Monday, November 24, 2014

Blesseds Luigi and Maria: Holding on to What Is Good

Let love be sincere;
hate what is evil, hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection;
anticipate one another in showing honor.
Romans 12:9-10

During the Entrance Procession of the opening Mass of the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Pope Francis stopped for a moments to pray before three reliquaries that had been placed in St. Peter’s Basilica especially for the Synod. Two of the reliquaries were quite large and decorated with detailed figures and inscriptions—these reliquaries held the remains of Saint Thèrése of the Child Jesus and her parents, Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin. The 2008 beatification of the parents of the beloved “Little Flower” was a widely publicized event and was celebrated as a time to reflect on the holiness that is possible for married women and men. Placed alongside these ornate reliquaries, however, was a smaller, simpler one containing relics of another husband and wife who had been beatified seven years before the Louis and Zelie Martin: Blesseds Luigi and Maria Quattocchi. Like the Martins, Luigi and Maria have been held up by the Church as models for married couples.

Born in Catania, Italy, in 1880, Luigi Quattrocchi married Maria Corsini (who was born in 1881) on November 25, 1905.  Although Maria was initially the more devout of the two, she soon convinced her husband to accompany her to daily Mass. The couple eventually had four children with one son becoming a diocesan priest and the other a Trappist monk, while their elder daughter became a Benedictine nun. 
Luigi was a successful lawyer and he served as Deputy Attorney General of Italy. Maria, who was remembered for her love of education and music, volunteered with the Red Cross during the First World War and was a prominent member of Women’s Catholic Action. During the Second World War the couple opened their apartment to refugee families. 

Luigi died on November 9, 1951, and Maria followed on August 26, 1965. The couple had been married for forty-three years. As devotion to the couple began to spread among the faithful, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints decided that their causes would be considered jointly because, “It was impossible to distinguish their experience of sanctity, lived together so intimately.”  At the time of their beatification in 2001, it was decided that their commemoration would be celebrated on November 25—the anniversary of their marriage. Of their children, three were present for the ceremony, with their two sons concelebrating the Mass.

In his homily at the beatification of Blesseds Luigi and Maria, Pope Saint John Paul II declared: “Drawing on the word of God and the witness of the saints, the blessed couple lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. Among the joys and anxieties of a normal family, they knew how to live an extraordinarily rich spiritual life. At the center of their life was the daily Eucharist as well as devotion to the Virgin Mary, to whom they prayed every evening with the Rosary, and consultation with wise spiritual directors… The riches of faith and love of the husband and wife Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, are a living proof of what the Second Vatican Council said about the call of all the faithful to holiness, indicating that spouses should pursue this goal, "propriam viam sequentes—following their own way" (Lumen gentium, n. 41). Today the aspiration of the Council is fulfilled with the first beatification of a married couple: their fidelity to the Gospel and their heroic virtues were verified in their life as spouses and parents.”
A photo taken of the Blesseds Luigi and Maria
near the end of Luigi's life.
The recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family highlighted the challenges that married couples and families face in our day, including a culture that seems to place little value on permanent commitments. Luigi and Maria Quattrocchi faced the challenges of marriage and parenthood as they also fulfilled their religious and professional obligations during two world wars, the rise of fascism in Italy, and, ultimately, failing health, and the separation that comes with death. They were not cookie cutter saints and their lives serve as a powerful reminder that holiness is available to us, whatever our state of life might be. As Pope Francis reminded all of us at a recent General Audience: “Holiness is not just for bishops, priests or religious... No. We are all called to become saints! So often, we are tempted to think that holiness is granted only to those who have the opportunity to break away from the ordinary tasks, to devote themselves to prayer… Indeed, it is by living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to become saints.”

A Prayer in honor of Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi +
Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that the example of your Saints may spur us on to a better life,
so that we, who celebrate the memory of blessed Luigi and Maria,
may also imitate without ceasing their deeds.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)


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