It would be nice to think that married saints always had wonderful marriages, but, of course, that is not the case. St. Paula Cerioli had to live through a challenging marriage, and in part because of the heroic virtue which she exhibited during her marriage, she has been canonized.
The Early Life of Constanza Cerioli
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Her Difficult Marriage
It was said that Gaetano loved his wife Constanza, but his irascible personality made it difficult for her. In the face of his fits and moods, she strove to be patient, docile, and generous. Likewise, she had to help her son deal with his father's peculiar requests to monopolize the son's time, often forbidding Charles from playing, and having the son listen to his father play the piano for hours.
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Her Husband's Illness and Death
When Gaetano was seventy-five, he had a stroke which confined him to bed permanently. This latest illness did nothing to alter his personality. Rather, he became even more difficult as a patient under Constanza's care. For four years, she nursed Gaetano. Then, things became even worse when their son Charles was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The same jealousies cropped up with the father being concerned that his son Charles not receive more attention than him in his care.
A Childless Widow Finds Hope
Her Maternal Heart Embraces the Orphans
Through prayer, Constanza discerned that the Lord wanted her to found an order. She began to draw up a rule for the order which was named the Sisters of the Holy Family. In 1857, she took vows of poverty and obedience to go along with the vow of chastity she had made at her husband's wake. In addition, the order had a fourth vow to do everything for the greater glory of God. Constanza took the name Sr. Paula Elizabeth and told her sisters to use that name rather than Signora Constanza.
The order was charged with raising orphans in the holy faith with simplicity and purity. They were to provide the children with a good education in order that they might be peaceful, honest, and hard-working. The sisters were to live like the Holy Family in the hidden years through lives of holiness, simplicity, and poverty. Five years after taking her vows, she started a men's branch called the Religious of the Holy Family. She passed away on December 24, 1865 at the age of forty-nine.
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