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Atheist turned mystic: The amazing story of Itala Mela

ITALA MELA
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She took as her motto "Lord, I shall follow You unto the darkness, unto death."

Born to atheist parents in 1904, Itala Mela was primarily raised by her Catholic grandparents. They helped Mela prepare for her First Communion and Confirmation, receiving both sacraments in 1915. However, a tragic event in her life radically changed her views about God.

When she was 15 years old her younger brother (age 9) died and this left a deep whole in her heart. She wrote about her feelings at that time, “After his death, nothing.”

Her atheism persisted for several years until, at the age of 18, she had a profound spiritual experience. It occurred on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and afterwards she was firm in her resolution and declared, “Lord, I shall follow You unto the darkness, unto death.”

She then became a member of the Italian Catholic Federation of University Students (FUCI) and attended the University of Genoa. It was during the meetings of the FUCI that she met Don Giovanni Battista Montini, who later became Pope Paul VI. Montini proved to leave a deep impression on Mela.

As she progressed in the spiritual life she had another mystical experience, described as a luminous beam of light that shot from the tabernacle and into her heart. She wrote afterwards, “The will of Christ, which I feel in the depths of my soul, is to drag me, to immerse myself with Himself in the abysses of the Holy Trinity … It is useless to look for other ways: this is what He has chosen for my sanctification.”

Feeling called to the religious life, she tried to enter a Benedictine convent, but health did not allow her to remain. Instead she became a Benedictine Oblate and consecrated herself to the Holy Trinity.

She composed many profound spiritual writings and continued to have spiritual visions and ecstasies. Mela even proposed a special memorial to Mary of the Trinity to Pope Pius XII, which he approved in 1941.

Mela died in 1957 at the age of 52. Pope Francis commented on her beatification at a Sunday Angelus.

Dear brothers and sisters, yesterday in La Spezia, Itala Mela was beatified. She was raised in a family far removed from the faith; in her youth she professed to be an atheist, but converted after an intense spiritual experience. She worked among Catholic university students; she then became a Benedictine Oblate and followed a mystic path centred on the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, which we celebrate today in a special way. May the witness of the new Blessed encourage us, during our days, to turn our thought often to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who abides in the chamber of our heart.

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