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Catholic Heroes . . . Blessed Anna Maria Taigi

June 7, 2016 saints No Comments


Siena, Italy — 30 miles south of Florence, the birthplace of saints such as Bernardine of Siena (born on December 8, 1380), and Catherine of Siena (born on March 25, 1347). Four hundred years later, Siena became the birthplace of another great mystic of the Church: Blessed Anna Maria Taigi.
Anna Maria entered our world on May 29, 1769. Her father, Luigi Giannetti, and her mother, Maria Masi, were poor working-class people from Tuscany. The day after her birth, they took their infant daughter to the church and baptized her with the name Anna Maria Gesualda Antonia.
When Anna Maria was six years old her family moved to Rome to find work. She stayed in Rome for the rest of her life. For two years Anna attended the school run by the Filippini Sisters, after which she worked in several non-skilled positions to help with the family finances. At this point, she performed only the basic Catholic devotions.
On January 7, 1790, Anna married Domenico, who was a porter for the chef of Prince Chigi. Although Domenico had rather good morals and dutifully practiced his faith, he also possessed a fiery temper and crude manners. His vulgar language and sudden anger caused Anna much suffering.
Being married to Domenico enabled Anna to practice much patience, humility, and forgiveness. Quickly she learned that meekness would dissipate her husband’s wrath much more quickly than an angry retort.
Domenico, who loved Anna, never struck her and explained during her process of beatification how she “tamed” him. During their marriage Anna delivered seven children, only four of whom survived to adulthood. They raised these four children to be faithful Catholics and morally upright.
Anna enjoyed pretty dresses and socializing as most young women do. While she adhered to Church teaching, she demonstrated no unusual holiness. Nevertheless, her lifestyle began to prick her conscience.
When Anna and her husband went to the Basilica of St. Peter dressed in their best clothes, the crushing crowd knocked her into a Servite priest, Fr. Angelo. When it happened, Fr. Angelo “heard” a voice tell him, “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.”
Finally, Anna went to Confession and hastily accused herself of being a great sinner to which the priest responded, “Go away!” Nevertheless, he did relent and he gave her absolution.
After a long period of inner turmoil, Anna again went to Confession, going to a different church, the one where she and Domenico were married. This time she entered the confessional of Fr. Angelo and together they trod the delicate path of developing the mystical spirituality of a married woman. Such direction could not be based on the great mystics of the Church such as Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena, since they were religious and not married. At the time of this meeting, Anna had only been married three years.
In the beginning of her journey, she faced the difficulty of learning detachment. It seemed that “he finds fault with everything.” And the priest had to restrain Anna’s desire to perform penances damaging to her health. He explained to her that her state in life as a wife and mother must be fulfilled in holiness.
The next step in her journey came when she convinced her husband to forgo the unnecessary comforts in their state of life. Anna Maria, as her husband testified, “gave up for the love of God, all the jewelry she used to wear — rings, earrings, and necklaces. . . . She wore the plainest possible clothing.” She only did this with her husband’s permission.
Shortly thereafter, Anna Maria learned from her “inner voice” — which she always took to her confessor — that the true path to God can only be achieved by humility and charity. Divisiveness, complaining, and criticizing are from the evil spirit, while peace, unity, and serenity — even in suffering — are a special grace from God.
In 1790 Anna was given a unique favor from Christ: a globe of light like the sun which became clearer the more her soul became purified. In this orb, she saw future events and could read souls and their most secret impulses. Most important, this orb revealed to her how she could move toward perfection, how other souls could be led to God, and how she could help both the Church suffering and the Church militant.
The breadth of what she saw happening in the world astounded her confessors, including Cardinal Pedicini, who knew her for over 30 years. She saw inside the remote prisons of China and the suffering confessors and nuns there.
She could see inside secret societies, back-door diplomatic maneuverings, and the languishing prisoners and slaves in the Middle East. She would witness the shipwrecks around the world and hear the cries of those dying from them.
So extensive was Anna Maria’s experience of these events that the cardinal explained during the hearings for her process of canonization: “Nor let anyone think I am exaggerating, for, on the contrary, I find myself incapable of describing the wonders of which I was for 30 years the witness.”
Even with this extraordinary gift of sight into world events — a gift that kings, queens, Popes, and saints sought to benefit from — Anna Maria remained humble. She sought no money and hoped for more isolation from such requests, only revealing and meeting with people under obedience.
Anna also suffered in body and soul, turning all to God for His glory. She warned people when they were going to die so that they could have a holy death; she offered her suffering for the Poor Souls in Purgatory and when they were released they came to thank her. Her mere touch would cure the sick.
Many wanted to shower her with wealth and gifts, but she refused them all. Nor were any in her family allowed to accept offerings. As a witness said, “She thought it good to live from day to day, like the birds. A refugee queen in Rome wished to give her money. ‘Madame,’ Anna responded, ‘how simple you are. I serve God, and He is richer than you’.”
The Lord also drew her into ecstasies whenever she received Holy Communion. Her family misunderstood these moments and even scolded her for them. It was not until after her death that Domenico understood what happened to his wife — she never explained or defended herself.
She cared for the homeless, fed the hungry, visited the sick, and gave alms to the poor — thereby inspiring many others to follow her example as her children testified. She did this until the day of her death, June 9, 1837. She received Viaticum and the Sacrament of the Sick which had been given to her by her parish priest.
Her cause was opened in 1852 and she was beatified on May 30, 1920 by Pope Benedict XV who also made her protector of mothers of families and the patroness of the Women’s Catholic Union. She is also the patron of victims of verbal and spousal abuse. Her feast is June 9.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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