Carmelite Order, THE, one of the mendicant orders.—
—The date of the foundation of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel has been under discussion from the fourteenth century to the present day, the order claiming for its founders the prophets Elias and Eliseus, whereas modern historians, beginning with Baronius, deny its existence previous to the second half of the twelfth century. As early as the times of the Prophet Samuel there existed in the Holy Land a body of men called Sons of the Prophets, who in many respects resembled religious institutes of later times. They led a kind of community-life, and, though not belonging to the Tribe of Levi, dedicated themselves to the service of God; above all they owed obedience to certain superiors, the most famous of whom were Elias and his successor Eliseus, both connected with Carmel, the former by his encounter with the prophets of Baal, the latter by prolonged residence on the holy mountain. With the downfall of the Kingdom of Israel the Sons of the Prophets disappear from history. In the third or fourth century of the Christian Era Carmel was a place of pilgrimage, as is proved by numerous Greek inscriptions on the walls of the School of the Prophets: “Remember Julianus, remember Germanicius”, etc. Several of the Fathers, notably John Chrysostom, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, and Jerome, represent Elias and Eliseus as the models of religious perfection and the patrons of hermits and monks. These undeniable facts have opened the way to certain conjectures. As St. John the Baptist spent nearly the whole of his life in the desert, where he gathered around him a number of disciples, and as Christ said he was endowed with the spirit and virtue of Elias, some authors think that he revived the institute of the Sons of the Prophets. The glowing descriptions given by Pliny, Flavius, Josephus, and Philo, of the manner of life of the Essenes and Therapeutes convinced others that these sects belonged to the same corporation; unfortunately their orthodoxy is open to serious doubts. Tacitus mentions a sanctuary on Carmel, consisting “neither of a temple, nor an idol, but merely an altar for Divine worship”; whatever its origin may have been, it certainly was at the time of Vespasian in the hands of a pagan priest, Basilides. Pythagoras (500 B.C.) is represented by Jamblichus (A.D. 300) as having spent some time in silent prayer in a similar sanctuary on Carmel, a testimony of greater force for the time of Jamblichus himself than for that of Pythagoras. Nicephorus Callistus (A.D. 1300) relates that the Empress Helena built a church in honor of St. Elias on the slopes of a certain mountain. This evidence is, however, inadmissible, inasmuch as Eusebius is witness to the fact that she built only two churches in the Holy Land, at Bethlehem and at Jerusalem, not twenty, as Nicephorus says; moreover the words of this author show clearly that he had in view the Greek monastery of Mar Elias, overhanging the Jordan valley, and not Carmel as some authors think; Mar Elias, however, belongs to the sixth century. These and other misunderstood quotations have enfeebled rather than strengthened the tradition of the order, which holds that from the days of the great Prophets there has been, if not an uninterrupted, at least a moral succession of hermits on Carmel, first under the Old Dispensation, afterwards in the full light of Christianity, until at the time of the Crusades these hermits became organized after the fashion of the Western orders. This tradition is officially laid down in the constitutions of the order, is mentioned in many papal Bulls, as well as in the Liturgy of the Church, and is still held by many members of the order.
The silence of Palestine pilgrims previous to A.D. 1150, of chroniclers, of early documents, in one word the negative evidence of history has induced modern historians to disregard the claims of the order, and to place its foundation in or about the year 1155 when it is first spoken of in documents of undoubted authenticity. Even the evidence of the order itself was not always very explicit. A notice written between 1247 and 1274 (Mon. Hist. Carmelit., 1, 20, 267) states in general terms that “from the days of Elias and Eliseus the holy fathers of the Old and the New Dispensation dwelt on Mount Carmel, and that their successors after the Incarnation built there a chapel in honor of Our Lady, for which reason they were called in papal Bulls “Friars of Blessed Mary of Mount Carmel“. The General Chapter of 1287 unedited) speaks of the order as of a plantation of recent growth (plantatio novella). More definite are some writings of about the same time. A letter “On the progress of his Order” ascribed to St. Cyril of Constantinople, but written by a Latin (probably French) author about the year 1230, and the book “On the Institution of the First Monks” connect the order with the Prophets of the Old Law. This latter work, mentioned for the first time in 1342, was published in 1370 and became known in England half a century later. It purports to be written by John, the forty-fourth (more accurately the forty-second) Bishop of Jerusalem (A.D. 400). However, as Gennadius and other ancient bibliographers do not mention it among the writings of John, and as the author was clearly a Latin, since his entire argument is based upon certain texts of the Vulgate differing widely from the corresponding passages of the Septuagint, and as he in many ways proves his entire ignorance of the Greek language, and, moreover, quotes or alludes to writers of the twelfth century, he cannot have lived earlier than the middle of the thirteenth. A third author is sometimes mentioned, Joseph, a Deacon of Antioch, whom Possevin assigns to about A.D. 130. His work is lost but its very title, “Speculum perfectas militias primitivae ecclesiae”, proves that he cannot have belonged to the Apostolic Fathers, as indeed he is entirely unknown to patristic literature. His name is not mentioned before the fourteenth century and in all probability he did not live much earlier.
The tradition of the order, while admitted by many of the medieval Schoolmen, was contested by not a few authors. Hence the Carmelite historians neglected almost completely the history of their” own times, spending all their energy on controversial writings, as is evident in the works of John Baconthorpe, John of Chimineto, John of Hildesheim, Bernard Olerius, and many others. In 1374 a disputation was held before the University of Cambridge between the Dominican John Stokes and the Carmelite John of Horneby; the latter, whose arguments were chiefly taken from canon law, not from history, was declared victorious and the members of the university were forbidden to question the antiquity of the Carmelite Order. Towards the end of the fifteenth century this was again ably defended by Trithemius (or whoever wrote under his name), Bostius, Palaonydorus, and many others who with a great display of learning strove to strengthen their thesis, filling in the gaps in the history of the order by claiming for it numerous ancient saints. Sts. Eliseus and Cyril of Alexandria (1399), Basil (1411), Hilarion (1490), and Elias (in some places c. 1480, in the whole order from 1551) had already been placed on the Carmelite calendar; the chapter of 1564 added many more, some of whom were dropped out twenty years later on the occasion of a revision of the Liturgy, but were reintroduced in 1609 when Cardinal Bellarmine acted as reviser of Carmelite legends. He, too, approved with certain reservations the legend of the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16, which had been instituted between 1376 and 1386 in commemoration of the approbation of the rule by Honorius III; it now (1609) became the “Scapular feast”, was declared the principal feast of the order, and was extended to the whole Church in 1726. The tendency of claiming for the order saints and other renowned persons of Christian and even classical antiquity came to a climax in the “Paradisus Carmelitici decoris” by M. A. Alegre de Casanate, published in 1639, condemned by the Sorbonne in 1642, and placed on the Roman Index in 1649. Much that is uncritical may also be found in the annals of the order by J.B. de Lezana (1645-56) and in “Decor Carmeli” by Philip of the Blessed Trinity (1665). On the publication, in 1668, of the third volume of March of the Bollandists, in which Daniel Papebroch asserted that the Carmelite Order was founded in 1155 by St. Berthold, there arose a literary war of thirty years’ duration and almost unequalled violence. The Holy See, appealed to by both sides, declined to place the Bollandists on the Roman Index, although they had been put on the Spanish Index, but imposed silence on both parties (1698). On the other hand it permitted the erection of a statue of St. Elias in the Vatican Basilica among the founders of orders (1725), towards the cost of which (4064 scudi or $3942) each section of the order contributed one fourth part. At the present time the question of the antiquity of the Carmelite Order has hardly more than academical interest.
B. Foundations in Palestine
—The Greek monk John Phocas who visited the Holy Land in 1185 relates that he met on Carmel a Calabrian (i.e. Western) monk who some time previously, on the strength of an apparition of the Prophet Elias, had gathered around him about ten hermits with whom he led a religious life in a small monastery near the grotto of the prophet. Rabbi Benjamin de Tudela had already in 1163 reported that the Christians had built there a chapel in honor of Elias. Jacques de Vitry and several other writers of the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth centuries give similar accounts. The exact date of the foundation of the hermitage may be gathered from the life of Aymeric, Patriarch of Antioch, a relative of the “Calabrian” monk, Berthold; on the occasion of a journey to Jerusalem in 1154 or the following year he appears to have visited the latter and assisted him in the establishment of the small community; it is further reported that on his return to Antioch (c. 1160) he took with him some of the hermits, who founded a convent in that town and another on a neighboring mountain; both were destroyed in 1268. Under Berthold‘s successor, Brocard, some doubts arose as to the proper form of life of the Carmelite hermits. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Albert de Vercelli, then residing at Tyre, settled the difficulty by writing a short rule, part of which is literally taken from that of St. Augustine (c. 1210). The hermits were to elect a prior to whom they should promise obedience; they were to live in cells apart from one another, where they had to recite the Divine Office according to the Rite of the church of the Holy Sepulchre, or, if unable to read, certain other prayers, and to spend their time in pious meditation varied by manual labor. Every morning they met in chapel for Mass, and on Sundays also for chapter. They were to have no personal property; their meals were to be served in their cells; but they were to abstain from flesh meat except in cases of great necessity, and they had to fast from the middle of September until Easter. Silence was not to be broken between Vespers and Terce of the following day, while from Terce till Vespers they were to guard against useless talk. The prior was to set a good example by humility, and the brothers were to honor him as the representative of Christ.
—As will be seen from this short abstract no provision was made for any further organization beyond the community on Carmel itself, whence it must be inferred that until 1210 no other foundation had been made except those at and near Antioch, which were probably subject to the patriarch of that city. After that date new communities sprang up at Saint Jean d’Acre, Tyre, Tripoli, Jerusalem, in the Quarantena, somewhere in Galilee (monasterium Valini), and in some other localities which are not known, making in all about fifteen. Most of these were destroyed almost as soon as they were built, and at least in two of them some of the brothers were put to death by the Saracens. Several times the hermits were driven from Carmel, but they always found means to return; they even built a new monastery in 1263 (in conformity with the revised rule) and a comparatively large church, which was still visible towards the end of the fifteenth century. However, the position of Christians had become so precarious as to render emigration necessary. Accordingly colonies of hermits were sent out to Cyprus, Sicily, Marseilles, and Valenciennes (c. 1238). Some brothers of English nationality accompanied the Barons de Vescy and Grey on their return journey from the expedition of Richard, Earl of Cornwall (1241), and made foundations at Hulne near Alnwick in Northumberland, Bradmer (Norfolk), Aylesford, and Newenden (Kent). St. Louis, King of France, visited Mount Carmel in 1254 and brought six French hermits to Charenton near Paris where he gave them a convent. Mount Carmel was taken by the Saracens in 1291, the brothers, while singing the Salve Regina, were put to the sword, and the convent was burnt.
D. Character and Name
—With the migration of the Carmelites to Europe begins a new period in the history of the order. Little more than the bare names of the superiors of the first period has come down to us: St. Berthold, St. Brocard, St. Cyril, Berthold (or Bartholomew), and Alan (1155-1247). At the first chapter held at Aylesford, St. Simon Stock was elected general (1247-65). As the oldest biographical notice concerning him dates back only to 1430 and is not very reliable, we must judge the man from his works. He found himself in a difficult position. Although the rule had been granted about 1210 and had received papal approbation in 1226, many prelates refused to acknowledge the order, believing it to be founded in contravention of the Lateran Council (1215) which forbade the institution of new orders. In fact the Carmelite Order as such was only approved by the Second Council of Lyons (1274), but St. Simon obtained from Innocent IV an interim approbation, as well as certain modifications of the rule (1247). Henceforth foundations were no longer restricted to deserts but might be made in cities and the suburbs of towns; the solitary life was abandoned for community life; meals were to be taken in common; the abstinence, though not dispensed with, was rendered less stringent; the silence was restricted to the time between Compline and Prime of the following day; donkeys and mules might be kept for travelling and the transport of goods, and fowls for the needs of the kitchen. Thus the order ceased to be eremitical and became one of the mendicant orders. Its first title, Fratres eremitae de Monte Carmeli, and, after the building of a chapel on Carmel in honor of Our Lady (c. 1220), Eremitae Sanctae Mariae de Monte Carmeli, was now changed into Fratres Ordinis Beatissimae Virginis Mariae de Monte Carmeli. By an ordinance of the Apostolic Chancery of 1477 it was further amplified, Fratres Ordinis Beatissimae Dei Genitricis sempergue Virginis Mariae de Monte Carmeli, which title was rendered obligatory by the General Chapter of 1680.
