Venerable Maria Celeste Crostarosa was born in Naples, of a noble family, on October 31, 1696. Baptized Julia Marcella Santa, she was the tenth of twelve children. She was idolized by her siblings for being a lively youngster, vivacious, sensitive, and of good intellect. By the age of five or six, Julia began to experience an unusual sense of intimacy with Jesus, ‘…knowledge of His divinity in such a sweet way that she conceived the idea of loving and serving Him.’ At the age of twenty, she and her sister entered the Carmel of Marigliano, but the monastery was suppressed because of outside interference from a local Duchess necessitating their departure after only five years in religious life. But while still there, Julia had met Monsignor Thomas Falcoia, who was giving the community a retreat. He suggested that it was the Will of God that she and her sisters – another younger sister had joined the two – should go to a monastery in Scala where he had reformed a community to the spirit and practice of the Visitation Congregation.
As a Novice named Sr. Maria Celeste, she received a revelation and was ‘made to understand God’s plans for a new institute which the Lord would place in the world by means of her which would have for its laws and rules His very life.’ Under the direction of Monsignor Falcoia, and with the enlightened support of St. Alphonsus Liguori, the Visitation convent was reformed according to the Rule Celeste had received from the Lord on April, 25, 1725.
The Order of the Most Holy Redeemer was officially founded on the Feast of Pentecost, May 13, 1731. The vocation of the Sisters was to be a ‘living memory of Jesus.’ On the Feast of the Transfiguration the Sisters received the dark red habit, the color of love, which reminds the world of God’s deep and infinite love for all humankind. Sister Celeste had another revelation which she shared with Alphonsus Liguori. He was to form a parallel men’s institute to ‘Go and preach to every creature that the Kingdom of God has come upon you.’ This coincided with his inspired desire to form a congregation dedicated to the preaching the love of God to the poor and most abandoned.
When Monsignor Falcoia, now a bishop, wanted to alter the Rule and be the only spiritual director for the entire community, Celeste resisted out of obedience to her conscience. She was forced to leave the monastery with her sisters on May 25, 1733. After five years spent in reforming a monastery at a Bishop’s request, she finally realized her dream of living the Rule the Lord had given her by establishing her own monastery in Foggia, near the Adriatic coast.
The spiritual journey of Maria Celeste, favored as it was with many mystical experiences is also characterized by obedience to conscience, by a constant search for the meaning of the Gospel, and simplicity of life. Maria Celeste Crostarosa died on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, September 14, 1755. Her earthly remains are venerated to this day in the monastery of Foggia.
Quotes from Ven. M. Celeste’s Autobiography in Italics
To read more about Our Foundress click on Publications.