they were to pass.
had to select the route for the journey. They decided that
the surest and safest way would be through Germany, then (former)
Czechoslovakia, Poland, just touching the Baltic Sea in Lithuania,
Russia, and the Caspian Sea. They had to avoid the Mediterranean,
Syria and Mesopotamia, which were war zones between Turks and Persians.
arrived in Cracow (Poland) on the 25th August. The King
at the time was Segismund III Vasa (1587-1632). It was
during his reign, in 1596, that the Synod of Brest took place, in which
the union between the Ruthinians and Rome was achieved. The
presence of the Carmelites in the capital of the Kingdom was brief.
But that presence has never been forgotten. the Nuncio, Claudio Rangone
introduced the expedition to the King. The latter granted them
safe passage to Poland and Lithuania and handed them letters of
recommendation for the Duke of Moscow and the King of Persia. On
the 13th September they left Cracow, via Luck, to Vilnius.
From there they had to progress on to Moscow and Persia. They had
remained in Poland for fifteen months.
had been enough time to begin an apostolate among the Ruthinians,
following the recommendations of the Bishop of Luck. The
Carmelites entered into the heart of the problem, above all in Vilnius.
They made contact with the great protagonists of the Union and with the
Jesuits from Polock. In order to know the ecumenical commitment of
our missionaries it is important to read their volumous correspondence,
which has been kept in the archives of the Generalate House, in Rome.
The “Missio ad Ruthenos”, as Fr Paolo Simon Rivarola, who was in charge
of the expedition to Persia,called it, comprised of the
Muscovites, the Ruthinians and the schismatic Greeks and heretics. His
idea was to establish a seminary to educate those who would labour in
Moscow, Serbia, Valaquia, Moldavia, and Bulgaria: “Spes itaque
conversionis Moscovitrum humano modo loquendo non videtur esse alia quam
per Ruthenos...” It was a response to the wishes of Pope Clement
VIII: “With you, dear Ruthenians, we must convert the whole of the
Orient”. They did not evade evangelizing the Swedes, if Segismundo
III secured again the Swedish crown. There had planned a mission
to the north of Europe.
the special and intense Apostolate with the Ruthenians in the eastern
part of hte Kingdom of Poland, on the 5th May 1605 the
General Chapter of the Italian Congregation decided to found a”hospicium
pro missionariis” in Cracow. It would serve as a resource
for the Carmelite missionaries in the North and the East. The
first Friars to go there were Mathias (Hurtado de Mondoza) of St
Francis, Juan of the Holy Sacrament (the first Novice Director in
Poland), Alfonso of the Mother of God, and Brother Santiago of St
Bartholomew: three Spaniards and one Italian.
their way through Tartaria Brother Giovanni and Don Riodolid, the
soldier, died after succumbing to the bitter cold and other sufferings.
The three survivors reached Isfahan on the 2nd December
1607, three and a half years after setting out on their meandering
journey. Between the death of Clement VIII (5.3.1605) and the
brief Pontificate of Leo XI, there reigned Pope Paul V. This Pope
renewed the credentials of the missionaries that they had to present in
the Persian capital of that time. They overcame the first difficulties
that came with living in an entirely new enviroment, including the
offers received from the Shah.
Persia they worked in Isfahan (1607-1749), Hormuz (1612-1622), Shiraz
(1623-1738), Giulfa (1691-1752), Kharg (1753-1766), Bandar Abbas
(1688-1775), Bushire (1688-1755) and Hamadan (1720-1752). They
worked at converting and supporting Armenians, Chaldeans and other
heretics or schismatics. One of the most famous conversions
was that of an Anglican, Sir Robert Sherley, who, on the 2nd
February 1608 was received into the Roman Catholic Church and married
Lady Sampsonia Amazonitios, who took Teresa as a baptismal name.
It was another reason why the Shah appreciated the Carmelites in his
Kingdom. On the 14th April 1624 they received the
authorization to translate the missal into Arabic. Later, on the
30th June 1627, they were given permission to translate it
1640 they began an apostolate to convert the “Christians” of St John the
Baptist. They continued their ministry to the Jacobites and
Armenians, being now able to celebrate the Eucharist in their language.
They also ministered to the Assyrians of Azerbaijan. They resolved
the difficulty of Muslim conversions by baptizing the dying new born
babies. The number of the “massa candida” was growing.
This practise disappeared, even though there had been a thorough
consultation with the Vatican Congregation, Propaganda Fidei, which had
responded favourably on the 13th February 1658. The
famous Jesuit Missionary, Alexander Rhodes, also used this
practise. He wrote to his sister on the 20th May 1659
how satisfied he was and how happy to feel he had “sent so many angels
the labour of the Carmelite, their ministry of evangelization, the Holy
See created the Diocese of Isfahan on the 12th October 1632.
