Biography on the life of Sister Elena Aiello - Early life
Some saints live a heroic holy life in an ordinary way and some in an extraordinary way. Sister Elena Aiello, who was the Foundress of the Minim Tertiaries of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and a contemplative soul and a martyr to suffering, was called to live both and it is through her charity that her true greatness is achieved. She was well known in Italy and much of Europe and had many visitors comparable to the crowds that visited Theresa Neumann and St. (Padre) Pio.
At a very young age, Elena lived a devout life and performed penances. An incident at the age of 9 illustrates her inclination to penance. After having received her first communion and attending a retreat, she and several other girls obtained permission to wear a penitential belt. On the way to getting the belt, she had an accident which caused her to lose her two front teeth. She put her bleeding teeth in a handkerchief and continued on in haste to get her penitential belt regardless of the blood and pain.
Another time she accidentally inhaled some water she was drinking from a glass while laughing. As a result, she experienced a constant cough for a year and a half except at night and the volume of her voice became lowered. She was given some treatments by a doctor but this caused her more pain. Eventually she prayed to Our Lady of Pompei, promising her that she would become a nun if cured. And in fact, Our Lady of Pompei appeared to her during the night and assured her that she would be healed –which she was.
Her Extraordinary Charity
Her reputation for her charitable activity became so well known that she was called to the bedside of another freemason dying of cancer who was in great fear for having betrayed God by becoming a freemason in order to support his family. She helped him to prepare for the worthy reception of the Sacraments such as Confession and Communion.
Her desire to become a religious sister
Her father gave his consent for her to be a religious on the condition - that she join the Sisters of
the Most Precious Blood. Before entering, she was prophetically told that she would not last in
this Order because God had other plans in store for her. While in the Order she was put in charge of sixteen postulants. But suffering took hold of her life almost immediately which was intestinal pain and a severe pain on the left shoulder. Eventually her shoulder became one solid black mass. She was eventually operated on without any anesthetic while holding a small wooden cross and looking at a picture of Our Lady of Sorrows. The physician, good intentioned but inept, in addition to cutting flesh also cut nerves that caused her lockjaw and a vomiting spell for 40 days.
Despite the pain, Elena’s intent was to take part in the upcoming religious clothing ceremony through sheer will-power but when the Father Director saw her in such a deplorable state, he couldn’t let her go through with it. What she feared would happen, did, she was asked to leave the convent and return home. However, Elena wrote in her notebook that Our Lord asked her on two occasions to accept His own designs with complete resignation and embrace His cross. Elena left in tears not realizing the great esteem in which she was held by everyone when they observed her good-nature and patience in suffering.
Her long period of suffering began and her dream of being a sister was fading away since now she couldn’t even retain liquid food. The doctor diagnosed her with stomach cancer and told her there was no cure and that she was going to die. Her characteristic frank response to him was, “My dear doctor, it is you, who are going to die: I will not die from this disease, because St. Rita is going to make me well”.
Called to suffer in reparation for the sins of the world
In the process of trying to fulfill her promises to St. Rita, she experienced other spiritual
phenomena. She told her confessor that Our Lord frequently admonished her to accept a new
way of suffering and that He said “You are going to suffer. But fear not. Yours shall not be
a malady but only the symbol of charity. I shall permit you to experience My very sadness
and on Friday you will be more united to Me.” During that winter she attended a Passionist
retreat which appealed to her because she was drawn to the Passion of Our Lord. She disclosed
some of the instructions from Our Lord and St. Rita to the priest who gave the retreat and he
enlightened and encouraged her.
As more of the news of what was happening to Elena spread, people began to discuss differing opinions about them. During this time, an extraordinary event took place which caused Elena to be known to many people far and wide. This phenomenon was to occur every year until her death.
Elena receives the Crown of Thorns and the Stigmata
Everyone was confused and badly shaken. The next Friday the doctor came again and saw the exact same thing take place. Her Confessor thinking it might be religious obsession took her Crucifix away from her and forbade her to read any books about the Passion of Jesus. Despite this it occurred again. The mother, at the request of her son a doctor, came to visit Elena and wiped some blood from her forehead with a handkerchief. She folded it because she thought it was contagious and presented it to him so for examination. When the doctor opened it, the handkerchief was completely clean and the doctor converted and was baptized as a result.
Elena complained to Our Lord on account of the bleeding but Our Lord told her in a vision that it was He who wished her to suffer as a victim for the sins of the world. She shouldn’t resent the fact that her crucifix was taken away from her because it was present in her heart. As a proof of this, He would give her a visible sign by making the wounds of His Passion to appear in her body. Elena, whose body became one mass of wounds, was told by Our Lord on another Friday, “You too must be like Me, because you are to be the victim for many a sinner and you must appease My Father’s Justice for their salvation.”
