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Blessed Maria Gabriella

"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 23rd 1939.

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 world.












Updated Tuesday, 07 April 2015

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