The first Discalced Carmelite Saint to be canonized in the twenty-first century, St. Maravillas of Jesus stands out as a heroic witness of Teresian zeal and simplicity. Her virtues of determination and perseverance liken her in many ways to the holy Reformer of Carmel, our Mother St. Teresa of Jesus.
Maravillas Pidal y Chico de Guzman was born in Madrid, Spain on November 4, 1891. She was the daughter of Luis Pidal y Mon and Cristina Chico de Guzman, the youngest of four children. Her childhood was marked by a complete spiritual and cultural formation. Above all, her maternal grandmother was the chosen instrument in these first years for God to begin his work in her soul.
God surrounded her with graces of predilection. Her grandmother had read her a story about St. Agnes who made a vow of virginity, consecrating herself to Christ forever and refusing to marry the son of the prefect of Rome. Even though little “Mavi,” as she was affectionately called, was only 5 years old, she was illumined by the Holy Spirit and was given the premonition of what that signified for her. Like St. Agnes, she would not marry, and she wanted to promise this to Jesus. She did this in the presence of her chosen maidservant with whom she confided her secret. However, Mariquita (the maidservant) spoke of the vow to all in the house; thus, Maravillas had to bear with much teasing from her brother and sister.
At the age of twelve, Maravillas took Father Juan Francisco Lopez, S.J. as her spiritual director. Father Lopez, would guide her until her entry into Carmel. Nothing was more essential for her at that point in her life because her soul, so ardent and generous, needed someone who knew how to guide her with supernatural prudence and continue in her soul the work God had begun. It was he would would initiate her in the secrets of the spiritual life, and to whom she confided her desire to consecrate herself totally to God through the religious life.
The death of her father in December of 1913, shortly followed by the death of her grandmother, left Maravillas now alone with her mother. Despite her desire to enter religious life, Father Lopez prohibited every intention of this unless her own mother proposed this to her. Maravillas smiled and remained silent; she knew very well that if this was the condition, she would never be a Carmelite. But God is the Master of hearts and He can move them according to His liking, whenever and however He wills. Maravillas remained steadfast in her fidelity and her obedience to her confessor; even in the face of the dark horizon, the light of hope was never dimmed in her heart. One day in the autumn of 1918, her mother finally conceded and told Maravillas that if she was still thinking of becoming a nun, she could do so with her blessing.
On October 12, 1919, Maravillas entered the Discalced Carmelite Monastery of San Lorenzo in El Escorial. Throughout the 55 years of her Carmelite life, she was moved by divine grace and the urging of her bishops and superiors to reestablish many foundations of the Teresian Carmelite Order such as Durelo (the first foundation of Carmelite friars in Spain), the Incarnation (the Carmelite Monastery into which our Holy Mother first entered) and many more crucial sites, including a foundation in India. She was affectionately and simply known by all of her communities as “Our Mother.” Greatly loved and respected by her daughters, and with an ardor and simplicity like that of St. Teresa, she spent herself tirelessly for this mission of restoration which God entrusted to her. The life and work of this generous servant of God were a model of the balance between fidelity to the Teresian charism and the adaptations required by the changing times. She endeavored, above all, to be faithful to the heritage handed down from Our Holy Mother.
May St. Maravillas of Jesus intercede for her sisters and brothers in Carmel and for all who wish to follow the paths of Divine Love traced out for us by God. Her feast is celebrated on December 11th.