The Servant of God Anna of the Holy Cross, Widow, Second Order
Anna, the eldest daughter of the duke of Arcos, was born on May 3, 1527, in Andalusia, one of the most prosperous provinces of Spain. The world offered her every comfort that a worldling could wish for. What heaven offered her; her birthday was to indicate; that it was the feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross. From her earliest years, Anna learned to prefer the gifts of heaven, even when they were crosses, to the allurements of the world. The renowned master of the spiritual life, John of Avila, was her spiritual guide during her youth, and the director of her conscience through life.
She was scarcely sixteen years of age, when, in compliance with the wish of her relatives, she married the noble and pious count of Feria, Peter, Marquis of Priego. The married state did not interfere with her former practices of piety, the less so because during the first three years, her husband was absent on a campaign with Emperor Charles V. Upon his return, they supported each other in the true service of God and in the practice of virtue, as truly Christian spouses should do.
Anna had an extraordinary love for the poor. With her own hands, she made shirts for the sick and the poor. Often, she gave up the jewels she wore for their support.
When a son was born to her and she enclosed him in her arms after holy baptism, God almighty revealed to her that He would soon take the child to Himself again. Although she was shocked at this, the young mother at once submitted her heart to the will of God. After a few days, the child died, but this was to be only the beginning of her way of the cross.
A few years later her husband became ill. Anna was constantly with him for his comfort and benefit, scarcely ever leaving his bedside. In the three years during which his sufferings lasted, she did not remove her clothing, in order to be constantly at his service.
The Venerable Louis of Granada assisted the duke at his death. When he breathed forth his soul with the kiss he impressed upon the crucifix, his confessor then passed the crucifix to the duchess, she also kissed it fervently and said: “From now on, He shall be my only spouse.”
The twenty-four-year-old widow thought only of consecrating her life to God. She would gladly have entered the convent of the Poor Clare’s, but her delicate health did not warrant it. So, she remained with her mother-in-law. In order to mortify her own will, she wished to make a vow of obedience to her Father Confessor; but Master Avila did not consider it prudent that a woman should vow obedience to her confessor, and therefore he advised her to vow obedience to her mother-in-law. Anna did that, and ever afterward, she sought her mother-in-law’s permission for even the most trifling matters.
After a period of years, during which her desire for conventual life increased, her health also appeared to be wonderfully improved, so that the director of her soul and, finally, her mother-in-law consented to her entrance into the convent of the Poor Clare’s at Montilla. Anna was overjoyed.
In the convent, Anna deprecated every distinction and every exception. Just as if she were the servant of the other sisters, she performed the lowliest tasks. She observed poverty so strictly that she did not wish to accept even the smallest gift from her wealthy relatives.
Her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament was animated by the liveliest faith and the most ardent love. Many continuous hours she spent before the Tabernacle in the sweetest exchange of sentients with her hidden Lord, for which reason she was called “the bride of the Blessed Sacrament.”
But the cross was also to test her in the convent. Her health again declined, and for thirty years of almost continuous illness, she practiced perfect resignation to the will of God. To this were added vexations from people who were indebted to her, but she never complained. Her brother, the new Duke of Arcos, whom she dearly loved, died. Upon receiving the news of his death, she took the crucifix and said: “Lord, as Thou wilt; he belonged more to Thee than to me.”
Her prayers effected many wonderful results in ailments, but she never cared to pray for relief from her own sufferings. Finally, the patient sufferer went to her eternal repose on April 26, 1601. Honored like a saint, her cause of beatification is underway.
Prayer of the Church
Grant, O Lord, that we may have a perpetual fear and love of Thy holy name, for Thou never ceasest to direct and govern by Thy grace those whom Thou instructest in the solidity of Thy love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
*from the Franciscan Book of Saints by Marion A. Habig, OFM
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