December 15, 2016

Saint Virginia Centurione Bracelli, Widower, Foundress

St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli

December 15th, the feast of St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli, a 16th century Italian lay woman who founded the Sisters of Our Lady of Refuge on Mount Calvary and the Daughters of Our Lady on Mount Calvary, is celebrated in Italy. She was born in Genoa, Italy to a noble family, the only daughter of Giorgio Centurione, and Lelia Spinola, and forced into marriage at 15. She bore two daughters and was widowed in 1607 aged 20. She refused another marriage and made a vow of chastity. She devoted her life to helping the needy and the sick and died in 1651. She was canonized by Saint John Paul II on May 18, 2003. At her canonization Mass, St. John Paul praised her selfless devotion in these words:

"In response to the exhortation of the Apostle John, [Virginia Centurione Bracelli] wanted to love not only "with words", "or with her lips", but "with deeds and in truth" (I Jn 3:18). Disregarding her noble origins, she devoted herself to assisting the lowliest with extraordinary apostolic zeal. The effectiveness of her apostolate stemmed from her unconditional adherence to God's will, which was nourished by ceaseless contemplation of, and obedient listening to, the word of the Lord.

In love with Christ and for his sake ready to give herself for her brothers and sisters, St Virginia Centurione Bracelli leaves the Church the witness of a simple and active saint. Her example of courageous fidelity to the Gospel also continues to exert a powerful influence on people in our time. She used to say: when God is one's only goal, 'all disagreements are smoothed out, all difficulties overcome.'"

Lord, who enkindled in the heart of Saint Virginia Centurione Bracelli the flame of ardent charity and a great desire to cooperate in the mission of the Church. May she teach us how to continue "to abide" in Jesus, united to him as branches to the vine, and never to cut ourselves off from his love. Grant us that same active love, so that, in responding to the needs of the world today, we may lead our brothers and sisters to the blessedness of eternal life. Praised be Christ forever.

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