Saint John Stone

Nothing whatsoever is known of John’s early life, education, or activities in the Order, though it is conjectured that he joined the johnstoneAugustinians at Canterbury since this is the place of his death. His story then, is essentially that of his martyrdom.

On 3 November 1534 the English Parliament issued the Act of Supremacy, declaring Henry VIII supreme head of the Church in England. In December 1538, Richard Ingworth, a former Dominican and the official emissary of Thomas Cromwell, appeared at Canterbury to close the houses of the mendicant friars there and obtain the written assent of each community’s members to the above-mentioned Act. The friaries of the Franciscans and Dominicans were surrendered without difficulty. When, on 14 December, Richard appeared at the monastery of the Austin Friars, John alone among his brothers refused to sign, and spoke in clear terms of his objections to the king’s claims over the Church. John was immediately separated from his confreres in order to forestall his influence over them and was urged ­ eventually with threats ­ to alter his position. When he persisted in his refusal he was brought to London so that Cromwell himself might pressure him to change his view. He was imprisoned for a year in the tower of London where he remained adamant. It was while here that John had a religious experience which was recorded by the Catholic apologist and biographer, Nicholas Harpsfield:

“John Stone was invested with the crown of martyrdom at Canterbury. But before that, having poured forth prayers in prison to God and having fasted continuously for three days, he heard a voice, though he saw no one, which addressed him by name and bade him to be of good heart and not to hesitate to suffer death with constancy for the belief which he had professed. From this afterwards he gained such eagerness and strength as never to allow himself by persuasion or terror to be drawn from his purpose. These facts I learned from a sober and trustworthy man who is still living, to whom Stone himself revealed them.”

On October 1539, John was sent to be tried at Canterbury. The sentence was handed down on 6 December and within several weeks, probably two days after Christmas, he was hanged, drawn, and quartered at a place called the Dungeon, now known as Dane John. Because he was a traitor to the king, his head and his quartered body were exhibited at the city gates.

John Stone was beatified on 9 December 1886 by Leo XIII and was canonized, along with thirty-nine other English martyrs of the Reformation, by Paul VI on 25 December 1970.

The Augustinian Family celebrates his memory on 25 October.

Rotelle, John, Book of Augustinian Saints, Augustinian Press 2000
John Stone with Henry VIII and Pope Clement VII by Mario Ferrari, Rome, Italy

OSA Saints

Canonized and Beatified Augustinians

Augustinian Mural at Our Mother of Good Counsel Church – Los Angeles, CA.

Blessed Stephen of Bellesini. O.S.A. St. Thomas of Villanova, O.S.A. St. Rita of Cascia, O.S.A. St. Monica Our Mother of Good Counsel St. Augustine St. Clare of Montefalco, O.S.A. St. Nicholas of Tolentine, O.S.A. St. John Stone, O.S.A.

Click on a saint’s image to go to a biography of that saint. In order, left to right, they are:
Bl. Stephen Bellesini, St. Thomas of Villanova, St. Rita of Cascia,
St. Monica, Our Mother of Good Counsel, St. Augustine,
St. Clare of Montefalco, St. Nicholas of Tolentine, and St. John Stone.

Art work created by Isabel Piczek (2008).

Click here for larger images of the mural

Parts of this text with graphics are from the Book of Augustinian Saints,
John Rotelle ᴏsᴀ, editor, Augustinian Press 2000.

Holy Augustinians of recent note:

John McKniff ᴏsᴀ

Bill Atkinson ᴏsᴀ

Augustinian Saints and Blesseds

NameStatusDetailsFeast Day
Fulgentius of RuspeSaintBishop (462-527)01/03
Christine of S. Croce sull'ArnoBlessed01/04
Ugolino of Gualdo CattaneoBlessed(early 13th Century-1260)01/08
Veronica of BinascoBlessed(1445-1497)01/13
Christine of L'AquilaBlessed(1480-1543)01/18
Josephine Mary of Saint AgnesBlessed(1625-1694)01/23
Anthony of AmandolaBlessed(1355-1460)01/29
Stephen BellesiniBlessedPriest (1774-1840)02/03
Angelo FurciBlessed(1246-1327)02/06
Anselm PolancoBlessed(1881-1939)02/07
Christine of SpoletoBlessedAugustinian Laywoman02/13
Julia of CertaldoBlessedSecular (1319-1370)02/15
Simon of CasciaBlessedPriest (1295-1348)02/16
Jerome of RecanatiBlessed(d. 12 March 1350)03/12
Ugolino ZefferiniBlessed(1320-1367)03/22
Mariano de la Mata AparicioBlessed(1905-1983)04/05
Andrew of MonterealeBlessed(1397-1480)04/18
Simon of TodiBlessed(d. 1322)04/20
Helen of UdineBlessedAugustinian Laywoman (1396-1458)04/23
Our Mother of Good Counsel04/26
Marie Catherine of Saint AugustineBlessed(1632-1668)05/08
Our Lady of Grace05/08
Gregory CelliBlessed(1225-1343)05/11
William TirreyBlessedMartyr (1608-1654)05/12
Our Lady of Help05/13
Alypius of ThagasteSaintBishop (late 5th Century)05/16
Possidius of CalamaSaintBishop (late 5th Century)05/16
William of ToulouseBlessed(1297-1369)05/18
Augustine of TaranoBlessed(d.1390)05/19
Clement of OsimoBlessed(d. 1291)05/19
Rita of CasciaSaintReligious (1380-1456)05/22
James of ViterboBlessedBishop (1255-1307)06/04
John of SahagunSaintPriest (1430-1479)06/12
Philip of PiacenzaBlessed(d.1306)06/20
Peter of FriedhofenBlessed(1819-1860)06/23
Peter James of PesaroBlessed(d. 1496)06/25
John and Peter Bechetti of FabrianoBlessed(d. 13th Century)07/02
Magdalene AlbriciBlessedVirgin (1415-1465)07/17
Anthony della TorreBlessed(1427-1494)07/24
Lucy Bufalari of AmeliaBlessed(d. 1350)07/27
John of RietiBlessedReligious (1299-1316)08/02
Clare of the Cross of MontefalcoSaintVirgin (1268-1308)08/17
Ezekiel MorenoSaintBishop (1848-1906)08/19
The Martyrs of GafsaMartyrs08/26
Monica, Mother of AugustineSaint(331-385)08/27
AugustineSaintBishop and Doctor (354-430)08/28
Our Mother of Consolation09/04
Angelo Conti of FolinoBlessed(1256-1312)09/06
Nicholas of TolentineSaintPriest (1250-1305)09/10
Alonso de OrozcoSaintPriest (1500-1591)09/19
The Augustinian Martyrs of JapanMartyr(early 17th Century)09/28
Angelo Scarpetti of San SepolcroBlessed(mid-13th Century)10/03
Sante of CoriBlessedmid-14th Century-139210/05
Anthony PatriziBlessed(early 13th Century)10/09
Thomas of VillanovaSaintBishop and Patron of Studies in the Order (1486-1555)10/10
Elias del Socorro NievesBlessedPriest, Martyr (1882-1928)10/11
Maria Terese FasceBlessedreligious10/12
Gonzalo of LagosBlessedPriest (1360-1422)10/14
Magdalene of NagasakiSaintvirgin, martyr (1611-1634)10/20
William the HermitSaintReligious (12th Century)10/23
John the GoodBlessedReligious10/23
John StoneSaintMartyr ( - 1539)10/25
Peter of GubbioBlessed(d. 1306-1322)10/29
James of CerquetoBlessed(approx. 1284-1367)10/31
Gratia of KotorBlessedReligious (1438-1508)11/07
Frederick of RegensburgBlessedReligious ( - 1329)11/29
Martin of Saint Nicholas and Melchior of Saint AugustineBlessed12/11
Cherubin Testa of AviglianaBlessed12/16


13th Century Augustinian Monasteries

Text by Fr. Brian Lowery, OSA, Ph.D

The Order of St. Augustine had its beginnings in the heart of Tuscany . Here, in the area around Siena, Pisa, and Lucca, sixty-one eremetical settlements, some following the Rule of St. Augustine and others not, were brought together by Pope Innocent IV in 1244 to compose the Hermits of the Order of St. Augustine. Twelve years later this Order was enlarged and further defined as a Mendicant order of friars, the Order of Hermits of St. Augustine, by Pope Alexander IV in the famous “Grand Union” of 1256. It is right here that our longest tradition lies and our roots can still be found.


