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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, December 1, 2017

Saint of the Month - December 2017: Blessed Mattia Nazarei of Matelica


A painting of Bl. Mattia Nazarei.
Bl. Mattia Nazarei
Mother of Charity ~ Memorial: December 28th

This month's featured saint is Bl. Mattia Nazarei (sometimes spelled as "Nazzarei"), an obscure Poor Clare nun who died in 1319 in Matelica, Italy.  Born on March 1, 1253, she was the privileged daughter of Count Gualtiero Nazarei and his pious wife, Sibilla Ottoni.  From a young age she was unusually devout and was drawn to spirituality rather than the wealth and extravagance that a life in court afforded her.  Early on, Mattia had resolved to give herself completely to the Lord so, at the age of 18, when she learned that a marriage was being arranged for her to another wealthy nobleman, she fled home for the local Benedictine Convent of Santa Maddalena where an aunt of hers was the abbess.

The abbess, upon seeing her, was horrified as she feared retribution from Mattia's powerful father. The superior/aunt attempted to persuade her niece to return home but instead of doing so, the determined noblewoman entered the convent chapel where she was inspired to cut off her long, lovely hair and cast aside her fine robes.  She then again presented herself to the nuns who had no choice but to accept her, given the drastic proof she gave of her resolve to join them.

When her father finally came knocking at the convent's door, Mattia presented herself to him dressed in a habit and with her head shaved.  Count Gualtiero was taken aback by her appearance, to say the least, but his shock soon gave way to resignation and a newfound respect for his strong-willed daughter.  He immediately gave up any plan to bring her home and left her in peace in the convent.  Mattia stayed on and was professed a nun in August 1271 and her father became one of the staunchest benefactors of her community.

The youthful nun proved to be a model religious - obedient, prayerful, and self-abasing; always seeking to do the least popular tasks in the convent despite her former social status in the world.  In fact, her companion nuns were so impressed by her exemplary conduct, at the death of Mattia's aunt, they elected her abbess at only 26-years-old and she held the office for over 40 years!

During her reign as abbess, Mattia was a not only a capable spiritual mentor for those under her care, but she was also a wise and practical leader in regards to temporal matters. As her fame of holiness spread throughout the region, more and more applicants arrived at the convent door, which necessitated an expansion of the existing building. Through her close connection to the nobility, she easily raised the necessary funds to renovate and improve the convent as well as the adjoining church. Having always been drawn to the Franciscan ideal of holy poverty, Mattia was also instrumental in converting the convent to the Franciscan Rule from the Benedictine.  Thus, she died a Poor Clare; a worthy spiritual daughter of St. Clare of Assisi (d. 1253) who she greatly admired.

Mattia's love for the poor and suffering was also exceptional and well-known in Matelica.  She was solicitous with those who sought her advice and prayer, and made use of her God-given gift of prophecy to counsel many.  Generous in sharing the convent's provisions, the poor who came seeking alms were never turned away.  As such, she endeared herself so deeply to the people they affectionately referred to her as the "Mother of Charity" and venerated her as a living saint in her lifetime.

A depiction of Bl. Mattia rising to heavenly
glory above the city of Matelica
After suffering from an illness, the beloved abbess died on December 28, 1319, as she had earlier predicted to her community.  In the final moments of her life a brilliant beam of light was reported to have shown down from the heavens unto the convent, while the dying Mattia, was herself, surrounded by a mysterious radiance and a delightful floral scent that soon spread throughout the building.  The visible phenomena attracted the curiosity of the townspeople who flocked to the convent to inquire on the abbess.  When news of her death became widely known, crowds attended her funeral to pay their final respects; snipping pieces of her habit to keep as treasured relics.

Mattia's remains were initially buried in secret by the Poor Clares but was interred 18 days later near the high altar of her convent chapel after intense uproar by the people, who were indignant that the abbess was not in a tomb worthy of her sanctity.  During this first exhumation the virginal body was found free of corruption and still exhaling a sweet scent.  A later exhumation in 1536 revealed the body to still be incorrupt and mysteriously exuding manna comprised of a mixture of fragrant blood and water.  Subsequent inquiries and transfers of the remains continued to confirm the incorruptible state of Mattia's body, as well as the appearance of the manna.  The Poor Clares used linens to soak up the abundant blood-sweat and distributed them piece by piece to pilgrims, which effected cures throughout the centuries.

The popular devotion to Mattia that existed in Matelica since her death was later confirmed by Pope Clement XIII in July 1765, effectively declaring her a Blessed.  A second approved miracle is still needed to raise her to the glory of Sainthood.  Bl. Mattia Nazarei, pray for us... and may God be pleased to grant us the gift of your speedy canonization.

Left:  A relic of linen soaked in Bl. Mattia's blood-manna in this ministry's custody.
Right:  Her incorrupt body, as venerated in the Poor Clare Convent of Matelica, Italy.

A Reflection
"And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting."  ~ Words of Jesus, Matt. 19:29

A Short Prayer
Lord, like Bl. Mattia Nazarei, help us to choose You above all others; above earthly wealth and distractions, which are merely passing illusions.  Amen.

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