January 19, 2014

Blessed Maria Teresa Fasce

One of the reasons I appreciate learning about the saints is that often enough their lives didn't proceed in a straight line according to human standards, but had their share of confusions, setbacks, and moments of obscurity. This is a great encouragement to me when I think of my own life so far as a Christian, especially in its false starts (like my doctoral studies), my life as a Franciscan friar having begun well enough with the OFM but then rebooted a few years later with the Capuchins, and, more than anything else, finding myself firmly embarked on middle age and having often enough the thought (or the temptation!) that I have yet to make a solid beginning of anything in life.

A blessed who showed up in the Martyrology yesterday was a delight in this regard: Maria Teresa Fasce, abbess (1881-1947). Piecing together the various sources I could find on the internet, it seems she had a great devotion to St. Rita of Cascia, who would have been canonized when Maria Teresa was eighteen years old. She wanted to enter the same monastery where St. Rita had been, though her family objected to the distance from home. Overcoming the objections, she seems to have made a good beginning of religious life.

Troubles arose, however. At some point after her novitiate she had to leave the monastery and go home to her family. It seems that there were generational conflicts in the community and that the religious life was in some sort of decline. Some of what I read suggested that a group of sisters may have ganged up on Maria Teresa for some reason or other. By some grace or other Maria Teresa's troubles were resolved and she eventually returned to the monastery to make her final vows.

A couple of things I read suggested that at some point--I couldn't figure out if it was before her vocation crisis or after--Maria Teresa wrote letters to some authority to report on or complain about the spiritual condition of the monastery. Following this, she came to be novice mistress, abbess, and a variety of institutions of charity grew up around the monastery under her leadership.

Probably many young religious have found themselves in the situation of confusion, wondering why religious life doesn't seem so religious or overly concerned with being what it claims to be. Blessed Maria Teresa's story--as well as that of many reformers and reforming presences--goes to show that the casual and ready advice to 'get over yourself' or 'let go' perhaps doesn't fit in every case. So if you've even been one of those young religious I've just described, here's a new heavenly patron for you.

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