di Rosa, Maria Crocifissa, St.
DI ROSA, MARIA CROCIFISSA, ST.
Foundress of the handmaids of charity; b. Brescia, Italy, Nov. 6, 1813; d. there, Dec. 15, 1855. She was the sixth of nine children of a wealthy nobleman and landowner who occupied important posts in Brescia. After her mother's death (1824), Paolina Francesca Maria (her name at baptism) was entrusted for her education to the Visitandines (1824–30). Then she took charge of her father's household and developed a talent for organization and supervision. Her father's active Catholicism urged her to engage in a variety of good works. Monsignor Faustino Pinzoni, archpriest of the cathedral in Brescia, who was her spiritual director and later cofounder of her congregation, gave explicit direction to her charitable endeavors. During a devastating cholera epidemic (1836), Paola and her companion Gabriella Bornati won wide admiration by caring for the sick. To Paola, Brescia owes its first three Sunday school groups, its first school for deaf mutes, its first home for the rehabilitation of girls, and also the enactment of reforms to aid indigent women, popular missions, and diverse forms of spiritual, catechetical, and material aid. Her chief accomplishment was the foundation in 1840 of her religious congregation, popularly called at first the Hospitable Adorers. Her timely intervention with an unruly mob saved the Jesuits of the College of St. Christopher, who took refuge in her house before the college was sacked (1848). That year she also intervened in defense of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart and sent her Handmaids to assist the wounded at the Battle of Valeggio.
In 1849 she was responsible for saving the hospital in Brescia from destruction by the Austrian troops. Maria Crocifissa went to Rome in 1850 and obtained approval of her institute's rule. Basic to her spirituality was the imitation of Christ's sorrowful life; this led her to infused contemplation and inspired her with the idea of aiding the sick and the poor, the sorrowful members of Christ's Church. The chapel in the motherhouse at Brescia is her burial place. She was beatified on May 26, 1940, and canonized June 12, 1954.
Feast: Dec. 15.
Bibliography: s. cabibbo and m. modica, La santa dei Tomasi: storia di suor Maria Crocifissa (Turin 1989). l. fossati, Beata Maria Crocifissa Di Rosa (Brescia 1940). a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater (New York 1956) 4:566–569.