Saint of the Day – 5 August – Saint Margaret the Barefooted (1335-1395) Married Laywoman, Widow, Apostle of the poor. Born in 1325 at Cesolo, San Severino, Italy and died on 5 August 1395 of natural causes. Patronages – brides, difficult marriages, victims of abuse, spusal abuse, widows. Also known as – Margaret of Cesolo, • Margaret la Picena, Margherita…
Margaret was born into a poor family in San Severino, Italy but she was married to a wealthy man at the age of 15.
However, he was cruelly abusive to her, beating her often for many years but Margaret never complained. He was angry at her love of the Faith, dedication to the Church and her assistance to the poor and needy. Margaret hid her bruises from the eyes of her neighbours, that her husband might not be blamed.
She walked barefooted as a beggar to better associate herself with the poor and to suffer herself as little as she felt she could to offer her hardships to God for the conversion of her husband and in reparation for sin. Margaret picked up her cross in humility and gratitude, happy to bear her sufferings with Christ Crucified.
Margaret prayers and sufferings did not go unanswered. Before his death, her husband converted and returned to the Faith, confessing his sins and attempting to make reparation to Margaret. He was blessed with a holy death. Margaret, herself continued her work for the poor and the sick, dying in 1395 of natural causes.
Saint of the Day – 30 July – Saint Godelieve (c 1049-1070) Flemish Married Laywoman. Born in c 1049 at Londefort-lez-Boulogne, France and died by murder by being strangled by her mother-in-law’s and husband’s servants on 6 July 1070 at Gistel, Belgium. Patronages – difficult marriages, against abuse and spousal abuse, against throat diseases, in-law problems, for good weather and against storms. Also known as – Godelieve of, Ghistelles, Godelieve of Gistel, Godaleva, Godeleine, Godeleva, Godeliève, Godelina, Godeliva, Godelive, Godelva, Godliva.
The Cross and Death of St Godelieve By Fr Francis Xavier Weninger SJ (1805-1888)
“Godelieve was a native of France and the daughter of rich and noble parents, who neglected nothing, to give her an education in accor,dance with her station in life. She united with most exquisite beauty, great virtue and piety and hence was early sought in holy matrimony by many young men of the nobility. Among these, a certain Bertulph of the Netherlands, who seemed her equal in rank, gained her parent’s consent and Godeliva submitted to their will.
Having received a dowry according to her position, she went, accompanied by some of her relatives, to the Netherlands, where her marriage was to take place. But how surprising an evidence of the inconstancy of human love! Scarcely had the noble bride arrived under the roof of her future husband, when she perceived that Bertulph’s love for her was changed into hatred and aversion, as he hardly deigned to look at her. His wicked mother, if not the first, was not the last cause of this unexpected change – as she reproached her son for having chosen a foreigner for his wife, as if, in his own country, her equal in beauty and virtue could not be found. She found fault with everything the innocent Godeliva said or did and thus inflamed, the fire of contention, to such a degree that later, only the blood of the pious Godeliva could quench it.
The poor maiden’s sadness may easily be conceived but she hoped that these dark clouds would pass away. Meanwhile the arrangements for the wedding were completed and it accordingly took place. Bertulph, however, was present only during the ceremony, as he was unable to hide his aversion for his bride. He appointed a separate dwelling for her and remained with his parents, declaring that he would not hear or see anything of her, so great was the hatred he bore her. The deeply grieved Godeliva, seeing herself thus forsaken by men, sought for refuge with God. Day and night, she was on her knees imploring the Almighty to change Bertulph’s heart and fill it with Christian love.
Although God did not answer her prayers in the manner she desired, He gave her grace to submit entirely to His Divine Will and to carry her cross with heroic patience. Bertulph, in order to torment her still more and slowly to kill her, gave her a servant whom he had commanded to furnish for her sustenance daily, only a piece of bread and some water. The godless servant not only obeyed the cruel order but treated Godoliva with as much rudeness as if she had been his slave, instead of his mistress. Godrliva’s Christian virtue bore all this with indescribable patience. She never showed the least sign of indignation and no complaint of Bertulph’s inhuman command, nor the harsh treatment she received from the servant, ever passed her lips. She only uttered the praises of God, and thanked Him for giving her the opportunity to suffer.
