|Blessed Anna Maria Taigi (1769-1837) was given an extraordinary and unique gift of a sun-globe wherein she saw past, present and future happenings.|
Blessed Anna Maria Taigi was born in Siena, Italy, on May 29, 1769. Her parents, Luigi Giannetti and Maria Masi were of a poor, working class family, and Anna was of Italian and Tuscan blood. She was baptised Anna Maria Antonia Gesualda on the day after her birth. Due to the collapse of her father’s business when she was six years old, she moved with her parents to Rome, where she remained the rest of her life.
In Rome, Anna Maria (she was nicknamed "Annette") attended for two years the parochial school of the Filippini Sisters, the "good Mistresses" as they were called. Following her schooling, she worked as a household maid and several other non-skilled occupations in an effort to help with the family finances. Throughout her childhood and teenage years, she seemed to be of average piety and spirituality.
At age 20, on January 7, 1790, she married Domenico Taigi, who was a poor porter or "servant" of the chef for Prince Chigi. Domenico’s morals and piety were very good, but he had a terrible temper. Or, as the decree for Anna’s beatification puts it "his (Domenico) manners were rough and uncultured, and his temperment undesirable." His brusque and turbulent manner and quick temper caused Anna much suffering, but it also caused her to exercise her virtue of patience, meekness, humility and forgiveness. She learned that a smile and silence often appeased his wrath.
He never was physically abusive to her, but he certainly was a tyrant at times. Nevertheless, he loved her deeply, as one can easily detect the frank and sincere testimonies that he gave during the official process of her beatification. As the years progressed, Anna Maria bore seven children, three of whom died in childhood. The remaining two boys and two girls grew to maturity with her ever-attentive concern for both their religious and moral upbringing, along with their secular education.
Describing her life as a young wife, one source states, "Chaste in morals, attached to her wifely duties, Anna Maria yet lived more for the world than for God." However, an increasing sense of spiritual disturbance began to mingle with Anna’s frivolities and worldliness. One day she went to the Basilica of St. Peter’s. There was a great throng. She was leaning on the arm of her husband, all radiant and decked with her prettiest necklaces. They were in the piazza, surrounded by Bernini’s colonnade. The jostling of the crowd threw her against one Father Angelo, a Servite. He had never seen the young woman before, but he heard an interior voice say: "Notice that woman, for I wiII 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."
(...) There followed a period of discouragement. After having savored humiliations, Anna returned to pray in the church of St. Marcellus, where she had been married. Entering one of the confessionals in trepidation, she found herself in the presence of the curate, a religious of the Servite Order, Father Angelo Verandi. It was he who in the piazza in front of St. Peter‘s had heard the Lord’s voice say to him: "Take notice of that woman... I am calling her to sanctity."
Now, our Lord enabled him to recognise her: "So you have come at last, my daughter," he said. "Our Lord loves you and wants you to be wholly His," and he told her of the message he had received before at St. Peter’s. Anna had spent three years in vain worldly triflings and now a new life was to begin.
Concerning Anna’s spiritual direction, Father Angelo needed great discernment to undertake a task so infinitely delicate. For Anna Taigi was neither a Carmelite nun nor a devout widow, but the young wife of Domenico, by whom she was to have seven children in a dozen years. There lay her essential duty. Everything else: penances, prayers, miracles, ecstasies, could play their part only insofar as the obligations of her state would allow. Consequently it was no good for Father Angelo just to re-read St. Teresa; he had to have, together with mystical learning, a robust common sense and a profound humility to guide this young mother and wife.
The first demand of the Master was purification: to that end, God immediately gave Anna a keen conscience of her own weaknesses and misery... This spirit of penance, so far as Anna was concerned, dated from the moment of her confession at St. Marcellus and was never to leave her. Upon returning home, she prostrated herself before the new little altar that she had made in her room, gave herself a pitiless scourging and beat her head severely many times on the floor till the blood came. Father Angelo soon had to check this thirst for penance and austerity and remind her that she was a wife and mother and that such extraordinary penances were not her duty — her duty must lie in the holy fulfillment of her state in life.
The ever-present difficulty was that her husband Domenico was no St. Joseph. The first of Anna’s miracles was to get him to consent to forgo all those luxuries in which he led the way and sought her participation. Wonderful to say, he surprisingly became resigned to the holy will of his wife.
"About a year after our marriage," he says in his official deposition, "the Servant of God, while yet in the flower of her youth, gave up, for the love of God, all the jewelry she used to wear — rings, ear-rings, necklaces, and so on, and took to wearing the plainest possible clothing. She asked my permission for this and I gave it to her with all my heart, for I saw she was entirely given to the love of God."
