Gracián in Disgrace
Gracián finished his visitation of the Carmo of Lisbon, May 14, 1591. His services were no longer required. On June 3, the vicar general ordered Fray Jerome to report within twenty-five days to the Discalced convent in Madrid. Exactly twenty-five days later Jerome walked in the door, “like a desperado without humility or resignation,” Gregory of the Holy Angel disapprovingly recorded.
The king added two judges to the bench: Francis de Segovia, Jeronimite prior of Madrid, and Francis Muñoz, rector of the Dominican College of St. Thomas. The unanimous opinion of the judges was read on February 17, 1592. Fray Jerome Gracián was declared guilty of sixty proven charges, most of which he admitted, “of excess in his conduct with the nuns as well as excessive familiarity with one of them (Mary of St. Joseph?), laxity and defect in the regular observance of his profession and of other faults for which our Order was on the point of being destroyed.” He had also sown discord in the Order and against his superiors. For these faults he had been repeatedly but vainly corrected and now he refused to accept sentencing and punishment. As incorrigible, he was accordingly expelled from the Order (Constitutiones, 1592, pt. 3, ch. 8, par. 6, no. 1).
Before communicating the sentence to Jerome, Gregory urged him to reconsider. By way of answer Gracián silently cast off his capuce. After sentencing, his monastic tonsure was removed and he was given the garb of a secular priest, “new and of very good quality,” and sent on his way.
It was a shocking disgrace and an incredible end for the favorite of St. Teresa and collaborator with her in the establishment of the Discalced friars.
Subsequently, all Gracian’s efforts to be reinstated and readmitted to the Reform proved in vain. However, current opinion is that Gracian was unjustly condemned, and he has been officially re-instated and readmitted into the Order of Discalced Carmelites.
The difficulty with this interpretation of the case is that it makes the first superiors of the Teresian reform appear to be unjust and revengeful individuals.
There is an explanation, however, which solves the problem and saves the goodwill of all concerned: Jerome lacked a contemplative vocation, at least as it is expressed in prayer, silence, and solitude – Teresa’s ideal of the Carmelite charisma. “They would have buried me in some convent,” he later wrote, “where I would have had no other occupation but to confess an occasional beata and to follow the choir.” Hardly a sentence St. John of the Cross would have written. Jerome should have persevered in his attraction to the Jesuits.