Eremo di Santa Lucia at Rosia

A few miles from Siena, along the road leading southwest towards the coast, one’s attention is suddenly taken up by an ancient, single-arched, bridge. This where one’s visit to the eremo (hermitage) of Santa Lucia begins. It is called the “Ponte della Pia” because it was over this bridge that the noble lady, Pia de’ Tolmei, as written in Dante’s Puratoria (Canto V, 133-136), passed on her way to banishment from Siena and eventual murder by her cruel husband, Nello Pannocchieschi.

Crossing the bridge over the Rosia River and following the visible remnants of an ancient, perhaps even Roman, road, you make your way through the woods to the ruins of the oldest Augustinian site. During medieval times this road was a westward spur off the via Francegena from Siena to Grosseto. This was the pilgrim route from Cantebury to the shrines of Rome and further down the Appian Way to the port of Brindisi and on to the Holy Land.

The eremo (Italian for hermitage) was situated a short distance from the road but close enough to be visited by wayfarers. Its site cut into the slope of the hill and was leveled by the use of retaining walls, before and behind the house. The complex consisted of a church, the hermits’ dwelling, outbuildings for storage and work, a cloister with a slanted roof on two sides, and a conduit for bringing in fresh water.

Eremo de Sanata LuciaSanta Lucia was one of the early settlements that went to form the Augustinian Order in 1244. It was started by a hermit named Bonacorso somewhere around the year 1170, but seems to have been inhabited centuries before that. There is evidence of another church beneath the present one. Tombs have been found that date from the tenth century, and walls underneath the house that indicate ninth century origins. We know that Bonacorso attracted a number of followers who came and built their huts around his and constructed a small church. A community was already flourishing by 1200 when it is mentioned in written documents. As in the case of other Augustinian sites such as Lucceto and Centumcelle, Rosia made a claim to a visit from St. Augustine during the year before his return to Africa. What is for sure is that its Augustinian nature is attested to by the acts of the General Chapter of 1250, when its prior, Dominic, was elected as Econome General of the Order. In all likelihood the community adopted the Rule of St. Augustine in 1244 at the moment of the unification of the hermitages of Tuscanay. The church was consecrated in the year 1267. There is a plaque in the Communal Library of Siena which attests to its completion by the architect, Magister Martinus.

By 1575 the eremo had been reduced to a farmhouse for the community of Sant’Agostino in Siena. In 1638 only two friars were left.That is just about the last we hear of Santa Lucia. All that is found of the hermitage today is ruins. The church still shows an elegant simplicity in its one standing wall. The house was greatly transformed during the years it was in private hands. Its most interesting pieces were taken away and placed in the home of the landowner. But three Gothic arches and a number of narrow windows with white stone lintels above them remain to give evidence of that it must have looked like.

In 1969 the site was excavated by Wayne State and Northern Kentucky Universities and the Tuscan American and Etruscan Foundations. At that time a coin from Henry II of Saxony, king of Pavia (1040) was found at the level of the primitive church. Ceramics from the tenth century were also founds. These are a testimony to the antiquity of eremetical presence.

Sants.Lucia.Church.Corner Santa.Lucia.Church.Wall

Eremo Di San Leonardo Al Lago

San Leandro ChurchAlthough San Leonardo al Lago is the oldest of all the Augustinian sites in the Tuscany area, it did not take on the Augustinian Rule until 1250. However as a place of prayer it can be dated back to the year 1112 by a document attesting to the donation of land by a certain Brunetto and his wife to a religious community there. The site is called San Leandro al Lago (by the lake) because it was situated on a hillside by the edge of Lake Verano. The lake was drained in the nineteenth century to halt the spread of malaria. However you can still see the outline of the lake amid the farmland surrounded by a circle of low hills.

The eremo was represented at the Order’s General Chapter of 1250 at Cascin, near Pisa. A year later it was joined to the nearby eremo of Lecceto. A new church was built in 1350 and decorated with frescos by Lippo Vanni in 1370. Frescos by Lippo Vani decorated the walls of the church. At one time there were forty-seven friars in the community. There were two cloisters, one of stone and other of wood. The friar’s cells were along the four sides of the main cloister, part of which can still be seen today.

Since it occupied a strategic location for reaching Siena without having to cross the whole lake, San Leandro Wallthe entire complex was fortified with strong walls and defense towers. The nearby dwellers could come inside for protection from bandits and marauding troops. The refectory (or possibly chapter hall) was once much longer. It is now dwarfed by a large crucifixion scene on its front wall. When the eremo was turned into a farmhouse, a loft was built to store hay and grain.  A blank streak accounts for the now missing storage loft.