When the profligate mother of Bertulph saw that neither hunger nor grief would, as she had hoped, end Godeliva’s life, she persuaded her son to get rid of her in some other way, as starvation was too slow. Bertulph would have been easily persuaded to follow this wicked advice, had not fear of Godeliva’s noble parents and relatives deterred him, at least for some time.
The innocent handmaid of the Lord perceived meanwhile, by the daily increasing torments, that she had nothing to expect but a violent death and, therefore, sought for an opportunity to escape. God gave her this opportunity and she, embracing it, fled, and after many hardships returned to her parents. The latter were inexpressibly griev,ed when she told them og her sufferings and being greatly indignant at the tyranny she had endured, they requested Baldwin, Count of Flanders and also the Bishop of Nimwegen, as their friend, to reproach Bertulph, seriously, with his impious conduct and command him, at the same time, to receive his wife again and in future to treat her in a different manner. Both took a deep interest in the matter and they supposed that their expostulation had impressed Bertulph, as he professed to them and to the parents of Godeliva, deep regret at his tyranny and promised on , not only to cease from maltreating her but to live with her in love and harmony. On this promise, she was commanded by her parent, to return with him to his home, which she did
No sooner, however, had she arrived there than she was more ill-treated than before. All her former miseries were redoubled and the hatred of Bertulph, now more deeply rooted, made itself more clearly manifest. Nothing was to be expected but the execution of the long nourished murderous design. The innocent Godeliva was ready for her last hour; for she was determined not to leave her husband again, even if it should cost her life. Everyday she prepared herself to die, commending her soul to the mercy of her Creator.
To some women, who came to comfort her in her misery, she said, with great cheerfulness; “You believe that I am an object of pity but I, although encompassed by sorrow, hope one day to be exalted and recompensed above all women in Flanders.” Thus she consoled herself with the contemplation of her reward in Heaven.
Into this she was soon to enter, for Bertulph was determined to do the worst. He hired two assassins to murder Godeliva. Not to be suspected of the bloody deed, he undertook a journey to Brussels, went to Godeliva and pretending to acknowledge and repent of his faults, he informed her that he was obliged to set out for Brussels but that, on his return, he would show greater love for her than she had ever expected from him. Upon this, the false spouse took leave, with the assurance that he would return in a few days. He really went away, believing that no-one would suppose him to be the instigator of the murder, which would take place during his absence.
Godeliva had no faith in his promises, his many other false demonstrations had made her suspicious. She had no doubt that her end was near. Soon after Bertulph’s departure, the two assassins entered Godeliva’s chamber at night, dragged her out of bed, put a rope around her neck, and strangled her in a most barbarous manner. After this, they placed the dead body again in the bed and covered it, thinking that no-one would discover how Godoliva had come by her death. When she was found on the following day, everyone believed that grief had put an end to her life. God, however, so ordered, that Bertulph, in the course of time, confessed his crime and, to do penance, retired into a cloister.
How precious Godeliva’s death was in the sight of the Lord, was shown by the many miracles which were wrought at her tomb. History does not tell what became of the wicked mother of Bertulph but she doubtless went to eternal destruction, if she repented not, since, by destroying the harmony between her son and his wife, she had been the cause of so much unhappiness. And the same lot will befall all those, who, by slander, tale-bearing, or other wicked means, produce the same disunion.
Woe to such mischief-makers! How great will be their responsibility before the Judgment-seat of God! The Lord, according to Holy Writ, has the greatest detestation for those who stir up dissensions among brothers and still more, for those who disturb the peace of husband and wife because the quarrels of the latter, are generally of longer duration and their consequences are more disastrous.
