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Saint Maria Magdalen of Canossa

Saint Maria Magdalen of Canossa
  • Century: 18th &19th Century
  • Patronage: -
  • Feast Day: May 8th

Magdalene was born on March 1, 1774 to a prominent Veronese family.  Her father died when she was five, and her mother left her for a new marriage two years later.  In 1791 at the age of seventeen, she spent some time in a Carmelite Monastery, and after a time discerned that this was not her vocation.   After leaving the Cloister, she saw that in her city the poor were suffering extreme poverty.  It was made worse by social upheavals caused by the invasions of the French Revolutionary Army and the opposing forces of the Austrian Empire.  This just provoked her to serve and witness to Christ through answering the needs of the unfortunate.  

Magdalene began her charitable work among the poor of her city, using her inheritance.  She was given an abandoned Monastery, where she took in two poor girls of the city to care for them and provided them with an education.  Shortly after she moved out of her ancestral Palace, where she was soon joined by other women, and they formed the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity, Servants of the Poor.  They soon started to care for the poor children and to serve in the city’s hospitals.  Word of their great work spread quickly, and they were requested to start new communities in other cities in the region.  Soon they had convents established in Venice, Milan, Bergamo and Trent.  Magdalene drew up a Rule for the Congregation, and it received formal approval by Pope Leo XII, on December 23, 1828.  

She had a strong desire to provide young boys with the same care that her Daughters were providing to young girls.  She invited a Catholic Priest, Fr. Francesco Luzzi, to open a small oratory adjacent to the Sister’s Convent of St. Lucy in Venice.   He opened this house on May 23, 1831.  In 1833 two laymen, who later took over the work of the oratory, joined him.   For over a century, the men’s community consisted of only two or three lay brothers.  They were given a Religious Habit and a Rule in 1897.  

St. Maria Magdalen of Canossa died in her native city on April 10, 1835, having seen the work of the Daughters spread out across the region and the establishment of the Sons.  She was beatified on December 8, 1941 by Pope Pius XII and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 2, 1988.  Her feast day has since been celebrated on May 8th.  Her Order is known as the Canossian Daughters of Charity.  They have communities serving the poor and bearing witness to the Catholic faith on every continent of the world.  The Sons of Charity now work in Brazil, Italy, India and the Philippines.  

Practical Take Away

St. Magdalene of Canossa was an Italian Religious Sister and Foundress.  She was a leading advocate for the poor in her region and had a true charism for the poor, especially young girls.  She used her inheritance to open an old Monastery to take in young girls, caring for them and providing them with an education.  She also convinced a Priest to open a small oratory adjacent from her Convent, and he took in young boys.  Her Order is known as the Canossian Daughters of Charity, and they currently have communities serving the poor on every continent of the world.  Pope Leo XII approved her work, and Pope John Paul II canonized her on October 2, 1988.