Anna Maria Redi was born in Arezzo, Italy, on 15th July 1747. She was the second of thirteen children all of whom, except the firstborn and the fifth who died as children, consecrated themselves to God. She had a very happy childhood and was outstanding for her inclination towards piety, desire for sanctity and compassion for the poor.
When she was nine, she became a boarder in Saint Apolonia’s college of the Benedictine nuns of Florence where she received a meticulous education from 1756 to 1763. After making a few spiritual retreats at age 14, she became a loveable, responsible and affable child.
She felt called to religious life and considered entering the Benedictines. After a chance conversation with a friend who was going to enter Carmel, young Anna felt she had a vocation to be a Carmelite (which she had not considered before). She left college to allow her decision to mature. When she became 17, she made her decision known, much to the surprise of everyone and the displeasure of the nuns of her college.
She entered the Discalced Carmelite Nuns in Florence for a trial period on 1st September 1764. A short while before finishing her postulancy, she had an operation on her knee and left the convent, now knowing if she would be readmitted. She re-entered and took the habit on 10th March 1765, deciding to live in prayer, obedience and silence. She was professed on 12th March 1766 and took the name of Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus.
Naturally high spirited, she learned to be controlled and led a life of admirable fidelity, right from the beginning. After her entry into Carmel, her relationship with her father–of mutual spiritual help–reached greater depth. She was a great friend of one of the sisters in the community. They were contrasting in nature and promised one another to be better religious.
Her knowledge of Latin made it easier for her to understand biblical and liturgical texts, which she enjoyed reciting constantly, seeking to live the Rule of Carmel by meditating “day and night on God’s Word”. She had a particular liking for the writings of Saint Paul, such as, “your life is with Christ, hidden in God”. At times she appeared stunned, as when she was overwhelmed by the marvels of creation, and came to fear that she was melancholic. It was only after her death that the sisters in her community understood the sanctity of this young Carmelite.
Christ crucified was always in her mind, “the captain of love,” who held aloft “the standard of the Cross”. After her 1758 spiritual retreat, she proposed in all her actions not to be motivated other than by love and to unite her will with that of God. She was assiduous in small services to the sisters and would not allow gossip or criticism. She exclaimed constantly, “God is love”. Her life was one of continuous thanksgiving, “which would prove to the person who does not believe in him or not dare to approach him, the goodness and generosity of our most loving God!”
She was exquisite in exercising charity. From the beginning, she offered to take care of the old and sick, in whom she saw Jesus Christ, and she was assistant to the infirmarian. Those who were sick asked for her and she offered to take care of the more difficult ones, including a sister who was suffering from dementia and was aggressive and whom everyone feared, but Teresa Margaret knew how to cope with her with great patience and without complaining.
At the end of her life, she had great aridity in prayer. She experienced disgust, lack of feelings, terrors, temptations and antipathy towards virtue. She redoubled her faith, living in abandonment trusting in God, reciting psalms, biblical phrases or the expression, “Good father!” A lover of reading from childhood, at the end she was able to read only Saint Teresa.
She died from appendicitis on 7th March 1770.