YOU TOO CAN BE A SAINT

Blessed Anna Maria Taigi (1769-1837), Wife, Mother and Mystic Age: 68, Feast day: June 9. By Fr. Anthony Nzubechukwu Ibegbunam

Jan 22, 2017

Anna Maria Taigi was born in Siena, Italy on May 29, 1769 and baptised the following day. Because of financial difficulties, her parents, Louis Giannetti and Mary Masi, moved to Rome when Anne Marie was six years old, where she remained for the rest of her life. Anna Marie attended school for two years.  She then worked at various unskilled jobs to help her parents financially.  She exhibited average piety and spirituality during her childhood and adolescent years.

At age 20, on January 7, 1790, she married Dominic Taigi, in the parish church of San Marcello, Rome. She gave birth to seven children [Camillo, Alessandro, Luigi, Pietro, Maria, Sofia and Margherita] three of whom died in childhood. Her husband struggled with a terrible temper and she was caught up in the worldly fashions and things of the world. But something happened to change her.

THE CALL OF GOD - HER DEEP CONVERSION

Describing her life as a young wife, one source states “Chaste in morals, attached to her wifely duties, Anna Maria yet lived more for the world than for God.” However, an increasing sense of spiritual disturbance began to mingle with Anna's frivolities and worldliness. One day  when she went to St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, there was a great crowd. She was leaning on the arm of her husband, all radiant and decked with her prettiest necklaces and extravagant dress. The jostling of the crowd in St. Peter's Square, threw her against one Fr. Angelo Verandi, a Servite priest. He had never seen the young woman before, but he heard an interior voice say: "Notice that woman, for I will one day confide her to your care and you will work for her transformation. She shall sanctify her­self, for I have chosen her to become a saint." [Albert Bessieres, Wife, Mother & Mystic: Blessed Anna-Maria Taigi, translated from the French by Rev Stephen Rigby, TAN Books, 1970].

Eventually Anna Maria made up her mind to leave her worldliness aside and to make a good confession, so she went to a neighbouring church for con­fession. She chose a confessional surrounded by numerous penitents, but on entering it in her turn, tears overcame her, and she cried: "Father, you have at your feet a great sinner." The priest wondered for a moment who the unknown penitent might be, and then said brusquely (harshly): "Go away; you are not one of my penitents." How­ever, he consented to hear a hasty recital. Yet discovering nothing to justify her passionate out­burst, he gave her absolution and curtly slammed back the slide, leaving the unfortunate woman more troubled than ever.

There followed a period of discouragement…. After having swallowed this humiliation, Anna returned to pray in the church of St. Marcellus, where she had been married. Entering one of the confessionals in trepidation, she found herself in the presence of a priest, Fr. Angelo Verandi. It was he who in the Square in front of St. Peter's had heard the Lord's voice say to him: "Take notice of that woman .... I am calling her to sanctity." Now, our Lord enabled him to recognise her: "So you have come at last my daughter," he said. "Our Lord loves you and wants you to be wholly His" and he told her of the message he had received before at St. Peter's.

A new life now began for Anna Maria. The first demand of Jesus, was purification: to that end God immediately gave Anna a keen conscience of her own weaknesses and misery. She decided for the love of God to abandon all her expensive dresses and convinced her husband that she will not wear them again. During the process of beatification the husband of Anna Maria made this official deposition about this decision: "About a year after our marriage, the Servant of God, while yet in the flower of her youth, gave up for the love of God, all the jewelry she used to wear--rings, ear-rings, necklaces, and so on, and took to wearing the plainest possible clothing. She asked my permission for this, and I gave it to her with all my heart, for I saw she was entirely given to the love of God." Anna Maria took Fr. Angelo as her spiritual director. Under his direction, she simplified her life, initiating practices of prayer and self-denial which she pursued for the rest of her life. She took the spiritual lead in her family. The day began with morning prayer and holy Mass and ended with reading lives of the saints and the rosary.