Having obtained the mitigation of the rule, St. Simon Stock, who was altogether in favor of the active life, opened houses at Cambridge (1249), Oxford (1253), London (about the same time), York (1255), Paris (1259), Bologna (1260), Naples (date uncertain), etc. He strove especially to implant the order at the universities, partly to secure for the religious the advantages of a higher education, partly to increase the number of vocations among the undergraduates. Although the zenith of the mendicant orders had already passed he was successful in both respects. The rapid increase of convents and novices, however, proved dangerous; the rule being far stricter than those of St. Francis and St. Dominic, discouragement and discontent seized many of the brothers, while the bishops and the parochial clergy continued to offer resistance to the development of the order. He died a centenarian before peace was fully restored. With the election of Nicholas Gafficus (1265-71) a reaction set in; the new general, being much opposed to the exercise of the sacred ministry, favored exclusively the contemplative life. To this end he wrote a lengthy letter entitled “Ignea sagitta” (unedited) in which he condemned in greatly exaggerated terms what he called the dangerous occupations of preaching and hearing confessions. His words remaining unheeded, he resigned his office, as did also his successor, Radulphus Alemannus (1271-74), who belonged to the same school of thought.
—The approbation of the order by the Second Council of Lyons secured its permanent position among the mendicant orders, sanctioned the exercise of the active life, and removed every obstacle to its development, which thenceforth went on by leaps and bounds. Under Peter de Millaud (1274-94) a change was made in the habit. Hitherto it had consisted of a tunic, girdle, scapular, and hood of either black, brown or grey color (the color became subject to numberless changes according to the different subdivisions and reforms of the order), and of a mantle composed of four white and three black vertical stripes or rays, whence the friars were popularly called Fratres barrati, or virgulati, or de pica (magpie). In 1287 this variegated mantle was exchanged for one of pure white wool which caused them to be called Whitefriars.
F. The Thirteenth Century
—Besides the generals already mentioned, the thirteenth century saw two saints of the order, Angelus and Albert of Sicily. Very little is known of the former, his biography, purporting to be written by his brother Enoch, Patriarch of Jerusalem, being a work of the fifteenth century; in those portions in which it can be controlled by contemporary evidence it is proved to be unreliable, e.g. when it establishes a whole Greek hierarchy at Jerusalem during the period of the Crusades; or when it gives the acts of an apocryphal Council of Alexandria together with the names of seventy bishops supposed to have taken part in it. These and some other particulars being altogether unhistorical, it is difficult to say how much credence it deserves in other matters for which there is no independent evidence. It is, however, worthy of notice that the Breviary lessons from 1458, when the feast of St. Angelus first appears, until 1579 represent him simply as a Sicilian by birth and say nothing of his Jewish descent, his birth and conversion at Jerusalem, etc. Nor is there any positive evidence as to the time when he lived or the year and the cause of his martyrdom. According to some sources he was put to death by heretics (probably Manichaeans), but, according to later authors, by a man whom he had publicly reproved for grave scandal. Again, the oldest legends of St. Francis and St. Dominic say nothing of a meeting of the three saints in Rome or their mutual prophecies concerning the stigmata, the rosary, and the martyrdom. The life of St. Albert, too, was written a long time after his death by one who had no personal recollection of him and was more anxious to edify the reader by an account of numerous miracles (frequently in exaggerated terms), than to state sober facts. All that can be said with certainty is that St. Albert was born in Sicily, entered the order very young, in consequence of a vow made by his parents, that for some time he occupied the position of provincial, and that he died in the odor of sanctity on August 7, 1306. Though he was never formally canonized, his feast was introduced in 1411.
G. Foundations in the British Isles
—The English province, to which the Irish and Scotch houses belonged until 1305, made rapid progress until about the middle of the fourteenth century, after which date foundations became less numerous, while from time to time some of the smaller houses were given up. The Carmelites enjoyed the favor of the Crown, which contributed generously towards several foundations, particularly that of Oxford, where the royal residence was handed over to the order. The site is now occupied by the Beaufort Hotel, but there may still be seen Friars’ Walk, and the little church of St. Mary Magdalen which for a time was served by the Carmelites. Other royal foundations were Hitchin, Marlborough, etc. John of Gaunt was a great benefactor of the order and chose his confessors from amongst its members; the House of Lancaster, likewise almost always had Carmelites as royal confessors, a post which corresponded to some extent to that of royal almoner or minister of public worship. These confessors were as a rule promoted to small bishoprics in Ireland or Wales. The order became very popular among the people. The life was one of deep poverty, as is proved by various inventories of goods and other documents still extant. During the Wycliffite troubles the order took the leadership of the Catholic party, the first opponent of Wyclif being the Provincial of the Carmelites, John Cunningham. Thomas Walden was entrusted by Henry V with important missions abroad, and accompanied Henry VI to France. During the wars with France several French convents were attached to the English province, so that the number of English Carmelites rose to fifteen hundred.. But ultimately there remained only the house at Calais, which was suppressed by Henry VIII. At the end of the fifteenth century the province had dwindled down to about six hundred religious.
None of the various reforms seems to have been introduced into England, although Eugene IV and the general, John, Soreth, took steps in this direction. The peculiar constitutions in vigour in England, and the excellent organization of the province rendered the spread of abuses less to be feared than elsewhere. At the beginning of the Reformation a number of the junior religious, affected by the new learning, left the order; the remainder were compelled to sign the Act of Supremacy, which they apparently did without hesitation, a fact not much to be wondered at if it be borne in mind that Cardinal Wolsey had already obtained power from the Holy See to visit and reform the Carmelite convents, a measure which left no alternative but blind submission to the royal will or suppression. Separated from the rest of the order, the Carmelites were for a time subjected to the rule of George Brown, general of all the mendicants, but gained a comparative independence under John Byrd, first provincial and then general of the English section of the order. At the time of the final suppression there were thirty-nine houses, including that of Calais. The suppression papers are very far from complete, exhibiting the names of only about 140 religious, and containing the inventories of less than a dozen houses. These were in a state of abject poverty. At Oxford the friars had been obliged to sell the benches of the church and the trees in the road, and the commissioner stated that soon they would have to sell the tiles off the roof, to buy a few loaves of bread. Yet one of the novices, Anthony Foxton, nothing daunted by this trying situation, fled to Northallerton to continue his novitiate, whence a few weeks later he was expelled for the second time. .The property of the order was squandered with the same recklessness as other ecclesiastical goods. The library of the London house, considered one of the finest in England (this applies in all probability to the building, not to its contents, which bear no comparison with other monastic libraries of that period), came into the possession of Dr. Butt. The other buildings were sold in parcels. Only two Carmelites are known to have suffered death, Lawrence Cook and Reginald Pecock; others seem to have recanted in prison. But as practically nothing is known of the fate of a large number of convents, especially those of the North, it is more than probable that during the different risings some were burnt and their inmates hanged. Among the few remains of the English Carmelite convents must be mentioned the first two foundations, Hulne, now a ruin, and Aylesford, in a fairly good state of preservation, and also the beautiful cloister in what is now the workhouse for male paupers at Coventry. An attempt to revive the English province during the reign of Queen Mary was unsuccessful.
The history of the Irish and Scotch provinces has never been exhaustively studied, owing chiefly to the loss of many documents. The total number of Irish convents is variously given as twenty-five or twenty-eight, but in all probability some of these had but a short-lived existence. The fact that the general chapters repeatedly appointed Englishmen as provincials for Ireland seems to indicate that the province was frequently troubled by disunion and strife. At an early epoch the Dublin house was designated a studium generale, but as it is never mentioned as such in the official lists it probably served only for the Irish students, foreign provinces not being required to send their contingent. For the pursuit of higher studies special facilities were given to the Irish and Scotch in London and at the English universities. The Irish convents fell without exception under the iron hand of Henry VIII.
The Scotch province numbered at the utmost twelve convents, of which that of South Queensferry at the foot of the Forth Bridge is still extant. Here again we have to content ourselves with stray notices, from which, however, it is manifest that the order was in high favor with the Crown. Some Scotch Carmelites played an important part at the University of Paris, while others were among the chief promoters of the Reform of Albi. At the suppression of the English convents many religious betook themselves to Scotland where convents were allowed to exist as best they could until 1564.
—The oldest constitutions that have come down to us are dated 1324, but there is evidence of a former collection begun about 1256 to supplement the rule, which lays down only certain leading principles. In 1324 the order was divided into fifteen provinces corresponding to the countries in which it was established. At the head of the order was the general, elected in open scrutinium (ballot) by the general chapter; at each successive chapter he had to render an account of his administration and if no serious complaints were made he was confirmed in his office until he was removed by the nomination to a bishopric, or by death, or until he resigned of his own accord. He chose his own residence which from 1472 was usually Rome. He was given two companions (generally of his own choice) to accompany him on his journeys and to assist him with advice. The whole order contributed annually a fixed amount towards the maintenance of the general and the costs of the administration. In theory, at least, the power of the general was almost unlimited but in practice he could not afford to disregard the wishes of the provinces and provincials. The general chapter assembled fairly regularly every third year from 1247 to the end of the fourteenth century; but from that period onward the intervals became much longer, six, ten, even sixteen years. The chapters had become a heavy burden, not only for the order but also for the towns which accorded them hospitality. Each province (their number was constantly increasing) was represented by the provincial and two companions. In addition to these there was a gathering of masters in divinity and promising students who held theological disputations, while the definitors discussed the affairs of the order; as the Holy See usually granted indulgences on the occasion of chapters. the pulpits of the cathedral and parochial and conventual churches were occupied several times a day by eloquent preachers; travelling being performed on horseback, each province sent a number of lay brothers to care for the horses.
Thus the general chapters were always attended by large numbers of friars, from five hundred to a thousand and more. To defray the costs each provincial was bound to ask his sovereign for a subsidy, the English Crown contributing as a rule ten pounds, while boardand lodging for the members of the chapter were found in other religious houses and among the townspeople. In return the order used to grant the town letters of fraternity and to place its patron saints on the Carmelite calendar. For the election of the general all the provincials and their companions assembled, but the remaining business was entrusted to the definitors, one for each province; these were chosen at the provincial chapter in such a way that no one could act in this capacity in two successive chapters. The duty of the definitors was to receive reports on the administration of the provinces; to confirm provincials or to depose them, and elect others in their stead; to audit the accounts and fix the annual taxation; to nominate those who were to lecture on Scripture and the Sentences at the universities, especially Paris; to grant permission for the reception of academical honors at the expense of the whole order; to revise and interpret existing laws and add new ones; and finally, to grant privileges to deserving members, deal with those guilty of serious offenses by meting out adequate punishment, or, if cause were shown for leniency, by relaxing or condoning previous sentences. This done, the whole chapter was again called together, the decisions of the definitors were published and handed in writing to each provincial. Of the records of the earlier chapters only fragments are now to be found, but from 1318 the acts are complete and have partly been printed.
The provincial chapters were held as a rule once a year, but there were complaints that some provincials held only two in three years. Each convent was represented by the prior or vicar and by one companion elected by the conventual chapter to take complaints against the prior. Out of the whole number of capitulars four definitors were chosen who together with the provincial performed much the same duties on behalf of the province as did the definitory of the general chapter on behalf of the whole order. Among other things they had full authority to depose priors and to elect new ones; they also selected students to be sent to the various studia generalia and particularia, and to the universities, and made adequate provision for their expenses. They decided—subject to the approval of the general and the Holy See—on the foundation of new convents. They dealt with delinquents. Attempts were made from time to time to limit the duration of the office of provincials, but so long as the general legislation of the Church tolerated an indefinite tenure of office these endeavors were practically unavailing.
