St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parish Community

St. Lucy Filippini

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The Life of St. Lucy Filippini

Lucy Filippini was born on January 13, 1672 in Corneto-Tarquinia - a city that existed centuries before Rome was built. She had not yet reached her first birthday when her mother died and was buried in the Church of San Marco. Her father, whom she loved dearly, also died six years later and was buried in the Church of Santa Margherita in Corneto. Now orphaned, Lucy went to live with her aunt and uncle. As a child Lucy would prepare small altars and pray devoutly. It was soon clear that she possessed a precocious intelligence, an inclination toward the spiritual life, and a modesty that was truly angelic. Her vision was set on God. Notwithstanding her aristocratic upbringing, she always conducted herself with modesty and its practice.


At times Lucy would seek for a serene atmosphere in the nearby Benedictine Nuns' Monastery of Santa Lucia where the daughters of the nobility were educated. Lucy visited frequently, drawn there by her desire to be among those whose lives and goodness she admired. It was here that she received her First Communion. Here, too, Lucy received the spiritual nourishment of which she never had enough and listened attentively to the explanations of the divine mysteries. The grace she felt can be understood from the joy and enthusiasm expressed later as she led and instructed others. Desirous of penetrating the innermost meaning of the truths brought by Christ to mankind, she showed in her speech and her understanding a wisdom beyond her years. She spoke with much fervor, and her words of compassion and love brought tears to the eyes of her companions. They were a prelude to Lucy's future mission.  


When Cardinal Mark Anthony Barbarigo made his first pastoral visit to Corneto, he made a lasting impression on Lucy and she followed him to Montefiascone. Entrusting herself to the Cardinal's guidance, Lucy was eager to leave behind all worldly things. Lucy had a special devotion to Our Lady, her spiritual mother, and throughout her life her deep love for Mary and her faith sustained her when Cardinal Barbarigo's plans were to be implemented in his dioceses. He had envisioned her as a key factor to bring about a rebirth of Christian living. He had already begun by establishing a seminary where young priests might study and train for the ministry of the Word.


The next step was to develop a Christian conscience and encourage the practice of virtue in the home; this he resolved to do by opening schools for young ladies, particularly the children of the poor, in whom he saw hope for the future. Lucy would head the schools they founded to promote the dignity of womanhood and help influence a healthy family life. Together they looked ahead to fulfilling their generous, ardent and profound mission of faith and charity. In 1692, teachers were trained to staff the rapidly expanding schools.


The young ladies of Montefuscione were taught domestic arts, weaving, embroidering, reading, and Christian doctrine. Twelve years later the Cardinal devised a set of rules to guide Lucy and her followers in the religious life. Fifty-two schools were established during Lucy's lifetime. As the Community grew, it attracted the attention of Pope Clement XI who, in 1707, called Lucy to Rome to start schools, which he placed under his special protection. Here she completed the work of founding the schools.  


To complement the work of the schools, Lucy and her Teachers conducted classes and conferences for women, who were strengthened in their faith as they took part in prayer, meditation, and good works. Her focus for the social apostolate was to encourage her Teachers to minister to the needs of the poor and the sick. Her method of teaching attracted widespread attention.  


History records that Saint Paul of the Cross was ''pleased to discover, even in the most humble villages, small and fervent centers of spiritual renewal where...the Religious Teachers kept alive the flame of faith, a wholesome fear of God, and an appreciation of educated life.'' Lucy's spiritual and educational adventure resulted in countless conversions through the gift of grace. The social apostolate was an extension of the classroom. She testified that the young ladies were the coordinating element that underlies family life: ''Having learned in school those things that were necessary, they repeat them to parents and relatives at home and thus become so many young teachers.''


Lucy died at sixty years of age, March 25, 1732, on Feast of the Annunciation For three centuries the example of Christian womanhood that marked the lives of her Teachers and students was recognized by Holy Mother Church. In 1930, Lucy Filippini's saintly life was adequately acknowledged. Not only was she officially declared a Saint of the Church, but she was given the last available niche in the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome. The Institute, which bears the name of Lucy Filippini, owes its birth to the solicitous good shepherd who loved schools and to the holy teacher who committed her entire life to the educative-apostolic mission.  

This mission initiated by the Cardinal and Lucy 300 years ago, continues today through the schools and the Religious Family to which they gave life. Its mission has spread beyond Italy into Europe, the United States of American Brazil, Ethiopia and India.






