St. Magdalen of Canossa - Foundress of the Canossians
During her early childhood Magdalen experienced deep suffering. At the age of five her father died in a geological expedition and her mother remarried and left the Canossa Palace and her children behind when Magdalen was seven years of age. In the absence of parental affection Magdalen turned to Mary for consolation:
“I wept …before Mary, invoking her in tears and calling her by the name of ‘mamma!’…little by little I placed myself in the heart of Mary.”
Magdalen was 15 years old when the French revolution broke out and shook the whole of Europe. In Verona the real consequences were felt about seven years later, when, on June 10, 1796, General Napoleon entered the city as a conqueror. The following year Napoleon was a guest at Canossa Palace and Magdalen, being the lady of the house, had to do the honours to the General. He would return in 1805 and 1807 as Emperor. On those occasions too he would be a guest at Canossa Palace, but by that time Magdalen was already undertaking the work she had long wanted to do.
Magdalen’s growing years were marked by suffering and trials. She lived in a society of contrasts between the very rich and those living extreme poverty. The society she grew up in was forgetful of God and dominated by arrogance and privileges. It was in this environment that Magdalen discovered deep within herself the desire to share the life of Christ in the salvation of many who had been abandoned in their poverty, exploited by the egoism of the rich and oppressed by the evils of her day. Magdalen began to give of herself without reserve to children, youth and women who had to reckon with economic as well as moral, spiritual, intellectual and family poverty.