Too many names for a simple soul
María Maravillas Pidal y Chico de Guzmán was born in the still quiet Madrid of the late nineteenth century, on November 4, 1891. His father was Don Luis Pidal y Mon, second Marquis of Pidal. His mother, Cristina Chico de Guzmán, also belonged to a trunk of the Spanish nobility.
Wonders was the last of three women and a man that God entrusted to that distinguished and believing couple.
By bringing his youngest daughter to baptize, he was awarded countless protectors, according to the usability of time among the families of the aristocracy. They called her Maria Maravillas, Carolina, Cristina, Luisa, Ildefonsa, Patricia and Josefa. A real litany of names! Fortunately, I would not be obliged to carry them in all circumstances and documents. He was left with that of Wonders, who in family use contracted in “Maví”.
Because of her father’s duties, first as Minister of Development in Spain and then as ambassador to the Holy See, little Maví spent much of her childhood under the care of her maternal grandmother. Mrs Patricia, who for those years had already widowed and led a charitable and devoted life, as a religious, was the true introduction of the girl in an experience of living and profound faith, more colloquial and contemplative than verbose and full of oropeles. How much your thanksgivings were helpful to Grandma after you’ve composed! Mrs. Patricia’s gathering at the time thrilled Wonders.
–Grandma Patricia, what do you say to Jesus after receiving him in the host?
“I tell him that I love him more than anyone and that I am happy because I know that he loves me too.
–And I can love him like you, Grandma?
“Yes, Maví, the more you love him, the happier you’ll feel.
“I am happy, Grandma, but it makes me sad to think that I still cannot receive you in communion. The chaplain tells me I’m still very small.
“Time flies, Maví. You, in the meantime, keep preparing for that encounter, which will be wonderful, like your name.
That longed-for day finally came, on May 7, 1902. The previous month Maví had spent it in a long preparatory retreat he made at the Royal College of St. Elizabeth, which was run by the religious of the Assumption. He will write later, evoking the sweet encounter with Jesus: “On the day of my First Communion I was very happy. I only spoke to the Lord of my desire for the day to come so that I could be all his as a religious.”
These last words confirm to us what the biographers of Wonders assure us: that she felt as a child the vocation to consecrate herself entirely to the Lord and to the building up of her Kingdom. In this unconditional surrender she will encrypt her happiness, as she expressed in her spiritual annotations when she was already a barefoot Carmelite: “The greatest happiness on earth, which no one can take away from us, is to unite God and fulfill his will by loving and serving Him.”
This dream goal of religious consecration was, for Maví, a close and distant goal. Close, for it constituted the sigh of his life; distant, because a thousand small threads formed like a net that kept her tied up and delayed the implementation of her resolution. His family, though firmly Catholic roots, led the aristocracy’s own lifestyle, where austerity remained abundance and where the practice of charity for those in need did not imply a sacrifice. The Pidal-Chico de Guzmán had their own chapel and were appreciated by the high clergy. They maintained very close relationships with high society families and it was normal for the frequency of meetings and parties in the mansion itself or in the frequency of select friendships. This atmosphere, from which she found it difficult to subtract, was made up of people who loved her and who were certainly good; however, not even that goodness that surrounded her was enough to satisfy her deepest aspirations, which identified with evangelical radicality in a monastery, where poverty and austerity had no concessions and inner life was a permanent dialogue with the Lord: to speak to him. and listen to him; do in all your will. Her restlessness had a very precise concern: she was deeply in love with Christ!
This infatuation of Jesus who enfavored his life from an early age was accompanied and to some extent prepared by love for Mary. In the most significant moments of Wonders’ existence, Mary was present. She was rightly able to give this counsel to a person she trusts: “Don’t forget that everything comes from Jesus for Mary.”
It is necessary to recall a Marian experience that was repeated in Maví for several years: the Marquises of Pidal used to go annually to Lourdes, together with the whole family; upon returning, they allowed their youngest daughter to stay there for a few more days or weeks, in the company of their grandmother Patricia. These annual pilgrimages to the Grotto of Massabielle sponsored Wonders’ devotion to the Mother of Jesus and were like an anticipation of the intensely Marian climate she would later encounter in Carmel.
The decisive step
She was twenty-six years old when, in the company of a friend, she visited the Carmelite convent of El Escorial, on the outskirts of Madrid. That’s what she was looking for! He decided not to delay his entry to Carmel any more. His determination was a grieving joy, for it required leaving his mother without the comfort he had left when Don Luis died.
Ms. Cristina accepted the sacrifice and associated hesed her daughter’s purpose, expressed in these words that became like the motto of Sister Wonders: “Lord, whenever you will, as you wish, whatever you want; that’s all we want and want.”
On October 12, 1919, the daughter of the Marquises of Pidal made her entrance into Carmel of El Escorial. Shortly before that date, the prior mother asked her a question:
–What would you like us to call you here in Carmel?
