Father Silverio of Saint Teresa, Discalced Carmelite March 8, 1878

(Escóbados de Arriba, Burgos, Spain) – March 10, 1954 (Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico)

Father Silverio, of the Gómez-Fernández family, was born in the village of Escóbados de Arriba on the high plain of Sedano, south of the district of Villarcayo, in the Spanish province of Burgos, on March 8, 1878.

He was educated by an uncle who was a priest – Don Tiburcio Fernández – in the schoolhouse of Don Manuel Gutiérrez, pastor of Villaescusa de Butrón (a village neighboring Escóbados) and earned a grade of “Meritissimus” in Latin and “Beneméritas” in Geography and History of Spain. From there, he went to the Seminary of Saint Jerome in Burgos to continue ecclesiastical studies for three more years, 1892 to 1895. In July 1895, he entered the novitiate of the Discalced Carmelites of Larrea in Vizcaya, Spain, taking the Carmelite habit on July 4, 1895. He completed his novitiate and studied Philosophy and Theology in the colleges of the province of Saint Joachim of Navarre.

He was ordained to the priesthood on July 27, 1902, by the Archbishop of Burgos, friar Gregorio María Aguirre, future Cardinal and Primate of Spain. That year, he traveled to Rome, where he continued his theological studies from 1902 to 1904 in the Gregorian University. When the General of the Order, Father Reinaldo Maria, assigned him to the theological school of Naples as a professor, he traveled to Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, and England to broaden his studies. In the end, he did not hold the teaching office, but instead was sent to Burgos.

At the behest of the Major Superiors, he devoted himself to researching and publishing the history and bibliography of the spiritual legacy of the Discalced Carmel. In 1906, he was appointed director of the periodical, Revista Monte Carmelo. It is estimated that Father Silverio published about 600 titles, including articles and major and minor works.

His first major work was The Precept of Love (1913, El Precepto del Amor), published in chapters titled, “Legal charity and Christian charity” (La caridad legal y la caridad cristiana) in the Revista Monte Carmelo. After that came “Historical overview of the Restoration of the Discalced Carmelites in Spain” (1918, Resumen histórico de la Restauración de los Carmelitas Descalzos en España). His third major work, lengthy and meritorious, is “History of the Discalced Carmel in Spain, Portugal, and America” (Historia del Carmen Descalzo en España, Portugal y América), spanning 15 volumes and described as “an elegant and loving record of our past” which was undertaken “in conformity with the historical canons of its time, with the purpose of edification.” The first four of the fifteen volumes are dedicated to a biography of Saint Teresa of Jesus; the fifth volume to the life of Saint John of the Cross; and the sixth volume is dedicated to Fathers Gracián and Doria. In the remaining nine volumes, he presents syntheses of the lives of the most notable Carmelites, friars as well as nuns, up to the mid-20th century. He chose persons relevant for their virtue as well as their learning and drew up documentation of the new foundations of convents and monasteries in Spain, Portugal, and America. The first tome was published by Imprenta del Monte Carmelo in 1935. Among other works, we can cite: “The Life of Saint Teresa of Jesus: The epitomized essence of our People” (1939, Vida de Santa Teresa de Jesús, síntesis suprema de la Raza), part of the series of Biblioteca Nueva (Madrid); or the last one: “The Perfect Carmelite” (1948, La Carmelita Perfecta), an edition by the publishing house Monte Carmelo dedicated to his dear Discalced Carmelite sisters.

Among his minor works are: “Poor Children!” (1910, ¡Pobres Niños!); “Memoire of the 22nd International Eucharistic Congress” (1911, Recuerdo del XXII Congreso Eucarístico Internacional); “Through Las Hurdes and Las Batuecas” (1922, Por las Hurdes y las Batuecas); “Saint Teresa: A model of Christian feminism” (1931, Santa Teresa, modelo de feminismo cristiano); “Saint Teresa and her friendships” (1933, Santa Teresa y sus relaciones de amistad); Ana Teresa of the Sacred Family” (1935, Ana Teresa de la Sagrada Familia); “Venerable María of Jesus” (1949, La Venerable María de Jesús); and “The Life of Don Pedro Poveda Castroverde” (1952, Vida Don Pedro Poveda Castroverde).

