Monday, August 16, 2004

Blessed Maria del Sagrario of St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Today is the feast of one of our newer and lesser known Carmelite saints. (The following biography was found by Lonnie Sorenson, our Headmistress at Cincarm, but I'm not sure where she found it.)



An educated and strong woman

She was born Elvira Moragas Cantarero on 8h January 1881 in the town of
Lillo (Toledo). Her.father, Ricardo Maragas Ucelay, a pharmacist, was
transferred to Madrid before Elvira was four years old He opened a pharmacy
there and became supplier to the Royal Household.

When she was six years old she received the sacrament of Confirmation in the
Parish of St Teresa and St Elizabeth. She studied in the College of the
Mercedarian sisters where she made her first Communion. Right from childhood
she had a tenacious and strong character that needed controlling by her
parents. On finishing her primary studies she began her secondary schooling
in 1894. Five years later, in 1899, she graduated with distinction.

At the turn of the last century in Spain there was little opening for women
in university studies. It was surprising then that both herself and her
parents were receptive to the idea that she follow a university career in a
field that was almost exclusively a male one. After six years of study in
the University of Madrid, in 1905 she became the first woman to qualify in
pharmacy. She was then 24 years old

As a pharmacist she helped her father run his business. In 1909 herfather
died and two years later, her mother. She was left alone with her younger
brother. To him she revealed her desire to consecrate herself to God, but
that she would wait until he became established in his career.

In this time of waiting to consecrate her life to God in Carmel, Maria del
Sagrario worked on in the pharmacy serving the customers herself. She did
not limit herself to administration but related personally with the sick
people encouraging and consoling them. While offering them remedies she
shared their suffering. As well as her personal work she helped with
catechetics in the parish and on Sundays went to the suburbs to give
charitable assistance to the poor.

In Carmel

In 1915, the Fourth Centenary of the birth of Teresa of Jesus, Maria del
Sagrario entered the Carmelite monastery of St Anne and St Joseph in Madrid,
which had been founded in 1586 by the Venerable Anne of Jesus (Lobera). Her
intense professional and apostolic work, united to family suffering, had
affected her health. Because of this theCarmelites had asked her to wait a
little before admitting her on 21 June 1915. The Mistress of Novices stated
that she found her a woman of "strong and energetic character, capable of
accomplishing the greatest ideals of sanctity".

On 21 December 1915 she began her novitiate accepting the material and
cultural limitations of her community. Her first profession was made on 24
December 1916 1hree years later, on 6 January 1920 she made her solemn

Her journey in Carmel was characterized by the exercise of faith, hope and
love. Her faith led her to discover in events the Lord's will and to adhere
to it. She reached maturity in hope by means of the difficulties and the
effort to detach herself from everything that was not God She lived love in
self forgeffulness and in service to her sisters.

Dynamic prioress and efficient formator

In April 1927 she was elected Prioress of the community. Thus began a time
of commitment and service to her community. She exercised her office as an
older sister, open to dialogue with her sisters. She also took care of the
material aspect of the monastery, carrying out works and repairs that the
convent needed to offer the minimum of humane conditions for life in the

When her triennium was over she became Mistress of novices. Statements from
those guided by her emphasized that she knew how to mix understanding with
firmness and that she taught mainly by example. On many occasions she spoke
to her novices about her desire to be a martyr.

Prioress on the eve of the Spanish civil war and martyr.for Christ

On 1 July 1936, Mother Maria del Sagrario was once again elected Prioress of
the community. The winds of violence had begun to blow in Spain and on 18
July 1936 the civil war broke out. That same day the windows of the Church
and monastery were smashed. In the evening, Mother Maria del Sagrario
gathered the community together to tell them how bad things had become and
to advise and beseech those who wanted to go to their family. On the 20th
the convent was attacked by a violent crowd who sacked and destroyed many
things. The Prioress was concernedfor each and every one of her daughters
and did not rest until she was able to get them to safety. With one of the
nuns, she managed to take refuge in the house of the nun's parents where she
stayed until taken to prison.

Her brother visited her many times, pleading with her to come with him to
Pinto, where he lived with his family. However she refused to go with him
because she had to watch over all her sisters. She took care of each one of
them and managed to send them material and spiritual help where they were,
exhorting them to be generous in accepting the will of the Lord 'Who
suffered so much for our love ".

On 14th August the "soldiers" discovered the place where she was hiding and
took her prisoner together with the other nun with her. She was shot by the
enemies of the faith on 15th of August Thus her journey came to a close by
handing over her life confessing Jesus Christ to whom she had consecrated
her life in the Teresian Carmel.