The Book of Revelation has shown us a vision of Jerusalem “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (21:2). Although these words refer to the Church, we can also apply them to the two Discalced Carmelites who are proclaimed blessed at this celebration, having reached the same ideal by different paths: Mother Sagrario of St. Aloysius Gonzaga and Mother Maravillas de Jesús. Adorned with Christian virtues, their human qualities and their commitment to the Lord in the Teresian Carmel, today they both stand before the eyes of the Christian people as brides of Christ.
Mother María Sagrario, a pharmacist in her youth and a Christian example for those who practise that noble profession, gave up everything to live for God alone in Christ Jesus (cf. Rom 6:11) in the Discalced Carmelite Monastery of St. Anne and St. Joseph in Madrid. There her commitment to the Lord matured, and she learned from him to serve and to sacrifice herself for her brothers and sisters. This is how in the turbulent events of July 1936 she found the strength not to betray priests and friends of the community, facing death with integrity for her state as a Carmelite and to save others.
Mother Maravillas de Jesús, also a Discalced Carmelite, is another shining example of holiness whom the Church, in proclaiming her blessed, holds up today for the veneration of the faithful. This distinguished religious from Madrid sought God throughout her life and consecrated herself entirely to him in the quiet life of Carmel. She founded a monastery in Cerro de los Ángeles, the geographical centre of Spain, next to the Sacred Heart Monument to which the nation had been consecrated. Forced by the Civil War to leave her convent, she devoted all her energies to ensuring that the order would survive, which led her to make many foundations where she wanted the spirit of penance, sacrifice and recollection, characteristic of the Teresian reform, to prevail.
A well-known person in her time, she was able to make the most of this fact to attract many souls to God. She used all the help she received to aid monasteries, priests, seminaries and religious works in need. For this reason many had reason to be grateful to her. She was prioress for almost all her religious life, acting as a true Mother to her sisters. She lived with heroic faith, formed in response to an austere vocation, by putting God at the centre of her life. After suffering many trials, she died repeating: “What happiness to die a Carmelite!”. Her life and death are an eloquent message of hope for the world, so much in need of values and, at times, so tempted by hedonism, the easy life and living without God.
Saint John Paul II
Homily for the Beatification (excerpt)
10 May 1998
Featured image: Los desposorios místicos (The Mystical Betrothal), is an oil on canvas painting by an unknown 18th-century Latin American artist that depicts the transcendence of the mystical nuptials of a Carmelite nun. This ceremony represented the marriage of the nun’s soul with Christ, to whom she has given herself entirely, body and soul. The gallery label describes the scene:
In this anonymous canvas, the Child Jesus is observed in the arms of his Mother. With his [right] hand, the Son of God puts a nail in the heart of the nun, while with his [left] hand, he places the ring of the betrothed, symbol of the mystical marriage. To exalt the Carmelite order, the artist painted the Virgin Mary in her invocation of the Virgin of Mount Carmel; next to her are Saint Teresa, who carries a branch of lilies, and Saint John of the Cross. At the back, St. Joseph carries the flowered rod, a symbol of his chastity. The Holy Spirit descends in a ray of light that frames the Holy Family. The [watered garden] of St. Teresa’s autobiography appears in the background, symbolized by a rich garden reminiscent of the mystical garden, where the professed nuns are in charge of cultivating, caring for, and keeping alive the flowers and plants. In the center of this garden, which recalls the paradise of the mystical life, a fountain symbolizes Christ, who gives the water of life and is at the same time the well of salvation. On the far left of the work, St. Elias—considered by the Carmelites as the founder of their Order—holds in his hands a parchment in which the virtues obtained by following the Rule are exalted. The phrases that come from the lips of the sacred personages recall the rewards that are obtained through these betrothals.
Image credit: Museo Nacional del Virreinato / Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México (Some rights reserved)
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