December 18, 2008

Bl. Maria Candida of the Eucharist, Virgin, OCD

1884 – 1949 – Opt. Memorial - December 18th
Virgin, Professed Nun of the Order of Discalced Carmelites

Maria Barba was bMaria Barba was born on January 16, 1884 in Catanzaro, Italy, to Giovanna Florena, a noblewoman, and Pietro Barba, an appeals court judge. Maria was a lively, energetic child, very sensitive towards others. In addition to her schooling, she also took piano lessons and displayed an unusual talent for music. When Maria was 2 years old, she moved with her family to Palermo, Sicily.

Story of a Soul

Maria lived a "carefree" youth up until age 15, at which time she received a special grace of conversion, an immediate "change" in her character and interests: her only desire after this time was to love God with all of her heart, and she felt called to dedicate herself completely to him in the Religious life.

Her family, however, did not agree with Maria's sudden "whim" and believed she was simply overcome by an initial spiritual fervor. Their opposition to her religious vocation forced her to wait 20 years before she could enter a religious community.

These years of waiting were ones of deep interior sufferings for Maria and in the end bore witness to her remarkable strength of spirit and fidelity to God's call. Throughout this period of trial, she was constantly sustained by deep Eucharistic devotion, which became the center of her life.

During all these difficulties, Maria also found comfort in reading Story of a Soul, the inspiring autobiography of the Carmelite nun Thérèse of Lisieux (beatified on 29 April 1923 and canonized on 17 May 1925 by Pope Pius XI), which provided renewed impetus for the direction of her life and drew her ever more deeply into the Teresian spirituality, nurturing her own desire to become a Carmelite.

Entry into Carmel

Five years after the death of her mother on 16 April 1920, Maria entered the Monastery of the Discalced Carmelites of Ragusa and received the name "Maria Candida of the Eucharist". On 23 April 1924 she made her solemn, profession, and six months later she was elected prioress of the Monastery.

For the first three years, she also served as mistress of novices and took the formation of the young Sisters most seriously. It caused great suffering for Mother Candida to see some Sisters taking their Rule "lightly", and one day she said to one of the nuns: "My daughter, why do you insult the Lord like this? Don't you realize that humanity needs you? Why do you let yourself to go off the path?".

As a result, Mother Candida taught the Sisters to live faithfully and coherently according to their Rule, that of the great Carmelite reformer of the 16th century, St Teresa of Avila.

She was also directly responsible for the expansion of the Discalced Carmelite Order in Sicily and founded the Carmel of Siracusa. Furthermore, she helped to secure the return of the male branch of the Order to Sicily.

Building Eucharistic Spirituality

During the Holy Year of 1933, on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Mother Candida began to write a long and profound meditation on the Eucharist, fruit of personal experience and of the deepening of theological reflections based on those same experiences. In one of the most intense and profound pages of her work, Mother Candida wrote the following about the Blessed Virgin Mary, model par excellence of Eucharistic living:

"I want to be like Mary... to be Mary for Jesus, to take the place of his Mother. When I receive Jesus in Communion, Mary is always present. I want to receive Jesus from her hands; she must unite me with him. I cannot separate Mary from Jesus".

In 1947, Mother Candida was diagnosed with a tumour in her liver. After long months of painful suffering lived in resignation and peace, the Lord called Mother Maria Candida to himself on 12 June 1949. It was the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. She was beatified March 21, 2004.

Pope John Paul, II - presented Maria Candida as "an authentic mystic of the Eucharist … unifying center of the whole of life, following the Carmelite tradition."

"She was so in love with Jesus in the Eucharist that she felt a constant and ardent desire to be a tireless apostle of the Eucharist," he said.

Four years after her beatification (March 21, 2004) on June 17 the diocesan process on the presumed miracle, attributed to her intercession, closed in Ragusa, Sicily (Italy). The examination of the supernatural event, now submitted to the process of the congregation for the causes of saints in Rome, is in relation to the eucharistic charism of our blessed carmelite from Sicily: the multiplication of hosts so that the faithful would not go without communion.

To mark the closing of the diocesan process a mass was celebrated in the carmel by the local bishop at which the book ‘Viaggio dentro il cuore. Intinerario ecclesiale sulle orme di M. Maria Candida dell’Eucharistia’ [‘A journey into the heart. An ecclesial itinerary in the footsteps of Mother Maria Candida of the Eucharist’] was presented. The author, Mario Gullo, was present at the celebration, as were the writers Carmelo Mezzasalma and Alessandro Andreini, from the San Leonino community. During a sacred concert the two hymns composed by Cristiana of Jesus Crucified in honour of the Blessed Maria and the choir of the St. Cecila philharmonic association, from Agrigento, were sung for the first time. Blessed Maria Candida of the Eucharist’s popularity has gone beyond the walls of Carmel to touch the faith of the whole of Sicily.

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