The superior of a convent was the prior, or in his absence and during a vacancy the vicar. The prior was controlled in his administration by three guardians who held the keys of the common chest and countersigned bills and contracts. Complaints against the prior were sent to the provincial or to the provincial chapter. There was no limit to the tenure of office of the prior; he might be confirmed year after year for twenty or more years. In the case of convents in university towns, especially Paris and the Roman Curia (Avignon, afterwards Rome) the nomination belonged to the general or the general chapter; and there appears to have been an unwritten law that at Cambridge, Louvain, and other universities the priorship should, be filled by the bachelor who in the course of the year was to take his degree as Master in Divinity. From about the middle of the fourteenth century it became customary to fill the offices of general, provincial, and prior (at least in the larger convents) exclusively with those who had taken degrees. Almost the only systematic exception to this rule is to be found in the province of Upper Germany.
I. Sources of Membership
—When St. Simon Stock established convents in university towns he obviously counted upon the undergraduates as the future recruits of the order; nor was he deceived in his expectation. True, the time had passed when in one day sixty or more students with their professors flocked to the Dominican convent at Paris to receive the habit from the hands of Blessed Jordan. But there were still many applicants, notwithstanding the severe bylaws of the universities regulating the reception of students in mendicant convents. It was perhaps chiefly the poor scholars who by joining one of these orders secured for themselves the necessaries of life as well as the means of education. Not only in the time of St. Simon but even much later a good deal of trouble was caused by these young men, who had recently exchanged the free and easy life of the scholar for the discipline of the cloister. In many convents we find numerous instances of members of the families of the founders and chief benefactors becoming conventuals; in some cases. the relationship of uncle and nephew may be traced through several centuries; just as the prebends of cathedrals and collegiate churches were often in the gift of the founder and his family and were handed down from generation to generation, the more humble cells of a Carmelite convent remained frequently in the hands of one and the same family who considered it their duty as well as their right to be ever represented by at least one member. Again, it frequently happened that a father desirous of settling his son in life bought or endowed a cell for him in a convent. It was probably due to the ardent piety of former times and the careful preservation from dangerous society that such casual calls ripened into solid vocations. In places where the Carmelites had public or semi-public schools they found little difficulty in choosing suitable boys. But there remained a good many convents in small places, where the recruiting was evidently not so easy and where with a decreasing number of inmates a dangerous relaxation of religious observance went hand in hand. For, throughout the Middle Ages a friar belonged to the convent in which he had taken the habit, although through force of circumstances he might be absent from it for the greater part of his life. Hence, the general chapters repeatedly commanded the priors to receive every year one or two promising young men even if they brought no endowment, so as to gradually increase the number of religious. In other cases where provinces were numerous enough but lacked the means of subsistence the reception of novices might be stopped for several years.
J. Probation and Formation of Members
—The clothing of novices was preceded by certain inquiries into their antecedents and the respectability of their families. The year of probation was spent in the convent which they entered, the “native convent” as it was called, and a father was commissioned to take personal care of a novice, teaching him the customs of the order and the ceremonies of the choir. According to the oldest constitutions, each novice might have a special master, but in practice one master, assisted, if necessary, by a substitute, was appointed for all. The novices were not allowed to mingle with the rest of the community or with the boys of the convent school; no office that in any way could interfere with their chief duty, viz. learning the Divine Office, was given them. On the other hand the prior was not to allow anyone to reprehend the novices or find fault with them, except the novice-master himself, whose business it was to teach, correct, guide, and encourage them. Towards the end of the novitiate the probationer was voted on; if he had given satisfaction he was allowed to make his profession, otherwise he was dismissed. One of the conditions for profession was that the novice should be able to read fluently and write correctly. Those who might smile at such elementary requirements should remember that reading and writing implied a complete mastery of the Latin grammar and a practical knowledge of the system of abbreviations and contractions, a knowledge of palaeography which is not now required either of schoolboys or advanced scholars.
After profession the provincial decided what was to be done with the young religious. He might stand in need of further training in grammar and rhetoric, or he might begin at once the study of physics and logic. If his own convent offered no facility for these pursuits, which was probably seldom the case, he would be sent to another. Once a week or a fortnight the teacher would hold a repetition with his scholars in presence of the community so that it might become known who had studied and who had been negligent. Special convents were assigned for the study of philosophy and theology; in England the former was taught at Winchester, the latter at Coventry. The higher studies were, however, pursued at the studia generalia of which in 1324 there were eight: Paris, Toulouse, Bologna, Florence, Montpellier, Cologne, London, and Avignon. Their number was gradually increased until each province had its own, but in earlier times every province was bound to send a certain number of students to each of these studia, and to provide for their maintenance; they were even free to send a larger number than prescribed, but they had to pay for the full number even if they sent less. In addition to the students sent to the studia at the expense of their provinces, others might be sent at the expense of their parents and friends, provided the superiors had given their consent. Thus the number of students at the Carmelite convent at Paris averaged three hundred, in London over a hundred. The majority of students were sent pro simplici forma, that is just to complete their course, after which they returned to their provinces. Only the most promising were allowed to study for degrees, because this involved a prolonged residence at the universities, ten, twelve or more years, and a corresponding outlay. (For the course of studies and the various steps leading to the degree of Master in Divinity see Universities.) The provincial and general chapters regulated the succession of lecturers on Scripture and the Sentences; particularly at Paris, the foremost university, provision was often made for ten years in advance, so as to ensure a steady supply of able readers and to distribute as far as possible the honors among all the provinces. For the universities would allow only one friar of each of the mendicant orders to take degrees in the course of a year, and each order was naturally anxious to put its most capable men in the foreground. It was therefore not an idle boast when it was said, as we read sometimes, of one or other of the Carmelites, that he was the best lecturer of his term at Paris. As Paris was the most celebrated university, so the doctors of Paris had precedence over those of the other universities. During the schism Paris took sides with the Clementist party whose most powerful support it was. The Urbanist party in the Carmelite Order transferred the prerogatives of the graduates of Paris to those of Bologna, a poor makeshift. There exists a fairly complete list of the Masters of Paris, but only fragmentary information concerning other universities. Unfortunately the register of the English province was destroyed during the Reformation, while the greater part of the archives of Oxford and Cambridge were lost during the Civil War, so that the priceless notices collected by John Bale are the chief sources for our knowledge of Carmelite activity at the English universities. This is the more regrettable as the position of Carmelite friars was regulated by special statutes often alluded to, but nowhere preserved. On their return from the universities the religious were usually appointed to some readership, care being taken that in every convent there should be a daily lecture on Scripture and theology.
K. Penalties Established by Rule
—The constitutions deal very fully with the faults committed by religious and their punishment. A few words will not be out of place with regard to more serious breaches of discipline, especially the violation of the religious vows. Faults against chastity were punished with six months’, or, if notorious, with a year’s, imprisonment, and the loss of voice and place in chapter for from three to five years. If special circumstances required it this punishment was increased, and in the case of a grave scandal the culprit was sent to the galleys for hard labor for a number of years or even for the remainder of his life. If serious suspicion existed against anyone which it was impossible either to prove or to disprove, the accused was allowed the benefit of canonical purgation, i.e. having himself denied the charge on oath, he produced six other religious of good name and high standing to affirm on oath that they considered the charge unfounded and the accused innocent. If unable to find such witnesses, he was punished as though he had been convicted. Other faults that recur frequently were open disobedience and rebellion against the commands of the superiors, the undue exercise of proprietorship, theft, apostasy (by which was understood any absence from the convent without proper permission, even if there was no intention of quitting the order permanently). Thus, if a religious, being sent from one place to another, tarried on the road without proper cause, or went out of his way without necessity, he was punished as an apostate; again, a lecturer at the universities leaving town before the end of the course was judged guilty of the same crime, his action being prejudicial to the honor of the order. In all these matters it must be borne in mind that the penal system of the Middle Ages was far less humane than the modern one, and that many faults were ascribed to perversity of will where we should make allowance for weakness of character or even mental derangement. The more serious faults were judged and punished by the provincial and general chapters, to whom also was reserved the absolution of the culprits and their reinstatement. The general chapters frequently granted free pardon to all prisoners except those recently condemned and there were occasional complaints that some of the superiors showed undue leniency; but the material before us proves that on the whole discipline was well maintained. With an average of twenty thousand friars or more during the fifteenth century, the “Chronique scandaleuse” is singularly unimportant, a fact that tells in favor of the order, all the more as a large percentage of this number consisted of students at the great universities exposed to many temptations.
L. Constitutional Revisions
—These constitutions underwent numerous changes. Almost every chapter made additions which were frequently cancelled or qualified by subsequent chapters. John Balistarius (1358-74) published a revised edition in 1369 (inedited) and the mitigation of the rule by Eugene IV necessitated a further revision under John Soreth (1462, printed in 1499). Nevertheless it must be admitted that the legislation of the order moved too slowly, and that many measures were out of date almost as soon as they were passed. Moreover, laws that may have been excellent for Norway or England were hardly applicable in Sicily or at Seville. These simple facts account for many complaints about relaxation or want of discipline.
From the approbation of the order by the Council of Lyons until the outbreak of the great Western Schism (1274-1378) there was a steady increase in provinces and convents, interrupted only temporarily by the Black Death. At the time of the schism it was not left to the provinces, much less to individuals, to choose their own party; they necessarily followed the politics of the country to which they belonged. A census taken in 1390 shows the following provinces on the Urbanist side: Cyprus (number of convents not stated); Sicily, with 18 convents; England with 35; Rome with 5; Lower Germany with 12; Lombardy with 12 or 13; Tuscany, with 7; Bologna with 12; Ireland with 8; and Gascony with 6. The Clementist party with the Scotch, French, Spanish, and the greater number of the German houses, was rather more powerful. The general, Bernard Olerius (1375-83) being a native of Catalonia, adhered to Clement VII, and was succeeded first by Raymond Vaquerius and next by John Grossi (1389-1430), one of the most active generals, who during the schism made numerous foundations and maintained excellent discipline among the religious belonging to his party, so that at the union in 1411 he was unanimously elected general of the whole order. The Urbanists had been less fortunate. Michael de Anguanis who succeeded Olerius (1379-86) having become suspect, was deposed after a long trial; the financial administration was far from satisfactory, and the loss of Paris proved a serious blow to that section of the order. Soon after the reestablishment of the union a radical change of the rule became necessary. This, as has been seen, was originally composed for a handful of hermits living in a singularly mild climate. Notwithstanding the few changes made by Innocent IV, the rule had proved too severe for those who spent one half of their life in the intellectual turmoil of the university and the other half in the exercise of the sacred ministry at home. Accordingly Eugenius IV granted in 1432 a mitigation allowing the use of flesh meat on three or four days a week, and dispensing with the law of silence and retirement. But even so the chief abuses that had crept in during the fourteenth century were by no means abolished.
M. Abuses, Irregularities
—It is indispensable to have a clear idea of these abuses in order to understand the reforms called into life to counteract them. (1) The permanency of superiors. Even an excellent superior is liable to lose his first energy after a number of years while an indifferent superior seldom improves. This is one of the most difficult problems in the history of monasticism, but the experience of fifteen hundred years has turned the scales in favor of a limited tenure of office. (2) The right of private property. Notwithstanding the vow of poverty many religious were allowed the use of certain revenues from hereditary property, or the disposal of moneys acquired by their work, teaching, preaching, the copying of books, etc. All this was fully regulated by the constitutions and required special permission from the superiors. It was, therefore, quite reconcilable with a good conscience, but it necessarily caused inequality between rich and poor friars. (3) The acceptance of posts of honor outside the order. From the middle of the fourteenth century the popes became more and more lavish in granting the privileges of papal chaplaincies, etc., to those who paid a small fee to the Apostolic chancery. These privileges practically withdrew religious from the rule of their superiors. Again, after the Black Death (1348) thousands of benefices fell vacant, which were too small to provide a living for an incumbent; these were eagerly sought after by religious, among others by Carmelites, who, for an insignificant service, such as the occasional celebration of Mass in a chantry, obtained a small but acceptable income. The papal dispensation ab incompatibilibus and the necessary permission of the superiors were easily obtained. Others again were empowered to serve high ecclesiastics or lay people “in all things becoming a religious” or to act as chaplains on board ship, or to fill the post of organist in parish churches. All such exceptions, of which many instances could be quoted, tended to loosen the bonds of religious observance; they filled with pride those who had obtained them and with envy those who were less fortunate. (4) A further source of disorder was found in the small convents with only a few religious, who, naturally, could not be expected to keep up the full observance and sometimes appear to have kept hardly any.