The two left panels represent the Saint’s piety and charity during her life in Boulogne. In the centre, the first panel shows Bertolf’s courtship, the second their marriage and the third Godelieve’s ill treatment from her husband and mother-in-law. In the two right panels the servants first strangle her, then immerse her in water, then return the body to her bed.
Godelieve’s body was exhumed in 1084 by the Bishops of Tournai and Noyon, in the presence of Gertrude of Saxony, the wife of Robert I, Count of Flanders, the Abbot of St Winnoc’s and a number of clergymen. It was Radbod II, Bishop of Noyon-Tournai, that consecrated Godelieve’s relics in 1084 and Godelieve’s popular cult developed thereafter. Godelieve’s feast day, 6 July in Belgium, was, like that of Saint Swithun in England and Saint Medard in France, connected with the weather. She is thus considered one of the “Weather Saints.”
Drogo, a Monk of St.Winnoc’s Abbey, wrote the Vita Godelieve, about ten years after her death. The Abbey of Ten Putte in Bruges, was dedicated to her. Every year, on the Sunday following 5 July, a procession celebrating Saint Godelieve takes place in Gistel.
Saint of the Day – 19 October – Saint Philip Howard (1557–1595) Martyr, Married Layman, Father, Convert, 13th Earl of Arundel, Born on 28 June 1557 at Norfolk, England and died on 19 October 1595 of malnutrition after eleven years in the Tower of London, London, England – he was just 38 years old.Patronages – the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, England, victims of betrayal, difficult marriages, falsely accused people, separated spouses. Additional Memorial – 25 October as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
St Philip, born on 28 June 1557, was 13th Earl of Arundel. His father Thomas, IV Duke of Norfolk, was beheaded by Queen Elizabeth in 1572 for involvement in the affair of Mary, Queen of Scots. Philip Howard, Baptised by the Archbishop of York in the Chapel of Whitehall Palace, had Philip of Spain as one of his Godfathers.
Philip married Anne, daughter of Lord Dacre of Gilsland, when he was fourteen. He graduated at St John’s College, Cambridge in 1574 and was about eighteen when he attended Queen Elizabeth’s Court. Handsome, high-born, quick-witted and articulate, he neglected his wife and God.
A London event in 1581 proved to be life altering for Philip. A debate took place: on one side was a group of Protestant scholars. On the other, was [St] Father Edmund Campion, a Jesuit Priest, physically weak from torture on the notoriously grisly rack but still mentally sharp and another English Priest, [St.] Father Ralph Sherwin. With no opportunity to prepare, they defended the Faith persuasively, which greatly impressed young Philip. These humble suffering Confessors awakened Philip’s soul and he returned to Arundel to think about reconciliation with the Catholic Church, which he knew meant death. Sadly, both Campion and Sherwin were martyred by the British throne before the end of 1581. Philip reformed his life. Not only did he reconcile with his wife, Anne, he became quite dedicated to her. In 1584, he was received into the Catholic Church and became devoted to the practice of the Faith, although it was necessary for him to keep this quiet. Philip and Anne were suspected of sheltering persecuted Jesuit Priests in their home. The change in Philip was noted by the Queen and he sensed that he was in danger.
In 1585 he made a plan to escape from his London home to Belgium with his family and his brother. He sent a long letter of explanation to the Queen and the group set out from Littlehampton on the south coast of England. Before they could reach their destination, he was arrested at sea and returned to London. Philip was convicted of treason for being a Roman Catholic and for leaving England without permission. He was fined £10,000 and imprisoned in the Tower of London in April of 1585. Three years later, he was accused again of treason because he allegedly prayed in prison for the success of the Spanish Armada. This mid-1588 Spanish naval effort to remove Queen Elizabeth from the British throne and re-establish Catholicism, was unsuccessful. Interestingly, King Philip II of Spain was Philip Howard’s Godfather at his infant Baptism as well as his namesake. Philip was tried in April of 1589 and as was usually the case at the time, with accused Catholics, the extremely biased outcome was a sentence of execution. The execution required the Queen’s signature but she never signed it. Since Philip did not know this, he was left in prison thinking that his death was imminent. Instead, he was left to die in prison after having been placed there at age twenty-eight. He was allowed study and devotional books and spent his time in prayer, study and penance. He prayed ardently to be able to see his wife and children again; the youngest, his only son, was born after his incarceration. His trial and imprisonment were totally at Queen Elizabeth’s pleasure–the only treason he had committed was being reconciled to the Catholic Church.
