St. Maria Maravillas of Jesus, Virgin
María de las Maravillas was born in Madrid, Spain, on November 4, 1891, the fourth child of Luis 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 October 12, 1919, María did enter the Discalced Carmelites in Madrid and made her simple vows on May 7, 1921.
Before her final profession on May 30, 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, one of those being our nuns here at St. Joseph. 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 December 8, 1974, Mother Maravillas was anointed and received Holy Communion. On December 11, 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 Pope John Paul II on May 10, 1998 at St. Peter’s in Rome and canonized on May 4, 2003 in Madrid. Her feast day is Dec 11th, the anniversary of her entrance into eternity.
Yesterday, Sunday, on climbing the stairs to go to the upper choir for the sung Mass, I was quite recollected, yet without any particular thought, when I heard clearly within me, "My delight is to be with the children of men." These words which made a strong impression on me, I understood were not for me this time, but rather in the nature of a request the Lord was making me to offer the whole of myself to give Him these souls He so much desires. It is hard to explain, but I saw clearly, that a soul which sanctifies itself becomes fruitful in attracting souls to God. This so deeply moved me that I offered with my whole heart to the Lord all my sufferings of body and soul for this purpose, despite my poverty. It then seemed to me that this offering was right, but what was strictly important was to surrender myself, wholly and completely to the divine will, so that He could do what He desired in me and likewise I would accept the pain along with the pleasure. I seemed to understand that what pleased Him was not the greatest sacrifice but rather the exact and loving fulfillment in the least detail of that will. In this I understood many things I find hard to explain, and how He wished me to be very sensitive in this fulfillment, which would carry me a long way in self-sacrifice and love.
I offered myself in such a way that nothing would excuse me, not even hell, (if there you can love the Lord), but then I am so cowardly. The Lord will remedy that, since I can do no more than commit myself to Him in all my misery. I began experiencing this as a desire to commit myself for souls and to be faithful for this purpose: thinking about what He had done for them, it seemed He was saying to me I could not do much, but He could, with my help. On feeling this immense desire of the Lord for the salvation of souls, it seemed so amazing that nothing remained but to be committed to God so that He could carry out all His work in the soul and thus make it, despite its poverty, capable of giving Him what He desires. Each time it became clearer to my soul so that nothing of my own remained important, except that the Lord alone be glorified. What a treasure the Lord has given me in allowing me to live in Carmel! Here, everything is arranged with such simplicity, yet in such a way that, living it to the full, you can do everything. How can we live in the House of the Virgin, pleasing the Lord with her, yet not imitating her, as the Holy Mother desired? I felt that this is the Carmelite's way, imitating Mary, how we must grow less, to be truly poor, self-sacrificing, humble, nothing. I felt quite deeply how Jesus gives us in His own life continual examples of sacrifice, of humiliation, of making ourselves small, yet we do not understand. I felt His mercy and zeal for souls in this way, that here is the strength that can take hold of our life through His mercy. By His grace, may I, who am so absolutely poor in everything, be well able to imitate Him in this with more ease than other creatures. I seemed also to understand that these lights were not given only for myself, but also for guiding my sisters. The sole thing I do, many times in the day, is to say to the Lord that I wish to live only to love Him and to please Him, that I desire all that He wishes in the way that He wills.
Who drew St. Maria Maravillas of Jesus
into the secrets of the Heart of Your Son,
grant through her intercession and example,
that we may work together for the salvation of souls,
experiencing the delights of Your love.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son, Who lives and reigns
with You and the Holy Ghost one God for ever and ever.