Mother Maria Antonia of Jesus
          Founder of the Carmel of Santiago de Compostela

        The Discalced Carmelite Mothers of Santiago de Compostela have set out, with affection of grateful daughters, to make known to the one who has been her saint and never well pondered founder. And only for one purpose: that one day not very distant we can celebrate the feasts of his beatification and later canonization. In fact, they are working with determination and hope in the matter. Mother Maria Antonia of Jesus (Pereira y Andrade), from this side of human seeing and judging, deserves it. She was a strong woman - not precisely in physical health - in concerns, faith, humility and gifts of God, called to marriage, to religious life and to be founder, besides being favored with many privileged mystical graces. She suffered like nobody cultural ignorance. But she tasted divine science, misunderstanding, lack of health. And she also experienced the Pauline fact that everything is possible in Him who gives us strength, which is none other than Jesus of Nazareth, Man for men, who stole the heart of the kind and humble Maria Antonia of Jesus.
       Because the Church is a community of saints, and because throughout its history, their life and their works - their being and doing - have transcended the limits of routine and weariness, the saints are the true builders and the authentic milestones of holiness in the Church. For the Church in Galicia, Mother Maria Antonia was - and is - the first leafy tree of the feminine Carmel planted in Santiago, from where the light, the warmth, the hope of faith, of love and of prayer, that become contemplation, will be radiated.  A feminine Carmel soaked in the spirit, style, experience and doctrine of St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross. And also - how not - of the Mother, Teacher and Guide of so many young women who have gone through Compostela, drinking in abundance of the Christian and Carmelite well that is its Founder.

        Everything is being prepared - and is already underway - for the prompt elevation to the glory of the altars of Mother Maria Antonia of Jesus. The steps that have been taken, and those that are taking place, are safe and promising. One of them is to make known the human, spiritual and Carmelite life of the Founder of the Compostelan Carmel. This brief biographical sketch, made with filial affection, is a good contribution, loving and quiet, towards this dream, along with other contributions already made, and others that are being done and will soon see the light.

      We must thank the Carmel Community of Santiago de Compostela for the commitment, the work and the enthusiasm placed, at all levels, so that Mother Maria Antonia is made known and her cause can be reached as soon as possible.

     If you want to know broadly and accurately who was and what did in his existence this woman, a mother of a family, a Discalced Carmelite nun, a writer, a mystic and founder, who lived in the XVIII century, in your hands you have an easy, comfortable, brief means, that you will be glad to have read it. It is part of the outcome of a constant and hidden work of the Carmelite Community of Discalced Mothers of Santiago de Compostela, who loves dearly to his beloved and well imitated Mother Founder, and who wants to make her known to all which seek in their lives to God and desire to taste the sweetness and the demands of a love that derives from Him and towards Him is heading. This was done by the Lord in the life and work of Mother Maria Antonia of Jesus, glory and model of the Teresian and Sanjuanist  Carmel in lands of Galicia.

                           MAURICIO MARTIN DEL BLANCO, OCD

"... She was born in a secluded place..." Beautiful view of O Penedo, in Galician!
                Maria Antonia Pereira y Andrade, such was her secular name, was born on October 5th, 1700, in Cuntis, small town of the archbishopric of Santiago de Compostela (about 30 kilometers from the city of the Apostle, although belonging to the province of Pontevedra), and was baptized the following day, the 6th of the same month. His birth coincided almost exactly with the dynastic change produced in Spain, which led in Europe  to the so-called "War of Spanish Succession", parallel to which dawns the "Age of Enlightenment, encyclopedism, rationalism...", where great Christian thinkers, however, after the previous rupture of Protestantism, try to detach the European man from God. This fact, this arising of the Mother in this environment that influenced so prominently her life and her work, marks a profound action of God in her life. He gradually takes hold of her, following incomprehensible paths for the ordinary human understanding, until He transforms her wholly according to the plan of His sovereign will.

