AN IMPORTANT PREPARATION
It was on November 21, 1774, that Elisabetta came into the world. Her
parents owned property near Rome (Italy). She was the thirteenth in a
family of fourteen children, six of whom had already perished at a
young age. It was in the bosom of this large family that she received
her initial education. "The family is the first school, the
fundamental school of the social life; as a community of love it finds
in the gift of self the law that guides it and makes it grow. The gift
of self that animates the husband and wife towards one another
presents itself as the model and the norm of that which should be
realized in relations between brothers and sisters, and between the
different generations which share the family life (John Paul II,
Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio. In this profoundly
Christian home, attentive to the education of the children, Elisabetta
was happy and found a perfect balance. In 1796, she married a young
lawyer, Cristoforo Mora, the son of a rich and highly regarded doctor.
Elisabetta prepared herself with care for this commitment and for it
she followed a spiritual retreat. "These days, the preparation of the
young for marriage and for family life is more necessary than ever.
Many negative phenomena that we deplore today in family life come from
the fact that, in new situations, the young have lost view of the
correct priorities of values and that, not having any more secure
criteria for behaviour, they no longer know how to confront and
resolve new difficulties. Experience teaches however that young people
well prepared for family life succeed better than others"
(FC,66).Elisabetta wished to start with her husband a truly Christian
family. She knew that by the solemn oath taken before God and the
Church, that both of them were promising to "remain faithful through
good times and bad, in sickness and in health, to love and respect one
another all the days of their lives" (cf. Ritual). In order to make
clear the essential elements which constitute the common good of the
married couple (love, respect, faithfulness until death), the Church
asks them in the course of the ceremony if they are well disposed to
welcome and raise in a Christian manner any children that God deems to
give them. "According to the plan of God, marriage is the foundation
of this larger community which is the family, since the institution of
marriage itself and conjugal love are destined for the procreation and
education of children in which they find their crowning achievement"
(FC, 14). Normally, the union of the spouses is reinforced and
consolidated thanks to the birth and raising of children, which are
the most beautiful fruits of their conjugal love.
At first the marriage was happy. But soon life together was
compromised by the psychological fragility of Cristoforo. It started
with inexplicable fits of jealousy; then the young lawyer became
infatuated with another woman and was unfaithful to his wife. Her love
deeply wounded, Elisabetta nevertheless did not reproach her husband.
She continued to show tenderness toward him, hoping to win him over
again. This trial was all the more difficult because she had lost two
children in quick succession, both dying shortly after birth.
At the end of the year 1799, she brought into the world Marianna, a
little girl full of life. Unfortunately, home life was deteriorating:
the lawyer was not interested in his studies and gave into thoughtless
speculations that soon led to financial ruin. Elisabetta did not
hesitate: she sold all of her jewels to pay her husband's debts,
although she could not cover all of them, since they were so large.
Far from being grateful, Cristoforo, humiliated by his failures,
became rude and touchy. Francesco and Agatha Mora, his parents,
suggested to him that, for economic reasons, they should move out of
their fancy apartment where they had lived since the marriage, and go
to live with them. This move was a new trial for Elisabetta, since she
lost the intimacy of her married and family life. Nevertheless, the
young woman willingly accepted this sacrifice for the conversion of
her unfaithful husband.
The sin of adultery is a grave disorder. The Catechism of the Catholic
Church recalls it in these terms: "Adultery refers to marital
infidelity. Adultery is an injustice. He who commits adultery fails in
his commitment. He does injury to the sign of the covenant which the
marriage bond is, transgresses the rights of the other spouse, and
undermines the institution of marriage by breaking the contract on
which it is based. He compromises the good of human generation and the
welfare of children who need their parents' stable union." (CCC,
2380-2381). Elisabetta knew above all that he who is guilty of the sin
of adultery shall not possess the kingdom of God (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9;
Matt. 19:18). Her love for Cristoforo, based on supernatural faith and
charity, made her fear for her husband's eternal salvation. Thus, she
multiplied her sacrifices and prayers. Her confidence in God and her
perseverance in prayer would not be disappointed.
In July 1801, a fourth pregnancy came to sweeten the difficult life of
this admirable woman. But shortly after giving birth, sickness
attacked the mother and brought her to death's door. In human terms,
Elisabetta was condemned. Nevertheless, a miraculous cure, which she
herself bore witness to, brought her back to health. This illness was
the occasion of an important spiritual progress. Her life in union
with God and her religious practice intensified: frequent confession
and communion became the two poles of her spiritual life. In 1804,
inspired by God, she made three resolutions: 1) Practice meekness and
patience, and never become angry; 2) Do the will of God in all things;
3) Exercise the virtues of mortification and penance.
In this intense spiritual life, she would find the strength to cope
with her difficult family situation, for terrible humiliations
continued to rain down upon her. Her sisters-in-law, who should have
shown her affection and support, made her responsible for Cristoforo's
financial failures, and reproached her for being the cause of his
adultery: "With another woman," they said, "Cristoforo would be
different!" Following the example of JESUS, Elisabetta answered
everything with kindness, patience and forgiveness. But the most
difficult trial came from the physical and psychological pressures of
her husband and in-laws to obtain an inadmissible consent from her:
"This furious lion (Cristoforo had threatened her with a knife)
wanted, at all costs, written permission to frequent his girlfriend,"
we read in her diary. "It is good for me to have spent two hours in
prayer! God gave me so much strength that I was ready to give my life
rather than to offend my Lord."
Elisabetta could not, without serious sin, consent to Cristoforo's
adultery, even to improve the situation and be reconciled with him. It
is never permitted to do evil, even to obtain some good (cf. Rom.
3:8). The matrimonial bond is established by God Himself, such that
marriage which is contracted and consummated between baptized persons
can never be dissolved.
