Wednesday, September 14, Venerable Elena Aiello (1895-1961), will be declared a Blessed. She was the Foundress of the Minim Tertiaries of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a mystic, visionary, and stigmatist.
I was delighted to hear this news, especially because my mother, her friends Rita and Anthony Lombardi, and I were privileged to have about an hour’s visit with an elderly Italian diocesan priest who had been assigned by either Pope John XXIII or Pius XII to investigate the case of Mother Aiello and discern whether or not she was a genuine victim soul, an impostor, or diabolically possessed. Monsignor Francis Cassano, a very devout and discerning priest, determined she was truly a chosen victim soul, and, more, a partaker of the corporal and spiritual passion of Christ. He showed us a portfolio of photographs he had of Mother Aiello going through the passion on a Friday from noon to three o’clock. Beginning with the crowning of thorns, then the scourging, then the opening of her shoulder, and finally the piercing of her hands and feet, each stage of the Savior’s torments marked her body and left her and the sheets around her covered in blood. In the final photo, taken a moment after three o’clock, there was no blood anywhere, either on the saint or on the bed.
One of the things that struck me, after reading an account of her life, is that Our Lord asked His beloved daughter to share in His soul’s interior passion and His abandonment on the cross, as we read in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, “He began to grow sorrowful and to be sad. My soul is sorrowful even unto death” (Matt. 26:37-38). And again, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (27:46)
The author of this brief account, who wishes only to be known as Elizabeth, took her material from Monsignor Francesco Spadafora’s The Incredible Life Story of Sister Elena Aiello, The Calabrian Holy Nun (1895-1961).” The biography was written by in Italian and was translated into English by Monsignor Angelo R. Cioffi.
What occasioned our visit with Monsignor Cassano at his parish somewhere on the north shore of the Hudson River (I’ve forgotten where) in 1973 was not to inquire about Mother Aiello. We had never heard of her. Rather, it was because my hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Lombardi, had heard from their friends, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Still River, Massachusetts, that this Monsignor, a confidant of the two popes I mentioned above, had been assigned by John XXIII to examine Father Leonard Feeney’s book, Bread of Life. The Slaves had told the Lombardis that Monsignor Cassano gave the book a green light, assuring Pope John that there was nothing in it “contrary to the Faith.” I heard the same myself that day, first hand, from the good Monsignor. Notwithstanding however, with the unjust “excommunication” of Father still in effect when his book was “cleared,” any request for an imprimatur from the local bishop (Worcester, Massachusetts) would have been futile.
The following biography of Blessed Elena Aiello is from the website Mystics of the Church.