However, a month earlier,on the 6th September, a Bishop had
already been appointed, he was Fr Juan Tadeusz of St Elijah. The
episcopal consecration took place on the 18th September in
Rome. He was not able to return to his Diocese, as he died the
following year in Lleida, Spain on the 5th September while on
his way back. He was the very first Carmelite Bishop.
to the mission in Persia the Order went beyond the Alps to central and
eastern Europe and established the first Priory in Poland. It was
used as a base for work among the Slavs. From this mission the
Order reached out to the whole of the East. It had its first
contact with ecumenism, due to the ministry with the Ruthenians and its
first experience with Islam. For these reasons this centenary leads us
“to the beginnings of the Spirit”.
Bertholde-Ignatius of St Anne, Histoire de l’Etablissement
de la Mission de Perse, Brussels-Paris (1885), pp372.
Florencio of the Child Jesus, A Persia!
Biblioteca Carmelitano-Teresiana de Misiones II, Pamplona 1929, 167pp.
Id. En Persia, Pamplona 1930, 144pp.
(Herbert), A Chronicle of the Carmelites in Persia and the Papal
Mission of the XVII and XVIII Centuries. 2 Vols. Eyre A.
Spottiswoode, London 1939.
Carlos Alonso, OSA, Los mandeos y las misiones
católicas en la primera mitad del s. XVII.
Cristiana Analecta 179, Rome, 1967, 263pp.
Id., Clemente VIII y la fundación
de las Misiones católicas
en Persia, in La Ciudad de Dios 71
Bugnini, La Chiesa in Iran. I Carmelitani (1604-1775).
1604 - 18th October - 2004
Fourth Centenary of the Discalced
occasion of this anniversary of the introduction of the Teresian Reform
toFrance, the Order of Carmelites and Discalced Carmelites invite you to
celebrate the missionary significance of this event. It reminds us
of the words of of St Theresa of Avila who was moved with compassion for
the “misfortunes of France”ravaged by the Wars of Religion: “At that
time news reached me of the harm being done in France and of the havoc
the Lutherans had caused...It seemed to me that I would have given a
thousand lives to save one soul out of the many that were being lost
there” (Way of Perfection, chap. 1).
first Sisters of the foundation of 1604 assumed for themselves and
shared in the apostolic anguish of Saint Theresa. We can divide
Theresa’s apostolic zeal into six general trends and list them for
you to reflect on:
1) The missionary ideal of the Teresian Carmel:
Teresa of Jesus, on renewing the Carmelite Order, filled it with an
apostolic and missionary spirit, as never before. The Second
Vatican Council insisted that the entire Church is missionary.
With even greater reason is consecrated life missionary in all its many
shapes and forms, because it is to be found in the very heart of the
Church, and expresses its reality in the clearest possible way.
Consecrated life is a reflection of the relationships within the
Trinity, the three divine Persons, all equally united in their mutual
gift of love, which is the source of ecclesial communion.
Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata insists that Communion is a
“mission”, because everyone is sent out to others. Mission,
according to this Exhortation, must become the source of communion.
All the baptised are involved in this “missionary mystique”.
Mission is inscribed in the very heart of the Church as mystery. It is
communion and also an impulse to give oneself in going out to meet one’s
neighbour. This new insistence, this new found clarity within
consecrated life perfectly reflects the missionary intuitions of Saint
Theresa, which are the very source of her charism.
2) The missionary spirit of the French founders:
laywoman, Barbe Acarie (future Blessed Marie of the Incarnation) and
John of Bretigny were the ones who introduced the Teresian Reform to
France . Both of them had understood the needs and the
expectations of the French Church at the dawn of an era of renewal.
History shows us that it was in Madame Acarie’s hotel that the first
initiatives marking the Catholic Reform in France took place.
providing the first French translation of the works of St Theresa
(1601), John of Bretigny went to his eternal reward. He had such a
missionary spirit that he carried with him all his fellow countrymen to
a new continent. In replying to an intense spiritual thirst, he
made possible a truly “mystical invasion” of France in the XVII century,
along the lines of what happened in the XVI century in Spain.
and John were missionaries in so far as they helped the French Church to
renew itself thoroughly. After the Wars of Religion, over and
above some national prejudices, they understood that Spain was the model
for France to follow in its rebuilding. The Reform Carmel seemed
to them one of the best antidotes against the protestant heresy.
“mission” began with the aptitude to convert one-self first, to have for
oneself a new beginning in Christ.
