Today is the feast of Bl. Filippa Mareri ( ca. 1190/1200-1236 ), who founded the monastery of the Poor Clares of Borgo San Pietro, of the commune of Petrella Salto in the province of Rieti in Italy.
She was born towards the end of the twelfth century in her family’s castle near Borgo San Pietro (currently located in the municipality of Petrella Salto). Her brother Thomas Mareri was an important politician who helped found the city of L’Aquila.
A meeting Filippa had around 1223 with St. Francis of Assisi was essential for her, because this is when he encouraged her to enter monastic life. Her family opposed this choice, however, so Filippa ran away from home along with some companions. They took refuge in a cave above the current village of Piagge, in what today is called “Cave of Santa Filippa. There they stayed about three years until September 18, 1228, when two brothers donated the castle and the adjoining parish church of San Pietro de Molito, a former Benedictine foundation. Filippa moved to that place with her companions, and the community lived according to the rule by St. Francis to St. Clare and the nuns of San Damiano in Assisi.
Blessed Ruggero da Todi was given spiritual care of the monastery by St. Francis himself.
Under his leadership the monastery founded by St. Filippa became a school of holiness, and the foundress a teacher of the spiritual life. The community’s main occupation was the worship and praise of God, liturgical life, reading, and Bible study. Beside all of this spiritual activity, work was held in high regard in conjunction with the service to the poor and to the apostolate.
In the monastery the Sisters prepared medicines for distribution to patients free of charge. With the spoken word, but especially with the fervor of her charity and style of life, modeled on the Saint of Assisi School, she revived some pages of the Gospel in a world that had seemingly forgotten. Bl. Filippa died on February 16, 1236. Her grave soon became a pilgrimage destination, and the sisters started recording graces and heavenly favors bestowed by God through the intercession of His servant. In 1706 and as part of the beatification process, diocesan authorities made a canonical reconnaissance of her remains, and her heart was found incorrupt. It is now preserved in a silver shrine.
Bl. Filippa Mareri is the first saint of the Second Franciscan Order, that is, the Poor Clares. The title of “Saint” appears the first time in a bull of Innocent IV issued in 1247, just 10 years after her passing. It’s been 750 years since her death, and devotion to the beata has grown not only in her country but in many others on the initiative of emigrants, who found support, comfort, and protection of Bl. Filippa in their difficulties and made it known to other populations.