Sweet Christ, I need to talk with You. I need You to tell me what I’m supposed to ask You for. I just don’t know.
You’re not unaware of the sadness in my heart. Put Your hand on it. You know my roots well. You know how they were planted, how they grew, and how they were disseminated. These roots of mine took my heart and mind, and bound my soul with a chain of love. Jesus, Cultivator of virtues, don’t let the root planted in my heart dry out. Help it spread.
The root is the heart’s intent. It’s led by love to do good. If my root pleases You, Lord, make its branches sprout, so everyone can see the leaves, flowers, and fruit growing and praising Your name. The root is always covered with earth, and it can only be judged by the tree. If good fruit grows, then the root is genuine.
—Umiltà of Faenza, Sermons
I had never heard of this woman. Thanks to Carmen Acevedo Butcher’s wonderful collection, A Little Daily Wisdom: Christian Women Mystics, I have access to Umiltà and various others. Today I borrow Carmen’s description of our mystic. If you want to buy Carmen’s book (and I suggest you do—it’s a reading for every day of the year, all women mystics), then follow this link.
St. Umiltà of Faenza (1226–1310). Born “Rosanese” into a wealthy family of Faenza, Umiltà had no desire to marry, but her father died when she was fifteen, and her family’s failing finances forced her to do just that. She became a Benedictine nun after her infant children died and her husband contracted what was probably a sexually transmitted disease. Umiltà was a recluse for a time before she began founding new houses for women in Faenza and Florence. She served as the Abbess of Vallombrosen, a reform order in Tuscany with a rule based on the Rule of Benedict, but with a greater emphasis on asceticism and penance. She has fifteen surviving Latin “sermons.”
How is this mystic’s story not so different from the stories of women you have known? Her context was quite different from ours, but reversals and resurrections happen in every context.