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Friday, 08 October 2021 13:00

Carmelite Studies Program at CISA in Rome

From September 20-30, 2021, the International Center of Saint Albert (CISA), in Rome, hosted an intensive course of Carmelite history and spirituality. The course was organized by Giovanni Grosso and Sandro Vella with about 30 Carmelites participating, including the members of CISA, the students from the Italian Province, and eight Carmelite sisters.

Five presentations of approximately one hour each were given each day in Italian, three in the morning and two in the afternoon. Various Carmelite themes were covered by various lecturers to unearth the first 300 years of the history of the Order.

The resources for research which the Order has today were also presented. Giovanni Grosso began the course by introducing to the Carmelite studies and the materials available in the two libraries of CISA. Mario Alfarano contributed with a presentation on Carmelite studies through the perspective of the archive of the Order.

Alfarano also presented on the origin, development and rubrica prima of the Constitutions and Nicholas the Gaul’s Flaming Arrow (Ignea sagitta). Sandro Vella elaborated on the Rule, Mary of Carmel in the first centuries (of the history of the Order), Elijah in the Scriptures, and the Institution of the First Monks. Two doctoral researchers, Carlito da Silva and Kurt Mizza, each contributed one session, the former on Mary in the Scriptures, and the latter on major figures of Carmel in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Carmelite Studies Program at CISA in Rome 1 450Key speaker, Giovanni Grosso impressed with several other topics, including the origins of the Rule of Saint Albert in the pilgrimage movement of the times, the major events of Carmel in the 13th century before the definitive approval of the Order, images of the Blessed Mary of Mt. Carmel, the liturgical rite proper to the Order, the catalogue of the Carmelite Saints (Catalogus sanctorum), the forefathers of the Order: St. Albert and St. Angelo through texts and iconography, and the evolution of the Order in the 14th century. Giovanni combined his lessons with “field trips”: concretizing the role of the Blessed Virgin with an afternoon visit to the Basilica of Mary the Major, and the Carmelite saints at the Carmelite church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, located on the street leading into the St. Peter’s square.

The entire group also enjoyed a day trip to Sutri, an ancient Roman town one hour north from Rome, where they were hosted by a community of the cloistered Carmelite nuns.

In general, the course refreshed and surprised our participants with a richly lived heritage of Carmel in the first 300 hundred years of its history. The course reminds us that we all have received certain formation of the history and spirituality of the Order but it was either not enough or mostly forgotten. It is interesting that, while many of us come to know the Order by the tradition of the brown Scapular and major Saints such as John of the Cross and Teresa of Jesus, none of these have been touched yet during the two-week course. That says, we have a super-rich tradition, but we know so little about it.

Finally, main coordinator Giovanni Grosso ended the course with the Catalogus sanctorum, in which he listed six categories of Carmelite Saints: 1) Prophets (Elijah & Elisha), 2) Bishops (Pietro di Tommaso & Andrea Corsini), 3) Founders (Bertoldo, Brocardo, Cirillo, Simone), 4) Hermits (Ilarione, Simone), 5) Preachers (Angelo & Albert), and 6) Penitents & Pilgrims (Teodorico, Avertano, Francesco da Siena).

These six categories of saints represent for the values of Carmel which continue to be relevant for our times. The examples given by the lives of these Carmelite saints serve as guides for our choices and encouragement in our journey.

One participant in the courses commented, “While the courses were both very interesting and very intense, because of the number of courses each day. However, they presented us with the opportunity to reflect on our charism and our identity. The possibility to see the changes in the life of the Order after the members fled the Holy Land and came to Europe in the context of the Church at the time was very interesting.”

Carmelite Studies Program at CISA in Rome 3 450

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