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Catholic Heroes… St. Veronica Giuliani

June 22, 2021 saints No Comments

By DEB PIROCH

Born on the Feast of John the Baptist, her given name was Ursula. At 17 she entered the Capuchin Poor Clares in Umbria. This took some doing; her father had strongly wanted her to marry, to the point of introducing suitors while she still insisted on her vocation. He eventually relented. And the bishop who clothed her predicted she would be a saint, when she made her profession on All Saints’ Day, 1678.
She had been given the religious name of Veronica, one who is the image of Christ. This showed prescience, for Veronica would be one throughout her life with Our Crucified Lord. She was the seventh and last child of her parents, five of whom would reach adulthood. Several of these, some biographies state all of them, became religious. Her pious mother before dying had dedicated the care of each of her five children to one of the sacred wounds of our Lord. Ursula was dedicated to the wound Christ’s side; she felt this very real pain later in life, when she received the stigmata.
During her novitiate, a priest guiding her through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius told her that everything, even suffering, should be done with love. If anyone loved Jesus it was Veronica. Even as a small child, every time she saw a picture of the Blessed Virgin, she asked if she could hold her Son. What began in childhood, nurtured by her mother’s piety, matured. Around age 33 her life began a new phase. A mystic, she began experiencing a chalice of suffering that appeared to her in various visions. It was so heavy at first. She wished to accept it, but the weight of the suffering caused her to flounder.
Gradually God prepared her spiritually for the pain, and the following year she received the Crown of Thorns. Embarrassed by the outward signs, she asked our Lord to hide them, and He did, though the pain continued. Her sisters witnessed the effects and the bishop sent her for medical examination. Nothing could be done, of course. Four years later, on Good Friday 1697, she was gifted with the stigmata.
P.M. Salvatori, the promoter of her cause of canonization, wrote a summary of her life in 1803. Of her reception of the stigmata, he wrote:
“And her profound humility suggested to her to beg earnestly [again] of her beloved Savior to leave her the pain, but hide the marks of these wounds from the eyes of the world, as he had done to St. Catherine of Siena, and other saints; but he ordered her to tell her confessor, that these wounds were to remain, that by the rigorous investigations of the Congregation of the Holy Office, it might be known that they had been imprinted by His divine hand; and that for this purpose, they were to remain visible for three years.”
These wounds closed but would open anew to bleed again on various occasions, such as the Feast of St. Francis or at her confessor’s request. Medical attention only inflamed the wounds more. Yet she was able to work and pray when even the wound in her side alone would have killed a person with the bleeding.
She was commanded by her superiors to write what she saw and felt. To do this she had to learn to write, but out of obedience she left behind over 22,000 pages of writing, which Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said flows — no stops, starts, or crossed-out words or sections. She penned what she thought, a “stream of consciousness.” In her pages, she wrote that at the age of three she first saw the Christ Child, who said to her, “I am the real flower.” The diary she left behind is a precious memory of her spiritual life, and what it meant to be in love with the Crucified Christ. Benedict XVI quoted from it in an address in 2010, on the 350th anniversary of the saint’s birth:
“My Bride,” the Crucified Christ whispers to me, “the penance you do for those who suffer my disgrace is dear to me”….Then detaching one of his arms from the Cross he made a sign to me to draw near to his side…and I found myself in the arms of the Crucified One. What I felt at that point I cannot describe: I should have liked to remain forever in his most holy side.” Benedict continued: “This is also an image of her spiritual journey, of her interior life: to be in the embrace of the Crucified One and thus to remain in Christ’s love for others.”
She suffered as humans do, from the envy, malice, or ignorance of those around her. From those in the convent, but also at the hands of the Church, which needed to isolate her for a time to make sure her manifestations were genuine. As one would expect from someone so profoundly united with God, she was also actively tortured by the Devil, but supported by God in all things. She remained in the convent a full fifty years. First, she would serve some time as director of the novitiate and, later, as abbess. Then, one day after receiving Holy Communion, she had what appeared to be a stroke and was carried to bed. She suffered for thirty-three days before she departed this Earth. Her confessor — there were many who appear in her diary, some holier than others! — shared his recollection of praying with her during her final illness, 1727:
“Be glad of heart, Sister Veronica, what you have so much longed for, is near at hand.” As she heard these words, she gave a sign of her unspeakable joy, and then turned and fastened her eyes upon him. He began to recite the “Recommendation of a Departing Soul,” and suggest acts of virtue and resignation, without being able to understand why she looked at him with so fixed an eye. At length, enlightened by Almighty God, he recollected that she had told him that she would not wish to die, save with the leave of her superiors, and through holy obedience, which permission she now craved by the fixed and earnest eye wherewith she regarded him. Animated, therefore, with a lively faith in God, he approached her and said, “Sister Veronica, since it is the will of God that you should now go to enjoy Him, and since it is the pleasure of His Divine Majesty, that for your departure, the leave of His minister should also be granted — I now give it to you.” Scarcely were these words uttered, than she bent her eyes in token of submission; then turning towards her spiritual daughters, as if to give them her last blessing, she bowed her head, and yielded up her soul” — P.M. Salvatori.
After her death, her body was autopsied. She had told others that there was an inscription written on her heart, detailed it on paper and explained it while yet alive. There just as she had promised, was the complex imagery drawn on her heart representing Christ’s Passion. Her body was incorrupt till damaged in a flood. Her relics are still venerated at her convent, Città di Castello in Umbria, Italy.
In the Gospel of St. Matthew, 16:23, where our Lord cries to Peter, “Get behind me Satan,” He is responding to Peter denying the necessity of His Passion. Without the cross, there is no Heaven! St. Veronica Giuliani understood this, to the point that would literally hang on a large cross as a devotion. Having witnessed Hell more than once in her visions, she even frequently asked Christ crucified for more suffering to stop souls going to Hell.
Is this not living according to the two great commandments of the Church, to love God above all things and one’s neighbor as oneself?

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