Vocation delayed by marriage
Husband and wife both had a call to religious life
By Tony Staley
Vedruna de Mas
When: April 16, 1783-Aug. 28, 1854
What: Mother, founder of the Carmelite Sisters of Charity
Feast: May 19
Patron: Abuse victims, death of children, exiles, widows
It's not unusual for married couples to share a common vision. It becomes unusual when what they both want is to be vowed members of a religious community.
That was the case with St. Joaquina Vedruna de Mas (also known as: Joachina or Joachima de Vedruna) and her husband, Theodore de Mas. Both had been forced by their parents to marry. As a couple, they had nine children, attended daily Mass and ended each day by saying the rosary.
Joaquina was born into a noble family in Barcelona, Spain. As a child, she was devoted to God. Once, she told her mother how pins for lace reminded her of the crown of thorns, that thread made her think of the ropes that bound Jesus for scourging and that her faults were like weeds she tried to uproot from the garden. At 12, she asked to be admitted to the Carmelites. They refused because she was too young.
Four years later, she and Theodore, an attorney, married. Their life was upset in 1807 when Napoleon invaded Spain. She and the children fled and Theodore volunteered for the Spanish Army. After French rule collapsed in 1813, Theodore resigned his commission and rejoined his family.
Their reunion was short. Theodore died in 1816, and Joaquina had to battle her in-laws, who didn't approve of her, for custody of their six surviving children. Eventually, they moved to Manso Eseorial, a house at Vich on land Theodore left her, about 40 miles north of Barcelona.
Joaquina became a Third Order Franciscan, wore a brown sack dress and ministered to the sick in the hospital. After two of the children married and the other four entered religious life, Joaquina decided she, too, wanted to enter a convent.
Since 1820, she had been seeking advice from Capuchin Fr. Stephen Fabregas. He encouraged her vocation, but urged her to start a new order combining the contemplative elements of the Carmelites with an active life dedicated to teaching children and caring for the sick.
Joaquina professed vows as a Carmelite Sister of Charity on Jan. 6, 1826, to Bishop Paul of Jesus Corcuera, who had approved the new congregation. By Feb. 26, she and a small group of women began living in community at Manso Eseorial.
The order spread through the Catalonia region of Spain until Joaquina was arrested, dragged through the streets, briefly imprisoned, then exiled to France during civil wars in the 1830s. She was able to return to Spain in 1843 and the community flourished. In 1844, she and her nuns made final vows to St. Anthony Claret, the founder of the Claretians.
Joaquina's health began declining in 1849 and, for her last few years, she suffered from a paralysis that gradually led to her death.
Throughout her life, Joaquina was known for contemplating the mystery of the Trinity and for prayer, mortification, humility and love.
Sources: Dictionary of Saints, http://carmelnet.org, Treasury of Women Saints, www.americancatholic.org, www.carmelite.com, www.oksister.com.
(Staley is a retired editor of The Compass.)