A LIFE FOR LOVE


8-2-1995: Archbishop Card. Saldarini during the homily


"The life of the Saints is a rule of life for others”
: with these words in Turin, in the Sanctuary of Our Lady Help of Christians, on February 8 1995, Archbishop Card. Giovanni Saldarini started the canonical process for five cases of beatification. One of these was the Poor Clare nun Sister Maria Consolata Betrone. The biographical outlines of the new Servant of God, born in Saluzzo (Cuneo) on April 6 1903 and dying on July 18 1946 in the Convent of the “Sacred Heart” of Moriondo Moncalieri (Turin) could have been briefly spent behind the rise and fall of a life which only lasted 43 years, of which 17 in a strictly closed order. It could have been thus if, instead, God had not made of her brief existence an incandescent meteor of love, rich of eternity.


Daughter of Pietro Betrone and Giuseppina Nirino, the owners of a bakery in Saluzzo (Cuneo) and then managers of a restaurant in Airasco (Turin), Pierina was the second of six daughters born of her father's second marriage.
She was 13 years old when the Lord cast his loving gaze on her.
Indeed one day the girl was hurrying to do her errands in the village when, unexpectedly, an intense, strange prayer flowed from her heart: "My God, I love you!". The unusual spiritual emotion overcame her. It was for her the meeting with the Lord. Years later, in her autobiographical notes, she recalls that experience with the simplicity and freshness of the moment, fixing it inside her for ever.
On December 8 1916, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pierina dedicated herself to the Virgin.
 

View of Saluzzo

Receiving Holy Communion the Divine invitation was made more explicit, for she distinctly heard within her the words "Do you want to be mine?" Deeply touched by grace, she cried and "with tears, though without understanding the extent of the question, she replied, Jesus, yes".
On February 26 1917 the Betrone family moved to Turin. Pierina was 14 years old and between family and spiritual trials, scruples and temptations and insidious and intimate sufferings she had to wait until she was 21 before being able to realize her vocation. Until then the words of the prophet in a similar story of divine seduction and salvation of the beloved, "I am going to lure her and lead her out into the wilderness and speak to her heart" (Hos. 2, 16) were uniquely true for her.
It is the inner portrait of the young Pierina. Once conquered by the Lord, she yearned for an ideal of perfection, she lived in the memory of a promise and waited for its realisation.


2. CONFIDANTE OF THE LORD


"Nothing attracts me among the Capuchins", was Pierina's comment when, after three failed attempts to take the veil in open orders, she was advised by her confessor Don Accomasso, to take the decision to enter the Convent of the Poor Clares in Turin. It was April 17 1929. Effectively in her, as well as the inclination of grace through penitence, other three elements peculiar to the Franciscan order were evident: poverty, the communal life and happiness. Thus on February 28 1930 her religious Ceremony of taking the Veil took place with the name of Sister Maria Consolata.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is venerated in Turin under the name of Consolata, namely Consoler of the Afflicted.

The new name chosen by young Betrone is indicative, even more than of her mission, of her very existence; of being the consoler of the Heart of Jesus and of all those who are unable to perceive or welcome the love of the Lord. According to what she would present she would be "a missionary, but to the infinite". The day of the Ceremony of taking the Veil she perceives a Divine suggestion that shows her the way to it: "I do not ask you more than this: an act of continual love". And for more than 16 years of enclosed Capuchin life this would be the foundation on which will concentrate and unify her entire being, moulding herself to it at every moment of her existence until the "consummatum est".
On April 8 1934, Low Sunday, she took her perpetual vows. In the convent she undertook the work of cook, doorkeeper and cobbler.

 

The Madonna Consolata
Patron Saint of Turin
(a picture before restoration)
When she was transferred on July 22 1939 to the new foundation of Moriondo Moncalieri (Turin), she was also nurse and secretary.
 

Sister Maria Consolata Betrone
Her ordinary life will always pass in daily penitence and self denial in the fulfilment of the tasks assigned to her. The exceptional nature of her adventure, however, totally unfolded in the intimacy of her spirit. True contemplative, the whole world and every creature in need of compassion was shared between God and her. Through grace, rather with the love that joins than with the sensibility of the mystical gift, she became the confidante of the Sacred Heart that is perfectly human, as the Lord himself taught her : "Do not make me a harsh God while I am no less than the God of love!".

Through Consolata God seemed to want to educate the heart of man anew to the union with Him; between creature and Creator no longer servile subordination, rather intimacy. This is, in substance, the spiritual content of the supplication Jesus, Mary I love you, save souls, the characteristic of the Tiny Path of Love shown by the Lord to the humble Capuchin nun to bring back to grace and compassion, with a simple act of confidence, millions of souls tormented by sin. Was especially merit of Father Lorenzo Sales (1889-1972), her confessor and spiritual director from September 1935, to have helped with wisdom and discernment the Work of God written more in the life of Sister Consolata than in the notes of her diary. In this Work of charity she was firstly subjected to every trial that

requires in man pure faith in Him, who can do all. Consolata will come to moan: "I feel all the passions of capital sins are rioting in me". But the Divine Bridegroom, in this martyrdom "until the last drop of blood" to save the world, also assured her: "Since I am the Most Holy it is my thirst to communicate it to souls ... You only love. You are too small to climb to the summit: I will carry you on my shoulders".


