A Flower in Carmel’s Garden
By Sr. Mary Jeanne, O.C.D.
The morning Angelus bells were ringing as Maria Luisa made her entry into the world. Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the most Blessed Sacrament, who was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul Il on July I, 2000, was born at a time when the Divine Gardener was tilling and preparing the soil for a rich harvest. She opened her eyes for the first time in Atotonilco el Alto. Jalisco, Mexico on June 21, 1866 Not quite seven years later in I873, Therese Martin was born in Lisieux France. Another seven years passed, and in 1880, the Military camp at Arvor, near Bourges, France was the site of the birth of EIizabeth Catez, the future Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity. Edith Stein, and Maria de Maravillas, two more shoots, would blossom in Germany and Madrid Spain in 1891. At the turn of the century, in Santiago. Chile, another bud, Juanita Femandez Solar, was opening under the gaze of this Master Gardener, and would become St. Teresa of the Andes. These tiny seeds that were beginning to flower would all become brilliant and varied reflections of Carmel’s ancient message of love and intimate union with the living God. Each of the sprouts in this prolific planting would all blossom in the twentieth century to enrich Carmel’s hidden garden. Their message and the heroic witness of their lives continue to inspire and lead us into the new millennium.
Maria Luisa’s parents were deeply religious and wealthy landowners. As was the custom of the time and place, her parents arranged for her to marry. A fortunate choice, the groom was a prestigious physician, Dr. Pascual Rojas, a good man with the Soul of an artist. The childless couple shared their life of love and action, taking the poor to themselves as their chiIdren, helping, them economically and morally. Together they built a little hospital where “Luisita’ worked alongside her husband in ministering to the poor and sick. After fourteen years of their marriage God called the doctor home to Himself. In 1914 Luisita entered the Carmel of Guadalajara. She was called by the Archbishop to work in the little hospital that she and her husband had established and when she was able, she retreated to the life of the convent. In the hospital, young women were inspired to join her in her religious file of prayer and action, living the Rule of Carmel.
During the anticlerical Mexican Revolution, a bounty was placed on her life because she was the wealthy widow of Dr. Rojas. and was part of the wealthy and prestigious de la Pena Family. She and two of her religious sisters fled to Los Angeles in 1927 when she was sixty-one. They served there two years in poverty, prayer, teaching and work. Because they could not afford a little chapel for their convent, with this intention in mind, they offered up a novena in honor of St. Therese. Before they completed the novena a benefactor left them enough to build a little chapel. After returning to Mexico, she lived in hiding; and extreme poverty, continuing, along with her religious sisters. their Iives of work and prayer until the Angelus bells rang at her death in 1937 as they had done at her birth.
In 1983 Pope John Paul II declared the order she had founded, the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, to be an autonomous religious congregation. Together with the Carmelite Sisters of Mexico they share the richness of her legacy. Today the holy life of Mother Maria Luisa Josefa continues to reflect the beauty and uniqueness of yet another flower on Carmel’s flourishing vine.