Most Catholic mystics beatified or canonized have been nuns. But Mrs. Anna Maria Gianetti Taigi reached the heights of prayer while keeping house for her large family.
Anna Maria’s father was a pharmacist in Siena, Italy – a good man, but a spendthrift. When his family became impoverished, he moved to Rome. Anna went to work at the age of 13, first in a factory, then as a housemaid in the palace of a noble but rather shady lady. In these worldly surroundings, she developed a taste for fancy clothing and various forms of amusement. In 1790 she married Dominic Taigi. He was a servant of the princely Chigi family, and a man much older than she.
After the birth of her first child, Anna began to take a more Christian viewpoint on life. Father Angelo, a Servite priest, became her confessor and spiritual director. He led her, slowly but surely, up the ladder of holiness. Now she forsook her entertainments, restricted herself to plain clothing, and adopted a program of self-denial in the spirit of the Cross.
As time went on, Anna Maria’s task as a housewife became increasingly demanding.
The Taigi household was a hectic one. She carefully raised her own three boys and four girls in a house that was already overcrowded. Her mother, a giddy person, lived with her, and Anna Maria nursed her patiently through a repulsive malady. Her son Camillus also lived at home for awhile after his marriage, and his wife tried to take over the household. Signor Taigi, worthy but rather self-centered, liked to be waited on. With superb diplomacy, Anna Maria succeeded in keeping everybody reasonably at peace. One of her methods of unification was family prayer and spiritual reading. At the same time, she was constantly increasing her outside assistance to people poorer than herself.
Signora Taigi had a series of remarkable visions, in which she was permitted to understand God’s plans and His griefs. She now began to offer her prayers and acts of self-denial especially for the sins of others. Future events were manifested to her, and she became so noted for her wisdom that all sorts of people asked her advice and prayers. Pope Leo XII and Pope Gregory XVI frequently consulted with her, as did priests and prelates, noblemen and noblewomen (including Napoleon’s mother Letizia, and his uncle, Cardinal Joseph Fesch).
But even then, Anna did not allow her spiritual duties to interfere with her family obligations. After her death, at the inquiry for her beatification, her husband testified, “It often happened that on my return home I found the house full of people. At once she would leave anyone who was there – a great lady, maybe, or a prelate – and would hasten to wait on me affectionately and attentively. One could see that she did it with all her heart.”
In her earlier married years, Anna Maria had many spiritual consolations. In later life, she experienced illness, calumny, severe temptations, and desolation of mind. But she accepted these trials as one more means of saving the souls of sinners.
At the turning point of Anna’s life, the Blessed Virgin had told her that it would be her special vocation to demonstrate how one could become a saint in any walk of life.
Her biography shows us how she lived up to that calling. It reminds us that when Jesus told His followers, “You must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” He was speaking not only to cloistered monks and nuns, but to butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, and busy housewives.
–Father Robert F. McNamara