Saint January 30 : Blessed Maria Bolognesi who was Once Possessed by the Devil and Became a Mystic, Stigmatic and Victim Soul
Blessed Maria Bolognesi, (1924-1980) -Mystic, Stigmatic, Victim Soul & Layperson
Blessed, Maria Bolognesi, originally Maria Semiolo, was born to a single mother, Giuseppa Samiolo, on October 21, 1924. Her natural father, who was also an illegitimate child himself, had refused to marry her mother. For the first five years of her life she lived in her mother’s house and was given her mother’s last name. The most influential relative during her early childhood was definitely her maternal grandmother, Cornetto Cesira, a pious woman, who started teaching Maria about God, while her mother worked in the fields. Maria since this tender age got used to speaking to God in her own words.
When Maria was still five years old, her mother got married to Giuseppe Bolognesi. They moved to his house and from then on she used her stepfather’s last name, Bolognesi. From 1930-1935, she continued to grow in the love of God mainly because of the help of her grandfather, Luigi Bolognesi. During those years the Bolognesi family went through a period of extreme poverty because they were seasonal farmers. Maria sometimes had to fast on water even for three days because there was nothing to eat. Because of the hardship of their living conditions, in a period of over ten months, her grandfather, two uncles and her little brother died. Maria’s malnourishment affected her school performance. She eventually dropped out after not being able to pass second grade.
The first healing due to Maria’s intercession took place in 1932, when she was running a very high fever. At the same time, her mother had contracted meningitis and was on her death bed. Maria was preparing to make her first Holy Communion and the nun who was instructing her told her that Jesus would grant her whatever she asked him. Little Maria believed this with all her heart and promised Jesus to be good if He would restore her mother’s health. Her request was granted and her mother recovered.
On May 22, 1932 at the age of 8, Maria made her first Holy Communion. She recalls this occasion in her diary: “I cried with joy. Finally, my little heart also carries Eucharistic Jesus. I asked for so many, many graces: to love everyone, even my enemies. I came home, other families would have lunch at their homes, but at my home there was nothing to eat, but still, I was so so happy.”
Maria had a very difficult childhood. She had to put up with the extreme jealousy of her stepfather who used to beat her mother often. From 1935-1940, she had to take care of her little siblings. During this time she continued taking catechism lessons and participated in many Church activities.
Possessed by the Devil
The next ten years (1940-1950) would be the most difficult in the life. The work of the devil started on June 21, 1940, the day that her little brother Luigi was born. Because of an evil spell, she became possessed by the devil during the summer of 1941. She was prevented by an evil force from entering any church. Her clothes would be visibly pulled by an invisible force, causing panic and terror among her friends. Her parents tried to help her by having her blessed by priests, but this did not help. Many times Maria would just flee terrified at the presence of any priest or Holy Water. Even tying her to a chair so that Rev. Santo Magro could bless her, was of no avail.
She was then taken to a psychiatric hospital because they were convinced that she blasphemed and spat on sacred images because she was crazy. On the way to the hospital, the Bishop blessed her from the window of his residence just before she was taken there and obtained her deliverance. When she got to the mental hospital she was back to normal and the head physician of the facility declared her completely sane.
Although she was no longer possessed, the devil kept harassing her for a while, with the difference that now she was able to go to Church and receive the sacraments. After three days in which Maria was convinced she was at the end of her life, she found herself completely delivered. This was at the end of January, 1942.
Concerning this diabolical possession, one her biographers wrote the following:
“She alternated moments that were normal, as it were, with other moments during which something mysteriously terrible was obviously going on in her. Her parents thought of helping her with blessings. During the course of the months, many different attempts were made to free Maria from this “strange malaise,” but they never achieved any result, also because Maria would flee terrorized whenever she noticed the presence of a priest or whenever someone brought holy water to her house. Moreover, until the summer of 1941, one could sometimes even detect in Maria a physical inability to go to church.
