On Thursday, March 14, 2024, His Holiness Pope Francis received in audience His Most Reverend Eminence, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints. During the audience, the Supreme Pontiff authorized this Dicastery to promulgate the Decree regarding the heroic virtues of the Servant of God, Maria Maddalena Frescobaldi Capponi, the founder of the Institute of Passionist Sisters of St. Paul of the Cross.
The Servant of God was born on November 11, 1771, in Florence to Florentine aristocrats. On November 3, 1790, she married the Marquis Pier Roberto Capponi. In 1803, Maddalena joined the Christian Friendship Movement of Florence. In 1806, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, she started going to the Bonifazio Hospital to serve the sick women there. It was there that she came face to face with the tragedy of prostitution. Other friends of hers, inspired by her example, followed her. Supported and encouraged by her spiritual director, she devoted herself to this mission, at the same time never neglecting her duties as a wife, mother, and lady at court. She rented a house where she welcomed and instructed young women who wanted to return to a Christian life. Her convincing leverage was the merciful love of Jesus Crucified and of the Sorrowful Mother. Although many of her fellow citizens referred to these women as “sewers,” she called them “my daughters”. Some of them, having converted to a new way of life, expressed their desire to dedicate their lives to the Lord, so as to be able, in turn, to help their other sisters still on the street, and to work for their salvation. In 1814, she presented her project for assisting former prostitutes to Pope Pius VII, who blessed it; and the following year, the first four young women, whom she called Passionist Handmaids, were vested. In 1817, she requested and obtained the affiliation of the small community to the Passionist Congregation; and in 1819, she obtained the legal recognition of the project. In 1821, she submitted the text of the Constitutions, which were drafted on the model of the Constitutions of the cloistered Passionist Nuns, to Pope Pius VII for his approval. After the death of her husband, in 1825, she dedicated herself totally to the Foundation. In 1832, having come upon some idle girls in the village of San Romano di Pisa, she opened and maintained a girls’ school at her own expense. Its purpose was to welcome poor girls and to educate them for their future mission as educators of their own children. In 1835, she was struck by a long illness. Unwaveringly faithful, the Servant of God’s entire life was rooted in faith, prayer, sacraments, and permeated with the love of God and charity towards her neighbor. She accepted everything serenely from the hand of God, the Father of mercy. She surrendered her life to the Father on April 8, 1839, and was buried in the Retreat cemetery as she had desired. Her death was mourned by her family, the Passionist Handmaids, and many people in poverty.
By virtue of her reputation for holiness in life and after death, the Cause for beatification and canonization of the Servant of God has been instructed. The diocesan Inquiry was conducted at the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Florence from March 28, 2009, to February 19, 2011. This Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued the Decree on the juridical validity of the Inquiry on June 9, 2012. After the preparation of the Positio, a discussion was held, following the usual norms, whether the Servant of God practiced the Christian virtues to a heroic degree. The Cause was submitted to the examination of the Historical Consultants on January 26, 2021, and then for evaluation to the Theological Consultants on December 15, 2022. The Ordinary Session of the Cardinals and Bishops was celebrated on March 12, 2024.