Thomas á Jesu

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Thomas á Jesu
Tomas de Jesus, Tomasz od Jezusa 1564-1627 OCD.jpg
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Thomas á Jesu (1564 – 24 May 1627) was a Discalced Carmelite and writer on mystical theology who is principally known for establishing the Carmelite hermitages known as deserts, and for his writings on prayer. [1]

Mystical theology branch of theology that explains mystical practices and states

Mystical theology is the branch of theology that explains mystical practices and states, as induced by contemplative practices such as contemplative prayer.



Thomas was born in Baeza in southern Spain. [1] His parents were Don Baltasar de Avila and Dona Teresa de Herrera. [1] While studying law at the University of Salamanca (he graduated in 1583), he read some of the unpublished writings of Teresa of Avila and in 1586 he became a monk in her order. [1]

Baeza Municipality in Andalusia, Spain

Baeza, formerly also written as Baéza, is an Andalusian town in the province of Jaén in southern Spain. It lies perched on a cliff in the Loma de Úbeda, the range separating the Guadalquivir River to its south from the Guadalimar to its north. It is now principally famed for having some of the best-preserved examples of Italian Renaissance architecture in Spain. Along with Úbeda, it was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 2003. The former Visigothic bishopric of Baeza remains a Latin Catholic titular see.

University of Salamanca Spanish university

The University of Salamanca is a Spanish higher education institution, located in the city of Salamanca, west of Madrid, in the autonomous community of Castile and León. It was founded in 1134 and given the Royal charter of foundation by King Alfonso IX in 1218. It is the oldest university in the Hispanic world and the third oldest university in the entire world still in operation. The formal title of "University" was granted by King Alfonso X in 1254 and recognized by Pope Alexander IV in 1255.

He filled many offices as a priest and founded both "desert" hermitages and ordinary convents across Europe while writing on Catholic theology. [1] He died in Rome in 1627. [1]


Thomas's deserts were in the tradition of the 16th-century Carmelite reform movement, facilitating intensive, personal, deep relationships with God. [2] [3] They were inspired by the life of the first Carmelites who lived on Mount Carmel in Palestine in the 1150s. [4] [5] He founded the first, es:Desierto de Bolarque, in Bolarque, Spain, in the summer of 1592. [4] [5]

Discalced Carmelites religious order

The Discalced Carmelites or Barefoot Carmelites is a Catholic mendicant order with roots in the eremitic tradition of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. The order was established in 1593, pursuant to the reform of the Carmelite Order of the Ancient Observance by two Spanish saints, Saint Teresa of Ávila and Saint John of the Cross.

Mount Carmel Mountain in Israel

Mount Carmel (Hebrew: הַר הַכַּרְמֶל, Har HaKarmelISO 259-3Har ha Karmell; Arabic: الكرمل‎, Al-Karmil, or Arabic: جبل مار إلياس‎, Jabal Mar Elyas is a coastal mountain range in northern Israel stretching from the Mediterranean Sea towards the southeast. The range is a UNESCO biosphere reserve. A number of towns are situated there, most notably the city of Haifa, Israel's third largest city, located on the northern slope.

Desierto de Bolarque - The buildings at Bolarque - notice the many chapels Desert monastery at Bolarque Desierto de Bolarque before it was confiscated.jpg
Desierto de Bolarque – The buildings at Bolarque – notice the many chapels

A desert consisted of about 24 small apartments, each with its own walled garden, and a common chapel, kitchen/refectory and library. [2] [3] Four hermits lived there permanently, while the remainder of spaces were occupied by priests from elsewhere who were allowed to spend one year living the desert life, after applying and being deemed able to withstand the strict rules. [2] The monks maintained absolute silence. [2] They kept the hours of the Divine Office and spent their time in prayer and manual labour. [2] They ate a vegetarian diet and practiced fasting. [3] Even smaller buildings dotted around the property (which was allowed to grow wild [3] ) were used for monks who wished to live in total isolation for Advent or Lent. [2] [5]

Monastic silence

Monastic silence is a spiritual practice recommended in a variety of religious traditions for purposes including facilitation of approaching deity, and achieving elevated states of spiritual purity. It may be in accordance with a monk's formal vow of silence, but can also engage laity who have not taken vows, or novices who are preparing to take vows. Monastic silence is more highly developed in the Roman Catholic faith than in Protestantism, but it is not limited to Catholicism. The practice has a corresponding manifestation in the Orthodox church, which teaches that silence is a means to access the deity, to develop self-knowledge, or to live more harmoniously. Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, placed the virtue of silence on par with the faith itself in a synodal letter from AD 400. "Monks—if they wish to be what they are called—will love silence and the Catholic faith, for nothing at all is more important than these two things."

Liturgy of the Hours daily prayers of the Catholic Church

The Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office or Work of God or canonical hours, often referred to as the Breviary, is the official set of prayers "marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer". It consists primarily of psalms supplemented by hymns, readings and other prayers and antiphons. Together with the Mass, it constitutes the official public prayer life of the Church. The Liturgy of the Hours also forms the basis of prayer within Christian monasticism.

Advent Christian church season

Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas and the return of Jesus at the Second Coming. The term is a version of the Latin word meaning "coming". The term "Advent" is also used in Eastern Orthodoxy for the 40-day Nativity Fast, which has practices different from those in the West.

Thomas founded four deserts in Spain: at Bolarque, Las Batuecas, Las Nieves and one in Catalonia. [3] [2] Other priests went on to found deserts in Santa Fe, Mexico (1606), [2] Varazze, Italy (1616), Czerna, Poland (1631), Mannersdorf, Austria (1644). [3] The movement reached its peak, with 22 deserts, in the 17th century, [2] but only one, at Las Palmas, Spain, survived dissolution by church leaders in the 19th century. [2] [3]

Las Batuecas cultural property in La Alberca, Spain

The Batuecas is a Spanish valley region of the Sierra de Francia in Salamanca Province, Castilla y León.

As Neves Municipality in Galicia, Spain

As Neves is a municipality in Galicia, Spain in the province of Pontevedra. It has 4,429 people (2010). Until 1904 it was called Setados.

Catalonia Autonomous area of northeastern Spain

Catalonia is an autonomous community in Spain on the northeastern corner of the Iberian Peninsula, designated as a nationality by its Statute of Autonomy. Catalonia consists of four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. The capital and largest city is Barcelona, the second-most populated municipality in Spain and the core of the sixth most populous urban area in the European Union. It comprises most of the territory of the former Principality of Catalonia. It is bordered by France (Occitanie) and Andorra to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the east, and the Spanish autonomous communities of Aragon to the west and Valencia to the south. The official languages are Catalan, Spanish, and the Aranese dialect of Occitan.


Like many Carmelites, Thomas wrote extensively. [2] His division of prayer into three states: "ordinary meditation, acquired contemplation, and infused contemplation" is still used and is considered one of the distinctive contributions of the Carmelites to Christian theology. [2]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Benedict Zimmerman (1912). "Thomas á Jesu". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Peter Thomas Rohrbach (2015). Journey to Carith: The Sources and Story of the Discalced Carmelites. ICS Publications. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Will Coster and Andrew Spicer (2005). Sacred Space in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  4. 1 2 Belden C. Lane (1998). The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  5. 1 2 3 Thomas Merton (1985). Disputed Questions. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Retrieved 14 October 2015.