BENEDETTA'S FIRST YEARS with the Theatines, after her arrival in 1599, were outwardly unremarkable. Looking back on that period twenty years later, the rest of the community remembered that "after she entered the house and lived among the other girls she was always very obedient and exemplary in all her actions. She never did anything worthy of rebuke and she took communion twice a week." Only Benedetta was aware of the supernatural events that were beginning to unfold.
As soon as her father left her, Benedetta did as her mother had told her when they parted at Vellano. Kneeling in front of the convent's statue of the Madonna, the nine-year-old girl sought her protection: "My most sweet Mother, I have left my carnal mother for you, I beg you to take me as your daughter." The Madonna seemed to nod her assent.
Not long after this, she again indicated that her adopted daughter was particularly dear to her. "One time when I was saying certain prayers in front of her image and I did not know what to meditate on that would please both her and me, as a sign that she was pleased, my mother leaned over the small altar." Benedetta thought that the Virgin