Today we celebrate the feast day of Maria Antonia Bandrés, her true birth to life. From her we can learn, her unconditional dedication to Jesus, her total gift, her faithfulness in the small and the ordinary things of life: “In doing it, do it totally” is like a war against mediocrity.
Together with our Foundress, from whom we all receive the spirit of the Daughters of Jesus that unites us today, we place her as an intercessor with Jesus and as an example in the radicality of discipleship.
From the spiritual notes of Blessed Maria Antonia Bandrés: “Into your hands I abandon myself, my Jesus, unconditionally. Receive me through Mary, your mercy, because I want to be yours entirely, solely and always. You are my beginning, end and everything and I want to go toward that heaven that you are preparing for me through the perfect observance of the holy rules and customs of the Daughters of Jesus, spreading zeal for souls with example, word and prayer.
My desires to sanctify myself are great, but the spirit of sacrifice and love for the cross, very little. Give me, my Jesus, the detached heart of the saints, with a sincere indifference toward everything that obedience may command me and, whatever it may cost, may I fulfill it without excuse, thinking of your will.”
We share her life
She was born in Tolosa (Spain) on March 6, 1898. She was the second of 15 siblings. Antoñita felt an affectionate love towards her parents and brothers and sisters; which is why the separation in order to enter the novitiate cost her very greatly. She was heard to say: “I have left them for God alone.”
In that home Christian faith and charity was lived. Her mother, Teresa, was an exemplary and holy woman, who knew how to help her children to grow in everything, but especially in love for God, Mary and the poor and needy.
Her health was a little delicate. Her parents took special care with her. Her frailty and the excessive care of her family helped to accentuate in the girl a sensitive character to the point of fussiness, which in the first years came to worry her mother: “What a fastidious girl! How much you will suffer with that character!” And she suffered, yes, but without the smile – though sometimes tinged with melancholy- disappearing from her lips.
She studied at the “Colegio de San José” (Tolosa), founded by Mother Candida, and there she herself met the charming Antoñita, still almost a child. Captivated by her deep and transparent gaze, Mother Candida prophesied: “You will be a Daughter of Jesus.” No doubt these words were recorded with a longing for a faithful response in her heart, which already wanted to belong to Jesus alone.
The love for the Virgin, which had germinated in the arms of her mother, flourished splendidly in the school, since it is marked by the invocation of Our Lady of Fair Love. And Maria Antonia Bandrés was a member of the Sodality of Our Lady through merits of diligence and conduct.
Her love for the poor and needy
As a child she shared her savings and everything she had with them, but she always knew how to do the works of mercy with simplicity and naturalness so that nobody would feel hurt.
For Antoñita to follow Jesus Christ and to be close to the poor were one and the same thing. She had learned it from her parents who taught her that love for others was a must.
At first she visited them with her mother, later –at 14 or 15 years- she went to meet them with just the simplicity and humility that characterized her. At times, when the place or the person visited might present some risk, she was accompanied by Francisca, an employee of the house, an accomplice in the charity and the silence with which Maria Antonia acted in these difficult situations: that little old woman from the shack, who responded to her tenderness with shouts and ill-humor; the threatening husband, who calmed down only when “the young lady” waited for him in his own house to keep the children from being terrified; the workers of the union, for whom she was “different from the others, although all were good”; places, persons in whom the passage of Maria Antonia left a mark.
The call to be a Daughter of Jesus found her heart ready. The decision was made. The realization would cost a lot, but it had to come to a safe end: “You have to reach the summit”. And Maria Antonia began that ascent, which never suffered setbacks. The stones of the path wounded her feet without her ever stopping to bandage her wounds. It was natural to suffer for Jesus, “who suffered so much for us.” To have something to offer him was a satisfaction of her desires to give herself entirely, because “in doing it, do it totally”.
Total surrender for the good of …
Moved by an impulse of the Holy Spirit, she offered her life to God for someone who had been her baptismal godfather, her dear Uncle Anton. He showed her his disagreement when she left for the Novitiate, because he held a more agnostic position, but later he understood the merciful gesture of his goddaughter, and behind it he discovered the mercy of the Father, who welcomed him into His arms in a day of grace and forgiveness, under the maternal gaze of the Virgin of Aranzazu.
In her last moments, the graces of true peace and consolation were reserved for her: “Is this to die? How sweet it is to die in religious life! I feel that the Virgin is by my side, that Jesus loves me and I love him … “