NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church and our Holy Father. This "little work" is purely a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Friday, January 1, 2016

Saint of the Month - January 2016: Blessed Maria Repetto

Bl. Maria Repetto
A Model of Charity ~ Memorial: January 5th

This month's featured holy person is a humble nun from Genoa, Italy.  In many ways, her life closely mirrored that of St. Andre Bessette of Montreal, Canada - like him, she was the doorkeeper for her convent; she had an intense devotion to St. Joseph, the foster-father of our Lord; and she was a miracle-working healer.  But, alas, unlike St. Andre, she is not very well-known outside of her home country, but I hope to spread devotion to her in some small way, via this blog... 

Maria Repetto was the oldest child of a very large and pious family from Voltaggio, Italy.  She was born on November 1, 1807.  Out of the eleven children in her family, one son entered the priesthood and four daughters, including Maria, became nuns.  Maria entered the convent of the Daughters of Our Lady of Refuge in Genoa on May 7, 1829, and professed final vows in 1831.  She was employed by her superiors in various positions such as washerwoman, infirmarian, and as a seamstress/embroiderer.  In the latter position, she was tasked with making table clothes to sell, as well as the sacred linens and vestments used for liturgical celebrations.  Sr. Maria took pride in creating beautiful things for the Lord.

In addition to being a hardworking member of her community, Sr. Maria also practiced a very deep prayer life, a trait that obviously originated from her excellent upbringing.  She had a special love for the Blessed Sacrament and spent much of her free time praying before the Tabernacle. Sometimes she spent entire nights praying in the chapel, but it never interfered with her duties in the convent.

Bl. Maria Repetto was deeply
devoted to St. Joseph.
When Sr. Maria's poor eyesight began to effect her sewing, she was assigned the role of portress (doorkeeper).  It was then that the public aspect of her personal mission began.  Little by little this simple nun began making a big impression in the Genoese community through the genuine love and charity she displayed to all who came to the convent.  Sometimes it was through the simple act of lending a patient and caring ear to the peoples' concerns... or saying a few words of comfort or wisdom... or offering a short prayer on their behalf; little gestures that eventually added up to a lasting legacy of holy servitude. In addition, news of miracles - especially cures and remarkable conversions - began circulating about Sr. Maria.  These, the nun humbly attributed not to herself but to the intercession of her personal Patron Saint - the illustrious St. Joseph. Her devotion to him was so great, she distributed medals and small images of St. Joseph to everyone who came to her for help, encouraging all to prayerfully use them with confidence.

There was an amusing story that relates how a certain woman came to Sr. Maria, asking help for her husband who had gone blind.  The woman was extremely distressed because the husband was the sole-support of their family. Sr. Maria promised her prayers and later went to her cell where she prayed for the blind man before a small painting of St. Joseph hanging on the wall.  The nun reportedly turned the painting around so it faced the wall and innocently complained to St. Joseph that this was the sad ordeal the poor man had to endure; to live in darkness.  The very next day the woman returned with the exciting news that her husband had suddenly regained his eyesight, after which Sr. Maria returned to her cell to turn St. Joseph's portrait facing forward again.  She did so with the words,  "Thank you, St. Joseph.  I knew you would see it my way."  Such was the simple faith of Sr. Maria and the immense confidence she had in St. Joseph's solicitous intercession.

Despite the high regard the people of Genoa had for their resident miracle-worker, Sr. Maria's life was not without trials and controversy.  As the number of people coming to the convent significantly increased, some of the other sisters complained that the portress was causing a serious disruption to their community life.  As a result, the superiors removed Sr. Maria as portress and assigned her to another position within the community.  It was a humiliation the nun accepted without complaint.  Of course the public uproar that arose caused the superiors to reconsider their decision and Sr. Maria was eventually restored to her post at the door.

Pope John Paul II praying
before the remains of Bl. Maria
Sr. Maria lived the majority of her long life enclosed within the convent walls, assisting the poor and needy from the gate... but when cholera outbreaks occurred in Genoa in 1835 and 1854, she courageously volunteered to temporarily leave the convent to help nurse those afflicted by the epidemic. Again, the holy nun deeply impressed many by her selfless dedication to the sick and the dying.

In the last years of her life, she was encouraged in her personal work and consoled in her final illness by divine revelations of the afterlife.  Sr. Maria died peacefully of natural causes at the age of 82 on January 6, 1890.  She had been a nun for sixty years and the people of her city mourned her passing.

The Church Beatified Sr. Maria Repetto on October 4, 1981, and her relics are enshrined in her convent in Genoa (right photo).  One more verified miracle is needed for her to be declared a Saint.  May God grant the Church this long-awaited grace.

A Reflection
A small, simple act of kindness can sometimes make a big difference in the recipient's life.

A Short Prayer
Lord, after the example of Bl. Maria Repetto, help us to practice conscious acts of kindness and love; recognizing you in the people most in need of our charity.

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