August Mystic of the Month
Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero, 1885-1915
This Italian Visitandine did not have a long life; her vocation in the Monastery only lasted nine years, but in those short years she developed, with the grace of God, an intense prayer life, but humbly simple.
In giving an account of her own prayer life, Sister Benigna Consolata shared the following:
“I help myself as much as I can, thinking of something that will make me advance; if I cannot think, I protest to Jesus that I love Him, and abandon myself to His will, too happy to be all His forever, which I hope from his infinite mercy. I am always blind and deaf; but I repeat to Jesus my chant of perfect adhesion to His Will, and this consoles me infinitely.”
If left to herself in the more average, ordinary ways of prayer, no doubt her life would have been underlined by this simple approach. Meditation would take the form rather of the simple regard of Our Lord, as St Jane de Chantal so encouraged and followed. Loving Jesus would be her prayer; her pleading heart would call for mercy; His Will her all, her beautiful chant.
Yet she was not left to herself but was given the grace of mystical experiences so that she came to be known as the “secretary of Jesus” recording the words her heart felt were from Him. She was scarcely blind and deaf.
Sister’s childlike candor is evidenced in the following prayer that was no doubt influenced by the Scriptural passage from Mt 15:21-28 (also Mk 7:24-30)
“Listen, my Jesus the Cannanite woman told you that the crumbs were for the dogs; and I come to tell you that I would be content with those which the ants leave; for these little insects have never offended you and have more right than I to be fed.”
Her language is reminiscent of the saints and mystics, reflecting a theology of “spiritual childhood” similar to that of St. Therese of Lisieux.
Sister Benigna Consolata also had great confidence in God. She showed her confidence in creative and rather dramatic prayer from her heart:
“My Jesus I believe in thy love; though you should slay me I would believe in it still, Yes, if I saw myself hanging by a thread above hell and this thread were held by thy divine hand I would in no wise fear even though it should break. I would not be afraid because you could tie it together again. I know it is a great mercy on your part to treat me thus for should you deal with me as I deserve you would let me yield to the terrible temptations of the enemy.”
Another example of confidence in very ordinary affairs and daily tasks is demonstrated in this precious incident, from Sister Benigna Consolata’s own words as she alludes to her mission as “secretary”.
“ONE DAY WHEN I WAS AID IN THE LINEN WARDROBE, I SAID TO MY Beloved: ‘Listen, my Jesus, if you wish that I should write, it is your affair, you must arrange it. We have a great washing to extend; then tell the sun to shine so that it may dry our linen; if not, we shall have to work several days, and it is you who will lose.’ Jesus, in His goodness heard my prayer; the weather was perfect. However I was not wholly satisfied; and I remarked to one of our Sisters that the favor Jesus had just granted would be still more manifest if it should rain the next day. As soon as we had taken in the washing all dried, a pouring rain came down. I was greatly embarrassed, but radiant with joy at proving once more that by confidence we can obtain everything we wish from Our Lord.”
Sister’s prayer life grew in intensity and she prayed for others from the depths of her soul:
“Jesus becomes ever more sweet in His guidance of me. He fills me with Himself…I have a continual thirst for prayer; I have a thirst for spiritual reading, but above all, I have a thirst for Jesus. There are moments in which I feel an immense need of God, an ardent desire to love Him for all those who love Him not, to supply for what they will not do for him. I do not see God, but I feel him, and I would like (to die) to be united to Him.”
At times Sister’s prayer might have seemed very sweet and childlike. Nevertheless this young Sister of 30 years was able to go to the limits of sacrifice.
In her own suffering she prayed: “I am like a tree stripped of its fruits. Jesus, fiat always! All for love. My Jesus, give me Thyself, then take away all the rest. May Thy Holy Name be blessed!”
And on July 4, 1915, with the consent of her Superiors, Sr. Benigna Consolata made the sacrifice of her life, to obtain peace and help end World War 1. The offer was accepted by God. A year later, in July 1916, she began to decline. In August she developed pneumonia and had move to the monastery’s infirmary. Sr. Benigna Consolata died peacefully on September 1, 1st Friday of the month, about three o’clock in the afternoon.
Source: M.S. Pine, A Life of Love, Sister Benigna Consolata Ferrero, John. P. Daleiden Co., 1927 & Georgetown Visitation Convent, 1921