“Blessed” Sister Maria Gabriella, who belonged to the Trappist monastery of Grottaferrata, in Italy, is one of just a few Trappists who lived in the 20th century, to actually be beatified and so is called a “blessed”. John Paul II considers her an especially inspiring model for young people. At her beatification the pope said: “I am happy to note to young people who are so fond of sports – that this young Trappist nun whom we honor today with the title “blessed”, was able to make her own the Apostles exhortation to the faithful of Corinth: to “run so 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 the first “blessed” to come from the ranks of “Girls of Catholic Action”, she is the first among the young people of the town of Sardinia, the first among Trappist monks and nuns; the first among whose who work for Christian unity!”
Maria Gabriella, who died in 1939 at age 25, accepted, at a young age, the call to give her life to God. She lived a humble and hidden life of prayer for three years before dying of tuberculosis. At the end, she was so weak she had no control over absolutely nothing – nothing, that is, except her very life itself. With only months remaining to her in this world, Maria made the decision to offer her life to God to heal divisions and to make all Christians one in Christ. Those who witnessed her death were astonished at how she made this total gift of herself to God and to her fellow Christians without a trace of self-pity or any regrets. Having lived such a short life in such obscure circumstances, Maria should have been forgotten by the world. However, by an amazing sequence of events which are hard to explain except by God's intervention, she became associated with the very beginnings of the ecumenical movement in the Catholic Church and subsequent call of the popes to universal Christian unity. In his encyclical “Ut unum sint” John Paul II held up Maria as a pre-eminent example of “spiritual ecumenism”.