Saint Francis of Paula

Thaumaturge, Founder

Saint Francis of Paula
Saint Francis of Paula

At the age of fifteen, Saint Francis left his poor home at Paula in Calabria, Italy, to live as a hermit in a cave on the seacoast.

In time disciples gathered around him, and with them, in 1436, he founded the Order of the Minims.

He chose this name that they might always consider themselves the least of monastic Orders.

They observed a perpetual Lent, never touching meat, fish, eggs, or milk.

Francis himself made the rock his bed; his best garment was a hair shirt, and boiled herbs were his only fare.

His first consideration in all things was Caritas, charity.

Saint Francis was a thaumaturge, which denomination indicates a miracle-worker known for his virtually unceasing wonders.

The Church recognizes that God, as a rule, does not raise up more than one every century.

He cured the sick, raised the dead, averted plagues, expelled evil spirits, and brought sinners to penance.

But opposition arose; a famous preacher, misled by a few misguided monks, set to work to preach against Saint Francis and his miracles. The Saint took no notice of it, and the preacher, finding that he made no way with his hearers, determined to go to see this poor hermit whom he did not know, and confound him in person.

The Saint received him kindly, gave him a seat by the fire, and listened to a long exposition of his own frauds.

He then quietly took some glowing embers from the fire, and closing his hands upon them unhurt, said, Come, Father Anthony, warm yourself, for you are shivering for want of a little charity.

Father Anthony, falling at the Saint’s feet, asked for pardon, and then, having received his embrace, left him, to become his panegyrist and himself attain great perfection.

When the avaricious King Ferdinand of Naples offered him a gift of money for his convent, Francis told him to give it back to his oppressed subjects, and softened his heart by causing blood to flow from the ill-gotten coin.

King Louis XI of France, trembling at the approach of death, sent for the poor hermit to come and ward off the foe whose advance neither his fortresses nor his guards could check.

Francis went at the Pope’s command, leaving his country and his foundations there, which he foretold he would not see again; and he prepared the king for a pious death.

He set the court to marvelling when a delicately seasoned fish, which the king had ordered prepared for his guest’s dinner, swam away after Saint Francis cast it into the pool from which it had been taken.

And the successors of King Louis showered favours on their remarkable guest, desiring him to remain in France.

It was God’s will that retained him there.

His Rule for the Order of Minims was adopted also by women religious, and spread throughout Europe; a less rigorous Rule was adapted for the Third Order Secular for those who desired a life of penance in their state.

His name was reverenced everywhere in the Christian world; his prophecies were, during his lifetime, and are still today, held in great veneration.

He died at the age of ninety-one, on Good Friday, 1507, with the crucifix in his hand and the last words of Jesus on his lips: Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Reflection. Rely in all difficulties upon God. The faith and love which enabled Saint Francis to work miracles will do wonders for yourself, by giving you strength and consolation in proportion to your confidence and your efforts.

(SOURCE: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).)


Saint Peter Nolasco


 Saint Peter Nolasco
Saint Peter Nolasco

In the early thirteenth century the Moors still held much of Spain, and in sudden raids from the sea they carried off thousands of Christians, holding them as slaves in Granada and in their citadels along the African coast.

A hero of these unfortunates was Saint Peter Nolasco, born about the year 1189 near Carcassonne in France.

When he went to Barcelona to escape the heresy then rampant in southern France, he consecrated the fortune he had inherited to the redemption of the captives taken on the seas by the Saracens.

He was obsessed with the thought of their suffering, and desired to sell his own person to deliver his brethren and take their chains upon himself.

God made it known to him how agreeable that desire was to Him.

Because of these large sums of money he expended, Peter became penniless.

He was without resources and powerless, when the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and said to him: Find for Me other men like yourself, an army of brave, generous, unselfish men, and send them into the lands where the children of the Faith are suffering.

Peter went at once to Saint Raymond of Pennafort, his confessor, who had had a similar revelation and used his influence with King James I of Aragon and with Berengarius, Archbishop of Barcelona, to obtain approbation and support for the new community.

On August 10, 1218, Peter and two companions were received as the first members of the Order of Our Lady of Ransom, dedicated to the recovery of Christian captives.

