Sunday, March 20, 2011
March 21 -- Feast of Blessed Benedicta Frassinello
Benedicta was a strange woman. Hers was a poor peasant family which moved to the university town of Pavia (near Milan) after Napoleon took over the region. She read about the lives of the saints, got inspired, and ran away to live in a cave. She ate nuts and berries for a whole week before her family found her and brought her home.
Concerned, her parents fixed her up with a kind, intelligent, but illiterate man named Giovanni. He should probably be a beatus too, but I don't think he made the cut. I guess he was just drafting in her holiness.
First, she moved her terminally ill sister in with them. Poor Maria lingered with a slow-growing cancer for nine years. Second, after two years of marriage, Benedicta told Giovanni that they should live in celibacy. Third, she then decided that they should devote their lives and resources to rescuing young girls who were prostituting at the university.
A word on that mission: both the Bishop and Benedicta's own confessor told her that those girls were a lost cause. Things didn't work out so after Maria died, Benedicta joined a convent and Giovanni joined a monastery.
A few years, an illness, an a couple of dream-wrapped portents later, Benedicta had a run-down house with seven former prostitutes working to make good. Benedicta's parents were scandalized, so they went to the Bishop who turned to Giovanni to talk her back into her convent. He left his monastery and had a little talk with her, the result of which was that he joined her in her work. Pretty soon they had a hundred girls and a much larger house, donated by a wealthy benefactor.
But gossip beat good work, and the rumors of what went on in houses full of young whores prompted the Bishop to bounce her from the region. Giovanni led Benedicta and five co-workers to Ronco Scrivia, his hometown. There they flourished, opening a school and orphanage, focusing especially though not exclusively on girls at risk of being forced into prostitution.
After Bishop Tosi died, she asked for permission to go back to Pavia. She opened an orphanage and school for girls in a former Benedictine monastery, but the gossip won again and she was rebooted out. She had a heart attack on her way to Ronco Scrivia and died there.
Her remains were destroyed by the Allied bombing of WWII.
Posted by Tom Major at 10:13 AM