Anna Maria Redi was born in Arezzo, Italy, on July 15, 1747, into the aristocratic Redi family, the second of thirteen children. She was baptized the following day on July 16th, the solemn feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in the Cathedral of St. Peter in Arezzo. Her short life of only 22 years was to make its mark among the greatest of Carmel’s history.
“She is a healthy girl, of great charm, pretty and well-proportioned. . . . Her hair is blond, her blue eyes large and enchanting, and she always displayed a sweet and composed nature, a clear and lively intelligence and a fiery temperament,” one witness recalled of little Anna Maria. From the very beginning of her life she was greatly drawn to God: “Jesus knows that from my early childhood I never wanted anything but to please Him and advance in holiness!” Many times she was seen to “keep her eyes fixed upward for long periods of time as if she were meditating upon the grandeurs of God and were offering to Him her love with her whole heart,” testifies an aunt who observed her prayerful spirit even from such an early age. Her mother also noticed the religious inclinations of her young daughter: “Here (in her room), all by herself, my little Anna passed her happiest hours. When I would inquire about her from the servants, they told me that she is always closed up in her room with her holy pictures. If I happened to call her, she would come immediately, but when she had finished whatever I had asked her to do, she immediately returned to the room.”
At the age of 9, Anna Maria was sent to the boarding school of the Benedictine Sisters in Florence at St. Apollina’s. The following year, in 1757, she made her first Holy Communion and received Confirmation. During this period of her life she kept in frequent correspondence with her father, with whom she was very close, and it was there that we know of the first discussion about her religious vocation—Anna wanted to remain with the Benedictines. Being a prudent man, her father made her return home so that she could have some time to discern before she made her final decision. Anna Maria Redi left the Benedictine boarding school when she was 16 years old.
In September of 1763, the contemplative aspirations of young Anna were to turn unexpectedly towards Carmel. Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene states the following regarding this monumental grace of her life: “At this point we are going to discuss an extraordinary favor which is indeed remarkable since it is unique in her life. St. Teresa Margaret is no saint of revelations. She travelled to the very end of her life in the ‘naked faith’ extolled by St. John of the Cross. Yet, at the very source of her decision to embrace the austere life of Carmel we find a supernatural ‘locution.’ We cannot deny it. In September, 1763 Anna Maria received a parting visit from one of her friends from Arezzo who was entering the Discalced Carmelites. The friend was young Cecilia Albergotti, later Sister Teresa of Jesus Crucified. At the moment of parting, the Saint heard a voice: ‘I am Teresa of Jesus—I want you among my daughters.’ Distressed and quite upset, young Anna fled to the choir to the feet of the Eucharistic Christ to Whom she always went for help. Again she heard: ‘I am Teresa of Jesus, and I tell you that in a short time you shall be in my monastery.’ “ Anna Maria Redi was a chosen soul, a chosen daughter of St. Teresa. On September 1, 1764, she entered the Carmelite Monastery of St. Teresa of Jesus in Florence, where she would spend the rest of her short life.
The life and legacy given to us by St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus could be summed up in a letter written to the Carmel of Florence on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of the Canonization of St. Teresa Margaret (1959), by Father Anastasius of the Holy Rosary, General of the Discalced Carmelite Order:
“St. Teresa Margaret’s ideal of a hidden, silent life is not merely an expression of humility, but it is above all a virginal desire to become unknown to the world so as to belong to God alone. ‘It is well to conceal the King’s secret.’ Saint Teresa Margaret took this advice as the norm of her entire life. Thereby she gave monastic enclosure spiritual dimensions so vast in good works that she succeeded in transforming its austere demands into profound joy. ‘God is love.’ So penetrating was her understanding of this mystery that it may be said to have become the divine manna of her earthly sojourn. It was the substantial food that not only nourished her on the mystic path of her contemplative prayer but also enabled her to make a most complete and heroic offering of herself to God. Our Holy Mother St. Teresa wanted those who entered her monasteries to live a life of prayer and in her Way of Perfection she indicated the ideals, rules and counsels that must serve to guide them. St. Teresa Margaret appears as a truly perfect incarnation of all our Holy Mother desired; for the fire of contemplative charity consumed her as a most pure holocaust in the unrelenting and generous exercise of every virtue. It was especially by the practice of humility that St. Teresa Margaret made progress in perfection. It may be said that the consciousness and experience of her own nothingness was so profound in her, that humility became a kind of mystic grace that purified her soul and united it to God. The fruits of this grace characterize every stage of her spiritual life. The crucifying pains of her hidden trials, the austerities of the cloister, her absolute fidelity to the common life and to her cherished office as infirmarian consumed the very life of this perfect Carmelite in a few years, without, however, disturbing the wonderful equilibrium of her person and the deep serenity of her spirit. It seems to me that this was due above all to her profound humility and meekness of heart. These virtues, which she possessed in the highest degree, she learned from the Sacred Heart of Jesus whose name she bore and whom she ardently loved. Finally, we cannot pass over in silence the continual desire of St. Teresa Margaret for the hardest penance. She reacted to the comforts of her noble family background and education with the inexorable will to do penance. In Carmel this desire found the supernatural environment in which it could flourish, but its ardor could never be fully satisfied. Nevertheless, the generous testimony of the Saint remains. It seems that Our Lord did not destine St. Teresa Margaret for a particular mission or special doctrinal message. However, it is certain that he endowed her with the grace to personify in its essential plenitude the ideal of the perfect daughter of St. Teresa of Jesus. Love of solitude and silence to the point of absolute hiddenness; angelic ardor of charity carried to the complete forgetfulness of self; intimate and loving contact with Our Lord reaching to the highest state of prayer; cheerful generosity in embracing every sacrifice from humiliation to the holy excesses of penance—these are the characteristics which, while describing St. Teresa Margaret, delineate for us, as it were, the features of every authentic Discalced Carmelite Nun.”
St. Teresa Margaret’s feast is celebrated on September 1.