Saint Magdalena of Canossa
Jul 21, 2020 / Written by: America Needs Fatima
Feast May 8
Magdalena was born on March 1, 1774, into an ancient and prominent family of Verona, Italy. She was a descendant of the Countess Matilda of Tuscany outside whose Castle of Canossa Emperor Henry IV of Germany did penance in 1076, in submission to Pope St. Gregory VII who had excommunicated him.
Her father, the Marquis Octavius of Canossa, died in 1779, and her mother remarried leaving her children to be raised by relatives. Suffering keenly this abandonment by her earthly mother, Magdalena had recourse to the Virgin Mother, “I wept … before Mary, invoking her in tears and calling her by the name of ‘mamma!’ … little by little I placed myself in the heart of Mary.”
In 1791 she entered a Carmelite convent but returned home after eight months. The Order of Mount Carmel was not her calling.
As Magdalena matured, she assumed the title of Marchioness and became the head of the large household at their palace of Canossa, a leading lady of her time.
When the Napoleonic Wars broke out, the Canossa family took temporary refuge in Venice where Magdalena had a dream in which Our Lady showed her needy girls, poor children and sick people.
Upon their return, Magdalena began a work to assist the sick and the wounded, particularly girls and those left abandoned. On several occasions, the young Marchioness hosted the conqueror Napoleon Bonaparte who, impressed with her work, granted her an empty convent for her enterprise.
As other women joined Magdalena’s work, they became known as the “Canossians”. She was invited to open a house in Venice from which they went on to make foundations in Milan, Trent and Bergamo, and other places in northern Italy. But it was in Venice that the foundress drew up the rule for the new congregation, which she called the Daughters of Charity.
In 1828, the order was approved by Pope Leo XII.
Magdalena became poor with the poor, primarily concerned with the neglected of society, but went on to open schools and colleges as well, making special provision for the deaf and dumb.
Developing great powers of prayer and recollection despite her busy life, the saintly foundress attained high levels of contemplation. On several occasions she was found rapt in ecstasy and, at least once, was seen lifted from the ground.
In 1834 she was taken ill and died on April 10, 1835.