Micaela Desmaisières Lopez de Dicastillo y Olmedo, Viscountess of Jorbalán, was born in Madrid on New Year’s day, 1809 during the War of Independence. Three days later she was baptized in the church of Saint Joseph in Madrid’s Alcala Street.
The War of Independence forced her mother to leave the Court in Madrid and to flee with her husband and family to France, where Micaela’s father and brother Luís died unexpectedly. Under the guidance of the Ursuline sisters of Pau, Micaela received an education consistent with her aristocratic status. Micaela’s sister Engracia suffered severe mental illness, and her sister Manuela was forced to go into exile because of her husband’s political views.
Micaela was engaged to marry a young nobleman, but the wedding was abruptly cancelled the night before over slanderous rumors emanating from Madrid about Micaela’s family. Micaela was profoundly humiliated. Struggling to pursue her spiritual and religious aspirations, while meeting the demands of her social position, Micaela sought the guidance of Fr.Carasa, a Jesuit. Rising early in the morning to pray, receive the Eucharist and to do works of charity, inthe evening she frequented the theatre, lectures and balls.
Micaela’s life in Paris and Brussels was a life of outstanding care for the poor. No matter the need, the Viscountess was anxious to provide assistance. The defining moment in Micaela’s life occurred after she returned to Madrid and was invited to visit the hospital of St. John of God, where she met prostitutes afflicted with venereal diseases. Micaela had known nothing of the existence of such women, let alone the scorn and abuse to which they were subjected. Profoundly affected by the experience, Micaela set about to establish a shelter for such women. Unfortunately, she met with misunderstanding and rejection at every turn, even from close friends. What was a woman related to the wealthiest and most famous families in Spain thinking? Imagine dedicating herself to caring for prostitutes.
In 1845, Micaela and several companions opened a school to train battered women for gainful employment. In 1850, she moved out of her elegant home and took up lodging in a miserable hovel with women she helped recover their dignity as persons and daughters of God. Once again, Micaela endured severe economic difficulties and slander from every side. Her only comfort lay in the Eucharist, and in 1856, with the help of St. Anthony Mary Claret, she founded the Slaves Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament and of Charity. Micaela became Mother Sacramento. On January 6, 1859, feast of the Epiphany, she and seven companions professed simple vows, and on June 15, 1860, she made her perpetual profession. The growth of the Institute would be slows.
Archbishop Claret who was Mother Sacramento’s confessor, helped her and the fledgling Institute both spiritually and materially. He played an important role in framing the Institute’s Constitutions and obtaining their approval. Both saints suffered unspeakable slander in the press.
Micaela’s heroic life of charity would have been impossible had she not been blessed with an exceptionally strong character. She was dogged by slander and suffered attempts on her life. Sometimes, she slept fully dressed, fearing that at any moment the house might be raided. More than once, Micaela stood alone and helpless in a public house to hide or protect a woman in fear of being held against her will.
Micaela ended up lonely, sad and despised by her friends. Writing to her fellow religious, she said: “Difficult to find another Founder of community that has been accused, maligned and scolded like me. My actions have been judged in the worst way possible.” But I could also say like Saint Paul: “Little interest me in what people are saying about me. My judge is God.”
In 1865, Spain was hit by a cholera epidemic. Micaelawent toValenciatohelp and comfort people. In spite of uselesspleasand warningsofdanger, Micaela surrendered to her fate and died on August 24, 1865, a martyr to charity, realizing what the Eucharist had meant to her: communion with Christgiving his life forthe brothers, members of his Body, especially the neediest: the poor, thesick, the weak. At her death, Mother Sacramento’s institute numbered seven houses.
In 1922, Pope Pius XI, proclaimed Mother Sacramento’s heroic virtues. On July 25, 1925, he beatified her, and on March 4, 1934, he canonized her. St. Anthony Mary Claret would be named a patron of the institute she founded.
- BARRIOS MONEO, A., Women daring, Madrid 1968.
- DA CASTELLAMARE, A., Vita Eucharist di Santa Maria Micaela of the Blessed Sacrament, Rome 1933.
- ESPEJA, J., Eucharistic spirituality of M. Sacrament, Madrid 1967.
- LOZANO, J. M., The Sisters of Adoration, Slaves of the Blessed Sacrament and of charity. Constitutions and spirit, Madrid 1968.
- MARIA MICAELA DEL SANTISIMO SACRAMENTO, Autobiography, Madrid 1993.