SAINT MAGDALENE OF CANOSSA (1774-1835), virgin and foundress
Today, the Church honors Saint Magdalene of Canossa, who deeply believed in living her life filled with love for Jesus, and who was sent by the Holy Spirit to serve God’s children who were most in need of her help with a mother’s heart and an apostle’s zeal.
Born of a noble and wealthy family in Northern Italy in the city of Verona on March 1, 1774, she was the third of six children. By way of painful events such as her father’s death, her mother’s second marriage, illness and misunderstanding, the Lord guided her towards unforeseen paths on which Magdalene tentatively followed.
At first, she felt drawn by the Love of God; and, at the age of seventeen, she planned to consecrate her life as a cloistered Carmelite. However, it was the Spirit’s will which urged her to follow a different path.
Moved by a devotion to the selfless Love of Jesus and the Sorrowful Heart of Mary, Magdalene responded to the cry of the poor who were hungry for food, instruction and an understanding of the faith. She discovered them in the suburbs of Verona, where the echoes of the French Revolution, the occupation by various foreign powers and local uprisings had left evident signs of devastation and human suffering.
She ultimately found herself nurturing her true vocation – serving the needy without restriction. For years, she worked among the poor and sick in hospitals and in their homes, and she also reached out to delinquent and abandoned girls in her midst.
In her mid-twenties, Magdalene began offering lodging to poor and underprivileged girls in her own home. In time she opened a school, which offered practical training and religious instruction. As other women joined her in her work, the new Congregation of the Daughters of Charity emerged. Over time, houses were opened throughout Italy. The Rule for the new Order received papal approval in 1828.
Members of this new religious congregation focused on the educational and spiritual needs of women. In 1828, she also began the first Oratory of the Sons of Charity for the Christian formation of boys and men.
Sister Magdalene’s active and fruitful life ended when she was sixty-one years of age. Surrounded by her Daughters of Charity, she died in Verona on Good Friday, April 10, 1835. She was canonized a saint by Pope St. John Paul II in 1988.
We commemorate her feastday on April 10.
(From americancatholic.org, feastofallsaints.com and vatican.va/news_services)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Holy Women ~ ministering to the underprivileged)
“Lord God, You teach us that the Commandments of Heaven are summarized in love of You and love of our neighbor. By following the example of Saint Magdalene of Canossa in practicing works of charity, may we be counted among the blessed in Your Kingdom.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”