To the three traditional vows of religion, its members joined a fourth, that of delivering their own persons to the overlords, if necessary, to ransom Christians.

The Order spread rapidly. Peter and his comrades traveled throughout Christian Spain, recruiting new members and collecting funds to purchase the captives.

Then they began negotiations with the slave-owners.

They penetrated Andalusia, crossed the sea to Tunis and Morocco, and brought home cargo after cargo of Christians.

Although Peter, as General of the Order, was occupied with its organization and administration, he made two trips to Africa where, besides liberating captives, he converted many Moors.

He died after a long illness on Christmas night of 1256; he was canonized by Pope Urban VIII in 1628.

His Order continues its religious services, now devoted to preaching and hospital service.

(SOURCE: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 2)


Saint Vincent of Saragossa

Deacon and Martyr
(† 304)

Saint Vincent of Saragossa
Saint Vincent of Saragossa

Saint Vincent was archdeacon of the church at Saragossa, Spain. Valerian, the bishop, was prevented from preaching by a speech impediment, and named Vincent to preach in his stead.

He answered in the bishop’s name when, during the persecution of Diocletian, both were brought before Dacian, the presiding officer.

When the bishop was sent into banishment, Vincent was retained, to suffer and to die.

First he was stretched on the rack; and when he was almost torn asunder, Dacian asked him in mockery how he fared now.

Vincent answered, with joy on his countenance, that he had always prayed to be as he was then.

It was in vain that Dacian struck the executioners and goaded them on in their savage work.

The martyr’s flesh was torn with hooks; he was bound to a chair of red-hot iron; lard and salt were rubbed into his wounds; and amid all this he kept his eyes raised to heaven, and remained unmoved.

The holy martyr was cast into a solitary dungeon, his feet placed in the stocks; but the Angels of Christ illuminated the darkness, and assured Vincent that he was near his triumph.

His wounds were now ordered to be tended, to prepare him for fresh torments, and the faithful were permitted to gaze on his mangled body.

They came in troops, kissed his wounds and carried away as relics, cloths colored with his blood.

Before the tortures could resume, Saint Vincent’s hour came, and he breathed forth his soul in peace.

Even the dead bodies of the Saints are precious in the sight of God, and the hand of iniquity cannot touch them.

A raven guarded the body of Vincent where it lay flung upon the earth.

When it was sunk out at sea, the waves cast it ashore; and his relics are preserved to this day in the Augustinian monastery at Lisbon, for the consolation of the Church of Christ.

Reflection. Do you wish to be at peace amid suffering and temptation? Then make it your principal endeavor to grow in habits of prayer and in union with Christ. Have confidence in Him. He will make you victorious over your spiritual enemies and over yourself. He will enlighten your darkness and sweeten your sufferings, and in your solitude and desolation He will draw near to you with His holy Angels.

(SOURCE: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).)


Saint Paul

the First Hermit

Saint Paul
Saint Paul

Saint Paul was born in Upper Egypt in about the year 229, and became an orphan at the age of fifteen.

He was very rich and highly educated. Fearing lest the tortures of a terrible persecution might endanger his Christian perseverance, he retired into a remote village.

But his pagan brother-in-law denounced him, and Saint Paul, rather than remain where his faith was in danger, entered the barren desert, trusting that God would supply his wants.

And his confidence was rewarded; for on the spot to which Providence led him he found the fruit of a palm-tree for food, its leaves for clothing, and the water of a spring for drink.

His first plan was to return to the world when the persecution was over; but tasting great delights in prayer and penance, he remained for the rest of his life, ninety years, in penance, prayer and contemplation.

God revealed his existence to Saint Anthony, who sought him for three days.

Seeing a thirsty she-wolf run through an opening in the rocks, Anthony followed her to look for water and found Paul.

They knew each other at once, and praised God together.

While Saint Anthony was visiting him, a raven brought them a loaf of bread, and Saint Paul said, See how good God is! For sixty years this bird has brought me half a loaf each day; now at your coming, Christ has doubled the provision for His servants.

The two religious passed the night in prayer, then at dawn Paul told Anthony that he was about to die, and asked to be buried in the cloak given to Anthony by Saint Athanasius.

