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Bl. Maria Josephine

Bl. Maria Josephine
26 June 2018

Josephine Catanea, born in Naples on 18th February 1896, was known by all her family as ‘Pinelli’.

After completing studies in business, she entered the Carmelite community of St. Mary of ‘Ponti Rossi’, born, thanks to the will of her sister Antoinette - who as a Carmelite tertiary bore the name Mary Teresa - with the support of Fr. Romualdo of St. Anthony, a Discalced Carmelite. She did not enjoy good health: she was somewhat fragile and sickly; thus in 1912 she began to suffer from problems of angina and later from tuberculosis. She also suffered from serious problems with the dorsal spine, suffering lesions in the vertebrae, until succumbing to complete paralysis and meningitis of the marrow of the spine. But ten years later, on 26th June 1922, she was miraculously and instantaneously cured, after contact with the arm of St. Francis Xavier, which had been brought to Naples.

Having barely started out on her life as a discalced Carmelite, the ‘holy nun’, as she was called, began an apostolate, which she would carry out throughout her life; she joyfully welcomed all kinds of sick and needy people in the convent, for whom she procured consolation and to whom she gave her advice, helping them to find the love of God, often carrying out wonders as well. This was an exercise in self-denial of her spirit of contemplation in order to help others, which continued on feast days and even when she was struck down with other illnesses. In 1944, when she was fifty years of age and had very poor eyesight, she had to resign herself to always using a wheelchair. Her image was of a new Jesus crucified for the Church and mankind, for which her name in religion became a sign of his life. She wanted to be a victim for humanity’s suffering, full of a renewed sensitivity which she lived out as gift of the Holy Spirit. In 1932, the Holy See recognised the house of  ‘Ponti Rossi’ in Naples as a convent with full rights within the Order and Josephine Catanea was officially clothed with the habit of St. Teresa, taking the new name of Mary Josephine of Jesus Crucified. On 6th August of the same year, she was solemnly professed according to the Rule, which she had followed since 1918.

From 1934, she took on the position of sub-prioress, named by the Archbishop of Naples, Alessio Ascalesi; later, in 1945, she was Vicar and on 29th September of the same year, she was elected Prioress by the conventual chapter, a position which she kept until her death.

She practised her spiritual virtues in humility, during World War II: above all loving gentleness, humility and simplicity. She prayed without ceasing, thereby nurturing her trust in God, which she transmitted to all who came as pilgrims to ‘Ponti Rossi’ to hear her words of encouragement, thereby helping them to take up their lives again with renewed hope, overcoming their trials and suffering. On the day of her clothing she had said: ‘I have offered myself to Christ Crucified so as to be crucified with Him’.

The Lord took her at her word and thus made her a participant in his suffering, which she sought living it quietly and joyfully, submerged in the heart of Mary. At a certain point in time, she began to receive extraordinary, mystical charisms, accompanied for many years by severe trials and persecutions, which she put up with by surrendering herself to God’s will. In obedience to and on the advice of Fr. Romualdo of St. Anthony, she wrote her ‘Autobiography’ (1894-1932) and ‘Diary’ (1925-1945). Letters and exhortations for religious have also been kept.

From 1943, she began to suffer from inflammation to the labyrinth of the inner ear, problems of the nervous system, very painful multiple sclerosis, progressive loss of sight and other painful  disorders. Convinced that her ill state was the will of God, she received it as a gift which allowed her to approach Jesus on the cross. Finally, she entered into a critical state with spreading gangrene, offering everything to God as a sacrifice for souls.

Mother Mary Josephine died on 14th March 1948 with her heart surrendered to God and to souls. Her wasted body was kept completely incorrupt until 27th March, the date of her burial, in order to make it possible for the multitudes to go to the convent to take their ‘leave’ of the ‘holy nun’.

In December, 1948, Cardinal Ascalesi began the ordinary process for the cause of beatification. On 3rd January, 1987, a decree with regard to her virtues was promulgated. She was beatified in the Cathedral of Naples by Cardinal Sepe on 1st June 2008. Her memorial is celebrated in the liturgy on 26th June.