St. Maria Maravillas of Jesus
(1891 – 1974)
Maria Maravillas Pidal y Chico de Guzman was born in Madrid on November 4, 1891 to the Marquess and Marchioness of Pidal. Her father, at the time, was the Spanish Ambassador to the Holy See and was well noted for his efforts to help the Church and religious Orders.
She was baptized at the age of eight days old in the parish of St. Sebastian. Maria was attracted to virtue from early childhood and, in her own way, made a vow of chastity at the age of five. She received a privileged education from her maternal grandmother particularly in the study of languages and general culture, and devoted herself to charitable works with the poor and marginalized. Maria was confirmed in 1896 and made her first communion in 1902.
After coming into contact with the works of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, she entered the Carmelite novitiate at El Escorial, Madrid in 1920, and in 1924 together with three sisters founded the Carmel in Cerro de los Angeles (Madrid), where several years earlier a monument to the Sacred Heart had been erected and the Nation consecrated by King Alfonso XIII. Living nearby during the construction of the convent in a provisional house in the district of Getafe, Maria made her solemn profession on May 30th 1924. She became prioress of the community in June of 1926 and on October 31st of the same year, the new Carmel in Cerro de los Angeles was inaugurated. It quickly filled with vocations and Mother Maravillas took this as a sign from the Lord to multiply ‘Our Lady’s houses’ of Carmel. In 1933, a Carmelite Bishop invited her to found another house in Kottayam, India which eventually grew into numerous other foundations throughout India.
The Spanish Civil War erupted in July of 1936 and the sisters at Cerro de los Angeles were arrested and taken to Getafe where they lived for fourteen months in a small apartment under house arrest. The community was allowed to leave Madrid in September 1937 and settled in the ancient, abandoned ‘desert’ of las Batuecas (Salamanca) and there founded another Carmel at the request of Bishop of Coria-Caceres. In 1939 Mother Maravillas returned to Madrid and began the reconstruction of the then destroyed Carmel of Cerro de los Angeles.
Soon to follow were numerous new Carmels throughout Spain. She moved to the Carmel of La Aldehuela (Madrid) in 1961 and while there founded colleges for poor young people of the area. She built a suburb of prefabricated houses, church, community hall, recreation grounds, and bought a house in Madrid for Carmelite nuns needing medical attention. In 1972 Maria obtained approval from the Holy See for the Association of St. Teresa as a means of uniting the monasteries founded by her and others that had attached themselves.
She died in peace in the Carmel of La Aldehucla on December 11, 1974 at the age of 84. As she died she kept repeating “What happiness to die a Carmelite!” A perfume of spice emanated from her body. She was beatified on May 19, 1998 by Pope John Paul II.