RECOGNITION OF THE PROJECT OF GOD
At the age of 17 Magdalene entered the Carmel convent, but – in spite of her deep desire of prayer, she felt that the grates of the monastery separated her from the people outside who needed her and her work of charity.
Magdalene decide to return home and – under suggestion of a wise carmelite, sr Luigia – “placed herself trustingly in the hands of a holy priest, don Luigi Libera”. He was Magdalene’s guide for approximately nine years. His delicated spiritual guidance with the young girl helped her to clarify to the full her vocation and to proceed confidently towards her future mission of charity. He met her often at the Canossa Palace and they both exchanged many letters. Unfortunately, but understandably, none of Magdalene’s letters have reached us, while there are about sixty-eight of Don Libera’s letters to her.
Through this correspondence we can reconstruct Magdalene’s spiritual progress from July 1792, following the episode of Conegliano, to December 14, 1799, the date of the director’s last letter. He died, too soon, on January 22, 1800. Don Libera’s method appears to be very different from that of the Carmelites. He used understanding rather than authority, respecting the independence and freedom of the penitent rather than forcing his will on her, giving her orders.
His first act was to advise Magdalene to “lead a very withdrawn life within her own home for a year and pray fervently to know God’s will”, without making any decision as to her future.
At the request of her uncle, she was asked to take care of her two younger sisters, Rosa and Eleonora, and accompany them on the first steps of their social life. Don Libera encouraged her and gave her useful advice on how to guide her sisters, urging her to avoid the always harmful extremes of excessive severity and laxity.
Don Libera’s realism and optimism were in contrast with Magdalene’s rigor and scrupolosity. The wise director patiently, but firmly, set about freeing her from this sad excess.
He assured her that she was living in the state of grace: “We should not allow ourselves to be slaves of scruples; blessed are those who live in the fear of offending God, but let us ensure that our fear be filial and reasonable, because it is born of love”.
Magdalene reiterated her fear of not having been understood: she had the sensation that if both her director and confessor knew her well, in depth, they should have realised that she was a great sinner. She was convinced that it was she who did not know her true self.
Don Libera told her insistently that her conscience should be at peace. With serene irony he wrote: “Can everyone be wanting to betray you? I know full well how bad you are, but should we despair for this? My daughter, I don’t consider you as an angel from heaven, but I cannot bring myself to believe that you could have committed so many sins”.
To pacify his penitent, Don Libera frequently cut her short and prescribed generous and ready obedience, an effective means of conserving one’s peace of heart. “Have trust in this beautiful virtue of obedience, practise it with all your commitment and in the simplest way possible”.He required obedience also regarding temptations against faith which tormented Magdalene for several years, temptations against the existence of God, against the truths of the Creed: “To counteract your thoughts against faith, pray to God three times a day expressing your belief in what the Holy Church believes and your will to die in this faith: in peace and quiet, without being scrupulous about your every thought”.
Another way of expressing obedience was to renounce completely her desire to go into the convent, which from time to time she continued to feel growing inside her. By the end of the first year of trial, Don Libera told Magdalene that he was certain that God was not calling her to be a Disclaced Carmelite and that he could not discover in her any certain sign of vocation to the religious state; likewise he did not see her as being called to matrimony. Instead he urged her to wish only that which the Lord wanted from her, and to continue to be ready to sacrifice her every desire and will to accomplish the Will of God.
This divine Will was expressed in the events concerning her family which, for example, required her to follow more closely her sister Rosa, who was about to be married, and to be an element of peace between the members of her family, divided over questions of inheritance. He advised her to take over the running of the big house, even though with certain limitations, since there was no female hand able to do so.
He asked her to give up a consecrated life in the cloister for a service of charity in the family and in the world. Consecration to God did not necessarily involve segregation from the world but loving acceptance of God’s will. He wrote: “My daughter, I will never cease thanking the Lord for giving me the light to keep you in the world. For you it is hard, but let it all be done to the glory of the Lord and be assured that, in the present circumstances, in the segregation of the cloisters you would not be doing the good that you can do at home”.
The wise director, who was familiar with the young Marchioness need to act, had gradually approved the different charitable activities which she had started in the city. A fairly vast network had developed which was increasingly and carefully analysed and completed, as part of a Plan which anticipated the creation of a permanent institution for the poorest and the forgotten. It was an imaginary dream, for now, jealously held in custody in Magdalene’s heart, but which contained in embryo her future mission of charity. When she illustrated it to the director, she met with his complete approval: “I urge you with all my strength and, if you wish, I even order you to give your whole heart to the institution”.
Don Libera encouraged her, but was, at the same time, careful that her activity should not become activism. He urged her to pray and especially to devote herself to mental prayer which should become simple and true contemplation. He advised her to dedicate much space to prayer, without neglecting her family duties. He recommended the use of ejaculations which favour an attitude of familiarity with the Lord. He encouraged her, contrary to the custom of the time and the general jansenistic mentality, to frequently, even every day, receive Holy Communion: the real life of the soul, the food of the strong. He prescribed repeated visits to the Blessed Sacrament, as vital moments in her day. Eucharistic prayer was, for Don Libera, a source of great spiritual energy.
He ardently urged her to grow in the love of the Virgin and to entrust herself to her, as a daughter. Devotion to Mary will be a characteristic of Magdalene’s spirituality and will accompany her whole life in a simple and loving crescendo.
The young Marchioness succeeded in overcoming the greatest trial which the Lord asked of her, just when she believed she was free to try to fulfil her dream. In November 1797, the young wife of her uncle Girolamo, the Countess Claudia Buri became ill. On her death-bed, she entrusted to Magdalene’s care her baby, Carlino, who was just a few months old, begging her to be his mother.
In the mystery of death, which comes only from God, Magdalene saw clearly His will. She accepted to be ”mother” and to continue to remain at home, awaiting other signs from Above. Her vocation was to give herself to others, to place herself totally at the service of those who were in need.
This long and difficult itinerary leads Magdalene to know slowly the plan of God. Her life has to be a continue oblation, after the example of Jesus Crucified and the Mother of Sorrows who stands under the Cross.
INSPICE ET FAC – look at, contemplate and act “secundum example”. Example is Jesus Crucified, expression of the greatest love that sacrifices oneself to God the Father for mankind.