San Leandro also has a special archeological interest. There are three levels to the church, each from different times in history. The most recent level is Gothic. Beneath that is a Romanesque oratory. Still further down is a cave which appears to have been squared off  a bit with seats carved in a semi-circle. Small holes are cut in the wall which could have been used for torches. All this suggests a place of worship. From 1975 to 1980 the Augustinian Provinces of Villanova and Chicago, in collaboration with the Augustinian Historical Institue of Villanova University, conducted excavations under the church and within the cloister to see if they could establish the history of monastic life here. They turned up outlines of the cloister and the fortified walls. In the middle of the cloister they discovered fragments of pottery from around the year 1000 and an ancient cistern used by the friars to conserve water. The cave, however, still remains a mystery. It was a wine cellar for over two hundred years and according to some never served any other purpose. For others, it has something yet to reveal.

Leandro GateDuring the rest of the years of its existence, the ermeno of San Leandro has seen ups and downs. It was eventually suppressed by the Grand Duke of Tuscany and passed into private hands. It now belongs to the Italian state, which has restored it. They supply a caretaker who lives in the old hermitage, and will open the gate every day from 9:30AM to 3:00PM except Mondays.

Eremo di Lecceto

Lecceto was one of those sixty-one original settlements. Not long after the Grand Union the eremo began to be revered as a holy place and a center of Augustinian contemplation. The earliest written evidence of a settlement comes from the year 1223. At that time the area was called “Lake Wood” (Selva di Lago) because of its forest and nearby Lake Verano.The community was not Augustinian at the beginning, but with the union of 1244 assumed the Rule of St. Augustine. In time its name changed as well and it became known as “Lecceto” on account of all the surrounding ilex (a class of oak) trees.

Lecceto made claims to very early Augustinian presence. A marble plaque in the first cloister states that Augustine himself passed by in the year 400. That, is impossible however as because by then he was already a bishop in Africa and never left the continent thereafter. Another approach to the question of Augustinian antiquity comes from through monks who who fled the invasion of the Vandals soon after Augustine’s death. It is asserted that many came to Italy and proceeded to found monastic settlements in Tuscany where they lived independently until the Church brought them all together in the thirteenth century.

Lecceto.30The real fame of Lecceto came later. There are stories and legends of friars of exceptional sanctity among theWell.of.St.Catherine brethren. In the sacristy of the Church there hangs a painting of the famous Blessed of Lecceto, thirty friars who received wide notoriety for the holiness of their lives and the profundity of their prayer. Friars from different parts of the Order sought out Lecceto in order to follow a more contemplative life.These friars came from different parts of Italy as well as France and England. The most famous was William Flete, an Englishman from Cambridge University at the time of Julian of Norwich. In 1359 when he was about to earn his bachelor of theology, he had a change of heart about how he was to live as an Augustinian. He came to Lecceto to give himself to to prayer and stayed the rest of his life. He became a master of the spiritual life, a guide to many persons and a personal confidant of St. Catherine of Siena. The inner cloister holds the “well of St. Catherine” where she rested after walking from Siena to Lecceto.

Lecceto.Chapel.DdoorIt was at Lecceto that the observant movement of the Augustinian Order was born. This movement consisted in a return to a more faithful following of the Rule of St. Augustine and the Constitutions of the Order when confusion and compromise had set in within religious life. The well-worn door step into the Church from the monastery speaks to many Augustinian friars, and later cloistered Augustian nuns, who entered the chapel to pray and to celebrate and attend Mass from the thirteenth Century to the present time.

Difficult times came at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries. In 1782, Pietro Leoplodo, Grand Duke of Tuscany, suppressed the Congregation of Lecceto. In 1808 the government of Napoleon closed down the community itself and the sixteen friars had to leave the eremo. From then on the building fell into ruin, victim of vandalism and neglect.

OSA Monastry Sign San Lorenzo

In 1969 the bishop of Siena, a Dominican, decided that he wanted to bring back the Augustinian spirituality of Lecceto to his local Lecceto.NunsChurch. He began a project of restoration and invited the Augustinian contemplative nuns of Siena to transfer their community there. They came to live when the restoration work was only partially completed and gave themselves to prayer and hard work. The beginnings were very trying. But progress eventually came. Soon Lecceto was visited by a few persons who sought quiet and solitude in the midst of their busy lives. Little by little it began to know others.

