Quote of the day: 9 May

Training for martyrdom in Lisbon

In a 2003 article in the journal Península: revista de estudos ibéricos entitled “Entre duas memorias: María de san José (Salazar) O.C.D., fundadora do primeiro carmelo descalço feminino em Portugal,” University of Porto faculty member Isabel Morujão discusses pious recreations that depicted martyrdom in the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Lisbon. Professor Morujão notes that these morality plays “were very much to Saint Teresa’s liking, as they were to the Counter-Reformation in general throughout Europe. María de san José reclaimed this preference of the Mother Foundress and dedicated particular attention to it in the Monastery of San Alberto in Lisbon.” Quoting the 17th century Portuguese Discalced Carmelite historian Belchior de Santa Ana (1602–1664), Dr. Morujão describes how recreation nearly became reality for the nuns on the 9th of May, only weeks after María de san José founded the monastery in 1585.


[Mother María de san José] put into practice the martyrdom presentations that our Holy Mother Teresa often performed in her convents, always with the greatest benefit to souls (…).

The day of the glorious Apostle Santiago, the Patron of Spain, the first martyrdom rehearsal took place in [the Carmel of San Alberto in Lisbon], where Mother María de San José and Mother Inés de San Eliseu were brought before a tyrant and accused of being Christians (…). The anger and rage of the ancient Dacians and Diocletians, which was seen in what was happening, caused the tormentors to give the order to force those women to recant.

It was the execution that any judge who was very much the enemy of our holy Catholic faith could wish for: because there was no shortage of insults, whips, slaps, and other bad treatment; the torturers were doing their job as if they were not merely acting, but handing down a true punishment for blasphemies. In all these torments the two Mothers showed as much joy, as if they truly suffered in defense of the faith against the unbelievers.

[Later on,] news came to this city of Lisbon that the English had assembled a powerful armada against it, and that they would burn the sacred churches and all the ecclesiastical persons, to whom, like Lutherans, they have a deadly hatred, an effect of the Devil who possesses their souls.

It was incredible the fear that this news caused to everyone in the suburbs, although there was no fear at all in the Monastery of San Alberto; rather those who had been well rehearsed for the tragedy of martyrdom decided to do just that.

And when all the residents outside the walls of the city, with anticipation, tried to find a shelter inside them, where they would guard against the dangers and risks that were expected, it was on St. Gregory Nazianzen’s Day, May 9, together before the Blessed Sacrament (…), that [the nuns] vowed not to leave their monastery, and to suffer in it any torments that the Lutherans would give them in hatred of the Catholic faith.

This valiant and heroic action was recounted by Mother María de San José, in a report she made about the arrival of the English armada.

Belchior de Santa Ana, O.C.D.

Chronica de Carmelitas descalços, particular do reyno de Portugal, e provincia de Sam Felippe, Vol. I, 175–176 (1657)

“It was on St. Gregory Nazianzen’s Day, May 9, together before the Blessed Sacrament, that [the nuns] vowed not to leave their monastery.” #Lisbon1585 #EnglishArmada

María de san José (Salazar) O.C.D. | Frnicolas / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Nota bene: When frei Belchior refers to Lutherans, he follows in the footsteps of “our Holy Mother Teresa,” who used the same term in her works, particularly in the Way of Perfection.

Discalced Carmelite scholar Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. addressed the modern misunderstandings that arise from Saint Teresa’s use of the term Lutheran in his introduction to the ICS Publications edition of the Way of Perfection, which he first translated and edited in 1976 for the publishing house of the Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars. Father Kavanaugh provides the following explanation:

It must be remembered that  references to the Lutherans in France represent her hazy way of speaking of Protestantism and demonstrate neither historical nor geographical precision. The unhappy news that had spread even to the enclosure of St. Joseph’s concerned the religious war between the Catholics and the Huguenots. Teresa’s stereotyped remarks reflect the way the ordinary people in Spain probably commented on the news. “Churches were being destroyed, the Blessed Sacrament taken away, many priests were being lost” (Way of Perfection, Introduction).

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