Tag Archives: Benedictine saints and blesseds

Itala Mela: Benedictine Oblate sainthood cause advances

Itala MelaToday, in Rome, the Congregation for Saints proposed to the Holy Father that after study and prayer, the Servant of God Itala Mela, laywoman and Benedictine Oblate of the Abbey of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls (Rome), did indeed, live a life of heroic virtue. Now her cause will study possible miracles attributed to her intercession before the Throne of Grace.

Itala Mela is known as the Mystic of the Holy Trinity. Mela was born to Pasquino and Luigia Bianchini on 24 August 1904 and died 29 April 1957.

Mela was well acquainted with the likes of Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, Blessed Idelfonse Cardinal Schuster, OSB, and Fathers Agostino Gemelli and Divo Barsotti. Schuster was the abbot of St Paul’s before his nomination as the archbishop of Milan.

On 4 January 1933, Itala Mela professed the promises of a Benedictine Oblate of Saint Paul Outside the Walls and on 9 June she made a fourth vow of consecration to the Holy Trinity which she considered as the center of her life and mission in the Church. How providential that this recognition of Mela happens on the weekend in 2014 that we liturgically recall the dogma of the Holy Trinity!

Itala Mela’s cause for sainthood was opened on 21 November 1976 and it has taken until now to advance –in God’s time– as she referred to as the Venerable Servant of God Itala Mela.

Much of Mela’s life is known in Italian, but you may want to look at this website nonetheless.

Saint Augustine of Canterbury

Augustine of CanterburyIn places like England the Christian origins of the country are keenly recalled and lived when the Church celebrates a feast day like that of Saint Augustine of Canterbury who is known as the apostle to England. Augustine, a Benedictine monk was sent by Pope Gregory the Great to re-evangelize south-eastern England, which had reverted to paganism in the fifth and sixth centuries. Like Paul and Silas in today’s reading at Mass, we can see the grace of conversion in the unexpected: I am sure Augustine had no idea what he was going to find in England –but we know the outcome: many came to know Jesus Christ as Savior. Perhaps today we can be surprised by the Lord working in our life and how he uses us to bring others to Him.

The Roman Missal for use in England has this prayer for Mass:

Almighty God, who by the mission of the Bishop Saint Augustine of Canterbury called the English people into the wondrous light of the Gospel, grant through his intercession, we pray, that faithful to that same Gospel proclaimed we may strive to make known your truth and build up your Church on the foundations he laid.

In the USA the two Benedictine communities that come to mind who have dedicated their oratories to the memory of Saint Augustine of Canterbury are the monks of Marmion Abbey (Aurora, IL) where they abbey church to Augustine and the monks of St Louis Abbey where the Latin Mass chapel is dedicated to both Sts Gregory AND Augustine. Blessings to both monastic communities.

Saint Frances of Rome

S Francesca RomanaThe Church gives us the liturgical memorial of Saint Frances Rome (1384-1440) today. However, her feast is obscured by the fact that it is the First Sunday of Lent. Yet, we cannot move from today without a mentioned of such a terrific witness to the Lord.

Saint Frances is the patroness of Benedictine Oblates and car drivers; and as one of the patrons of Rome along with Saints Peter and Paul and Philip Neri. She is proposed by Mother Church as a clear model of the tenderness of married life and motherhood, but also as a person who devoted her life to the poor and the sick (works of Mercy). Hence, her saintly example is much in need today.

In 1433, Frances founded the Benedictine Oblates of Mary as part of the Olivetan Benedictines. The Mass Collect for Saint Frances of Rome  gives us the lex credendi:

O God, Who in Saint Frances of Rome, has given us a model of holiness in married life and of monastic conversion, make us serve You perseveringly, so that in all circumstances we may set our gaze upon You and follow You.

Saint Frances’ congregation of Oblate sisters exist today in Rome, Le Bec-Hellouin, France, and at Abu-Gosh in Israel. In addition to the characteristic devotion to the Divine Office and the fraternal life, is the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Guardian Angels which gives rise to the service of the Church in Rome. Their habit remains the same as their Mother Foundress of a black habit and long white veil. The Roman monastery is open to the public once a year for Mass and interaction with the sisters. I was privileged to be in the monastery with two friends a few years ago.

It is interesting to see how God works in the lives of the unsuspecting. In the period in which Frances lived and in movement of her heart, the Holy Spirit identified a new form of life with some of the Roman widows. Frances discerned a new form of Benedictine life never previously proposed before: women living under the Rule of Saint Benedict, not as enclosed nuns, but as Oblate Sisters of the Roman monastery of the Olivetans at Santa Maria Nuova.

Frances’ followers left the monastery following prayer to serve the poor and sick; the foundress, though, did not limit the sisters to this form of ministry allowing for other skills and talents to give glory to God. Nevertheless, Frances was clearly inspired by Chapter Four of Benedict’s Rule, the Instruments of Good Works:

To relieve the poor, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, to bury the dead, to give help in trouble, to console the sorrowful, to avoid worldly behavior, and to set nothing before the love of Christ (RB 4:14-21).

The beauty of the vocation attracted the attention of the Roman people that  Frances, a widow, a servant of the poor, a mother to the sick, a spiritual daughter of Saint Benedict, and a mystic was an attractive witness. Frances has also been a favorite saint of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Her practical approach to the spiritual and apostolic life has been noted in her saying that “Devotion in a married woman is most praiseworthy, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. Sometimes she must leave God at the altar, to serve Him in her housekeeping.” Perhaps we all can find inspiration here.

Saints Maurus and Placid

Benedict giving habit to Maur and PlacidThe Benedictines liturgically honor the first companions of Saint Benedict, Saint Maurus and Saint Placid. They are the patron saints of Benedictine novices and oblates .

What we know of Maurus and Placid comes from the Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great. More on their life may be found here, including a discussion on miracles and the blessing of Saint Maurus for the sick.

One of the strongest associations with Benedict, Maurus and Placid is their devotion to the Cross of Jesus as life-giving and life-saving.

Saint Maurus is credited in the Benedictine world with bringing the Rule of Benedict to France.

Saint Placid is credited with bringing the Rule of Benedict to Sicily.

What we gain by following the life of these two early companions of Saint Benedict is the resolve to follow the authority of another who is close to God, and to be familiar with God, as the Prophet Samuel was.

Here is a previous post on Saints Maurus and Placid.

Saint Mechtilde of Hackeborn

“O good Jesus, I love You, and whatever is not in me, I beg of You to offer to the Father in its stead the love of Your own Heart…. I offer You, therefore, this love, in order to supply thereby for all that is wanting in me.”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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