Maria PETYT (1623-1677)

Maria Petyt, born on 1642, was the eldest daughter of a middle class family in Hazebrouck, a town in northeren France which at the time still formed part of the Southern Netherlands. At an early age she longed for the religious life. Fulfilling this ideal proved to be a long road, especially at a mental level. After a stay in Lille, Maria retruned to Hazebrouck and presented herself to the Regular canonesses of the Groenenbriel abbey in Gent, where she was accepted. But, six months after having received the habit, she was sent away on account of an eye disease. She spent a brief, solitary spell in the small beguinage in Gent, where after she moved in with a spiritual daughter and her mother in the vicinity of the beguinage. Later, then about twenty years old, Maria took her vows in the Carmelite Third Order. As time went by Maria started longing for a stricter hermitic life and she realised this dream on 1657, when she wen to Mechelen and moved into the Cluyse.

Her spiritual guide, Michael of St Augustinum (+1684), was her biographer but Maria also wrote her own autobiography. She knew profound darkness, desolation and she even refers to it as a spiritual crucifixion. Maria experienced the dreadful pain of this night as purgatory and a penance imposed on her for the sins of others. Maria’s dark nights probably contributed to the emergence of the Nothing in her writings. The conception of Nothing in her time was voluntaristic – that is, annihilation as an active means to perfection- and a widespread spiritualityu on beguinages and among other semi-religious. Maria experienced the visionary communications, supernatural intuitition and prophetically visions.

Source: Esther van de Vate, Maria Petyt. A Carmelite Mystic in Wartime, July 2015 – (A short Biography, in English)