St Maria de Mattias

Virgin and Foundress of the Sisters Adorers of the Blood of Christ (entered heaven August 20th, 1866)

Dear Marianne,

If you won’t stop wasting your money on all those fashion magazines, at least spend some of it buying books showing the fashions that last forever, the fashions of holiness.  Then maybe you’ll learn to balance your vanity with a bit of love.  You know that difference, don’t you?  Vanity is all about making sure people notice your beauty; love is all about finding and enhancing the beauty of others.  It’s a difference that Christ dearly wants to teach us, as evidenced by today’s saint.

Maria was born in the early 1800’s in central Italy.  Her family was comfortable and aristocratic, and she spent her youth close to her father, who read to her from the Bible and even gave her the rudiments of an education (girls didn’t receive formal studies at that time in that place).  She developed sensitivity for spiritual things, and an appreciation for the Scriptures, but in her teenage years, living in the relative isolation that her social class required, she became self-absorbed.  She spent more and more time admiring her own beauty and fantasizing about the wonderful life it would bring her.  Somehow, though, when she was about 17, her daydreams turned sour.  She experienced a kind of existential crisis, which must have been the fruit of grace, because when she turned to prayer and to her dad in order to get out of it, seeking from those sources light and wisdom about the true meaning of life, God granted her a mystical vision of Christ crucified, in which she perceived the beauty of God’s love in the blood spilled by Our Savior.  She found in Christ the burning, higher love that her heart had been vainly searching for in worldly dreams, and she found it in the beauty of Christ’s blood.

That experience, matured in prayer, moved her to take to the streets of Italy, which were stained by the blood of countless feuds and civil wars in those years, to preach what she had experienced.  She wanted to help others see Christ’s love as he had helped her see it.  She received another boost that same year when a holy preacher (Saint Gaspar del Bufalo) led a mission in her home town.  He preached so effectively that she could see the change in the lives of her fellow townspeople.  This gave her confidence.  It showed her that God could use human words to do in others what he had done directly in her.

Soon her zeal made her known, and the bishop asked her to take over a house for poor girls, where she cared for them, taught them their faith and some trades, and even the basics of academics (she had taught herself to read and write).  Her teaching was amazingly effective.  Soon the mothers started coming to listen as well.  And then they brought their sons too (not just their daughters).  And even though the social mores forbade her to speak to men, groups of men started gathering outside the windows to listen in.  The local shepherds, dodging the rules of etiquette, sneaked into town at night and begged her to teach them about Christ.

She attracted a following and formed a religious Congregation of women dedicated to preaching the love of Christ, so as to transform every heart and thereby change all of society.  By the time of her death when she was 61, she had founded 70 communities, usually in small, out-of-the-way towns.  By the time of her beatification almost 100 years later, the number had soared to 400.

So you see, my lovely young niece, if you REALLY want to impress people, your hair and makeup can help, but the glow that comes from love, and especially the love of Christ, will work the real wonders.

Your comely uncle,


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