Carmelite Chronicles
Controversy over the Order’s Evolution

August 1, 2019 |

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.

Fr. Joachim Smet O. Carm.
Fr. Joachim Smet, O.Carm. (1915-2011) was one of the leading historians of the Carmelite Order. In addition to being a founding member and President of the Institutum Carmelitanum in Rome and editor of Carmelus, a journal of Carmelite Studies, Fr. Joachim was a gifted writer. he is well-known for his four-volume work The Carmelites and his Life of Saint Peter Thomas. Among his other works: Familiar Matter of Today-Poems (2007), The Mirror of Carmel: A Brief History of the Carmelite Order, (2011), various publications on Carmelite Nuns, Carmelite Liturgy, Carmelite Libraries of Spain and Portugal and the Carmelites of Medieval England.
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