A LIFE FOR LOVE
"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 were in a strictly closed order. It could have been thus if, instead, God had not made an incandescent, eternally rich meteor of love out of her brief existence.
I. The young Pierina
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.
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.
II. The confidante of the Lord
attracts me about 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, another 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.
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 observed
a Divine suggestion that indicated the way to her: "I do not call you
for 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 she concentrated
and unified her entire being, moulding herself to it at every moment of
her existence until the "consummatum est".
she was transferred on July 22 1939 to the new foundation of Moriondo
Moncalieri (Turin), she was also nurse and secretary.
Her ordinary life was always passed in daily penitence and self denial in the fulfilment of the tasks assigned her. The exceptional nature of her adventure, however, totally unfolded in the intimacy of her spirit. A 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 in 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. Especial merit lies with 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 He who can do all. Consolata would 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".
III. Martyrdom of love
In November 1944 she noted: "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 repeated the offer of herself as the sacrifice of expiation, from the true contemplative who intercedes for the whole of humanity. In particular, that redeeming love which rendered her crucified with the Crucifix was for those who, although called to it in the special way in train of the succession of Christ, lacked faith because overcome by sin.
On November 9 1934 Consolata wrote: "Jesus reveals 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 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 is my fate to die in little pieces". In short, the hardships of the years of the Second World War were added to her hidden condition of illness and to her stern life of penitence. Consolata literally suffered from hunger, but with the generosity of always, she would transform this tragedy into "an ascetic theology of the appetite"! It was the last act of love and one that would cost her her life. In winter 1944 her corpse-like colour betrayed her. In obedience she subjected herself to a visit from the doctor. The doctor's reply was "simply": "This sister is not ill, she is destroyed". On October 25 1945 the X-ray revealed the damage to her lungs. On November 4 she left for the sanatorium. She remained there until July 3 1946, when an ambulance returned her, in the last stages of consumption, to the Convent of Moriondo. Now, "everything was finished", to begin again in Heaven. The Sister died at dawn on July 18. The "regal Te Deum" of her life was fulfilled in the transfiguration of a single prayer: "I love you, Lord, my strength!" (Ps 17, 2).
IV. The topicality of a message
Sister Maria Consolata Betrone was a mystic favoured by expressions and, perhaps, by visions of Jesus. She reported it precisely in her diary, carefully examined by Father Lorenzo Sales, Sponsor of Consolata, at first sceptical and unsure, then in his turn divulger of the Work of the Lord..
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
Whoever would like information on the life and spirituality of sister Consolata Betrone and whoever receives grace by her intercession can apply to: