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

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Saint of the Month - November 2016: Blessed Maria Fortunata Viti

Bl. Maria Fortunata Viti
A Saint of Monotony ~ Memorial: November 20th

For some reason, this particular Beata gives me a cozy feeling whenever I reflect on her life... or look at a picture of her. I don't exactly know what it is about her that does it for me. Perhaps it's her appearance, which seems oddly familiar like a favorite aunt or a grandmother... or maybe it was her gentle nature, which attracted not just people to her, but also wild birds that fearlessly alighted on her hands at her bidding (I'm an animal lover, too).

Born Anna Felice Viti on February 10, 1827, in Veroli, Italy, she was the third eldest out of nine children. Sadly, when she was just 14-years-old, Anna's pious mother died, leaving her and her siblings to be cared for by their father, Luigi; a poor example of a man. Luigi was a compulsive gambler, as well as an alcoholic, who irresponsibly squandered his income on his vices rather than properly providing for his children. 

The Benedictine Convent of Veroli, Italy
Given their unfortunate circumstances, Anna stepped up to the plate by foregoing her elementary education (she remained illiterate all her life) to raise her younger siblings, and working as a domestic servant to make ends meet for her large household. During this same time, she also felt strongly drawn to religious life but postponed applying to a convent because of her loyalty and commitment to her family. It wasn't until ten years later, when Anna was 24, that she was finally able to pursue her desire of giving herself completely over to God. The Benedictine nuns in her hometown welcomed her as their sister and she happily remained with them for a little over 70 years, until her death at the ripe old age of 95.   

Sr. Maria Fortunata, as she was renamed in the convent, soon became notable for her strict observance of the Rule and her outstanding practice of obedience, humility, and prayer. Because of her simple nature, she was assigned the duties of spinning, sewing, and laundry for the convent, which she uncomplainingly fulfilled for the rest of her long life. But when she wasn't occupied with her chores, she could be found in the chapel rapt in deep prayer before our Eucharistic Lord, or lending a kind ear or hand to a nun in need or to visitors.  Needless to say, she endeared herself to many. 

In addition to being remembered for her goodness and piety, Sr. Maria Fortunata's life was also enriched with many spiritual gifts. Biographers report that she had the God-given ability to prophecy and, on one occasion, predicted that a certain priest would abandon his vocation, repent, and resume his priestly ministry with renewed vigor; everything happened as she said. Then there were the mysterious swoons that sometimes overtook her in the chapel, after which her arms and legs would be found covered with bleeding lash marks - the effects, apparently, of the Stigmata of the Scourging. And lastly, as already mentioned, she had a wonderful influence on animals, especially birds, which showed no fear in her presence but freely came to her and nestled in her hands whenever she called to them.

On the other hand, when a venomous snake once found its way into the convent's garden and threatened the safety of her fellow nuns, Sr. Maria Fortunata miraculously disposed of it by making the sign of the cross in the snake's direction after it slithered out of the shrub towards her.  It immediately writhed about before rolling over dead!  

Another painted likeness...
In her final years, Sr. Maria Fortunata patiently endured severe arthritis, which eventually left her bedridden... and then the trial of blindness followed. Unable to fulfill her physical duties, she resigned herself to God's will and simply prayed all the more, until she peacefully flew to Heaven on November 20, 1922. In the eyes of the world, her life would generally be considered mundane and monotonous, but through the eyes of faith, her life was made truly heroic and fruitful through constant prayer and the faithful acceptance of whatever God made her days to be.

After her passing, the memory of this hidden gem of a nun, at first appeared destined for obscurity, but then multiple reports of cures and favors occurring at her grave fueled her reputation for sanctity. The Church took notice and investigated, and the humble Benedictine sister was eventually beatified on October 8, 1967. One more authenticated miracle, worked through her intercession, is needed for Bl. Maria Fortunata Viti to be called a Saint.  Let us pray for that second miracle to soon be realized.

A Reflection
"Short is the suffering, eternal the joy!" ~ Words of encouragement often spoken by Bl. Maria Fortunata to those who came to her burdened by life's difficulties.

A Short Prayer

Lord, like your servant Bl. Maria Fortunata, help us to focus on the eternal reward awaiting us in your kingdom, rather than on the temporary trials that we face in this life.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

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