—These and other abuses were by no means peculiar to the Carmelites; they occurred, to say the least, in an equal degree in all the mendicant orders, and awakened everywhere loud cries for reform. In point of fact, long before the end of the Western Schism nearly every order had inaugurated that long series of partial and local reforms which constitutes one of the most refreshing elements in the history of the fifteenth century; but though it seems to have remained unknown to the strenuous reformers, no lasting improvement was possible so long as the root of the evil was not removed. This was not in the power of individual reformers, even of saints, but required the concerted action of the whole Church. It required a Council of Trent to raise the whole conception of religious life to a higher level. The first step towards reform in the Carmelite Order dates from 1413, when three convents, Le Selve near Florence, Gerona, and Mantua, agreed to adopt certain principles, among which were the limitation of the tenure of office to two years, with an enforced vacation of four years between each two terms of office, the abolition of all private property, and the resignation of all posts necessitating the residence of religious outside their convents. After considerable difficulty, the congregation of Mantua, as it was called, obtained in 1442 quasi-autonomy under a vicar-general. It gradually brought under its authority several other houses in Italy, but it was only after the death of the general, John Soreth, himself an ardent reformer but an enemy of all separatist tendencies, that it began to spread with rapidity. In 1602 it counted fifty-two houses.
The most celebrated member of this reform was Blessed Baptista Mantuanus (Spagnoli) (q.v.) who filled the office of vicar-general six times and became general of the whole order. The statutes of this congregation were printed in 1540 and again in 1602. After the French Revolution it was amalgamated with the remains of the old stock of the order in Italy.
Blessed John Soreth (1451-71) throughout his long generalship carried out a similar reform, but on the basis of the constitutions. His own life and work are a proof that under certain circumstances a protracted tenure of office can be most profitable. While officially visiting numerous provinces he established in each of them several reformed houses whither the most fervent religious flocked. For these he obtained many privileges; no superior could refuse permission to one desirous of joining such a convent; the very fact of entering a reformed house dispensed a religious from penalties previously incurred, which, however, would revive should he return to a non-reformed convent. No superior could withdraw a member of a reformed community except for the purpose of reforming other houses through his instrumentality. If Soreth was, on the whole, successful in his enterprise he also encountered a certain amount of systematic opposition on the part of graduates who were loth to give up their privileges of not attending choir, of taking their meals privately, and of having lay brothers and “fags” for their personal attendance, and who preferred to withdraw to distant convents rather than submit to the rules of the general. The latter obtained leave from the Holy See to fill up the gaps by bestowing the title of doctor on those who were not qualified by a proper course at the universities, a most dangerous proceeding, which before long led to fresh and serious abuses. It has often been asserted that Soreth died of poison, but there is no foundation for such a calumny. Even after his death the movement so happily inaugurated did not lose all vigour, but neither of his two immediate successors understood the art of appealing to the higher nature of his subjects, whereby Soreth had gained his marvellous influence. Christopher Martignon (1472-81) was considered an intruder, his election being ascribed to the pressure exercised by Sixtus IV, his personal friend, and Pontius Raynaud (1482-1502) had the reputation of being a martinet. Peter Terasse (1503-13) visited most of the provinces and has left in his register (unedited) a vivid picture of the condition of the order immediately before the Reformation. Many convents, he is able to state, were thoroughly reformed, while others were far from perfect. He himself, however, was too generous in granting licenses and privileges, and, though strict in punishing, he contributed not a little to the very abuses he intended to abolish. His successor, Blessed Baptista Mantuanus (1513-16), was too old and worn out to exercise any lasting influence. He obtained, however, the recognition and approbation of the congregation of Albi.
This congregation had been established in 1499 by Bishop Louis d’Amboise, who, there being no reformed convent in the province of France, obtained from Mantuanus two religious, one of whom died on the road; the survivor found in the College Montaigu in Paris some twenty students willing to embrace the religious life. They were placed in the convent of Albi, while the legitimate inmates were dispersed. Soon other convents, Meaux, Rouen, Toulouse, joined the movement, at the head of which was Louis de Lyra. It is related, though hardly credible, that the general died of grief when he heard of this new rift in the unity of the order. The General Chapter of 1503 excommunicated Louis de Lyra on the ground that the right of reforming belonged to the general and not to self-constituted reformers. But the congregation was already strong enough to offer resistance and had even found an entrance into the most important convent of the order, that of Paris. The next year Terasse spent five months there trying to win back the dissidents. At last, by a strange error of judgment, he ordered the lecturers to leave Paris at the conclusion of the term and the students to return to their native convents within three days. The natural result was that many of them formally joined the congregation of Albi which now obtained complete control at Paris. A compromise was then reached whereby the vacancies were alternately filled by the order and by the congregation of Albi. Baptista Mantuanus obtained for the latter papal approbation and an extension of the privileges of his own congregation. Notwithstanding this victory the new congregation became a prey to disunion and was unable to make much headway. The evils brought about by the Reformation and the civil and religious wars weighed heavily upon it until, in 1584, it was dissolved by the Holy See.
A further reform of somewhat different nature was that of the convent of Mount Olivet near Genoa, 1514; it consisted in a return to the purely contemplative life and the ancient austerity of the order. he general, Giovanni Battista Rubeo, has left a record that during his visit there in 1568, which lasted only three days, he abstained from flesh meat. This reform continued well into the seventeenth century. A later reform modeled upon that of St. Teresa was inaugurated at Rennes in 1604 by Philip Thibault (1572-1638) and nine companions. With the assistance of the Discalced Carmelites he was able to give it a solid basis, so that before long it embraced the whole province of Touraine. Unlike the other reforms it remained in organic union with the bulk of the order, and enjoyed the favor of the French Court. Among its greatest ornaments were Leo of St. John, one of the first superiors, and the blind lay brother, John of St. Sampson, author of various works on the contemplative life.
O. Affiliations, Carmelite Sisters
—About the middle of the fifteenth century several communities of Beguines at Gueldre, Dinant, etc., approached John Soreth with the request that they be affiliated to the order (1452). He gave them the rule and constitutions of the friars, to which he added some special regulations which unfortunately do not appear to be preserved. The prestige of the Carmelite Sisters grew rapidly when the Duchess of Brittany, Blessed Frances d’Amboise (1427-85), joined one of the convents, which she herself had founded. Before the end of the century there were convents in France, Italy (Blessed Jane Scopelli, 1491), and Spain. Especially in the latter country the manner of life of the nuns was greatly admired, and several convents became so crowded that the slender means available hardly sufficed for their maintenance.
St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross.—The convent of the Incarnation at Avila was destined to fashion the brightest ornament of the Carmelite Order, St. Teresa of Jesus. Born in 1515 she entered the convent in 1535 and made her profession in the following year. Shortly afterwards she fell ill and, unable to fulfil the usual duties of a religious, gave herself to the practice of mental prayer. Frightened by her directors, who believed her trances to be diabolical illusions, she passed through a period of interior trials which awakened in her the desire for a more perfect life. Learning that the primitive rule aimed at the contemplative life and prescribed several austerities which had since been dispensed with, she resolved upon the foundation of a convent for thirteen nuns in her native town, which after many difficulties was established on August 24, 1562. The general, Rubeo (1564-78), who at that time visited Spain, approved of what St. Teresa had done and encouraged her to make further foundations. In a letter written from Barcelona (unedited) he enlarged on the blessings of the contemplative life and granted permission for the establishment of two convents for reformed friars within the province of Castile. But warned by what had happened in the case of the congregation of Albi he made some very stringent regulations so as to suppress from the outset any separatist tendencies. In the course of fifteen years St. Teresa founded sixteen more convents of nuns, often in the teeth of the most obstinate opposition.
Among the friars she found two willing helpmates, the prior Anton de Heredia who had already filled important posts in the order, e.g. that of auditor of civil causes at the General Chapter of 1564, and St. John of the Cross, who had just completed his studies. They entered with supernatural courage upon a life of untold hardships and were joined not only by a number of postulants, but also by many of their former brethren in religion. The province of Castile being numerically weak, it stands to reason that the provincial resented the departure of so many of his subjects, among whom were the most reliable and promising. The papal nuncio, Hormaneto, was favorably disposed towards the reform. As Apostolic visitor of the religious orders he wielded papal powers and considered himself entitled to overrule the restrictions of the general. He granted leave for the foundation of other convents of friars, besides the two stipulated by the general, and for the extension of the reform to the province of Andalusia. By an almost incomprehensible error of judgment he appointed visitor of the Calced Carmelites of this last named province Jerome of the Mother of God (Jerome Gratian, 1545-1615) who had just made his profession among the Reformed or Discalced. Carmelites, and who, however zealous and prudent, could lay no claim to much experience of the religious life. The Calced Carmelites appealed to Rome, and the result was that the general took a great dislike to the new reform. He himself was a reformer, and had favored the foundation of a convent of reformed nuns at Alcala de Henares by Mary of Jesus (1563), and of a reformed convent of friars at Onde in Aragon under James Montanes (1565), and in his visitations he frequently resorted to drastic measures to bring about improvements; moreover he was a strict disciplinarian, punishing faults with a severity which to us seems inconceivable. When he found that the dangers he had striven to avert, viz. a repetition of the disorders caused by the congregation of Albi, had actually occurred, he resolved to root out the new reform. The General Chapter of 1575 decided to abolish the Discalced Carmelites, threatened to send Mariano del Terdo, formerly a hermit, and Baldassare Nieto, an ex-Minim, to their former abodes, ordered the three Andalusian convents of Granada, Seville, and Penuela, to be closed, and the friars to return to their proper convents within three days. The acts of the chapter (unedited) are silent as to the nuns, but it is known from the correspondence of St. Teresa that she received orders to choose one of her convents there to remain, and to abstain from further foundations.
The Discalced friars, however, relying upon the powers they had received from the nuncio, resisted these commands and went so far as to hold a provincial chapter at Almodbvar (1576). The general sent a visitor with ample powers, Girolamo Tostado, who for some years had been his official companion and was fully acquainted with his intentions. At this juncture the nuncio died and was succeeded by Sep, who at first remained impartial but soon began to proceed vigorously against the reform. A second chapter having been held at the same place (1578), the nuncio excommunicated all the capitulars; St. John of the Cross was seized in the convent of the Incarnation at Avila where he was confessor and hurried to Toledo, where he was thrown into a dungeon and cruelly treated; others were imprisoned elsewhere. The persecution lasted for nearly a year until at length Philip II intervened. The reform having thus proved too strong, it was resolved to give it a legal standing by establishing a special province for the Discalced friars and nuns, but under obedience to the general (1580). The first provincial was Jerome Gratian who throughout had been the chief support of St. Teresa. To her it was given to see the triumph of her work, but dying on October 4, 1582, she was spared the pain which the disunion among the friars of her own reform must have caused her. When founding her first convent she had a definite object in view. Not only was she anxious to reintroduce the contemplative life, but knowing how many souls were daily being lost through heresy and unbelief she wished the nuns to pray and offer up their mortifications for the conversion of infidels and heretics, while the friars were also to engage in active work. She was delighted when St. John of the Cross and his brethren went from village to village instructing the ignorant in Christian doctrine, and her joy knew no bounds when, in 1582, missioners of the order were sent out to the Congo. This first missionary expedition, as well as a second, came to an abrupt end through misadventures at sea, but a third was successful, at least so long as it received support from home.