            Maria Antonia, who was of noble descent, especially from her mother's side, was born in a secluded place, where her parents, small proprietors, live on the wealth of their lands and the lease of them. Already in the early dawn of his reason she received catechism lessons given by her father Manuel Pereira, lessons that the girl assimilated avidly and remembered with esteem until her last years. At the same time, her mother, D. Maria do Campo y Andrade, infused into the little girl devotion to Our Lady, the art of making lace - an inheritance of her grandmother, originally from Flanders - and, apparently also from the same source, a filial devotion to Saint Joseph. This devotion to the holy Patriarch (very remarkable in Maria Antonia from her earliest childhood) makes the little girl invoke him as "her Godfather", that she entrusts all her things to him and that she receives singular favors from his protection.

         Endowed with a lively and awakened intelligence, which made her finely grasp her duty and her environment, her character was gentle, humble and peaceful, as always repeated those who knew her then. With a kindly heart, sensitive to all sorrow and misery of others, she silently opened herself to life: between the paternal severity in educating her, the accusations of her younger brothers, who made her guilty of everything so them to escape from the punishments given by their father, and the gentle affection of her mother, Dona Maria. Since the girl was so quick and skilful in making lace since she was five years old, her parents always had her dedicated to this labor of hands, which would be “her job” for life. Maria Antonia did not come to know girls' games (she was the only daughter and did not leave her house), nor went to school, she did not even learn to read and write. Seeing Dona Maria the strange severity that Manuel Pereira had with her daughter, and in order to avoid it, she sent her to the house of her paternal grandfather in a village near Cuntis, Caldas de Reyes, a town that was already prominent for its thermal waters (as Cuntis), in which an aunt of the little girl was dedicated to educate the daughters of the best families of those contours. And although aunt Maria Pereira could not read or write, she was a soul of God who provided her students a solid Christian formation and taught them domestic and manual labors. She had taken a vow of chastity and lived off her work, renouncing to own another possessions; she had at home her father, elderly already.

            Maria Antonia, who turned seven years old at her aunt's house, went early with her to Mass every day, she meditated -according to her oral teachings- in the passion of the Lord, she took discipline with her, and, also with her, she fasted. Then, in a corner of the house, she devoted herself all day to her labor of making lace. She remained like this in her work many times until well into the night, without compensation, just to please her grandfather, who certainly was not very sympathetic to his granddaughter. For her part, D. Maria generously paid the care of her sister-in-law to care for the little girl.

          Maria Antonia lost her father at the age of nine. By a kind of intuition she left her aunt's house and came home alone, to see him and bid farewell; She had in the way a kind of prophetic vision (which she did not understand at the time) and remained with her mother all year. But the death of Manuel Pereira broke financially the quiet peace at home, and Maria Antonia returned with her aunt until she was fourteen. At this moment, called by her mother, who was with a relative, as a housekeeper of the abbot of the Collegiate of St. Maria de Bayona (in the bishopric of Tuy), she joined her to resume family life. Bayona and its environment greatly influenced the young girl. Bayona is a town that boasts of being the first city in the old world that knew of the discovery of America, by the arrival to its beaches of the caravel "La Pinta", captained by Pinzon back from the discovery, the 1st of March, 1493. Girded with walls and cannons, as a coastal fortress, it was bold in the "War of Succession". Bayona tempered the spirit of Maria Antonia for the struggle in the great enterprises to which God, mercifully, was driving her. Every day, early in the morning, she went to Mass with her mother, received the holy sacraments frequently, attended the sermons and church functions with Dona Maria, and rarely she went out with her. The rest of the day was devoted fully to her work: making lace for the abbot's choir dresses, tablecloths, rochets and surplices... and spinning to make them. Nobody, either, thought then about sending the young girl to school. In the abbot’s house they lived an intense life of charity. The abbot himself promoted the delivery of relief to the needy, towards which Dona Maria and her daughter overflowed their generous charity. Maria Antonia gave not only what the abbot and her mother intended, but what she found available, including her own clothes and food. And, moreover, she did not tolerate in the servitude nor an insignificant word of murmuring, or of disregard of others.