One of the Priests who had been sheltered by the Howards was [St] Robert Southwell, who was also being held in the Tower. Philip’s pet dog served as a go-between for the men, who supported and encouraged each other with messages. By the autumn of 1595, he was dying and made one last plea to the Queen to be able to see his wife and children. Her reply was that if he would just attend one Protestant service, he would see his family and regain the Queen’s favour. “Good Queen Bess” indeed! He refused, and died alone on 19 October 1595 at age thirty-eight. He is believed to have contracted dysentery and suffering from malnutrition but some suspected that he was poisoned. He was 39 years old and had spent the last eleven years of his life in the Tower of London. He was buried in the Tower Church with his father and grandfather. Anne, who continued to protect and provide for renegade Priests, obtained permission in 1624 to transfer his remains to Arundel Castle.
Written on the step before the Shrine is this inscription: ‘The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall obtain with Christ in the next‘. This is a translation of the original Latin cut by St Philip over the fireplace in the Beauchamp Tower, which visitors to the Tower of London can still see: Quanto plus afflictionis pro Christo in hoc saeculo, tanto plus gloriae cum Christo in futuro. Arundell – 22 June 1587.
The Cathedral of Arundell and Brighton is named for St Philip Howard. It had been named for St Philip Neri before the Canonisation of today’s Saint in 1970.
Saint of the Day – 16 October – St Hedwig of Andechs (1174-1243) Mother, Widow, High Duchess of Poland, Apostles of orphans, the poor, the sick, founder with her husband of Monasteries, schools and Churches, Administrator, peace-maker, Born in 1174 in Castle Andechs, Bavaria (part of modern Germany) and died on 15 October 1243 at at Trzebnica, Silesia (part of modern Poland). Also known as – Hedwig of Silesia, Hedwig von Andechs, Jadwiga Slaska, Hedvigis, Hedwiges, Avoice.Patronages – against jealousy, brides, duchesses, death of children, difficult marriages, widows, Silesia, Diocese of Görlitz, Germany, Andechs Abbey, Bavaria, Germany, 6 cities. She was Canonised on 26 March 1267 by Pope Clement IV.
An example of all virtues, especially worthy to be imitated, is presented to us today, in the life of St Hedwig. Her father was Berthold, Duke of Carinthia and Count of Meran. Her mother, Agnes, was of equally high birth. She was one of eight children – of her four brothers, two became Bishops, Ekbert of Bamberg and Berthold of Aquileia. Mechtilde became Abbess of Kitzingen and another sister, became the mother of St Elizabeth of Hungary. Already in Hedwig’s childhood it was visible that God had gifted her with a mind far beyond her age. She possessed an innate inclination to all virtues and nothing of what usually delights the young, touched her heart, just as little pleasure did she evince, in later years, in the honours, riches and amusements of the world. Reading and praying were her only enjoyments. All her books were devout works and her prayers were said mostly before an image of the Blessed Virgin, whom she loved and honoured like a worldly mother.
When scarcely twelve years old, she was given in marriage to Henry, Duke of Poland and Silesia. Although married so early in life, her conduct was so sensible and virtuous, that everyone was greatly astonished at it. Among her maxims was this: “The greater one is by birth, the greater one must be in virtue and the more distinguished we are in station, the more we must distinguish ourselves by our conduct, in order to be a bright example to others.” She became the mother of three sons and three daughters, all of whom she educated most piously.
She was a little over twenty, and her husband thirty years of age, when their sixth child was born; after which, desiring to serve God more perfectly, she made a vow before the Bishop, in which her husband joined, to live in future in perpetual continence.