ANNA BEGINS TO HEAR AN INNER VOICE

Not long after her religious conversion (experience), our Lord pointed out the first step in her ascent to Him - The enormous value of simplicity and charity towards others: "Remember that you must be prudent in everything. The devil, My daughter, is a spirit of contradiction. He who is under the devil's influence cannot rest either day or night. My spirit, on the other hand, is a spirit of love and peace, full of condescension for every­thing that is not sin. Who possesses My peace, possesses all things: Many souls do severe penance in order to reach this great good. None can reach the peace of my elect unless he strives to become as simple as a child and to acquire from the start true charity. Who possesses charity, My daughter, possesses patience. Charity works with zeal and love. It speaks evil of no one, for it fears to lose the precious pearl of My friendship. It understands all, sees all, notices all, but it covers all with its mantle. It excuses the faults of its neighbours, and sympathises with his sorrows and says to itself: 'Truly, I would be even worse, if You did not come to rescue me.'

"You must know," said Jesus to her, "that when I speak to you I produce in you tenderness, peace, compunction for your sins and above all, humility. Know well, my daughter, that no matter how much he desires to love me, if a man enter not the straight path of humility, he will keep on stumbling. Man has within himself a dust that settles round his heart; it is called self-love ....Man is full of pride, and I have nothing to do with the proud. Only the humble find favour in My sight. He who wishes to taste My delights must despise the world, and expect to be despised by it in turn."

"I make My abode in humble souls that are full of simplicity. The more lowly and uncultured they are, the more I take pleasure in them. As to these wise and learned professors whose heads are full of the fumes of pride, I put them down from their seats, and you yourself shall soon learn where I send them. Thus ends their false wisdom and self-advertise­ment. Oh My daughter, I exalt those who humble themselves. They merit My Kingdom, and to these I unfold all My secrets. Love then to meet with contempt, for love of contempt is a true foundation of virtue.”

The Blessed Virgin Mary also became her guide and helped her to prepare for the mission that God had called her to: "Know well, My dear daughter, that here below you will have for every one good day, a hundred bad ones, because you must be like My Son Jesus. You must be devoted above all to doing His will and submitting your own constantly to His in the state of life to which it has pleased Him to call you; there­in lies your special vocation. Later on, when people come to examine your conduct closely, every indi­vidual must be able to convince himself that it is possible to serve God in all states and conditions of life without the performance of great exterior penances, provided only one fights vigorously against one's passions and conforms oneself in all things to the holy will of God. Remember it is far more meritorious to renounce one's own will and submit oneself entirely to the will of God than to perform the greatest bodily mortifications." [Albert Bessieres, Wife, Mother & Mystic: Blessed Anna-Maria Taigi]

MISSION OF ANNA MARIA

Jesus described the mission of Anna Maria: "I destine you to convert sinners, to console people of all sorts and conditions - priests, prelates, My very Vicar himself. All who listen to your words will be granted signs and graces at My hands .... But you will also meet with false and treacherous people; you will be submitted to ridicule, scorn and calumny, but you will endure it all for love of Me." This frightened her. "My God, whom are You choosing for this task? I am a creature unworthy to tread the earth." “I see that also," answered the Voice. "It is I who will guide you by the hand, as a lamb is led by the shepherd, to the altar of sacrifice."

As she was praying one day in the church of St. Andrew della Valle, Rome before the crucifix she heard this question from the lips of the Crucified: "What is your wish? To follow Jesus poor and naked and stripped of all, or to follow Him in His triumph and glory? Which do you choose?" "I embrace the Cross of my Jesus," she answered. "I will carry it, like Him, in pain and ignominy. I await at His Hands triumph and glory in the hereafter." [ibid].

ANNA MARIA IS ENDOWED WITH MANY GIFTS

God enriched Anna Maria with many supernatural gifts.  She had gifts of ecstasy, prophecy, healing etc. For example, with a sign of the cross she anointed cancer victims and epileptics and they were cured. The most unusual and extraordinary of these gifts was the apparition [in 1790, the year of her conversion,] of a luminous globe like a miniature sun [a mystic globe-sun] which shone before her eyes and in which, for forty-seven years, she could see present or future events anywhere in the world as well as the state of grace of individuals, living or dead.

Cardinal Pedicini, who knew Anna Maria for over 30 years, speaks in his judicial depositions during the Beatification process concerning this prodigious gift: "For forty-seven years, day and night, at home, at church, in the street, she saw in this sun, which became increasingly brilliant, all things on this earth both physical and moral; she penetrated to the depths and rose up to heaven, where she saw the eternal lot of the dead. She saw the most secret thoughts of persons nearby or far off; events and personages of bygone days ....She had only to think of a thing and it presented itself in a clear and complete manner.... We may say that this gift was one of omniscience for it was the knowing of all things in God so far as the intelligence is capable of such knowledge in this life.... In this way did she exercise an un­bounded apostolate, won souls to grace in every part of the globe, and prepared the way for missionaries; the entire world was the theatre of her labours .... Nor let anyone think I am exaggerating, for, on the contrary, I find myself incapable of describing the wonders of which I was for thirty years the witness."