         Her devotion, so remarkable, to the Virgin Mary and to St. Joseph especially, made as if she lived in the shadow and under education of Nazareth; she learned there the science of duty as a humble encounter in faith with the Lord; assiduous and constant work; silence, trustful obedience; the humble acceptance of pain as a gift from God; the silent sacrifice, offered with love; the closeness of God and his fatherly providence..., a science by which her soul (even devoid of a lucid and appropriate spiritual director) knew how to pass the hard clashes of the internal temptation against chastity, constant and persistent, and the external battles of the same (brutal, sometimes), strongly anchored in the faith learned in the catechism and with the hope placed in God, that admirably and by the fatherly intervention of St. Joseph helped her on several occasions. The thought that she was away from God’s grace when tempted, tested her more painfully; nevertheless, her will remained strained so to not to surrender to evil. Because of this ignorance and lack of spiritual direction, on these occasions she often omitted receiving Holy Communion, just when she had the greatest need of it to focus her heart on Jesus and to temper her will. Despite this, her soul remained faithful to Him. Maybe it was this lack of direction that determined, after much commending God, asking for counsel, and making a general confession, that she decided, without a strong determination, embrace the state of marriage, which she contracted in 1722, at age 21, with Juan Antonio Valverde Dominguez, an honest young man from Bayona, whom she preferred because he was good and poor. Singular Motivation!... It shows, however, the love of Maria Antonia for poverty. Their wedding took place (and it was she herself who chose and imposed the date) on March 19th, 1722. As we said, she was not yet 22 years old; the same age as Juan Antonio.

          In her new state she dealt with her duties delicately and decidedly. She meditated long, taking, in accomplishing them, as a model the life of the Blessed Virgin in her home in Nazareth. Juan Antonio, a friend of good fortune and not at all detached, did not understand his wife's love of poverty. Nor he shared it. For this reason, and after the birth of their two children, he requested Maria Antonia to allow him to emigrate: he would work in southern Spain, where there were colonies of emigrants; how much he would earn he would send to her to improve the small household economy. His wife, who saw things more realistically, agreed to it only for the sake of peace. And she found herself alone.


      The Lord was waiting for this moment to go deeper into her life. One night that, in fervent prayer, Maria Antonia begged for strength and courage to meet the new obligations imposed on her by her current situation, the big crucifix before which she prayed in her room came alive, and the Lord said to her: "Follow me!" This divine words totally transformed her. Nothing, nor anyone, was able to stop her in the total and radical following of the Redeemer.

  Giving herself over to prayer, in which she spent her nights, and by a profound and living mortification of herself, she reached graces unsuspected hitherto: the extraordinary phenomena experienced by the greatest mystics of the Church were frequent to her. Since then, the theology of the Cross and the Redemption stand out in her; a lively sense of Church; her Christological and Trinitarian orientation, in sharp contrast with the Jansenist, Pietistic and Humanist currents that then devastated whole areas of the Church. Her piety, theological and warm, while radiating in her the loving light of the living God, was also clarifying and enlightening her, and the hitherto illiterate woman, Maria Antonia, was able to read and write without the help of a teacher.

          Feeling the need for appropriate spiritual direction she began to turn to a priest in Bayona, a newcomer from Rome, who belonged to the secular clergy. At that time, Maria Antonia participated, twice at least, in the pains and feelings of Jesus Christ in His redemptive passion; and the Lord was pleased to pour out on her servant torrents of infinite mercy, while strongly infusing in her soul the charity in its double aspect: love for God above all, and love of neighbor in God and for God, with the strength given by God Himself. Then the Lord revealed to her His designs of love: she would be the founder of a convent; she would give many souls to God. And those souls would plead for her and her desires, giving God all the love that she herself and others did not give to Him.

    With regard to this end revealed then, because of her circumstances was humanly impossible. Seldom is so much asked of faith. Nevertheless, Maria Antonia believed; she hoped against all hope, cooperating in this plan of God with her whole being, until she achieved its fulfillment. In view of this divine plan, and having made before a conditional vow of chastity, by her state, she dressed, with the permission of her confessor and of Jose Antonio, the discovered habit of Tertiary of Carmel. Attracted by her virtue, then, many girls from Bayona began to follow her. This caused in the village a very strong opposition, almost persecution, against Maria Antonia and against her confessor, in which emulation and passions played an important role, with the appearance of goodness.