From that hour, Hedwig grew daily more and more perfect in all Christian virtues, occupying every moment left her from the cares she bestowed upon her children, in prayers and deeds of charity. She found especial comfort in assisting at Holy Mass; hence, she was not satisfied with one but went to as many as she could; and the manner in which she conducted herself in Church was a proof of her deep devotion. Towards widows and orphans, her kindness was truly motherly and many of them she fed in her palace, serving them herself, sometimes on bended knees. She frequently visited the sick in the hospitals; encouraged them to be patient and assisted them by rich alms. She never hesitated to wash the feet of the lepers, or to kiss the sores of the sufferers. She persuaded the Duke, her husband, to build a large convent not far from Breslau, for the Cistercian nuns, which she made a home for poor children, who were educated there and afterwards, provided for according to their station. Nothing could be more modest and plain than the garments of the holy Duchess and her example in this respect induced others living at Court to attire themselves with great simplicity. In the midst of the dissipation of the Court, the Saint lived so austere a life, that it was more to be admired than to be followed.
To prove her virtue, God visited her with a great many cares and sorrows. The enemy invaded the dominions of her spouse, who was wounded in a battle and made prisoner. When this news was brought to her, she raised her eyes confidently to heaven, saying: “I hope to see him again soon, well and free.” She herself went to Conrad, the Duke who had imprisoned her husband and spoke so earnestly to him that he restored her husband to liberty. Soon after, Henry became dangerously ill and Hedwig nursing him most faithfully, did everything to make his death happy. To those who pitied her after his death, she said: “We must adore the decrees of the Almighty, not only in days of happiness but also in those of sorrow and bereavement.” Three years later, she lost her first-born son, who was killed in a battle with the Tartars and this sad event found her as submissive to the will of Providence as she had been on the death of her husband.
Soon after the burial of the Duke in 1238, at the Cistercian Monastery of Nuns, Trzebnica Abbey, Hedwig had too followed him into the Convent, which, at her request, he had founded, to be further removed from all temporal vanity and to serve the Lord more peacefully and perfectly. The widow moved into the Convent of Cistercian Nuns which was led by her daughter Gertrude, assuming the position of a lay sister and donning the habit. She observed most strictly the regulations of the Order, desiring to do the meanest work and to be considered the least of the Sisters. In her austerity to herself she had now full liberty. She fasted daily, except on Sundays and festivals but her fasts were much more rigorous than those of others, for she abstained from all meat and wine and partook only of herbs, bread and water. She wore, day and night, rough hair-cloth and an iron girdle which she had already worn while at Court. She went bare-footed over snow and ice and slept, when well, on the bare boards and when ill, on straw covered with a coarse cloth. Her sleep lasted hardly three hours before Matins; the remainder of the night she occupied in prayer, which she only interrupted to scourge herself to blood. So severe a life emaciated her body to a skeleton. While working, she always raised her soul to the Most High by mental prayer,and she was often found in an ecstasy, or raised high above the ground. Her conversation was only of God, virtue and piety. Towards the Crrucified Saviour, she bore the deepest devotion and the mysteries of His bitter Passion and Death were the objects of her daily meditations, during which, she frequently shed tears. Mary, the Blessed Virgin, was most ardently loved by her,and her whole countenance glowed at the bare mention of her holy name.
So holy a life could only be followed by a happy death, of which a severe sickness was the messenger. Before others became aware that her life was in danger, the Saint asked for the last Sacraments and she received them with a devotion which drew tears from the eyes of all who were present. Before her end, S. Catherine of Alexandria, St Thecla, St Ursula and St Magdalen appeared to her, all of whom she had greatly honoured during her life. These heavenly visitors comforted her and accompanied her to the mansions of everlasting bliss.
