Carmelite Chronicles
Later Developments

April 23, 2019 |

During the second decade of the century the hermits of Carmel sought to solidify their juridical status. In 1226, they obtained confirmation of their “norm of living” from Pope Honorius III.

April of 1229 brought several privileges and decisions from Pope Gregory IX. On April 9, he placed the hermitage on Carmel under the protection of the Holy See and granted permission for divine service to be held there behind closed doors in time of interdict. Papal protection at the time entailed the right of direct appeal and was the first stage toward exemption.

Pope Gregory IX

On April 5, the prior of the hermitage on Mount Carmel was given power to dispense repentant apostates from censures, “because it would be too difficult to refer such cases to the Holy See in parts beyond the sea.”

In the bull of April 6, Gregory forbids the hermitage to possess “places or possessions, that is, houses or revenues.” The decision is sometimes interpreted as a first step toward mendicancy on the part of the Order, but such poverty was practiced by other eremitical communities, such as Grandmont. As a matter of fact, the pope adduces the contemplative character of the hermits’ life as the reason why they should not have possessions, “lest those who, ascending the mountain to pray with the Lord, have washed their feet, should again soil them.” The monasteries of Palestine were supported by revenues coming from Europe. Perhaps the hermitage on Carmel had been offered such stable support, which was now prohibited by the pope.

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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