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Thomas á Jesu

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(Diaz Sanchez de Avila).

Discalced Carmelite, writer on mystical theology, born at Baeza, Andalusia, 1564; died in Rome, 24 (or 27) May, 1627. Son of Don Baltasar de Avila and Dona Teresa de Herrera, he took degrees in the humanities at an unusually early age, applied himself afterwards to the study of Divinity, and in 1583 to that of law at the university of Salamanea. Having heard one of the professors extol the writings of St. Teresa (as yet unpublished) he procured a copy, the study of which resulted in a determination to embrace her manner of life. He took the habit at Vallodolid, April, 1586, and made his profession in the following year. As a novice he was commissioned to write a ceremonial according to the Roman Rite lately introduced into the order, which remained in force until the last century. He filled the post of reader of Divinity at Seville, prior at Saragossa, and provincial of Old Castile. At the expiration of his term of office he withdrew to the Desert of Las Batuecas situated in a mountain gorge of difficult access near Alberea. Later he became prior of this convent. He himself had been the originator of this peculiar kind of life. The Carmelite rule was written for hermits, but the strictly eremitical life, at least on a large scale, being incompatible with the exigencies of modern time, he devised a compromise by restricting the number of such convents to one for each province, and limiting that of the religious to four permanent ones, and volunteers from other houses who were to reside there only one year at the time. He established the first Desert at Bolarque (New Castile ) in 1592, Las Batuecas ( Old Castile ) during his provincialship, and later on a similar house in Belgium. He was called to Italy by Paul V who desired to evangelize the Congo States. Unlike the Spanish Congregation of the Order, the Italian had decided on principle to engage in missionary work, and Thomas being noted for his zeal was selected for it. The expedition, however, was frustrated, but he, with a view to furthering missionary enterprise, established with the pope's consent a new branch of the order under the title of Congregation of St. Paul , which was to cultivate exclusively missionary work (22 July, 1608). Both the Spanish and the Italian superiors resented this step on the ground that it might lead to a split in the order; the pope withdrew his approval, and Thomas remained two years under a cloud.

He wrote his large work, "Stimulus missionum" (Rome, 1610), and soon afterward another, "De procuranda salute omnium gentium" (Antwerp, 1613), in which he outlined the organization and functions of a papal congregation with such wisdom that Gregory XV when instituting Propaganda in 1622 followed the lines suggested by Thomas. The latter had been sent by Paul V to the Low Countries where he was favourably received by the archdukes, and founded convents at Brussels (1610), Louvain (1611), Cologne (1613), Douai (1613), Lille (1616), Liège (1617), Antwerp (1618), Marlagne (Desert, 1619), Louvain (missionary college for the East, and also for England and Holland, 1621), and Namur (1622). From 1617 he filled the post of Provincial of Flanders. While at Brussels he placed the Carmelite Nuns who had come there from Spain and France under the jurisdiction of the Italian superiors, and assisted them in the establishment of numerous convents. In 1621 he was recalled to Rome as definitor general, and died there three years later in the odour of sanctity. By order of Urban VIII his writings were collected in two volumes, and were published at Cologne in 1684, while a third volume was never carried through the press. Besides the works already mentioned there are some on subjects connected with his order (its antiquity, Salamanca, 1599; the privileges of the confraternity, 1599, commentaries on various points of the rule, notices of prominent men, etc.). Other works deal with mystical theology, of which the principal are: "De contemplatione divina", Antwerp, 1620, and "Divinae orationis methodus", Antwerp, 1623. The small treatise "Le meilleure part, ou la Vie contemplative ", translated and edited by Berthold-Ignace de St. Anne (Brussels, 1686), is from an unpublished work. In his mystical writing Thomas á Jesu systematized St. Teresa's teaching on the basis of St. Thomas Aquinas, II-II, QQ. clxxi-clxxv.

Not less active than Thomas á Jesu in helping to establish the Propaganda was Venerable Dominic á Jesu Maria (Ruzzola), born at Calatajud, 16 May, 1559; died at Vienna, 16 February, 1630. At an early age he entered the convent of Calced Carmelites in his native town where his uncle was prior, and was sent after his profession to Sargasso and Valencia, receiving Holy orders at Tortosa. The desire of a stricter life led him to the Discalced Carmelites at Pastrana (1589), who sent him as master of novices to Madrid, and afterward to Alcalá for his higher studies. He assisted the plague-stricken at Barcelona, and was five years subprior at Valencia. He resigned the priorship of Toledo at the command of Philip III who desired his presence at Madrid. After a short time he withdrew to the Desert of Bolarque. The papal nuncio sent him to Rome where he filled the posts of master of novices and prior at the convent of La Scala. The pope entrusted him with a mission to the Viceroy of Naples at Palermo, but would not consent to his permanently absenting himself from Rome. In 1614 he became procurator general, and three years later general, in which capacity he undertook the canonical visitation of the northern Italian convents, and founded the Desert of Varazzo near Genoa, having previously established a convent at Loano in Liguria. The struggle between the Catholic and Protestant powers which ultimately developed into the Thirty Years War having broken out, Paul V sent Dominic to Ferdinand II, who was preparing to engage in what was hoped would prove a decisive battle. With a crucifix in his hand and a picture of the Madonna, which had been shamefully mutilated by the heretics, suspended from his neck, he moved among the combatants, animating the Catholics to fight for their Faith and to gain the victory he promised would be theirs. The Battle of Prague provided indeed a signal success (8 Nov., 1620). Dominic continued his journey through Vienna, Lorraine, Cologne, Brussels, (where he assisted Archduke Albert on his deathbed), Paris, and Marseilles, being everywhere hailed as a hero. Back in Rome towards the end of 1621 he assisted the pope in the establishment of Propaganda, towards which end he had collected considerable funds during his apostolic journey; he was nominated a member of the Congregation. Urban VIII sent him to Vienna to bring about a settlement of the differences between the Court of Austria and the House of Mantua, but he was taken ill and died, surrounded by the imperial family. His body, partly incorrupt, now rests in the Carmelite church at Unter Doebling near Vienna. His biographers relate numberless miracles alleged to have been wrought by him during life (for which he was called the Thaumaturgis of his time ), and after his death, but until the conclusion of the process of beatification it is impossible to speak of these. He wrote, besides some works which remained in manuscript : "Senteniae spiratuales" (on mystical theology ), translated into French (Paris, 1623), German, and Flemish ; "Argumenta psalmorum" (Rome, 1623); "De protectione B. Virginis" (French translation, Paris, 1645); "Concordia spiritualis" (Spanish translation, Brussels, 1626).

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