“A STORY OF DECEPTION, SHAME, ABUSE AND ECONOMIC HARDSHIP”
[On August 24] one of the Saints remembered by the Church is St Maria Micaela Desmaisieres. She was born in 1809 in Madrid, Spain. Her father was a high-ranking officer in the Spanish army and her mother was lady-in-waiting to the Spanish Queen, Maria Luisa de Parma. St Maria’s life unfolded in the circles of the Spanish and French nobility. She spent most of her young life accompanying her brother, the Spanish Ambassador Diego, to the Royal Palaces, parties, social gatherings and horse riding which were the order of the day for her.
During these years, St Maria was also searching to find the direction she should be going in later life. She loved to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament and it was here that she felt called to give herself to works of charity. At the age of 35, St Maria volunteered to work in the St John of God Hospital in Madrid, helping those who were sick. It was here that she met a prostitute, the only daughter of a banker, and listened to her story of deception, shame, abuse and economic hardship. St Maria then resolved to devote her life to the rescue and rehabilitation of prostitutes. She established a shelter where prostitutes could come for help and respond in a charitable way to their needs. On one occasion St Maria entered a brothel to rescue a girl held there against her will. Whilst there she was insulted and stoned, but St Maria left with the girl and then looked after her.
Eventually, St Maria moved out of her family house because she was now being slandered, defamed and threatened for her work with prostitutes. Her socialite friends avoided her now and she was told by so many that her work was hopeless and that she should stop. St Maria asked other women to help her in her work and in 1856 a congregation was formed known as the Sisters Adorers, Servants of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Charity. These sisters balanced adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with their work of redeeming prostitutes and girls at risk. After a few years these sisters had established ten houses in Barcelona, Valencia and Burgos. In 1860 Pope Pius IX approved the sisters as a Religious Institute of Pontifical Rights.
When a cholera epidemic broke out where she was living, St Maria refused to leave and stayed behind to nurse those women who were dying. She herself contracted cholera and died on 24th August 1865 at Valencia. St Maria was canonised a saint in 1934. Today her sisters also work in South America and Asia.
At the centre of St Maria’s spiritual and charitable life was her devotion to the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Another great saint, Francis of Assisi, said, “What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation. In this world I cannot see the Most High Son of God with my own eyes, except for His Most Holy Body and Blood.”
– From: Spiritual Thought From Fr Chris, August 2016