Maria Amada, consecrated woman, authentic and faithful.
Written by: Sister Emma Hernández Olmedo, MSCGpe (Translation: Brother Joan Delacreu, SM)
Maria Amada Sánchez Muñoz, was born in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco, on September 7, 1895. She is the eldest of five children. Her parents were Catarino Sánchez and Matiana Muñoz. She was baptized in the Parish of Jesus with the name of María Regina Sánchez Muñoz on September 12th of the same year. She was Confirmed at the Sagrario Metropolitano on October 12, 1896. She studied in Guadalajara and, because of her desire to become a religious she attended the Catholic Normal for young ladies. At age 17 she joined the order of the Incarnate Word and of the Blessed Sacrament, in Mascota, Jalisco.
In the difficult times of the persecution of the Church in Mexico, the Lord asks her to found an Institute devoted to honor His Heart. She first consulted with her spiritual director. Afer praying for discernment she initiates in 1926 the new work: The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and of Our Lady of Guadalupe; but it is not until 1930 that she leaves the Order of the Incarnate Word to devote herself to what the Heart of Jesus had asked of her. She did it with much effort and suffering caused by misunderstandings, by the Sisters of the community and by the prelate in authority.
God, in his infinite mercy, guides her and shows her the necessary means so that she can carry out the inspired work. Later on, the Heart of Jesus asks her to start the male branch together with Rev. Fr. Teodosio Martínez Ramos. To this end, she gathers a group of 12 youngsters and on June 3, 1938 takes place the Foundation of the work of The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
This woman was throughout her life a person faithfully surrendered to the will of God. Sustained only by Him, she managed to overcome the difficulties that arose from her mission. She complied at all times with the designs of the Lord, which she discovered through prayer and human mediations. God tested her and polished her as refined silver to make her similar to Him according to his Sacred Heart.
Here are some aspects that stood out in her:
1. Sincere and radical self-giving.
The title Jesus gave to Nathaniel when he said: "Here is a true Israelite in whom there is no guile" (Jn. 1, 47), can be applied well to Sister Maria Amada Sánchez of the Child Jesus. When one contemplates, reads and reflects on her personal writings we can see this common theme in them. María Amada was not an Israelite woman, but a strong woman of Jalisco to whom we can apply the words of Sacred Scripture quoted by Jesus: "They did not find deceit in her mouth" (Is 53: 9).
Since her entrance into the religious life, the above mentioned qualities were obvious in her total and sincere dedication to God's plan. Her total giving of self was tested in suffering, which she embraced with love from the moment she heard - being a novice – the following words in a speech about Saint José María Robles: "a victim does not belong to herself". She goes on to write her own reflexion: "at these words, my whole being trembled. In that instant I saw in the divine light that His Majesty (God) would ask, better yet, He would impose on me the sacrifice that I much feared".
“The Sacred Heart of Jesus, upon taking as his own the poor heart of her little one, he wanted it as His own and to dwell in it. He wanted it pure, humble, small, real small, and charitable. It seems that with fire it was engraved in my heart: to never judge or condemn anyone, or my own Sisters, according to my evil heart, but instead judge everyone according to the Heart of my Sovereign Teacher. I should judge in his peaceful tribunal of infinite goodness and mercy”.
The purpose of her life was taking a clear direction. In the act of total self-giving Maria Amada decides to refuse nothing to Our Lord, and to be faithful in all little things. Thus, she puts into practice what Holy Scripture says: “Whoever is faithful in little things will also be faithful in great things” (Mt 25, 21). In this way she continues to offer her small actions like grains of incense, which become rising smoke to join the fire of love of the Heart of Jesus.
2. Centered in the Heart of Jesus.
For those who love, nothing is burdensome, painful or bothersome. They endure any suffering out of love for the loved one. María Amada had decided to give herself entirely to her Lord, knowing beforehand that following his example she would endure reproach and disdain. She fixed her gaze on the author and fulfillment of our faith, endured the cross because she knew that after suffering she would have joy and gladness. And as St. Paul says: “We know that by turning everything to their good, God cooperates with all those who love him, with all those he has called according to his purpose. They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son” (Rm. 8, 28-29).
Sister María Amada, in her eagerness to belong completely to the Lord and not knowing how to do it, tells Jesus: “I came to love you my Jesus, but I do not know how”. With this offering, Jesus himself becomes her guide, teacher and companion. He will sweeten her bitter pains and her distasteful situations. That is why, even in moments of suffering, filled with a burning love for Jesus, she is able to express: “This fire keeps me oftentimes having a foretaste of heaven. There are moments in which, to my surprise, I miss suffering, although I do not ask for it nor I desire it. Nothing worries me. I ask for nothing and I need nothing. It is like a foretaste of heaven”.
When someone decides to give herself completely to the Lord, He manifests himself in many ways; although sometimes he seems to hide and not respond. However, it is then that he is the closest to us and wants us to search for him until we find him. When a soul surrenders completely to Jesus, He writes her name within his Divine Heart and henceforth it will never be erased. From that point on, he will be her only joy, joy and happiness, in a word: her fullness, her all. He will be the one and only Center of her life. She expreses thi in her own words:
"The Loving Heart of my Jesus came to me, and told me, 'You're my spouse and I come to give you the token that you indeed are it, and placed a ring on my finger." "Yes, if only my so small and mean heart, should cling entirely to God, who wanted it free and naked." "This loving husband of mine has been overzealous of this poor little heart. He desires to prevent me from selfishly seeking consolation in created things. He has comforted me and made me happy...In him alone I find peace... Oh blessed and happy abandonment in the infinite God!"