His work as an editor is even more extensive. We can list: the edition of the devotional book “Carmelite Anthology” (1908, Florilegio Carmelitano); “Dialogues on the death of Saint Teresa”, by Father Gracián (Diálogos sobre la muerte de Sta. Teresa, 1913); “A Book on Recreations and other writings” by Mother María of Saint Joseph (1913, Libro de Recreaciones y otros escritos); “Complete Works of Saint Teresa of Jesus” (1915-1925). It is with this last work that he began the “Carmelite Mystical Library” (Biblioteca Mística Carmelitana – BMC) that “served as a basis for the subsequent, laudable editions of the Complete Works of the two Holy Doctors of the Teresian Carmel, and for the numerous translations edited in other languages. Just this one epic tome of the BMC, by itself,  justifies the title, ‘promotor of the Spirituality’ given to Father Silverio” (Matias of the Child Jesus). The goal of the BMC was to provide a “learned and devout” public with the “mystical and ascetical Spanish [works] with which the Discalced Carmel has proven itself so fruitful.” He published a popular edition of the works of Saint Teresa from 1916 through 1920 and a compendium in 1920 with all the principal works of la Santa. After that would come the “Processes of Beatification and Canonization of Saint Teresa” (1934-1935, Procesos de Beatificación y Canonización de Santa Teresa), a three-volume work also belonging to the BMC.

The BMC would also publish the “Works of Saint John of the Cross” (Obras de San Juan de la Cruz) in four volumes and the “Processes of Beatification and Canonization of Saint John of the Cross” (Procesos de Beatificación y Canonización de San Juan de la Cruz) in one volume. The same year, a compendium edition of the works of Saint John of the Cross was issued. In 1935-1937, he published a “Life of Saint Teresa of Jesus” (Vida de Santa Teresa de Jesús) drawn from the “History of the Discalced Carmel” (Historia del Carmen Descalzo).

Other notable works by Carmelite authors published by Father Silverio are: “Spiritual Canticle and Poetry of Saint John of the Cross according to the manuscript of Sanlúcar de Barrameda,” a phototypographical edition (1928, Cántico Espiritual y Poesías de San Juan de la Cruz según el códice de Sanlúcar de Barrameda); and “Works of Father Jerome Gratian of the Mother of God” in three volumes (1932-1933, Obras del P Jerónimo Gracián de la Madre de Dios).

He attended the 22nd Inter-Eucharistic Congress in Madrid as a press consultant. On May 14, 1915, the Royal Academy of History (Real Academia de la Historia) named him Academic. In 1918, he was awarded the Gold Medal by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (Real Academia de la Lengua) for his Teresian bibliography. He represented the Order when the University of Salamanca granted an honorary doctorate to Saint Teresa. He participated in the ambassadorship of Cardinal Benlloch to South America in 1923 and was awarded the Peruvian Order of the Sun. Previously, in 1922 (the 3rd Centenary of the Canonization of Saint Teresa), he competed in several contests and won a prize in Seville’s Floral Games, presided by Princess Isabel. He won the Royal Academy of History’s prize in the  National Teresian Contest with his work, “Primary sources of information for a history of Saint Teresa and critique of the biographies of La Santa predating 1610” (Principales fuentes de información para una historia de Santa Teresa y crítica de las biografías de la Santa anteriores a 16l0). In 1923, he was given an award for his work “Influence of the spirit of Saint Teresa in Catalonia” (Influencia del espíritu de Santa Teresa en Cataluña). In 1924, he was elected Academic of the Hispano-American Academy of Cádiz, and was presented by José María Pemán, renowned poet and native of Cádiz. In 1948, he was appointed member of the Spanish National Research Council. In 1952, Francisco Franco, head of state, awarded him the Great Cross of the Order of Alphonse X the Wise, and it was invested on him by the Minister of Education, Ruiz Jimenez.

