Tag Archives: Discalced Carmelites

Rejected by two Religious Orders, she started her own. She became known as the “Mother of the Poor.”

St. Angela of the Cross                                      en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

She was born in Seville, Spain, on January 30, 1846. Three days later, she was baptized at the Church of Santa Lucia and given the name Maria de Los Angeles, which means Mary of the Angels. But they called her Angela. The child received her First Holy Communion when she was eight years old and her Confirmation at the age of nine.

Angela came from a simple family of very modest means. Her dad was trained as a woodcarver, but after moving to Serville took a job as the cook at a Trinitarian monastery. His wife, Josefa, took the job as a seamstress and house cleaner. Together they had thirteen children, of which only six survived. Angela’s schooling was limited as it was for most girls of her social class. When she was twelve years old, she went to work in a shoe factory to help the family with more income. She would work there virtually full time for the next 17 years.

The supervisor at the shoe factory was a devout Catholic woman by the name of Antonia Maldonado. She always encouraged the employees to pray together, to recite the Rosary, and to learn about the many saints in the church. It was through Antonia that Angela, at the age of sixteen,  would meet Father Jose Torres y Padilla, a priest from the Canary Islands. Father Jose would become Angela’s confessor and a powerful influence in her life;.

Angela had felt a calling to religious life, and when she turned nineteen, she decided it was time to answer that call. She applied to the Discalced Carmelites in Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, she was turned away because of poor health. She turned to Father Padilla, who advised her to keep praying and to begin working with the poor, especially those suffering from Cholera, which was quite prevalent at the time. Angela followed this advice and started her service to the poor.

In 1868 Angela again attempted to gain acceptance to convent life. This time she applied to the Daughters of Charity of Seville. Despite her frail health, she was accepted. The Sisters tried to nurse Angela back to full health but were unable to. They sent her to Cuenca and then to Valencia, but neither place helped. She had to leave the order and returned home, going back to work in the shoe factory.

Angela continued working in the shoe factory and held on to her dream to become a religious. She worked and served the poor. She prayed and prayed, and in1873, she received a vision. In it, she was shown that her calling was to help the poorest of the poor. She began her mission that very day and also started a journal recording what she believed was God’s message to her.

Quickly other women were drawn to her, but it was on August 2, 1875, that she chose three ladies who were to begin a new order with her. They were Josefa de la Pena, who was quite wealthy, and Juana Maria Castro and Jauna Magadan. They were both poor, just like Angela.

The order they founded was called the Congregation of the Cross. Its mission would be to work with the sick, the poor, orphans, and the homeless. They would provide food, medicine, clothing, housing, and whatever else they could to help those in their care. The money Josefa had was used to rent a small room and a working kitchen. Other funds were strictly from alms and donations. They opened a 24-hour support service for the poor, and, in 1877, a new site was opened in another Seville province.

The Archbishop of Seville, Luis de la Lastra y Cuesta, gave his official approval to the new order on April 5, 1876. Father Torres died in 1877 and was succeeded by his protege, Jose Maria Delgado. Angela was installed as the Mother Superior of the Congregation of the Cross and became known as Mother Angela of the Cross. She was lovingly known to the people as the “Mother of the Poor.” She died on March 2, 1932, in Seville. She was 86 years old.

At the time of her passing 23 convents had already opened. By the year 2008, there were over 1000 sisters in the order serving the poor all over the world.

Pope St. John Paul II  canonized Mother Angela on May 4, 2003. Her feast day is March 2.

St. Angela of the Cross, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020

Jacques de Jesus; a little-known Hero from the Holocaust

Father Jacques de Jesus—–public domain

By Larry Peterson

He was born in Normandy, France in 1900 and he was named Lucien Bunel. His dad, who was a deeply humble man and dedicated himself as much as could to helping others, was an inspiration to his son and young Lucien felt the call to the priesthood.

Ordained a priest in 1925, Father Lucien worked in the Diocese of Rouen and became a noted speaker and teacher. He also maintained a deep interior prayer life. But he yearned for more.

Growing up Lucien believed he was being called to join the Trappists. However, he wanted something that included the prayer life combined with helping others. He was introduced to the Discalced Carmelites and discovered a tradition that fulfilled his needs.  In 1930 he joined the  Carmelites in Lille, France and took the name he would henceforth be known by; Jacques de Jesus.

Pere (Father) Jacques de Jesus was asked if he would consider opening a school for boys. He had not yet taken his final vows but he readily agreed. He managed to open Petit College Sainte-Therese de l’Enfant-Jesus in Avon in 1933. He took his final vows in 1934 and immediately became the headmaster at the school.

As Nazi persecution continually grew, Pere Jacques became more and more upset and disgusted with the action of the Third Reich. He decided that he would make his school a haven for young men seeking to avoid service in the German army and also to harbor Jewish boys. He also became part of the French Resistance.

In 1943 Pere Jacques, using false names, enrolled three Jewish boys;  Hans-Helmut Michel, Jacques-France Halpern, and Maurice Schlosser.  He also hid a  fourth Jewish boy, Maurice Bas, by saying he was just a worker at the school. He went a step further and hired the noted botanist, Lucien Weil, as a teacher.

Pere Jacques was informed upon by nearby neighbors who greatly feared the Nazis and did not want to get in trouble for not saying anything. Consequently, Pere Jacques and his three Jewish students were arrested on January 15, 1944. Lucien Weil, his wife and his mother were also arrested at their home on the same day.

The German SS deported the three boys and the Weil family to Auschwitz on February 3, 1944. All of them died there.  Pere Jaques was imprisoned in various concentration camps until finally being placed in the Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration camp. He quietly went about doing his priestly best to raise the morale of the prisoners.

When all of the priests at the camp were moved to Dachau, Jacques hid his priestly identity and was left behind. He was the only Catholic priest for the 20, 000 prisoners still at Mauthausen-Gusen.

The camp population included many Polish citizens and Pere Jacques learned enough Polish to be able to minister to the mostly Catholic prisoners. They called him Pere Zak and grew to love the humble priest. When learning that he was also part of the French Resistance, he gained the respect of all the prisoners.

Sick with tuberculosis, Pere Jacques was getting weaker and weaker. In May of 1945, American troops liberated Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration camp. Pere Jacques was down to 75 pounds and died in an Austrian hospital a few weeks later.

In 1985 Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Center, honored pere Jacques as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” for his efforts to hide Jewish students from the Nazis.

Pere Jacques de Jesus’ cause for sainthood has been started. This is the prayer for his canonization:

Prayer of canonization

 Father infinitely good, You gave to Father Jacques de Jésus

The desire to love you and to love all men, From a heart without sharing.

You have showered him with gifts for the education of the young,

You chose him as a priest,  You called him in the Order of Discalced Carmelites.

In the inhuman distress of the deportation camps,  You made him a burning witness of faith and love,

Until the total gift of his life.

Give us the graces we ask you,  By his intercession and, if that is your will,

Glorify him in your church,  By your Son Jesus Christ our Savior.

Amen.

                         ©Larry Peterson 2018