Carmelite Chronicles Controversy over the Order’s evolution

June 7, 2012

The prior general, Nicholas of France, has left an account (1270) of his visitation of the Order. Named by its author The Fiery Arrow, it is indeed a burning indictment of the Order. The move away from the desert, he finds, has brought disastrous consequences. Nicholas does not so much object to preaching, hearing confessions, and counseling as to the inept manner this ministry is carried out by the “stepsons” of the Order. Two by two, these roam the streets, day and night, not to minister to widows and orphans but to flirt with silly girls, beguines, nuns, and highborn ladies. The Rule prescribes separate cells, not contiguous ones. The separate cells have been exchanged for a common house. Contemplation is impossible amid the noise and confusion. The Carmelites must return to the desert. No doubt the picture is a bit overdrawn. The contemplative life still survived in the more remote houses. There were still “true sons,” whom Nicholas calls upon to oppose the “stepsons.”

From The Mirror of Carmel by Joachim Smet, O. Carm.

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