Twenty-five years after her death, her holy body was exhumed, as so many extraordinary miracles had taken place at her intercession. On opening the coffin, the whole Church was filled with fragrance. The flesh of the whole body was consumed, except that of three fingers on her left hand. With these she had frequently held a picture of the Blessed Virgin, which she constantly carried with her. While dying, she held this picture so fast, that after her death it could not be removed and it was buried with her. Pope Clement IV. placed the Duchess among the Saints on account of her many great virtues, of the miracles which she had wrought while she lived and of those which took place after her death, through her intercession. The inhabitants of Poland venerate her as one of their special Patrons. (By Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876)
Saint of the Day – 11 October – Saint Gummarus (717-774) Lay Hermit, Confessor, Soldier, Courtier, Married. Born in 717 at Brabant, Belgium and died in 774 of natural causes. Patronages – childless people, courtiers, cowherds, difficult marriages, glove makers, hernia sufferers, separated spouses, woodcutters. Also known as – Gommarus of Lier, Gomer, Gommaire, Guntmar, Gummar, Gommar.
Gummarus was a native of a noble family of Emblehem, referring to an area including Lier and not just the Town of Emblem, in Brabant and a relative of King Pepin the Younger, who called him to his Court and entrusted him with important offices. The King arranged a marriage between Gummarus and a wealthy noblewoman named Guinmarie, who was extravagant and haughty. His wife appears to have been shrewish, as well as abusive to their household servants in his absence. They had no children.
Gummarus accompanied Pepin on a number of military campaigns and spent eight years in the field. Upon his return from military campaigns, Gummarus tried to reconcile with his wife and remedy the injustices she had laid upon the people in their service. That he might have a place of quiet and retirement and in order to attend his private devotions, he built a Chapel called Nivesdunc.
Gummarus and his wife eventually separated. He became a Hermit at Nivesdunc and the Town of Lier, Belgium grew up around the site of the hermitage and where, with Saint Rumbold of Mechelen he founded an Abbey. Gummarus died at his Abbey in 774. In 815 he was recognised as a Saint.
The site of his hermitage is now St Peter’s Chapel. The Church of St Gummarus was built in Brabant in 1378. Every year on the first Sunday after 11 October, the City of Lier, holds the St Gummarus Fair, which includes a procession in which the Saint’s relics are carried through the streets of Lier.
Saint of the Day – 13 November – St Agostina Livia Pietrantoni S.D.C. (1864-1894) – virgin, of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Jeanne Antide Thouret, medical nursing sister – Born Livia Pietrantoni on 27 March 1864 at Pozzaglia Sabina, Rieti, Italy as Livia Petrantoni and died by being stabbed to death on 13 November 1894 in Rome, Italy by Giuseppe Romanelli. Patronages – abuse victims, against impoverishment and poverty, martyrs, people ridiculed for their piety. “Once there was and there still is but with a new face now, a village named Pozzaglia. In the Sabina hills… and there was a blessed house, a cosy little nest filled with childrens’ voices, amongst which that of Olivia who was later called Livia and was to take the name of Agostina in the religious life.”
The very short life of Sister Agostina, which inspired St Paul VI, the Pope who beatified her, to relate it in extraordinarily poetical terms, began and unfolded itself: “simple, transparent, pure, loving…but ended sorrowfully and tragically… or rather symbolically.”
27th March 1864: Livia was born and baptised in the little village of Pozzaglia Sabina, at an altitude of 800 meters in the beautiful area which is bordered geographically by Rieti, Orvinio, Tivoli. She was the second of 11 children! Her parents, Francesco Pietrantoni and Caterina Costantini, were farmers and worked their small plot of land along with a few added plots which they leased. Livia’s childhood and youth were imbued with the values of an honest, hard-working and religious family, in the blessed house in which “all were careful to do good and where they often prayed”. This period was marked especially by the wisdom of Uncle Domenico who was a real patriarch.
At the age of 4 Livia received the Sacrament of Confirmation and around 1876 she received her first Holy Communion, certainly with an extraordinary awareness, judging by the life of prayer, generosity and sacrifice which followed it. Very early on, in the large family in which everyone seemed to be a beneficiary to her time and help, she learned from her mother Caterina the thoughtfulness and maternal gestures which she showed with such gentleness towards her many younger brothers and sisters. She worked in the fields and looked after the animals… Therefore, she barely experienced childrens’ games… or school which she attended very irregularly but from which she drew great benefit to the point of earning the title of “teacher” from her classmates.
