November 11 – 14 Left for Madrid and the Carmelitas at Santa Ana in Seville. I arrived in Madrid on the 12th and took a plane for Seville. On arrival I fortunately met a taxi driver and took a taxi from the airport to the convent about 20 minutes away. I also set up for him to come and pick me up when I left, his name was Francesco.
From 1400, under the guidance of the friars, pious women who sought a deeper spirituality, have wanted to adapt the spirit of Carmel and the Rule to their condition as women. Thus were born the cloistered Carmelite nuns – officially in 1452 in Florence (Italy) – known as praying communities, completely dedicated to meditation, prayer, work and penance. In France, they spread quickly through the efforts of Blessed Frances D’Amboise, assisted by Blessed John Soreth.
In 1562, Teresa of Jesus began her famous “Teresian” reform with the aim of re-establishing a true Carmelite life for religious women as proposed in the Council of Trent. This was a reform which was meant to remain within the larger family, as it happened to be with previous and successive reforms. But after the death of Teresa of Jesus, the group of “Discalced Carmelite nuns” followed the “Discalced Carmelite friars”, cutting themselves off from the original trunk and constituting a separate group.
The Carmelite cloistered nuns are women who have discovered the absolute value of the Kingdom of God, and wish to realise this in their monasteries, as a praying sisterhood at the service of the Church. They commit themselves to live in intimate union with Jesus, God and man, in order to make present today the plan of God for humankind. They wish to be a visible sign of the union of God with the world.
They practice this value in the spirit of Carmel, fertilising the world with the presence of God, constantly praising him, proclaiming his eternal beauty, his limitless wealth of grace and the fruits of good works to all who serve him generously. The Carmelite nuns show the joy of serving the Lord and of living in his loving presence all their days. In brief, they make real the certainty that God loves us and they commit their lives and their complete love to Him. They wish to live like the Virgin Mary, open to the will of God and proclaiming his love.
The Carmelite nuns, together with the Church and other religious Orders, suffered from the changes in history, but they remained faithful to the charism of Carmel. They renewed their Constitutions in accordance with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, and today they number almost a thousand in about 80 monasteries around the world.
Following the recommendations of the Church in recent times various monasteries have joined into a Federation of monasteries, with their own statutes. The Federation is an important step towards better communication, establishing initial and on-going formation programmes and is a great help in all the needs that may arise in the fulfillment of their mission and in achieving a better sisterly life. At present there are four Federations: one in the Philippines, which includes all the monasteries in that country, and three in the Iberian Peninsula which include almost all the monasteries of the region.
The first house was opened in Andalusia in Gibraleón (1306 – 1320) by the Infantes de la Cerda. From there, the Carmelites made a foundation in (1358) under the patronage of King D. Pedro I. Later on, in the vicinity of the capital, they opened the convent of Escacena del Campo (Huelva) in 1416, and Ecija (Seville) in 1425. In 1498 these four houses were detached from the Province of Castile, to form a new Province. Even though it was the youngest Province in the Iberian region, Betica very soon began to show signs of its vitality. By the middle of the 16th century it had sixteen houses. Statistics from 1674 show that there were 868 members in the Province as well as 350 Carmelite nuns, living in ten monasteries. The Province had twenty five houses at that time, which is the same number it had when the Suppression began in 1835. With the closure of the houses and the expulsion of the religious, only a tiny number remained at the time of the Restoration, a process which began in Palma de Mallorca towards the year 1877 and ended in April 1880 with the official opening of Jerez de la Frontera, the first of the restored Carmels in Spain. After this, and not without great effort, the houses of Onda (Castellón), Caudete (Albacete), Hinojosa del Duque (Córdoba), Osuna (Seville) were opened. At the General Chapter in 1889 the Province of Spain was erected under the title of The Most Holy Name of Mary.
This young Province began the restoration of the Order in Brazil. Despite many great difficulties its members succeeded in reacquiring various houses which the Order would surely otherwise have lost (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Bahía). In 1906 the Spanish Province was divided into two Provinces, Betica and Arago-Valentine. Both Provinces continued the work of restoration in Brazil. In later years they were joined by members of the Dutch Province who went to work in Rio de Janeiro.
The Betica Province continued to contribute to the restoration of other Provinces such as the Polish Province, between 1925 and 1939, and Portugal between 1930 and 1954. The Civil War (1936 – 1939) had a very cruel impact on parts of Andalusia. The Province lost ten of its members, whose cause for beatification is now under way. With the Province re-established, in 1954 the first group of religious were sent to Venezuela which today is a promising Commissariat. In 2000 a new mission was opined in Burkina Faso. At present the Province of Betica has about 90 religious working in Spain, Venezuela, Burkina Faso and Italy.
Carmelitas de Santa Ana: “Gracias por su hospitalidad y su amistad, Dios bendiga a todas las hermanas especialmente Madre Prioria Sr Mª de Cristo Rey Mora Pérez, O. Carm y mi hermana pequeña Hermalinda.”