Not long after her fervent coming to God, Our Lord pointed out the first step in her ascent to Him — the enormous value of simplicity and charity towards others:
"Remember that you must be prudent in everything. The devil, My daughter, is a spirit of contradiction. He who is under the devil’s influence cannot rest either day or night. My spirit, on the other hand, is a spirit of love and peace, full of condescension for everything that is not sin. Who possesses My peace, possesses all things: Many souls do severe penance in order to reach this great good. None can reach the peace of my elect unless they strive to become as simple as a child and to acquire, from the start, true charity. Who possesses charity, My daughter, possesses patience. Charity works with zeal and love. It speaks evil of no one, for it fears to lose the precious pearl of My friendship. It understands all, sees all, notices all, but it covers all with its mantle. It excuses the faults of its neighbors, and sympathizes with his sorrows and says to itself: ‘Truly, I would be even worse, if You did not come to rescue me.’
"You must know," said Jesus to her, "that when I speak to you I produce in you tenderness, peace, compunction for your sins and above all, humility. Know well, My daughter, that no matter how much he desires to love Me, if a man enter not the straight path of humility, he will keep on stumbling. Man has within himself a dust that settles round his heart; it is called self-love... Man is full of pride, and I have nothing to do with the proud. Only the humble find favor in My sight. He who wishes to taste My delights must despise the world and expect to be despised by it in turn."
The Blessed Virgin Mary also became her guide and helped her to prepare for the mission that God had called her to:
"Know well, My dear daughter, that here below you will have for every one good day a hundred bad ones, because you must be like My Son Jesus. You must be devoted, above all, to doing His will and submitting your own constantly to His in the state of life to which it has pleased Him to call you; therein lies your special vocation. Later on, when people come to examine your conduct closely, every individual must be able to convince himself that it is possible to serve God in all states and conditions of life, without the performance of great exterior penances, provided only one fights vigorously against one’s passions and conforms oneself in all things to the holy will of God. Remember: it is far more meritorious to renounce one’s own will and submit oneself entirely to the will of God, than to perform the greatest bodily mortifications."
Jesus told Anna Maria that by being a simple wife and mother she was to be a sign that holiness and union with God is available to everyone. He further described her mission: "I destine you to convert sinners, to console people of all sorts and conditions — priests, prelates, My very Vicar himself. All who listen to your words will be granted signs and graces at My hands... But you will also meet with false and treacherous people; you will be submitted to ridicule, scorn and calumny, but you will endure it all for love of Me."
This frightened her. "My God, whom are You choosing for this task? I am a creature unworthy to tread the earth." "I see that also," answered the Voice. "It is I who will guide you by the hand, as a lamb is led by the shepherd to the altar of sacrifice."
As she was praying one day in the church of St. Andrew della Valle, before the crucifix she heard this question from the lips of the Crucified: "What is your wish? To follow Jesus poor and naked and stripped of all, or to follow Him in His triumph and glory? Which do you choose?" "I embrace the Cross of my Jesus," she answered. "I will carry it, like Him, in pain and ignominy. I await at His hands triumph and glory in the hereafter."
It was in 1790, the very year of her call, that Anna was the object of a most unique and remarkable favour. The decree of the beatification thus refers to it:
"Among other gifts, the most remarkable was that, for a space of forty-seven years, she saw a kind of sun in whose light she descried things at hand and things afar off, foresaw future events, scrutinized the secrets of hearts and the most hidden and most inward impulses." Suddenly, then, in her humble home, Anna saw a little above her head, as it were, a blazing sun crowned by a circle of thorns; two long thorns clasped it round; in the centre was the Eternal Wisdom (presumably), represented by a young woman seated in contemplation. Films of cloud dimmed the dazzling light, but an interior voice told her that the clouds would disappear according to the increasing measure of her purification. In this light she was to see, until her death, not only everything that might conduce her to perfection but also everything that could help win others for God and allow her to help the Church militant or suffering.
Cardinal Pedicini, who knew Anna Maria for over 30 years, and whose position in the great Roman congregations shows a man little given to credulity or wild assertions, speaks at great length in his judicial depositions concerning this prodigious gift:
"For forty-seven years, day and night, at home, at church, in the street, she saw in this sun, which became increasingly brilliant, all things on this earth both physical and moral; she penetrated to the depths and rose up to heaven, where she saw the eternal lot of the dead. She saw the most secret thoughts of persons nearby or far off; events and personages of bygone days... She had only to think of a thing and it presented itself in a clear and complete manner... A mere glance at this mystic sun, and she entered at will into the most secret council-rooms of kings."
