"The Venerable Maria Adeodata Pisani O.S.B. 1806-1855, Baronessina di Frigenuini"
Maria Adeodata Pisani, O.S.B., was born in Naples on the 29th December 1806, the only daughter of Baron Benedetto Pisani Mompalao Cuzkeri and Vincenza Carrano. She was baptised on the same day in the Parish of St Mark at Pizzofalcone, and named Maria Teresa. Her father had the title of Baron of Frigenuini, one of the oldest and richest barony in Malta, whilst her mother was an Italian.
Unfortunaltely, her father took to drink and this soon led to marital problems, so much so that whilst Maria Teresa was still a small child her mother left the conjugal house and entrusted the child to her husband’s mother, Elisabeth Mamo Mompalao, who lived in Naples. The grandmother took good care of Maria Teresa, but when she died her grandchild was only 10 years of age. After her grandmother’s death, she was sent to a famous boarding school in Naples, known as the ‘Istituto di Madama Prota’, where the aristocratic ladies of the area used to get their education.
Maria Teresa stayed in this college till she was 17 years of age, and here she received her religious and social education. In the meantime, her father continued to create problems and in 1821, due to his involvement in the uprising in Naples, he was sentenced to death. Since he was a British citizen, his sentence was suspended and he was expelled from Naples and deported to Malta.
In 1825, Maria Teresa and her mother came to live in Malta. They settled in Rabat where her father was also living his dissolute life, but they never lived together with him. Although her mother had been trying to find a suitable man to get her married, Maria Teresa always declined such proposals. She preferred to lead a quiet life, going out to Church daily, and when the occasion presented itself to help the poor she met on the streets. The people who knew her started to comment about her pious behaviour. She was never put off by her father’s behaviour and whenever she met him she would ask for his blessing.
On one occasion, she was impressed by a sermon she heard at the ‘Ta’ Giezu’ church in Rabat. She went to pray in front of the picture of Our Lady of Good Counsel, in the Augustinian’s Church in Rabat, the church where she usually went for her daily mass and evening prayers. There for the first time she felt the calling to become a nun and dedicate her life to God in prayer.
Her parents immediately opposed her wish to become a nun, and her mother forced her to wait for a year before making any final decision. Maria Teresa waited obediently for a whole year, but her resolve did not change.
On the 16th July 1828, she joined the Benedictine Community in St Peter’s Monastery in Mdina. In choosing this kind of life, she had chosen a life of prayer, work, silence and obedience.
After six months as a postulant, at the beginning of 1829, in a special ceremony of investiture as a novice took place, surrounded by her parents and relatives, and she changed her name to Maria Adeodata. During the one year she was a novice, she impressed not only her companions in the noviciate but also the nun who was in charge of the novices. This nun confessed that she never found any fault in Adeodata, and that instead of teaching her, she used to learn from her.
On the 4th March 1830, the required Notarial Act of Renouncement was performed, which was the last formal step required to be admitted as a nun. In this Act, she renounced to her titles and distributed the vast inheritance she had inherited from her paternal grandmother, keeping just enough for herself to be able to help others during her lifetime.
The solemn monastic profession took place on the 8th March 1830, and for the next 25 years she lived as a cloistered nun in St Peter’s monastery. During this period, not only the nuns in the monastery but many persons outside benefited from her acts of charity and her saintly life. She held various official responsibilities within the monastery, but the ones she treasured most were that of looking after the chapel, which gave her more time to be near the Blessed Sacrament and that of porter, which kept her close to the poor people who used to come daily to the monastery seeking help. For four years she was in charge of novices, and from 1851 to 1853 she was elected as Abbess. During the two years’ mandate she had to face difficulties from a few members of the community, since she tried to bring about some changes in community life in order to help the community live more in accordance with the Benedictine rule and monastic way of life. Some nuns were also jealous of her since so many people revered her for her saintly way of life.
She was renowned for her spirit of self-sacrifice and self-denial. The best she had, whether food or clothes, were always given to those in need, whilst she was happy to live on leftovers and worn out clothes. During her life in the monastery she also wrote various works, the most famous of which is “The mystical garden of the soul that loves Jesus and Mary”, which collects together personal spiritual reflections written in the form of a diary between 15th August 1835 and 3rd May 1843. She also wrote her reflections about spiritual direction, and a good number of prayers some of which were meant to be used in the community. Although her native language was Italian, she did her best to learn how to speak and write in Maltese, and she wrote some prayers in Maltese for common use in the Monastery. Throughout her life as a nun, she was a shining example to all in her observance of the Rule of St Benedict, obedience to her superiors, her acts of charity, her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin, and her total commitment to love God.
During the last two years of her life, heart trouble slowly eroded her health which was never all that good. Yet she continued to force herself to live a normal life within her community, always striving for perfection and leading others through her example.
On the 25th February 1855, at the age of 48, she realised that the end was near. Against her nurse’s advice, she dragged herself to the Chapel for the early morning conventual mass, and after receiving communion she had to be carried back to her bed, where she died soon afterwards surrounded by her community reciting prayers.
As soon as news of her death reached the people outside the monastery, the same phrase was repeated throughout Malta: “the Saint has died”. She had a simple funeral, and she was buried in the Monastery’s crypt the following day.
Many people claimed miraculous cures and other graces from God through Adeodata’s intercession. In 1892, the Canonical Process for her Beatification and Canonization was initiated. In 1897, the miracle which was later to be presented to the Congregation for Causes of Beatification and Canonization for official examination and eventual acceptance took place. This miracle happened in Subiaco in Italy, and it involved a Benedictine Abbess who was so sick that the last rites were administered to her, but after prayers through the intercession of Adeodata she got better and the doctors looking after her could not explain such a recovery.
Due to economic reasons, the Canonical Process for Adeodata’s Beatification was stopped in 1913, but in 1989, the Benedictine Community at St Peter’s Monastery presented a petition for the resumption of the Canonical Process for Adeodata’s Beatification and Canonisation.