He asked him this to show that he was dying in communion with Saint Athanasius, the invincible defender of the Faith against the Arian heresy.

Anthony hastened back to fetch it, and when he was returning to Paul he saw his co-hermit rising to heaven in glory.

He found his dead body kneeling as in prayer, and saw two lions come and dig his grave. Saint Paul, The Patriarch of Hermits, died in his one hundred and thirteenth year.

Reflection. Never shall we trust in ourselves without being deceived, but we shall never repent of having trusted in God, for He cannot fail those who depend upon Him.

(SOURCE: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894); Lives of the Desert Fathers, their Spiritual Doctrine and Monastic Discipline, by Fr. Michel-Ange Marin (Magnificat: St. Jovite, 1991))


Saint Genevieve


Saint Genevieve
Saint Genevieve

Saint Genevieve was born at Nanterre, near Paris.

Saint Germanus, when passing through that village, noticed this little shepherdess and predicted her future sanctity.

At seven years of age she made a vow of perpetual chastity.

After the death of her parents, Paris became her abode, but she often traveled on works of mercy in which she was assisted by the gifts of prophecy and miracles.

At one time she was cruelly persecuted.

Her enemies, jealous of her power, called her a hypocrite and tried to drown her, but when Saint Germanus sent her some blessed bread as a token of esteem, the outcry ceased.

Ever afterwards she was honored as a Saint.

During the siege of Paris by Childeric, king of the Franks, Genevieve went out with a few followers and procured grain for the starving citizens.

Childeric, though a pagan, respected her, and at her request spared the lives of many prisoners.

When Attila and his Huns were approaching the city for another incursion, the inhabitants, instead of taking flight, asked her aid; and listening to her exhortations they undertook prayer and penance, thus averting the impending scourge, as she had foretold would be possible.

Clovis, when converted from paganism by his holy wife, Saint Clotilda, made Genevieve his constant adviser, and, in spite of his violent character, became a generous and Christian king.

Saint Genevieve died in 512, at the age of eighty-nine.

When in 1129 a pestilence broke out at Paris, in a short time it swept off fourteen thousand persons, and, in spite of all human efforts, daily added to its victims.

At length, on November 26th, the reliquary of Saint Genevieve was carried in solemn procession through the city.

That same day only three persons died; the rest recovered, and no others were taken ill.

This was but the first of a series of miraculous favours which the city of Paris has obtained through the relics of its patron Saint.

(SOURCE: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894))



Saint Charbel Makhlouf

Maronite Priest and Hermit

Saint Charbel Makhlouf, the modest monk of Lebanon whose perfectly conserved mortal remains exude a miraculous sanguinolent liquid, has become known to many in the past half century, because of the extraordinary miracles which have drawn thousands to visit his tomb.

Youssef Makhlouf was born in 1828 in Bika’Kafra, the highest village of Lebanon, near the grove of the still-conserved famous cedars of Lebanon. The youngest of five children, he became a little shepherd. Their pious mother lived almost as a religious in her family home. She would pray with outstretched arms, telling her family to allow no one to see her at those moments.

The children’s father also possessed the genuine piety which recommends a Christian to his brethren, but the little Youssef never knew him, for he died when the youngest son was only two years old. An uncle took upon himself the support of the family, which was thereby maintained intact.

The child was profoundly affected by the example of two other maternal uncles, who were monks of the Maronite Lebanese Order, living in a hermitage only three miles away, and whom he often visited, at first with his mother, later on his own.

They would say to him: All here below is nothing, the world is vanity, life is short. The true beauty is God, near Him there is true happiness. Wisdom is to not find oneself with empty hands at the supreme hour.

By the time he was sixteen, he had completed his basic schooling under an oak in the village churchyard, where he was taught by the priest with the other village boys. The Christian spirit of the entire village was remarkable; the men regarded it as a great privilege to ring the church bells for Sunday Mass. Youssef during his days on the hillside with his little flock, often retired to a grotto to pray, for solitude was his joy, and prayer the breath of his soul.

He was serving Mass every morning, and in that function he discovered the true purpose of his existence: to be, like his Saviour, a victim to be offered, with Christ, to His Father.

