Magdalene of Canossa
|St. Magdalene of Canossa, F.D.C.C.|
|Virgin and foundress|
|Born||March 1, 1774
Verona, Republic of Venice
|Died||April 10, 1835
Verona, Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia, Austrian Empire
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church
(Canossian Daughters and Sons of Charity)
|Beatified||December 8, 1941 by Pope Pius XII|
|Canonized||October 2, 1988 by Pope John Paul II|
Magdalene was born on March 1, 1774, into an ancient and prominent Veronese family. Her father was Marquis Ottavio di Canossa and her mother, Teresa Szluha, a Hungarian countess. Their first two children died soon after they were born and therefore Magdalene was the third-born. After her, her mother gave birth to another boy, who died right after the delivery. Finally, in 1776, the male heir that her family desired was born, Bonifacio, and after him two other girls. In 1779 her father died in an accident. Two years later her mother left Canossa palace to marry the Marquis Zanetti of Mantua. The children were placed under the guardianship of their uncle. In 1791 she spent time in a Carmelite monastery but discerned that this was not her vocation. She returned to her family life at Canossa Palace, and undertook the running the family's large estate.
In Verona Magdalene saw a city in which the poor suffered extreme poverty, only made worse by the social upheavals caused by the invasions of the French Revolutionary Army and the opposing forces of the Austrian Empire, which eventually gained control of her native city. This situation provoked her desire to serve the needs of the unfortunate.
Congregation of the Daughters of Charity, Servants of the Poor
Using her inheritance, Magdalene began charitable work among the poor of the city. On April 1, 1808, she was given an abandoned monastery where she took in two poor girls from the slum of the San Zeno neighborhood of the city to care for them and provide them an education. On the following May 8, she moved out of her ancestral palace and moved into the monastery, now called the Convent of St. Joseph, where she was soon joined by other women, with whom she formed the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity, Servants of the Poor.
The new congregation started to care for poor children and to serve in the city's hospitals. As word of their work spread, they were requested to start new communities in other cities of the region. Soon there were convents of the Canossian Sisters established in Venice (1812), Milan (1816), Bergamo 1820 and Trent (1824). Magdalene drew up a Rule for the congregation, and it received formal approval by Pope Leo XII on December 23, 1828.
Sons of Charity
Magdalene desired to provide boys the same care her Daughters were providing to girls. To this end, she invited a Catholic priest, Francesco Luzzi, to open a small oratory adjacent to the Sisters' Convent of St. Lucy in Venice. He opened this house on May 23, 1831. In 1833, he was joined by two laymen, who later took over the work of the oratory when Luzzi left to become a Carmelite friar.
For nearly a century, the men's community consisted of only two or three lay brothers. They were given a religious habit in 1860 by the Patriarch of Venice and were given a Rule in 1897 by a subsequent patriarch. By 1923, however, the Superior of the Oratory declared the impossibility of the community's continuance, and placed the congregation into the hands of the patriarch. They were then joined to the work of a priest in Verona, Giovanni Calabria, who incorporated the small community into a foundation he had established, which included priests.
Death and veneration
Magdalene died in her native city on April 10, 1835, having seen the work of the Daughters spread out across the region and the establishment of the Sons.
Today the Canossian Daughters of Charity have communities serving the poor and bearing witness to the Catholic faith on every continent of the world. The Sons of Charity now work in Brazil, Hong Kong, India and the Philippines, as well as in Italy.
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