St Virginia Centurione Bracelli

Widow and Foundress, (entered heaven on this day, 1651)

Dear Gina,

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why you are in such a rush to plan out the rest of your life.  It’s a temptation; I’m sure of it.  Excessive worry about your future drains attention and energy that you could more fruitfully apply to your current duties and opportunities, and the devil loves that.  You need to stay focused on one thing: God’s will.  Certainly, once you become a junior or senior, God’s will will include prudent exploration of post-college options, but even then you ought not to get obsessed with it.  You can’t plan out every turn your path of life will take, and you shouldn’t; life is an adventure, all you need to do is stay on the right path.  I think you should take today’s saint as your patron for the year; she learned this lesson well.

From a noble family in northern Italy, her desires to enter the convent were foiled by her father’s insistence on a diplomatic marriage.  The marriage only lasted three years, however.  Her husband was a compulsive gambler and frequenter of houses of ill repute, and he treated her and his two daughters without the slightest respect.  Nevertheless, when his dissolute living caught up with him and he lay on his deathbed, his faithful wife nursed him and led him back into friendship with God, so that his soul, it seems, was saved.

So Virginia was already a widow and a mother of two when she was only 20 years old (same as you, isn’t it?).  She determined to follow the desire of her heart: to serve Christ in his poor.  So she made a vow of perpetual chastity (much to her father’s chagrin) and dedicated herself to educating and providing for her children while at the same time welcoming the poor and the orphans near her Genoa residence.  By the time her own biological children were happily married she had earned a reputation as a true guardian and spiritual mother of the poor and needy, and when war broke out in northern Italy, with its consequences of refugees, orphans, poverty, and plague, her small efforts to care for the needy blossomed into a full-fledged religious Institute of charitable and educational enterprises.  It became so effective that it received a civil charter, and she wrote up a rule of life and a plan of action that put local nobility and government appointed overseers in charge of its many works.  This enabled her to step down from administrative duties and wear herself out as one religious sister among the others, serving her fellow servants as energetically as she served the poor.

Unfortunately, as her maternal heart expanded and the Institute took on more and more activities, the noble women who ran it became squeamish, afraid that associating with the poor and the outcasts would tarnish their high-society reputations.  Virginia was therefore forced to take the reins once again.  Her efforts never waned, and towards the end of her life the Lord granted her deep consolation in prayer that included visions and interior locutions.  By the time of her death at 64, the entire province had benefited spiritually and materially from this noble widow’s divine generosity.

She wouldn’t have planned it like that, but she followed God’s indications at each juncture, and along the way she always ruled herself by his commandments and according to Christ’s example.  If you do the same, you will not only rediscover your peace of mind, but you will have the kind of impact on the world that you have always dreamed of having – the kind that lasts forever.

Your devoted uncle,


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