At the age of twenty-three he left home silently one morning, and made his way to a monastery a day’s journey away. Only one thing mattered to him — to obey the voice of the One who summons: Come, follow Me.

When his uncle and tutor, Tanios, tried to persuade him to return, he could not succeed; and his mother, who had accompanied her brother, taking his hand in hers, and shaking it energetically, said to him: Well then, if you should not become a good religious, return with me to the house!

He received the habit one week after entering the monastery, and chose the name of Charbel, a martyr of the Antioch church in the year 107.

There followed two years of a severe novitiate, completed in the monastery of Annaya, which on its mountaintop seemed to breathe the stars, then the young monk was sent to prepare for the priesthood farther away, at Saint Cyprian of Kfifan, where he was ordained six years later at the age of 31.

He returned to Annaya afterwards, where for sixteen years he was in every way a model of perfection, until in 1875, at forty-seven years of age, he retired to its nearby hermitage, where he would remain until his death.

He was offering Mass a week before Christmas, when paralysis struck him as he elevated the host.

His sorrowing companion, during a week’s time, heard him repeating as long as he had voice, the prayers of his uncompleted Mass: O Father of truth, behold Your Son, victim to please You; condescend to approve [this offering], because for me He endured death, to give me life…

Saint Charbel died quietly on the 24th of December, attended by three monks.

The events of his life are not often extraordinary save by their heroic virtue, which indeed exceeds description.

He endured the extreme cold of his hermitage each winter, without ever adding additional garments to his ordinary very simple ones; this alone sufficed to astonish all who knew of it.

The monks who trembled with cold during the night when they kept vigil at his coffin before his funeral, said: See how we find ourselves unable to endure for a single night, the rude cold of this chapel!

How could this priest live here for twenty-three years, on his knees, like a statue before the altar, every night from midnight until eleven in the morning, when he rose to say his Mass?

Blessed is he, for he undoubtedly receives at present his reward with God!

We can nonetheless relate with the biographer whom we cite here, that one day he completely cured a dangerously violent insane man, whom several others had difficulty to make enter the monastery, but who went to its chapel when the Saint commanded him to do so; and there, when Saint Charbel placed a Gospel on his head and prayed, he became calm and silent, remaining thereafter entirely cured.

On another occasion, while the monks were outdoors working to harvest their grapes, a huge venomous serpent emerged from beneath a bush, in a threatening attitude.

Saint Charbel told the others who had already armed themselves not to touch it, and commanded it to depart, which it did in peace.

After his death a great many miracles occurred.

Sick and infirm people of all kinds have been healed: deaf, dumb, blind, paralytic, those with cancer, mental illness, etc.

They are also of every religion and every country. God worked these wonders either when people touched the body of His servant of were anointed with the oily liquid that sweated miraculously from his precious remains, or when they touched cloths either impregnated with this liquid or which had belonged to him.

The divine power that strengthens and heals does not limit itself to the needs of the body. It especially cures wounds of the soul in every form — sin, indifference, unbelief, error. Indeed, it is the healing of souls that occurs most often amid the cures that take place at Annaya.

Since the death of Saint Charbel, thousands of cases of miraculous healings have been recorded.

Saint Charbel was one of those souls which, in a life of silence, mortification, deprivation and total gift of self, was able to detach itself from everything except the adorable Face of the Lord.

Nothing mattered more for him than the redemption and salvation of souls, for whom he wanted to give his life in union with Christ on the cross.

He applied these words of Saint Paul in their totality: I fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the Passion of Christ for His body, which is the Church. (Colossians 1:24)

(SOURCE: Charbel Makhlouf, by P. Daher (Éditions Spes: Paris, 1953); One of the greatest Saints of Our Time, Saint Charbel Makhlouf (Magnificat: St. Jovite, 1998); Magnificat magazine (Magnificat: St. Jovite, 1998), Vol. XXXIII, No. 1, January 1998.)


