Embracing our cross to follow Christ takes on many different forms. For Saint Fina, it meant spending most of her life paralyzed on a wooden pallet in pain, finding relief in the pain only through a deep inner well of faith.
Fina dei Ciardi was the daughter of Cambio and Imperiera, a once noble family that had their fortunes slowly decline over the years. She was born in 1238 and grew up with her family in a small house located in the center of town. She was known to be very kind, joyful, and extremely devoted to the Virgin Mary. Little is known of her early childhood, but we do know in 1248 that her life dramatically and completely changed forever. She began getting progressively more and more ill, suffering likely from a form of tuberculous osteomyelitis. As the pain grew, paralysis crept in. She was soon confined to a wooden pallet, unable to move her head hands eyes or feet as she laid.
Saint Fina's life on the outside continued to grow worse. Her father passed away suddenly soon after she became ill. Her youthful looks began to fade. She requested to be laid on the wooden plank, arms outstretched so that she could be more like Christ. Her mother spent the day in the streets begging or finding odd jobs to collect enough money to keep the two of them alive. As the pain worsened, Saint Fina would often say aloud
"It is not my wounds but thine, O Christ, that hurt me"
Her faith in Christ, her love for Mary, only grew as the world got worse. Her mother died from a fall while working and neighbors soon stopped coming to take care of her because of the sores on her body that had begun to form. Only her childhood friend Beldia came to visit, feeding her and helping her as best as she could. She began to take up a devotion to Saint Gregory in between prayers to Christ.
On March 4, 1253, after five years living in pain and paralyzed, she experienced a vision of Saint Gregory. In the vision, Saint Gregory said to her:
"Dear child on my festival God will give you rest"
She told Beldia of this vision and soon citizens from San Gimignano began to visit. Not only did they want to visit the young girl who had been visited by Saint Gregory, they wanted to come and see a young girl who was visibly dying that was so strong in her faith to carry out the will of God. 8 days after her visit, on the feast day of Saint Gregory, March 12, Saint Fina died on her wooden plank at the age of 15.
When her body was taken off of the wooden plank to be buried, all inside the house testified that they saw white violets suddenly and miraculously bloom from the wood and began to smell a fresh floral smell coming into the room. The bearers of her body carried her to the Pieve Prepositura while the crowd all shouted "The Saint is Dead!" As her body laid there, several miraculous healings were recorded over the next couple of days. Her friend Belida, who had her hand become paralyzed from holding Saint Fina's head up on the wooden pallet was suddenly healed when she approached her. Over the years, many more miracles were attested by pilgrims who came and visited her grave. A neighbor, Cambio di Rustico, was cutting wood a year after her death when the axe slipped and cut into his leg. He prayed aloud, asking forgiveness to Saint Fina for skipping her memorial - much to his amazement the wound miraculously healed.
Today Saint Fina's feast is celebrated on two different days in the town of San Gimignano. The first, on March 12th, is the day of her death while the second is on the first Sunday of August commemorating her intercession in stopping two plagues in 1479 and 1631. On both days her relics are carried in a grand procession to bless the town. Though not officially or formally canonized by the Church, the people of San Gimignano have always referred to her as a Saint, though the correct title would be Blessed Fina.