At the age of 7, along with other children, she began “to work”, transporting by the thousand, sacks of stones and sand for constructing the road from Orvinio to Poggio Moiano. At the age of 12 she left with other young “seasonal workers” who were going to Tivoli during the winter months for the olive harvest. Precociously wise, Livia took on the moral and religious responsibility for her young companions. She supported them in this tough work far from their families and proudly and courageously stood up to the arrogant and unscrupulous “bosses.”
Through her wisdom, her respect for others, her generosity, her beauty, Livia was a young attractive woman… and several young men in the village had their eyes on her. Their admiring looks did not escape mother Caterina’s notice and she dreamed of marrying her daughter well. Yet what did Livia think? What was the secret of her heart? Why did she not make a choice? Why did she not make up her mind? “Make daring by the voice which spoke to her inwardly, the voice of her vocation, she surrendered; it was Christ who would be her Beloved, Christ, her Spouse.” To these in her family or in the village who attempted to dissuade her by saying she was running away from hard work, Livia replied: “I wish to choose a Congregation in which there is work both day and night.” Everyone was certain that these words were genuine. A first trip to Rome in the company of her Uncle Fra Matteo ended in bitter disillusionment; they refused to accept her. However, a few months later, the Mother General of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Jeanne-Antide Thouret, let her know that she was expecting her at the Generalate. Livia understood that this time she was saying farewell for ever. With emotion she took leave of the village people, all the loved corners of her land, her favourite prayer places, the parish and the Virgin of Rifolta; she kissed her parents goodbye, received on her knees the blessing of Uncle Domenico, “kissed the door of her house, traced the sign of the cross on it and left hurriedly…”
23rd March 1886: Livia was 22 when she arrived in Rome at Via S. Maria in Cosmedin. A few months as a postulant and novice were enough to prove that the young girl had the makings of a Sister of Charity, that is of a “servant of the poor”, in the tradition of Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Jeanne-Antide. Indeed, Livia brought to the Convent a particularly solid human potential inherited from her family which guaranteed its success. When she received the religious habit and was given the name of Sister Agostina, she had the premonition that it fell to her to become the saint bearing this name. For Indeed she had not heard of any Saint Agostina!
Sister Agostina was sent to the Hospital of Santo Spirito where 700 years of glorious history had led it to be called “the school of Christian charity.” In the wake of the saints who had preceded her, amongst whom were Charles Borromeo, Joseph Casalanz, John Bosco, Camillus de Lellis, Sister Agostina made her personal contribution and in this place of suffering gave expression to charity to the point of heroism.
The atmosphere in the hospital was hostile to religion. The Roman question poisoned peoples’ minds. The Capuchin fathers were driven out, the Crucifix and all other religious signs were forbidden. The hospital even wanted to send the sisters away but was afraid of becoming unpopular. Instead their lives were made “impossible” and they were forbidden to speak of God.
But Sister Agostina did not need her mouth in order to “cry out for God” and no gag was able to prevent her life from proclaiming the Gospel! First in the childrens’ ward and later in the tuberculosis ward, a place of despair and death, where she caught the mortal contagion of which she was miraculously healed, she showed a total dedication and an extraordinary concern for each sick person, above all for the most difficult, violent and obscene ones like “Romanelli.”
