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St. Magdalene of Canossa: A Woman with a Big Heart

Magdalene of Canossa (1774-1835), our Foundress, received from the Spirit the gift of penetrating deeply into the riches of God’s love in its purest and most sublime expression: Jesus Crucified.

The understanding of this “greatest love” formed within her the heart of a mother and the ardour of an apostle.  St. Magdalene of Canossa was a woman who believed in the love of the Lord Jesus.  Sent by the Holy Spirit among those who are most in need, she served them with the heart of a mother and the zeal of an apostle.  Known for her creative response to the needs of her time, Magdalene initiated her apostolate at the age of thirty five, after a long and painful search for God’s will which began when she was seventeen.

about magdalene


Her Birth and Childhood

 


She was born in Verona on March 1, 1774, of a noble and wealthy family, the second of six children. Through painful trials, like the death of her mother for a second marriage, sickness and misunderstanding, the Lord guided her in mysterious ways which Magdalene tried hard to understand.


Her search


At the age of seventeen Magdalene felt herself called to the cloister. Twice she tried out her vocation in the Carmel. But she felt very strongly urged by the Spirit of God to dedicate her life to the service of the poor and the needy. As this was not possible in the cloister, she returned to her family. The tragic historical event at the close of the 18th century and the painful family situation prevented her from offering herself totally to God and neighbor. She continued to live in Canossa Palace, to administer the large family patrimony and to take care of her little nephew entrusted to her by her dying aunt.


Her dream


From her luxurious palace Magdalene gazed on the misery of the poor living in the slums of Verona, where the French Revolution, the various foreign dominations and the local wars had left behind obvious signs of devastation and human suffering. Amidst her heavy family responsibilities and other charitable activities, Magdalene found the time to intensify her prayer life through the daily contemplation of the love of Jesus Crucified and of the Mother of Sorrows. The love of God spurred her to open herself to the cry of the poor, hungry for bread, for knowledge and for God.


Her Goal Fulfilled


Faced by so many needs around her, Magdalene felt inadequate. She sought for help and found her first companions who accepted her invitation to share a life a poverty and unconditional charity.


In 1808, after having overcome the last objections of her family, she left Canossa Palace to start in Verona, what she deeply realized as being God’s Will for her: to serve Christ in the poor. The motivating force of charity, like an ever spreading fire, made Magdalene open her heart to the urgent needs of other cities like Venice, Milan, Bergamo and Trent, where in a few decades, she founded Houses and sent Daughters who had grown in number.


Magdalene obtained the Pope’s approval of the Rules of the Institute in 1828. Assisted by her Daughters, she died in Verona, as she had foretold, on Passion Friday, April 10, 1835. On December 7, 1941 Pope Pius XII proclaimed her Blessed. On October 2, 1988 Magdalene was officially proclaimed a Saint by His Holiness Pope John Paul II.

A Mother Open to the World


“The spirit of the Daughters of Charity is to be detached from everything and from everybody, to be available to serve the Lord in every country.” Animated by her spirit, the Daughters of Charity in 1860, set sail for the Far East to announce to the non-believers that the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, loves all mankind. Today the Institute of the Daughters of Charity is present in the six Continents and 36 countries.


There are 2640  Sisters spread in all the continents around the world in 36 countries where they minister for the spreading of the Kingdom of God through the following basic apostolic options: education, evangelization and pastoral activity, assistance to the sick and suffering, formation of the laity and spiritual exercises.


The Sons of Charity


Magdalene of Canossa is Mother not only to the Daughters but also to  the Sons of Charity. For about hundred years, the Sons of Charity managed, in the midst of difficulties to keep alive the ideals of Magdalene, through the survival of one small community. They handed down as their precious heritage, a spirit of humble and generous service to the poor and the youth. Today, the Sons of Charity are on the increase, bringing with them the strength of their priesthood, the name and the love of Christ to their brothers in Italy and overseas.