3. In Perpetual Oblation.
The servant of God Maria Amada did not value superfluous things such as honors, awards, titles of nobility that would make her appear to others as the teacher of teachers or the best sister of the community. She did not flaunt her obedience to the will of God based on her mystical experiences to be singled out by people. Rather, she found the will of God expressed in daily events, i.e.: in the human means of obedience, in community life, in prayer, in the faithful fulfillment of her duty, regardless of how insignificant it might seem. And when obedience implied the suffering of being unable to participate with the community activity, then she would experience the help of Jesus: "He would sweeten the sorrow that I felt, seeing me excused from all the community exercises, sometimes even from the Holy Mass." When they were on retreat I came to envy my dear little sisters. I would tell myself: soon they will be holy and advance in holiness, while I, stuck in this hustle, will never become a saint”.
4. From Spiritual Childhood.
Her wish was always to practice self-oblation, self-denial, self-control, to be always the last one, the littlest one, and all in order to please her Jesus. Because, as he writes, Jesus gave her to understand the following: "By becoming a child, by your littleness and simplicity, you will imitate my life and thus you will be well prepared to teach the path of Spiritual Childhood to the souls that I'll entrust to you". And on another occasion expresses: "the true small souls are somehow free of delusions and deceptions from the devil not only in regards to their life path in general but also in the practice of virtue. The devil’s cunning and deceit collapse. The devil fears most of all the absolute abandonment and childlike simplicity of these souls"
With the lights that Sister María Amada received about the Spiritual Childhood, we can understand why she always wanted to be little, to live with Jesus as a child, as he himself said: "Let the children come to me, and do not forbid them, because to them belongs the Kingdom of God" (Lk 18: 16). In this case, being little means recognizing that I am weak, that by myself I can do nothing, that I have a father whom I trust and that I can go to him when I feel afraid, sad, lonely, abandoned, despised, abused, mistreated and ignored. Being little means to rest assured that those loving arms will always hold you even if you return to them empty-handed, as the prodigal son did.
5. Faithful and Devoted Religious.
In the life of Sister Maria Amada we see fulfilled the following Scriptural passage: “I assure you that anyone who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children and properties for my sake and for the Gospel shall receive a hundredfold in this world with homes, brothers and sisters, mothers, children and material possessions, together with persecutions and eternal life” (Mc. 10, 29-30). From her lips flow these words: “I prefer one day in the House of the Lord tan one thousand in the tents of sinners.” (Ps 84, 10).
Sister María Amada had a motto: "Work for a world of love” by living according to the example of Christ, who was poor, chaste and obedient. He always did the will of the Father, to the point of laying down his life on the cross for the salvation of all men. He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life for sinners.
María Amada belonged completely to the Lord. As a Religious Sister she was totally devoted to him in the faithful fulfillment of her duties. Religious Vows were her means of serving Christ in a perfect way and thus attain sanctity, which is the sole purpose of religious life. She cultivated in her own person modesty, sobriety and detachment towards material things to possess a heart free to love and seek spiritual goods
Every good religious aims to be poor, to preserve the virtue of chastity, and to obey her superiors in order to better imitate Jesus Christ. Sister María Amada, by her vow of poverty became detached from everything including her own tastes, selfishness, and self-love in order to find God as her sole riches. She cultivated in her own person modesty, sobriety, and detachment from all material things with the purpose of having a heart free to love and seek spiritual goods.
As a Religious, Sister Maria firmly decided to have no other love than the love of Jesus. She proved to men that there is a greater and more perfect love that awaits us after this life for a perfect fullness of love. This love though can be enjoyed even in this life.
Another characteristic element of religious life in the Church, is the "community life". It is not really a simple way to respond to God's call, because of the differences in culture, education, thinking, types of personality, etc., who make up a community. However, the love that filled María Amada’s heart, made her overcome these human difficulties and correspond to the free gift received from God. She loved with unconditional love the Sisters who shared her community life.
María Amada was "crazy", (in her own word), out of love for God. Her heart would surely burn in every encounter with him just like the disciples of Emmaus while they were listening to the Teacher along the way: "Did not our hearts burn while he talked on the way?" (Lk. 24: 32). This burning kept her in a spirit of joyous hope.
Our hearts will be inflamed with love when we live our lives deep in the experience of the free love of God towards us. When we love Christ with all our strength, in such a way that we allow ourselves to be formed by Him following the example of Mother Mary Amada of the Infant Jesus Sánchez Muñoz, then we will be able to say that we have recognized Jesus in the breaking of the Bread, in each and every Eucharist. Like her we shall able to express new attitudes toward our neighbors, toward the poor and toward those who suffer and weep because of injustice.
Source: Cuenta de Conciencia (escritos autobiográficos de la Sierva de Dios), in: Archivo María Amada Sánchez, Cajas 13 y 14)