Venerable Annie (Anicka) Zelikova
Carmelite Tertiary (Discalced)
(Born: July 19th 1924 – Died: September 11th 1941)
The life of Annie (Anicka) Zelikova and that of Thérèse of Lisieux are very similar in many respects. Both had an active spiritual life at a very early age and were attracted to the Carmelites. Annie became a Carmelite Tertiary. Both surrendered themselves to God’s merciful love with their penances being offered for priests. Both corresponded a great deal. Both died of tuberculosis at a young age; Thérèse was 24, Annie only 17.
What we know of her comes mostly from own writings, including her record of spiritual exercises, retreats and the letters she wrote as an Apostolate.
Annie (Anicka) Zelikova was born on July 19th 1924, in Moravia, Czechoslovakia. Her father, Alois, had studied carpentry but in fact, became a small farmer. Annie’s sister, Marena (Mary), was born 3 years later in 1927.
Faith in the home was traditional and solidly Catholic. The house was decorated with religious items. On her own as a youngster, from the day of her First Communion on May 25, 1933 forward, Annie attended daily Mass. Annie received many of her inspirations from the Autobiography of St. Thérèse. Her religious instruction came from the Sisters of the Holy Cross whose house and school were very close to the Zelikova household.
When Annie was 10 years old, she was permitted to join the Sisters of the Holy Cross for a retreat just before Christmas. This brought about a turning point in her life. She later writes of this retreat; “…The approaching Christmas season forcefully drove me to sacrifice. Of all the mangers, I wished to prepare as many flowers of love as possible. I slowly began to understand that there is another kind of life than that which we see around us. A life that is great, pure, holy. Up to now I loved Jesus, but now my desire grew to do something, to sacrifice for him.”
Her second retreat brought her more focus. “…My love was anxious to surrender everything, just so I could be closer to Jesus. My desire began to fly to the very heights of Carmel, in which I perceived that highest union with Jesus. Up to now I don’t know why I yearned for Carmel right from my childhood years, especially since I never knew a Carmel. I just knew the Little Thérèse, Carmelite; I loved her and I wanted to imitate her virtuous life…”
Just before Annie turned 14, on Holy Thursday 1938, she overhead her mother admonishing a relative for having an abortion. Sometime later, Annie confided this to Sr. Ludmilla explaining “…I used to pray: ‘Jesus, let me suffer a lot’. How much the world benefited when Jesus hung on the cross. We too can give much to the world if we let ourselves be nailed to the cross out of love. I wanted to give everything. When this year, before Holy Week, the flu hit me with high temperatures, coughing with great discomfort, I begged Jesus to tell me more clearly wheat he wishes of me… On Holy Thursday I begged Jesus earnestly to tell me what kind of sacrifice he asks of me. I wished to give him more… On Good Friday I was again at the Lord’s tomb… Again I begged Jesus that he compensate for all this in me as his property, that he take my body, my soul, my health, my life, and simply everything that I have. Here I was overcome by an attack of coughing, and my handkerchief became red with blood. I was overwhelmed with great happiness; I could do nothing else except to thank him.” Sr. Ludmilla explained that the sins Annie had in mind were precisely those of abortion, which had so shaken her family the day before. Annie spent many hours before Jesus in the church offering herself in expiation for sins, especially those of abortion.
Her mother knew nothing of this until others began to notice Annie’s weight loss and pale complexion. Sr. Ludmilla persuaded Mrs. Zelikova that Annie needed medical attention. It was the sister who took Annie to see the doctor on May 31st, 1938. The prognosis was advanced tuberculosis and the doctor gave Annie at most three months to live. Annie was the only one who was not devastated by this news. She boldly announced “Christ is soon going to take me to Himself” Annie actually lived 4 more years offering everything to Him with love.
When her request to attend another retreat with the sisters was denied, Sr. Ludmilla asked the retreat preacher, Fr. Hlouch, to visit Annie, which he did. He was so impressed with her spiritual authenticity that he became her spiritual advisor for the rest of her life.
In 1939, at the age of 14, Annie began to periodically cough up blood and her parents decided to keep her home from school. It was during this time that Annie wrote down some of her conversations with Jesus, twenty of which have survived. Among other things, she wrote: “Dear Jesus, let my love for You be ever greater, and let that love make me forget myself completely. Everything, whether sorrow or joy, comes from Your love. May everything that I am and that I have sing You a song of praise.”
Another entry: ”How beautiful it is to strive after a strong love, which would look only to give honor and glory to Jesus in everything. Every instant it is possible to give him much – all of one’s work, every movement, every word can be uttered with great love. Let us do as much as we can, and when we are unsuccessful in something, let us remain peaceful. It not so much depends on the fruit of our work and effort, but rather on the love which led us to that task.”
In the last year of her life she wrote “I am God’s, I belong to heaven. How our neighborhood is, depends on us – always. We have to change it, at least where we are; we have to produce heaven.”
After her father blurted out that doctors said all care and treatment would be in vain, Annie confided to one of the sisters that she would not take any more injections. “How beautiful it is that the doctors have given up on me. At least they are not going to interfere with God. I know that He will still leave me to suffer for a long time. I think of it mainly as the suffering of this earth’s exile, but I want to suffer. It’s better to suffer than to die.”
Annie’s personal conviction was that she was called to be a cloistered Carmelite. For her, Carmel was “…a place where we can sacrifice much, we can suffer much…” for others and out of love for Jesus. When it became obvious that she would never be able to enter the cloister, Fr. Hlouch wrote for permission to admit her to the Third Order Secular of Carmel. Permission was granted from Vienna, with a dispensation from the canonical age, and she made her private vows on February 7, 1941 and took the name Sister Mary.
The last week of her life, Annie experienced her Dark Night of the Soul. “I suffer with a very deep peace, even though there is not a single glimmer of light. Jesus fulfilled my petition which I presented to him in one of my prayers. He is leaving me in complete darkness, without any comfort, but I am so sure of his love! I am serene because Jesus wants it so… The more I love Jesus the more he seems far away from me…”
The night between September 10th and 11th it became evident to her mother that the end was near and she kept vigil with Annie. The local priest’s housekeeper joined them and as they prayed the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary, Annie joined in.
At about 5am on September 11th, 1941 Annie’s face broke out in one of her typical, beautiful, smiles. It took a long time for her to say the words but her mother and the assistant heard them distinctly: “How beautiful… it all is… I wouldn’t… trade places… with anyone.” She held the crucifix tightly in her hands, and kissed it. Her last statement was weak but definitive: “I trust!” The morning Angelus bell had just begun to chime when Annie’s head fell limp on the pillow.
Sister Ludmilla prepared Annie for her last appearance in the coffin. She was dressed in white, with a laurel wreath and Annie’s First Communion veil on her head. Sister placed a palm at her side and a bouquet of wild roses at her feet. Annie’s hands held her beloved rosary and crucifix. On her heart lay her First Communion picture, the Carmelite brown scapular and the Third Order Secular Rule. Fr. Joseph Hlouch, Annie’s spiritual advisor for the last years of her life, celebrated the funeral Mass.
The Communists had taken over Moravia in 1939. Although those who knew Annie already considered her a saint, her story was not known outside her region for over twenty years. It was not possible to initiate the process of her Beatification until the break-down of the Communist regime. The diocesan process was completed in October, 1995.
For more information about Venerable Annie (Anicka) Zelikova and other notable Carmelites: “Profiles in Holiness” – 3 volumes by Redemptus M. Valabek, O.Carm – Edizoni Carmelitane, Rome.
Last content update 11/05/10