Once, when she arrived with other young women to the bridge leading to the road of the parish church of Saint Cassian, Maria suddenly froze: her dress was pulled back by a mysterious presence. Since there was no wind, even Maria’s friends were astonished to see the physical effect of this invisible action. In their testimonies, the young women stated that they returned home screaming with fear. In the summer of 1941, her father managed to have Maria blessed by the pastor of St. Cassian. By outward appearances, this blessing was seemingly ineffective. But – during that same day – it was followed by a second blessing, imparted by the Bishop of Rovigo, which definitely helped, however it did not free her completely.
During the following months, the diabolical possession was no longer total, as in the past: Maria was now able to pray, go to church, and sometimes attend Mass. However, her body was stricken with a sudden loss of weight which “devoured” and “consumed” her. Her suffering was so excruciating that she aroused pity, but it seemed that no one could help her, except by going to Jesus and asking Him to free her from so much pain. At the end of January 1942, convinced that she had only three days of life left, Maria was able to go to confession and receive Communion.
The following three days were atrociously painful for her. For three consecutive days she cried, invoking the Lord and all the saints of heaven to come to help her... At the beginning of the 4th day, her complete healing finally occurred in the house of the Piva family.”
Her First Vision
Her first vision took place the evening between April 1-2, 1942 which was Holy Thursday. She was eighteen years old at the time. She was surprised and doubtful when she saw Jesus. In this vision, Jesus talked about five matters: 1) He said he needed her help; 2) He asked her for love, prayers, and penance; 3) He told her she would learn to read and write; 4) He announced His engagement with her and placed an engagement ring with five rubies, symbolizing His passion on her ring finger. He added that one day the ring would be His again, meaning that He would exchange it for a wedding ring; 5) He foretold her of great sufferings in store for her in a not too distant future.
Maria responded to Jesus that she could not correspond to these requests because “I do not know how to pray, I am nothing, I am a miser.” She further objected saying that it would be impossible for her to learn to read and that her home was not a good place because her mother blasphemed. She then asked Jesus to make her mother good. In return, Jesus told her that that was the reason why He chose her because she was nothing. He assured her that she would learn to read and promised her that her mother, Giuseppa Samiolo, one day would become good. The conversion of her mother began on March 15, 1947.
During this first vision she also asked Jesus for proof of His presence by asking Him to heal the sister in law of Angelina Piva who was gravely ill. Jesus answered her in a way that would characterize future requests. He said, “Yes, I can heal her, but you should pray much.”
Her typical way of responding to Jesus in this and future encounters was to say: “Jesus, I give you all my heart. Use me as You wish, I am nothing.”
After this first encounter with Jesus, Maria wrote: “I am really terrified. I have a ring on my finger. I don’t understand. I don’t understand anything.”
Jesus told Maria that she would imitate St Gemma
Jesus also announced to her that she would open a private school which took place on March 12, 1947. (4) He told her that she would begin wearing a special habit as a sign of the consecration she made when she made a vow of penance. She started wearing a black habit on April 11, 1943 with permission from her spiritual director.
Maria began to sweat blood as Jesus did.
Predicting Future Events
On January 2, 1944 after having sweat blood for the first time, Maria asked Jesus when WWII would end. He did not tell her at that time adding that there would be much suffering if she knew. However, forty days later it was Jesus who wanted to inform her about the end of the war. This is the only time in her diary that she mentioned the presence of the Virgin Mary.
“It will happen in 1945.
She opened a school for the children of the farm workers and became their teacher.
During the decade of the 1940’s, Maria suffered a series of illnesses like arthritis, appendicitis, colitis and pleurisy. By 1950 she was in a state of extreme weakness and became almost blind. For medical treatments, she often had to travel to Rovigo and Padua.
Maria’s stigmata appeared gradually. In 1944 she had the wound in her side. On July 1951, she suffered the pain of the flagellation. On January 25, 1954 she wrote about a wound that opened up in her right hand. In August, 1954, she went to stay at the Monastery of the Augustinian sisters in Ferrara because she had been ordered to go there in a vision. While staying at this monastery, she received the wounds on her feet.
On February, 1955 while Maria was in the hospital, she had a vision telling her to go away from Rovigo on March 16th. The place indicated in her vision was Sperlinga in Sicily. She stayed at a home in Sperlinga to do a Lenten retreat and it was there that she received the last wound on her left hand on April 2, 1955.
