April 8, 2009
Takes Time From God
Canonization to Recognize Nun Who Sought Room for Virtue
By Carmen Elena Villa
ROME, (Zenit.org).- Italian Sister Mary Gertrude Comensoli died
as she was adoring the Eucharist -- a fitting end for a nun who
dedicated her life to making room for God in the midst of an
increasingly industrialized society.
Sister Comensoli founded an institute of women religious
dedicated to adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, in
response to a papal indication to do what she could to help
workers find space for God in the midst of long hours on the
She will be canonized by Benedict XVI on April 26.
Born in 1847 and baptized with the name Caterina, the future
founder wanted to join the convent by age 15. She sought one
order but left because of ill health and eventually consecrated
"From her childhood, she was very sensitive to the constant
presence of God in the midst of men through the Eucharist," the
postulator of her cause of canonization, Father Riccardo Petroni,
Her great concern was that Italy's traditionally rural society
was being transformed by industrialization. Families had to face
new work demands, which she perceived led to great moral
degradation. What most bothered the future saint were the
excessive hours of work, which "left no room for the soul."
Given this situation, Comensoli managed to gain a private
audience with Pope Leo XIII, who encouraged her to do something
about the difficult social and moral environment that was so
affecting the world of workers, and especially to focus on the
education of young women.
"It was a powerful voice that was calling me," Comensoli would
later write in a brief autobiography. "I was saddened by
anything that did not tend to God and the practice of the
Thus on Dec. 15, 1882, she founded an institute for adoration
and education, the Congregation of the Sacramentine Sisters of
Bergamo. She received the company and advice of Father Francesco
Spinelli, and the support of the diocesan prelate, Bishop
The first objective was perpetual adoration so that, thanks to
profound prayer, her nuns would help the neediest. Two years
later the young founder took the habit and the name Sister Mary
Gertrude of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
"The sisters committed themselves to seeing that careers would
not be a risk to the salvation of the soul and would not lead to
the abandonment and detriment of those supernatural values that
belonged to the Christian and social fabric of Italy at that
time," Father Petroni explained.
In 1900 the congregation received its first papal recognition
from Leo XIII.
"Jesus Christ lives in our midst to be close and ready to help
us always," Sister Gertrude would write. "Love keeps him a
prisoner in a Host, hidden night and day in the holy tabernacle.
He has his delight in the inaccessible light of the Father and
yet delights to be with men."
Today the congregation has some 90 communities, present in
Europe, Africa and South America. Nourished by a spirituality
dedicated to love of the Eucharist, the sisters carry out their
daily service in welfare, educational and liturgical endeavors.
Sister Comensoli died in 1903 and was beatified by Pope John
Paul II in 1989.