3. MARTYRDOM OF LOVE


In November 1944 she notes : "For many days my soul has halted on this divine phrase - 'Sacrificial victim for sacrificial victim'". It is in this way that, for the peace of the world, for the dying and for all souls she many times repeats the offer of herself as the sacrifice of expiation, as true contemplative who intercedes for the whole humanity. In particular, that redeeming love which rendered her crucified with the Crucifix was for those who, also called to it in the special way of following Christ, lacked faithfulness because overcome by sin.

On November 9 1934 Consolata wrote: " Jesus revealed to me the intimate sufferings of His Heart caused by the faithlessness of souls consecrated to Him". We thus enter into the deepest throbbing of her interior world, that which would bring her with generosity to the "summit of pain" and to a boundless maternity of souls to bring to salvation. Jesus and Consolata: together in love, together in pain, together to deliver back millions of souls to the Father rich in Compassion.

On September 24 1945 Sister Consolata asked for half a day of rest and she laid down. The Mother Abbess took her temperature - nearly 39°! How long has she been carrying on like this? In June 1939 she let drop a phrase from her pen: "It costs me to die in little pieces".

 

The Sacred Heart of Jesus:
a picture hung
in the Convent Choir as
Sister Consolata Betrone wanted.
To her hidden condition of illness and to her stern life of penitence will be added in short, as well, the hardships of the years of the Second World War. Consolata will literally suffer from hunger, but with the generosity of always: she will transform this tragedy into "an ascetic theology of the appetite" ! It is the last act of love: the one that will cost her her life. In winter 1944 her corpse-like colour betrays her. In obedience she subjects herself to a medical visit. The doctor's reply was "simply" : "This sister is not ill, she is destroyed". On October 25 1945 the X-ray reveals the damage to her lungs. On November 4 she leaves for the sanatorium. She will remain there until July 3 1946, when an ambulance will return her, in the last stages of consumption, to the Convent of Moriondo. Now, "everything is finished", to begin again in Heaven. The Sister dies at dawn on July 18. The "regal Te Deum" of her life is fulfilled in the transfiguration of a single prayer: "I love you, Lord, my strength!" (Ps 17, 2).




4. THE TOPICALITY OF A MESSAGE

Sister Maria Consolata Betrone was a mystic favoured by locutions and, perhaps, by visions of Jesus. She reported it precisely in her diary, carefully examined by Father Lorenzo Sales, Consolata Missionary, at first sceptical and unsure, then in his turn divulger of the Work of the Lord.

"Humble and great, active and contemplative, serene and tormented, suffering and full of joy, Consolata led a linear life reconciling each differing thing in herself and unifying everything in the ardent love of God. Long and intensely tempted herself, she had a delicate understanding of sinners, especially for consecrated souls who had transgressed, and for their conversion she offered God all her suffering and pain and finished by offering life itself". This Poor Clare nun was presented in these words in the statement which introduced the beatification process. Here is revealed a spirituality of atonement perfectly in harmony with that desire for penitence which inspired the beginnings of her vocation.
A mystic is always inserted in the context of his or her historical times and by it is inspired and "sent" by God. He is a sort of "prophet" open to the spiritual needs of her contemporary humanity and in the same way offers himself with Christ to the Father.

 

Father Lorenzo Sales
In the heart of a century dedicated to sin, to atheism and, finally, religious indifference, the message of life and prayer of Sister Consolata Betrone stands out with obvious clarity as reparation and antidote to the culture of spiritual death of man. The Tiny Path of Love given in the prayer: Jesus, Mary, I love you, save souls, is not only a brief prayer, rather an interior way able to educate and promote a greater confidence between man and his God in the knowledge and faith full of that great divine attribute that is Compassion. Through this very simple way, the soul is newly returned to vital communion with the Most High in the true capacity of its own contemplative dimension. Consolata Betrone was not alone in this tracing of the return route of the "prodigal son" , XX century man, to a Father rich in Compassion. The broad Divine plan seem to have significantly interwoven her human and mystic existence with those of two of her "distant" contemporaries: Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) and the monk Silvanus of Mount Athos (1866-1938). The common denominator of all is Thérèse of Lisieux (1837-1897).
In the culture of making and having, reproposing the evangelical need "to pray continually and never lose heart" (Lk 18,1), the message sent to us by Sister Consolata assumes the importance of a gospel for our time. A gospel of love, of hope and compassion for the years of hate, desperation and distance from God. God offers the remedy of spiritual breath to man suffocated by materialism. A contemporary "Clare" again announces the need for the primacy of God in the heart of man.

 

 

 
 

Prayer for the Glorification
of Sister Consolata

Father of all compassion,
You have brought among us
Your servant
sister Maria Consolata Betrone
to spread throughout the world
the incessant love
towards Your Son Jesus
in the simple way
of confidence and love.
Make us, too, capable,
guided by Your Spirit,
of being ardent witnesses
of Your love
in and Your immense bounty
and grant us,
through her intercession,
the graces
which we need.
For Christ our Lord.
Amen

+ Pier Giorgio Micchiardi
Assistant Bishop and Vicar General
Imprimatur - Turin, March 11 1995

 
 
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