Thomas of Jesus (Díaz Sanchez de Avila)
THOMAS OF JESUS (DÍAZ SANCHEZ DE AVILA)
Discalced Carmelite, founder of the Carmelite deserts, mystical and missiology author; b. Baeza, Jaen, Spain, 1564; d. Rome, May 24, 1627. Thomas received his doctorates in law and theology from the University of Salamanca. In 1585, after reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, he entered the Discalced Carmelite novitiate at Granada. There he made a copy of the Spiritual Canticle of St. John of the Cross, who was prior at Granada at that time. Thomas made his profession, April 3, 1587, at Valladolid.
He served as professor and vice rector at the famous College of Alcalá. Later he directed his dynamic activity toward fostering the eremitical spirit within the order by establishing "deserts," at Bolarque in 1593 and at Las Batuecas in 1599. At the close of his tenure as provincial of Castile (1597–1600) he served as the first vicar, and later prior, (1606) of Las Batuecas. While prior of Zaragoza (1607), he was called to Rome by Paul V, thus becoming a member of the Italian congregation.
As a member of the Italian congregation, he devoted himself to fostering the missionary spirit of the order. He founded the Missionary Congregation of St. Paul that received papal approval on July 22, 1608. This congregation was suppressed by the same Pope in 1613. By this time Thomas was engaged in establishing the Discalced Carmelite Order in Belgium with new foundations at Brussels (1610), Louvain (1611), Douai (1612), Lille (1616), and Cologne (1613) and a desert at Marleine (1619). Within his lifetime he saw the erection of the Belgian and German provinces. He was appointed first provincial of the Belgian province in 1617. In 1623 he returned to Rome, where he was elected general definitor. He was reelected to this office in 1626, but died the following year.
His intellectual prowess was as extensive as his religious activity. His writings on history, mystical theology, and missiology were first compiled and published in two volumes at Cologne (1640). De procuranda salute omnium gentium was his classic treatise. Others of his works have been translated into various languages and reprinted many times. So great was his esteem within the order that one of the celebrated salmanticenses referred to him as the "omniscient Thomas of Jesus."
Bibliography: b. zimmermann, Les Saints déserts des Carmes Déchaussés (Paris 1927). felipe a virgine carmeli, La soledad fecunda (Madrid 1960). josÉ de jesÚs crucificado, "El P. Tomás de Jesús, escritor místico," Ephemerides Carmeliticae 3 (1949) 305–349. j. orcibal, La Rencontre du Carmel Thérèsienne avec les mystiques du Nord (Paris 1959). e. a. peers, Studies of the Spanish Mystics, 3 v. (v.1, 2d ed. Naperville, Ill. 1951; v.2–3, repr. 1st ed. 1960). tommaso di gesÙ pammoli, Il P. Tommaso de Gesù e la sua attività missionaria all'inizio del s. XVII (Rome 1936). a. salaville, "Un Précurseur de la Propaganda Fide et apôtre des missions, le P. T. de J., carme déchaussé," Études Carmelities 5 (1920) 301–323; in Pensiero missionario 5 (1933) 225–247. Spiritualité Carmelitaine 4 (Brussels 1939), special issue.