Saint of the Day – 7 April – Blessed Maria Assunta Pallotta (1878-1905) aged 27, born Assunta Maria Pallotta, was an Italian professed Religious who served as a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, Missionary to China. Patronages – Missionaries, against typhus. Her body is incorrupt.
Assunta Maria Pallotta was born on 20 August 1878 in a little village called Force, Italy. Of a gentle and peaceful nature, Assunta was the ray of sunshine in the family home where she was the eldest of four boys and two girls. Although Assunta’s childhood was relatively happy, her family lived in great poverty. She attended school just for the time necessary to learn to read and write. In spite of her young age, very soon she had to devote herself fully to the life of the family. She was a skilful little housekeeper, full of good sense and very active and she helped her mother in everything.
In order to help her family, she courageously faced the humblest and hardest work. At a certain time, she worked as a diligent little labourer, carrying in a willow basket the materials necessary for the construction work.
When still very young, her attraction for prayer could already be seen. She had a filial tenderness for the Blessed Virgin and she could be seen setting up little altars or decorating with flowers the pictures of the beloved Madonna in the countryside. Assunta’s piety very naturally radiated around her by means of a discreet apostolate. She liked to gather the children of her own age together in the church or under the porch, to speak to them about the goodness of God with all the fervour of her heart.
On Sundays and in her rare moments of leisure, she would be seen very often in the Church, kneeling for hours before the altar, conversing with the Friend of the humble and the lesser people. Apprenticed to the old tailor in the village, she liked to place in front of her a holy picture which she looked at from time to time, while her lips murmured the Hail Marys of the Rosary.
At the age of twelve Assunta received Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time. It was an inexpressible moment of happiness for her, the memory of which would remain as one of the most beautiful of her life.
As a teenager, everyone who knew her was struck by her serenity in look and manner. She was a girl of calm common sense. Her spirituality was really quite simple. To God she offered her heart in frequent prayer. Then, as a continued prayer, she dedicated her exterior actions.
Drawn to give her life entirely to God, Assunta confided in her parish priest, her director, who encouraged her vocation. When she was nineteen, Assunta decided to enter the convent but encountered many obstacles not least among them her mother’s objections and her lack of dowry. But prayer prevailed and at last a letter from Rome, from the Foundress of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, arrived, “Let the little one come as she is. The doors of the convent of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Mary at 12 Via Giusti are open to receive her.”
Assunta began her postulancy at St Helen’s Convent in Rome. During her time as a postulant, Assunta was employed in the kitchen. Humble and silent, she fulfilled her charge so perfectly that for a long time she was cited as a model to those who came after her.
On 9 October 1898, Assunta was received as a novice and sent to the convent at Grottaferrata. Here, Sr Maria Assunta was employed in work in the fields. In this modest field of work, sparing herself neither time nor trouble, Sister Maria Assunta was as happy as in the most attractive work. To serve God and her neighbour in the humblest and most mortified ways was her motto. It enabled her to feel true Franciscan joy.
There at the end of November, 1898, Assunta met Mother Mary of the Passion. Upon learning that Assunta came from an area called “The Marches” Mother Mary of the Passion said, “That is the land of saints. You must become a saint too”. Assunta had her watchword. In the depth of her heart, Assunta was stowing away these simple words as her precious heritage.
In January 1902, Sr. Assunta left her beloved Grottaferrata to join a new convent in Florence. For two years she was to be the joy of this house. Without having any fixed employment, she helped in all the charges. When there was extra work or when a harder job presented itself, one was sure to find her ready . She accepted the request for a service with a lovely smile, nothing changed her good humour. This angelic patience, the gentleness of her character, caused her to be sent as a helper to the infirmary where the sick benefited from the charitable devotedness of their improvised nurse.
On 19 March 1904, together with nine other Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, Assunta set sail for China. Ardently Sister Maria Assunta began to study the Chinese language in order to be able to speak of the goodness of God to those around her. In the convent where the Franciscan nuns cared for four hundred orphans Maria Assunta joyfully worked in the kitchen. She did her work there with as much diligence and care as she would have taught catechism. To accomplish her daily duties as perfectly as possible seemed to her the best way of working as a true missionary. Ever intimately united with God, she lived day by day the ordinary community life for His honour and glory.
A serious epidemic of typhus broke out in the community and she fell victim to it. She bore the suffering with great patience and fortified by the rites of Holy Church, she died at sunset on 7 April 1905, being then only twenty-seven years old. Non-believers as well as Christians flocked to the place where she lay as a mysterious perfume filled the entire house for three days after her death.
Eight years after Sister Assunta’s death when the community was moving to Tai-Yuan-Foo, the Bishop asked for the body of Sister Assunta to be transferred. The disinterment revealed the fact that the body was incorrupt. After being exhumed, the body remained exposed to the air in the chapel of the cemetery for a month without being affected. Once again, God showed His favour for the little missionary Sister who lived for Him alone.
On 7 November 1954, Sister Assunta was beatified by Pope Pius XII. The Church officially recognised the little Italian girl whose life had been a song of simplicity, purity and love and who is indeed the beloved of Christ whom she had served so devotedly.