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IV Centenary of the Foundation of the Carmelite Monastery of Zaragoza (Spain) 1615-2015

Fr. Rafael Mª. López Melús, O.Carm.

Throughout the last two years, the Carmelite nuns in Zargoza have been celebrating a jubilee. It is the fourth centenary of their foundation. It was on the 8th of July, 1615 that the four founders from the monastery of the Incarnation in Valencia arrived in the city of Zaragoza. The founding benefactor was Doña Ana Carrillo (d. 1631), who later became a Carmelite. 

The woman who was to be the Prioress was a woman of great virtue, the venerable Mother Serafina Bonastre Sistero (d.1649), whose biography, written at the time of her death, recounts the many virtues and graces that she enjoyed throughout her life. In spite of the many difficulties that they had to face, a goodly number of Carmelite nuns, sometimes more than fifty at a time, lived in that monastery, dedicated to the Incarnation of the Lord, all of them devoted to prayer and work, living out the very rich spirituality of Carmel. 

During these last two years, there have been many interesting events, organised to give thanks to our Lord and to Mary the Mother of Carmel for the many blessings that they have received in these four hundred years. On the front of the monastery situated in one of the best known and most used streets in the city, a large poster announced the event. There were three very important days that were marked by solemn celebrations: 

The 11th of July, the solemn opening of the Jubilee year. The Archbishop of Zaragoza, Manuel Ureña led the celebration and delivered a very moving and intimate panegyric. Numerous diocesan priests and Carmelite religious joined him, along with many friends of the community. At the foot of the altar they placed a large stone which was part of the entrance to the ancient monastery and in it they placed the names of all the nuns who lived in this monastery since its foundation. 

On the 12th of July, 2015 a solemn Mass was celebrated by the new Archbishop, Vicente Jimenez Zamora. The Prior Provincial of the province of Aragón, Castile and Valencia concelebrated along with numerous diocesan priests and Carmelite religious, and a large number of the faithful. 

The 14th was a special day for the Carmelite Family. Nuns came from the two monasteries of Huesca and Valencia and many of the public came too. The Prior General, Fernando Millán Romeral came from Rome to lead the celebration. As always he was very close to everybody. He was very familiar with the history of this monastery and he expressed the thanks of the Order for the nuns’ generosity and perseverance. At the end of the Eucharist each of the participants received a copy of the book, IV centenario del Carmelo contemplativo de Zaragoza 1615-2015. (The 4th Centenary of Zaragosa Contemplative Carmel).

In this very simple book, a beautiful souvenir of these four hundred years, along with the different greetings (from the Prior General, the Prioress Mother Elena Maria Samper and others) there is an account of the life of Mother Serafina, the founder (15 sketches of her precious life) and of the ups and downs of founding the monastery. There is also an account of the lives of the most exemplary and celebrated nuns from the last four hundred years, and of the most difficult situations with which the community had to deal. By the same token, there is a collection of photos presenting some of the most important works of art to be found in the monastery of the Incarnation, which the author calls a “school of Marian life.”

As Carmelites We live our life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a clear conscience through a commitment to seek the face of the living God (the contemplative dimension of life), through prayer, through fraternity, and through service (diakonia). These three fundamental elements of the charism are not distinct and unrelated values, but closely interwoven. 

All of these we live under the protection, inspiration and guidance of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we honor as "our Mother and sister."