I was torn between finishing the eight baskets of laundry from our family vacation or writing this blog. My choice is obvious and certainly evidence that I need more self-discipline. This has been a really long winter so far. I have added my fourth (maybe fifth) year of failing to get out Christmas cards. I’m consistent like that. Additionally, we are also at the tail end of an epic 2018 flu outbreak that reached its climax intensity while on our once in a life-time (because of the expense) Disney Cruise. Yeah.
Family life is messy.
I thought I would take a minute to reflect on this underappreciated vocation. This Sunday is World Marriage Day. According to the webpage, World Marriage Day honors husband and wife as the foundation of the family, the basic unit of society. It salutes the beauty of their faithfulness, sacrifice, and joy in daily-married life.
I’m so glad they included that word sacrifice. Note to all working in marriage prep ministry; do not gloss over this. If this is my vocation and God’s plan for my sanctification, please show me the dignity, purpose, and eternal reward in the very difficult and messy moments of family life.
Providence would once again bring a certain book into my life at just the right time. While rushing to pack for this trip of a lifetime, I tossed in my bag a book about Blessed Anna-Maria Taigi. It had been sitting on my nightstand for a few months, no doubt binge ordered with several other books! Oh Amazon I just can’t quit you!
So as I gave my 4-year-old with a high fever a cool bath, on Mickey’s magical ship of dreams, I began to read about this little woman who was a wife, mother, and mystic. Born in Siena, Italy on May 29, 1769, Blessed Anna Maria’s life and holiness flourished at the same time the world clamored to devour the new thought of Voltaire and Free Masonry. Anna Maria was born just months before another notorious Italian – Napoleon. Oh how lovely God’s ways are that when the world is in such darkness he sent a great light in a holy little soul like Anna Maria.
For nearly half a century Anna Maria was gifted with a glowing sun always at her side. With just a glance into her sun, she could find the truth of things, the manner of a person’s death, future events, and the state of a person’s soul. She predicted popes and they consulted her. She followed the events and moments of the popes imprisoned by Napoleon. She foresaw Napoleon’s fall and eventual death and that of his mother so many years later in Rome. Anna Maria also had the gift of physical healing yet she never used it on her own ailments and very poor health.
The mystics have always fascinated me, but Anna Maria is different. She was married. Yes, I also cherish St. Therese’s parents, Zelie and Louis Martin, but . . . well . . . it is easy to be a saint when you are married to one!
Anna Maria’s husband was so very much not a saint. He was prone to anger and excess and materialism. He was too harsh with the children and his temper was notorious. When a spiritual director suggested Domenico and his wife Anna Maria live in continence (as brother and sister), Domenico would have none of that! He desired his wife to be decorated in fashions of the time and attend popular amusements as well.
Anna Maria had seven children, two of whom died young. She “homeschooled” all of them and taught them their catechism and the life of virtue. She ensured they had their sacraments as soon as possible. Anna Maria’s life was a mixture of receiving kings, queens, and princes of the Church for spiritual direction, and making sure dinner was hot and ready when her husband finally came home from work. She never failed to put her spouse and children first. Popes and queens waited while she made sure Domenico and the children had what was due.
She lived in intense poverty and would not accept alms or favors, except when there was no bread to eat. She worked hard to bring income into the home through her needlework and yet she still gave away whatever she could to those who had less than she did. She sacrificed for expiation for the sins of Napoleon as well as her husband, any unknown person on the street, and the people lost to popular atheist thought of the day.
Her wealth was found in her humility and self-sacrifice. God blessed her not with a saint of a spouse or even an easy family life, but with the vocation best suited for her growth in holiness. God gave her the means to achieve heaven and there is no doubt that through her efforts even Domenico is there with her now.
As I sat through so very many Disney movies in my cabin with four sick children, I contemplated how even this unexpected family illness is working toward my sanctification. My husband’s imperfections and all of mine, when sacrificed to God’s will, are brought to perfection.
On World Marriage Day (and every day that follows) let us renew our commitment to this vocation and restore it to the special dignity found within God’s Divine Plan. I see no accident that God would raise a humble little wife and mother as the expiatress for a world fallen into an illusion of existence without God.
Perhaps she is equally as relevant for us today. Anna Maria is an antidote to a culture trying to establish itself as “god” and asserting that marriage has no need of HIM.
Like Anna Maria, let us embrace our vocation and in it find the fullness of our sanctification. Because, when we are sanctified through the vocation of marriage, we begin to sanctify the world, and this is the goal of the Christian life.
Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, pray for us, and our spouses!
(Blessed Anna Maria Tiagi’s incorrupt body is preserved in a glass coffin in Rome.)