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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Saints
Friday

Learn more about Blessed Maria Celeste Crostarosa, mystic and founder of the Redemptoristines

Feast day: September 11

“Live as though I, not you, lived in yourself.”

These words to Blessed Maria Celeste Crostarosa from Jesus sum up the meaning of being a living memory of Christ. From her earliest memories she was aware of her special relationship with Jesus. Giulia Crostarosa (later to be known as Maria Celeste) was born the 10th of 12 children in 1696 in the Kingdom of Naples. She was the darling of the family: bright, high-spirited, intelligent, the leader of the brood. But what depths hid beneath the surface: a burning love, humble piety, a pure heart.

Giulia gave her heart to her Beloved when He said, “Do not love any creature; love only Me. Imitate My life and unite whatever you do with the works of My life.”

By 1725, she had entered a religious conservatory in Scala, high above the Bay of Amalfi, and when still in formation as a novice, Celeste had a revelation that she would be the instrument by which a new rule and order of nuns would be established.

With desire I have desired to give my Spirit to the world and to communicate it to my creatures endowed with reason, in order to live with them and in them until the end of the world. Out of immense love, I have given them my Only Begotten Son.”

After a number of years, and with the support and collaboration of St. Alphonsus Liguori, the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer was founded on the Feast of Pentecost in 1731.

Inspired by Celeste and seeing the need to evangelize the poor, Alphonsus was leaning toward founding a congregation of missionary priests and brothers that would correspond to the nun’s life of prayer. Celeste influenced him all the more when she shared a revelation she had received:

Alphonsus was conversing with Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi, and Christ tells him to “Go and preach to every creature that the Kingdom of God has come upon you.”

After much prayer and discernment the Congregation of the Redemptorists was founded in 1732.

But tribulation shadowed Celeste. Those who did not understand her soul and misjudged her motives called her a troublemaker, delusional, and a witch. Twice banished to a room under the eaves of the monastery, Celeste was comforted by Jesus’ words spoken in her heart, You are my friend and my delight, therefore, I keep you in my Kingdom of the Cross and of Glory, in the Kingdom of my Peace and Rest, in sufferings and afflictions, just the way I lived on this earth.”

Ultimately she was expelled from the original monastery for being faithful to her conscience. Celeste lived for five years as a wayfarer like her Beloved Wayfarer, Jesus, who lived among us that we might know the abundant, merciful love of God. During this time she was designated superioress to reform a Dominican convent and take charge of an orphanage. She also gave secret testimony to the Inquisition concerning a spiritual friend.

Yet Blessed Celeste’s heart was still set on founding a monastery of nuns with the rule revealed to her by the Lord. In 1738 the opportunity appeared, and she began a second monastery of Redemptoristine Nuns in Foggia, Italy.

Finally Celeste found peace in Foggia, and in Jesus’ words, “You shall possess My joy by your participation in My love.”

As a prolific writer and mystic, Celeste was now free to write her autobiography, poems, and spiritual writing known as The Dialogues and The Grades of Prayer.

Celeste pondered Christ’s words to her and wrote on topics such as living in the heart of Christ, being living Eucharists for the world, love of the cross, charity and self-abnegation, the Trinity lives in us, and the prayer of breathing love.

During the last chapter of Blessed Celeste’s life, St. Alphonsus gave the unheard-of permission to a Redemptorist brother to be the spiritual director of the nuns. St. Gerard Majella not only become Celeste’s soul friend but also brought 12 young women to enter the Redemptoristines in Foggia.

On the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, September 14, 1755, Gerard said from his own deathbed, “I have just seen the soul of Mother Maria Celeste wing its flight to heaven like a dove, to receive there the reward she has merited through her great love for Jesus and Mary.”

In 1762 St. Alphonsus became a bishop in St. Agata di Goti near Naples. Soon he invited the Redemptoristine Nuns to make a new foundation in his diocese. Since then the order, as well as Blessed Celeste’s message of love, joy, and liberty, has spread throughout the world.

Jesus, the Most Holy Redeemer, was the love of Blessed Maria Celeste’s life. Therefore she and all her sisters down to this day echo St. Paul’s saying, “Life for me is Christ.”