St Magdalena of Canossa

Virgin, Foundress of the Canossian Family of Daughters and Sons of Charity (entered heaven on May 14, 1881)

Dear Lynn,

Think about it objectively for just a minute.  (I know that objective thinking is not your strong point; bold and rash action are more becoming of your adventurous spirit, but try it, please, just this once.)  So your Chapter didn’t achieve its goals for the year.  You made progress, but not the progress you had programmed.  So now you’re frustrated and angry.  Does that frustration and anger come from your burning love for Christ and for pleasing him?  It doesn’t sound like it.  It sounds rather like you were in love with your own plans of achievement, and when they didn’t work out exactly as you envisioned, in spite of your sturdy and conscientious efforts, your self-love was (is) a bit wounded.

That, my dear, dear niece, is a good thing; let your self-love get more and wounded, until it dies.  As Christ told us, “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.”  Let go of your frustration; learn the proper reaction from today’s saint.

Her religious Institute had over 4000 members throughout the entire world at the time of her canonization a few years ago.  Just think how many souls those 4000 are reaching.  Just think how wonderfully Christ is being preached by those men and women who have vowed to follow him in poverty, chastity, and obedience.  And do you know how it came about?  Because St Magdalena let her own plans be purified in the burning zeal of God’s plans.

She was a daughter of a noble family residing in the palace of Canossa, near Verona, in northern Italy.  She grew up with a fine education, all the social graces, and plenty of connections.  She suffered from her father’s death and her mother’s remarriage (her stepfather really had it in for her), but she bore it gracefully.  All through her youth she had nursed a deep desire to live only for Christ, and when she was 17 she tried to enter the convent of the Discalced Carmelites.  But she wasn’t accepted.  So she tried again, but she wasn’t accepted the second time either.

If she had reacted to this setback the way you are reacting to yours, she probably would have organized an armed takeover of the convent.  But she returned to the palace, took up the duties of her state in life, expanding her network of friends and acquaintances and taking care of the sizeable estate, all the while guarding her heart and finding there the sweet intimacy of Christ’s love.

As the years passed, she began to discover where God was calling her: to serve the poor in the Verona suburbs, which were reeling from the devastation that came in the wake of the Napoleonic wars.  Little by little she started to find ways to help them, and then her love really caught fire.

She left the palace, and gathering a group of like-minded followers from among her friends, she began her institute of the Daughters of Charity.  Soon it spread to all the major cities of northern Italy, and she expanded her work to include spiritual attention to the upper classes – annual spiritual exercises that would put them in contact with Christ’s love and move them to work for his Kingdom.  Schools, catechesis, hospitals, teacher training – the scope of her zeal continued to expand.  She added a men’s branch to the institute, and collaborated with other zealous apostles of her time, many of whom have also been raised to the altars.

But it all happened because she knew how to accept apparent failure and find God’s guiding, providential hand in the midst of it.  As you look over last year’s plan, and make next year’s, try to do the same.

Your devoted uncle,


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