In 1978, the first vocation arrived, and a year later another. Since then the numbers have grown constantly and the spiritual influence of this young community is now felt far beyond Lecetto. The woods, the church, the cloisters, the towers, the long history and the quiet make Lecceto a place of prayer and reflection with its modern community of Augustinian nuns that give it its life of contemplation.

Convento di Santé Agostino in San Gimignano

SGChurchThere was no original Augustinian hermitage in San Gimignano. In the year 1272 friars settled about five kilometers outside the city in the small village of Racciano. You can walk there in about forty minutes and still find the small stone house they lived in. However, it wasn’t a safe place. Bands of roving brigands and troops from the nearby Republic of Pisa were ready to pillage and plunder it at anytime. So, in the year 1280 the Augustinians made a formal request to the Podestà of San Gimignano to establish a convento within the city walls, which were then under construction. The permission was granted, the planned perimeter of the walls was broadened in its northern section, and the town council donated 20,000 bricks for the construction of the church. That was the beginning of a long history, as well as the start of a warm relationship with the people of San Gimignano.

In the center of the convento you can find the lovely cloister which unites the church and the house with its two floors of arches andSanGimignanoGarden walkways. The church and the east wing are from the end of the thirteenth century; the other two wings are from the fifteenth at the time of the Renaissance. The dimensions of the cloister and the relationship of squared and curved architectural elements are all designed to invite one to contemplation by their tension and harmony. The well in the middle represents Christ, the source of living water.

The layout of the building around the cloister reflects the Augustinian forma monasterii, or monastery plan, according to which all the Order’s houses were built to meet the daily needs of the friars. The main door of an Augustinian convento always opened onto the square where the townspeople were coming and going, selling and buying, the kids were playing (soccer today or some medieval game then) and the mothers were chatting. The conventual church would have its sacristy right off its main body. Next came the chapter hall where the brothers met to discuss communal and spiritual issues. This hall was always one of the most attractive parts of the house with its large Gothic windows, ribbed ceiling and wooden benches along the walls.

SGChapterHallIn 1805 the Augustinian community was suppressed by the government of Napoleon, the friars sent away, and the convento taken over. After 1860 it was turned into army barracks by the new state of Italy. Some of our neighbors still remember the file of Bersaglieri troops marching out every day to take up their posts in the prison up the hill. In 1927 it was returned to the Order and two friars, Fra Giuseppe Frediani and Padre Giuseppe Nannini, uncle and nephew, moved in, bringing back the Augustinians after 122 years.  However, the convento and church still belong to the Italian State.

During the bombardments of the town in July of 1944 (cf. Zeffirelli’s film Tea with Mussolini) about 200 people took refuge in the tunnels underneath the convento. Many remember those days well and tell their stories. At that time the western wing was occupied by the fascist version of the SS. Citizens were interrogated there and the townspeople were in constant fear of these “repubblichini”. But a friend told us that when they all had to share the tunnels during the raids the policemen were quite courteous, perhaps because they were just as scared as they were. It remained a police station until 1958. From 1948 to 1968 the convento was used as the novitiate for the Italian Augustinians. The people still talk about the “frattini bianchi”, the little friars in white (color of the novice’s habit) as they played soccer on the field below the house.

The convento now houses an Augustinian community and is a place of retreat used by Augustinians and Augustinian-sponsored groups from around the world.

Blessed Maria Terese Fasce

t he life of Blessed Maria Teresa Fasce was a whole series of great projects and great ideals, which she achieved with constancy and fortitude, with patience and courage.

Maria Teresa of Cascia was born in Torriglia, a small city near Genoa, Italy, on 27 December 1881 to Eugenio Fasce and his secondfasce wife, Teresa Valente. The Fasce family belonged to the high Genonan bourgeoisie. The child was baptized with the name Maria, but she was always called “Marietta.” At eight years of age, her mother died and her oldest sister, Luigia, personally took charge of bringing up her other younger brothers and sisters.

Marietta grew up in a healthy environment where religious values were taught and care was also given to girls’ education, within the limits possible in those times. She did well in elementary school and also began secondary school. She had a vivacious and lively character but she was docile to the teachings of adults. In Genoa she attended the Augustinian parish of Our Lady of Consolation, a fundamental place for the spiritual growth of young Marietta Fasce. There she met her confessor, Father Mariono Ferriello, who had such a great part in her vocation. Maria Fasce collaborated with great effort in the parish, taught catechism and singing, and took part in the religious functions. In the Consolation parish she learned to love the spirituality of St. Augustine.