About five o’clock Jesus greeted her: “My child, behold how much I suffer. I have shed all
my blood for the world and yet everything goes to ruin. Nobody pays any attention to its
countless crimes. See how bitterly I suffer for the wrongs and contempt I receive from so
many wicked and immoral people.” Elena replied: “And what can I do, my Jesus? Unless You
come in person, no one will believe me.” Jesus replied: “There are so many sinners whose
obstinacy is the determinant cause for My Justice. But, my child, don’t feel discouraged,
because you will see Me again about one o’clock, and tell your Confessor I will give him a
sign on Friday at 2 o’clock.” Having said this, He disappeared. Her Confessor finally became
convinced that the mystical phenomena was from Our Lord.
All of the extraordinary activity didn’t interfere with her duties as the new Foundress and Superior General of a new Religious Community. No one was permitted to view her Good Friday agony out of curiosity and on Holy Saturday, she resumed her work and responsibilities as if nothing happened to her.
In addition to her physical sufferings she endured the bitter experience of humiliation because people kept calling on “the holy nun who sweats blood” to help them with their important business decisions.
Becomes a Foundress
Elena eventually would meet a woman named Gigia who had come to seek her advice about a
religious vocation. She too had been discharged from an order because of an illness. They talked
and become close and Elena realized that Gigia would be called to assist her in the charitable
work she was beginning. At first Gigia was doubtful that Elena, an invalid herself would even be
capable to help others.
The miraculous intercession of St Therese of Lisieux
It is not clear exactly when Elena officially became as religious sister but from this point on we refer to Elena as Sister Elena. Sister Elena and Sister Gigia settled into their new house. They began their apostolate which was to offer religious instruction to the children in their district who had been neglected. Their zeal was great to extend their work everywhere and so one day Sister Elena went into a protestant church assembly and in the presence of the minister exhorted the people to return to the Catholic Church. They sisters’ zeal resulted in having sinful marriages validated, children baptized and older people were helped to finally receive Holy Communion.Together they succeeded in converting a 14--old rascal who was reputed to be known as “Ciccio the Thief” to become converted, live a fervent life and to die a holy death at a young age.
The number of little orphans climbed to 26 and two more aspirants came to the order. A woman
doctor demanded that an investigation be made of the “woman with TB who was boarding old
people and little abandoned girls”. Upon examination of the situation, the accusations were found
to be without warrant and completely false.
St. Therese makes more appearence
One time St. Therese of the Infant Jesus appeared to several of the little ones who were praying while sewing in the work room. Sister Elena rushed downstairs to the shouts, “We have seen the Carmelite Saint!” Upon arriving, Sister Elena too saw the saint smiling at her.
The third intercession of St Therese was in fact a double miracle. God's Divine Providence never failed to take care of what was needed for the orphanage, even by means of extraordinary interventions. On September 11, 1935, Sister Elena spent a painful night. It so happened that there was no food on hand in the kitchen for the noon meal. Sister Angela asked Mother Elena for some money to purchase food, and Elena replied that she had none, but encouraged Sister Angela to trust in God and that He would surely provide for His children. In the meantime a Priest came in, requested to say Mass and walked to the Sacristy right away. Not having anything on hand, Sister Elena told Sister Angela to first go and hear Mass and that somehow the Lord would provide. Elena's prayer in union with that of the Sisters and of the orphan girls, was quickly heard. For right after the Elevation, a strong fragrance spread through the Chapel.
God protects His children
A man was peddling cheese as usual and was accompanied by his little daughter who was in rags
and forced her to go begging through the town. One day this scoundrel was just about to sell his
own daughter for 30 lire when Sister Elena overheard them bargaining and notified the Counselor across the street to ask for his help. The two bargaining men suddenly vanished leaving the little girl alone. Sister Elena promptly took her home and was ordered by the district attorney to keep the girl despite any possible protest from her father which in fact did happen when he tried to forcibly abduct the little girl. Sister Elena however was successful in wresting her from his hands.
However, afterward another Shepherd was confronted with more grievances and accusations against that “encroaching Nun who loved to pass as a saint and preyed on the people’s good faith to the harm of other Institutes as well as by her phenomena by the distribution of St. Rita’s concoctions and by her subterfuge of so-called girls’ welfare”. The Archbishop listened benevolently to Sister Elena and decisively put an end to the stealthy maneuvers and upheld the rights of truth and justice.
