On January 30, Franciscans honor the memory of St. Hyacintha Mariscotti (1585-1640), a sister of the Third Order Regular. Hyacintha entered the convent as a young woman, but her path to deep, authentic religious conversion was hardly typical.
Born Clarice Mariscotti to a noble family near Viterbo, Italy, she was educated at a Franciscan convent there. Returning to her family, Clarice had her heart set on marrying a Roman marquis, but he married a younger sister instead; her resentment due to this rejection made her impossible to live with, and so her parents more or less forced her into the convent where she had been educated -- the only socially acceptable alternative to marriage at the time for an unmarried noblewoman. Now Sister Hyacintha, she participated regularly in the liturgical life of the community, but continued to enjoy the comforts of high society: luxurious clothes, her own kitchen, and freedom to come and go as she pleased. Her way of life was a source of division in the community for ten years. However, she fell seriously ill, and when the friar chaplain was admitted to her quarters for confession and communion, he challenged her on her inauthentic life-style. She subsequently changed her life completely and became a model of dedication and self-denial. She was eventually appointed director of novices and in this role showed remarkable insight and discernment. Furthermore, she was very active in works of charity: she organized two confraternities in Viterbo to care for the sick, the elderly, and the poor, herself begging for alms for their work. When she was canonized in 1807, the Papal decree said that “through her apostolate of charity, she won more souls to God than many preachers of her time.”