Blessed Stephanie Quinzani
Blessed Stephanie was born near Brescia, Italy, in 1457, of fervent Christian parents. She was brought up in the village of Soncino, where there was a Dominican monastery well known for its preachers, eminent in doctrine, eloquence and sanctity. One of them knew her family and taught their little daughter the Ave Maria and other prayers. He told her that when he died he would make her his heir. A few years later, when Blessed Matthew Carreri died, she felt her heart painfully wounded, and suddenly saw the deceased man, who told her this was the heritage he had promised her. Suffering was to be her lot, and her existence was one of those of which people say: It is more admirable than imitable.
Our Lord appeared to Stephanie when she was seven years old, accompanied by His holy Mother, Saint Dominic, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Catherine of Siena, and told her He wanted her to be a Dominican like those great Saints. She promised she would enter a monastery, or at least be a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic. Later in her life it was this latter path that she adopted, and she was given the habit of the Third Order. When she was about eleven years old, on the feast of Saint Andrew she saw that Apostle with a large cross, and he said to her: My daughter, this is the road to heaven. Love God, fear God, honor God, embrace the cross, and flee the world. She began then to practice great austerities; even while working in the fields with her parents she wore a hair shirt and a rope cincture full of knots. She fasted perpetually. At the age of fifteen, on Good Friday, Our Lord told her she would endure in each of her members part of what He Himself had suffered. Her head afterwards bore traces of a crowning with thorns, and many persons saw her, every week on Fridays, suffering a kind of agony.
For forty years, she also endured the worst moral sufferings. She was in darkness, aridity, abandonment. This martyrdom of the soul was a worse torment for her than that of the body. An Angel said to her: There are several means which cause a reasonable creature to rise to perfect love of God, but one of the principal ones is the life of suffering, a life steeped in sorrow and bitterness which must be accompanied and followed by thanksgiving and resignation to the divine Will. Affliction is the road to perfect love and perfect transformation. She was given Saint Paul to be her guide and instruct her in the secrets of mystical theology, that is, of the interior life under the immediate direction of God.
Blessed Stephanie could read in souls, and one day prevented a woman from poisoning fourteen persons, as she had resolved to do. She warned her not to accomplish that crime; otherwise, she herself would accuse her. She applied herself to the works of mercy and cared for the sick and the poor. She had to earn her bread by manual work; she begged in addition for alms for the needy. She became known to the nobility of Italy, who wanted to give her residences and keep her in their own regions; she remained nonetheless in Soncino, in a very poor dwelling. She was helped by the wealthy when she established a monastery in Soncino. This monastery, where about thirty young Sisters labored to attain religious perfection, and which she directed, was exempted from all taxes. She fell ill towards the end of the year 1529 and died on January 2, 1530, at the age of seventy-three years, saying, Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit! Many miracles at her tomb made known her sanctity. She was beatified in 1740 by Pope Benedict XIV.