Saint Magdalen of Canossa’s Story

Wealth and privilege did nothing to prevent today’s saint from following her calling to serve Christ in the poor. Nor did the protests of her relatives, concerned that such work was beneath her.

Born in northern Italy in 1774, Magdalen knew her mind—and spoke it. At age 15 she announced she wished to become a nun. After trying out her vocation with the cloistered Carmelites, she realized her desire was to serve the needy without restriction. For years she worked among the poor and sick in hospitals and in their homes, and also among delinquent and abandoned girls.

In her mid-20s, Magdalen began offering lodging to poor girls in her own home. In time she opened a school, which offered practical training and religious instruction. As other women joined her in the work, the new Congregation of the Canossian Daughters of Charity—or Canossian Sisters—emerged. Over time, houses were opened throughout Italy.

Members of the new religious congregation focused on the educational and spiritual needs of women. Magdalen also founded a smaller congregation for priests and brothers. Both groups continue to this day.

Magdalen died in 1835. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1988.


Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. Mark 16:15 When I hear Jesus’ command, three phrases stand out for me: whole world…proclaim…every creature. The phrase whole world is not restricted to faraway places like Timbuktu, huge cities like Seoul or exotic island sites like Fiji. Whole world also includes our parish, neighborhood, local grocery store and kitchen. And proclaim means more than to shout on street corners, deliver a sermon or write a theological treatise. We can proclaim the gospel by listening attentively to someone, by offering a helping hand, by sending a card or an email, and by praying for someone in need. And every creature is not limited to so-called pagans or people in remote areas. It can include a discouraged spouse, a fearful child, a needy friend, an exhausted checkout clerk. Some are called to faraway places to proclaim the gospel through heroic deeds. Others are called to places closer to home to incarnate the gospel in their ordinary lives.

Published by Positive Living

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