Blessed Mary Ann De Jesus, an extraordinary person to whom God granted countless supernatural graces, was one of the most distinguished Tertiaries of the Order.
(See Mercedarian Third Order)
She was born in Madrid on January 17, 1565 to Luis Navarro and Juana Romero. She was baptized on January 21, 1565. Ever since her early childhood, she showed an extraordinary maturity of judgment and her biographers are convinced that the Lord graced her with many heavenly gifts during prayer.
Her mother died when Mary Ann was nine years old and she had to be a mother to her five little brothers. Her father married again almost immediately and life with her stepmother started to be very painful. She had to endure mistreatments. To get her away from home, both her father and her stepmother prepared her for marriage. However, Mary Ann who had chosen the Lord as her only spouse, found the strength to resist and to succeed in her plan and drive her suitor away, she cut her hair with her own hands.
Spiritual sufferings came in addition to her domestic sufferings. Assailed by anguish and temptations, she had the misfortune of not finding the consolation she was seeking with her confessor, father Antonio of the Holy Spirit. Realizing that he did not understand the young woman’s spirit, Fr. Antonio advised her to look for another confessor. Mary Ann went to the Mercedarian sanctuary of the Virgin of Help, where she met the priest who was at the origin of the reform, father Juan Bautista Gonzalez who guided her steps in the dark night of tribulations and led her through the paths of perfection, helping her make great strides as she declared in her autobiography. This was around 1598; from then until she died – in 1616 -father Juan Bautista was Mary Ann’s spiritual director. In the midst of her spiritual tribulations, the Lord also gave her a taste of Jesus’ passion through serious illnesses which no human remedy could alleviate.
In 1603, she followed her father at the service of the Court and moved to Valladolid to return in 1606. In the meantime, father Juan Bautista has started the Order’s reform with the institution of the discalced Mercedarians who were soon to establish their residence in Madrid, in the Santa Barbara hermitage.
Freed from her father, Mary Ann settled in a little house, near the discalced Mercedarians’ convent, in order to be more dedicated to her spiritual life since, because of the disease afflicting her, she could not enter a convent as a religious as she would have wished. She spent many years there in prayer and penance and was finally accepted as a “lay member” as was said then, which was the same as being a Tertiary member. She was allowed to receive the Mercedarian habit, from father Felipe pleuresy, the Order’s master general who, the following year on May 20, 1614, received her profession, Concerning this, there is something strange in Mariana’s life. Three months before her death, on May 20, 1614, she made her profession as a Mercedarian Tertiary again, a fact which may seem unexplainable. Perhaps, this was due to her directors being overly preoccupied and interested, Mariana had received the habit from the hands of the general of the Order through whom the discalced Mercedarians were still united to the main tree. However, the discalced Mercedarians undoubtedly had a greater influence in Mariana’s life and when they separated from the Order in 1621, they wanted Mariana to renew her profession as a discalced Mercedarian, This was surely a mistake, since the Third Order of Mercy not having had such a reform, is neither calced nor discalced, but rather an autonomous institution dependent upon the Order.
Wearing the habit of a Mercedarian Tertiary, Mary Ann remained in her little house and continued in her dedication to works of charity with the sick and the needy. A woman, by the name of Catalina of Christ, had joined her. She had a bad temper and instead of looking after Mary Ann in her illness, she really tried her patience. Mary Ann was a mirror of great virtues, especially charity and humility, and the Lord rewarded her with heavenly gifts and with miraculous interventions on many occasions. She had the gift of prophecy and discernment of spirits, and she showed a great devotion to the sacred heart of Jesus, even before this devotion became common in the church. She manifested a tender love for the Blessed Virgin and for the Blessed Sacrament, unwilling to be separated from the latter day or night, and she spent the last years of her life almost constantly on the platform of her house facing the church. One day, with great humility, she told the Lord: “Lord, this tabernacle where you are is purer and more beautiful” and the Lord replied to her: “But it does not love me” to make her understand that he did not care for silver or gold. Many people of all conditions came to her to listen to her teaching and to be comforted by her because of her great virtues.
Mercedarian Third Order