Carmelite Chronicles: Independence for the Brazilian Vicariates

September 19, 2014 |

The Brazilian vicariate began to press for independence. As the procurator, Sebastian dos Anjos, pointed out in 1635, the vicariate had a sufficient number of experienced and learned friars to warrant self-government; its membership was largely recruited in Brazil. In 1640, the Brazilian province of St. Elias was in fact erected with Francis do Rosario as first provincial, but the Portuguese government (it was the year of the revolt from Spain) canceled the arrangement. Instead, the Order in Brazil was divided into the vicariates of the State of Brazil with nine houses and the State of Maranhão with three.

In 1643, the prior general, Theodore Straccio, sent Louis of the Purification (de Mertola) to visit the vicariate of Brazil as his commissary and visitator general. Mertola, former novice master in Lisbon, eloquent preacher and author of a number of religious biographies and a polemical work against the Jews, was known for his virtuous and exemplary life. “I marvel greatly,” he wrote to the Brazilian friars, March 4, 1644, “at the lack of care in these parts, the small importance attributed to the things that lead to perfection.” He singled out for special criticism ambition for office, neglect of religious poverty, lack of qualifications on the part of confessors. He concluded: “Let us try to be poor and live the common life, obedient, free from ambition, which is the cause of all evil. To arrive at perfection the best means are recollection, prayer, the reading of good books, honestly occupying the hours of day and night, and practicing great devotion to Our Lady and the passion of Christ.” Frei Louis had brought to Brazil most of his library of books on spiritual theology, sermons, dogmatic theology, philosophy, pastoral theology, and canon and civil law; these he left behind in the convent of Bahia.

The Order suffered from the war with the Dutch, but by 1675 new convents had been erected in Recife and Goiana. The vicariate of Brazil numbered one hundred and eighty-six friars; Maranhão sixty.

Carmelite Chronicles are taken from The Mirror of Carmel by Joachim Smet, O. Carm.

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