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Woman who endured neglect and abuse declared venerable by Pope Francis

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Pope Francis has advanced the beatification cause of an Italian laywoman who was neglected by her parents, abused by her husband, and suffered prolonged health problems.

Maria Aristea Ceccarelli was born in northeastern Italy in 1883 to an illiterate and hard mother, the second wife of a man who had abandoned his first wife and son. Her father was violent and bad-tempered and had lost his money through gambling.

When her parents did not provide her with an education, Ceccarelli worked odd jobs in order to pay a neighbor for a limited amount of tutoring. She also attended church and received the sacraments on her own initiative.

Before her 18th birthday, Ceccarelli’s parents married her off to a man who treated her like an indentured servant, and physically and verbally abused her.

At the age of 24, she was forced to have her right eye removed after suffering a perforation of the eyeball. She then developed trigeminal neuralgia, a condition that causes painful shock-like sensations to one side of the face. These pains eventually spread throughout her body.

After around 10 years of marriage, Ceccarelli and her husband moved to Rome for her husband’s job. There, she met three priests of the Camillian religious order who became her spiritual advisers.

Ceccarelli never gave up her private hope for her husband’s conversion to the Catholic faith and a life of virtue. Her heroic fidelity to her husband is shown in something she wrote in her spiritual diary: “I always think this and I would repeat it to all brides: Adorn your soul internally as best you can for Jesus, but externally for your husband. If you draw him to you, you will draw him to God himself.”

In 1948, Ceccarelli’s patience was rewarded with her husband’s return to the faith and reconciliation with her. He died in 1964.

In Rome, Ceccarelli would often visit the sick. She also became a point of reference for neighbors, who would go to her to receive spiritual comfort or some small material aid. She never had children, but was a spiritual mother to many, and cultivated many vocations to the Camillian order.

After years of declining health, including widespread pain, heart problems, and dropsy, she died on Christmas Eve in 1971 at the age of 92.

Pope Francis also advanced the beatification causes of nine other servants of God last Saturday, including Bl. Artemide Zatti, a nurse and Salesian Coadjutor Brother, who will now be declared a saint.

Also among the nine was Rozalia Celakówna (also known as Rosalia Celak), a Polish laywoman who had visions of Christ and a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Celakówna advocated for Poland’s proclamation of Jesus Christ as its King through an Act of Enthronement. She worked in a hospital in the dermatological and venereal disease department.

Always in poor health, she died in 1944 at the age of 43, possibly from heart disease.

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Woman who endured neglect and abuse declared venerable by Pope Francis