This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 15 -- Feast of Saint Virginia Centurione Bracelli

Attack of the 50-Foot Saint!
Virginia was the daughter of the Doge of Genoa.  Though she sought a cloistered life, her folks arranged a marriage for her to Gasparo Grimaldi Bracelli, a hard-drinking gambler who didn't spend much time with their two daughters.  To be fair, he couldn't spend much time with them after his fifth year of marriage, as they were still walking around and he was in his grave. It is far too late for me to offer advice to Doge Giorgio Centurione and his wife Lelia, but I will do it anyway: If you are going to name your daughter Virginia, you should not force her to get married.  Conubia seems a better label for someone you hope to hand to some vain, middle-aged aristocrat. 

Following Gaspard's death, Virginia declined the next arranged marriage and moved in with her in-laws.  After her mother-in-law died, she started taking in orphans.  A war brought refugees, so she took those in too.  The war also brought plague, so she made as much room as she could for the sick and the dying.  When they overwhelmed the house, she rented an empty convent and instituted a facility serving three hundred patients.  The government officially recognized the hospital [I have no idea what government recognition was worth to a hospital in seventeenth century Genoa, but if Medicaid payments in Maine are any indication, not much.]

At rest under glass today
Like many institutions, Virginia's Cento Signore della Misericordia Protettrici dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo  grew so large that she handed over control to a group of administrators.  She had purchased two villas and begun construction of a mother church -- massive projects required experienced hands.  Yet her retirement to the life of a regular sister, sweeping the steps and soliciting donations, dried up the labor pool.  Virginia had been the critical link to the Genoan upper class volunteers, and without her, they drifted.  If you weren't working with Mother Virginia, you weren't getting the whole experience.  It is sort of like volunteering in Calcutta and never meeting Mother Teresa. 

She returned to active administration of the volunteers, but things had fallen to the point where the Genoan government pulled its recognition.  That led to a breach between the Church and the government, giving her an opportunity to cinch the canonization by acting as a peacemaker.  She also worked to end a feud among some of the best Genoan families, always a good thing to resolve before one of those Capulet/Montague things breaks out.  She was sixty years old when she died, and even if she had not been blessed with visions and interior locutions late in life, she'd still be canon-quality material.  She has the miracle of being a sixteenth century Italian woman who could establish and administer an enormous hospital, and the miracle of resolving peace between Church and State.  Many's the Pope who failed on that front.

1 comment:

  1. My name is virginia and I think this brave strong-willed saint is a miraculous woman that gave her whole life to helping the sick& homeless. I honor her. Like myself, I believe in everything she believes in. God bless this wonderful strong woman.