“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.” – Homily of John Paul II
From the letters of Saint Maravillas of Jesus, Virgin
(Letters to her spiritual directors: 305, 254, 101, 458b)
“Yesterday, Sunday, on climbing the stairs to go to the upper choir for the sung Mass, I was quite recollected, yet without any particular thought, when I heard clearly within me, My delight is to be with the children of men. These words which made a strong impression on me, I understood were not for me this time, but rather in the nature of a request the Lord was making me to offer the whole of myself to give him these souls he so much desires. It is hard to explain, but I saw clearly, that a soul which sanctifies itself becomes fruitful in attracting souls to God. This so deeply moved me that I offered with my whole heart to the Lord all my sufferings of body and soul for this purpose, despite my poverty. It then seemed to me that this offering was right, but what was strictly important was to surrender myself, wholly and completely to the divine will, so that he could do what he desired in me, and likewise I would accept the pain along with the pleasure. I seemed to understand that what pleased him was not the greatest sacrifice but rather the exact and loving fulfillment in the least detail of that will. In this I understood many things I find hard to explain, and how he wished me to be very sensitive in this fulfillment, which would carry me a long way in self-sacrifice and love.
I offered myself in such a way that nothing would excuse me, not even hell (if there you can love the Lord), but then I am so cowardly. The Lord will remedy that, since I can do no more than commit myself to Him in all my misery. I began experiencing this as a desire to commit myself for souls and to be faithful for this purpose: thinking about what he had done for them, it seemed he was saying to me I could not do much, but he could, with my help. On feeling this immense desire of the Lord for the salvation of souls, it seemed so amazing that nothing remained but to be committed to God so that He could carry out all his work in the soul and thus make it, despite its poverty, capable of giving him what he desires. Each time it became clearer to my soul so that nothing of my own remained important, except that the Lord alone be glorified.
What a treasure the Lord has given me in allowing me to live in Carmel! Here, everything is arranged with such simplicity, yet in such a way that, living it to the full, you can do everything. How can we live in the House of the Virgin, pleasing the Lord with her, yet not imitating her, as the Holy Mother desired? I felt that this is the Carmelite’s way, imitating Mary, how we must grow less, to be truly poor, self-sacrificing, humble, nothing. I felt quite deeply how Jesus gives us in his own life continual examples of sacrifice, of humiliation, of making ourselves small, yet we do not understand. I felt his mercy and zeal for souls in this way, that here is the strength that can take hold of our life through his mercy. By his grace, may I, who am so absolutely poor in everything, be well able to imitate him in this with more ease than other creatures.
I seemed also to understand that these lights were not given only for myself, but also for guiding my sisters. The sole thing I do, many times in the day, is to say to the Lord that I wish to live only to love him and to please him, that I desire all that he wishes in the way that he wills.”