Blessed Anne was one of the first nuns of the newly formed Discalced Carmelites, a zealous pioneer who was instrumental in the spread of the new order and its spirit. This humble and dedicated soul was born Anne Garcia in Almendral, Spain, on October 10, 1549. She was graced with mystical experiences throughout her life. Our Lord first revealed Himself to Blessed Anne in a divine ray of light when she was only three years old, and kept appearing to her as a child, seeming to grow along with her. From these encounters, she kept a lifelong awareness of God’s sanctity and greatness.
Anne was a poor shepherdess who felt a call to enter the first monastery of Discalced Carmelites (the Carmel of St. Joseph in Avila, Spain). She had been directed to enter this monastery by Our Lord in a dream, and even recognized it when she first saw it. Her family was very opposed to this desire, however, and soon after they voiced their opposition, Anne became very sick. Her health miraculously returned when she made a pilgrimage to the hermitage of St. Bartholomew on August 24, 1570. It is interesting to note that the foundation date of the Discalced Carmelites was also August 24. That same year, 1570, she entered the Carmel of St. Joseph in Avila, taking the habit as Sister Anne of St. Bartholomew (in gratitude for her cure), the first Discalced Carmelite lay Sister. She made her profession there on August 15, 1572.
(Bl. Anne, right, with St. Teresa of Avila)
Sister Anne was very dearly loved by Our Holy Mother St. Teresa of Jesus, the foundress of the Order, becoming Mother’s travel companion, and eventually her secretary as well, after St. Teresa ordered her to learn to read and write. She was also St. Teresa’s nurse, and it was in Sister Anne’s arms that St. Teresa drew her last breath on October 4, 1582, as the Saint had wished.
After St. Teresa’s death, Sister Anne helped found other Carmelite monasteries in Spain, and then, in 1604, she set out with Blessed Anne of Jesus and four other nuns to introduce the Teresian Carmel into France. In their first French monastery, which was founded in Paris, she was forced under obedience to accept the black veil of a choir nun, which paved the way for her being elected Prioress of two of the newly-founded French Carmels. She then went on to found a monastery in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1612. Through her fervent prayers, on two occasions she saved the city from almost certain occupation by enemy forces, and this intervention won her the gratitude and esteem of the local people. She died in Antwerp on June 7, 1626, the Feast of the Holy Trinity.
Throughout her life, Blessed Anne sought to fulfill God’s Will, and humbly submitted to it even in difficult circumstances. She mystically experienced events in Our Lord’s life, such as His Passion. She wrote a book of Meditations on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in which the reader can see her great love for Our Lord. In the following passage from this book, she also speaks of the beauty of silence: “What infinite love burned in that Sacred Heart of Yours, Lord Jesus! Without uttering a single word You spoke to us; without a word You worked the mysteries You came to accomplish – teaching virtue to the ignorant and blind.” The Carmelite strives to imitate this silence that Blessed Anne extols in Our Lord, and to imitate her ardent love and prayer, which united her to the Holy Trinity.
The feast day of Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew is celebrated by the Carmelite Order on June 7th.
Links to read the life of Bl. Anne of St. Bartholomew: