Due to the depth of her spiritual writings and her pungent personality, she is considered to be one of the greatest mystics of the Italian XVIII century. Pope Francis has recently recognized Sister Maria Celeste Crostarosa’s heroic virtues and miracles which will lead her to the honors of the altars as a Saint. She was born in Naples on 31 October 1696. Her name was Giulia Marcella Crostarosa and she was daughter to Francis and Paola Battistini Caldari, descendant of a noble family from Abruzzi, lords of L’Aquila and Pizzoli.
Since childhood, she shows great intelligence and ability to reason She spent her childhood and adolescence serenely in her house, immersed in a profound spiritual life. In 1716, together with her mother, she accompanies her sister Ursula to the Teresian monastery of Marigliano. There she takes the firm decision to stay as well: she is only 20 at the time.
She stays in the convent for seven years, carrying out responsibly the tasks she is entrusted with. Here she meets Father Tommaso Falcoia of the Pious Workers, who has founded in Scala (in the province of Salerno) a monastery under the rule of “Visitation”. This is the convent where Maria Celeste, together with her sister, moved after the monastery in Marigliano had been closed. During the nine years she spends in Scala, she has several heavenly visions and human persecutions. All these factors contribute to educate her to holiness. On 25 April 1725, when she is still a novice, she receives the first great revelation: she sees the Christ in a dream. He entrusts her with the task to create a new institute whose rules were contained in the life of the Savior, “like an open book”.
In another vision, Jesus reveals her the habit of the new order and announces her the sufferings this work will involve. Obeying to the mistress of the novices, she puts down a text with rules, as in an interior form the Holy Spirit dictated her; at the same time she practices rigorous fasting on bread and water. She meets many Neapolitan theologians to ask for advice on the rules. They approve the Rule, confirming her divine inspiration.
In September 1730, she arrives to Scala to rest. Here she meets Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori, founder of the Redemptorists, who, after having read the new Rule, introduces it in the monastery in the month of May, the following year. Soon come the dark moments: Father Falcoia puts puts her in difficult situations, changing the text of the Rule and imposing on Maria Celeste to accept corrections, under the threat of expulsion from the Institute. In 1733 she was forced to leave the monastery of Scala, in which she experienced the most intense divine communications: the statue of a child Jesus took life in her arms and she lulled Him. She retires to Nocera Inferiore, where upon the request of the local bishop, she reformed the monastery where she was a guest.
Then, she is called to Foggia to found a monastery with the new Rule. There, on 19 March 1738, Maria Celeste realizes the dream of her consecrated life, founding the new branch of the Redemptoristines or Sisters of SS. The redeemer, gives her daughters the dress Jesus had revealed her 14 years before as the uniform of the new institution. In Foggia, in the 17 years of its conduction, she takes care of the formation of countless disciples to Christian life, giving them the spiritual riches she was endowed with and which still today are a precious legacy to her daughters (over a thousand sisters) scattered around the world.
Also St Gerardo Maiella, who lived in the nearby town of Deliceto, confided to her for long hours, considering her as a mother. The people of Foggia and that of the Gargano called her the “holy Prioress”. She died in Foggia on 14 September 1755, the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the main festivity of the Redemptorist order. The Cause for her beatification is introduced on 11 August 1901. Her thought, her spirituality and mystical experiences are contained in numerous valuable writings. During her life she demonstrated her extraordinary intelligence; she possessed the ability to achieve what she wanted, dragging hundreds of people behind with the force of persuasion and that of her own example.
The authenticity of the revelations about the new Institute is universally recognized by the Church; the Congregations of the Redemptorists and the Redemptoristines recognize her as the “Mother who in the travail of a painful life, misunderstood by many people, accomplished the laborious work of gestation of the Congregation”. Suor Maria Celeste is a hidden gem who, thanks to the recognition of the miracle, will be soon unveiled to the world as an example and a model of perfect Christian life.