On 7thJune we celebrate the feast day of Blessed Anne of St Bartholomew, a close companion of St Teresa of Avila.
Ana García Menzanas was born in 1549 in the small Spanish town of Almendral, one of seven children. She lost both parents to plague at the age of 10. With older brothers and sisters, she was able to remain in the family home and worked as a shepherdess.
From an early age Anne was drawn to prayer and wanted to become a nun. Overcoming strong opposition from her family, she entered the Carmel of St Joseph in Avila in 1570 as a lay sister, being unable to read the Latin prayers required of choir nuns. She was professed in 1572 and became Infirmarian. St Teresa evidently thought very highly of her and entrusted her with many responsibilities. She also taught Anne to write.
In 1577 St Teresa suffered a fall, breaking her arm badly. From then on, Anne became her nurse, secretary and constant travelling companion. Many of Teresa’s letters were dictated to Anne, who also wrote an autobiography in which she gives a moving testimony of St Teresa’s last days. The saint died in Anne’s arms on 4 October 1582.
Anne was one of the small group of Carmelite nuns sent to France in 1604 to spread St Teresa’s reform. Against her will, she was made a choir nun so that she could be appointed Prioress of Pointoise, one of the foundations made from Paris. She later made another foundation at Tours, and finally founded the Carmel of Antwerp in 1612, where she died on 7th June 1626.
Anne was renowned for her holiness and many miracles were attributed to her after her death. She was beatified in 1917 by Pope Benedict XV. Her cause for canonisation continues. She is especially loved in Belgium, her adopted land. Carmel in Great Britain also has a special connection to Blessed Anne, since from its foundation Antwerp Carmel welcomed exiled Catholic British women with a Carmelite vocation until it was safe to make foundations in England.
Quotes from Blessed Anne of St Bartholomew:
“Silence is precious; by keeping silence and knowing how to listen to God, the soul grows in wisdom and God teaches it what it cannot learn from men.”
“I will say here, for the glory of our Lord, that He always gave me consolations when I did good to my neighbour, when the occasion presented itself, and when I aided them in their need. I inconvenienced myself, it is true, on these occasions, but I found instead of an inconvenience it was a real consolation. It is to the good Master I owe it, and it has remained so with me until this day. May His holy Name be blessed!”
More about Blessed Anne of St Bartholomew: