Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Blessed Mary of the Angels, O.C.D.

Another Carmelite saint today. Blessed Mary of the Angels is considerably less well-known than yesterday's St. John of the Cross. Here is her story from an old volume compiled in 1927 by the Carmelite nuns of Boston and Santa Clara, Carmel, Its History, Spirit, and Saints.

"One of the first of the daughters of St. Teresa to be raised to the Altar after her holy Mother and holy Father, seemed to unite in herself the characteristics of both.

"Blessed Mary of the Angels was called the Saint of Obedience. She was born in Turin, January 7, 1661, of noble parents. Her father, Giovanni Donato Fontanella, was Count of Santena; her mother's father — still greater glory — was first cousin of St. Aloysius.

"God claimed the child for Himself from the first dawn of reason; instinct drew her to the Tabernacle, and she longed for Communion at four years of age. She loved to pray and converse with a little brother who was especially dear to her, while her little sisters were at their innocent play. A devoted nurse often spoke to her of the saints, of their love for God, and their penances in the desert; her heart was so inflamed that she said to her little brother: " Come, let us go to the desert, and we will do penance and think of God."

"So they hid some bread, just enough to bring them there, when God would Himself take care of them; and they watched where the big key of the door was placed, that when all were asleep they might take it and fly. In the meantime, they lay down to wait, and alas! fell sound asleep, and when the nurse came in the morning, the hero and heroine were still asleep with the provisions beside them. " Marianne" was in despair, and would not tell her secret, but finally it was discovered to the amazement of all.

"When only fifteen, this beautiful soul heard the call of God, and went to the real desert of Carmel, where she became a saint. She had many visions and revelations from heaven. Her macerations and penances were beyond description. She had visits from kings and queens and the great ones of earth who came to consult her and seek her prayers, but her one longing was for humiliation. One day Our Lord appeared to her in company with St. John of the Cross, and asked her what she desired. True to her " holy Father," she gave his own answer, " Lord, to suffer and to be despised for Thee! "

"Her Life, published in English for her second centenary in 1917, is full of charm and inspiration; [This is the book referenced by footnote in the original: Blessed Mary of the Angels, by the Rev. George O'Neil, S.J. M.A. R. & T. Washbourne, Paternoster Row, London] one would wish to quote many of its beauties.

"Her death was glorified by radiance that seemed to come from heaven. Those present never wearied looking at her. At the hour of the evening Angelus, she received the last annointing, and remained with exhausted body but unclouded soul. All present asked her blessing, and she humbly complied. The Provincial asked her to bless the Carmelite Province, men and women; her humility had its last test, but obedience conquered. " I beg the Heart of my God to bless this Province and keep all its religious true children of our holy Mother St. Teresa."

"Later, those near heard her cry for release, " Cupio dissolvi," — " O that I be dissolved to be with Christ," but the end did not come. Remembering her extraordinary obedience, the thought came that she might be waiting for the last command, and Father Raphael approached, saying in firm and gentle tones, " Mother Mary of the Angels, you have lived a life of obedience. Now, if Our Divine Lord wishes you to be with Him, die by obedience; give Him the soul He gave you, and go forth to praise Him in glory." At these words, she made a movement as of one taking flight. She cast one look at her crucifix, so tender, so majestic, she seemed really gazing on the Divine Person of Jesus Christ, and without struggle or shadow of the darkness of death, she breathed her last.

"Her passing was a grief to the whole city. " The Saint is dead," they cried with one voice. She appeared in glory to Religious of the Monastery, and miracles took place immediately. King Victor Amadeus, with Cardinals and Bishops, petitioned the introduction of her Cause, and it was begun by Benedict XIII in 1724. Pius VI advanced it, but it was not until February 26, 1865, that Pius IX placed her among the Blessed. The House of Savoy had petitioned in the past, and he who received his cross from the bannered cross of Savoy — " Crux de Cruce " — placed the crown of Saintship upon her head."