Thursday, August 28, 2008

The English Teresians and their American Sisters - to be continued

Today I commence posting pieces of my little study on the history of Carmel in the post-Reformation era in England and America. It might be helpful to those interested in Carmelite Spirituality, to understand it better in the context of historical development of the Order and its missionary work. These needs arose after suppression of Catholicism in England. The text is based on very informative yet charming in zeal and devotion book compiled from approved sources by anonymous in the Convent of Discalced Carmelites of Boston and Santa Clara and entitled "Carmel - its history, spirit, and saints" (1927) with imprimatur by Archbishops of Boston and San Francisco.

Venerable Mother Ann of the Ascension (Worsley)
After the suppression of monastic life in England the first Carmel Community for English ladies was established in the year 1619 in Antwerp (Belgium) thanks to charity and zeal of Lady Lovel. The first Prioress was Mother Ann of the Ascension (Worsley). She was of noble birth, her father went over to Low Countries with King Philip of Spain and followed the King to Spain preferring life of immigrant rather than to remain under the rule of a Protestant Queen in his own country. Over the following years he married a noble Spanish lady of royal blood and became a father to two illustrious for their sanctity daughters, for both of them entered Carmel and became shining lights in the Order. The younger girl, Teresa of Jesus, was the first novice to head the Profession Book in the English convent at Antwerp, of which her older sister was Prioress. The admirable traits which these two noble souls had inherited from their parents naturally fitted them for the the work God called them to do, which was to engraft upon the solidity of the English character the lofty enthusiasm and seraphic love of the glorious daughter of Spain, the incomparable Teresa. The attestation of the work of Mother Ann can be found in the letter preserved in old Chronicle of the Monastery in Antwerp and written in the year 1621 by Br Mathias of St Francis, General of the Discalced Province, who visited English Monastery of St Joseph and have found the nuns 'well disposed' by the grace of God, both spiritual and temporal, most virtuous and observant. The Chronicle relate further significant increase of vocations from among English ladies of the most ancient families who 'in flower of their youth hearkening to the inspirations of the Divine Spirit, became forgetful of the house of their father and, forsaking their friends and native land, came to Israel, which He has shown them, where they lived in such great perfection and union of minds as it might be truly said of them with the primitive Christians, 'This happy multitude had but one heart and one soul'. In all proceedings, great sincerity, alacrity, and peace of mind, zeal of observance, love of poverty, a high esteem of their vocation; and such an obedience as it was sufficient for them to understand the inclinations of their Superiors; a total fortgetfulness and contempt of the world; a continual emulation in the progress of virtue'...'The temporal means at first were small, and necessary expenses many, yet we never wanted, Divine Providence admirably supplying by sending alms when we were in need. Many times pieces of gold were laid in the Turn without the Turn sister knowing how they came there, and one day, wanting bread for dinner, we found in the Turn just as much as was necessary without ever knowing whence it came.'
Before the death of Venerable Mother Ann of the Ascension, the Divine Majesty was pleased to show many signs to the Community. A full choir of voices was heard singing these words of the Office of All Saints, "Vidi turbam magnam", and music was heard that could not come by any natural means. At the very time of her decease, one of the Religious, being absent, was wakened out of her sleep by the sound of music, at which being frightened, for it was about midnight, she came with great speed, conceiving our Mother was dying, as indeed she was, or rather beginning a better life, adorned with celestial graces and merits, she being the first person who brought our Blessed Mother Teresa into the English nation, and maintained the Community from its very infancy , not only in perfect observance, but in a matchless and divine spirit of peace and love. Thus, after many labours and languishing desires after the Beloved of her heart, repeating these words, "Veni Domini, et noli tardare" - "Come, Lord, and tarry not" - she went to enjoy in His Divine Presence the eternal reward of her labours, dying in great fame and opinion of sanctity in the year of our Lord 1644. Our Most Reverend Lord Bishop Gaspar Nemius, out of devotion and affection towards her, sang the mass, preached the funeral sermon and buried her. This illustrious prelate was wont to call this Community "the Children of his heart," which he made appear on all occasions, declaring publicly the interior satisfaction he received from their obervance and union. This he testified under his hand to Pope Innocent IV, of which we yet keep a copy. Similar report was given by the predecessor of Bb Nemius, Lord John Maldernus, where he affirmed that the true Constitutions of our glorious Mother St Teresa were here in vigour and that in his visits and in all the informations which were brought him, he had never found anything that could amount to a venial sin.
There can be found more testimonies of from other Superiors, including Lord Bishop of Antwerp and Lord Bishop Ambrosius Capello who wrote to Archb Mechlin as follows: "I assure your Lordship, that in all my Diocese I have not any Monastery of Nuns in which there is greater regular observance, charity and edifying love, than in these two English houses of Antwerp and Lierre, which may truly serve as patterns to all the Monasteries in the world."
Mother Ann of the Ascension was succeeded in office by great and worthy souls, who continued the work she had begun; the Religious were remarkable for their sanctity and the lives of several have been written, giving accounts of these chosen souls. In the course of one hundred years, seven incorrupt bodies were found in the three Carmelite communities of Antwerp, Musterfeld and Newburg (the latter two being founded from Antwerp). The Chronicles continue: "the heroical actions of leaving friends, country and plentiful fortunes, in young ladies of the prime nobility and some of the blood royal of England, endowed with many others gifts of nature, may give us a sufficient idea of the many celestial graces and favours with which God is often pleased to reward such even in this life.