Pope John Paul II has recalled the Church's teaching on this essential
point: "Marital communion is not only characterized by its unity, but
also by its indissolubility. The definitive character of this marital
love finds its basis and force in JESUS CHRIST. Rooted in the full and
personal gift of the spouses and required for the good of the
children, the indissolubility of marriage finds its definitive truth
in the plan that God has shown in His Revelation: it is He who wills
and gives the indissolubility of marriage as a fruit, sign and
requirement of the absolutely faithful love that God has for man and
that the Lord JESUS showed with respect to His Church.
"The gift of the sacrament is a vocation -- and also a commandment --
for Christian spouses to remain faithful forever, beyond trials and
difficulties, in generous obedience to the will of the Lord: What
therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder (Matt.
19:6). In our day, witnessing to the inestimable worth of the
indissolubility of marriage and conjugal fidelity is, for Christian
spouses, one of the most important and pressing duties" (FC, 20).
Strengthened by her faith in the Gospel, Elisabetta thus courageously
resisted the threats made against her. Besides, she was convinced that
if she were to be reconciled with her husband one day, it would be the
fruit of her fidelity to divine law.
With the death of Doctor Francesco Mora, in 1812, Elisabetta lost her
last support. Her sisters-in-law made it understood that, with her
daughters, she was a weight on the family. She had to get an apartment
in Rome. With this move, a more peaceful period began for her, despite
the extreme poverty. She took advantage of it to pay more close
attention to raising her daughters, which she had always considered as
one of her principal tasks. Her first concern was to give them a
serious spiritual formation. Her little house became a happy "domestic
church," where the Lord was loved and welcomed. "From the youngest
age, children must learn to discover God and honour Him as well as
love their neighbour. The concrete example of parents is a basic and
irreplaceable witness to education in prayer: only through praying
with their children can they deeply penetrate into the hearts of their
children, leaving traces there which none of the vicissitudes of life
will be able to erase. Let us listen to what Pope Paul VI said to
parents: 'Moms, are you teaching Christian prayer to your little ones?
Are you preparing them, with the help of priests, for their first
sacraments: confession, communion, confirmation? If they are ill, are
you getting them used to thinking of the sufferings of Christ, to call
on the Blessed Virgin and the saints for help? And you, Dads, do you
know how to pray with your children? . . . By doing that you will
bring peace among the members of your household.'
"In addition to morning and evening prayers, you should specifically
recommend reading and meditation on the Word of God, devotion and
consecration to the Heart of JESUS, different forms of piety towards
the Virgin MARY, prayers before and after meals, practices of popular
devotion" (FC, 60 and 61). The recitation of the Rosary as a family is
highly recommended: "There is no doubt that the Rosary of the Virgin
MARY should be considered as one of the most excellent and efficacious
'prayers in common' that the Christian family is invited to recite"
"YOU WILL COME BACK TO GOD"
Forgetting about herself, radiating more and more the love of the Most
Holy Trinity to whom she had consecrated herself by entering into the
Trinitarian Third Order, Elisabetta mather her home the meeting place
of all of those who were seeking material or spiritual relief,
reserving a particular attention to families in difficulty. Her soul,
purified by trials, was ripe for Heaven. During Christmas, 1824, an
edema, which had struck her some months earlier, returned. Elisabetta
told her daughters that this would be her final illness. She had the
joy of seeing her husband return to his position in the household and
spend long hours at her bedside. The sick woman did not reproach him
concerning the sad past that had made her suffer so much. On the
contrary, as a loving spouse, she encouraged him and foretold his
return to God: "You will come back to God after my death; you will
come back to God to give Him glory."
On the evening of February 5, 1825, Elisabetta, surrounded by her
daughters, calmly passed on with the joyous expression of someone who
is leaving to be reunited with a loved one. Cristoforo, as was his
habit, returned at dawn. Surprised to find the door open, he rushed to
his wife's room and found her lying lifeless. In the presence of this
woman who had remained faithful to him right to the end, he was
overcome by violent remorse for a life full of neglect, ingratitude
and infidelity, and his tears flowed freely. These purifying tears
were the prelude to the conversion that Elisabetta had foretold. In
1834, he entered into the Friars Minor Conventual and would even be
ordained a priest. He died a holy death on September 8, 1845, the day
of the Nativity of Our Lady, a feast that was particularly dear to his
The example of Elisabetta is a powerful encouragement to households in
difficulty. It recalls that "one must never despair of God's mercy"
(Rule of Saint Benedict, chap. 4), and witnesses to the faithfulness
of the Lord, "Author and Guardian of marriage" who, in the most
difficult situations, gives the graces of which one has need. As for
families that are living in harmony, they are invited to give thanks
to God for the gift of peace (one of the fruits of devotion to the
Sacred Heart). This gift, precious among all, requires mutual
forgiveness and prayer to survive and grow. Patience above all, which
is the expression and mainstay of love, is at the heart of all lasting
human relations. Saint Paul assures us: Charity is patient (1 Cor.
At the end of his Apostolic Exhortation on the Family, Pope John Paul
II invites households to put themselves under the protection of the
Holy Family, "the model of all families": "Let us look to this Family,
unique in all the world, which glorified God in an incomparably pure
and elevated manner. It cannot fail to help all of the families of the
world, in fidelity to their daily duties, in the way of putting up
with the worries and tribulations of life, in being generously open to
the needs of others, in the accomplishment of God's plan concerning
them." The Blessed Virgin MARY and Saint JOSEPH, who were united in a
true marriage and went through difficulties and trials, will sustain
and encourage those who call on them with confidence.
It is to the Holy Family that we confide you as well as all those who
are dear to you, living and deceased.
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