"A sign from God'
When Maria Gabriella died on April 23rd 1939 the pages in her Bible
which carried the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper -chapter 17 of St
John's Gospel - were found to be worn away by daily use. For during
the last years of her short life she had entered wholeheartedly into
the self-offering of Jesus for his brothers and sisters in the family
of God's children - "For their sake I consecrate myself so that they
too may be consecrated in truth".
Picture Maria gabriellaThe facts about Maria Gabriella's life are easy
to relate. Her significance for the Church continues to unfold as her
story touches more and more people.
Maria Gabriella was born into the Sagheddu family in Sardinia on March
17th 1915, the fifth of eight children. Her father, a farmer, died
when she was nine. She grew to be a tall, attractive young woman,
good-natured, popular, and with a mind of her own.
When she was 17, her sister, to whom she was closest in the family,
died. This sorrow brought a profound change in her life. Her
relationship with God grew deeper during prolonged prayer and she
became involved in the work of the parish.
In 1935 she left Sardinia to join the Cistercian Monastery of
Grottaferrata., near Rome. When she made her vows in October 1937, she
wrote to her mother "I enjoy good health and I am very happy".
Three months later, in January 1938, shortly before the Universal Week
of Prayer for Christian Unity, she heard Mother Pia, the Abbess of the
Monastery, read to the community a letter from Fr Paul Couturier of
Lyons. In it he told of various people, Catholic, Orthodox and
Protestant, who, imitating the offering of Jesus, had offered their
lives for the unity of the Church.
Young Maria As she listened young Maria Gabriella became aware and
certain that God was calling her to make a similar offering of her own
life. She talked the matter over with the person in charge of the
novices who told her to discuss it with Mother Pia. She, in turn, sent
her to the Monastery chaplain, a Cistercian monk, 70 years old, who
concluded that she had received a special grace. He agreed that she
should offer her life to God to serve his reconciling will for the
Church. Having made the offering Maria gabriella wrote "I have given
everything in my power. to give".
Up to this time Maria Gabriella had enjoyed robust health but within a
few months she was ill with tuberculosis. In May 1938 the hospital
doctors said her condition was incurable. She was glad to be able to
go back to her monastery. There she lived in suffering and in prayer
till death came, eleven months later, on Good Shepherd Sunday, April
When Pope John Paul 2 declared Maria Gabriella blessed on January 25th
1983, he drew attention to her total conversion to Christ, to the
cross of suffering in her life and to her unfailing prayer. He called
her life "a sign from God" to the Church and a model of "the spiritual
ecumenism which is the soul of the ecumenical movement."
Blessed Maria Gabriella is the sister and friend of all who commit
themselves to form the "invisible monastery" of prayer that the whole
Church may be united in serving God's reconciling will for the whole