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Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

St. Maria Bertilla Boscardin - 20 October 2009

Anna Francesca Boscardin was born at Brendola, Veneto in 1888. She lived in fear of her father, a poor, violent and jealous farmer who was often drunk. As a child she could attend school irregularly as she was needed to help at home and in the fields. She showed few talents and was often the target of jokes. She acquired the nickname of "the goose", and all her life this nickname will remain with her both at home and in the convent.

In 1904 she joined the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Heart at Vicenza, taking the name "Maria Bertilla". She was then sent to Treviso to learn nursing at the municipal hospital there, which was under the direction of her order.

She began working in a hospital with children suffering from diphtheria. There the young nun seemed to find her true vocation: nursing very ill and disturbed children. Later, when the hospital was taken over by the military in World War I, Sister Maria Bertilla cared for patients amidst the threat of constant air raids and bombings.

She died in 1922 after suffering for many years from a painful tumor.

Her reputation for simplicity and devoted, caring hard work had left a deep impression on those who knew her. She was canonized in 1961.

She had no visions like those of Bernadette Soubirous. She wrote no book, like Story of a Soul by Thérese of Lisiseux. But she is compared with these higher-profile saints. And all because she had a gift for nursing and a courageous dedication to her vocation, even when war and disease threatened. She nursed terribly sick children while the bombs of World War I fell around her. “Here I am, Lord,” she wrote in a diary, “to do your will whatever comes—be it life, death, or terror.”

She gave up nursing and returned uncomplaining to the kitchen when a superior thought better of her assignment. She was sent back to nursing by another superior. “She is said to have prayed to Our Lady not for ‘visions, or revelations, or favors, even spiritual ones,’ but ‘to suffer joyfully without any consolation [and] to work hard for you until I die.” Die she soon did, of a painful tumor. “Crowds thronged to her funeral in Vicenza,” according to Richard P. McBrien’s Lives of the Saints.

When Maria Bertilla Boscardin was canonized in 1961, some who had been her patients forty years before were in attendance at St. Peter’s. In the intervening years, there had been reports of miracles. “At the . . . ceremony Pope John XXIII pointed out that the source of Maria Bertilla’s ‘greatness’ was her humility, that her sacrifices were ‘heroic,’ and that hers was a life of ‘simplicity arising from an abundant trust in God.’”

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