When Pope Francis went to the Sant’Antonio Abate Monastery for Vespers today, he made an unusual visit to the monastic cell of an American Mystic and anchoress. Sister Nazarena. The Camaldolese Benedictine nun is not well known; Sister Nazarena of Jesus, was known in history as Julia Crotta (October 15, 1907 – February 7, 1990). She made the honest claim that her vocation was the direct result of a vision she had of the Lord. She reports that the Lord called her name, “Julia, come to me in the desert, I will never leave you.” She would come to devote her life in love through music, according to the grace God gave her. A Jesuit sent her to Rome to find her vocation.
Monastery is located at the foot of the Aventine Hill, not far from Byzantine Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin (one of my favorite churches in Rome) and not far from the Church of Santa Sabina and Sant’Anselmo –the Benedictine house of studies.
Crotta was from Glastonbury, Connecticut, a daughter of Italian immigrants, a gifted and trained musician who began her studies at Hartford Consevatory, then at the Yale School of Music in violin and composition, but left Yale to finish at Albertus Magnus College up the street run by the Dominican Sisters of St Mary’s of the Springs (now Dominican Sisters of Peace). She finished with a degree in French. She taught music in Manhattan before trying her vocation with the Carmelites in two different monasteries.
After meeting with Pope Pius XII, Julia Crotta became a Camaldolese Benedictine nun and later an anchoress, that is, living a hidden life for 45 years. Her name in religion was Sister Nazarena of Jesus. The Camaldolese’s founder was an anchorite, Saint Romuald (who live around the AD 1000), and they honored the recluse vocation. Hers was a rare vocation yet a shining star in the Church. Pope Paul VI visited Sister Nazarena in 1966.
Benedictine Father Thomas Matus, an American monk and author of Nazarena: An American anchoress (Paulist Press 1998) spoke with Laura Ieraci of Vatican Radio about Sister Nazarena’s vocation, spiritual writings and the witness she offers today
The quick link to the interview is here with Vatican Radio.
Father Thomas is a monk of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California and an adjunct professor of Theology at Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara.
Here is an example of holiness springing up from Connecticut!!!