1. Early Life

     When word of Cardinal Mark Anthony Barbarigo’s

saintly death on May 26, 1706, spread far and wide, people

hastened to Montefiascone to pay homage and express

tributes of affection as they prayed to their saintly leader

and father. Excitement filled the air as people spoke of

miracles which were recorded by his contemporaries. The

consensus was that they had lost their protector and friend.


     Three hundred years have passed since Cardinal

Barbarigo’s death and still devotion to him remains the

same: Church officials, clergy, religious, young and old of

the diocese of Montefiascone continue to pray for his

beatification and canonization.


     Born in Venice, March 6, 1640, Mark Anthony

Barbarigo spent his adolescence and youth in study, prayer

and charitable works. His parents belonged to the Venetian

nobility. His father was a member of the Doge who

represented the people. As a young boy he accompanied

his mother and brought food and clothing to the poor and

abandoned in Venice. When his father died, young Mark

Anthony joined the Grand Council of the Republic of



     At 25 years of age, he joined the Venetian Senate,

but soon renounced his diplomatic career to follow his

vocation to the priesthood. In 1678, he was consecrated

bishop and elected Archbishop of Corfu. In 1686 he was

elevated to the Cardinalate and a year later solemnly

entered the United Dioceses of Montefiascone and Corneto-



2. Bishop and Cardinal


     A distinguished churchman, Mark Anthony

Barbarigo looked to the future of the Church with an

attentive and vigilant eye. He called for moral reform,

arranged that missions be scheduled for all the towns of the

Diocese. He was ingenious in finding ways to improve the

morals of society and frequently reminded his priest: “The

Church of Christ is not a garden in which to rest, but a

vineyard in which to labor.”


     In the solitude of a retreat, he wrote: “Being a

Bishop consists in serving people, helping the poor,

weeding our vice, implanting virtue and wiping away

scandal at the cost of personal suffering and persecution, at

the cost even of one’s life.”


     Cardinal Barbarigo was a good and watchful

shepherd of his flock-the saintly shepherd who spent

himself for his flock. When advised to moderate his

activities, he would invariably reply: “A Bishop who did

not die with crozier in hand was not a good bishop.”


    He literally despoiled himself of his own

belongings to take care of the poor and lavished his

attention on the elderly, the incapacitated and the sick.

In times of disasters-for example, the earthquake of

1695 and the epidemic that devastated the Venetian Fleet-

Cardinal Barbarigo’s gentleness and charity reached heroic

proportions. He opened his residence to the victims and

provided beds, doctors and medicine. He became their

pastor, nurse and loving father.


3. The Founding of Schools

     Cardinal Mark Anthony Barbarigo discerned the

need and right of young girls and women to be educated.

With great wisdom and foresight he prepared a young lady,

Lucy Filippini, to open schools in the Diocese of

Montefiascone. Gradually eleven schools were founded

where children learned the tenets of Christian Doctrine,

reading and writing.


     Not only did children thrive under Lucy’s

supervision, but she and her teachers also conducted

evening classes to instruct young women. The Cardinal’s

esteem for Lucy was such that her biographer wrote in

1732: “Whenever a scandal occurred in Montefiascone, for

example, if a woman or girl was in danger of going astray,

Lucy was sent to assist her.”


     Before making his visitations of the diocese, he

would ask Lucy to go ahead of him, either to prepare the

people by her spiritual exercises to draw fruit from his visit,

or to discover and report to him anything that needed to be

put right by his authority.” It is interesting to note that her

biographer wrote: “For such journeys, made by Lucy for the

good of souls, the Cardinal would not let her travel on foot.


     He put his own carriage at her disposal...”

While generous with others, Cardinal Barbarigo

was thrifty in his own regard and resolved that “not a cent

be spent for his own comfort.” He was detached from his

own relatives and would often say that his “income was the

property of the Church’ and could not be distributed except

to the poor. With utter disregard for his own needs, his

entire patrimony was consumed to provide for the seminary,

for the poor and for the Religious Teachers. He used to say

that “it is a Bishop’s glory to die with nothing to his name.”


     Love of God and love of neighbor were so

powerful, so singular and outstanding in Cardinal Barbarigo

as to set him apart as an extraordinary man in a critical and

decadent age. He taught that age how to practice the

commandments of love of God and neighbor.