Jerome Gratian, the provincial, was heart and soul in these undertakings. When his tenure of office expired he was replaced by a man of a very different stamp, Nicolo Doria, known in religion as Nicholas of Jesus (1539-94), a Genoese who had come to Spain as the representative of a large banking house, in which capacity he was able to render important services to the king. Aspiring after a higher life, he distributed his immense fortune among the poor, took Holy orders and joined the reformed friars at Seville (1577). He rapidly rose from dignity to dignity, and while engaged in the foundation of a convent in his native town, was elected provincial of the Discalced Carmelites. Endowed with an iron will and indomitable energy, he at once began to fashion his subjects after his own ideas. Having known only the old stock of the order during the troublous times preceding the separation of his province, he was not attached to the order as such. He widened rather than lessened the breach by laying aside, on a mere pretext and against the wishes of the friars, the venerable Carmelite Liturgy in favor of the new Roman Office books, and by soliciting useless privileges from Rome; he withdrew the missioners from the Congo, renounced once for all every idea of spreading the order beyond the frontiers of Spain, restricted the active work to a minimum, increased the austerities, and without consulting the chapter introduced a new form of government which, as it was said at the time, was more fit for the policing of an unruly Italian republic than for the direction of a religious order. He relegated St. John of the Cross to an out-of-the-way convent and on the flimsiest pretext expelled Jerome Gratian. Finally at the General Chapter of 1593 he proposed “for the sake of peace and tranquility and for many other reasons”, the total separation of the Discalced Carmelites from the rest of the order, which was granted by a Bull of December 20, of the same year. Doria now became the first general of the Discalced Carmelites. He died a few months later. It would be unjust to belittle his merits and talents, but it must be acknowledged that in many respects his spirit was diametrically opposed to the lofty conceptions of St. Teresa and the generous dispositions of St. John of the Cross, while the unwarranted expulsion of Jerome Gratian is a blot on his reputation. It was, he said on his deathbed, the only thing that troubled him. The Spanish Carmelites having practically renounced all exterior work and interest, the further history of that branch of the order reduces itself to notices on the foundations of convents, and the truly edifying life of numerous friars and nuns. At the end of the eighteenth century Spain possessed eight provinces with about 130 convents of friars and 93 of nuns. The greater number of these convents were suppressed in 1836, but many have been restored since 1875, when the old Spanish congregation was united with the Italian congregation. They now constitute the Order of the Discalced Carmelites, without subdivision. The Portuguese province was separated from the Spanish congregation in 1773 for political reasons; it possessed twenty-one convents of friars and nine of nuns, nearly all of which were secularized in 1834.
P. Missionary Work
—As has been said, the first two missionary undertakings came to a premature end, one on account of shipwreck, the members of the other being captured by privateers. When set free the missioners, instead of resuming their journey to the west coast of Africa, proceeded to Mexico, where they laid the foundation of a province which in the course of time embraced twenty convents of friars and ten of nuns, but was finally suppressed by the Government. As early at 1563 Rubeo had granted leave to the Calced friar, Francisco Ruiz, to make foundations in Peru, Florida, and elsewhere, nominating him at the same time vicar-general. By 1573 there were convents at Sante Fe (New Mexico), New Granada, and other places, and provision was made for further increase. The Chapter of 1666 took the matter seriously in hand and after certain reforms had been carried out the provinces of Bahia, Pernambuco, and Rio de Janeiro were erected in 1720. There were also convents in Guadeloupe and San Domingo, and there is evidence that foundations were contemplated, if not actually made, in the Philippine Islands as far back as 1705. The Discalced Carmelite nuns of the Spanish congregation found their way to the states of South America as early as the beginning of the seventeenth century; several of their convents are still in existence, and others have lately been erected in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
The congregation of St. Elias of Discalced Carmelites, otherwise called the Italian congregation was erected at the instigation of Clement VIII. By a strange irony of fate Nicolo Doria, who afterwards resisted the spreading of the order beyond the Peninsula and the Spanish colonies, had been commissioned in 1584 to establish a convent at Genoa. This was followed by one in Rome, Santa Maria della Scala, destined to become the nursery of a new congregation and the living example of perfect observance, and another at Naples. Several of the most prominent members of the Spanish congregation had been sent to these foundations, among them Ven. Peter of the Mother of God (1565-1608), and Ferdinand of St. Mary (1538-1631), who became the first superiors; Ven. John of Jesus Mary (1564-1615), whose instructions for novices have become authoritative, and whose incorrupt body is still preserved in the convent of St. Sylvester near Monte Compatri; Ven. Dominic of Jesus Mary (1559-1630), the great wonderworker of his time, and Thomas of Jesus (1568-1627) to whose genius for organization not only the order but the Catholic Church is deeply indebted. With men such as these at its head the congregation spread rapidly, not alone in Italy but through the length and breadth of Europe, and attracted men of high social position. The Archduke Albert of Austria and his consort, the Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia of Spain having applied in Rome for a colony of Discalced Carmelites, the pope nominated Thomas of Jesus founder of the Belgian province. So successful was he that in the course of twelve years he erected ten convents of friars and six of nuns. The establishment in France was more difficult; systematic opposition from various quarters rendered each foundation a hard task, yet from 1611 till the end of the century almost every year saw the foundation of one or two new convents. Germany, Austria, Poland, even distant Lithuania, were opened to the disciples of St. Teresa. The spread of the congregation may perhaps best be illustrated by statistics. In 1632 the reform counted 763 priests, 471 clerics and novices, and 289 lay brothers, total 1523. In 1674 there were 1814 priests, 593 clerics and 747 lay brothers, total 3154. In 1731 the total had risen to 4193 members. No later statistics are available, but it may be taken that the increase continued for another twenty years until the spirit of Voltaire began to make itself felt. Comparatively little has been published about the foundations, the annals of the order reaching only as far as 1612, and much manuscript material having been lost, but a great deal is still waiting for the hand of the chronicler.
Although the exercise of the contemplative life was given prominence even by the Italian congregation, the active life received far wider scope than in the Spanish fraction of the order. Almost from the beginning it was decided on principle and in full harmony with the known intentions of St. Teresa, that missionary undertakings were quite reconcilable with the spirit of the congregation. The pope himself suggested Persia as the first field of labor for Carmelite missioners. Such was the zeal of the fathers assembled in chapter that each of them declared himself ready to lay down his office and go forth for the conversion of unbelievers as soon as his superiors should give him permission to do so. This promise is made to the present day by every member of the order. It was not until 1604 that the first expedition led by Paul Simon of Jesus Mary was actually sent out to Persia. Three fathers, a lay brother, and a tertiary, proceeded through Germany, Poland, and Russia, following the course of the Volga, sailing across the Caspian Sea, until after more than three years of great hardship they reached Ispahan on December 2, 1607. They met with surprising success, and being speedily reinforced were soon able to extend their activity to Bagdad, Bassora, and other towns, penetrating into India where they founded flourishing missions at Bombay, Goa, Quilon, Verapoly, and elsewhere, even at Peking. Some of these missions are still in the hands of the order, although the political events of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries proved fatal to others. Another field of labor was the Near Orient, Constantinople and Turkey, Armenia and Syria. To these was added in 1720 “a new mission in America in the district called Mississippi or Lusitania, which was offered by Captain Poyer in the name of the French company, but under certain conditions”. If indeed this mission was accepted, it does not seem to have been long prosperous.
One of the happy results of the establishment of missions in the Levant was the recovery of Mount Carmel, which had been lost to the order in 1291. Prosper of the Holy Ghost on his journeys to and from India had repeatedly visited the holy mountain and convinced himself that with prudence and tact it might be recovered. For a time the superiors were by no means favorably disposed towards the project, but at last they furnished him with the necessary powers, and a contract to the said effect was signed at Caiffa, November 29, 1631. Onuphrius of St. James, a Belgian, and two companions were commissioned to reestablish religions life on the spot where the Carmelite order had had its origin. They reached Alexandrette on November 5, 1633, and at the beginning of the following year took possession of Mount Carmel. For cells, oratory, refectory, and kitchen they used caverns cut in the living rock, and their life in point of austerity and solitude was worthy of the prophets who had dwelt on Cannel. At length it became necessary to construct a proper convent, in which they were installed December 14, 1720, only to be plundered a few days later by the Turks, who bound the fathers hand and foot. This convent served as a hospital during Napoleon’s campaign; the religious were driven out, and on their return, 1821, it was blown up by the Turks. An Italian lay brother, John Baptist of the Blessed Sacrament (1777-1849), having received orders to rebuild it, and having collected alms in France, Italy, and other countries, laid the foundation stone of the new fabric in 1827. But as it became necessary to do the work on a larger scale than formerly, it was completed only by his successor, Brother Charles, in 1853. It forms a large square block, strong enough to afford protection against hostile attempts; the church is in the center with no direct entrance from outside; it is erected over a crypt sacred to the Prophet Elias, and has been elevated by the pope to the rank of minor basilica. There are few travellers of any creed who in the course of their journeys in the Holy Land do not seek hospitality on Mount Carmel.
It must not be supposed that the Carmelites were spared the perils to which the missionary life is exposed. John of Christ Crucified, one of the first band of missioners sent out to Persia met with a hostile reception in the neighborhood of Moscow, and was thrown into a dungeon where he remained for three years. At last he was released and, nothing daunted, continued his journey to Ispahan. Another lay brother Charisius a Sancti, Maria, suffered martyrdom in 1621 on the Island of Ormuz; he was tied to a tree and cut open alive. Blessed Dionysius of the Nativity (Pierre Bertholet), and Redemptus a Crime, a Portuguese lay brother, suffered for the Faith in Sumatra on November 28, 1638. The former had been pilot and cartographer to the Portuguese viceroy, but gave up his position and became a Carmelite novice at Goa. Soon after his profession the viceroy once more demanded his services for an expedition to Sumatra; Dionysius was ordained priest so that he might at the same time act as chaplain and as pilot, and Redemptus was given him as companion. No sooner had the ship cast anchor at Achin than the ambassador with his suite was treacherously apprehended, and Dionysius, Redemptus, and a number of others were put to death with exquisite cruelty. The two Carmelites were beatified in 1900. Other members of the order suffered martyrdom at Patras in Achaia in 1716.
In order to ensure the steady supply of missioners the order established some missionary colleges. The original idea had been to found a special congregation under the title of St. Paul, which should entirely devote itself to missionary work. The Holy See granted permission and placed the church of St. Paul in Rome (now Santa Maria della Vittoria) at the disposition of the congregation; but on second thought the project was allowed to drop, and the missionary career was opened to all members of the Italian congregation. Those who manifested a talent in this direction, after having completed their ordinary studies were sent to the college of S. Pancrazio in Rome (1662) or to that of St. Albert at Louvain (1621) to study controversy, practical theology, languages, and natural sciences. After a year they were allowed to take the missionary oath, and after a second year they returned to their provinces until a vacancy in one of the missions necessitated the appointment of a new laborer; by these means the order was prepared to send out efficient subjects at very short notice. The seminary of the Missions etrangeres in Paris was founded by a Carmelite, Bernard of St. Joseph, Bishop of Babylon (1597-1663).
An attempt in this direction had been made soon after the Council of Trent, but was not followed up. The pope, struck with the missionary zeal of the Carmelites, consulted Thomas of Jesus as to the best means of bringing about the conversion of infidels. This religious, in his works “Stimulus missionum” (Rome, 1610) and especially “De procuranda salute omnium gentium” (Antwerp, 1613), laid down the principles upon which the Holy See actually instituted and organized the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda; other fathers, particularly Vert. Dominic of Jesus Mary, contributed towards its success by collecting funds; the Bull of institution by Gregory XV pays a just tribute to the zeal of the Carmelites. In establishing missions the order had in view not only the conversion of infidels but also that of Protestants. St. Teresa herself had been deeply afflicted by the spread of Lutheranism; hence the foundation of the Dutch, English, and Irish missions. The history of the first of these is only partly known; of the three it was the least beset with difficulties, and although obstacles were never wanting, it did not pass through the dangers which were a matter of almost daily occurrence in England and Ireland. The most prominent members were Peter of the Mother of God (Bertius, d. 1683) and his brother Caesar of St. Bonaventure (d. 1662), the sons of Peter Bertius, rector of the University of Leyden, a famous convert to the Catholic Faith.