Saint Servulus of Rome

Invalid and Beggar
(† 670)

Saint Servulus of Rome
Saint Servulus of Rome

Saint Servulus was a perfect model of submission to the divine Will; it would be difficult to offer a more consoling example to persons afflicted by poverty, illnesses and the other miseries of life. It is Saint Gregory the Great who narrates for us his edifying story:

We have seen under the portico of the Church of Saint Clement, a poor man named Servulus, who is known to all the people of Rome as to Us.

He was deprived of all the goods of this world; a long illness had reduced him to a pitiful state. From his youth he was paralyzed in all his members.

Not only could he not stand up, but he was unable to rise from his bed; he could neither sit down nor turn himself from one side to the other, nor bring his hand to his mouth.

Nothing in him was sound except his eyes, ears, tongue, stomach and entrails.

This unfortunate man, who had learned the mysteries of religion, meditated unceasingly on the sufferings of the Saviour, and never did he complain.

He was surrounded by the loving care of his mother and brother.

Neither the mother nor the children had ever studied, yet the paralytic had pious books bought for himself, in particular the Psalms and the Holy Gospels, and he would ask the religious who came to visit him on his cot to read from them to him.

In this way he learned these books by heart; he spent days and part of the nights in singing or reciting them, and meditating them, and he constantly thanked the Lord for having taken him to be a victim associated with the pains and sufferings of Jesus Christ.

Many alms came to the little house of the paralytic, to such an extent that he became rich in his poverty.

After having taken from these what was necessary for his subsistence and that of his mother, he gave the rest to the indigent, who often assembled around him to be edified by his words and his virtues.

His bed of pain was a pulpit of preaching, from which he converted souls.

When the time came which was decreed by God to reward his patience and put an end to his painful life, Servulus felt the paralysis spreading to the vital parts of his body, and he prepared for death.

At the final moment, he asked those in attendance to recite Psalms with him. Suddenly he cried out: Ah! Don’t you hear that melody resounding in heaven?’

At that moment his soul escaped from his body, which until his burial gave forth a marvelous fragrance.

SOURCE: Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l’année, by Abbé L. Jaud (Mame: Tours, 1950).)


Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini


Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini

Dear to the hearts of American Catholics in many regions of the United States, Saint Frances Cabrini, foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, patroness of immigrants, was the first citizen of the United States to be canonized.

Born in Lombardy, Italy, the youngest of thirteen children, she was fired with missionary zeal as a little girl, through family reading of the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith.

She gave up sweets because she would also be without them in China, where she aspired to go.

She earned a teacher’s certificate and applied to two Orders having missionary houses, but was rejected for reasons of health.

Reluctantly, at the request of her bishop, she tried to save an orphanage and make of its staff a religious community, but after six hard years the work collapsed. And Frances, by then thirty years old, initiated her own missionary community with seven of her associates from the orphanage.

Bishop Scalabrini suggested they work with Italian immigrants, especially in the United States, as the Congregation of Saint Charles which he had founded was doing; but Mother Cabrini’s heart was set on China.

She asked counsel of Pope Leo XIII.

Go not to the East, he told her, but to the West.

Founding schools, hospitals and charitable works of every kind, she would cross the ocean thirty times, bringing bands of young Italian Sisters to North and South America.

Her amusing community letter, during her second trip to New York, gives a typical picture of these missionary voyages: This morning all the Sisters woke up very ill. Some of them thought they were going to die… Those who trusted my words rose and tried to eat, and presently were looking quite well. The others who thought death was at hand stayed in their rooms awaiting it…

Her letters are filled with the practical motherly instruction of a foundress who knew she was loved and imitated by her Sisters.

When you are corrected do not justify yourself. Remain silent and practice virtue, whether you are right or wrong, otherwise we may dream of perfection but will never attain it. (Oct. 17-20, 1892)

Love is not loved, my daughters! Love is not loved! (Aug. 21, 1890)

Renounce yourselves entirely if you wish to enjoy peace… She who is not holy will make no one holy. (Oct. 17, 1892)

Explaining why she did not accompany some Sisters on a boat excursion she wrote, I admit my weakness, I am afraid of the sea. And if there is no very holy motive in view, I have no courage to go where I fear danger, unless sent by obedience. For then, of course, one’s movements are blessed by God.

