Saint of the Day – 22 January – Blessed Maria Mancini of Pisa OP (1356-1431) Widow, Second Order Nun of the Order of Preachers, spiritual disciple of St Catherine of Siena, Prioress, Mystic, Reformer, Apostle of the poor and the sick. Born as Caterina Mancini in 1356 in Pisa, Italy and died on 22 January 1431 in Pisa, Italy of natural causes. Additional Memorial – 30 January (Dominicans). Twice widowed, she saw all her seven children die. On the advice of St Catherine of Siena, Caterina first took the habit of the Third Order before entering the Monastery founded by the Blessed Chiara Gambacorti (1362-1420) in Pisa. Here she lived as a Nun, completely devoted to contemplation and penance.
The Roman Martyrology states: “In Pisa, Blessed Maria Mancini, who, twice widowed and all her children lost, under the exhortation of St Catherine of Siena, began community life in the Monastery of St Domenic, which she led for ten years.”
Caterina was born in Pisa, of noble parentage and almost in babyhood began enjoying the miraculous favours with which her life was filled. At the age of three, she was warned by some heavenly agency ,that the porch on which she had been placed by a nurse,was unsafe. Her cries attracted the nurse’s attention and they had barely left the porch, when it collapsed. When she was five, she beheld, in an ecstasy, the dungeon of a place in Pisa, in which Peter Gambacorti, one of the leading citizens, was being tortured. At Caterina’s prayer, the rope broke and the man was released. Our Lady told the little girl to say prayers everyday for this man because he would one day be her benefactor.
Caterina would have much preferred the religious life to marriage but she obeyed her parents and was married at the age of twelve. Widowed at sixteen, she was compelled to marry again. Of her seven children, only one survived the death of her second husband and Caterina learned, through a vision, that this child, too, was soon to be taken from her. Thus she found herself, at the age of twenty five, twice widowed and bereft of all her children. Refusing a third marriage, she devoted herself to prayers and works of charity.
She soon worked out for herself a severe schedule of prayers and good works, fasting and mortifications. She tended the sick and the poor, bringing them into her own home and regarding them as Our Lord Himself. She gave her goods to the poor and laboured for them, with her own hands. Our Lord was pleased to show her that He approved of her works by appearing to her in the guise of a poor young man, sick and in need of both food and medicine. She carefully dressed His wounds and she was rewarded by the revelation that He was, in reality her Redeemer ,Whom she had served.
St Catherine of Siena visited Pisa at about this time and the two saintly women were drawn together into a holy friendship. As they prayed together in the Dominican Church one day, they were surrounded by a bright cloud, out of which flew a white dove. They conversed joyfully on spiritual matters and were mutually strengthened by the meeting.
On the advice of St Catherine of Siena, Caterina retired to an enclosed Convent of the Second Order. In religion, she was given the name Maria by which she is usually known. She embraced the religious life in all its austerity and, with Blessed Clare GambarcotI and a few other members of the Convent, she founded a new and much more austere house, which had been built by Peter GambacortI. Our Lady’s prophecy of his benefactions was thus fulfilled.
Blessed Maria was favoured with many visions and was in almost constant prayer. She became Prioress of the house on the death of her friend Blessed Clare Gambacorti and ruled it with justice and holiness, until her death.
O God, who didst enrich Blessed Maria, with the abundance of the gift of contemplation and of singular charity towards her neighbour, grant us that, in imitation of her, by meditation on heavenly things and showing mercy to others, we may merit to attain, with her, everlasting glory. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.