Q. Missions in the British Isles
—The establishment of a mission in England dates back to the year 1615. Thomas Doughty of Plombley, Lincolnshire (1574-1652), probably himself a convert, entered the Carmelite novitiate of La Scala in 1610 after having spent some years at the English College where he had taken Holy orders. After a few months he was obliged by ill-health to return to England, but remained in correspondence with the order and sent some postulants to Belgium. Finally he resumed the religious life and after profession proceeded to London, where he had charge of important negotiations. Having become acquainted with the Spanish ambassador and having secured a chaplaincy for himself and his successors, he was introduced at Court and gained the confidence of Queen Anne of Denmark. Nevertheless he was never secure from priest-hunters and had many hair-breadth escapes. Other missioners having joined him, he withdrew to a country place near Canterbury where he died after a long illness. He was the author of several controversial and spiritual books much appreciated in his time. For years he loudly advocated the establishment of an English novitiate on the Continent, for which he collected the necessary funds, but unfortunately the superiors did not see their way to take up the idea and when at last it was carried out it came too late to be of much practical use.
The next missioner, Eliseus of St. Michael (William Pendryck, 1583-1650), a Scotchman and a convert, who had received his religious training at Paris and Genoa, arrived in London with letters patent constituting him vicar-provincial and superior of the mission, He led for the most part a very retiring life but did not escape persecution; towards the end of his activity he became involved in one of the innumerable disputes as to the extent of the pope’s powers; compelled to justify his attitude before the nuncio in Belgium, he returned to England crushed with disappointment. Among the prominent missioners must be mentioned Bede of the Blessed Sacrament (John Hiccocks, 1588-1647), a converted Puritan, who had been the first superior of the missionary college at Louvain. Soon after his arrival in London he was offered a mission on the estates of Lord Baltimore in Newfoundland, which he appears to have been inclined to accept, but when the faculties from Rome arrived, he was in prison, having been surprised by the priest-hunters while writing to his superiors. For several months his fate as well as that of a brother religious and fellow-prisoner was uncertain, but being at last set free through the intervention of the French ambassador he returned to Belgium. He underwent imprisonment for a second time in Holland, but after a long interval came back to London where he resumed his missionary work. Francis of the Saints (Christopher Leigh, 1600 41) died of the plague contracted in prison. John Baptist of Mount Cannel (John Rudgeley, 1587-1669) spent a considerable portion of his life in prison. Joseph of St. Mary (Nicholas Rider, 1600-82), after many years of fruitful activity, devoted his old age to the training of aspirants to the order; these were sent abroad for their novitiate and studies and on their return were appointed to one or other of the missionary stations belonging to the order.
The most remarkable men in a long series of missioners were Bede of St. Simon Stock (Walter Joseph Travers, 1619-96) and his half brother, Lucian of St. Teresa (George Travers, 1642-91). The son of a Devonshire clergyman, Walter Travers was articled to a London solicitor. An elder brother having become a Catholic and a Jesuit, Walter, desirous of guarding himself against a like fate, began to study controversial works with the result that he became convinced of the truth of the Catholic Church which he went to Rome to join. He became a student at the English College and afterwards entered the Carmelite Order in which he filled various offices. He was active in London during the whole period of the Restoration and has left a record of his manifold experiences. At the outbreak of the Oates’ Plot he was obliged to return to Italy, but after some years resumed his work in London, until old age and grief over his brother’s death compelled him to retire to Paris where he died in the odor of sanctity. He had had the consolation of solemnly inaugurating a chapel in Bucklersbury in London, as well as those at Hereford and Worcester, but the Orange Revolution undid the work begun by him. George Travers, after a dissolute life, accidentally met his brother in London, was rescued by him, instructed, and received into the Church. He made his studies under Joseph of St. Mary, and entered the novitiate at Namur. At the outbreak of the plot he was sent to London, where he passed through many thrilling adventures. Some time after the Orange Revolution he was betrayed by a false friend, and thrown into prison, whither his accuser, on a different charge, followed him. This man was suffering from a contagious disease which Lucian, while nursing him, contracted, and of which he died, June 26, 1691.
Much less is known of the missioners of the eighteenth century than of those of the seventeenth. Their lives, though still exposed to dangers, were as a rule quiet; moreover, the art of memoir writing seems to have been lost under the House of Orange. One of the more prominent missioners of this period was Francis Blyth (q.v.). In 1773 the English mission acquired the college of the Society of Jesus, recently suppressed, at Tongres, where a number of missioners were prepared for their work before the French Revolution swept over Belgium. The disappearance of this short-lived establishment dealt the death-blow to the Carmelite mission in England. A few missioners remained stationed in various places, but they received no fresh help and little encouragement; the property of the mission as well as its library and archives were lost through the iniquitous laws which rendered the last will of a Catholic illegal. On the occasion of the Catholic Emancipation, Francis Willoughby Brewster was obliged to fill up a parliamentary paper with the laconic remark: “No superior, no inferior, being the last man”. He died at Market Rasen in Lincolnshire January 11, 1849. Cardinal Wiseman, anxious to introduce the Discalced Carmelites into his archdiocese, obtained in 1862 an order authorizing him to select some suitable subjects. His choice fell upon Hermann Cohen (Augustine Mary of the Blessed Sacrament, 1820-71), a converted Jew of Hamburg, originally a brilliant musician, whose conversion and entrance into a strict order had caused considerable stir in France. He opened a small chapel in Kensington Square, London, August 6, 1862, where the new community struggled against many difficulties, not the least of which was their deep poverty. Before long a convenient site was found for a spacious church, designed by Pugin and inaugurated by Cardinal Manning in 1866, and a convent, completed in 1888. A second house having been founded in a remote country district in Somerset, the English semi-province was canonically established in 1885. Father Hermann did not see the completion of his work; having been called to Spandau to minister to the French prisoners of war, he died of smallpox and was buried in Berlin.
Soon after the English mission a similar undertaking was begun in Ireland by Edward of the Kings (Sherlock, 1579-1629) and Paul of St. Ubaldus, both of whom had made their novitiate in Belgium and had in all probability studied at the missionary college at Louvain. Although the persecution in Ireland was, if possible, more brutal than that in England, Catholic missioners had the support of the poorer classes, who clung tenaciously to their Faith, and from among whom they were recruited. Besides a convent at Dublin they founded residences in the ruins of several former Carmelite abbeys (as they were called), viz. at Athboy, Drogheda, Ardee, Kilkenny, Loughrea, Youghal, and other places. Many of these were but of ephemeral existence. About the same time the Calced Carmelites returned to Ireland, and there arose a dispute as to the ownership of these convents. At the separation of the orders it had been stipulated that the Discalced Carmelites were not to take away any of the convents of their Calced brethren. The Holy See decided in 1640 that the former should retain possession of the four ancient convents they then inhabited, as there still remained twenty-eight houses for the Calced Carmelites to revive. No sooner had this decision reached Ireland than the Cromwell persecution put a stop to any further increase and necessitated the dissolution of the communities that had been erected. Several friars earned the crown of martyrdom, viz. Thomas Aquinas of St. Teresa, who was put to death at Ardee in 1642; Angelus of St. Joseph, cleric (George Halley), an Englishman who was shot August 15, 1642; and Peter of the Mother of God, lay brother, who was hanged at Dublin, March 25, 1643. There is reason to believe that others met with a similar fate, but no particulars have been preserved; many, however, suffered imprisonment. Such events told on the life of the province. Canonically erected in 1638, it was dissolved in 1653 but reestablished during the comparatively quiet time of the Restoration. In 1785 a chapel and convent were built near the ruins of the Abbey of Loughrea, founded in 1300, and from 1640 in the hands of the Teresian friars, who, nevertheless, were several times obliged to abandon it. Further building operations were carried out in 1829 and again towards the end of the century. The year 1793 witnessed the laying of the foundation stone of St. Teresa’s church, Clarendon Street, Dublin. This church, which also underwent frequent alterations and enlargements, served as a meeting room during Daniel O’Connell‘s campaign, which ended in the Catholic Emancipation Act. It was felt that in this case the interests of the Church were identical with those of the country. A third convent was built at Donnybrook near Dublin in 1884.
The Calced Carmelites appear to have attempted a mission in England at the beginning of the seventeenth century when George Rainer was put to death (c. 1613). No particulars are known about his life and the missionary project seems to have died with him. In Ireland, however, they carried on a flourishing mission from the early part of the same century, and they have at present six convents and a college which is well attended. Their church in Whitefriars Street, Dublin, is well known to Catholics and is an architectural curiosity.
Steps were taken about 1635 to make a foundation in America, and a petition was presented to the pope for approbation of the mission founded there, but for some reason or other it does not seem to have had a lasting result. The Dutch province, however, founded houses at Leavenworth (1864) and Scipio, Anderson Co., Kansas (1865); Englewood, Bergen Co., New Jersey (1869); New Baltimore, Somerset Co., Pennsylvania (1870); Pittsburg, Pennsylvania (1875); Niagara Falls, Canada (1875); and St. Cyril’s College, Illinois (1899); while the Irish Calved Carmelites settled in 1888 in New York City and at Tarrytown, New York, and the Bavarian Discalced Carmelites at Holy Hill and Fond du Lac, Wisconsin (1906).
R. Daily Life
—The life of a Carmelite is somewhat different according to the branch of the order to which he belongs, and the house in which he lives. The life in a novitiate, for instance, is different even for those who have taken their vows, from that in a college, or in a convent intended for the care of souls. It is also stricter among the Discalced Carmelites, who keep perpetual abstinence (except in case of weakness or illness) and who rise in the night for the recitation of the Divine Office, than among the Calced Carmelites, who have adapted their rule to the needs of the times. Formerly the whole Office was sung every day, but when in the sixteenth century the exercise of mental prayer became more and more universal, particularly through the influence of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross, the singing was abandoned for a recitation in monotone except on certain feasts. The Calced Carmelites still adhere to the liturgy of the church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, a Gallo-Roman Rite, practically identical with that of Paris in the middle of the twelfth century. It underwent certain changes during the Middle Ages and was completely and satisfactorily revised in 1584. The Discalced Carmelites, for reasons already stated, adopted the new Roman Liturgy in 1586. In all convents a certain time is given to mental prayer, both in the morning and the afternoon. It is generally made in common, in the choir or oratory, and is intended to impress the soul with the presence of God and the everlasting truths. Other religious exercises and private devotions supplement those already mentioned. The rule of fasting, somewhat less severe among the Calced Carmelites, is preserved everywhere, although the Church has in many respects mitigated her legislation in this matter. The Discalced Carmelites (Teresians) are generally bare-footed; otherwise the only distinction in the habit of the two branches consists in the fashioning of the various garments. The habit of the lay brothers is like that of the choir religious, except that among the Discalced Carmelites they wear a brown mantle and no hood; but in the Spanish congregation they use the hood, and, since 1744, a white mantle. The correct color of the habit has often been made the subject of somewhat animated discussions among the different branches of the order.
