The saint of the day for March 25th is St. Lucy Filippini, co-founder of the Maestre Pie, now known as the Religious Teachers Filipini, who established free schools for girls.
Lucy was born on January 13, 1672 in Corneto-Tarquinia – a city that existed centuries before Rome was built. She had not yet reached her first birthday when her mother died. Six years later, her father died. Now orphaned, Lucy went to live with her aunt and uncle. As a child, she would prepare small altars and pray devoutly. She was an intelligent, modest, and spiritual child whose vision was focused on serving God.
At times, Lucy would seek for a serene atmosphere in the nearby Benedictine Nuns’ Monastery of Santa Lucia where the daughters of the nobility were educated. Lucy visited frequently, drawn there by her desire to be among those whose lives and goodness she admired. It was here that she received her First Communion. It was here that she received spiritual nourishment.
When Cardinal Mark Anthony Barbarigo made his first pastoral visit to Corneto, he made a lasting impression on Lucy and she followed him to Montefiascone. Entrusting herself to the Cardinal’s guidance, Lucy was eager to leave behind all worldly things. Lucy had a special devotion to Our Lady, her spiritual mother, and throughout her life, her deep love for Mary and her faith sustained her when Cardinal Barbarigo’s plans were to be implemented in his dioceses. He had envisioned her as a key factor to bring about a rebirth of Christian living. He had already begun by establishing a seminary where young priests might study and train for the ministry of the Word.
The next step was to develop a Christian conscience and encourage the practice of virtue in the home; this he resolved to do by opening schools for young ladies, particularly the children of the poor, in whom he saw hope for the future. Lucy would head the schools they founded to promote the dignity of womanhood and help influence a healthy family life. Together they looked ahead to fulfilling their generous, ardent and profound mission of faith and charity. In 1692, teachers were trained to staff the rapidly expanding schools.
The young ladies of Montefuscione were taught domestic arts, weaving, embroidering, reading, and Christian doctrine. Twelve years later the Cardinal devised a set of rules to guide Lucy and her followers in the religious life. Fifty-two schools were established during Lucy’s lifetime. As the Community grew, it attracted the attention of Pope Clement XI who, in 1707, called Lucy to Rome to start schools, which he placed under his special protection. Here she completed the work of founding the schools.
To complement the work of the schools, Lucy and her teachers conducted classes and conferences for women, who were strengthened in their faith as they took part in prayer, meditation, and good works. Her focus for the social apostolate was to encourage her teachers to minister to the needs of the poor and the sick. Her method of teaching attracted widespread attention.
Lucy died at sixty years of age, March 25, 1732, on Feast of the Annunciation For three centuries the example of Christian womanhood that marked the lives of her teachers and students was recognized by Holy Mother Church. In 1930, Lucy Filippini’s saintly life was adequately acknowledged. Not only was she officially declared a Saint of the Church, but she was given the last available niche in the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome. The Institute, which bears the name of Lucy Filippini, owes its birth to the solicitous good shepherd who loved schools and to the holy teacher who committed her entire life to the educative-apostolic mission.
This mission initiated by the Cardinal and Lucy 300 years ago, continues today through the schools and the Religious Family to which they gave life. Its mission has spread beyond Italy into Europe, the United States of American Brazil, Ethiopia and India.
Saint Quote: “The Church of God is not a restful garden, but a working vineyard.” ~ St. Lucy Filippini
O God, giver of every gift, You kept Saint Lucy Filippini faithful in proclaiming Christ and witnessing to Him, the one Teacher and light of the world. Grant that, illumined by divine grace, we may persevere in listening to Your word and preach it by good works, and so be living signs of holiness and apostolic zeal.