today is All Saint’s Day, and i’ve been thinking about Saint Agostina Pietrantoni. born in Italy in 1864, she was the second oldest of 11(!!) kids. her family farmed a small plot of land, and she worked very hard with them from a very young age. she was kind and gentle, and played a motherly role in not only her younger siblings’ lives, but in the lives of the other children who she left home and labored with when she was about twelve.
as she got older, she received the attention of many suitors. but as it turns out, no man is better than Christ- and that’s what she declared one day. some folks in the village thought she was just trying to get away from her hard life- but she said “I wish to choose a Congregation in which there is work both day and night.”
she took a trip to Rome and was eventually given a chance with the Sisters of Charity of Saint Jeanne-Antide Thouret. after a few months, she was fully accepted into the order & sent to the hospital of Santo Spirito in 1886. it was sorta a weird time, the “roman question” meant that there was a lot of anti-catholic sentiment from nationalists. even though the hospital was a very Catholic thing for like seven hundred years, the Capuchin monks that worked there previously had been expelled & the only reason that the same thing didn’t happen to the sisters is that the authorities (probably correctly) thought kicking the poor sweet nuns out would make them look too mean.
Sister Agostina first worked with the sick children, and then in the tuberculosis ward. at that point, there wasn’t really an effective treatment for the disease, and it killed thousands- especially the poor, whose living arrangements heightened transmission. contracting the disease was, in most cases, a death sentence. Sister Agostina still worked night and day making the afflicted comfortable and trying her best to ease their suffering. in a place where the symbols of her religion and even speaking the name of God were strictly forbidden, she cried out to heaven with her constant love for the other.
after various women working in the hospital received vulgar comments & threats from a particular patient, he got kicked out. in his fury, he found Sister Agostina and stabbed her to death after attempting to rape her. her last words were those of forgiveness, and dedication to the Virgin Mary.
i look to Saint Agostina and contemplate her life and the way that she lived it- always for others, never for herself. first she labored in the home, taking care of her younger siblings and helping out on the farm. then, she was a migrant farm worker to earn more money to support her family, while providing love and direction to the many other children in the same situation. then, she dedicated her life to the sick and the poor in the tuberculosis ward- a place of constant suffering and death. every day she faced the deadly disease, and found joy and love in giving care to the people who contracted it. she knew that she was nothing, and was prepared to let go of herself entirely every day, in service to the lowest of the low. even after being so brutally attacked, she forgives instantly- she saw the best in the worst of people, and knew what she had to do. i’m cowardly and weak and selfish, and i hope that one day i can hold in my heart a tiny fraction of what Saint Agostina Pietrantoni is.
We will lie down for such a long time after death that it is worth while to keep standing while we are alive. Let us work now; one day we will rest. – Saint Agostina
sources: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_19990418_pietrantoni_en.html https://www.thecompassnews.org/2011/11/forgiving-the-one-who-killed-her/ http://exhibits.hsl.virginia.edu/alav/tuberculosis/ http://catholicsaints.info/saint-agostina-petrantoni/