SAINT VIRGINIA CENTURIONE BRACELLI (1587-1651), religious and foundress
Today, the Church honors Saint Virginia Centurione Bracelli, a wife, mother, widow and religious, who devoted her life to caring for the poor, the needy and the sick.
Virginia was born in the year 1587 in Genoa, Italy, and was raised in an aristocratic family which was also pious. She longed to consecrate herself to God in the religious life, but, on account of her social status, she was pressured into an arranged marriage at the age of fifteen. She gave birth to two daughters.
Virginia’s husband, a drinker and gambler, died after only five years of marriage. Virginia moved in with her in-laws and devoted herself to raising her children, but gave her free time to prayer and works of charity. After her daughters were grown and married, she dedicated herself entirely to caring for the sick, elderly and abandoned children.
She founded a refuge center in Genoa in 1625, which soon became overrun with the needy, causing her to rent a vacant convent in 1631 where she cared for the sick with the help of other women, and she instructed the women in the faith. Due to crowding, extra housing was built in 1634, Virginia was soon caring for 300 patients and, in 1635, she received official government recognition for her hospital.
She constructed a church dedicated to Our Lady of Refuge, and soon the women who worked with her in the hospital were formed into two congregations: Sisters of Our Lady of Refuge on Mount Calvary and Daughters of Our Lady on Mount Calvary.
Sister Virginia retired from administration, working as the humblest sister, doing chores on the grounds and begging for alms for her Orders, but was called back to administrative duties soon after. She continued working up to the end of her days, and in her later years received the gifts of Heavenly visions and interior locutions (messages from Heaven).
She died from natural causes on December 15, 1651, in the city of Genoa where she was born and where she devoted her entire life to serving the needs of God’s children.
Sister Virginia Centurione Bracelli was canonized a saint by Pope St. John Paul II on May 18, 2003.
We commemorate her feastday on December 15.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.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 Virginia 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.”