Mother Cabrini died at sixty-seven, suddenly and alone in one of her Chicago hospitals, while preparing Christmas presents for 500 children.

(SOURCE: Lives of the Saints: Daily Readings, by Augustine Kalberer, O.S.B. (Franciscan Herald Press: Chicago, 1975).)



Bl. Giulia Nemesia Valle

         Giulia is the name chosen by her parents Anselmo Valle and Cristina Dalbar. She was born in Aosta on the 26th June 1847 and was baptised on the same day in the ancient collegiate church of Saint Orso.

She spends the first years of her life within a happy family who rejoices at the birth of another child – Vincent – and where the parents’ work who run a milliner’s shop and a solid commercial activity respectively assures a certain welfare.

But the mother dies when Giulia is still four.

The two orphans are thus entrusted first to the care of the paternal relatives in Aosta and later to the maternal ones in Donnas.

Here they find a calm environment The school, catechism and the preparation for the sacraments take place at home under the guide of a priest who happens to be a family friend.

When Giulia is eleven, she is sent to France in Besançon, in a boarding school run by the Sisters of Charity where she could continue her schooling.

Her separation from the family costs her a new suffering, a new experience of solitude directing her towards a deep friendship with “the Lord who keeps her mother with Him”.

In Besançon she learns French thoroughly, enriches her culture and becomes skilful in housework. Her delicate goodness matures and it renders her loveable and attentive towards the others.

Five years later, Giulia returns to her valley, but her house at Donnas is no longer there. Her father got married again and moved to Pont Saint Martin. Here the familiar situation is strained and living together is not so easy.

Her brother Vincent cannot stand her: he goes away alone without receiving any more news from him….Giulia remains, and out of her solitude crops up the stimulus to seek what her family couldn’t provide for her, to look after those who experiment her same sorrowful event and find out ways and means that express friendship, understanding, kindness and goodness for everyone.

In that period, the sisters of Charity came to settle at Pont Saint Martin. In them, Giulia rediscovers her teachers of Besançon, the daughters of Saint Jeanne-Antide Thouret who give her help and encouragement.

She observes the life-style that they offer to God and to the others and chooses to become one of them.

When her fathers presents her the suggestion of a prosperous marriage, Giulia doesn’t hesitate: she has promised her life totally to God : she only desires to become a Sister of Charity.

On the 8th September 1866 her father accompanies her to the Monastery of Santa Margherita in Vercelli where the Sisters of Charity run a noviciate.

A new, peaceful and joyful life starts for her in spite of the suffering separation. It’s now a matter of building a deeper relationship with God, of knowing herself and the mission of the community in order to accomplish God’s will. Giulia starts joyfully her new journey.

Every day she discovers what she must lose or acquire: “Jesus strip me of myself, let me be wrapped in you. Jesus I live for you, and I die for you…” is the prayer that already accompanies and will continue to accompany her during her lifetime.

At the end of the noviciate, together with the new habit she receives a new mane: Sr. Nemesia.

It’s the name of one of the earliest martyrs of the church.

She is happy with the name and makes out of it a life’s program : to witness at all costs, totally and for ever her love for Jesus.

She is sent to Tortona, in St. Vincent’s Institute where she finds several activities: an elementary school, cultural courses, a boarding school and an orphanage.

She teaches both in the elementary school and French in the higher classes.

That’s the favourable ground where she can sow kindness.

Sr. Nemesia is present where humble work is to be done, where there is pain to be relieved, where apprehension hinders good relationships, where fatigue, pain and poverty put limits to life.

A voice immediately spreads within the institute and in the city: “Oh, the heart of Sr. Nemesia!”

Everyone is convinced to have a particular place in this heart that knew no boundaries: Sisters, orphans, pupils, families, poor, the clergy of the nearby seminary, young soldiers of the numerous barracks of Tortona turn to her and seek her as if she were the only Sister present in the house.

When she is nominated superior of the community at the age of forty, Sr. Nemesia feels perplexed, but she remembers that : to be a superior means “to serve”, and therefore she can give herself without any limits.

Thus she humbly faces the ascent.