In secret, in a small hidden corner she had found for herself to reside, in the hospital, Sister Agostina commended them all to the Virgin and promised her many more vigils and greater sacrifices in order to obtain the grace of the conversion of the most stubborn ones. How many times she offered Giuseppe Romanelli to Our Lady! He was the worst of them all, the most vulgar and insolent, especially towards Sister Agostina, who was more and more attentive towards him and welcomed his blind mother with great kindness when she came to visit him. He was capable of anything and everyone had had enough of him. When, after the umpteenth provocation at the expense of the women working in the laundry, the Director expelled him, from the hospital, he sought a target for his fury and poor Agostina was the victim he picked. ‘I will kill you with my own hands.”“Sister Agostina, you only have a month to live!,” were the threats which he had sent to her several times in little notes. The male patient Giuseppe Romanelli began to harass her at this point – he even sent her death threats and on the evening of 12 November 1894 her religious asked her to take time off since the sisters worried for her; she refused. Romanelli attacked and stabbed her to death in the morning on 13 November 1894. Pietrantoni forgave her killer moments before she died; Romanelli stabbed her in a dark corridor with three stabs at the shoulder and left arm and the jugular before a final stab in the chest. Her final words were, “Mother of mine, help me“. Professor Achille Ballori (d. 1914) – who had once warned her about Romanelli – inspected her remains and observed that “Sister Agostina has allowed herself to be slaughtered like a lamb” and noted there were no contractions of either her nerves or heart.
When Romanelli caught her unawares and struck her before she could escape, that 13th November 1894, her lips uttered nothing but invocations to the Virgin Mary and words of forgiveness.
The late nun’s funeral blocked the streets of Rome (thousands lined the streets and knelt before the casket as it passed them) and a “Messaggero” report on 16 November stated that “never a more impressive spectacle was seen in Rome”. Her remains were moved to the generalate on 3 February 1941 and then to her hometown on 14 November 2004.
The beatification process opened under Pope Pius XII on 14 December 1945 and Pietrantoni was titled as a Servant of God. The confirmation of her life of heroic virtue on 19 September 1968 allowed for St Pope Paul VI to title her as Venerable that same pope presided over her Beatification on 12 November 1972 in Saint Peter’s Square upon the confirmation of two miracles attributed to her intercession.
The final miracle required for sainthood was investigated and then received validation from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 19 March 1996. St Pope John Paul II approved this miracle on 6 April 1998 and later Canonised Pietrantoni as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church on 18 April 1999.
Pietrantoni was named as the patron saint for nurses on 20 May 2003 after the Italian Episcopal Conference named her as such.
Saint of the Day – 2 December – St Bibiana (Died c 361) also known as Vivian/Viviana (4th century died c361) Virgin, Martyr. Patronages – of parishes, epilepsy, epileptics, hangovers, headaches, insanity, mentally ill people, single laywomen, torture/abuse victims.
According to legend, Bibiana was the daughter of a former prefect, Flavianus, who was banished by Julian the Apostate. His wife Dafrosa, and two daughters, Demetria and Bibiana, were also persecuted by Julian. Dafrosa and Demetria died a natural death and were buried by Bibiana in their own house but Bibiana was tortured and died as a result of her sufferings. Two days after her death a priest named John buried Bibiana near her mother and sister in her home, the house being later turned into a church. It is evident that the legend seeks to explain in this way the origin of the church and the presence in it of the bodies of the above-mentioned confessors.
An alternate account says that in the year 363, Emperor Julian made Apronianus Governor of Rome. Bibiana suffered in the persecution started by him. She was the daughter of Christians, Flavian, a Roman knight, and Dafrosa, his wife. Flavian was tortured and sent into exile, where he died of his wounds. Dafrosa was beheaded, and their two daughters, Bibiana and Demetria, were stripped of their possessions and left to suffer poverty. However, they remained in their house, spending their time in fasting and prayer. Apronianus, seeing that hunger and want had no effect upon them, summoned them. Demetria, after confessing her faith, fell dead at the feet of the tyrant. Bibiana was reserved for greater sufferings. She was placed in the hands of a wicked woman called Rufina, who in vain endeavored to seduce her. She used blows as well as persuasion, but the Christian virgin remained faithful. Enraged at the constancy of this saintly virgin, Apronianus ordered her to be tied to a pillar and beaten with scourges, laden with lead plummets, until she expired. The saint endured the torments with joy, and died under the blows inflicted by the hands of the executioner. Her body was then put in the open air to be torn apart by wild animals, yet none would touch it. After two days she was buried.