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Sr. PAOLA MARIA OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

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Sr. Paola Maria of the Holy Spirit – Anna Maria Brunasti – was born in Monselice on 7th  August 1926 of holy parents who after her baptism on 22nd August, consecrated her to the Blessed Virgin. From the day of her first communion, she was always faithful to the daily meeting in the  Eucharistic and, at the age of 23 years, when she was frequenting the University of Padua and Ferrara, in her 3rd year of mathematics, she went to Florence to the Carmelite monastery of St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi. After meeting with Mother Prioress, Teresa Eletta of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, she soon decided to enter the monastery, leaving behind family and friends, who were perturbed by her decision.

She greatly loved the Florentine saint and she worked for years with loving intellect to make her known. In the mid fifties, she began to collaborate with Fr. David Maria Turoldo to produce a complete edition of the Works of St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, which were still kept unedited  in the archives of the monastery.  The first fruit of this huge work was  the volume Benedictus Deus, published in 1957 in collaboration with Fr. David Maria Turoldo. It was an anthology of extracts taken from the Works, as a prelude to the complete edition which was already in process.  The texts in this volume were in Italian, English, French and Spanish, so as to respond to the need of making the saint known to a greater number of people.

When the painter Mina Anselmi, a friend of the monastery, showed her a series of drawings she had prepared to illustrate the life of the saint, she decided to accompany each drawing with a short comment, so as to  produce a kind of spiritual Life of St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi.  She wrote pages and pages to Mina Anselmi to describe the themes and events still to be produced. The result of this work, where each picture corresponded to a short text, was published in 1960 under the title of S. Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi by Edizioni Presbiterium. The author of these texts was written simply as “A Carmelite of the Monastery of St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi”.

This volume became known and appreciated to the extent that after five years the Carmelite Fathers in Malta and Portugal produced an English version. The Italian edition was then re-published  in 2012 by Edizioni Nerbini in Florence, with a preface by Fr. Bruna Secondin.

Between 1960 and 1966 the eight volumes of the Works of the saint were published by

 Edizioni CIL in Florence under the care of the editor Bruno Nardini, a friend of the monastery. To this day, these are the indispensable point of reference in order to know St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi.  This publication was the result of the commitment and labour  of Sr. Paola Maria of the Holy Spirit (especially of her precise choice, never mentioned in the volumes), who coordinated and oversaw personally  all the steps of this exacting work. The last volume of the series was published fittingly  in 1966 on the occasion of the fourth centenary of the birth of the saint.  Any successive volume published on the saint, whether in Italy or elsewhere, was  based  on the fruit of the lengthy commitment of Sr. Paola Maria.

She wrote  many articles in Studium and other  Catholic magazines and journals. These were read by Fr. Michele Pellegrino, professor of Patristic Theology at the University of Turin, who decided to publish them in two small volumes through Edizioni Esperienza in Fossano, under the titles of Parola e silenzio (Word and silence) 1959; and I pellegrini della speranza (The pilgrims of hope) 1968.

Now Prioress of the Carmel in Careggi,  invited by Pellegrino who was elected Cardinal of Turin, and with the consent of the community in Florence, she founded, in 1970,the Carmel “Mater Unitatis” in Montiglio Monferrato in the province of Asti. The church was consecrated in 1972 by Cardinal Pellegrino, the concelebrants being the bishop of Casale, Mgr. Carlo Cavalla, and very many priests of the dioceses of Turin, Casale and Asti.

 

After her solemn profession, she was constantly tried by her health because she suffered many complications from an illness that made her weak. With the help of the Lord, she managed to survive to the age of 85, constantly living with uninterrupted pain. Mgr. Cavalla, who saw her extraordinary charism of Founder and Mother, granted the request of the community that she be prioress for life. Aware that she had to continue bringing to the world the message of St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, she tried to make of this very small monastery a place where harmony, love and peace reigned. After three years of sheer suffering, she slept in the Lord on 16th August 2011, as her lips moved in her last prayer.   

In 2014, the Mater Unitatis Carmel published, through Edizioni Effatà in Turin, a volume of the Letters to Sr. Paola Maria. Cardinal Pellegrino and the foundation of the Carmel of Montiglio. Correspondence (1959-1981), which includes almost two hundred letters from Cardinal Pellegrino to Sister Paola Maria. In 2015, the Edizioni Nerbini of Florence produced a posthumous publication of the volume entitled  Nel dono del silenzio (In the gift of silence) by Sister Paola Maria of the Holy Spirit (with a preface by Roberto Repole, president of the Italian Theological Association). These  are scattered, most profound reflections written fifty years before. Only a few pages speak of St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, but the whole volume is full of her spirituality: “For today, I do not ask for anything. All is well. Your greatness, your blessedness, your glory are enough for me. I know that you will work in us, in me, whatever the Lord wants”.   

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enstory | by Dr. Radut