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THE MISSIONS
by Father Eliseus of the Nativity

THE CARMELITE MISSIONS (III)

THE MISSION SITUATIONS IN THE XIX CENTUARY

At the end of the l8th century the Italian Congregation of Discalced Carmelites had in mission territories about fifty monasteries or residences with a personnel of 670 religious. When there revolutionary movement descended upon Europe, most of the Carmelite provinces were destroyed and, as an in­evitable consequence, the missions of the Order were also abandoned. As the restoration took place in France, Spain and Italy, the religious little by little recovered the mission posts they had lost. In 1875 an important event took place which assured these missions a more abundant recruitment, namely the union of the Congregations of Spain and Italy.

In 1877 the Procurator General Father Joseph Louis of the Infant Jesus wrote a small work which sounded a cry of alarm and showed the necessity for preserving the heritage transmitted by our fervent religious in the beginning of the Reform. Moreover the movement which developed throughout the whole Church at this time in favour of the missions influenced the sons of St. Teresa. Especially since the Great War much effort has been expended in Italy and in Spain to comply with the views set forth by Benedict XV in his Encyclical Maximum illud and to make a contribution toward the execution of the plan of conquest conceived by Pius XI. The Province of Flanders has only to maintain its past traditions to gain the victory. As for the French Province, after having set the example both in the number of religious sent to mission countries and in the successes attained, it now finds itself at grips with the difficulties created for the recruiting of religious by expulsions, and its missions are suffering the repercussions.

Meanwhile, let us recall that a son of St. Teresa, Cardinal Gotti (Father Jerome of the Immaculate Conception) from 1902 to 1914 filled the position of Prefect of the Congregation of the Propaganda with the greatest benefit to the Catholic missions.

For the past twenty-five years the fate of the missions has been the object of special solicitude on the part of the Generals of the Reformed Carmel. In 1908, with the purpose of increasing the interest of the provinces of the Order in the missions and of furnishing the latter with a personnel as homogeneous as possible, each of the groups of residences were entrusted to a particular province, without excluding however the co-operation of other provinces.

In 1913 the Instructions for the Missions were revised in view of modern requirements, and zelators were created for each province and collectors in each monastery. Father William of St. Albert (when he was General) wrote the letter followed by several prescriptions of the General Definitory dated March 1, 1929; they impose on each community, among other things, the recitation of a special prayer each day in order to obtain the success of our missions as well as the conversion of Infidels.

We will now survey the Carmelite missions, considering the work accomplished by the Discalced Carmelites in XIX century and the fruits which being gathered in the field confided to their labours.

          First we shall consider Mount Carmel in Palestine. The monastery which we admire is the fifth that the Carmelites have had to rebuild on the holy mountain. It was erected by Brother John Baptist of the Blessed Sacrament. When he was charged with this task, he had nothing at his disposal except his talent as an architect. He crossed the Mediterranean eleven times and succeeded in interest­ing the greatest literary names of France in his enterprises: Lacordaire gave a benefit sermon. In 1839 the new Church was erected into a basilica. The war of 1914 again drove out the religious.

          SYRIAN MISSION

           We have already seen that during the l7th century the Discalced Carmelites established themselves on the slopes of Mount Lebanon and at Tripoli in Syria. Far from disappearing with the passage of time, this centre of Catholic influence has extended down to our own day. Since the beginning of the 19th century efforts have been under way to revive the posts lost during the Great Revolution; thus to the two residences of Bicherri (Mount Lebanon) and Tripoli have been added those of Koubbaiat, Alexandretta and Beilan. In each of these localities, once the Church was built along with the monastery, the Fathers planned to open schools; thus it is that their presence in this country assures in a most satisfactory manner the progress of civilization along with the good of souls. Let us give just one example. When a Carmelite arrived for the first time at Koubbaiat in 1836 he found there only 400 inhabitants, the prey of ignorance and superstitution; the only representative of the Christian religion in the region was an excommunicated priest. Today (1930) at Koubbaiat and in the settlements which little by little are disseminating themselves about this centre are close to 10.000 souls. The religious had the opportunity to give proof of a heroic devotion at the time of the famous troubles of Adana in 1909. At present (1930) this group is entrusted to about twenty religious of the Roman Province, assisted by an excellent native clergy. They have opened fifteen schools, not to mention a hospital an orphanage and some dispensaries. Besides the Brothers of the Christian Schools and the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, the missionaries have as assistants some Tertiaries Regular of the Carmel of Campo-Bisenzo, of whom 26 are Italian and six are natives. The religious of the Carmel of St. Joseph (of St. Martin Belleroche) are also there, numbering 22, of whom three are natives. Some religious vocations among the Lebanese give reason to hope that these deeply Christian populations will eventually give a regular supply or recruits to an Order attached to their soil by such deep roots.

 LOWERMESOTAMIAN AND PERSIAN GULF MISSION

         The Mesopotamian mission owes its restoration to Father Mary Joseph of the Province of Aquitania. Having arrived at Baghdad with a confrere on January 6, 1858, this valiant missionary four years later found himself only on the threshold; without becoming discouraged, he dreamed of organizing this mission on the same plan as the other more prosperous missions of the Near East. Father Damian, a former physician, helped him a great deal in gaining the lasting devotion of the population, including even the Moslems. In 1881 the Church of Bassorah was rebuilt and in this Venice of the East the Carmelite resumed the post occupied by them during the two preceding centuries. Little by little a regular monastery, a large Church, a college and an orphanage appeared in Baghdad, while the Catholic works and con­fraternities recruited numerous fervent adherents. Father Mary Joseph of Jesus having become Prefect Apostolic in 1869, died after forty years of fruitful apostolate on August 12, 1898. His successor was Father Peter of the Mother of God. Thanks to his extraordinary intelligence and energy and also to the excellent quality of the assistants who came from Aquitania and Avignon, Father Peter developed this work to an extent that many would not have dared hope for. The college in particular met with great success. Until the war this establishment assured Catholics a considerable influence, for the intellectual culture received there was in no way inferior to that given in similar institutions in France. Moreover the French Consuls have never ceased bearing witness to the work of the Carmelites who, indirectly but undeniably have maintained and increased French influence in Mesopotamia. If up to the present day French has held predominance in Baghdad, is this not due to the college of which we have spoken, since it graduates who reach higher positions have always given preference to the country of their teachers? Unfortunately the scarcity of vocations which the Carmel of France are ex­periencing as a result of repeated expulsions is being heavily felt in this mission, which is deprived of sufficient personnel.

          Besides Baghdad and Bassorah, the other centres of this group are Amarah on the Tigris and Achar, an important suburb of Bassorah. On the residence of Amadan depend the posts of Kuweit, Mouhammarah and Maidan-I-Naftun (important source of oil where several hundred Catholics work); a missionary stationed at Bouchir is responsible for posts on the islands of Bahrein and Heujam and for those of Linjah, Bander-Abbas, Jask, Mascate and Schahbar.

     
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Updated 02 giu 2004  by OCD General House
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