Earlier this week, the Discalced Carmelite Order celebrated an important anniversary in the life and legacy of one of its lesser-known saints. Venerable Ann of Jesus entered eternal life exactly 400 years ago this past Thursday on March 4, 1621. While Ven. Ann is not among the most celebrated of the Discalced Carmelite saints, she was an important collaborator of St. Teresa and among her most devoted daughters entrusted with the care of the foundress’s fledgling Order. Therefore, along with St. Teresa herself, Ann of Jesus is indeed one of the great foundational pillars of the Discalced Carmelite Order.
Born Ana de Lobera in 1545, she belonged to an upper-middle-class family. Known from an early age for her virtue and beauty, she earned the nickname “queen of women” by her suitors and was considered an excellent match for marriage. However, through Ann’s Jesuit confessor, who was acquainted with St. Teresa, she learned of the Discalced Carmelite nuns and realized that her vocation lay in Carmel. She entered the Discalced Carmelites in Ávila in 1570 and was quickly chosen by Teresa to be her companion and co-worker in the difficult task of making new foundations. In fact, Teresa had Ann share her living accommodations on several occasions, as Teresa valued her spirit and judgment. In 1574, Teresa named Ann of Jesus as prioress of her new foundation in Beas. It was here, in 1579, that Ann would meet St. John of the Cross, who became her great friend and confidant (it was for Ann of Jesus that John of the Cross dedicated the commentary to his poem, The Spiritual Canticle).
After Teresa’s death, Ann of Jesus met with various trials all related to her defense of Teresa’s legacy and spirit in the Order. As prioress in Madrid, Ann of Jesus succeeded in obtaining papal protection for St. Teresa’s Constitutions—the legislative text of the Discalced Carmelite nuns—which were in danger of being modified by certain Discalced Carmelite friars who had a different vision. She suffered for her intervention but preserved the spirit of Teresa in the Order for prosperity. Later, she brought the Discalced Carmelite nuns (along with Bl. Ann of St. Bartholomew) to France and Belgium. In France, she suffered a similar trial in that she resisted strong pressure from the French clergy to modify the nuns’ way of life. Again, she was resilient and showed herself a true daughter of St. Teresa. In spite of the tremendous successes of Ann of Jesus, she was most known by her contemporaries for her love of God and His saints, her exemplary life as a religious, and her patience in suffering. Like Teresa, she was a true mother to the nuns entrusted to her care while fearlessly seeking the glory of God in all that she did. On March 4, 1621, she died in Brussels, Belgium, where she had served as prioress up until her death.
A few centuries later, Venerable Ann of Jesus intervened in the life of another Carmelite nun—St. Thérèse of Lisieux. It was Ann of Jesus who appeared to Thérèse in a dream to communicate Jesus’s love and pleasure with the young French Carmelite nun and future Doctor of the Church. On November 28, 2019, Pope Francis declared Ann of Jesus venerable, an important step on the path towards canonization. Venerable Ann of Jesus, pray for us!
For more on Ven. Ann of Jesus and the other collaborators of St. Teresa of Ávila, see The Heirs of St. Teresa of Ávila: Defenders and Disseminators of the Founding Mother’s Legacy by ICS Publications.