S. Desert Convents
—A peculiar institution is that of “deserts”. The recollection of Mount Carmel and the purely contemplative life, as well as the word of the rule, which prescribes that the brothers should dwell in their cells or near them, meditating day and night on the Law of the Lord, except when other necessary occupations call them away, had awakened in many a desire for an exclusively spiritual life. It has been noticed that some of the first generals resigned their offices in order to dedicate the remainder of their life to contemplation, and in the constitutions and other documents exceptions are sometimes made in favor of convents “situated in forests”, far away from human habitations. Among such convents were, to mention only two, Hulne in England and Liedekerke in the Netherlands. One of the first Discalced Carmelites in Spain, Thomas of Jesus, who has already been mentioned in connection with the missions, conceived the idea of founding a “desert” where the religious should find the opportunity for devoting their whole time and energy to the cultivation of a spirit of contemplation. With the exception of four or five who were to remain there permanently, each friar was to spend but a year in the “desert” and afterwards return to the convent whence he had come, so that, the whole community being composed of strong and healthy members, no relaxation however slight should become necessary. After some hesitation the superiors took up the idea, and a suitable site having been found, the first “desert” was inaugurated June 28, 1592, at Bolarque, on the banks of the Tagus in New Castile. The result was so encouraging that it was decided to found such a house in every province, so that there have been altogether twenty-two “deserts”, many of which, however, have been swept away during periods of political agitation. They were constructed after the manner of a charterhouse, but on a smaller scale. A number of cells, each forming a little house of four rooms with a garden attached, were built in the shape of a quadrangle, one wing of which contained the chapel, sacristy, library, etc. In the older “deserts” the chapel was placed in the center of the quadrangle. The refectory, kitchen, robery and other dependencies were connected with the principal cloister; all the buildings were plain, imposing on account of their austerity rather than their ornamental character. The manner of life, too, resembles that of the Carthusians, but is far more severe. The chant of the Divine Office is more solemn than in other convents; more time is devoted to mental prayer; the fast is extremely strict, the silence all but uninterrupted; only once a fortnight the hermits after the manner of the ancient anchorites, assemble for a conference on some spiritual subject; many volumes of such conferences are still preserved and some have been printed. An hour’s social intercourse follows the conference. The time not devoted to prayer and reading is spent in manual labor, the religous finding occupation in the cultivation of their gardens. Study, strictly speaking, is not allowed, lest the strain upon the mind should become too severe.
Each “desert” possessed extensive grounds which were laid out as forests with numerous rivulets and ponds. At equal distances from the convent and from each other there were small hermitages consisting of a cell and chapel, whither the friars retired at certain periods of the year, as Advent and Lent, in order to live in a solitude still more profound than that of the convent. There they followed all the exercises of the community, reciting their Offices at the same time and with the same solemnity as the brothers in choir, and ringing their bell in response to the church bells. Early in the morning two neighboring hermits served each other’s Mass. On Sundays and feasts they went to the convent for Mass, chapter, and Vespers, and returned in the evening to their hermitages, with provisions for the ensuing week. While in the hermitage they fared, on bread, fruit, herbs, and water, but when in the convent their meals were less frugal, although even then the fast almost equalled that of the early monks. Notwithstanding this rigorous observance the “deserts” were never used as places of punishment for those guilty of any fault, but on the contrary as a refuge for those aspiring after a higher life. No one was sent to the “desert” except upon his own urgent request and even then only if his superiors judged that the applicant had the physical strength and ardent zeal to bear and to profit by the austerity of the hermit life. Among the more celebrated “deserts” should be mentioned those of San Juan Bautista, founded in 1606 at Santa Fe, New Mexico; Bussaco (1628), near Coimbra, Portugal, now a horticultural establishment and recreation ground; Massa (1682), near Sorrento, Italy, well known to visitors to Naples on account of the marvellous view of the gulfs of Naples and Salerno to be obtained from the terrace of the convent; and Tarasteix (1859), near Lourdes, France, founded by Father Hermann Cohen.
The Calced Carmelites tried to introduce a similar institute but were less successful. Andre Blanchard obtained in 1641 the papal approbation for the foundation of a convent at La Graville near Bernos, in France, where the original rule of St. Albert, without the mitigations of Innocent IV should be kept, and the, life led by the hermits on Mount Cannel copied; all went well until the arrival, in 1649, of a pseudo-mystic, Jean Labadie, formerly a Jesuit, who in an incredibly short time succeeded in so influencing the majority of the religious, that at length the bishop had to interfere and dissolve the community. Another “desert” was founded by the Calced Carmelites in 1741 at Neti near Syracuse in honor of the Madonna dells Scala. A suggestion made in the course of the seventeenth century to the Discalced Carmelites of the Italian congregation to introduce perpetual mental prayer after the manner in which in some convents the perpetual chant of the Divine Office, or Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is practiced, namely by relays of religious, was decided against by the chapter as being altogether unsuitable.
T. Exterior Occupations
—Apart from the purely contemplative life led in the “deserts”, and the specific religious exercises practiced in all convents (though in different measure), the chief occupation of the order consists now in the care of souls and missionary work. So long as the Carmelites occupied a well-defined position at the universities and took part in the academic work, a large number cultivated almost exclusively the higher studies. During the Middle Ages the subjects of Carmelite writings were almost invariable, including the explanation of a certain number of Biblical writings, lectures on the various books of Aristotle, the Sentences, and canon law, and sermons De tent pore and De sanctis. In the long list of Carmelite writings preserved by Trithemius, Bale, and others, these subjects occur over and over again. Several friars are known to have cultivated the study of astronomy, as John Belini (1370) and Nicholas de Linne (1386); others concerned themselves with the occult sciences, e.g. William Sedacinensis, whose great work on alchemy enjoyed considerable vogue during the Middle Ages; Oliver Golos was expelled the order on account of his too great knowledge of astrology (1500). There were poets, too, within the order, but while many were justly praised for purity and elegance of style, as Lawrence Burelli (c. 1480), only one secured lasting renown, Blessed Baptista Mantuanus. The other fine arts were also represented, painting chiefly by Filippo Lippi of Florence, whose life, unfortunately, caused him to be dismissed with dishonor. Although many friars cultivated music, no really prominent name can be mentioned. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries allusion is frequently made to Carmelite organists serving various churches outside the order while one obtained leave from the general to repair organs wherever his services might be required.
U. In the University
—When the Carmelites first appeared at the universities, the two great schools of the Dominicans and Franciscans were already formed, and there remained no room for a third. Some attempts to elevate the teaching of John Baconthorpe to the rank of a theological school came to naught. The majority of lecturers and writers belonged to the Thomistic school, especially after the great controversies on grace had compelled various orders to choose sides. This tendency became so intense that the Carmelite Salmanticenses made it their duty to follow the teaching of the Angelical Doctor even in the minutest details. Controversy was inaugurated by Guy de Perpignan, general from 1318-20, author of “Summa de haeresibus”; the subject was taken up anew at the time of the Wycliffite troubles and ultimately led to the important works of Thomas Netter de Walden, the “Doctrinale” and “De Sacramentis et Sacramentalibus”, which proved a gold-mine for controversialists for several centuries. No epoch-making work was done at the time of the Reformation, and the order lost all its northern and the greater part of its German provinces. Although few Carmelite controversialists are to be found on the Catholic side (the best known being Evrard Billick), there were hardly any prominent members among those who lost their faith.
W. Mystical Theology
—Although Scholastic philosophy and theology, as well as moral theology, have found some of their chief exponents among the Carmelites (e.g. the Salmanticenses), other branches of science being less generally cultivated, the field on which absolutely fresh ground was opened by them is mystical theology. During the Middle Ages this subject had been treated only in so far as the ordinary course of studies required, and those of the friars who wrote on it were few and far between, nor do they seem to have exercised much influence. All this was changed with the establishment of the Teresian Reform. As has already been said, St. Teresa was led, unknown to herself, to the highest planes of the mystical life. With her marvellous gift of introspection and analysis, and her constant fear of swerving, be it ever so little, from the teaching of the Church, she subjected her own personal experiences to severe scrutiny, and ever sought the advice and direction of learned priests, chiefly of the Dominican Order. When St. John of the Cross joined the reform, he, fresh from the lecture-rooms at Salamanca and trained in the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas, was able to give her light on the phenomena of psychology and Divine grace. Both of these saints have left writings on mystical theology, Teresa recording and explaining in simple but telling words her own experiences, John taking up the matter more in the abstract sense; still some of his writings, particularly the “Ascent of Mount Carmel“, might almost be considered a commentary on the life and the “Interior Castle” of St. Teresa. There is no evidence that he had derived his knowledge from study; he was unacquainted with the works of St. Bernard, Hugh of St. Victor, Gerson, and the Low German mystics, and knew nothing of the mystical school of the German Dominicans; he appears to have known St. Augustine and the other fathers only in so far as the Breviary and theological textbooks contained extracts from their writings. He was therefore in no way influenced by the views of earlier mystics, and had no difficulty in keeping aloof from the beaten track, but he evolved his system from his own and St. Teresa’s personal experience as seen in the light of Scholastic theology, and with constant reference to the words of Holy Scripture. For the analogies and allegories of previous mystics he had no taste, and nothing was farther from him than the wish to penetrate the secrets of Heaven and gaze behind Divine revelation.
An order which gives such prominence to the contemplative life could not but take up the subject and study it under all its aspects. The experimental part, which of course does not depend on the will of the individual, but which, nevertheless, is assisted by a certain predisposition and preparation, found at all times a home not only in the “deserts” and the convents of Carmelite nuns, but in other houses as well; the annals of the order are full of biographies of profound mystics. Considering the danger of self-deception and diabolical illusion which necessarily besets the path of the mystic, it is surprising how free the Carmelite Order has remained from such blots. Rare instances are on record of friars or nuns who left the safe ground for the crooked ways of a false mysticism. Much of this indemnity from error must be ascribed to the training directors of souls receive, which enables them to discern almost from the outset what is safe from what is dangerous. The symptoms of the influence of good and evil spirits have been explained so clearly by St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross, and a prudent reserve in all that does not tend directly to the advancement of virtue has been so urgently counselled, that error can creep in only where there is a want of openness and simplicity on the part of the subject. Hence, among the great number of mystics there have been but very few whose mysticism is open to question. Several great theologians endeavored to reduce mystical theology to a science. Among these must be reckoned Jerome Gratian, the confessor and faithful companion of St. Teresa; Thomas of Jesus, who represented both sides of the Carmelite life, the active part as organizer of the missions of the Universal Church as well as of his order, and the contemplative part as founder of the “deserts”. His great works on mystical theology were collected and printed at the bidding of Urban VIII; Philip of the Blessed Trinity (1603-71), whose “Summa theologiae mysticae” may be taken as the authoritative utterance of the order on this subject; Anthony of the Holy Ghost, Bishop of Angola (d. 1677), author of a handbook for the use of directors of souls, entitled “Directorium mysticum”; Anthony of the Annunciation (d. 1714), and, finally, Joseph of the Holy Ghost (d. 1739), who wrote a large work on mystical theology in three folio volumes; all these and many more strictly adhered to the principles of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross and to the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas. The ascetic part was not less cultivated. For elevation of principles and lucidity of exposition it would be difficult to surpass Ven. John of Jesus-Mary. The difficult art of obeying and the more difficult one of commanding have been dealt with in a masterly manner by Modestus a S. Amabili (d. 1684). The Calced Carmelites, too, have furnished excellent works on different branches of mystical theology.
X. Foundations of Women
—The Carmelite nuns established by St. Teresa spread with marvellous rapidity. Such was the veneration in which the foundress was held in Spain during her lifetime that she received more requests for foundations than she could satisfy. Although very careful in the selection of superiors for new convents she had not always the most capable persons at her disposal and complained in several instances of the lack of prudence or the overruling spirit of some prioresses; she even found that some went so far as to tamper with the constitutions. Such incidents may be unavoidable during the first stage of a new order, but Teresa strove to counteract them by detailed instructions on the canonical visitation of her convents. She desired one of her favorite subjects, Ven. Anne of Jesus (Lobera, b. 1545; d. March 4, 1621), prioress of Granada to succeed her in the position of “foundress” of the order. Hence, when Nicolo Doria changed the manner of government of the Discalced Carmelites, Anne of Jesus submitted the Constitutions of St. Teresa (already revised by the General Chapter of 1581) to the Holy See for approbation. Certain modifications having been introduced by successive popes, Doria refused to have anything further to do with the nuns. His successors, however, reinstated them, but maintained the prohibition in vigour for the friars against making foundations outside Spain and the Spanish colonies. A convent, however, had already been inaugurated at Genoa and another was in contemplation in Rome, where some ladies, struck with the writings of St. Teresa, formed a community on the Pincian Hill under the direction of the Oratorians, one of the members being a niece of Cardinal Baronius. On the arrival of the Discalced friars in the Holy City it was found that the nuns had much to learn and more to unlearn. Other convents followed in rapid succession in various parts of Italy, the beatification and canonization of St. Teresa (1614 and 1622) acting as a stimulus. Not all convents were under the government of the order, many having been from the first subject to the jurisdiction of the local bishop; since the French Revolution this arrangement has become the prevailing one. In 1662 the number of nuns under the government of the Fathers of the Italian Congregation was 840; in 1665 it had risen to 906, but these figures, the only ones available, embrace only a very small fraction of the order.
