Beatified January 25, 1983
(by Maria Paola Santachiara)
Sr. Maria Gabriella was beatified on January 25th, 1983 in the Basilica of St. Paul's outside the Walls. It was the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle of the Gentiles, and also the last day of the Church Unity Octave. In his homily, Pope John Paul II resorted to sporting language: "I am happy to note, and to point out particularly to the young who are so fond of athletics and sport, that the young Trappist whom we are honoring today for the first time with the title "Blessed", was able to make her own the Apostles exhortation to the faithful of Corinth (1 Cor. 9:25), to "run as to win". She succeeded in the span of a few years to set a number of records in the stadium of sanctity that would make the most qualified champions envious. In fact she is historically the first Blessed to come from the ranks of "Girls of Catholic Action"; she is the first among the youth of Sardinia; the first among the Trappist monks and nuns; the first among those who work for Christian Unity. Four records set in the arena of that "school of divine service" proposed by the great Patriarch St. Benedict, which evidently is still valid even today after fifteen centuries, if it has been able to produce such examples of virtue in one who accepted it and put into practice "with the mind of love".
But who is Blessed Maria Gabriella? She is a young girl from Sardinia, in Italy, who died in 1939 at the Trappist monastery of Grottaferrata on the outskirts of Rome, at the age of 25. Like many another young man or woman she had accepted the gentle but compelling call of God to give her youth and life to Him. She entered a poor and hidden monastery and after three and a half years of prayer and penance died of the tuberculosis which had sapped her strong constitution. The only thing she had at her command was her life and this she offered as a holocaust to heal divisions and make all Christians visibly "one" in Christ. Her brief but total gift of herself was lived without any self-pity or regret. Outwardly, her life was insignificant, but through a series of events hard to explain in human terms, God used her to make known the beginning of the ecumenical movement in Italy and then, in the late 30's, the universal call to Christian Unity. In his encyclical "Ut unum sint" John Paul II pointed to her as an outstanding example of spiritual ecumenism.