Princes of the Church, kings, queens, Popes and saints came to ask this humble woman to teach and enlighten them to the secrets of heaven. She enlightened them to the extent demanded by obedience, putting far from her all spirit of curiosity, not even asking an explanation of those things she failed to understand.
"A prodigy unique" in the annals of sanctity is the way the decree of beatification speaks of it, and it is to be explained by the unique circumstances in which the world and the Papacy then were. At a time when Pope Pius VII is made prisoner by Napoleon, she declares that Pius VII will return to his seat in Rome. She sees even beyond the reign of Pius IX. She is God’s answer to the challenge of unbelief.
She touched the sick and they were cured; she warned others of their approaching end and they died holy deaths. She endured great austerities for the souls in Purgatory, and the souls, once set free, came to thank her... She suffered in body and soul... She realized that her role was to expiate the sins of others, that Jesus was associating her with His sacrifice, and that she was to be a victim in union with Him.
Along with receiving the extraordinary ongoing vision of the sun, Anna Maria began to be drawn into ecstasies along with hearing the inner Voice. Most often, she was often drawn into ecstasy while receiving Holy Communion, but also even during the most humble tasks of washing clothes or even while eating.
After Holy Communion, when she felt ecstasy overwhelming her, she cut matters short and hastened back to her kitchen, but the Spirit often overcame her in the road, so much so that she had to have a companion. The sight of a cross, of a flower, or of a statue of Our Lady, would halt her, ravished in the love of God. Naturally the gossipers missed nothing and she suffered on account of their uncharitable tongues and calumnies.
The incorrupt body of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi
One day in winter, when she came out of the Pieta church with Mgr. Natali, she met in the street a young man who was almost naked; his eyes were haggard; he was crying with cold and hunger, a veritable spectre covered with filth, from whom the passers-by drew aside as from one smitten with the plague. Anna ran to him, took him by the hand, led him to her home, warmed him, washed him, dressed him, restored and consoled him, gave him alms, and sent him away with a thousand expressions of regard, so that he wept and could find no word to answer.
Another day, she had reached the church of Our Lady of Consolation when she came upon a poor woman stretched on the road, foaming at the mouth, in a fit of epilepsy. The passers-by shunned her with averted heads. Anna drew near, wiped away the slaver, lifted her up and went to a neighboring shop to buy her a cordial. Charity is contagious. The crowd stopped; a voluntary collection was organized and given to the poor woman. Once she had restored her, Anna effaced herself and went to the church. There an ecstasy awaited her. Like St. Martin of old, who had just shared his cloak with a poor man of Amiens, she heard Our Savior say to her: "Thank you, My daughter, for the care you have given to Me."
The grace of healing was bestowed upon this humble woman, as it was formerly upon the Apostles in an official manner. Soon after her conversion, when she was gravely ill in her humble home, she was preparing herself for death when our Saviour appeared to her, dressed in a great blue cloak; He took her by the left hand and told her He took her for His spouse and granted to that hand the gift of curing the sick. Then he said: "You may get up. You are cured." She cried out aloud and got up.
Sometimes Anna was content with touching a sick person with this sore hand which bore the invisible mark of her power. More often, so as to avoid admiration, she made use of a statue of Our Lady or St. Philomena, of a relic or oil from the votive-lamp.
And here are scenes that are the Gospel over again. Jesus had just cured the mother-in-law of St. Peter at Caparnaum. The sick heard of it and flocked to Him by every road, and even by way of the roof. So also Anna, with Mgr. Natali, went to the house of a woman whose daughter was dying of the croup. The doctors had given her up, only the mother pleaded with Anna in the tones of the Chananite woman. Anna consoled her, saying: "It will be nothing." She made the sign of the Cross upon the swollen throat. The little girl was cured. The whole neighborhood was stirred.
We owe to the Princess of Palestrina the account of the cure of her brother-in-law, Cardinal Barberini. "I used to love to confer with Anna. When I could not see her, I wrote to her. She prayed to God for me and for all that concerned me, and the result was always as she foretold. She was frank and friendly. If my children were ill, I turned to her. My brother-in-law, Msgr. Barberini, was stricken with a fatal disease a little before his promotion to the cardinalate, and I told the holy woman this. The terrible illness grew worse, and yet she bade me fear nothing and not to be troubled but to have recourse to St. Philip Neri. She also sent a relic of the saint."
It was an unhoped for cure, and actually from the moment the Beata began to pray, Our Lord said to her: "The prelate’s death is decreed by the divine counsel." Yet Anna only insisted the more for this impossible cure and obtained it. Our Lord told her no one would attribute it to her, and in fact it was credited to St. Philip Neri. That, however, was fresh reason for insistence. Anna never believed in patenting her good deeds.
