BL CANDIDA of the EUCHARIST was born Maria Barba on 16 January 1884 in Catanzaro as the tenth of twelve children (five who died in their childhoods) to the appellate court judge Pietro Barba and Giovanna Flora. Her parents and siblings all hailed from Palermo but moved to
while Pietro was in that town during a brief assignment. In 1886 her parents
returned to Catanzaro . Palermo
At the age of fifteen, Maria underwent an interior conversion that turned her heart and mind totally to God. Sadly, her desire to enter religious life was opposed by her family. During this time, Maria found consolation in developing a profound love for the Eucharist and in reading the autobiography of St Thérese of Lisieux.
After her parents both died, Maria was finally able to become a religious, at the age of thirty-six. She entered the Discalced Carmelite Order, having already assimilated their spirituality. Taking the religious name Maria Candida of the Eucharist, she soon became her convent's prioress.
Ever zealous for the faithful observance of the Carmelite rule, she once admonished a nun for her laxity, asking her, "My daughter, why do you insult the Lord like this? Don't you realize that mankind needs you?" In the 1930s, Mother Candida wrote a book on the Eucharist steeped in her own devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.
On the Feast of Corpus Christi during the Holy Year of 1933, Bl. Candida began to write what was to become her little masterpiece, entitled "The Eucharist, true jewel of eucharistic spirituality”. It is a long and profound meditation on the Eucharist, which had as its goal a record of her own personal experiences and her deepening theological reflections on those same experiences.
She saw all the dimensions of Christian life summed up in the Eucharist. Firstly, Faith: “O my Beloved Sacrament, I see you, I believe in you!... O Holy Faith. Contemplate with ever greater faith our Dear Lord in the Sacrament: live with Him who comes to us every day”. Secondly, Hope: “O My Divine Eucharist, my dear Hope, all our hope is in You... Ever since I was a baby my hope in the Holy Eucharist has been strong”. Thirdly, Charity: “My Jesus, how I love You! There is within my heart an enormous love for You, O Sacramental Love...How great is the love of God made bread for our souls, who become a prisoner for me!”
The model of a eucharistic life is, of course, the Virgin Mary, who carried the Son of God in her womb and who continues to give birth to him in the souls of his disciples. “I want to be like Mary,” she wrote in one of the most intense and profound pages of The Eucharist, “to be Mary for Jesus, to take the place of His Mother. When I receive Jesus in Communion Mary is always present. I want to receive Jesus from her hands, she must make me one with Him. I cannot separate Mary from Jesus. Hail, O Body born of Mary. Hail Mary, dawn of the Eucharist!”
For Mother Maria Candida the Eucharist is a school, it is food and an encounter with God, a coming together of hearts, a school of virtue and wisdom. “Heaven itself does not contain more. God, that unique treasure is here! Really, yes really: my God is my everything”. “I ask my Jesus to be a guardian of all the tabernacles of the world, until the end of time”.
Bl. Candida died on the evening of 12 the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, June 1949 due to liver cancer and her remains were interred at
She had struggled with this cancer and
its great pain since the previous February though was first diagnosed with a
tumor in her liver back in 1947. Ragusa