Mary Magdalen Martinengo da Barco was born into a noble family at Brescia in northern Italy in 1687. At five months she lost her mother, and her childhood showed a considerable precocity of religious devotion, self inflicted mortifications and spirituality, or psychological disturbances. Her determination "to imitate everything in the lives of the saints", though heroic, could hardly be called a wise program at any age.
When she was eighteen, she joined the Capuchinesses of Santa Maria della Neve in her native town. She was professed in 1706 and her responsibilities varied between Novice Mistress, which she held three times, and portress. In 1732 and again in 1736 she was superior of the convent, and was admirable in all these offices.
As a daughter of St Clare, Sr Mary soon distinguished herself by her modesty, patience and cheerful obedience. The hours prescribed for prayer and meditation, as well as the visits to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, were the most delightful hours of her day. Her humility and selfless love of God were adorned with the Divine recognition of unusual mystical experiences and the gift of miracles.
Sr Mary had a particular devotion to Jesus Crucified, especially her sufferings from the crown of thorns. Her sympathy for her suffering Saviour was so deep that she was often found kneeling like one devoid of life. After her death a fillet of sharp points was found bound about her brow.
The fame of her sanctity caused many lay persons to appeal to her for consolation and advice. On such occasions she manifested the special gifts God had given her to encourage disheartened souls, to reconcile such as whereat variance with each other, and to bring sinners back to the path of duty. Very often she was able to read the thoughts of others and foretold future events.
Exhausted by labour and austerity more than age she died on July 27th, 1737 in the fiftieth year of her life. Pope Lio XIII beatified her. The feast of Blessed Mary Magdalen is observed by Franciscans on July 27th.