blessed magdalene albrici

Blessed Magdalene Albrici by Mario Ferrari, Rome, Italy.Blessed Magdalene, although not well known, was a great religious figure in her own era.

Magdalene was born at the beginning of the fifteenth century into a noble and well-to-do family in Como, Italy. Given their religious faith, financial means, and social position, her parents saw to it that Magdalene received a good Christian education. At the age of twenty she decided to enter religious life and, while initially drawn to the Benedictines in Como, she experienced a sudden change of heart and chose instead the poorer and more remote convent of the Augustinian nuns at Saint Andrea in Brunate, outside the city.

Her clever wit and practical common sense, combined with her strong religious spirit and attraction for simplicity and austerity, led to her eventual election as abbess, a position she held, except for brief intervals, until her death.

In 1455 Magdalene requested that her monastery be affiliated with the Observant Congregation of the Augustinians of Lombardy, and that the friars of this congregation serve as chaplains to the nuns because of the spirit of observance which characterized both groups. Magdalene was largely responsible for the expansion of Augustinian religious life in and around Como and throughout Lombardy. She opened new convents, and by her fervor even drew established congregations to seek affiliation with her community.

Magdalene was a sensible and practical woman who possessed a natural talent for domestic affairs. She was frequently sought out for spiritual guidance, and thus greatly influenced the religious spirit of her day, particularly through her promotion of the Augustinian Third Order or Secular Movement. She met with much success in promoting vocations to religious life by her zeal, example, and instruction, and was an inspiration for her selfless devotion to the sick and needy. Though the rules she devised for her sisters would seem harsh by today’s standards, they nevertheless succeeded in reviving the simplicity and austerity of the desert fathers, which had a particular appeal to her generation. A secret to her effectiveness was that she never asked others to do anything which she had not previously put into practice herself. Her devotion to the Church and her allegiance to the bishop of Rome during a period of upheaval and schism in the Church, together with a firm commitment to the renewal of religious life, are special marks of her life.

Magdalene died on either 13 or 15 May 1465, after suffering from a debilitating disease for several years which greatly limited her participation in her community’s activities. The number of faithful who came to venerate her body and seek her intercession was so great that her burial had to be delayed for eight days.

When the nuns of Saint Andrea left Brunate to join the monastery of Saint Julian near Como in 1593, Magdalene’s body was also transferred there and now lies buried in the cathedral of Como, where she is still venerated by the faithful.

Her feast is observed by the Augustinian Family on 17 July.