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Catholic Culture Solidarity

St. Agostina Paid the Price for Love with Her Life

by Unknown

Descriptive Title

Biography of St. Agostina Livia Pietrantoni


A short biography of St Agostina Livia canonized on April 18, 1999 by Pope John Paul II.

Larger Work

L'Osservatore Romano



Publisher & Date

Vatican, April 21, 1999

St Agostina Livia Pietrantoni was born on 27 March 1864 and baptized with the name of Livia at Pozzaglia Sabina in the area bordered geographically by Rieti, Orvinio and Tivoli, Italy. She was the second of 11 children born to farmers. Livia's childhood was imbued with the values of an honest, hard-working and religious family.

She worked in the fields and looked after the animals, thus attending school very irregularly. At the age of seven she went to work with other children, transporting sacks of stones and sand for construction of the road from Orvinio to Poggio Moiano. At 12 she left with other young "seasonal workers" who went to Tivoli during the winter months for the olive harvest. Precociously wise, Livia took moral and religious responsibility for her young companions.

An attractive young woman, Livia nevertheless chose Christ as her Spouse. To those who tried to dissuade her by saying she was running away from hard work, she replied: "I wish to choose a congregation in which there is work both day and night". After an initial disappointment, the Superior General of the Sisters of Charity of St Joan Antida Thouret let her know that she was expected at their generalate.

Livia was 22 when she arrived in Rome at Via S. Maria in Cosmedin. A few months as a postulant and novice were enough to prove that the young girl had the makings of a Sister of Charity, that is, of a "servant of the poor" in the tradition of St Vincent de Paul and St Joan Antida. On receiving the habit she was given the name of Agostina.

Sr Agostina was sent to Santo Spirito Hospital, where 700 years of glorious history had led it to be called "the school of Christian charity". Following the saints who had preceded her, including Charles Borromeo, Joseph Calasanctius, John Bosco and Camillus de Lellis, Sr Agostina made her personal contribution and in this place of suffering gave expression to heroic charity.

The atmosphere in the hospital was hostile to religion. The Capuchin Friars were expelled, the crucifix and all the other religious signs were forbidden. The hospital even wanted to send the sisters away but was afraid of becoming unpopular. Instead, their lives were made "impossible" and they were forbidden to speak of God.

But first in the childrens' ward and later in the tuberculosis ward, a place of despair and death, where she caught the mortal contagion of which she was miraculously healed, Sr Agostina showed an extraordinary dedication and concern for each sick person, even the most violent, like Giuseppe Romanelli.

How many times she offered Romanelli to Our Lady! He was the worst of them all, the most vulgar and insolent, especially towards Sr Agostina, who was more and more attentive towards him and welcomed his blind mother with great kindness when she came to visit. When, after the umpteenth provocation at the expense of the women working in the laundry, the director expelled him from the hospital, he sought a target for his fury and poor Agostina was the victim. "I will kill you with my own hands. Sr Agostina, you only have a month to live!", were the threats he sent to her in little notes.

Romanelli was not joking, but Sr Agostina was prepared to pay the price for love with her own life. When Romanelli caught her unawares on 13 November 1894 and cruelly stabbed her before she could escape, her lips uttered nothing but invocations to the Virgin Mary and words of forgiveness.

© L'Osservatore Romano, Editorial and Management Offices, Via del Pellegrino, 00120, Vatican City, Europe, Telephone 39/6/698.99.390.

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