Blessed SisterMaria Gabriella Saghedduwas aTrappistnun. She was born inSardiniain 1914 and died oftuberculosisin the Trappist monastery ofGrottaferratain 1939. Because of her spiritual devotion toChristianunity, she wasbeatifiedby popeJohn Paul IIin 1983.
Motivated to deepen her piety after the death of her sister, she enrolled in a Catholic youth group called "Azione Cattolica" when she was eighteen. She began to catechise the local youth, help the aged, and intensify her prayer life. By this time, she had overcome her childhood stubbornness and become known for being gentle and thoughtful.
At about twenty or twenty-one, she decided to consecrate her life to God as a nun. She departed Sardinia for the Trappist monastery inGrottaferrata, nearRome, on theItalian mainland. The abbess of the monastery throughout Sagheddu's time there was MotherPia Gullini, whose enthusiasm forecumenism(a fruit of the efforts of FatherPaul Couturier) was transmitted to Sagghedu. Devoted to this cause, she offered herself as a spiritual sacrifice for the unity of theChristian churchduring theWeek of Prayer for Christian Unityof 1938. She then immediately fell ill with tuberculosis, and after suffering for fifteen months, died on April 23, 1939. Significantly, theGospelreading for that Sunday included the words, "There will be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16)"
She was moved by a profound feeling of thanks to God for imparting hisgraceto her, and for calling her to unity with him. These sentiments caused her to attempt a full and complete response to God because of these gifts, finding peace in this complete response. Like most otherCatholicfigures known for holiness, she found rest from anxiety through a complete and trusting abandonment of herself to the will of God.
After her death, it was noted that in her Bible, Chapter 17 ofSt. John'sGospel had become yellowed and worn from being often read. In this chapter,Jesusprays to theFatheron behalf of his disciples. Of particular significance are verses 11 and 21, in which Jesus prays "that they may be one, as we also are (John 17:11)," and "that they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me (John 17:21)." These verses are commonly used for a motto of the ecumenical movement, given the pan-Christian appeal of theBible, the direct expression of Jesus' will for the unity of his disciples, the connection between Christian unity and successfulevangelisation, and the affirmation by Jesus himself of his owndivinityand unity with God the Father.
Sister Maria Gabriella saw Christian disunity as wounds to the body of Christ, an image often used to demonstrate the negative effects of sectarianism. Most likely resulting from her understanding of the Catholic theology relating to Jesus'crucifixion, she offered her life to God as a sacrifice for the unity of the Church. John Paul II, in his encyclicalUt Unum Sint, says this:
Praying for unity is not a matter reserved only to those who actually experience the lack of unity among Christians. In the deep personal dialogue which each of us must carry on with the Lord in prayer, concern for unity cannot be absent. Only in this way, in fact, will that concern fully become part of the reality of our life and of the commitments we have taken on in the Church. It was in order to reaffirm this duty that I set before the faithful of the Catholic Church a model which I consider exemplary, the model of a Trappistine Sister, Blessed Maria Gabriella of Unity, whom I beatified on 25 January 1983. Sister Maria Gabriella, called by her vocation to be apart from the world, devoted her life to meditation and prayer centered on chapter seventeen of Saint John's Gospel, and offered her life for Christian unity. This is truly the cornerstone of all prayer: the total and unconditional offering of one's life to the Father, through the Son, in theHoly Spirit. The example of Sister Maria Gabriella is instructive; it helps us to understand that there are no special times, situations or places of prayer for unity. Christ's prayer to the Father is offered as a model for everyone, always and everywhere.
Sagheddu wasdeclared blessedby Pope John Paul II on Sunday, January 25, 1983, at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the same observance which motivated Sagheddu's decision to offer her life to God. By doing so, the Pope both affirmed the holiness of her actions and set her up as a role model for Christians to follow, especially as relates to ecumenism.
|Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu|
|Died||23 April 1939
|Beatified||25 January 1983, Basilica ofSt. Paul outside the Walls,Rome,ItalybyJohn Paul II|
|Majorshrine||Chapel of Unity, Monastery of O. L. of St. Joseph,Vitorchiano|
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