The Luigeto Antonini, whom I have just named, the knight and servant of the Beata and the agent of her miracles, deposed that he assisted at a great number of cures. "Oftentimes I accompanied her on such errands. When she could not go in person, she sent me with a little cotton soaked in the oil of the lamp that burned before her statue of Our Lady." And the good young fellow was no more astonished at being the agent of cures than were the little Indians sent on similar errands to the sick by St. Francis Xavier. He himself, when attacked by sciatica, which tied him to his bed, or constrained him to walk with crutches, spoke to the Beata, who cured him with a Sign of the Cross. From then onwards, he could go limping but alert here and there through the town at all times. If he caught a cold or a catarrh in doing the Beata’s errands, it was enough for him to tell his "Mamma" and a Sign of the Cross put all to rights. Headaches or pains in the chest, swellings and other miseries which he contracted in the service of the saint fled at a Sign of the Cross.
Here is a moving incident. In Anna’s last illness, the Abbe, worn out with going for the doctor, the priest, her friends, fell ill of congestion. The Beata beckoned him to come near, and tracing on his breast the Sign of the Cross, said: "Go to bed. Go to sleep for half-an-hour and all will be well. I have too much need of you at this moment to allow you to be ill." Half-an-hour later, he was cured, but Anna was in her agony.
Anna Maria Taigi died at 4 a.m. on the morning of June 9, 1837, after having received the Sacrament of the Sick given by the local parish priest. Our Lord had promised Anna that the cholera would spare Rome until her death. She had scarcely breathed her last when the scourge broke out amidst scenes of indescribable panic.
The death of the Beata at first passed unnoticed, but piety recovered quickly, and the body was left exposed for two days for the veneration of the faithful in the church of Santa Maria, in Via Lata. On the Sunday evening, a devout cortege conducted it to the new cemetery, in the Campo Verano, where, conformably to the instructions of Gregory XVI, it was enclosed in a leaden sepulchre, with seals affixed, near the chapel. Mgr. Natali had caused a mask of the face to be taken before the body was placed in the coffin.
The fame of her sanctity increased day by day. Cardinal Pedicini, while drawing up his voluminous memoirs of her, went often to pray at her tomb. Cardinal Micara, the Capuchin, dean of the Sacred College and Prefect of the Congregation of Rites, always carried a picture of her about his person. The Venerable Bernard Clausi, of the Minim Order of Franciscans, who often asked for her prayers, said to all who came his way: "If she is not in heaven, there is no room there for anybody."
Saint Vincent Pallotti called Anna "his secretary, his plenipotentiary, charged with all the interests of his congregation in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity."
Blessed Mary Euphrasia Pelletier, foundress of the Good Shepherd Congregation, confided to her the thorny questions she had to deal with in Rome.
The number of miracles increased and the people deplored the fact that the body of the Beata rested so far from Rome. By order of the Cardinal-Vicar, it was brought to the church of Our Lady of Peace. The coffin, sealed for eighteen years, was re-opened and the body was found as fresh as if it had been buried the day before.
Learning that she had expressed a wish to be buried in the church of the Trinitarians, Pope Pius IX had the body brought on August 18, 1865 to the Basilica of San Chrysogono. Three years later, the coffin was again opened and though the clothes of the Beata had decayed, her body was still intact.The sisters of St. Joseph took off the poor clothing and replaced it by new. For eight days the body was exposed for the veneration of the faithful.
Meanwhile the Process took its course. After the official enquiry entrusted to Mgr. Natali, the juridical enquiry was begun in 1852. Thirty witnesses upon oath were heard — Cardinals, bishops, nobles, servants, two daughters of the Beata and finally, leaning on his stick, with hunched shoulders, an old man of ninety-two years. The man who, after God, had the most to do with making Anna Maria a saint — Domenico. In 1863, Pope Pius IX introduced the Cause of Beatification; on March 4, 1906, Pope Pius X declared the heroism of her virtues. On May 30, 1920, Pope Benedict XV ranked Anna Maria Taigi, mother of a family, amongst the Blessed. A little while later, he made her the special protectress of mothers of families.
The incorrupt holy remains of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi lie in state in the Chapel of the Madonna in the Basilica of San Chrysogono in Rome. Her memorial feastday is celebrated in the Church on June 9. Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, pray for us!
This article is taken from the website www.mysticsofthechurch.com and is reproduced with the kind permission of its webmaster, Glen Dallaire. The main source for this article is the book "Wife, Mother and Mystic" by Albert Bessieres, S.J., translated from the French by Rev. Stephen Rigby, Tan Books, 1970.