Saint of the Day – 7 June – Blessed Ana of St Bartholomew OCD (1550-1626) – Bl Ana was an early member of St Teresa of Àvila’s Discalced Carmelite Order, Mystic, Spiritual writer, apostle of the poor, Prioress – born Ana García Manzanas on 1 October 1549 at Almendral, Spain and died on 7 June 1626 at Antwerp, Belgium at the time known as the County of Flanders, Spanish Netherlands of natural causes, aged 75. Patronage – Antwerp.
Ana García Manzanas was born in Almendral de la Cañada on 1 October 1550 as the seventh child to Ferdinand García and Maria Mancanas. On the date of her birth she was also Baptised in the Parish Church of His Holiness the Saviour. Together with her three brothers and three sisters she was raised to be close to God by her pious parents. The entire household – on a frequent basis – attended Daily Mass and recited the Holy Rosary together. Her father had a Priest teach the children the doctrine of the faith, while her mother opened their home to the poor and adopted orphans to raise as her own.
In her childhood she loved the paintings that depicted the Passion of the Lord and she wanted to be associated with His suffering – even if in a minor way by giving her food to beggars. She often walked barefoot along stoney paths, in order that she could offer the pain, to her suffering Lord. She said later in this regard:
“I will say here, for the glory of our Lord, that He always gave me consolations when I did good to my neighbour, when the occasion presented itself and when I aided them in their need. I inconvenienced myself, it is true, on these occasions but I found instead of an inconvenience it was a real consolation. It is to the good Master I owe it and it has remained so with me until this day. May His holy Name be blessed!”
In 1559 her mother died and in 1560 her father died. This period turned out to be a time in her life, that she described as being flung into her “deepest affliction.” When she was of the proper age, her older siblings wanted her to enter into marriage, though in her heart she desired to become a religious. Her older brothers tried to test her will, by giving her the difficult task, of sharing the work of the labourers in the fields, in the hope that she would renounce her calling. But once her brothers did this, she refused to speak to them and to any men and thus granting them the opportunity to converse with her, so as to defend herself from marriage, since she wanted to be married to God. The brothers felt that she was too tenderhearted to withstand the austere mode of Monastic life and presumed she would soon leave the Convent life and thus burden the household with dishonour.
Ana experienced visions and apparitions that made her unwilling to give up her dream, though on one occasion had a frightful apparition of a giant demon that scared her to the point of illness. Her relatives became quite concerned for her wellbeing and so took her to a hermitage dedicated to Saint Bartholomew to make a novena. Once she arrived outside the hermitage she was at once seized with paralysis and when her relatives carried her in – and not long after entering – she found herself cured of this extreme affliction.
Finally, on 2 November 1570, Ana entered the Discalced Carmelites as a secular member. She was the first secular that the foundress Teresa of Ávila accepted. She made her religious vows on 15 August 1572. For the next decade she filled the post of a nurse in the Infirmary.
In 1577, when St Teresa broke her left arm, she chose Ana as her personal assistant, nurse and secretary and during the next 5 years Ana was her inseparable companion, travelling with her and assisting in the last four foundations. All of Teresa’s letters in the last few years of her life were dictated to Ana. Teresa died in Ana’s arms in 1582 at the monastery in Alba de Tormes.
Following the death of the Foundress, she returned to Ávila and took part in the foundation of a Convent at Ocana (1595). And she was one of the seven nuns selected for the introduction of the Order into the Kingdom of France on 15 October 1604. In 1605, the French Carmelites appointed Ana the Superior of the Convent in Pontoise. This was a highly unusual step, as Ana was a “secular Carmelite,” meaning she was not part of the choir and removed from the Convent’s life of prayer. She was thus consecrated as a religious sister and took over the Convent at Pontoise. So unusual a step met with the disapproval of her companions but – as the Foundress – had once foretold – she offered no resistance. Ana had also been forewarned that her elevation would cause her great sufferings.
Ana became the prioress of several different Convents: Tours, Flanders, and finally Antwerp, which she governed to the end of her life. Twice she was instrumental in delivering the town from the hands of Protestant forces.
Ana died on 7 June 1626. Soon after her death, miracles were attributed to her intercession and by 1632 over 150 miracles had been approved. She proved herself, like St Teresa, a daughter of the Church in her great zeal for souls. In 1735 Pope Clement XII declared the heroicity of her virtues and Pope Benedict XV Beatified Ana on 6 May 1917.
Her spiritual writings and letters are preserved in Antwerp and Paris.
rewarder of the humble,
you blessed Your servant Ana of Saint Bartholomew
with outstanding charity and patience.
May her prayers help us
and her example inspire us,
to carry our cross
and be faithful in loving You
and others for your sake.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.