Prosper of the Holy Spirit, restorer of the Holy Mount Carmel

The baptismal name of Father Prosper of the Holy Spirit[1] was Martín Garaizabal Jiménez who was born in Nalda (La Rioja) Spain on May 22, 1583. He was baptized on June 17, 1583 in the church of his hometown. We know a little about his childhood and youth from a letter he wrote from Mount Carmel. Since his childhood he wanted to be a religious. He studied at the Jesuit College of Logroño. He made his profession as a barefoot Carmelite on November 1, 1618 at the Convent of Santa María de la Scala in Rome.

His destinations were the convents of Palermo and Naples (1608-1618) before going to the Carmelite at Varazze Desert near Genoa. He received a letter from Father General, while he was in Varazze and was destined for the missions of the East. He arrived at the mission of Isfahan (Persia) currently Iran. He was elected as superior of Isfahan on July 23, 1621. He wrote on a Relationship of everything he has lived in Persia (1624). He founded Aleppo’s mission in Syria (1627) and became the first vicar of Syria (1627-1631).

On November 30, 1631, he restored Mount Carmel for the Order and on that day, he celebrated the first Mass in that place called ‘School of the Prophets’ which is a Synagogue today, and formerly a Mosque. It was always a place of worship attached to the figure of the Holy Prophet Elijah. He returns to Rome and participated in the General Chapter of 1632 and from that time onwards, Very Reverend Father General of the Order, Fr. Paulo Simon of Jesus Maria and all his successors bear the title ‘PRIOR OF MOUNT CARMEL.’ Fr. Prospero became the first Vicar of the Mount Carmel.  He returned to Mount Carmel and on February 17, 1633 to celebrate Mass in this Holy place.  On April 30, 1633, the new convent was inaugurated.  The ruins of the so-called convent of Fr. Prospero, is halfway between the lighthouse and the school of the Prophets.  The lifestyle of it is preserved and lived according to the legislation of the Carmelite Deserts. This is how he describe it: “In the cave dedicated to the Holy Mother, they  have made three cells – an oratory, kitchen and an oven; all airy and dry with the carved stones brought from the old convent of the summit of the Mount.  And there are three other caves for those who look for a major retreat…” On September 7, 1635, he embarked for Rome. On November 15, 1637 he arrived again at Mount Carmel.  In 1641, he wrote to Cardinal Berberine asking for a copy of the image of the Virgin that was venerated in the Basilica of Santa Maria la Mayor in Rome. This is the image that is enthroned over the chapel of Santa Maria del Monte Carmelo.

He had gone through many challenges such as robberies of thieves, financial difficulties, beatings received, forced exiles to Acre … but he remained  as the custodian of Mount Carmel until his death. We know the first time that he prays to the Virgin of Carmel was to save a ship from being wrecked: “… another one came again to the point of Carmel ahead of our grotto. And seeing that I was in great danger in that staba, I called my brothers and said to them: “let’s go and ask the Most Blessed Virgin to save those poor “. And entering the Church, we said the litany to Madonna with the prayer ‘for the sailors.’ It happened that the anchor cable broke and the ship began to run across the sea.” Beautiful story to tell the first time, that we spent, that the Virgin of Carmel helped the mariners through the prayers of the Barefoot Carmelites.

We keep his last letter written on July 19, 1653. He suggests in it to Fr. General: “For the love of the Blessed Virgin and N. Holy Father Elias, make here at least three priests and two brothers, as people come here from all over and Christians from Europe. All who go to Jerusalem come here, confess and receive Holy communion.  We do not have a Mission in the East for  the greater glory of God”. And he says goodbye saying: “I can live little; I wait for the boat every day.” On November 20, 1653, at seventy years of age and fifty-two barefoot Carmelite, Fr Prospero of the Holy Spirit gave his soul to God. Upon expiration he said: “Fulfill the beloved will of my Lord and my God …”

Father Oscar Ignacio Aparicio Ahedo, ocd

[1] Prospero of the Holy Spirit (1583-1653). Contacts and Letters, Edition prepared by VICTOR ZUBIZARRETA, Historical Teresian Carmel (23), Rome 2006