Elisa Lardani Marchi: Body Given for Love
In the evening of February 27, 2015, I received a text message from my dear brother in Christ Alessandro: his sister Elisa had delivered her baby, was in surgery and they were not sure she would survive. He was asking me to spread the request for prayer to our network of American friends, those who have been students or faculty for the Gordon College in Orvieto program over nearly 20 years. Quickly I emailed and called several faculty and former Orvieto students to ask for their prayers. A few hours later another text – the hemorrhage that had begun during the birthing process was continuing and she was fighting for her life.
Through the night I was up several times nursing my own five-week-old baby, and that night checked my phone frequently. The next day, Saturday, we found out that Elisa Lardani Marchi had passed away due to numerous complications ending in disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), but baby Maddalena was in stable condition in the NICU.
Elisa’s home is Orvieto, Italy, where she grew up literally in the shadow of the Cathedral, a masterpiece of medieval art and architecture. In a side chapel just around the corner from her childhood home, resides the relic of the Miracle of Bolsena, a Eucharistic Miracle in which blood poured from the host and quelled a Bohemian priests’ doubts of the reality of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. The blood-stained Corporal can be viewed there, a daily reminder of the blood shed in Christ’s Sacrifice for us.
When Elisa’s brother wrote to me the week after her death he wrote:
“In the city of Orvieto, the city of the Eucharistic Miracle, of the blood poured from the Holy Host, maybe after 750 years a new miracle is needed, that of the small and humble mother who poured out her blood, and made of herself Bread Broken for Love”.
The loss of Elisa -- young mother, family minister, psychologist, daughter, friend and wife -- has been a blow to many, but by the power of the Holy Spirit her husband Luca and others alongside him are using this opportunity to continue to testify to the strength of the sacrament of marriage: an eternal bond created by the Holy Spirit whose love continues to grow and to give even beyond the grave.
February 28, 2016 marks the one year anniversary of her death and there is a Conference in Orvieto entitled "Body Broken for Love" . The conference is sponsored by a newly formed non-profit (L’Associazione Elisa Lardani Marchi) in Elisa’s honor and will explore what it means to lose a spouse: "Strong as death is love". Song of Songs 8:6. Her husband Luca’s testimony of the power of God’s love in marriage continues to move all who hear it. His love for Elisa continues to live and grow as he experiences his children and reflects on the sacred vows he pledged at the altar: to honor her “all the days of my life” – “This does not refer to the other’s life, but to my own!” Luca says in an interview with Silvia Lucchetti on it.aleteia.org.
Presenting at the conference are priests, theologians, family ministers, and psychologists from across Italy, including the Bishop of Foligno and Philosophy professor from the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome. “It is the beginning of a journey into the exploration of love in the midst of sorrow,” writes Luca.
“Only God can do miracles, but the Communion of Saints is no joke,” Luca says in the interview with Lucchetti, “it is a real thing that we can experience. I can say that I feel it every day in living this love, living it in the Eucharist, in Eucharistic Adoration: God is the strength and the fuel of we believers.”
Indeed, the Holy Spirit seems to be moving in ways big and small to inspire many to seek truth in the mysteries of life, birth, marriage and death, to continually ask: “Are we meant for more?” and to see life through Elisa’s eyes: “The life which amazes us at every step”.
“Alla vita che ci stupisce ad ogni passo”
Beauty from the darkest moments! We all want to believe them possible and this story truly provides mystical and inspiring evidence. I am so honored that Michelle would allow me to share this incredible story with you. On the anniversary of her passing, please join us in praying for the repose of Elisa's sweet soul and for the continued healing and strength for her husband and four children. Speaking of beauty -- I also encourage you to peruse the art and images on Michelle Arnold Paine's website!!
Michelle Arnold Paine is a contemporary painter whose faith plays an integral part of her work. She grew up an Evangelical Christian and began to explore the visual richness of Catholicism while studying in Italy during college, which eventually led her into the fullness of the Roman Catholic Church. She was confirmed at Easter 2001 in the Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy.
During the years she spent living and working in Italy for an American study abroad program, she steeped herself in the Renaissance masters, the rhythms of the Catholic liturgy, and the intimacy and beauty of daily Italian life. After her return from Italy she received at Post-Baccalaureate Certificate from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree from University of New Hampshire. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two daughters.