I was a bit skeptical when learning about a girl who is just 10 years old and on the way to canonization, but then I remembered about others who were canonized Saints at young ages. For example, there are siblings Jacinta and Francisco Marto who saw the vision of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. Both are canonized Saints who died at the ages of 10 and 11, respectively. Then there is Saint Maria Goretti who was violently martyred at age 11 after resisting and then forgiving her attacker and murderer.
I recently just learned of another young Saint-on-the-way in Elizabeth Kelly’s book, Love Like a Saint: Cultivating Virtue with Holy Women. Her name is Anne de Guigne and she was declared venerable on March 3, 1990 by Pope Saint John Paul II.
“The Little Tyrant”
Anne was born to a wealthy family on April 25th, 1911 in their beautiful home in Savoy, France which overlooked the pristine Lake of Annency. Her family wintered in Cannes on the French Riviera. Her parents were not only well educated, but also well-learned in the Faith.
The firstborn of four children, she was not thrilled with the addition of her first sibling. While on her way to sainthood now, she didn’t always exemplify holiness. As a toddler she was known to be bossy (as the oldest child can tend to be) and mischievous, even attempting to rub sand into her little brother’s eyes. In addition to her nickname of "Nenette," she also was sometimes called “the little tyrant.”
The Little Nurse
A pivotal point in Anne’s life and demeanor came during World War I. While Anne’s father had retired from military service when he was married, he joined again at the start of the war. After suffering many injuries, he had to return home to convalesce. Four-year-old Anne would then act as his little nurse, caring for him in whatever way she could find. Each time her father recovered, he always returned to the service. He was killed in battle after his fourth return back to the war. In Love Like A Saint, Liz Kelly includes a quotation by Anne’s biographer who wrote:
She set to work first of all to comfort her mother in every way she could. All day long she tried to be thoughtful and to remember the things she had been told to do-and tried to make the others remember too… If she herself had started on the way of perfection, she meant to carry them all along with her.
Sanctity Through Obedience
Just weeks after her father’s death, Anne’s prayer life grew deeply and noticeably. She had a deep awareness of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist and loved talking with him while visiting the Blessed Sacrament. She gained such a thorough knowledge of catechesis that her formators recommended that she receive her First Communion at age six. The local bishop gave his approval, but only after having seen her pass a lengthy interview full of questions regarding the Faith and testing her preparedness.
After gaining his consent, she prepared even further during her communion retreat where the motto was, “Obedience is the sanctity of children.” Little Anne took this motto to heart. After her communion day she wrote:
My Jesus, I love You, and to please You, I resolve to obey You always.
Her life’s goal was to be obedient in everything, just as Jesus was obedient to His Father. She wanted to prevent anything that would wound the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Loving Through Sacrifice
She practiced virtue by being quick to forgive her siblings when they made mistakes, finishing her siblings prayers when they fell asleep, and encouraging them to make their own sacrifices to Jesus. In her words:
We have many joys on earth, but they don’t last; the one that lasts is to have made a sacrifice.
When Anne was eight years old she began suffering from a weak spine and constant headaches. Her pain was so great that she was unable to focus on schoolwork. Two years later she was diagnosed with meningitis, an infection of the fluid which surrounds both the brain and spinal cord, often causing swelling. The pain could be so intense that it sometimes disfigured her face. During the final weeks of her life, her lungs became so deteriorated that she struggled to breathe, yet Anne considered each additional suffering as an opportunity to offer it up for the souls who needed her prayers the most. She said:
We ourselves have to love the Lord even more, for those who do not love Him.
She trusted Jesus had a plan for her suffering.
A Young Saint for Those Who are Stubborn
She passed away on January 14, 1922 at just ten years old. Shortly after she died, her little brother ran around the house and started creating relics by touching religious objects to her hands.
For me, stubbornness is not easy to overcome. This is why I find Anne to be a very fitting intercessor. If a young child has the grace and open heart to put others before herself, then surely I, an adult, should be quick to do the same and adhere to the Scripture:
Be doers of the word and not only hearers. // James 1:22
How does Venerable Anne prompt you to be a doer?
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