30 October 2009

The Girl Who Prayed For Her Father's Murderers' Conversion

I got this story at one remove via A Casa de Sarto, to whom thanks. As Rafael says:

"To give one's life for one's friends is something great. To offer one's life for one's enemies is something heroic."

There were many difficulties in the life of this young girl because from an early age she suffered health problems: she was named Maria del Carmen del Sagrado Corazón in an emergency baptism when two days old. Thanks to Bishop Tedeschini, Nuncio in Spain at that time and a family friend, Mari Carmen was confirmed at the age of two years, as sometimes happened, and made her first communion aged six.

Mari Carmen was always very generous. Once, a beggar knocked at the door of her house. She opened the door, gave him all the money she had and said: "now knock again and ask Mummy for something". She knew that her mother used to give used clothes to the poor, and on several occasions said that her almost brand new clothes were old.

Two of her favorite pastimes were keeping holy pictures in a box and giving short retreats to her dolls: teaching them to pray and make the sign of the Cross. Aged four or five she used to lead the family rosary and recite the litanies of the Virgin in Latin, something that her parents were very proud of.

The religious persecution that had begun some years earlier, then became stronger, leading to numerous murders. "We do not believe that there has ever in the history of Christianity been a similar outbreak of hatred against Jesus and against religion, to that which has been manifested in all aspects of thought, of will, and of passion, and in just a few weeks ... The martyrs are numbered in thousands" said the Spanish bishops at the time. Valerio Gonzalez's family was not spared these events because in late August, the father was arrested and taken to prison, where he would make an emotional statement to his wife: "The children are too small, and will not understand, but when they grow up tell them their father has fought and given his life for God and for Spain, so that they can be educated in a Catholic Spain where the crucifix hangs in every classroom." Days later he would be killed.

After the death of her husband, Mari Carmen's mother went to live at the Belgian Embassy: she was in danger because of her family relationship with many political personalities. Her children were taken into the care of her aunt Sofia, who later described the girl's attitude to those difficult times: "during her stay in my house, she recited every day the Rosary of the Wounds of the Lord for the conversion of the murderers of her father." Even for a young girl, the prayers were centred on the President, Manuel Azaña. Mari Carmen later asked her mother: "is Azaña going to heaven?", to which her mother replied that if she prayed for it, he would be saved.

One day, while attending Mass with her grandmother, Mari Carmen asked, "can I give myself?" Her Grandmother nodded, not understanding what her granddaughter meant. "I followed her after her communion, and it was as though the angels were carrying her. She covered her face with her little hands, then spent a moment on her knees in thanksgiving. On leaving the church, she asked me the exact meaning of surrender, and I replied that it means giving yourself entirely to God and belonging entirely to him" says the grandmother.

Her uncle Javier explained: "Mari Carmen wanted the conversion of sinners, and she offered the sufferings of her illness and death for the conversion of Azana, President of the Republic, a symbol of religious persecution and of those who murdered her father." Sometimes she said to her aunt: "Aunt Fifa, pray for Daddy and all of the people who killed him."

In early April to the little one was diagnosed with scarlet fever: it rapidly got worse and she was confined at home. Even during her sickness she gave clear evidence of holiness, something that became apparent when on one occasion, one of the nuns who was looking after her drew the curtains of her room; she replied "Thank you, Mother, may the Good Lord reward you". Soon another sister came and pulled back the curtains to let in more light. Mari Carmen thanked her the same way: "Thank you, Mother, that's just right".

She lost her hearing, and then contracted double phlebitis. She was covered with gangrenous sores, and fainted with pain when her sheets were changed. Only the name of Jesus helped her to endure things, because there were no painkillers. "Mari Carmen, ask the Child Jesus to heal you", her mother told her. "No, Mummy, I do not ask why, I ask that His will be done." She often asked for the prayers for the dying to be read for her, and lived with her thoughts more on heaven than here on earth.

She did not ask for one moment that God should save her, but "to do His will". All attempts to heal her were unsuccessful. One of the nurses said later: "when I had to inject serum into the veins of one of her hands, because those in the other were damaged, she asked us to pray, so we prayed the Creed and Our Father, all together with her. We said them very slowly, but when we injected her then we prayed a lot faster." The sufferings she endured were truly unbearable, but she abandoned herself to Jesus Christ, because only his name appeared to soften the pain. Mari Carmen said that the Virgin Mary would pick the day of her birthday on 16 July for her death. When she learned that her aunt Sophia was to marry that day, she announced that she would die the next day instead. And she was right: on the morning of 17 July 1939, Mari Carmen sat up in bed, something she hadn't been able to do for a long time, and said: "today I'm going to die, I'm going to heaven!" Dona Carmen, her mother, brought the whole family around the child. She apologized for not having been able to love her nurse, and once for failing to say her prayers. Then she asked his mother to sing "How good you are, Jesus". She turned to her and said: "soon I will see Daddy, do you want me to tell him something from you?". Hours later, Mari Carmen surprised everyone by saying: "love one another".

When she died, Mari Carmen was devastated and physically deformed by the disease, but one of his uncles noticed a startling fact: "look how beautiful she is getting!" he said. Moreover, everybody smelled a scent different from that of the flowers around her. The stiffness of her body had disappeared and was she was transformed into something beautiful.

Very few people know what happened in the moments before the death of President of the Second Republic. On 3 November 1940, Azaña died in Montauban, a city in southeastern France near Toulouse. According to the bishop of the diocese, Monsignor Theas, who at the time gave him spiritual assistance: "he received with lucidity the sacrament of penance, expiring in the love of God and the hope of seeing him". What neither the president nor his friends knew was that a girl of nine years had prayed and offered hardship throughout her life for his salvation.

Mari Carm,en has been declared Venerable, and there are hopes she will soon be beatified.

1 comment:

Dorothy said...

Thank you for this moving and inspiring post.