By Jesús Colina
ROME, NOV. 5, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Thousands in Italy are mourning the death of a wife and mother of five, the founder of the Cenacles of Prayer, who is considered a modern mystic.
Six Italian bishops and more than 100 priests celebrated the funeral of Natuzza Evolo on Tuesday in Calabria. Some 30,000 mourners came to pay their respects.
"For us she is already a saint, as she is in paradise," said Bishop Luigi Renzo of Mileto in his homily.
According to the testimony of numerous persons who went to ask her for her prayers and advice, bleeding wounds would appear on her body during Lent for which no scientific justification was ever found.
It has been said that she often suffered the stigmata, and that she experienced moments of mystical rapture. The Italian bishops' Avvenire news reported that the first known time that this occurred, doctors spent seven hours trying to ascertain what was happening to her.
The most significant case was reported in 1944, when Evolo revealed that she had had a vision in which she was asked to build "a large house to alleviate the needs of young people, the sick and the needy, with a large church that is to be called 'Immaculate Heart of Mary, Refuge of Souls.'"
On May 13, 1987, the then Bishop Domenico Tarcisio Cortese of Mileto, approved the birth of an association, today a foundation, which took that name and which seeks, among other things, to carry out this work.
The funeral liturgy for Evolo, who died on Nov. 1 at 85, was celebrated outdoors in front of the construction works of that institution in Paravati, a small village near Mileto. When the news of her death was announced -- it was All Saints day -- the festive bells pealed.
"I am asked what the Church thinks of Mama Natuzza and the answer is in the participation in this ceremony of so many brother bishops," said Bishop Renzo in the funeral homily.
Together with the prelate on the altar, the five other bishops were the pastors of the Dioceses of Locri-Gerace, Catanzaro-Squillace, and Lamezia Terme, as well as two retired bishops.
Evolo, the wife of a carpenter and mother of five, experienced inexplicable phenomena starting in adolescence.
"They are very suggestive phenomena, one could even call it sensationalism, but these are marginal," Bishop Renzo suggested. "Natuzza is not great because of these phenomena, even if they are overwhelming. Natuzza is great because of her faith, her love, her total 'yes' to the suffering Jesus."
The prelate revealed in the homily that "Natuzza, woman of frail health but strong because of her faith, showed her courage and her greatness of spirit, above all at the moment of her death. At that moment, she witnessed to me and to all those who approached her bed of agony, her spiritual level and how her faith and love meant everything to her."
By Jesús Colina