From 1957-1963, although Maria continued suffering from various ailments, she now was able to involve herself much more with works of charity than when she was living in the countryside. She made contact with many suffering and needy people during her stays at the hospital. She found many benefactors interested in financing her charities. In 1964, Mons. Marenga died suddenly.
Trips to Heaven and Purgatory
Starting from 1957, Jesus started taking her regularly on visits to Heaven and Purgatory. On November 1st, 1957 at 3:00pm Jesus said to her:
“Jesus, Jesus, how much light! Heaven is a garden of bright and perfumed souls. No painter could come close to depicting this. So much light, a multitude of angels! How I would love to be here!” Jesus interrupted her saying, “Now I will take you with Me to visit Purgatory.”
“Jesus, You are so good. You know I don’t deserve anything.”
“Maria, you will feel the same suffering that the souls in Purgatory feel.”
The impact was so painful that she exclaimed, “My God, my God! Only with Jesus’ grace and strength can one overcome certain pains and suffering. Jesus, through Your pity and mercy, take all these souls with You to Paradise soon.”
Jesus then told her, “Now you will wake up and you will feel very tired and worn out.”
When she woke up she did feel very tired and Zoe, her companion, was next to her.
Since the spring of 1958, Maria was bedridden for almost a year. On July 3, 1959 Jesus announced to her a reward saying: “For all the sufferings you have endured during this time and for the many rosaries you have prayed, I will let you see the souls you have freed from Purgatory.”
Three days later, she visited Heaven again dressed in white. She wrote, “I saw a multitude of souls that enjoyed the presence of Jesus.” Then she said, “Jesus, I would also like to be a little angel, but I would prefer to stay in Purgatory even if I did not deserve it in order to save those who suffer so much.”
“Maria, you know how painful the sufferings in Purgatory are.”
“Yes, Jesus, more than once you have let me see it. That is why I pray so much and why I would like to stay in Purgatory and suffer for souls so that they may be purified and can soon enjoy Your company in Heaven.”
“Maria, if I asked you a long time in Purgatory for the salvation of souls, would you do it?”
“I would not hesitate, I would accept immediately. When I think that a suffering or a great pain here on Earth cannot be compared to the smallest sufferings of the souls in Purgatory, how could I refuse?”
On her birthday, October 21, 1959, Maria is woken up at 2:00am by a mysterious voice. Jesus took her to Heaven and had a surprise for her: “Maria, look: your name is written here.”
Jesus took her to Heaven again on January 22, 1960, but He abruptly announced, “Maria, now I am taking you to visit Purgatory.”
Then she noticed that she was dressed in red and saw many souls. She saw seven souls rising. Jesus explained, “See, Maria, you pray so much for the souls in Purgatory, those over there are entering Heaven.”
“Jesus, You are so good.”
“Maria, can You tell me how painful this place is?”
“Jesus, I feel that I am burning from thirst. I cannot compare any pain to that which I feel right now.”
A few days after Maria’s spiritual director, Monsignor Marenga, had died, Maria woke up feeling emptiness and started to remember him. Then, Jesus appeared to her in a warm light and said, “Maria, are you angry at Me?”
“Jesus, Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” Suddenly, she found herself dressed in white walking along a long road made of flowers. Jesus said: “Maria, I know that you are mourning your spiritual director and that you have been thinking about his death since you saw Me on July 18th. Now you will see your holy director.” Then she saw Mons. Marenga who looked beautiful and in contemplation with other souls. He looked at her but did not speak.
These are but a few instances of her trips to Heaven and Purgatory that are found in her diary.
Her Last Spiritual Director: Monsignor Aldo Balduin
Her fourth and last spiritual director was Monsignor Aldo Balduin. The spiritual direction of Mons. Balduin differed from that of his predecessor. Since he had been a librarian, he could not conceive of a person living without meditating on texts. Maria’s other spiritual directors, aware of her lack of education, had never asked her to read spiritual books. Mons. Balduin, however, during one of the first meetings with her suggested that she read lives of saints and a book of daily meditations by Pincelli called “Food for the Religious Soul.” When he met with her a few months later, he was astonished to hear from Maria that she did not want to read the lives of the saints because while reading them she experienced the sufferings they had experienced in their lives. Because of this, Mons. Balduin told her she could stop reading them.