The Graces of God Miracles of Divine Providence
The donations that that she did receive were unfortunately disproportionate to the daily expenses necessary to run their Order. Once when they ran out of food, Sister Elena’s sisters and the orphans prayed for help and after the elevation of the Blessed Sacrament they smelled a strong fragrance throughout the church. Sister Elena knew that their prayer was answered. While reciting the Office of the Blessed Virgin she suddenly spotted a 50 lire bill between the prayer card of Our Lady of Sorrows and that of St. Therese. The amazing thing was that she had been on the same page the previous evening and it wasn’t there before.
Sister Elena used the money for the day’s needs and then went back into the chapel and prayed aloud in front of everyone for another 50 lire as a sign that it was indeed from Divine Providence and not left by someone else and it happened again in the same book.
Prophecies revealed to Elena
In 1940, Sister Elena was directed by Our Lord to take a more public role and to deliver a
message to Premier Benito Mussolini, telling him not to join with Hitler in World War II.
Otherwise, Italy would suffer a terrible defeat and Mussolini would be punished by Divine Justice and have a speedy downfall. But he ignored the warning, and all that was foretold came to pass.
This letter was delivered on MAY 6, 1940 to the Duce's sister, Donna Edvige who handed it to Mussolini.
“The world is going to ruin because of its many sins, particularly the sins of impurity, which have presently exceeded the very limits before the Justice of My Heavenly father. Therefore, you shall suffer and shall become an atoning victim for the world, especially for Italy where My Vicar on earth resides. My Kingdom is a Kingdom of peace: whereas the whole world is entangled in war. The Nations’ Rulers are bent on acquiring new possessions: Poor fools! They don’t know that, when there is no God, there is no victory either. Their hearts are filled with wickedness. All they do is to outrage, ridicule and despise Me. They are like devils sowing dissension, subverting people and seeking to drive into the sinful scourge of war even Italy, where God is pleased with many souls, and where My Vicar on earth, the Pastor Angelicas, resides. France, so dear to My Heart, shall soon fall to ruin on account of her many sins, and shall be overthrown and ravaged like the ungrateful Jerusalem. I sent Benito Mussolini to preserve Italy from the precipice because of My Vicar on earth: otherwise, by now, she would be worse off than Russia”.
“I have always shielded him from many dangers. He must now keep Italy out of war, because Italy is a civilized country and it is the dwelling place of My Vicar on earth. If he is willing to do this, he shall receive many favors and I shall make all Nations respect him. But since he has made up his mind to go to war, tell him that, if he doesn’t prevent it, he will be punished by My Divine Justice”.
3 years later sister Elena wrote to Mussolini's sister, Donna Edvige
My dear Donna Edvige:
Naturally, we are far from comfortable, but we are offering up all to God for the preservation of Italy. The purpose of this letter is that I wish to make another appeal to you, just as I did in the month of May 1940, when I was introduced to you in Rome by Baroness Ruggi for the purpose of giving you in writing whatever God had revealed to me concerning the Duce. If you recall, on May 6, 1940, we were saying that the Duce had made up his mind to go to war, whereas, the Lord had warned him in my letter to keep Italy out of war, otherwise His Divine Justice would strike him. “I have always rescued him -said Jesus- from many a danger: now it is up to him to save Italy from the scourge of war because Italy is the dwelling place of My Vicar on earth. If he complies with My request, I will bestow great blessings on him and I shall cause all Nations to respect him, but, since he is determined to go to ward, I want him to know that, if he persists, he will be severely punished by My Justice.”
Therefore, my dear Donna Edvige, please tell the Duce, in my name, that this is God’s last warning to him. He is still in time to save himself by leaving all things in the hands of the Holy Father. Should be unwilling to do so – said the Lord – divine Justice shall quickly reach him. The other rulers also, who play deaf to the counsel and directives of My Vicar, shall be overtaken and punished by My Justice.
My dear Donna Edvige, please remember that whatever Our Lord revealed to me has been perfectly fulfilled. Who has been the cause of all this ruin to Italy? Is it not the Duce’s fault? Didn’t he refuse to listen to the warnings of Our Lord Jesus Christ? Even now, he could
The losses during the war and bombardments were heavy. Many of the sewing and knitting machines that the orphan girls were trained to use and had won prizes at several exhibitions were destroyed in the war. The reconstruction period was slow but benefactors helped by making generous donations. One day Sister Elena was crossing the street with a little girl and was hit by a bus barely saving the little girl. Sister sustained several fractures and could hardly stand and was in a great deal of pain. She was unable to retain any food again but longed for Holy Communion daily. She wasn’t able to get to the Mass chapel and had to have communion brought to her. On feast days Mass was celebrated in her cell.
