Franciscan Saints




18th July



The Servant of God Cecilia Joanelli-castelli


Housewife, Third Order


Cecilia was born at Gandino in Lombardy. She belonged to the renowned family of the Castelli, who were no less eminent for virtue than for noble birth. One of her sisters was the mother of Blessed Pope Innocent XI, and one of her nieces, the servant of God Cecilia, was christened with her name.

Even as a child, Cecilia evinced a most extraordinary fear of God. If she saw other children doing anything wrong, or if she ` heard a bad word, she would entreat them: “Do not do that! Do not say that! It is a sin.” At that early age, she had such filial devotion to the Mother of Cod that she edified everybody. Three times every day she knelt down before an image of our Lady at home and said three Ave Marias.

After the child received her first religious instruction, she began to look at everything in the light of faith. She honored Christ our Lord in her father and Mary in her mother; and as she advanced in age and intelligence, she strove so much the more to live like a child of the holy family.

Cecilia had no use for vain attire and the noisy amusements of the world. Before great feasts she would fast for forty hours on bread and water. She took pleasure in reading religious books, and girl companions liked to come and hear her read from them. From her friends, Cecilia once got a number of secular books, the reading of which might easily have changed the course of her life. But just at that time several misfortunes occurred in the family, and she soon realized how little comfort and support could be drawn from books of the kind. So she laid them aside and never picked them up again.

On the other hand, Cecilia set down in writing those virtues which she would henceforth endeavor to practice; deep humility, contempt for the vanities of the world, denial of her own will, loving interest in her neighbor, persevering patience, and union with our suffering Saviour. It was not surprising that when a new convent for young women was established at Gandino, Cecilia desired very much to enter it. She mentioned her desire to no one, but for the time being prayed much and fervently to know her vocation. Often she pleaded before a crucifix: “Lord, I desire only to do Thy will. Let me recognize Thy holy will!" with this intention in mind, she also practiced severe acts of penance.

Just at this time a young nobleman asked for Cecilia’s hand in marriage, and since her parents desired that she give her consent, she believed that she should recognize God’s will in the matter.In matrimony she found numerous opportunities to practice the virtues she had resolved to attain. As both her parents-in-law were still living, she decided from the first that she would not give orders but obey.

She was indeed an obedient daughter to her mother-in-law and a great help in the household. She tolerated no indecent conversation among the servants, nor gossip about others. She herself gladly assisted the servants whenever she could make their work easier for them, and continued to do so even after her mother-in-law’s death. She also knew how to deal with her husband’s older brothers, who lived with them, in order to keep peace with them. Her father- in- law suffered for six months from serious infirmities, but he often remarked that he could easily bear everything, because Cecilia nursed him so tenderly and provided so well for his comfort.

After the death of her father-in-law, Cecilia herself was attacked by a severe illness, which she bore with cheerful resignation. But from now on she was more earnestly minded than ever to withdraw from the world. With the consent of her husband she entered the Third Order of St. Francis; and from then on she made her dress and table as simple as that of a religious. She was, however, so much the more generous to the poor.

She reared her children in the fear of God. Often each day she recommended them to God in prayer, and placed them under the special protection of Mary, particularly her sons when they were obliged to go out into the world. Her daughters were reared in a manner befitting their distinguished rank, but they got noinstruction in the vanities of the world; on the contrary, they beheld in their mother a brilliant example of Christian perfection.

As the years passed, Cecilia lived more and more austerely. When her eldest daughter on one occasion asked her to spare herself somewhat, since she was leading a far severer life in the management of her large house than a secluded religious, the mother answered; “I am doing nothing out of the ordinary; I ought to do much more for my Cod, who did so much for me.”

Almighty God acceded to her desire for suffering by sending her grievous ailments. Cecilia thanked Him for these, and never wished for relief. Often she prayed like St. Theresa: “O Lord, let me suffer or die.”

She died while embracing the crucifix and pronouncing the sweet names of ]esus and Mary, ]une 20, 1641, in the fifty-eighth year of her life. Pieces of her clothing were preserved like the relics of a saint, and several sick persons were miraculously helped by their use. Emperor Ferdinand 111 wrote to her husband expressing his condolence, at the same time praising the virtues of the deceased. Her husband himself wrote in a letter: “I can certify on oath that in the thirty years we lived together, she never said an impatient or angry word to me."




Prayer of the Church

(First Sunday after Pentecost)


O God, the strength of those who hope in Thee, graciously

hear our prayers; and, since human frailty can do nothing without

Thee, grant us the help of Thy grace, that in fulfilling Thy

commandments we may please Thee both in will and in deed.

Through the same Christ Our Lord Who liveth and reigneth
with Thee and the Holy Spirit,  One God, now and forever.  Amen



Habig, Marion A., O.F.M., 1959, ed., The Franciscan book of Saints, Franciscan Herald press, Chicago, Illinois


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