On 24 May 1900, Pope Leo XIII canonized St. Rita of Cascia. The Augustinian Order made this new saint known through lectures, liturgical celebrations, and other events. In Genoa also they presented to their faithful this fascinating saint who would become famous throughout the whole world precisely through that girl Marrieta, who was listening with interest and passion to the dramatic events in Saint Rita’s life.

Her introduction to the Saint of Cascia created a very strong impression on her to the point that it conditioned her entire future life. Actually, Marietta Fasce had already been nourishing the desire to become a religious, but she had not made it known to anyone. Only when she was absolutely sure of the solidarity of her vocation did she make it known to her family: she wanted to become an Augustinian nun in Cascia. Here brothers’ reactions were very negative but she resisted tenaciously. Her older sister, Luiga, did not contest her religious vocation, but she could not understand her strange obstinacy about going to that remote place. After some attempts to make her enter a Ligurian Augustinian monastery, her family became resigned and Father Furriello wrote to Cascia; the answer, however, was negative. The abbess, Madre Giuseppina Gattarelli, thought that a young lady accustomed to the conveniences of the city could never become accustomed to the hard life in a monastery in the mountains. But Marrieta Fasce was not the type to be discouraged, and so she repeated her request for admission and this time was accepted in June 1906

After six months of postulancy, Maria received the Augustinian habit on Christmas night of 1906 and the following year, again on Christmas night, she took the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. The names “Teresa Eletta” were given to her. She was convinced that she had left the world forever and that she had found paradise, but soon she would realize that it was not so. The environment she found in Cascia was different from her dreams: the monastery was in crisis which was worsened by the arrival in Casci of seven young sisters from Visso. This caused a generational crisis with the older sisters who were there before. Even the spirit and the habits were endangered, leaving room for laxity and laughter rather than silence, meditation, and diligence. This situation made the young sister suffer because she was not the type who would make compromises, and she never accepted that lifestyle. Disappointment and doubt also got hold of her, and she wanted to re-examine all her choices. Therefore, she left the monastery in June 1910 and returned there in May 1911, confirmed in her intentions to be an Augustinian nun close to her Saint Rita.

On 22 March 1912 she made her solemn profession of the vows. She was well aware that in order to renew the monastery spiritually it was necessary to act and not retreat. She wrote two letters to the superiors to denounce without any hesitation the situation of her monastery. In 1914 she was appointed mistress of novices, in 1917 she became vicar, and on 12 August 1920 her sisters unanimously elected her abbess. She kept that position for twenty-seven years until her death. Maria Terese incarnated the role of mother abbess so well that she became for everyone, sisters and others, the mother par excellence. Her rule was distinguished by prudence, wisdom, firmness, and sweetness. She had strong psychological insight and heightened intuition which made it possible for her to read into hearts. Moreover, her experience during the first years was always before her and so she wanted her sisters to be occupied always in prayer, in meditation, or in practical work. In that way, the community became a model of cloistered life.

Maria Teresa had her eyes set on heaven, but her feet were on the ground. Her practical sense and concreteness had become proverbial. She maintained that Jesus does not love “dolls” but that he wants active and laborious brides. She was authoritative because of her maternal charisma but she was never authoritarian; she was rigid in observing the Augustinian Rule and scrupulous in its application, which at times must have been hard and demanding, but she was never a dictator; on the contrary, she was always very tender and affable.

Maria Terese had great stamina. This was true for her vocation and for the spiritual renewal of the monastery, and it was especially true in building the new church of Saint Rita and a girls’ orphanage. As soon as she was elected, she tried to make Saint Rita known. In order to do this, she understood that adequate structures were needed to receive the pilgrims. The first step was to create a publication, which could inform people about the saint. On 22 May 1923, the first issue of the bulletin, From the Bees to the Roses, was published. The first work done was the altar, built with the offerings of the devout, in the small church where Saint Rita’s body had been kept previously. Since that undertaking was so successful, Blessed Maria Terese tried to take the next step: to build a new church in honor of Saint Rita where the ever growing number of pilgrims would be welcomed. In 1925 the bulletin launched a campaign to collect offerings, but it was a road filled with obstacles that sorely tried Blessed Maria Terese yet exalted her prudence and firmness. Twelve years went by before the work of setting the first stone took place. The construction work proceeded slowly and was later interrupted because of the war and only resumed in the spring of 1946. The new basilica was inaugurated on 18 May 1947, but Blessed Maria Terese never saw it because of the death four months earlier. One sign of Blessed Maria Teresa’s immense spiritual motherhood was the creation of the girls’ orphanage, which began in 1938, when the first “bee” of Saint Rita, Edda Petrucci, was welcomed. Soon there many little girls and the Mother followed them lovingly and took care of their spiritual and physical development. She would play with them and become like a child in their midst.

