Blessed Magdalen Panattieri
The saint of the day for October 13 is Blessed Magdalen Panattieri, a Dominican tertiary who was one of the most famous preachers in Italy.
Magdalen Panattieri was born at Trino, near Vercelli, in 1443, of pious parents. While still a child, she made a vow of virginity. She tried to emulate her favorite saint, St. Catherine of Sienna; she had a special devotion to the Most Holy Name of Jesus. Before she turned 20, she took her vows as a Dominican tertiary, living in her home, while performing the apostolic works of charity performed by her Dominican community. This was unusual, as the tertiary chapter was primarily composed of widows and older women. Magdalen brought a spirit of penance to the chapter, while remaining cheerful and resourceful. She often spent entire mornings in Eucharistic adoration and afternoons caring for the sick and the poor.
Magdalen began teaching children catechism, then, later attracted adults to her teaching. She was so effective that she was appointed to give conferences to women and children in a building adjoining the Dominican church. As she became an eloquent preacher, the men, priests, and religious began to come to hear her speak and profit from her teaching. Within a short time, she drew crowds throughout northern Italy.
Magdalen was considered the protectress of the city of Trino. Whenever disaster threatened it, the citizens expected her to look out for their interests, and she usually did. She loved both her community and her family. Her favorite brother was consistently getting into trouble. When his conduct had exceeded the patience of everyone, Magdalen fell down on her knees in front of her crucifix, and remained there until our Lord assured her that He would deal with her brother’s behavior Himself: “I cannot refuse you anything,” He said.
Through her efforts the Dominicans were inspired to undertake a more strict observance, and, in 1490, Blessed Sebastian Maggi came from Milan to inaugurate it at her suggestion. These same friars were involved in a lawsuit with a Milanese councilor who used his power so oppressively that he was excommunicated from the Church. In the resulting conflict, a young man publicly slapped Magdalen in the face. Consequently, she dropped to her knees and said, “Brother, here is the other cheek. I give it to you in love of Jesus Christ.” This made him even angrier. Before the year’s end, the man died a violent death from an incurable disease.
Magdalen was blessed with many mystical gifts — the stigmata, the gift of prophecy, visions. She had prophesied the future political troubles of Italy: the French invasion of the country. While she did not live to see this prophecy fulfilled, she asked God’s mercy for her people. During the violence and the bloodshed of this period, Trino was spared, while the towns all around were destroyed.
On October 13, 1503, as Magdalen lay on her death bed, she sent for her tertiary sisters. She promised to pray for each of them in eternity, adding, “I could not be happy in Heaven if you were not there too”. From the day before her death, the people of Trino had venerated Blessed Magdalen Panattieri as a saint, a cultus that was confirmed by Pope Leo XII.