Saint Maria Bertilla Boscardin (1888–1922)
Saint Maria Bertilla Boscardin (1888–1922) was an Italian nun and nurse who displayed a pronounced devotion to duty in working with sick children and victims of the air raids of World War I.
She was born in the historic town of Brendola near Vicenza in the Veneto in Northern Italy
She later said that her entire way of life was the "la via dei carri` " ("the road of the waggons")
She became a member of the Teachers of Saint Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Heart (Suore Maestre di Santa Dorotea Figlie dei Sacri Cuori) at Vicenza in 1904
She was a nurse and during the air raids of Treviso following the disastrous Battle of Caporetto, the hospital in which she worked fell under the control of the military. Sister Bertilla was noted for her unwavering care of her patients, particularly those who were too ill to be moved to safety
She then was involved in the nursing of those during the outbreak of Spanish influenza which happened after the Great War
She died in 1922 after suffering for many years from a painful malignant cancerous tumour
The spiritual diary of Saint Maria Bertilla Boscardin can be found here
In an entry in March 1917 which appears to be written during a meditation on Lenten retreat she wrote:
"I reflected on how much Jesus suffered so that he could stand it no more and came out with the lament, “My God, My God why have you abandoned me?”
If God the Father made Him suffer so much for sins, not His own what will be the case with me, when I appear before His presence to be Judged? My many sins I am aware, others I do not see, because I am blinded by my self- love and my self esteem.
After receiving so many graces from Jesus and I have responded with black ingratitude.
I have resolved to watch over myself with the help of Jesus in my every action: to live always in Jesus presence.
And to think that he will demand of me a strict account,even of every useless word."
In the ceremony of canonisation 11th May 1961 (The Ascension) Saint Pope John XXIII said:
"L'umile suora di Brendola è la conferma di una tradizione che fa delle fervorose parrocchie la prima scuola di ben vivere e di santità. Santa Bertilla sta ora sugli altari al di sopra dei sapienti e dei prudenti del secolo. Essa non frequentò un lungo tirocinio di studio, ma poté espletare con buon garbo ogni mansione a lei affidata. Il suo libro, tenuto gelosamente fra i ricordi più cari, è stato il Catechismo, regalatole dal parroco. Là attingeva ispirazione e conforto fin da bambina, ritirandosi tutta lieta in solitudine, dopo aver sbrigato i lavori domestici, per leggerlo e rileggerlo continuamente, e per insegnarlo con trasporto alle coetanee."
"The humble nun of Brendola is the confirmation of a tradition that makes a fervent parish the first school of how to live a life of goodness and of holiness. Saint Bertilla is now on the altars above those people called the wise and the prudent of this century. She did not attend an extensive training in the schools, but was able to carry out with good grace each task entrusted to her. Her book, kept jealously among her most treasured possessions was the Catechism, given to her by her parish priest. From it, she drew inspiration and comfort as a child, retiring with it alone in solitude, after having finished the housework, to read and re-read it all the time, and to teach it with fervour to her contemporaries."
He went on using a rather strange metaphor from nuclear physics as if the saint had been like a nuclear reactor, irradiating those around with a silent, invisible and totally penetrative force which survives and whose effects are felt after death:
"Ecco qui un'anima semplice, che al primo schiudersi della vocazione è lieta di abbandonarvisi, favorita dal rispetto e dal consenso dei genitori : essa è contenta di compiere anche i più umili servizi, perchè non chiede nulla per sé, non insegue divagazioni di curiosità o di personali preferenze. Eppure la irradiazione di Suor Bertilla si allarga : nelle corsie dell'ospedale di Treviso, a contatto con gli epidemici, a consolare, a calmare : pronta e ordinata, esperta e silenziosa, fino a far dire anche ai distratti che Qualcuno — cioè il Signore — fosse sempre con lei a dirigerla e a illuminarla. Irradiazione che non si è spenta con la morte, ma che è continuata a diffondere i benefici della santità su una cerchia sempre più vasta di anime, fino all'odierno trionfo.
Dio e anime; vita interiore e apostolato ; amore di Dio e amore del prossimo : sono i cardini incrollabili, su cui poggia la storia di tutti i Santi, e che proclamano in faccia al mondo il fascino irresistibile del loro esempio."
"Here we have a simple soul who from the first unfolding of her vocation is pleased to throw herself into it entirely and without reservation, helped on by the respect the consent and encouragement of her parents. She was happy to do even the most humble service, because she does not ask for anything for herself, nor was she diverted by fancies of curiosity or by personal preferences. Yet the irradiating force of Sister Bertilla expanded always outward: in the wards of the hospital of Treviso, in contact with the victims of epidemics, to comfort, to calm: prompt and orderly, expert and silent, to the distracted that even they say that Someone - that is, the Lord - was always with her to direct and enlighten her . Her irradiating force was not extinguished on her death, but continued to spread the benefits of holiness on and over a growing vast host of souls, right up until today's triumph.
God and souls; inner life and apostolate; love of God and love of neighbour are the immoveable cornerstones, upon which the history of all the Saints, and who proclaim and bear witness before the world of the irresistible charm of their example."