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Catholic Heroes… St. Maria Cristina Of The Immaculate Conception

January 23, 2020 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

As Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.” This could certainly describe the setbacks of so many saints before they finally achieved their heart’s desire. St. Maria Cristina certainly had her share of disappointments and setbacks, but she always began again. Nunc coepi.
On May 1, 1856 in Naples, Campania — about 220 kilometers south of Rome on the western coastline of Italy — Giovanni Giuseppe Brando and Maria Concetta Marrazzo welcomed little Adelaide into the world.
Although the child survived, her mother died shortly after the birth. Giovanni later remarried and had three more children.
Even as a young child, Adelaide, who was educated in the home, possessed a reserved maturity and deep love of God way beyond her years. Perhaps her many sufferings and physical ailments as a child helped her to achieve that state.
Adelaide’s docile nature and prayer life indicated a call to the religious life. She would spend hours alone and not be lonely. She also shunned worldly vanities and frequently went to church to receive Holy Communion during the week, and often went to Confession.
As young as she was, Adelaide adapted to our Lord’s words of Matt. 5:48, “You therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” People frequently heard her say, “I must become holy, I want to be a saint.”
Thus, at the age of 12, Adelaide knelt before an image of the Child Jesus and professed a vow of perpetual chastity to God. Her holiness, not unlike many other saints, was littered with setbacks. Yet she persevered and accomplished much for Jesus.
Once Adelaide decided that she wanted to become a religious, she tried to enter the Monastery of the Sacramentine Nuns in Naples, but her father refused to give his permission.
However, shortly thereafter, Giovanni allowed Adelaide to enter the Monastery of the Fiorentina as a candidate for the Poor Clare Nuns. Although some thought that would be her religious home, two times she had to return home because of illness so her family could care for her.
Oddly enough, after her disappointment with the Poor Clare Nuns, and despite her father’s original refusal, Adelaide was permitted to enter the Monastery of the Sacramentine Nuns.
She was finally vested in the Sacramentine habit in 1876, taking the name of Sr. Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception. She was full of fervor, but once again her health failed her, and she had to leave the monastery.
After some reflection, Sr. Maria Cristina believed it was time to begin an institute to which she had felt some calling by God. At the time, she was renting a room with the Teresian Sisters of Torre del Greco.
Sr. Maria then began to lay the foundation in 1878 for a new congregation: the Congregation of the Sisters Expiatory Victims of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Although Sr. Maria’s health was still unstable, and despite the devastating economic conditions and other setbacks, the new institute grew rapidly.
In July 1878 Sr. Maria Cristina, along with her sister, who had left the Poor Clares, lived together with a few young women in the Teresian Conservatory. These women were also discerning a call to follow Jesus.
Blessed Ludovico of Casoria — a holy Franciscan — advised Sr. Maria Cristina and her associates to move to Casoria to develop the new foundation. As they did, Domenico Maglione, the rector, warmly welcomed the women. Domenico was the older brother of Luigi Cardinal Maglione, who later became secretary of state to Pope Pius XII.
Domenico provided the women with a large apartment in Casoria, encouraging them in this “work of God.”
Providentially, the congregation quickly grew to include 76 members. Originally they adopted the name “Pious Institute of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.” In codifying their mission, Mother Maria Cristina wrote, “Other than Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, in reparation for all the insults He receives, the institute has as its scope the Christian education of young girls through spiritual exercises, boarding schools, day schools, and nursery schools.”
In the coming years, more houses were opened to accommodate the expanding membership. Sometimes complete moves to larger houses were required. The sisters’ work also grew and many children benefited from the generosity of such charitable women.
In February 1892 Mother Maria Cristina moved the motherhouse to a new location which became the permanent residence on San Rocco Street in Casoria. Her love of our Lord in the Real Presence led her to build a cell by the church. She called it the “grotticella” or little grotto. There she could be closer to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament both physically and spiritually.
All the people of Casoria were greatly edified by Mother Maria’s devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Even though her health continued to fail her, she would still spend every night in a chair in prayer with Jesus. Such was her longing to be a victim soul for Christ.
As the turn of the century approached, the congregation continued to grow and Mother Maria Cristina professed her temporary vows in 1897. On November 2, 1902 she, along with many of the sisters, professed their final vows.
Finally, on June 15, 1903 the congregation received approval from the Holy See with the name Sisters Expiatory Victims of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
For the next three years, the foundress, Mother Maria Cristina, also served as the superior general, strengthening the congregation by her holiness and her leadership even though she experienced heart trouble and suffered from other ailments.
While the women suffered financially, they received considerable support from Venerable Michelangelo da Marigliano and from Blessed Ludovico of Casoria where the congregation settled.
As superior, Mother Maria Cristina provided an exemplary model for the sisters by her virtuous life. She was a loving victim, spending many hours and many nights near Jesus despite her ailments.
She also led with humility, prudence, and charity. Her example of fidelity to God, to her vows, and to her vocation was unmatched. Her zeal to grow the Kingdom of God and save souls greatly inspired the other sisters.
Her joy in suffering, her perseverance in living up to the consecration as she developed in her imitation of Christ, brought her to Christian perfection in living the Gospel.
Until the day of her death on January 20, 1906, she continually yearned to live according to God’s will and to save souls.
Mother Maria had several treasured devotions particularly to the Blessed Sacrament. In her biography — written under obedience — she wrote: “The principal purpose of this work is reparation for the offenses that are received by the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, especially so many acts of irreverence, carelessness, sacrilegious Communions, and sacraments poorly celebrated.”
Mother Maria Cristina was canonized on May 17, 2015 by Pope Francis. Her feast day is January 20.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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