Maria Terese was an Augustinian though and through. For almost thirty years she suffered from a malignant tumor on her right breast which gave her enormous pain and for which she had to undergo two surgical operations. She called it “her treasure,” the most beautiful gift which her heavenly Bridegroom had given her. But Jesus gave her many other gifts: heart problems, asthma, diabetes, and circulatory problems that caused great burning in her feet. These illnesses made her very heavy. She was tall but obese and this kept her from walking, and so the sisters had to carry her on a chair.

However, the Blessed never let her illnesses cause disturbance to anyone; she never complained and she did not want to talk about them. Her fragile physical condition was for Teresa a slow, painful, and sustained calvary. She died January 18, 1947. Her remains rest in a crypt, which lies next to St. Rita. Pope John Paul II beatified her in July 1997

The Augustinian Family celebrates her feast on 12 October.

Rotelle, John, Book of Augustinian Saints, Augustinian Press 2000
Blessed Maria Terese Fasce by Dante Ricci.

Our Mother of Good Counsel

the picture of Our Mother of Good Counsel is familiar to all who frequent the churches of the Augustinian friars. With them and their people it has been a place of special honor. The original, the miraculous picture, has been in the reverent keeping of the members of the Order of Saint Augustine for over four hundred years. The church that enshrines the original fresco of Our Mother of Good Counsel is located in the small town of Genazzano, Italy.

Legend has it that this church stood unfinished and roofless when, on 25 April 1467, the image of the Madonna was miraculously transported there from its former home in Scutari, Albania. Coming to rest precariously on a narrow stone ledge in the wall inside the church, the legend continues, the picture has remained in that position to the present day.

The name, however, is much older than the picture. “Saint Mary of Good Counsel” was the name given to a beautiful little church erected in the fifth century on the ruins of a temple of Venus in ancient Latium. But time took its toll on the church. It was almost a ruin in 1356, when the Augustinian friars were charged with its care and restoration. The task might have been hopeless if Mary herself had not come with her heavenly image in 1467. She seemed determined to confirm and perpetuate her favorite title, “Mother of Good Counsel.”

Careful investigations undertaken between 1957 and 1959 for the purpose of restoration have revealed something of the true origin ofourmotherofgoodcounsel the fresco. The image of the Madonna about 12 inches wide and 17 inches high that the viewer sees encased in an elaborate glass, metal, and marble framework is part of a larger fresco that once covered a portion of the wall now hidden by the baroque shrine altar. Art experts consulted during the restoration suggest that the fresco, including the image of the Madonna, is the work of the early fifteenth century artist Gentil da Fariano. He probably painted his fresco on the wall around the time of Martin V (1417-1431). At some subsequent date before 1467, the fresco, so it is surmised on the basis of the evidence, was covered over with plaster, and on the wall was hung a terracotta image of the Madonna which was known at Our Mother of Good Counsel.

In 1467 the Augustinian friars began rebuilding the church on the site, enclosing within the structure the wall on which the then covered fresco was painted. At that point the image of the Madonna appeared and was taken to be a token of divine favor. The unexpected appearance was perhaps brought about in this way: when the stone ledge was being inserted into the wall, the plaster covering cracked and separated from the wall, revealing the fresco beneath. The image was initially hailed as the Madonna of Paradise, an allusion to its apparently heavenly origin, but soon it came to be known by the former title of the shrine, Madonna of Good Counsel.

The unfinished church was completed soon after this occurrence and became the center of continuous pilgrimage. A place was also built for the Augustinian friars, who to this day still minister to the spiritual wants of the thousands that come to venerate the picture of the Mother of Good Counsel. The story of the picture spread far and wide; many came to pray at this shrine. The numerous cures recorded as having occurred since then have caused the picture of the Madonna to be called miraculous.

