Saint of the Day – 11 December – St María Maravillas de Jesús OCD (1891-1974) Carmelite Religious, Prioress, Contemplative, Apostle of Charity, founder of several houses for her order and even set one up in India after serving a brief exile with fellow religious due to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War – born María de las Maravillas Pidal Chico de Guzmán on 4 November 1891 in Madrid, Spain and died on 11 December 1974 in La Aldehuela monastery, Madrid province, Spain of natural causes, where her remains now lie.
María de las Maravillas was born in Madrid, Spain, the fourth child of Luis, the second Marquis of Pidal and Cristina. At the time her father was the Spanish Ambassador to the Holy See and she grew up in a devout Catholic family.
María made a vow of chastity at the age of five and devoted herself to charitable work. After coming into contact with the writings of St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Jesus, she felt called to become a Discalced Carmelite.
Her father, whom she had faithfully assisted when he became ill, died in 1913 and her mother was reluctant to accept her daughter’s decision to enter the Carmelite monastery. However, on 12 October 1919, María did enter the Discalced Carmelites in Madrid and made her simple vows on 7 May 1921.
Before her final profession on 30 May 1924, Sr María had already received a special call from God to found the Carmel of Cerro de los Ángeles and the foundation was inaugurated in 1926 with three other Carmelites. This was the first of many Teresian Carmelite Monasteries that she would establish, according to the Rule and Constitutions of the Discalced Carmelites. María was not being called to found a new order or to “branch off” from the Discalced Carmelites – she herself was very careful in pointing this out; she only sought to live deeply and to transmit the spirit and ideals of her holy parents in Carmel, St Teresa and St John.
Her role as prioress would be permanent in the various monasteries she founded throughout her life, notwithstanding the natural aversion and sense of inadequacy she felt in accepting positions of responsibility. María’s spirit of obedience and love for the Church and for her Carmelite sisters, however, gave her the strength and diligence to carry out this duty with love.
The Spanish Civil War erupted in July of 1936 and the sisters at Cerro de los Angeles were arrested and lived for fourteen months in a small apartment under house arrest. Even amid enormous deprivation, Mother Maravillas instilled courage and happiness, always being an admirable example to her daughters.
But she also remained a mystery even to the nuns closest to her, since only her spiritual directors knew the “dark night of the soul” that she lived throughout her life, which kept her in profound spiritual aridity and trials and made total faith and abandonment to the will of God her guide.
In the following years, foundations were established in other parts of Spain. From what I could tell on a time line on the internet, she found 11 new communities and was involved with restoring others damaged by the Civil War.
She distinguished herself by her faithfulness in fulfilling the Rule and Constitutions of the Discalced Carmelites and supported many charitable projects for the poor in Spain. She had a great enthusiasm for the charism of Carmel. By word and example she led a fervent contemplative life in service to the Mystical Body of Christ.
In order to unite the monasteries she had established and others associated with them, Mother Maravillas obtained approval in 1972 from the Holy See to found the Association of St Teresa. There are a total of 10 monasteries in the US and Canada that belong to this Association. The intro about the Assoc. reads, “The St. Teresa Association is a group of monasteries of Discalced Carmelite Nuns formed in 1975 to strengthen one another in living our contemplative vocation in the Church. Membership is based on spiritual affinity rather than geographical boundaries and we share a common desire to bear witness in these times to the charism and spirit of the Order of Discalced Carmelite Nuns founded by St Teresa of Avila in 1562.”
On 8 December 1974, Mother Maravillas was anointed and received Holy Communion. On 11 December surrounded by her community, she died in peace at the age of 84. As she died she kept repeating “What happiness to die a Carmelite!” A perfume of spice arose from her body.
She was Beatified by St Pope John Paul II on 10 May 1998 at St Peter’s in Rome and Canonised on 4 May 2003 in Madrid. Today 11 December is her feast day, the anniversary of her entrance into eternity.