In an age plagued by dysfunctional families, it is refreshing to read of a troubled couple who finally became a source of sanctity to each other.
In April 1994, Pope John Paul II beatified a matron who qualifies as an exemplary wife and mother. Elizabeth Canori was herself the child of an admirable Catholic couple. Born in Rome on November 21, 1774, she was sent to a convent school in Cascia. During her three years there, the Augustinian Sisters were impressed by her high intelligence, spirituality and self-denial. On her return to Rome, she only increased in wisdom and good deeds. In 1796 she married Christoforo Mora, a fledgling lawyer.
Elizabeth had chosen her mate with deliberation but after only a few months he showed signs of personal instability. Swept off his feet by a woman of lower estate, he deceived his wife and alienated himself from his family, even failing to provide for it.
Though battered and disdained, Signora Mora stuck by the rules of Christian fidelity and selfgiving. She almost died in 1801, but was mysteriously cured, and in this connection experienced her first mystical experience. Of their four children, two girls survived. She supported them by manual labor, not neglecting meanwhile the regular domestic chores. Prayer and care of the sick and poor took up the rest of her everydays.
There are some persons to whom those in need naturally turn for assistance and strength. Elizabeth was such a person, and many sought her out for material and spiritual aid. She was especially attentive to other troubled families. The human family, she firmly believed, was the unit of society where peace could best be achieved through the practice of faith, responsibility and mutual affection. She struggled to maintain that atmosphere in her own home, and to communicate it to other households. For her, the model family was that of Nazareth, in which Jesus himself, as the central figure, set the tone for all the rest. In fact, she offered her whole life for the peace of the household of the faith, which is the Church; for the conversion of her husband who had betrayed his own family; and for the salvation of all sinners.
The Trinitarian Friars have a third order. Signora Mora joined this secular fraternity in 1807. Under the guidance of the friars, she developed still more profoundly in her vocation to family life. Now her reputation for goodness and holiness became even more widely respected, not only in Rome but in its suburban cities.
Marianna and Luciana Mora showed themselves her true daughters when they took care of their mother during her last illness. She died on February 5, 1825, and was buried in the Trinitarian Friars’ church in Rome. Before her death she had predicted that Cristoforo, the husband of her grief, would eventually come to his senses. Her constant prayer for his conversion was answered shortly after she died. The straying lawyer made his peace with God, and himself joined the Trinitarian Third Order. Later on he entered the Conventual Franciscans, and was ordained a priest, dying in 1845.
Fidelity in marriage is not an easy virtue, but it is a creative one. Cristoforo Mora learned that only gradually. His wife, early aware of the need to imitate Christ’s own commitment, was truly “faithful until death.”
–Father Robert F McNamara