The traces the main contents of her programme: “Keep a quick pace, without looking behind and concentrate on the one goal : God Alone ! To Him the glory, to the others joy, for me to pay the price, never make others suffer. I shall be very strict with myself and full of charity towards the others : love gratuitously offered is the only thing that remains.”

Her charity has no limits. In Tortona she is called “our angel”.

In the morning of the 10th of May 1903, , the orphans and the boarders find a message addressed to them from Sr. Nemesia: “I am leaving happily, I entrust to our Lady… I shall follow you in every moment of the day”.

She left alone at 4 o’clock in the morning, after 36 years…

In Borgaro, a small country in the vicinity of Turin, there is a small group of young girls waiting to be accompanied along a new path, towards the total self-gift to God and to serve him later in the poor…

They are the novices of the new province of the Sisters of Charity…

The method of her formation remains always the same : that of kindness, understanding that educates to renouncement out of love, patience that knows how to wait and how to find the correct way that is convenient to everyone.

Her novices recall : “She knew each one of us, she understood our needs, she treated us according to our characters and she asked

The character of the Provincial Superior which “was perfectly opposite to hers”, disagreed with her method. She was in favour of a rigid, strong and immediate method. Such a difference in their points of view caused relevant contrasts which found their expression in reproaches and humiliations.

Sister Nemesia accepted everything in silence, smiling as she went ahead, without hurrying and without neglecting her responsibilities: “From one station to the other, let us continue our way in the desert…and if the desert is deaf, your Creator is always listening…”

Sr. Nemesia’s path nears the end.

Already thirteen years have passed since her arrival in Borgaro.

About five hundred novices have learnt from her how to walk on the paths traced by God.

She has given everything : now the Lord asks her to “hand over” to others even “her noviciate”.

The prayer that has become hers since the beginning: “Jesus strip me of myself, let me be wrapped in You” has accompanied her throughout her life.

Now she can say “I don’t exist any more”.

She has given up everything.

It’s the perfect offering of an existence fully offered to Love.

Sr. Nemesia dies on the 18th December 1916.
(SOURCE :  Libreria Editrice Vaticana )



Saint Olympia of Constantinople

Widow and Deaconess
(† 440)

Saint Olympia, the glory of the widows in the Eastern Church, was born of a noble and illustrious family.

Left an orphan at a tender age, she was brought up by Theodosia, sister of Saint Amphilochius, a virtuous and prudent woman.

At the age of eighteen, Olympias was regarded as a model of Christian virtues. It was then that she was married to Nebridius, a young man worthy of her; the new spouses promised one another to live in perfect continence.

After less than two years of this angelic union, Nebridius went to receive in heaven the reward of his virtues.

The Emperor would have engaged her in a second marriage, but she replied: If God had destined me to live in the married state, He would not have taken my first spouse. The event which has broken my bonds shows me the way Providence has traced for me.

She had resolved to consecrate her life to prayer and penance, and to devote her fortune to the poor.

She liberated all her slaves, who nonetheless wished to continue to serve her, and she administered her fortune as a trustee for the poor.

The farthest cities, islands, deserts and poor churches found themselves blessed through her liberality.

Nectarius, Archbishop of Constantinople, had a high esteem for the saintly widow and made her a deaconess of his church.

The duties of deaconesses were to prepare the altar linens and instruct the catechumens of their sex; they aided the priests in works of charity, and they made a vow of perpetual chastity.

When Saint John Chrysostom succeeded Nectarius, he had for Olympias no less respect than his predecessor, and through her aid he built a hospital for the sick and refuges for the elderly and orphans.

When he was exiled in the year 404, he continued to encourage her in her good works by his letters, and she assisted him to ransom some of his fellow captives.

Saint Olympia, as one of his supporters, was persecuted.

When she refused to deal with the usurper of the episcopal see, she was mistreated and calumniated, and her goods were sold at a public auction.

Finally she, too, was banished with the entire community of nuns which she governed in Constantinople.

Her illnesses added to her sufferings, but she never ceased her good works until her death in the year 410.

She outlived the exiled Patriarch by about two or three years.

(SOURCE: The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Principal Saints, by Rev. Alban Butler (Metropolitan Press: Baltimore, 1845), October-December, Vol. IV)