IT MAKES SENSE TO ME
By Larry Peterson
Pierina Morosini and Antonia Mesina were two women from Italy. Born a generation apart they led strikingly similar lives. Pierina was the oldest of eight children and had to work and help her mother with her younger siblings. Antonia was the second born of ten children and was also required to help her mother with the younger children.
Both young women were exemplary Catholics and were determined to live chaste lives. Both were martyred “in defensum castitatis” (in defense of purity), Antonia in 1935 and Pierina in 1957. They were both declared Blessed on October 4, 1987 by Pope St. John Paul II. Even though their stories are similar they are also separate and unique. As a writer, I felt they each deserved individual space. This is about Antonia. (Pierina’s story is in another article).
Antonia was born on June 21, 1919, in Orgosolo, a town high up in the mountains of Sardinia. She was the second of ten children. Her dad was a corporal in the cavalry who helped guard the town perimeter and her mom did her best to teach her children the Catholic faith. As was the custom at the time Antonia was baptized at the age of nine days and confirmed the following year.
Antonia was admired by her teachers and liked by all her classmates. She was kind and studied hard and was very respectful of others. When she was in fourth grade her mom developed a serious heart condition. The doctors ordered her to bed and Antonia was forced to leave school and take over her mother’s duties. The young girl had to do the cooking, the cleaning, the baking, the laundry and go to the market. Her mom called her ,”the flower of my life”. Antonia never complained and always seemed to manage a smile.
Every week Antonia had to bake the bread for the family. This was not a simple process. It included gathering the firewood and grinding the grain into flour. This was, indeed, making something from “scratch”. On May 17, 1935, Antonia asked her friend, Annedda, if she would go with her to help her gather wood from the forest. Annedda agreed and off they went.
As they walked along, Antonia, who had joined Catholic Action a few years earlier, was trying to convince Annedda, that she should join too. Antonia was very enthusiastic about the spiritual benefits received and about all the good works that Catholic Action brought to members. She told her how they even were taught catechism at their meetings.
When they had gathered up enough wood they began their return walk home. Annedda noticed a young man in the woods nearby. She recognized him from school and knew it was Ignazio. When she looked again he was gone. A few minutes later Antonia screamed. The young man had snuck up behind Antonia and wrestled her to the ground. He was determined to have his way with the 15 year-old but she fought him furiously.
Twice Antonia managed to break free while Annedda ran screaming through the woods for someone to help them. The third time Ignazio managed to subdue her. She was fighting against his advances so hard that he went into a rage. He grabbed a nearby rock and began beating Antonia in the head with it. Over and over he pounded the innocent teenager until she stopped moving. It was discovered later that he had hit her 74 times. It was also found that she had never been violated.
Ignazio tried to deny his involvement but Annedda was able to identify him. In addition, his bloody clothes, which he tried to hide, were found near his home. The 19 year-old was sentenced to death and executed by firing squad on August 5, 1937.
Antonia Mesina’s beatification process began under Pope John Paul I in September of 1978 and she was declared a “Servant of God”. She was declared Venerable Antonia Mesina in 1986 and Pope St. John Paul II declared she had died “in defensum castitatis’ in May of 1987. She and Pierina Morosini were beatified together, two young women who gave their lives for Jesus rather than submit to being forcibly assaulted.
Blessed Antonia Mesina and Blessed Pierina Morosini, please pray for us.