     The Bishop of Tuy, partially aware of the facts, forbade the girls to meet with the Mother, and removed her confessor's licenses to confess her. This test was suffered by Maria Antonia with much peace, humbly. However, strongly encouraged by God and accompanied by three of those maidens, one night she left Bayona on foot without any provisions, leaving her children with her family. She crossed the kingdom of Portugal from north to south to go and get the foundation. She sought advice about her wishes and projects in Coimbra, at the Theological College of the Discalced Carmelites, and with other religious scholars along the way, and they fully approved them, along with her spirit. On arrival in Sevilla, where her husband Juan Antonio was, after an interview with him on the night of the 18th  to the 19th of March, by her fervent prayer to the Lord he changed his opposition to her projects in such a way that he himself decided to devote to God in the Order of the Discalced Carmelites: thus overcoming, for a higher love, the ties that had united them in holy matrimony. This promise was made publicly on March 25th, 1730, exactly a year after Maria Antonia had made her vow of chastity.

        From Seville she went to Granada, where the King Felipe V was, and he granted the foundation of a convent of Discalced Carmelites in Santiago, although referring the matter to the Royal Council. Maria Antonia travelled on to Madrid to get hold of it, and got several people of the nobility to support the foundation. Advised to go directly to Santiago to obtain the license of its archbishop more easily, since it was a prerequisite to obtain the license of the Council, she went to the city of the Apostle in September of that same year, with intent to found in it a Convent of Carmelites. There, she found the most radical opposition that could be thought, given the weakness of the human instrument chosen by God for this venture; and after a year of hard trials and great Divine Favors, she had to return to Madrid, from where she had left to implement it, without succeeding.

  Finally, she entered as a Discalced Carmelite in the Monastery of Corpus Christi, in Alcala de Henares, the same day her husband did in his Monastery. Both professed the 19th of March, 1734.
  In 1735, with an enviable religious precocity, their two children, still very young, entered the Dominican Order, in which they sanctified themselves. Eventually, five of the young women who had followed Maria Antonia in Bayona embraced the religious life, remaining the rest (about thirteen in total) as living models of secular sainthood. The Mother herself had achieved, while still tied to the bonds of marriage in the world (between October 1728 and 1729, after intense and painful purifications of spirit, illness, and numerous mystical phenomena that prepared and followed them), what the mystics call Spiritual Nuptials and Spiritual Betrothal, summits of an intensely developed spiritual life.

      She corroborates with her living example what the Vatican Council II, centuries later, would tell us on the vocation to holiness of all the faithful, even if they are laymen in the world.

     With her entry in the convent Maria Antonia left in the hands of the Lord her former foundation projects. She had fervently pleaded, before entering, to know about it not by external phenomena that could be seen by others, but to know it within. The Lord mercifully heard her desires; in her Informative Process (started the following year after her death, and fully preserved), shows that none of the Sisters, or very few of them, could perceive the depth of her inner from her external performance. Until her death her Sisters saw her as a normal Nun.

     Upon entry into the Carmel, and entirely devoted to her religious training, she delves into the monastic virtues, the religious vows, the life together in a community, a delicate practice of fraternal love, humble obedience, solitude and silence, along with the collective worship of God, the silent treatment with Him and the practice of the different offices of the monastery. She was in this learning during her novitiate and the four years following it. From 1738 on (when she finishes the first part of her Autobiography, written in obedience to her confessor), the Lord begins to renew in her soul former desires of foundation: desires that became a real martyrdom for the Mother, given her inability as a mere underling to carry them out. The Lord, that stirred them up, at the moment asked for her faith and prayer. "Believe and wait", He told her one day. Meanwhile (hearing her pleas), He was opening the road. In 1741, and amid providential circumstances, she was elected prioress of the community. Then she began to activate the project, that, in the most difficult of times that may have known the history of the Order, and also by means and providential acts, it was making its way until finally, on October 15th, 1748, she arrives to Santiago de Compostela. The first Mass is said the following day, the Blessed Sacrament is placed and the foundation is established. With Mother Maria Antonia of Jesus had arrived six other nuns, whom superiors had chosen from several convents of the province. Mother Maria Antonia was the only one who belonged to a different religious province. Another Mother came as Vicar of the foundation of Santiago; and neither this one nor the other founders knew the long and painful genesis of the foundation, nor had they participated in it, nor did they know the Mother Maria Antonia at all.

