FROM THE JERONIMOS TO THE CARMELITES
The monastery of the Jeronimos in Lizbon, situated near the outfall of Tag to the Atlantic, is known as a beautiful monument of the Middle Age sacral architecture in Portugal. In the Gothic inside there are, among the others, tombs of Vasco da Gama and Luis de Camoes. Visiting this building, I asked myself the question: what happened with the Jeronimos? Once it used to be the Order of advisors and confessors of kings of Spain and Portugal, having many cloisters on the Iberian Peninsula. It turns out that today in the whole country there is not a single Jeronimo.
I received the answer to the question about the fate of the Order in the Spanish Extremadura. There is a royal cloister Yuste there, known as a place of the last years of life and death of the emperor Karol V –the first global ruler in the history of humankind. Two years ago, this building was taken over by the Pauline Fathers from Poland. They just replaced the Jeronimos there. It turned out that in the Order of St. Jerome only a few monks in the elderly age remained, who withdrew to their last monastery – in Segowia. There is a shortage in vocations, so everything proves that soon the Order will stop existing.
I had other impressions in Coimbra in Portugal. There I visited the monastery of the Carmelites where for nearly half a century sister Łucja dos Santos stayed – a visionary from Fatima. It was on the day before the beginning of the jubilee year of St. Theresa of Avila when the Carmelite monks and nuns from all over the world arrived for ceremonies in Coimbra.
The Order of the Jeronimos did not survive because it was not able to get renewed. St. Theresa of Avila gave such an impulse to her community. Other generations of this monastic family have been using her spiritual heritage for nearly five centuries, finding the potential for constant conversion.
Theresa was only 2 when Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. And after some time she and he were called reformers. However, their visions of reform were different. He wanted to change the Church, Bible, bishops, Orders, canonic law, etc. She was aiming at changing herself.
The need of reform always appears at the moment of crisis. Theresa saw its signs in the ‘world life’ of her cloister. We would say in today’s language that she noticed symptoms of secularization. The source of secularization of life is always distorted relationship with God on the personal level, which results in such a life ‘as if God did not exist’. Therefore, the reform of Theresa started with rebuilding this most important relationship in human life.