About the beginning of the seventeenth century Mme Acarie (Blessed Marie of the Incarnation, 1565-1618) was admonished in an apparition by St. Teresa to introduce her order into France. Several attempts were made to obtain some nuns trained by the holy foundress herself, but the Spanish superiors declared themselves unable to send subjects beyond the Pyrenees. M. (afterwards Cardinal) de Berulle, acting on behalf of Mme Acarie and her friends, received a Brief from Rome empowering him to proceed with the foundation; but as it contained some clauses distasteful to him, e.g. that the new foundations should be under the government of the friars as soon as these should be established in France, and as it did not contain some others he had counted upon, he obtained through the French ambassador an order from the king commanding the general to send certain nuns to Paris. Among these were Anne of Jesus, and Ven. Anne of St. Bartholomew (1549 to June 7, 1626), then a lay sister, who had been St. Teresa’s attendant during the latter years of her life. Altogether seven sisters left Spain for Paris, where they arrived in July, 1604, being received by Princesse de Longueville and of her ladies of the Court. As it soon became manifest that M. de Berulle had his own ideas about the government of the order, which he was anxious to associate with the French Oratory founded by him, pending the establishment of an “Order of Jesus and Mary” had in contemplation, six of the foundresses left France within a few years, while the seventh remained only under protest.
The French Carmelite nuns were placed (with few exceptions) under the government of the Oratorians, the Jesuits, and secular priests, without any official connection either with the Spanish or the Italian congregation of Discalced Carmelites, forming a congregation apart from the rest of the order. They spread very rapidly, being held in high esteem by the episcopate, the Court, and the people. Unfortunately the mother-house in Paris (Couvent de l’Incarnation, Rue d’Enfer) became for some years one of the centers of the Jansenists, but otherwise the French Carmelites have reflected glory on the Church. Among the most celebrated French Carmelite nuns may be mentioned Louise de la Misericorde (1644-1710), who as Duchesse de la Valliere had taken an unfortunate part in the court scandals under Louis XIV, which she expiated by many years of humble penance; Ven. Therese de Saint Augustin (Mme Louise de France, 1737-87) daughter of Louis XV, notwithstanding her exalted birth, chose for herself one of the poorest convents, Saint-Denis near Paris, where she distinguished herself by the exercise of heroic virtue. During the Revolution all the communities were dissolved; one of them, that of Compiegne, endeavored to keep up, as far as circumstances allowed, the observances prescribed by the rule, until the sixteen nuns were all apprehended, cast into prison, dragged to Paris, tried, condemned to death, and consigned to the guillotine, July 17, 1794; they were beatified in 1906. Another Carmelite nun, Mother Camille de l’Enfant Jesus (Mme de Soyecourt) underwent with her community long imprisonment, but being at last liberated she became instrumental in reestablishing not only her own but many other convents. When at the beginning of the twentieth century the law on religious associations was passed, there were over a hundred Carmelite convents in France with several offshoots in distant parts of the world, even Australia and Cochin China. In consequence of the French legislation many communities took refuge in other countries, but some are still in their old convents.
Quitting Paris for Brussels, Ven. Anne of Jesus became the foundress of the Belgian Carmel. At her instigation the Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia called the friars from Rome, with the result that foundations increased rapidly. One of these, at Antwe was due to Ven. Anne of St. Bartholomew, who, while in France, had been promoted from lay sister to prioress, having learned to write by a miracle; she was instrumental in delivering Antwerp from a siege. The Belgian Carmel sent out colonies to other countries, Germany and Poland, where Mother Teresa of Jesus (Marchocka, 1603-52) became celebrated. Another convent was founded at Antwerp for English ladies (1619), who were reinforced by Dutch sisters; in 1623 it was detached from the order and placed under the bishop, and in its turn made foundations at Lierre in 1648, and Hoogstraeten in 1678, all of which became the abode of many noble English ladies during the times of penal laws. At the outbreak of the French Revolution the nuns had to flee the country. After a short stay in the neighborhood of London the community of Antwerp divided into two sections, one proceeding to America, the other settling ultimately at Lanherne in Cornwall, whence they sent out an offshoot which finally settled at Wells in Somerset (1870); the community of Lierre found a home at Darlington, Co. Durham (1830), and that of Hoogstraeten, after much wandering, settled at last at Chichester, Co. Sussex, in .1870. Not counting the French refugees, there are at present seven convents of Carmelite nuns in England. An earlier project for a convent in London, with Mary Frances of the Holy Ghost (Princess Elenore d’Este, 1643-1722, aunt of the Queen of James II) as prioress, came to naught owing to the Orange Revolution, but it appears that about the same time a community was established at Loughrea in Ireland. At times the nuns found it difficult to comply with all the requirements of the rule; thus they were often compelled to lay aside the habit and assume secular dress. Several convents were established in Ireland in the eighteenth century, but in some cases it became necessary for the nuns to accommodate themselves so far to circumstances as to open schools for poor children. There are at present twelve convents in Ireland, mostly under episcopal jurisdiction.
The second section of the English community at Antwerp, consisting of Mother Bernardine Matthews as prioress and three sisters, arrived at New York, July 2, 1790, accompanied by their confessor, Rev. Charles Neale, and Rev. Robert Plunkett. On the feast of St. Teresa, October 15 of the same year, the first convent, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, was inaugurated on the property of Mr. Baker Brooke, about four miles from Port Tobacco, Charles Co., Maryland. Want of support compelled the sisters to seek a more convenient site, and on September 29, 1830, the foundation-stone was laid for a convent in Aisquith Street, Baltimore, whither the community migrated the following year, Mother Angela of St. Teresa (Mary Mudd) being then prioress. In 1872, during the priorship of Mother Ignatius (Amelia Bandy), the present (1908) convent, corner of Caroline and Biddle Streets was inaugurated. This community made a foundation at St. Louis, October 2, 1863, first established at Calvary Farm, and since 1878 within the city. The foundation at New Orleans dates back to 1877, when Mother Teresa of Jesus (Rowan) and three nuns took a house in Ursuline Street, pending the construction of a convent in Barrack Street, which was completed on November 24, 1878. The convent at Boston was founded August 28, 1890, and in its turn established that of Philadelphia, July 26, 1902, Mother Gertrude of the Sacred Heart being the first prioress. In May, 1875, some nuns from Reims arrived at Quebec and found a convenient place at Hochelaga near Montreal, where they established the convent of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Another Canadian foundation attempted from Baltimore in the same year was unsuccessful, and had to be given up after a few years.
Life of the Nuns.—The life of a Carmelite nun is somewhat different from that of a friar, as there is an essential difference between the vocation of a priest and that of a lay person. Active work, such as nursing the sick and teaching, are out of the question in a cloistered convent. The Carmelite sister leads a contemplative life, a considerable portion of her time being devoted to Divine service, meditation and other pious exercises, the rest occupied with household work and other occupations. The life is necessarily strict, the fasting severe, and there are many opportunities for exercising virtue.
Y. Various Carmelite Institutions
—Several religious institutions have gathered round Cannel. In the Middle Ages we find attached to many convents and churches anchorages, that is, hermitages for recluses who at their own request were walled up by the bishop and who exercised a great influence over the populace by reason of their example, their austerities, and their exhortations. Among the more celebrated Carmelite recluses may be mentioned Thomas Scrope of Bradley, at Norwich, afterwards titular Bishop of Dromore in Ireland and Apostolic legate in Rhodes; and Blessed Jane of Toulouse (beginning of the fifteenth century) whose cultus was approved by Leo XIII.
Probably ever since the coming of the friars to Europe, founders of convents and benefactors were admitted to the order under the title of Confratres, which gave them a right to participation in the prayers and good works of a section or of the entire order, and to suffrages after their death. Neither the constitutions nor the ceremonial of admission of such Confratres, nor even the text of confraternity letters, contain any mention of obligations incumbent on them. The letters were at first granted only after mature consideration, but from the end of the fifteenth century it was less difficult to obtain them; in many cases the general handed numerous blank forms to provincials and priors to be distributed by them at their own discretion. Out of this confraternity, which stood in no organic connection with the order, arose in the sixteenth century, according to all probability, the Confraternity of the Scapular.
Another confraternity was a guild established in 1280 at Bologna, and perhaps elsewhere, which held its meetings in the Carmelite church and from time to time made an offering at a certain altar, but otherwise was entirely independent of the order. As has been seen, some communities of Beguines in the Netherlands asked, in 1452, for affiliation to the order, and thus gave rise to the first convents of Carmelite nuns. At a later period Herman of St. Norbert (d. 1686), preaching in 1663 at Termonde, determined five Beguines, among them Anne Puttemans (d. 1674), to sell their property and found the congregation of Maricoles or Maroles, which was aggregated to the order March 26, 1672; they occupy themselves with the education of poor girls and with the care of the sick in their own homes, and have still many convents in the Dioceses of Mechlin, Ghent, and especially Bruges. A community of thirty-seven hermits living in various hermitages in Bavaria and the Tyrol having asked for aggregation, the General Chapter of the Discalced Carmelites of 1689 granted their wish under certain conditions, among others that not more than four or five should live in each hermitage, but the decree was rescinded in 1692, for what reason is not known, and all connection between these hermits and the order was severed.
Z. Carmelite Tertiaries
—Tertiaries or members of the Third or Secular Order may be divided into two classes, those living in their own homes and those living in community. The former class is first met with in the middle of the fifteenth century, when the Holy. See granted permission to the Carmelites to institute a Third Order of secular persons, after the model of similar institutions attached to other mendicant orders. The oldest printed Missals and Breviaries contain the rite of admission of such persons; these were then known by the term of bizzoche, which has since acquired a somewhat unpleasant meaning. They were bound to recite certain prayers (in the Teresian Reform also to practice meditation), to keep certain fasts and abstinences, refrain from worldly amusements, and to live under obedience to the superiors of the order; they might wear a distinctive habit resembling that of the friars or nuns. Tertiaries living in community observe a rule similar to, but less austere than, that of the friars; there are two communities of Tertiary brothers in Ireland, one at Clondalkin, where they have a boarding-school established previous to 1813, and another, in charge of an asylum for the blind, at Drumcondra near Dublin. There are also Tertiary fathers (natives) in the Archdiocese of Verapoly in India, established in 1855, who serve a number of missions.
Tertiary sisters have a convent in Rome founded by Livia Vipereschi for the education of girls; they were approved by Clement IX in 1668. The Austrian congregation has had, since 1863, ten houses partly for educational purposes, partly for the care of servants. In India, too, there are native Tertiary sisters in Verapoly and Quilon with thirteen houses, boarding schools, and orphanages. A Tertiary convent was founded in Luxemburg in 1886. Finally, mention must be made of the Carmelite Tertiaries of the Sacred Heart lately established in Berlin, with orphanages and kindergartens in various parts of Germany, Holland, England, Bohemia, and Italy.
Statistics.—At the present time there are about 80 convents of Calced Carmelite friars, with about 800 members and 20 convents of nuns; 130 convents of Discalced Carmelite friars, with about 1900 members; the number of convents of nuns, including the French previous to the passing of the Association law, was 360.