St Maria Crescentia Höss
Anna Höss was born on 20 October 1682 in Kaufbeuren, in Bavaria, Germany, to Matthias Höss and his wife, Lucia Hoermann, the sixth of their eight children. Only three of these children would survive into adulthood.
Anna wanted to become a nun at the local monastery of the Franciscan Tertiary nuns, in whose chapel she often prayed. As a poor weaver, however, her father did not have enough money to pay the customary dowry expected of a candidate, so she was not admitted.
In 1703, the Mayor of Kaufbeuren – a Protestant – bought a noisy tavern next door to the monastery and donated the building to the nuns, restoring their peace and quiet. He refused compensation but asked simply that Anna be accepted as a candidate. As a result of this intervention, Anna was admitted in June of that year. The superior, however, resented this imposition and referred to Anna as a ‘parasite’, since she was felt not to be contributing to the community. Nevertheless, Anna received the religious habit and took the name Maria Crescentia.
The nuns were not kind to her: she was called a beggar and a hypocrite and treated her as a servant. She was given the most menial tasks to perform. Although Crescentia was at first given a cell of her own, it was later taken from her and given to a new novice who had brought with her the customary dowry. Thereafter she had to beg the other nuns for a corner of their cells in which she might sleep. When she was finally given a place of her own again, it was a dark and damp cubbyhole. Nevertheless, Crescentia was allowed to profess vows and become a full member of the monastic community. She was assigned to serve in the kitchen and did the weaving for the monastery.
In 1707 a new Superior was elected who was more sympathetic to Crescentia, and the nuns came to recognize her holiness and good council, and she was entrusted with the important office of portress. Then, in 1717 she was appointed Mistress of novices. At this stage of her monastic life, Cresentia was a prolific letter writer, who has left many letters to people in various social positions, in which she gave them loving and wise advice in their worries. There was a constant flow of visitors from all walks of life to the monastery to seek her advice.
Though by then she had begun to suffer from poor health, in 1741 she was elected as the monastery’s mother superior, serving in that office until her death.
She led a renewal of the nuns way of life, urging unlimited trust in Divine Providence, readiness to serve in community life, a love of silence, devotion to the Crucified Jesus, to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Mother. She encouraged the nuns to turn to the Gospels to develop their inner spiritual life, and was noted for the selectivity of her choices regarding candidates to the community. She justified this by saying: “God wants the monastery rich in virtue, not in temporal goods”.
She died on 5 April, Easter Sunday, 1744.
The holiness of Mother Maria Crescentia was so evident to the nuns of her monastery and the people of the city by the time of her death that the Process of her canonization was begun in 1775. She was beatified in 1900 and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2001. Her monastery was then renamed St Crescentia Monastery.