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Saint of the week

The disfigured, kind-hearted saint

St Seraphina (March 12) was devoted to St Gregory the Great

By on Thursday, 6 March 2014

Announcement of Death to St Seraphina by St Gregory the Great, painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Announcement of Death to St Seraphina by St Gregory the Great, painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio

St Seraphina was born in 1238 in San Gimignano, Tuscany, to a poor family. She suffered from a rare disease which left her severely disfigured, with deformed eyes, hands and feet, leading to total paralysis.

St Seraphina was devoted to St Gregory the Great and died on his feast day in 1253 after a warning from him in a dream that she would die on that day. (St Gregory’s feast day was celebrated in those times on March 12, the day of his death in 604.)

There is little record of the first 10 years of Seraphina’s life, other than she only left the house in order to attend Mass, was very devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary and was extremely kind-hearted.

When Seraphina became very ill in 1248 she refused a bed and chose to lie instead on a wooden pallet. During her illness her father died, followed by her mother who suffered a fatal fall. But throughout Seraphina continued to thank God and pray that her soul would separate from her body so that she could meet Jesus.

Her witness and devotion inspired the people of San Gimignano, who paid her regular visits in order to hear her words of encouragement
and total acceptance of God’s will. On March 4 1253, after five years of sickness, Seraphina’s nurses reported that St Gregory the Great appeared in the girl’s room and predicted she would die on March 12. She passed away on his predicted date at the age of 15.

When Seraphina died her body was removed from the wooden pallet and visitors said they saw fresh violets bloom from the wood. Violets still flourish today in San Gimignano, where they are known St Fima violets.

When Seraphina’s body was transferred to the Collegiate Church of San Gimignano, the locals shouted: “The young saint is dead!”
Following her burial, people who visited her grave said they were cured of their diseases.

Although she was never canonised, St Seraphina is celebrated in San Gimignano on March 12. This has been an official festive day since 1481.