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.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

December 16 -- Feast of Blessed Mary Fontanella

Mary Fontanella, daughter of Count John Donatus Fontanella di Baldissero and of Countess Mary Tana di Santana, was born in Turin in 1661.  As the youngest of eleven, she probably didn't have to work too hard to persuade her parents to put her in a convent rather than cough up yet another dowry.  [Well, convents required dowries too, but I'll bet the negotiation for a healthy young girl who could work hard was pretty easy.]  She joined the Cistercians in Saluzza, but her mom insisted that she return to the family after Count John died. 

Within four years, Mary had persuaded her mom to let her return to cloistered life, this time to the Carmelites right there in Turin.  She had a rough start there -- no doubt her problems with the novice mistress "informed her later success" as the novice mistress of the monastery.  But before that, she sank into a deep spiritual trench.  Not the abyss, perhaps, but a sort of Marianna of the Soul.  [My little joke: her name was Marianna before she got the habit and became Mary of the Angels.] 

I reckon her iron tongue ring was a little more formidable.
Back to her trials.  Demons attacked her on a regular basis, so she fought back with rigorous personal mortification.  We are accustomed to the usual stuff -- long hours of prayer, drastic dietary restrictions, flagellation.  Good stuff, but Mary brought her A-game against the demons.  She suspended herself with ropes in the form of a cross; nearer my God to Thee.  She bound her tongue with an iron ring. After three years, she emerged as a deeply centered, profoundly spiritual leader of her community, blessed with the occasional vision from Heaven. 

Basilica at Superga, built to celebrate the 1706 victory over the French Army
Turin (Torino) is one of those fútbol cities in Italy.  Lombards and Franks were fighting over it way back.  When the Franks rebranded themselves the French (okay, the English rebranded them), they fought with Savoy for control of the Piedmont region, including Turin.  There were two sieges during Mary's life.  She announced that the city had been saved by Saint Joseph in 1696, and moved the city to proclaim him its patron saint.  In 1706, she begged the BVM to save the city from the French army that besieged it for 117 days.  She also announced publicly that the BVM had answered her prayers and would save the city.  Thus, when the siege was broken and the city spared, Mary and Mary got a slice of the credit. 

Her successes helped her get elected prioress for four straight terms, the first at age thirty-three.  A papal dispensation was granted to allow so young a sister to become prioress. She probably would have been elected to a fifth, except she prayed that God release her from life (if it were His will).  But that was well after some more rocky patches for both Turin and Mary. 

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