Monday, August 16, 2010

Memorial of Bl María Sagrario

"She was born Elvira Moragas Cantarero on 8th 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 her father 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 per 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 the Carmelites had asked her to wait a little before admitting her on 21st 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 21st December 1915 she began her noviciate accepting the material and cultural limitations of her community. Her first profession was made on 24th December 1916. Three years later, on 6th January 1920 she made her solemn profession.

Her journey in Carmel was characterised by the exercise of faith, hope and love. Her faith led her to discover in events the Lord's will and 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-forgetfulness 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 cloister.

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 1st 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 18th 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 concerned for 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 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."

-- By Different Paths by Fr Camilo Maccise, ocd

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