A painting drawn by Blessed Maria Bolognesi in 1968
Mons. Balduin also supported her charitable enterprises. One of her projects was to build a rehab center to house those people coming out of the hospital with no place to go. With the help of a benefactor, she was able to get a land in the area of S. Bartolo. The years between 1967-1971 were difficult years for Maria both with financial worries, problems with the construction of the Rehab Center and many illnesses, which culminated in a heart attack in 1971, which marked the end of her active ministry.
Perhaps as a way to relax during this time, she took up painting in 1968. Since she was bed-bound because of her health problems; she started painting pictures that she would give to benefactors as a way of thanking them. She mainly pained landscapes, flowers and animals.
Her Devotion to Baby Jesus in the Manger
In 1946 at the Piva’s house, Maria began the tradition of making elaborate nativity scenes, which she continued to do until the end of her life. In her diary entry of December 30, 1960 she wrote, “My little baby Jesus is made of wood, but at this moment he has flesh. I am not dreaming and I am not seeing double. Jesus moved from the shed. I got close and told him, “Jesus, come to my arms.” He opened his small hands and sat on my knees. He looked at me.” Maria entrusted to Him the whole world. She said Jesus talked to her for a long time complaining about sinners and He cried when He spoke about so many priests that did not pray fervently. Then Jesus transformed himself in the manger and blessed the whole world.
From 1974 Maria started another period of mental and physical suffering.
Padre Pio used to appear to her in bilocation in their house in Rovigo and that he continued visiting her even after his death in 1968.
On January 30, 1980 at 2:00 am Maria Bolognesi passed away because of another heart attack.
Maria Bolognesi was beatified by Pope Francis on September 7, 2013. Her friend Zoe (97 years old) and a young man named Marco were present. Marco received the miracle that was needed for the beatification. The account of the miracle, taken from a newsletter “Priestly People” (www.theservants.org, Sept. 2013 vl. 29, no. 9 pp. 3-4) is the following:
“Marco, who as a young boy suffered a severe allergic reaction to medicine that had been prescribed for a heart ailment. After having over 95% of his skin chemically burned by that allergic reaction Marco was put into intensive care. Shortly thereafter an EEG confirmed that Marco had no brain activity and eventually he was pronounced dead. At the same time, Marco’s grandmother was making a long train journey from her home to see the grandson she didn't yet know had died. When she got to the hospital and was brought into his room, she began to pray and among some books found a picture which dropped to the floor when she opened one of those books. She immediately recognized that the woman whose picture had fallen from the book was the exact same woman who had appeared to her in a dream days earlier saying that Marco would be ok. She didn’t know who the woman was but she began to pray fervently to her on behalf of her grandson. Two hours and eighteen minutes after being pronounced dead Marco began to show signs of life and eventually fully recovered. On May 3, 2013 Pope Francis attributed Marco’s miraculous cure to Maria Bolognesi thus clearing the way for the beatification.”
Concerning Blessed Maria Bolognesi, following his September 8, 2013 Angelus address, Pope Francis stated: "Blessed Maria Bolognesi spent her life in service to others, especially the poor and sick, enduring great suffering in profound union with the passion of Christ. We give thanks to God for her testimony to the Gospel!” -Pope Francis
Sartori, Tito, O.S.M., Maria Bolognesi: Vita, Esperienze Mistiche, Spiritualita, Rovigo: Edizioni MB, 2004.
Prayer to the Holy Trinity
to obtain a grace through the intercession of
Blessed Maria Bolognesi
Lord God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
I thank you for having made Your light shine upon
Your humble servant Maria Bolognesi
Who was a sublime example of charity and patience,
who generously participated in Your sufferings,
who loved You so much and worked,
for Your glory and the salvation of souls.
We ask You to glorify her here on Earth
And grant us through her intercession
the grace we desire.
(Three Glory Be’s)
With Ecclesiastical approval
Lucio Soravito de Franceschi
Bishop of Adria-Rovigo