Sister Mary of St Albert (Trentum)
We read in Chronicles, her practice of virtues, self-denials and mortifications were exemplary and her silence was so exact that she could never accuse herself to have broken it with reflection. She lived in constant awareness of the presence of Almighty God and so great was her internal joy therein, that she was often forced to divert herself to keep it from appearing publicly. After her death her confessor said we might esteem her for her virtues and practices as a second to none.

Sister Mary of Jesus (Morgan)
Was descendant of Herberts family and was heiress to the large and ample possessions of her father, and as well for that as for the perfections and graces of her person, was asked in marriage by the greatest Earls of the Kingdom. Her particular vocation to the Carmelite Order was admirable, for so contrary to her complexion were all our observances, that she knew they must shorten her life, as in reality it proved; but this knowledge she kept to herself, and with an unwearied fervor, constantly persevered in all observances without the least dispensation, till her last sickness, which was but three days before her happy death;..Her obedience was most exemplary, and this obedience she observed not only to her superiors, but to the least subordinate official, with an incomparable sweetness and humility, which was the more admirable in her by reason of the natural greatness of her mind and the habitual sudtom she had to command. Her charity and love to the Community appeared by the entire donation she made to this Monastery of her whole estate, which ahd been sufficient to found in a plentiful manner two other such monasteries, had not the miseries of our distressed country detained ud from our right. Her humility was do great, that she thought herself the most incapable person in the world. She lived only five years (in the convent), yet the examples of her virtues are innumerable and never and never to be forgotten in the Community.

Sister Ann of the Angels (Lady Mary Somerset)
She could not be contend till she became poor in the house of Jesus Christ, in which she ever sought the meanest employment, performing them with such delight as was of most exemplary edification. Her friends, considering her physical weakness, thought our Order much too hard for her, but breaking through many difficulties and oppositions to enter amongst us, she truly experienced and showed to the world hos light love makes the heaviest burdens. She was particularly favoured by our Lord in a supernatural way; whereby the Divine Majesty finding her ripe for Heaven, took her to His Celestial Paradise, there to receive the reward of her great virtues.

In the profession list of Antwerp are found the names of seven of the Howard family and several of Wakemans.

Sister Mary of St Joseph (Vaughn) of Courtfield
She was born in 1632 and was professed in 1649 and the age of seventeen. She had been sent as novice on the new foundation to Lierre, which had been began in 1648, and was not completed until the following year. She died at the ripe age of seventy-seven years, in 1709, having during that long religious life never lost her first fervour, but increased every day in continual tendency to religious perfection.

The Vaughns were always staunch Catholics; their record of fine, imprisonment, and double land tax for their fidelity to the old faith, is superb one. Bishop Challoner says of Rev Thomas Vaughn, ordained at Douai, 1622, that though he did not suffer at the common place of execution, he was a martyr for his character and religion, and took his life in his hands, serving the English Missions for many years. he appears to have died at Cardiff after "suffering hard usage", in 1650 just after the Profession of his young relative in Carmel.