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Light and Shadow

 The cloister at the Monastery of  "Santa María en Jerusalem", was an act of supreme love, giving back to God all that the Divine Redeemer had given her. It was her last "yes", the most important with which she gave up everything she had received.

 The moment of contemplation

 the experience of the cloister

Approximately, in 1534, Mother Lorenza expressed to Saint Cayetano the desire to move into the contemplative life.

This spiritual path began to develop with the ramification of those virtues that are necessary for the ‘Life of the Lord’, according to the ideal of the Franciscan Gospel. It was the same Cardinal Carafa who, referring to the Venerable and her collaborator María Ajerbo, says in his correspondence to San Cayetano:

"As for those two pious women, I agree with you, if they serve those poor sick people they should rise to better and more perfect things, and just as they welcome Christ in their poor, so may they welcome Him in person ... they should give in and listen to their healthy inspirations, and follow their footprints and imitate their examples.”

But the desire for a more intimate life with the Lord was confirmed by a divine phrase described by Magenis:

"The Venerable was continually serving in the hospital of the incurables which she had beautified with a great part of her own riches by the advice of Saint Cayetano, who had discovered in her spirit - which he directed as her spiritual father - a great depth of perfection over which she could start a higher venture. He advised her to found a monastery of sacred virgins under the rule of Santa Claire. But, she passionately longed to go to Palestine to worship those holy places sanctified by the life and death of the redeemer. Cayetano, enlightened by God, told her to pray to the Lord to manifest His divine will.

Absorbed then, Maria Longo, in deep contemplation, she had these feelings inside her heart: ‘Would it offend God the longings of her pilgrimage to Jerusalem to venerate personally the mysteries performed there for the human redemption and to kiss that Holy spot covered with the divine blood?’ or ‘Would it be more acceptable to God if she stayed in Naples, and start a monastery of virgins under the patronage and the name of Saint Mary in Jerusalem?’


Then Maria Longo recognized that the Holy Spirit had spoken to her through her spiritual father. In order not to delay in the execution of what the saint had prescribed, she built a house in front of the patio of the hospital in which she, with the virgin candidates, would stay at the moment; and with the collaboration and direction of her spiritual father, she wrote the laws of observance according to the strictest rule of Saint Claire."

The wishes of Mother Lorenza are printed implicitly in the text of the Bolla Debitum Pastoralis Officii of February 19, 1535, which expressly states:

"On behalf of the beloved daughter in Christ, Maria Lorenza, a Catalan woman; a petition has been presented in which she, who had built the Hospital of Santa Maria del Pueblo in Naples, but now under the weight of diseases and senility, and moved by the spirit of piety and devotion, she wants to leave the active life and live as a contemplative, and to do that, she has begun the construction of a Monastery of nuns ... on behalf of Maria herself, who affirms, that she is determined to confine herself in such Monastery together with other nuns and to live a religious life ".

In spite of the oppositions of the Cardinal Curia, which did not welcome the election of a laywoman who was a widow and who had children, as the abbess of a community of virgins; the Pope granted her all the faculties, even more, excluding the time of novitiate.

After having obtained the spiritual assistance of the Capuchin Fathers, with the Bolla Cum Monasterium of December 10, 1538, as the new Moses, as soon as she began this divine work, the Lord called her to himself in October 1539.

It is evident how this spiritual path was carried out in a very fast itinerary that leaves us amazed by the speed and intensity. In the history of the Church, such a gift has been granted by God to those who, allowing themselves to be molded in obedience, become founders of new paths towards sanctification. This was a new path for those who then and even now perceive such a call and wish to follow the Venerable Maria Lorenza on the path to holiness in the Kingdom of Heaven.

She did not live the Franciscan virtues passively:

Poverty was not the love of nothing, it was the courage to give up everything.

Obedience was not only to bow one's head to a mandate but to listen always with an open and courageous heart.

Hope was not only to entrust to tomorrow the desires of today but in her heart was the evangelical certainty, that the Divine Builder was guiding her day in and night out.

Maria Lorenza lived these virtues with a fourth vow: the cloister at the Monastery of Saint Mary in Jerusalem.

Her going into a cloister as a contemplative was not about resting and taking refuge in it, in spite of the vicissitudes of life, it was an act of supreme love, giving back to God all that the Divine Redeemer had given her. It was her last "yes", the most important with which she gave up everything she had received.

In this last gift of cloistered life, God, prepared His work as if it was a boat used to cross over time and to confront life’s challenges through five centuries with an ever-new message.

Maria Lorenza did not add any personal interpretation to the "Divine Work". The Monastery and the Hospital are not the symbols of past history but a path, always alive, founded on the eternal and radical truth of the Gospel.

Author: Don Carlo Magna

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