She continued to conduct the business of the house from her bed dictating letters and responding to correspondence from all over Italy and even North America. Many people begged for her prayers and sought advice. She was particularly noted for her charity in her letters that brought consolation to the downhearted. She was always available to all those who came to see her about the important business of the Institute or who were seeking relief in their trials or hopeless situation. When people ran to her when in misfortune, like a good mother, she never minded the time: she aimed only at preparing people to accept suffering and misfortune in a spirit of resignation to the loving Will of God. She knew how to listen and when to speak. She was a truly compassionate soul. She kindled the flame of resignation and hope in anguished souls. Many families also believed that she acted as a lightening rod for their safety, so great was theirconfidence in her.
Visit from a soul in Purgatory
On one occasion an orphan boy was about to be transferred by a Monsignor to another Institute. A lady whose son Franco had died dreamed about her late mother who told her not to weep but to go to Sister’s Institute where there was another boy named Franco. The couple came and made legal arrangements to adopt him. Years later Franco came back to visit Sister Elena who remarked how he grew up to look like a real gentleman.
The Holy Face of Jesus appears in blood on a wall panel next to Elena
It was damp and cold in the bedroom where the mystical phenomenon of Sister Elena occurred.
A masonite panel was put on the wall to protect her from it. On Good Friday drops of blood
squirted from her face onto the panel then dried up. One day after praying for St. Michael’s
intercession, suddenly a flash of light appeared on the panel with more blood. Blood also soaked
the coverlet close to the panel. They were astonished to see the forms of a cross, a crown and a
heart form on the linen. Blood continued to flow from the panel and even though Sister Elena
washed the panel with water seven times the blood continued to flow during the day especially
on Feast days of Our Lord such as the Holy Cross, the Sacred Heart, the Most Precious Blood
of Jesus etc.
Gradually the features of a face started to appear clearer and more distinctly on the
panel. It was the rough image of Jesus’ Holy Face during His Passion with blood flowing from
His eyes. Many tests were made by physicians, chemists and others. All agreed it was human
blood that formed the image and there was no possible human explanation for what was taking
place. This phenomenon continued at intervals during the succeeding years up to Sister Elena’s
Messages from the Blessed Virgin Mary
“The powers of evil are getting ready to strike furiously in every part of the globe. Tragic events are in store for the future. For quite a while, and in many a way, I have warned the world. The nation’s rulers do indeed understand the gravity of these dangers, but they refuse to acknowledge that it is necessary for all people to practice a truly Christian life to counteract that scourge. Oh, what torture I feel in my heart, on beholding mankind so engrossed in all kinds of things and completely ignoring the most important duty of their reconciliation with God. The time is not far off now when the whole world shall be greatly disturbed. A great deal of blood of just and innocent people as well as saintly priests will be poured out. The Church shall suffer very much and hatred will be at its very peak”. “Italy shall be humiliated and purged in her blood. She shall suffer very much indeed on account of the multitude of sins committed in this privileged nation, the abode of the Vicar of Christ”.
Her Holy Death
In the eyes of God her mission was completed and so Sister Elena Aiello was called to God on June 19, 1961. She flew to Heaven at dawn when everyone was at rest. Her soul went to meet her Divine Spouse, holding in her hand, the oil-filled brightly burning lamp. In life she was heard saying more than once: “Even from my tomb I shall raised my voice against anyone daring to oppose the charitable goal of my Community.”
She acted toward God with complete surrender, childlike abandon and spoke with sincerity, candor and simplicity. She denounced injustice and exploiters even at the cost of humiliations and misunderstandings. She was a strong woman of the Baptist and Catherine type. She kept her rosary beads wrapped around her wrists so as to be able to say it at any free moment. She kept the church beautiful with fresh flowers and observed the solemnities and sacred functions with fervor. The only thing she really dreaded and abhorred was the evil of sin which she fought wherever she found it. She had a motherly compassion for sinners and for their salvation and never spared prayers tears or pains.
Her life can be summed up in this - that she always was concerned for the welfare of others spiritually or physically over her own, and even of her God since she was heard to cry out several times: “How light is this crown of thorns on my head! How small, O my God is this torture compared to Yours!”
In April 2011, Pope Benedict XVI approved the petition allowing for the Beatification of Venerable Elena Aiello. She was declared Blessed on September 14, 2011.