The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century – Venerable Maria Michaela Florez y Lopez de Dicastillo Olmeda

Saint Micaela Desmaisières López de Dicastillo; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsA lady of high aristocracy was the Venerable Maria Michaela Florez y Lopez de Dicastillo Olmeda, descended from a distinguished noble family of Spain. She was born at Madrid on 1 January 1809. Her noble sentiments toward God and mankind befitted her lofty birth. Even as a child she manifested a great love for the poor, and whenever she could she favored them with her gifts. After the early death of her parents she divided a large portion of her inheritance among the poor. She established a Society for the support of poor and needy religious women. Nor did she consider it beneath her dignity to stand unknown at the doors of churches begging alms for her clients. The amusements of the world had no attraction for her. As often as possible, even in her earlier years, she withdrew from entertainments given by her family and by the circles in which they moved. Yet she was often obliged to appear in splendid attire at the functions of the court and at the theater as etiquette demanded. In preparation for this she used to scourge herself, wore a penitential girdle, and took every care against suffering any loss to her soul. Many proposals of marriage were made to her, but she steadfastly rejected all, having long before consecrated her virginity to God. For five years Michaela lived at Paris in company with her brother, who was Spanish ambassador at the court of Louis Philippe. Here, too, her virtue won universal esteem and the king himself was full of admiration for her. She effected a reconciliation between her brother and his wife and brought two Protestant families into the Church. She received Holy Communion every day. Though a lady of the court she did not disdain to search out the poor in their hovels and to console them with exhortations and with alms. The court of Brussels also, where her brother lived for a time as ambassador, was a witness of her virtues. Her zeal in the practice of active works of charity was not enough for her and she spent entire nights in the chapel before the tabernacle and promoted as much as possible the association for the perpetual adoration of the Holy Eucharist.

After her return to Madrid, Michaela founded a Sunday-school for servant girls and a house for fallen women and those exposed to danger. The latter work she confided to the superintendence of secular ladies, but they did not persevere. She then engaged French nuns, but with these too she was unsuccessful. There came disagreements and the nuns went so far as to forbid Michaela to enter the house. The matter was referred to the Papal Nuncio, who decided in favor of Michaela. The nuns were obliged to submit, but now they worked against the servant of God, insinuated that she was insane, endeavored to set the court against her, and even sought to prejudice the inmates of the house against her. Things came to such a pass that the pastor was on the point of withdrawing the Blessed Sacrament from the convent. But these difficulties only increased the courage of Michaela. She had often thought of entering a Religious Order and now she formed the plan of founding a Congregation herself. Thus there came into being the Congregation of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament and of Charity. Her plans met with great encouragement at court, especially from the queen’s confessor. Venerable Anthony Claret.* Within a few years the Congregation had ten houses. The foundress, now known as Maria of the Blessed Sacrament, had prepared for a journey to Rome to obtain Papal approbation of her institute, but news came that the plague had broken out in Valencia. She at once hastened to attend the plague-stricken. She was seized with the plague and died a victim of charity on 24 August 1865. Her life proves that the Church even in our days has the power to make saints of the nobility of the world. Michaela is justly compared to the great Spanish saints of the sixteenth century.

– this text is taken from The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century: Saintly Men and Women of Our Own Times, by Father Constantine Kempf, SJ; translated from the German by Father Francis Breymann, SJ; Impimatur by + Cardinal John Farley, Archbishop of New York, 25 September 1916