We all experience setbacks in our lives. We are making progress, even progress in our spiritual life, and then suddenly there is a setback. What happens next?
Often these setbacks begin right when we first start something. For example, many people make spiritual resolutions to start praying more or to read the Bible more. They get excited. They make plans. And then they start. It might even seem to be going well for a few days. Then, nothing is happening. The prayers are not being answered, or so it seems. And nothing is being gained by reading Scripture, or so it seems.
This can be a test of faith even in those first steps of a change in our lives. If we believe what we are doing is of the Lord, we need to keep going as the saints remind us. Let's learn from the life of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi.
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Blessed Anna Maria Taigi (1769 - 1837) was the only child of a pharmacist and his wife, Luigi and Maria Masi Giannetti, who lived in Siena, Italy. Luigi lost his business and moved the family to Rome in 1774 where he found work as a servant. The young Anna Maria was able to attend school under the Filippini Sisters for two years. As soon as she was able, she became employed as a servant to support the family.
At the age of twenty, Anna Maria was married to Domenico Taigi who was a butler to the noble Chigi family. Domenico was an upright and pious man, but he was hot-tempered. He was a devoted husband, but his is anger would be a source of suffering for Anna Maria. However, she used it as a catalyst for her growth in humility, forgiveness, and trust in the Lord.
Anna Maria, for her part, was overly concerned about her appearance and dress. And, she was also reported to have had a least one affair with an older man during the early years of her marriage. Her life was centered more around the world than around God.
The couple would have seven children. Five of the children would survive into adulthood.
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First Steps of Conversion
One day the couple were visiting St. Peter's Basilica when Anna Maria experienced a feeling she had not had before. Anna Maria was, as she liked to be, dressed very well and wearing her jewelry among the crowd. Suddenly, she developed a dislike, even repugnance for the things of this world.
Then she accidentally bumped into a priest. The priest heard an interior voice which said, "Notice that woman, for I will 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."
To follow up on her feelings, Anna Maria resolved to go to confession at a neighborhood parish. After waiting in line for some time, she finally was able to make her confession. In the moment, she was overcome with her sins, began to weep, and stated to the priest, "Father, you have at your feet a great sinner."
The priest did not recognize her as one of his penitents and told her to go away because he did not know who she was. Anna Maria was finally able to convince the priest to hear her confession. Nonetheless, he did not hear anything that seemed to justify her initial outburst so he simply gave her absolution and quickly closed the sliding door to the confessional.
Anna Maria was at a loss. Her resolve to continue moving forward was halted by the cold reaction of the priest. Discouragement and doubt began to creep in as she recalled all that had happened from the strong feeling to renounce the world in St. Peter's to being rudely dismissed from what she thought would be a heartfelt confession to begin a new life of faith.
However, although despondent for some time, Anna Maria would not give in and instead decided that she must try again. But before that Anna Maria would return to her more worldly ways. The nagging feeling that she had about the experience would at St. Peter's would not go away. After quite some time, she took herself to the parish in which she was married--St. Marcellus. After some hesitation she went once again to make her confession to what she could only hope would be a more receptive priests.
She entered the confessional of Fr. Angelo Verandi who was the priest she had bumped into at St. Peter's. It was confirmed to him that this was the same woman, and he said to her, "So you have come at last my daughter." The priest would go on to tell her of his experience, and he agreed to be her spiritual director.
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The New Life
After meeting with Fr. Angelo, Anna Maria began taking on severe penances as she sought to accelerate the purification she knew that she needed. However, Fr. Angelo had to help her learn obedience as he wisely curbed these penances which were not fitting for a wife and mother as they would render her unfit for her duties to God and her family.
Instead, she would find her path to sanctity through her own domestic life. Anna Maria would give up her jewelry and find clothes and changed to dressing in a more simple way. She was able to convince Domenico to go along with a more pared down lifestyle in order that they would have more to give to others in need.
And, of course, she had much she could learn from dealing with Domenico. Over time, she learned how to handle his anger with smiles and silence. Domenico would later testify how she possessed an incredible tact that brought peace to the household.
The couple would be married for forty-eight years until Anna Maria's death. During that time, Anna Maria would raise her children, while reaching out to serve the poor and sick of her community. After her father's death, her mother would move in with her family. And then, later, she would take in her widowed daughter and her six children.
All the while, she submitted herself to spiritual directors who helped guide her through mystical experiences she had in which the Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary spoke with her.
As her reputation for sanctity grew, she was visited by various clergy, including bishops and cardinals as well as people in high secular positions. They came to Anna Maria for advice and counsel which she humbly gave under obedience from her director.
All the same, she remember that her first vocation was to the married life. And, if her husband came home while a guest was present, Anna Maria would excuse herself and affectionately greet Domenico and attend to any business they had before returning to her guest.
At the age of sixty-eight, Anna Maria became ill and suffered for seven months before finally dying on June 9, 1837.
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Feast Day: June 9th (Optional Memorial)