A Different Falling in Love Leads to Holiness

Brazilian Spouses Zelia and Jeronimo, Servants of God

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By Maria Emilia Marega

ROME, MAY 3, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The experience of marital life of the Servants of God Zelia and Jeronimo, Brazilian spouses of the 19th century, shows that it is possible to be a saint in daily life, regardless of one's vocation. 

Jeronimo de Castro Abreu Magalhaes was born in Mage, and Zelia Pedreira Abreu Magalhaes in Niteroi. They were married on July 27, 1876, in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

He was a civil engineer and she was a lawyer, with a fine artistic, literary and scientific formation, so that at 14 she translated the work of Cesare Cantu Il Giovinetto from Italian to Portuguese.

From the moment they met, Jeronimo and Zelia always wanted to please God, when in their exchange of looks it was already clear that their falling in love would be different, said Father Roberto Lopes, who is in charge of the processes of canonization of the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro.

“Zelia and Jeronimo were very passionate. The life of prayer grew in the heart of their home. They educated their children for God, and the Eucharist was something that they tried to make present for the people of God looking for it,” Father Lopes said. 

Thirteen children were born from this marriage; four died at an early age, among the others, three boys and three girls entered religious orders, including Franciscan friar Jose Pedreira de Castro, a professor of Biblical sciences who in 1956 founded a Biblical Center and a course by correspondence in sacred Scripture.

In the country estate where they lived there was a chapel in which many times a day the couple was seen praying, as well as their servants, who always began their work of the day with a prayer led by Jeronimo and Zelia in the courtyard of their property.

The historical research on Jeronimo de Castro Abreu Magalhaes and his wife Zelia is being carried out by an archdiocesan commission created on Dec. 23 by Archbishop Orani João Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro.

Zelia’s life was quite well known from the decade of the 30s to that of the 60s. Her biography reached a sixth edition and was translated into several languages.