–Mary, simply, or however you want… everything but Wonders.
“Well, you’ll be Sister Wonders.
As such he made his postulancy and his novitiate in the convent of El Escorial, but by professing there as a barefoot Carmelite, on May 7, 1921, he found a way to make his name programmatic, since then being called Sister Wonders of Jesus. It was now a question of implementing this program of total membership of Jesus Christ, in which he had placed all his trust. Thus he wrote, “The only important thing is that the Lord has the reins of our lives and takes it wherever he wants.”
“Wherever he wants…”
She was still professed with temporal vows when, obeying a precise inspiration from Christ, she set out to found a Carmelite convent on cerro de los Angeles, where a monument had been erected in memory of Spain’s consecration to the Sacred Heart made in 1919. The monument was grandiose, but it had been left at the mercy of the inuria. The inspiration was also welcomed by Mother Maria Josefa, who already had experience in foundations, as she had been the initiator of Carmel of El Escorial. Thus, he joined Sister Maravillas and two other nuns and that group of four nuns set out to found the Carmel of Getafe, next to Cerro de los Angeles. They arrived at that site on May 19, 1924; they settled provisionally in a cottage and from there followed the works of the new Carmel.
Years of turmoil and social upheations were coming in Spain; years of fratricidal struggles; apostasy on the part of many baptized and even open religious persecution (1936-1939).
On May 30, 1924, Sr. Wonders of Jesus cast his solemn vows in the Order of Carmel. Two years later she was appointed prior of the new convent, which had been dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to Our Lady of Angels.
This Carmelo del Cerro de los Angeles was filled, in equal proportion, with favors and evidence. The number of sisters was increasing and the population of Getafe saw the sisters as a lightning rod; they were indeed, with their virtuous and austere life and constant prayer. Mother Maravillas exhorted the nuns of her community to intensify their own religious fervor, in reparation for the insults against Jesus Christ that also increased; on the other hand, with a lot of practicality, the mother lavished heed for safety for her religious. To that end, he requested and obtained permission from Pope Pius XI to leave his community to the extent necessary. Despite these precautions, in July 1936 the Carmelites of El Cerro de Los Angeles were removed from their convent and taken, in cargo trucks, first to the village of Getafe and then to Madrid, where they remained for fourteen months, until Mother Maravillas was able to remove them from that Semi-Island residence, take them to Lourdes and enter Spain again to settle in Batuecas (Salamanca) , where he founded a new convent.
In the midst of so many vicissitudes, Mother Wonders insistently asked for the lights of the Holy Ghost; for his part, in 1938 he vowed to always do what he judged most perfect. Under that light he asked for from on high, in 1939 he decided to return to his convent on Cerro de los Angeles.
Founder without truce
As if that were his specific mission in this world, he continued to found Carmelos, all characterized by a life of gathering and austerity, in which manual work was done to provide for one’s livelihood.
Before the Spanish Civil War, in 1933 he had founded a convent in Kottayam, India.
The Carmelos founded in Spain were numerous, each of them mated with a peculiar history:
Mancera de Abajo (Salamanca), in 1944;
Duruelo, Avila, in 1947;
Arenas de San Pedro, Avila, in 1954;
San Calixto, Sierra de Córdoba, in 1956;
Aravaca, Madrid, in 1958;
La Aldehuela, Getafe (Madrid), in 1961; of this Carmel was elected prior and lived there fourteen years, until her death;
Montemar, Torremolinos (Malaga), in 1964.
Madre Maravillas was able to associate contemplative life with concrete initiatives for the people in need. Let us remember, by way of example, the school for poor children that opened in La Aldehuela, Getafe. In the same village he built an entire slum of popular homes and a church. The nuns of that convent were assigned as manual work the elaboration of rosaries made with rose petals. Those scented rosaries became famous in the world and many have imitated them.
St John Paul II said of her
In her homily at the canonization ceremony of St. Wonders of Jesus, St John Paul II said, among other things: “She lived animated by heroic faith, embodied in the response to an austere vocation, putting God at the center of her existence. Overcoming the sad circumstances of the Spanish Civil War, he made new foundations of the Order of Carmel, presided over by the characteristic spirit of Teresian reform. His contemplative life and the closure of the monastery did not prevent him from meeting the needs of the people he treated and promoting social and charitable works around him.”
The canonization of Saint Wonders of Jesus took place in Madrid on May 14, 2003. The kings of Spain were present at the ceremony. “God exalts the humble.” She lived without ostentation. The special graces, visions, and revelations God granted him were never vanaged; We know them thanks to their annotations of inner life and the confidences of their spiritual directors.
As a day for the liturgical memory of St Wonders of Jesus was chosen on 11 December, for it was on a similar date, in 1974, that she left this world to move on to the eternal contemplation of divine wonders. Ω