Princes of the Church, kings, queens, Popes and saints came to ask this humble woman to teach and enlighten them to the secrets of heaven. She enlightened them to the extent demanded by obedience, putting far from her all spirit of curiosity, not even asking an explanation of those things she failed to understand. "By means of this permanent and prodigious miracle, the poor wife of Domenico Taigi became a theologian, a teacher and a prophet.” [Louis Veuillot, The Fragrance of Rome]

Anna Maria refused neither her last crust of bread nor the most precious moments of her time, yet she would accept neither presents nor praise. "Her most powerful friends could not induce her to allow them to favour her children beyond the conditions in which they were born. When she was at the end of her resources she told God about it, and God sent what was necessary. "She thought it good to live from day to day, like the birds, A refugee queen in Rome wished to give her money. 'Madame,' she kindly said, 'how simple you are. I serve God, and He is richer than you. [ibid].

Blessed Anna Maria was God's answer to the challenge of unbelief in the 19th century. She was greatly devoted to the Holy Eucharist, to the Most Holy Trinity, to the Infant Jesus, to the Sacred Passion of Our Lord and ever had the tenderest devotion to our Lady.

After seven months of sickness and spiritual trials, Anna Maria Taigi died on June 9, 1837 in Rome at the age of 68. Her body is buried in Rome in the Basilica of San Crisogono. She was beatified on May 30, 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.

TESTIMONY OF DOMINIC ON HIS WIFE

At the age of 92, Dominic gave this touching tribute to his wife: “Often I came home to a house full of people. Immediately, Anne Mary would leave anyone who was there—maybe a great lady or a bishop—and would hurry to pay affectionate attention to me. You could tell she did it with all her heart. With her wonderful tact she was able to maintain a heavenly peace in our home. For example, when my son Camillus was living with us early in his marriage, my daughter-in-law was a disturbing element. She always wanted to play the mistress of the house. But my wife knew how to keep everyone in his place and she did it with a graciousness that I can't describe. I often came home tired, moody and cross, but she always succeeded in soothing and cheering me. And due to her, I corrected some of my faults. I am old now, but if I were a young man and could travel through the whole world, it would be impossible for me to find a wife like her. In her, I lost a great treasure. I believe that God has received her into heaven because of her great virtue.” [Bert Ghezzi, Voices of the Saints. Cf. Ferdinand Holbock, Married Saints and Blessed through the centuries, Ignatius press, San Francisco,  2002, p. 376.]

LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF BLESSED ANNA MARIA TAIGI

Jesus told Anna Maria that by being a simple wife and mother she was to be a sign that holiness and union with God is available to everyone. Blessed Anna Maria Taigi is an example of how an ordinary mother can become a saint and influence others by her spirituality. The marriage of Anna Maria and Dominic which lasted for 48 years was characterised by the highest Christian principles. Understanding the profound social and moral values of Christian marriage and considering it, above all, as one of the highest missions from heaven, Anna Maria transformed her home into a real sanctuary in which God had the first place.

As a person in touch with the need for forgiveness, Blessed Anna Maria is especially important for those who think their past sins cannot be forgiven!

Following her encounter with the Lord, Anna Maria began to live a life of intense spirituality. She had one desire only: to love God and to serve Him in everything; she had only one preoccupation: to avoid the least shadow of the slightest voluntary imperfection. Her desire should also be our desire and her preoccupation our preoccupation.

Anna Maria was a very charitable woman. They had little of their own, but she always found ways to provide for those who had less. She also took in her hard-to-get-along-with parents and her widowed daughter, Sophie, with her six children. She gave all she could to the poor, visited the sick, and counselled many of the patients at the hospital of San Giacomo of the Incurables, Rome, worked hard to evangelise her own family, changing her husband's demeanor, and they all regularly assembled in a small personal chapel to pray together. Anna Maria devoted herself to a life of prayer and God richly blessed her with supernatural gifts. Blessed Anna Maria, Pray for us

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