As for the offices he held as Discalced Carmelite, in 1909, he was appointed Provincial Definitor; in 1913, Official Historian of the Order; in 1918, Prior of the Carmel of Burgos; in 1933, Provincial of Saint John of the Cross of Burgos; in 1937, the Chapter appointed him Definitor General; in 1946, Vicar General of the Order; and in 1947, Superior General.

As historian, he ached for the old, abandoned Carmels of friars and joyfully witnessed the foundations of Mother Maravillas de Jesús in Duruelo, Mancera, and the Desert of Las Batuecas.

Among the Deserts that were abandoned and in ruins, he felt a preference for Saint Joseph of Las Batuecas and had the most interest in its restoration. He, who was so knowledgeable about the origins and heroisms of the Teresian Reform.

He was at the provisionally restored convent in the Desert of Saint Joseph of the Mountain of Las Batuecas in 1922 to receive, in representation of the Order, King Alfonso XIII during the monarch’s visit to the region of Las Hurdes. The fruit of that visit is “Through Las Hurdes and Las Batuecas” (1922, Por las Hurdes y las Batuecas) published in several chapters in the periodical Revista Monte Carmelo, as mentioned above. Once Mother Maravillas and her nuns were settled in Las Batuecas, he preached the spiritual exercises to the community from July 20 to 30, 1938.

During the Chapter of 1947 in which Father Silverio was elected Superior General of the Order, he expressed his desire to restore the Deserts of the Order. In 1948, with the assistance of Father Silverio, the Desert of Roquebrune was founded in France. In October 1950, he proposed to the provincials meeting in Rome the restoration of eremitical life in Las Batuecas, Mother Maravillas having obtained its transfer to the Order. The restoration of the Desert of Las Batuecas took place on November 28, 1950.

He gave his support to the work of Saint Maravillas de Jesús, noting that anyone “who dealt a little bit with Mother Maravillas de Jesús would see her deep love for the Order, and as a necessary consequence, a firm and constant desire to restore the historic convents of the Teresian Reform.” As Superior General, he presided at the inauguration of the Carmel of Duruelo on July 20, 1947: “What joy – so deep, wholesome, and so classically Teresian – pervaded all our being!… It was a day of great emotion for those suffused with love for the Teresian Carmel; and for me, one of the happiest days of my life.”

The great work of his generalship was the creation of the International College of Discalced Carmelite Friars in Rome; Teresian; founded next to Saint Pancras on the grounds of the Villa Pamphili. On October 15, 1950, feast of Saint Teresa, the foundation stone was placed.

On the 50th anniversary of his ordination in 1952, the General Curia dedicated a book to him titled, Zelo zelatus sum.

“Although unseen by many, his religious bearing was important for many years to the people of Burgos. His modest gaze in one so tall, with a broad and luminous brow, revealed his keen interior life. His brothers in community always saw him barefoot. He was the celebrant in the first mass of Carmel. He was an affable brother, knowledgeable, and equally adept at quick wit and intelligent irony. His participation in Community events – every cloister’s wheel of penance – was unfailing. He achieved a doctorate in prudence in his literary judgments as well as in his practical decisions” (Bruno of Saint Joseph).

While on a canonical visitation to the province of Mexico, he died of an onset of hypotension when he was about to board an airplane to Rome. He was still General of the Order at that time. On March 11th, his remains were interred at the Pantheon of Illustrious Spaniards in Mexico while awaiting transfer to the chapel of the Teresianum, the international institute of learning in Rome, where his remains repose to this day.

After his death, Father Silverio was described as “the consummate Castilian of old and native of Burgos par excellence; a bold man whose many virtues and the constant work of his pen elevated a forgotten village from hidden barrenness to the highest summit of Superior General of the Order of Mount Carmel.”