In Italy of the 1600s, there was a Jesuit priest, Father Niccolo Zucchi who had awesome achievements to his name. This was the time of the Scientific Revolution and Father Zucchi was a polymath who made his best contribution to astronomy: he designed the curved glass that became the first reflecting telescope. When he was not studying the planets and observing the striped bands on Jupiter or the dark dune spots on Mars, he was a spiritual father to young people.  Father Zucchi was from a family of 8 children and all his siblings became priests and nuns. It was second nature to Zucchi to lead people into the nunnery or the seminary, and there came a time when he directed one young woman to join a convent. 

But before she entered, she had met a young man who fell madly in love with her. When she decided to become a nun, he hotly resented her decision to turn down his marriage proposal. The man was a noble and he and his family had quite a lot of clout. A deferential attitude was shown them and thus he was not easily brought to heel. When the young woman became a novice, the nobleman could not be restrained from sending her love letters and from sending her letters that scorned her vocation and attempted to break her will to be a bride of Christ and instead be his bride. 

Father Zucchi attempted to intervene and stop the nobleman from lobbying the young novice to be his love, but he was hellbent on trying to seduce her. Then Father Zucchi had a premonition that the nobleman was about to die and he cautioned him, "I assure you that before long you will appear before the tribunal of God, and it is high time for you to prepare yourself by sincere penance." The nobleman remained feckless in the face of this fatal warning. 

Father Zucchi's intuition came to pass, and the nobleman died suddenly only two weeks after their conversation. A while later, a strange figure in a heavy cloak came to the convent and requested a meeting with the young novice. She went to the parlor to meet her guest and found him pacing in a deliberate way around the room. This sight baffled her, and she asked, "Sir, who are you? And why did you send for me?" The cloaked man came near her and dramatically flung aside his cloak to reveal that he was the nobleman who had pursued her. He was trapped in chains of fire that fastened his neck, wrists, knees and ankles. "Pray for me!" he exclaimed and he vanished.

The nobleman had a hard Purgatory for having sought to steal a bride of Christ from her rightful vocation. He hadn't wanted God's will to be done, but he wanted his own will to reign in the life of the young nun. He had contempt for Christ in wanting Christ's bride to be his bride, and he plagued her with letters that sought to undermine her vocation and persuade her that she could do better with him than Christ. God is not mocked and the nobleman's arrogance was not expiated in this life, but the next.  

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Painting of Elena Anguissola dressed as a nun executed by Sofonisba Anguisciola in 1551. 


  1. It's not about me; it is about those whom I can help.

    1. Thank you for your comment, so key to the Christian life.


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