One striking aspect of the fesco, which has lent a certain credence to the legends surrounding it, is that the upper portion of the image is separated from the wall so that much of the fresco is just a thin sheet of plaster.Yet the image of Our Lady of Good Counsel has survived for centuries in this precarious state, through rebuilding of the main walls of the church, through a number of earthquakes, and even through the ariel bombardment of Genazzanno during World War II. Because of this condition, the restoration undertaken in 1957 was a delicate task.

There arose a legend that the picture had come from Albania, many miles across the Adriatic Sea. Among the first pilgrims who came to Genazzano were two men with a very remarkable story to tell. While praying at a shrine of Our Lady in the Albanian town of Scutari they saw the picture which they were venerating remove itself from the wall of the church. They watched in amazement at it rose into the air. High in the sky in was wrapped in a cloud and vanished from their sight in the direction of the Adriatic and Italy.

They tried to follow the image. They searched everywhere for it, in all the famous shrines and churches of Rome and other cities. Finally they heard rumors of a new picture at Genazzano. They hurried there and at last found the object of their quest, their own beloved holy picture. At Scutari it had been loved and revered for many centuries; then the ardor of the people toward it had cooled.

In their very early endeavors the good friars were ably assisted in their efforts by the gracious aid of a holy widow, Petruccia di Noccera. Since her husband’s death, this saintly woman, a tertiary of the Order of Saint Augustine, had devoted herself to the service of the little church, and great was her distress over the neglected condition in which the sanctuary of Our Mother of Good Counsel was permitted to remain. To restore it was the ambition of her life, and so strongly was she drawn to the undertaking that she felt inspired to sacrifice her home and moderate income to further this cause. While others might have felt daunted, Petruccia never once faltered in her hopes. She constantly reiterated her assurance that the work would be completed because Almighty God, through the intercession of Saint Augustine and the Blessed Virgin, would see fit to crown her feeble efforts with unforeseen success.

MGCPetruccia, having lived to see her fondest hopes abundantly realized, died in 1470, honored by all. The Augustinians who owed so much to this good tertiary laid her body to rest at the feet of the beloved Madonna, with an inscription above which told of her share in the great work accomplished by God at Genazzano.

Our Mother of Good Counsel has been called the Madonna of the popes. In truth, since the arrival of the picture, there is scarcely a pope who has not in some way shown great devotion to her. The initial approval of the devotion to Our Mother of Good Counsel was given by Pope Paul II. In 1753 Pope Benedict XIV established the Pious Union of Our Lady of Good Counsel, a spiritual society to which many indulgences were attached. Pope Pius IX had a personal devotion to Our Mother of Good Counsel; he made a pilgrimage to Genazzano in 1864.

More than any other pope, Pope Leo XIII, himself a member of the Pious Union, was deeply attached to this devotion, which had associations with his childhood in Carpinet, a town not far from Genazzano. He instituted the white scapluar of Good Counsel, inserted the title of Mother of Good Counsel into the Litany of Loreto, declared the shrine a minor basilica, and installed a copy of the image over the altar in the Pauline chapel in the Vatican. It was he who coined the phrase: “Children, follow her counsels.” Pope Pius XII dedicated his reign to Our Mother of Good Counsel, and Pope John XXIII made a visit to her shrine in 1959.

The Augustinians have been at all times the outstanding promoters of the devotion to Our Mother of Good Counsel. Within the last century there have been two holy men of the Order who were particularly notable for their zeal in spreading this devotion. Blessed Stephen Bellesini was pastor at the shrine and is buried in a side chapel of the church, and Venerable Joseph Menochio was papal sacristan to Pope Pius VII.

Thus, for five hundred years, the devotion to Our Mother of Good Counsel has flourished and grown. Great artists have fashioned rich copies of the Madonna in canvas, stone, and mosaic. One will find the picture of Our Mother of Good Counsel in beautiful shrines and in great cathedrals and churches. Missionaries have carried it to the ends of the earth, and it has found its way into the humblest of homes throughout the world.

The feast of Our Mother of Good Counsel is celebrated by the Augustinian Family on 26 April.

Rotelle, John, Book of Augustinian Saints, Augustinian Press 2000
Our Mother of Good Counsel, Shrine of Our Mother of Good Counsel, Genazzano, Rome, Italy.
Augustinian Saints Mural, Our Mother of Good Counsel Church, Los Angeles, CA
Web Page devoted to Our Mother of Good Counsel