By CAROLE BRESLIN
Since the days of St. Dominic and the establishment of the Third Order of Dominicans for the laity, there have been many tertiary Dominican saints. Two who come to mind are St. Catherine of Siena, who lived in the 14th century in Italy, and St. Rose of Lima, who lived at the end of the 16th century in Lima, Peru. Between these two saints and their times lived another third order Dominican, Blessed Osanna. whose life had some similarities beyond their common profession to Dominic’s third order.
On January 17, 1449, Blessed Osanna came into the world in Mantua, Italy, halfway between Venice and Milan in northern Italy. As the daughter of the noble Niccolò Andreasi and Luisa Gonzaga, she lived in a palace with her numerous brothers and sisters. Her first extraordinary experience of the divine came when she was only five years old.
As she meandered along the serene Po River, she heard a voice say to her, “Life and death consist in loving God.” Next an angel revealed Paradise to her where every creature was praising God. This ecstasy helped her realize that such joy of praising God was not only for the next life, but for this one as well. As a result of this vision, she surrendered her entire being to God to do with as He wished.
This event led her to spend many hours in prayer as well as practicing penances. Many times she fell into trances as she experienced yet more ecstasies, leading her parents to think she suffered from epilepsy.
Osanna was so in love with God that she wanted to study theology, which her father promptly refused. However, by the grace of God — similar to both Catherine of Siena and Rose of Lima — Osanna received the ability to read through the Blessed Virgin.
Osanna desired to enter the Third Order Dominicans, which her father again refused since he intended for her to marry. However, after a prolonged illness from which she recovered, he allowed her to wear the habit for one year in gratitude. At the end of the year, she announced her vow to commit her life to Christ. Although her father disapproved, he did not forbid her to wear the habit. Mysteriously, she did not make her final vows as a Third Order Dominican until many years later.
When Osanna reached the age of 18, our Lady espoused her to Christ, again similar to Catherine of Siena. Like that saint, only Osanna could see the ring placed on her finger. Also like St. Catherine of Sienna, she received the stigmata after many years of persecution from her associates.
Between the years of 1476 and 1481, she received all of the wounds of Christ. First she received the crown of thorns. Then she suffered from the pierced heart of Jesus. Finally, she received the pain of the nails in her hands and her feet. Although she suffered these wounds, they were not physically visible.
Osanna quietly endured the agony of the stigmata, not wishing to draw attention to herself. She always took the lowest seat in the gatherings and sought to serve more than be served. She never spoke of her experiences but at times it was nearly impossible to conceal her ecstasies and visions for which the other Dominicans persecuted her, questioning their authenticity.
One of the advantages of being a third order layperson is the ability to live in the world without being a part of the world. Although these third order members are consecrated persons, they do not live in a convent so that they are more available as both an example and a confidant to the rest of the world. Having assisted in the raising of her siblings, Osanna possessed both experience and an uncommon ability to manage household affairs.
Her holiness and her practical abilities came to the attention of Duke Frederick of Mantua. Hence, when he had to leave to settle matters in Tuscany, he called on Blessed Osanna to come attend to his wife as well as manage the affairs of the palace in his absence. Although she initially declined because of her youth and inexperience, she finally agreed to his wishes.
She dispatched the responsibility so well that he requested that she continue to help the family after his return from Tuscany. Again she acceded to his wishes while still living with her family. Even when — as a third order Dominican — she was called away to a meeting, he begged her to return to his home to help once again.
In fact, the entire family looked upon the woman with great affection. They considered her not as a servant but as a great friend. So true was their love for her that when Duke Frederick died, his son, Francis II, and his wife, Isabella, maintained the arrangement with Osanna.
Her influence with the family resulted in many persons seeking her intercession for justice and assistance. She even sought help for a prisoner, though most people thought she was impertinent to do so. She did not restrain her works of mercy because of mere human respect and protocol.
In 1501, Osanna Andreasi she finally professed her vows and became a full Third Order Dominican. During her remaining four years, she led a life of prayer and meditation, a life not of this world. As her health began to fail in 1505, Duke Francis and Isabella came to her bedside.
On June 20, 1505, when she entered eternity, they were both at her side. As a tribute based on their great respect for Osanna, they provided an extravagant funeral for her. Furthermore, they exempted the Andreasi family from all tribute taxes for 20 years.
Osanna was beatified on January 8, 1515 by Pope Leo X and her cult was confirmed by Pope Innocent XII on November 24, 1694. The Church celebrates her feast on June 20.
Dear Blessed Osanna, patron of schoolgirls, guide our youth in following the calling of Christ. As you sought to defeat the immorality in both the Church and secular society, help us to discern the path God has in mind for us. Obtain for us the grace of turning our lives over to Him. May we always seek to love Him and praise Him throughout each and every day. Amen.
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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. Mrs. Breslin’s articles have appeared in Homiletic & Pastoral Review and in the Marian Catechist Newsletter. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)