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Under a blazing sun

· Elena Buia Rutt recounts, the saint of the month, Anna Maria Taigi ·

In the first verses of Mystic, a poem written in 1963, Sylvia Plath describes her existential condition as a kind of anguished paralysis: "The air is a mill of hooks / unanswered questions". The American poet, exhausted by the failure of her marriage to British poet Ted Hughes, will take her own life a few days later, putting her head in a gas oven, not without having first put breakfast trays near the beds of her two children. Even so, in this poem, the central verses speak to us of a decisive spiritual experience, that of contact with God: "When you have seen God, what is the remedy?”.

Sylvia Plath experienced the ecstasy of the mystic impulse, but finds herself unable to normalize the experience, by reintegrating it into her everyday life. She fails to give positive meaning to her“vision", nor is she able to draw consolation and purpose from it. In the final lines, however, she takes a step forward and understands how "the meaning drips from the molecules" that is it emerges from the opaque substance, precarious but authentic, and not from an abstract ideal movement.

A woman who lived in Rome about two and a half centuries ago, a former domestic of the Chigi family, Anna Maria Taigi, had seven children (three of whom died in infancy), and since she was continually taken up by mystical ecstasies during her housework, she had no misgivings about going directly to the Lord, asking him politely to leave her alone, given that she was the "mother of the family and had other things to do". Unlike Sylvia Plath, Anna Maria Taigi lived the experience of the encounter with God, above all in her hard, poor and laborious daily life, performing her full duties as a mother, struggling to put together lunch and dinner, supporting with patience the irascible character of her husband, doing everything she could for the poor and sick, praying and doing penance for all those who needed it, whether they were Popes or commoners. In addition to her seven children, Anna Maria dedicated herself to her six grandchildren, children of her widowed daughter Sofia, not to mention the very intense care in respect of her old parents, especially to her father, who suffered from leprosy.

Yet she was a young woman who, for her beauty and poise, could have led a life devoted to leisure and worldliness; but she had chosen the narrow path of following Christ, which is why she asked to be admitted tothe Third Order of the Discalced Trinitarians.

The meaning that Plath glimpsed with difficulty and intellectualised (but which did not stop her from taking her own life), Taigi lived directly in a faith rooted in the "prosaic and unfinished” everyday world. A meaning based on a dispassionate, extreme, inspired service: a meaning powered by a boundless charity. She was beatified in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV, because she was "an exemplary wife, a caring mother and a witness of the love of the Holy Trinity". Yet Anna Maria for forty-seven years (from 1790 to her death) saw shining, at a distance of about one metre and twenty centimetres above her head, a blazing sun, surrounded horizontally by a crown of thorns from which two long spines descended, that intersected with the spikes that curved downward. In the centre of the sphere there was a seated woman, with her eyes raised toward the sky.

In this "mystical sun" Anna Maria spoke with God, she saw past, present and future events, she read the secrets of hearts. She also knew with absolute certainty the fate of the deceased, as well as the duration and cause of their reparative punishment in purgatory: a humble woman of the people who was so aware of the fate of souls and of the most important secrets of Heads of State, Generals, Popes. She prophesied many historical events which later took place as she had announced: among them, the defeat of Napoleon’s army in Russia, the conquest of Algeria by France, the liberation of the slaves in the Americas, the onset, duration, theological approach and political vicissitudes of the pontificate of Giovanni Mastai Ferretti, who was not yet a cardinal when Anna Maria died in 1837. As for Napoleon, she knew not only the various events of his life, but she also prophesied his death at St. Helena, describing his funeral, as if she were present. Taigi also had several talks with Pope Pius VII: she fought with warnings, encouragements, prayers, fasting, penances in defense of the indissoluble link between the papacy and the Roman See, seriously challenged by the Napoleonic storm in progress. A poor woman of the people, inspired from above, offered herself as a victim of divine justice: in this lies her particular holiness, made up of a practical life (Anna Maria did not know how to write), humility, willpower and love for Christ crucified.

Anna Maria Taigi died on June 9, 1837, aged sixty-eight. Her body, perfectly intact, rests in a chapel in the church of San Crisogono in Trastevere.

Born in 1971, graduated in literature and then in philosophy, Elena Buia Rutt has worked on Radio Rai 3 and Rai educational. Among her publications, Ti stringo la mano mentre dormi (2012),Flannery O’Connor: il mistero e la scrittura (2010), Verso casa: viaggio nella narrativa di Pier Vittorio Tondelli ( 200o ), she has written the story of St. Therese of Lisieux for us(October 2013).




St. Peter’s Square

Feb. 24, 2020