Newly Beatified Nun Put Christ First
Founded an Institute of Sisters to Care for Needy
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CASTELLAMMARE DI STABIA, Italy, APRIL 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- According to the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, Jesus was truly "the first and the last" for Mother Maria Magdalena Starace.
Cardinal José Saraiva Martins gave this synthesis of the life of the religious who was proclaimed blessed on Sunday.
The founder of the Institute of the Compassionist Sisters was born Sept. 5, 1845. In 1850, the Daughters of Charity established themselves in Castellammare to help the sick and then opened an orphanage and boarding house for children, where she was admitted. There, she decided to consecrate herself to the Lord.
Later, because of health reasons, she had to return to her family various times. Her confessor allowed her daily Communion (at that time permission was necessary) and, at age 15, allowed her consecration. She took the name Sister Maria Magdalena of the Passion.
When several epidemics of cholera hit Castellammare, she founded in 1869 the Institute of the Compassionist Sisters, approved two years later.
Her charism can be summarized in four points, the congregation explains: "To love God in every brother and sister. To share aspirations with every person. To participate, like Mary, in the redeeming work of Christ in the world, with love, prayer and sacrifice. To be with Mary at the foot of the infinite crosses of man, where Christ is still crucified."
In 1893, the congregation of the Compassionists was officially joined to the order of the Servants of Mary.
Sister Maria Magdalena of the Passion died of pneumonia on Dec. 13, 1921.
In the homily at her beatification, Cardinal Saraiva Martins underlined how God was at the center of her life. He said she "directed her institute kneeling at the altar, first speaking to the Lord about the life of each foundation and the individual problems of her daughters."
The "fundamental criteria of the new Servant of God," the cardinal recalled, "was centered around the conviction that true happiness in helping elderly persons, in educating youth, in giving oneself to those in need of help and comforting, was in direct relation to personal sanctification, with deep union with God."
Cardinal Saraiva Martins recalled that this is also discussed by Benedict XVI in "Deus Caritas Est," because, he said, it goes back to the "primacy of charity in Christian life and in the Church, underlining that the privileged witnesses of this are the saints, who made this their existence, even with thousands of different shades, a hymn to God-Love."
"The weapon of prayer, acceptance of the cross and abandonment to the will of God" were fundamental to the life of the newly beatified, the cardinal added.
"Let us learn from her to turn our gaze up to he who is the first and the last, the living," Cardinal Saraiva Martins concluded. "[She] sacrificed her life for the poor, children, the old and in [Christ's] spirit taught her daughters, convinced that only living this way could one be happy living on earth."