3) The Missionary spirit of the Spanish founding sisters:
a great deal of apostolic nerve to cross the Pyrenees in 1604 and
attempt the “French adventure”. From the Chronicles we learn that
the Spanish founders were prepared to be martyrs, brandishing outside
their carts, crucifixes and rosaries during most of their trek through
France to Paris. In a letter of March 8th 1605 Anne of Jesus
revealed how on arriving in France: “Nearly all the inhabitants of the
villages were heretics; this we saw clearly in their faces, they really
had the appearance of being a condemned lot”. This extreme language
manifested how France was a land full of dangers for the six Spanish
Carmelites. The Paris foundation took place during a time of
political and economical crisis (1603-1604) among the Kingdoms of three
very Catholic and very Christian Kings.
Carmels founded by Saint Theresa of Avila were always places of “martyr”
mystique. During recreation her spiritual daughters performed
plays with scenes of martyrdom. In their apostolic desire the
Sisters considered France on a par with the Congo or the New Spain
(Latin America), as a country of mission.
by 1588, the sister of Father Gracian, Juliana of the Mother of God, a
Carmelite from Seville, wrote to Bretigny: “May it please His divine
Majesty to hear what I ask of Him for France and to fulfill the desire
that I have to see it(...) I hope that I will become good enough and so
deserve to call myself French, having already renounced my Castillian
name; I do not desire any greater happiness than to suffer for Jesus
Christ and if I could I would shed my blood and give my life a thousand
times for the true faith (...). All of us are determined to become
French (...). Who would not want to die in France for the love of God?”
spirit the Spanish Carmelites viewed France as the perfect place to
spread St Theresa’s missionary ideal, while the Church in Spain, on the
other hand, began to become turn in on itself. The first Teresian
generation became exhausted. The Discalced Carmelite Friars (who
look after the Sisters) had become stubborn and difficult.
For twenty years, Mother Marie of St. Joseph - a close friend of St.
Theresa - studied french in the hope that she would be able to fulfil
the plan of her old friend, Bretigny, to make a foundation. Even
before departure the Spanish Carmelites had a “missionary” state of
mind: though, in fact, very few actually left.
“Mission” is forgetting oneself and having the ability to go beyond
one’s own limits. It is a permanent state of mind, even if one
never leaves ones “home base”.
4) Jean of Bretigny and the Carmelite Missions:
first translator of the works of St. Theresa truly deserves the
gratitude of Carmel even though he never really wanted to be recognised.
any other Frenchman he knew St. Theresa and made her known in France.
For forty five years (1585-1630), Bretigny had everything ready to send
the Carmelites to the Congo. One cannot imagine the amount of work
that this took but in the end it never transpired. It was not for
themselves that Bretigny wanted the Carmelites of Paris (1604) and
Brussels (1607) but that one day these two Carmels might flourish with
new members who, burning with the same flame as their holy mother, Saint
Theresa, would embark for the Kingdom of Congo.
Bretigny died in 1634. His work, though unsuccessful, was not in
vain. He had lit a smouldering flame. Then, one day in 1934
(exactly three hundred years later!), Belgian Carmelites made the first
Congolese foundation .
today, beyond the apparent setbacks the mission is still bearing fruit.
One sows another reaps.
5) Journey in Spain (26.9.1603 - 15.10.1604): a missionary witness:
of those involved in the 1604 foundation (Louis Jourdain, Jean Navet,
Anne of Jesus) have left an account of the expedition of the French
group to Spain to bring back Carmelites. It is a real missionary
epic worthy of any novel and full of humour. The fourth centenary
could be an occasion to dive back into these interesting pages which
count among the most important of the missionary annals of Carmel.
6) Missionary impact of the 1604 foundation: the spiritual posterity:
family tree of the Reformed Carmels attests very clearly that the Paris
foundation is the origin (direct or indirect) of almost all the other
Carmels in the world outside the Iberian Peninsula.
of a true Teresian missionary spirit, this French Carmel itself became
missionary, it met the challenge of inculturation by propagating
it throughout the world.
is actually only one mission: that of Christ’s who embraces every
culture and national spirit. Then, the fruit of a mission, is a
still greater missionary spirit which goes over and beyond new
frontiers. And it will be like this until the end of time.
centuries separate 1604 from 2004. The Missions remain always
important, in the great tradition of the Apostles of
of the Holy Prophet Elijah and of Saint Theresa of Jesus.
* For more information....
Chronique de l’Ordre des Carmelites
Troyes, 1846, pp. 43-116.
