MARÍA MARAVILLAS DE JESÚS (1891-1974)
María Maravillas de Jesús Pidal y Chico de Guzmán, Professed Nun of the Order of Discalced Carmelites
María de las Maravillas was born in Madrid, Spain, on 4 November 1891, the daughter of Luis Pidal y Mon, the Marquis of Pidal, and Cristina Chico de Guzmán y Muñoz. At the time her father was the Spanish Ambassador to the Holy See, and she grew up in a devout Catholic family.
María made a vow of chastity at the age of five and devoted herself to charitable work. After coming into contact with the writings of St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Jesus, she felt called to become a Discalced Carmelite. Her father, whom she had faithfully assisted when he became ill, died in 1913, and her mother was reluctant to accept her daughter's decision to enter the Carmelite monastery.
However, on 12 October 1919, María did enter the Discalced Carmelites of El Escorial in Madrid. She made her simple vows on 7 May 1921.
Before her final profession on 30 May 1924, Sr María had already received a special call from God to found the Carmel of Cerro de los Ángeles, and the foundation was inaugurated on 31 October 1926 with three other Carmelites. This was the first of the series of Teresian Carmelite Monasteries that she would establish, according to the Rule and Constitutions of the Discalced Carmelites. María was not being called to found a new order or to "branch off" from the Discalced Carmelites - she herself was very careful in pointing this out; she only sought to live deeply and to transmit the spirit and ideals of St Teresa of Jesus and St John of the Cross.
On 28 June 1926, the Bishop of the Diocese of Madrid-Alcalá appointed her prioress of the new monastery. In 1933 she established another foundation in Kottayam, India, and from this Carmel other foundations were started in India.
Her role as prioress would be permanent in the various monasteries she founded throughout her life, notwithstanding the natural aversion and sense of inadequacy she felt in accepting positions of responsibility. María's spirit of obedience and love for the Church and for her Carmelite sisters, however, gave her the strength and diligence to carry out this duty with love.
Mother Maravillas was often criticized for the poverty of the convents she founded; charges were made that they were "not solid", small in size and unfurnished, with bare walls on which hung chosen Bible verses or writings of the Carmelite saints. She would reply, however, that "it is not our concern to plant a seed, since the Discalced Carmelites have already been founded. Even if our convents collapse, nothing will happen".
During the Spanish Civil War, the nuns of Cerro de los Ángeles lived in an apartment in Madrid. In September 1937 another Carmel in the Batuecas, Salamanca, was founded. In 1939 the monastery of Cerro de los Ángeles was restored. Even amid enormous deprivation, Mother Maravillas instilled courage and happiness, always being an admirable example to her daughters.
But she also remained a mystery even to the nuns closest to her, since only her spiritual directors knew the "dark night of the soul" that she lived throughout her life, which kept her in profound spiritual aridity and trials, and made total faith and abandonment to the will of God her guide.
In the following years, foundations were established in other parts of Spain. Mother Maravillas also restored and sent nuns to her original Carmel of El Escorial and to the venerable monastery of the Incarnation in Avila.
In order to unite the monasteries founded by her and others that had the same finality, she founded the Association of St Teresa, which received official approval from the Holy See in 1972.
On 8 December 1974, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Mother Maravillas was anointed and received Holy Communion. On 11 December, surrounded by her community in the Carmel of La Aldehuela, Madrid, she died. At the time of her death, her sisters report that Mother Maravillas kept repeating the phrase: "What happiness to die a Carmelite!". She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 10 May 1998.