      Maria Antonia arrived to this northwest region of Spain, her homeland, in a time also historical for the same, in which, after the struggles that maintained their nobles among themselves, Galicia began to find its identity as a nation. This was the epoch of the architectural configuration and structuring of its cities and towns. The coming of the Carmel in these circumstances was also providential: God chose the moment to give to His Church in Galicia, in its very heart, Compostela, this gift that he Himself had prepared.

    The early days of the foundation were very painful for Mother Maria Antonia: External difficulties, such as poverty, lack of space for the convent, lack of resources and support..., internal difficulties, such as lack of cohesion among the founders, some uncertainty in them... The Mother –that had bred the foundation- suffered from seeing the training given to the novices, the direction of the community disoriented in accidents..., everything! Until the Lord, through the first canonical elections (on August 5th, 1750), gave as He Himself had said to Maria Antonia, "this son to her own mother". Little by little she overcomes difficulties and things are settled. The superiors bring as confessor to Father Jose of Jesus Maria, OCD, truly the Father and educator of the community. He orders to the Mother to finish her Autobiography, and also because of his express and urgent mandate, she writes "The Spiritual Edifice" for her nuns. On August the 19th, 1753, is placed the first stone of the new convent. And on October the 22nd, 1758, being Prioress again the Mother, the community moves to it.

       Once in the new monastery, that the Mother contemplates with delight and profound gratitude to the Lord, who had shown it to her like this in her mystical raptures in Bayona, she repeats over and over without tiring: "How faithful you are, My Lord ... How faithful you are!" She renounces the office of Prioress and waits for death, doing her new office at the turntable, and among exquisite acts of fraternal charity. Her death occurred on March 10th, 1760, almost suddenly, while standing, and in the arms of the Mother Prioress: a symbol, without doubt, of her filial devotion to the Church, in which and for which she had lived a holy life.


         During her life the best theologians of her time in Spain approved her spirit. We can count among them to the two great treatise writers on Mystical Theology of the XVIII: The Father Manuel Ignacio de la Reguera, S.J., by then theologian of Cardinal D. Belluga y Moncada - and even the same Cardinal, who from Rome wrote to the then archbishop of Santiago recommending to the Mother-, and the Father Jose del Espíritu Santo, OCD, author of the Mystical-Scholastic Course of Theology.

       The year following her death, when most of the witnesses who had known her were still alive, were made, by the Order of the Discalced Carmelites, and in other places with the license of the respective bishops, the reports for her process of canonization, covering all the life of the Mother, and in which testified, under oath, members of the Carmelite Order and other people from outside of it. They were concluded the following year (summer of 1762). They include three autograph volumes (about 850 large pages) in which testify more than 130 witnesses who knew the Mother: from all kinds and categories of people; there is a fourth volume (notarized copy of the 3rd) and maybe there were notarized copies of the other two. In addition, in recent years there has been a wide and serious investigation of sources, with a view to the possibility of promoting her Cause, and no discrepancy has been found in the documentation, rather, a total coincidence of data from various sources, even in minimal details.

     This fame of sanctity, shown by all the Canonical Depositions, and which has always remained united to her remembrance in various places, more or less alive, remains constant to this day.
        At the beginning of 1985, the people of God began to send numerous letters to the archbishop asking for the initiation of the Process of Canonization of our Carmelite. Before these petitions, and having consulted the Community, D. Antonio Maria Rouco Varela considers of great value and actuality to present this great model in the different states of life, as apostolic secular, mother and exemplary wife (that took care of her family when her husband lived the experience of emigration), and at last, Discalced Carmelite firmly anchored in the fidelity to her Holy Mother Teresa of Jesus.

        The formal opening session of the Process took place on January 25th, 1993. Three years later, on June 14th, 1996, the Closing Session was held at the Convent Church of the Carmelite Mothers of Santiago. The creation of the Positio super virtutibus of the Servant of God was handed over at the Holy See in 2006, and all the necessary steps are still being taken by the historical consultants, theologians and cardinals, who express their appreciation and approval for the Cause.

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