Detailed account of the journey in Spain (1603-1604)
CARMEL (edited by the Discalced Carmelites of Avignon Aquitaine),
No.112 (2-2004). Special edition dedicated to the fourth centenary of
the introduction of the Discalced Carmelites in France.
of the French Carmel: historical section:
IV Centenary of the First Feminine Carmel
1604- Puebla de los Angeles, Mexico-2004
began with a lay movement. The book Tesoro Escondido en el
Monte Carmelo Mexicano by Fr. Agustin de la Madre de Dios,
unpublished until 1986, relates picturesque details. It began with a
devout group of Spanish (Andalusian) widows and young ladies, who had
come to Mexico for the usual or other reasons. Because of her attraction
to prayer and solitude, Ana Nunez seems to have been the leader of the
group. She was born in Gibraleon. She arrived in Vera Cruz (Mexico) with
her sister Beatriz having been orphaned in their own country. When their
brother Pedro who owned property died, Ana took up a life of prayer and
retirement and Beatriz contracted marriage. Elvira Suarez, a Sevilian
lady had come to Mexico, had been recently widowed. She joined Ana Nunez
in a life of prayer and devotion. Very soon they were joined by another
Spanish (Sevillian) lady, Juana Fajardo.
three pious Andalusians lived at first in the home of Beatriz Nunez.
Then, after 1593, they got their own house. Under the direction of Fr.
Alonso Ruiz, SJ, they decided to live as enclosed women and they made
vows of chastity in the hands of the Bishop’s representative. Their
house was converted into a convent by the bishop of Puebla in 1596.The
niece of Fr. Alonso, their director, entered there also.
of the poor climate, the house was moved to Puebla in 1601. A little
later, the Works of St. Teresa arrived into the hands of these
Recollects. A Franciscan Commisary of the Inquisition had brought them
from Spain. The attentive reading and discussion of these Writings
changed this community of devote lay women and formed them into a
Carmelite community. A Carmelite friar, Pedro de Los Apostoles, who had
lived with St. John of the Cross, became their confessor and initiated
them in the teachings of the Teresian community.
a long time to transmit the Papal correspondence for a canonical
foundation. A document in the Vatican Archives speaks of a request from
the Archbishop Elect of Mexico and the President of the Council for the
Indies to the General of the Order for the foundation of a Carmelite
convent in Mexico City. On the 29 of May in 1601 the Congregation for
Bishops and Regulars decided: “Scribatur ad mentem Smi.”
is the mind of the Pope?) In a letter from this Roman Congregation
to the Superior General, Francisco de la Madre de Dios, it declares not
to send nuns to Mexico because “it is not proper to expose nuns to the
dangers of traveling by sea on such a long journey, from which scandals
and disorder of great consequence could happen.” This document granted
faculties to the Superior General to reply even with censures if
necessary, if the request for nuns from Spain for any part of the Indies
was that the first foundation of Discalced Carmelite Nuns on American
soil was not made by nuns who came from the Iberian Peninsula. It was
born charismatically in the Teresian evolution of a group of lay women
living a community life in Puebla. Pope Clement VIII granted the
permission to establish a Carmelite convent. The Bull is dated July 5,
1602. Because of the slowness of communication and other reasons the
actual erection of the monastery took place on December 27, 1604. “The
whole city,” says Tesoro Escondido , “gathered like a town
meeting with the Lord Bishop.” The five persevering aspirants
received the habit. The Prior of the Carmelites, Pedro de los
Apostoles, preached at the ceremony. “They were”, continues the
Tesoro Escondido, “the first Carmelite nuns in America.”
first nuns made their religious profession of vows on December 28, 1603,
the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Two more young ladies joined the
convent. The community grew with new vocations. Mother Ana Nunez of
Jesus was the Prioress and Mother Elivira Suarez of St Joseph was the
Sub prioress, Mother Juana Fajardo of St Paul was the Mistress of
Novices, and Maria Vides of the Presentation was the final member of the
the time of the laws against the practice of the Catholic religion the
convent suffered temporary exile and suppression. But during the
convents 400 years of existence on American soil 198 Carmelites nuns
have persevered in it. After the five founding Spanish ladies, the
majority of the vocations came from the same Archdiocese of Pueblo. The
community has had the good fortune to preserve its historical documents.
It has also been able to reclaim part of the original convent, something
that no other Carmel in Mexico has been able to do.
the original convent was restored as closely as possible to its original
features. This historical convent of Puebla founded the convent in
Guadalajara in 1695. In 1748 it founded a second convent in Puebla known
as Soledad. In 1851 it helped in the foundation of a community in
Orizaba. It also helped in the expansion of Carmel beyond Mexico. In
1984 it helped establish the Convent of Santa Cruz in Coban, Guatemala.
It produced this new seed for the new millennium.
chronicle of Tesoro Escondido relates extensively the life of
various nuns of this convent who were known for their great holiness,
especially Mother Isabel Bonilla of the Incarnation (1594-1633). All of
Carmel in America, North and South, celebrate with joy the IV Centenary
of the first foundation of the Teresian Carmel in America. The year 2004
is, definitively, the IV Centenary of the Feminine Carmel in the New