The “Little Flower” of Benedictines
Sister Maria Fortunata Viti, an Italian Benedictine of the monastery of Santa Maria de ‘Franconi, died in 1922 at the age of 95. Her death, like her life, was unremarkable and little noticed except by her sisters in community.
The third of nine children she was given the name Anna Felice. Her early life was one of hardship: her mother died when she was young and her father was a heavy drinker and gambler, leaving it to Maria to care and provide for her younger siblings. With no formal education, she remained illiterate her entire life.
After entering Benedictine life as a lay sister as Sister Maria Fortunata, she found her calling as a housekeeper, constantly praying as she went about her daily tasks of sewing, mending and washing. In her community she was known for her piety and closeness to God.
Following her death, a number of miracles were reported by people praying at her unmarked gravesite, including two young girls healed from spinal meningitis. Church authorities soon took notice and investigated. Her remains were exhumed in 1935, and moved to the cathedral in Veroli, as 5,000 people joined the procession.
Fr. Thomas Brockhaus, monk of Mount Angel Abbey, promoted her beatification. As editor of St. Joseph Magazine, he published articles about her life and spirituality, and accounts of prayer petitions to her which had been granted. Father Thomas attended her beatification in 1967 and spent some time with the sisters at their monastery in Veroli, Italy. A warm connection between the two Benedictine communities was born.
The process for Blessed Fortunata’s canonization is ongoing, and continues to be supported by the Abbey. When Abbot Jeremy Driscoll and Fr. Odo Recker led a pilgrimage to Italy in October 2019, they were welcomed by the sisters at Santa Maria de ‘Franconi. Fr. Odo, now taking the lead in promoting her cause, recently received the blessing for this effort from Abbess Maria Louisa Ferrante.