Saint of the Day – 23 April – Blessed Helen del Cavalanti OSA (1396-1458) Widow, Mother, Third Order Augustinian, Mystic, Miracle-worker. Helen was known for her spirit of penance, obedience, humility, devotion to the Passion of Christ and to the Eucharist and for her love of neighbour. Born in 1396 at Udine, Italy and died om 23 April 1458, at Udine of natural causes. Patronages – against temptations, of widows. Also known as – Helen Valentini. Helen of Udine, Helena Valentini of Udine, Elena…
Helen was born in Udine in 1396 to the nobleman Count Valentinis – a Lord of Maniago. We know of only one sibling, a sister: named Perfetta.
In 1411 at the age of 15, she married the Florentine Knight, Antonio del Cavalcanti, an Official of the City of Udine and the pair had six children – three males and three females, living happily as a loving family.
After 30 years together, raising their 6 children, Antonio died. Helen cut off her hair and placed it with her jewels in his coffin, saying:
“These I wore for love of you – take them to the grave with you.”
A short while later, still within 1441, Helen heard a sermon in the Augustinian Church of Santa Lucia and decided then and there to join the Order. She became a professed Third Order member of the Order of Saint Augustine (the first for the Third Order in Udine).
She soon became known for her several austerities and her life of dedication to her fellowman. One of her mortifications was to take a vow of silence, speaking on Christmas alone. Helen placed 33 pebbles in jer shoes walking with pain for the rest of her days and slept on a stone pallet in place of a bed. She continued to live at home, in 1446 she moved in with her sister who was also a Third Order Augustinian, residing there until her death. She dedicated herself completely to God. She devoted long hours to prayer and meditation on the Gospels. She provided personal service and material contributions, to works of mercy. Helen developed a reputation as a Miracle worker with the power of curing the sick.
Helen became bedridden in 1455 after fracturing both her femurs in a fall. Even now, in this painful time, Helen preferred a pallet of stones and straw to a bed. Her declining health led to her death on the Saturday evening of 23 April 1458. Mass was celebrated in her room and Friars from a nearby Convent came to chant the Psalms.
Her remains were interred in Santa Lucia but in 1845. they were moved to the Udine Cathedral. On 27 September 1848, Pope Pius IX confirmed her cultus and Beatified her.
There is a wonderful procession in her honour each year.