Blessed Baptista Varani

Baptista Varani (Varano), O.S.C., (9 April 1458 – 31 May 1527) was an Italian Poor Clare nun and ascetical writer. She is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church.

Baptista Varani was born on April 9, 1458 in Camerino, in the March of Ancona to Julius Caesar Varano or de Varanis, Duke of Camerino, and Lady Cecchina di Maestro Giacomo. At baptism she received the name of Camilla. Although she was born out of wedlock, nonethe­less, Camilla was reared in the palace of her father. There she received a suitable instruction in the arts and literature under the tutelage of Giovanna Malatesta, the wife of the Prince.

Around the ages of 8-10, after having heard the exhortation of the preacher Fr. Domenico da Leonessa, she made a vow to meditate every Friday on the Passion of Christ. Information regarding her life is derived almost entirely from her own writings. This revelation of herself was brought about through the influence of her confessor, Peter of Mogliano, provincial of the Friars Minor in the Marches (1490). Then from the agesof 18-21, she went through three years of deep spiritual struggles against the allurements of the world. Her father did all in his power to force his daughter into marriage, even to the extent of imprisoning her. But Camilla resisted his plans so firmly that after two years and a half he restored her to liberty, for fear, as he said, of drawing upon himself divine vengeance, and gave his consent to her becoming a nun.

On 14 November 1481, Camilla entered the monastery of the Poor Clares at Urbino and took the name Baptista. She returned to Camerino on the first week of January of 1484 with eight other of her companions; and on Jan. 4, she gave start to a new community of Poor Clares in a monastery which her father had purchased from the Olivetan monks. Not long afterwards her father founded a new monastery of that Order at Camerino, and presented it to his daughter. By the time she turned 35 years of age, she was elected Abbess for the first time, a position she continued to hold for several terms. Her father and three brothers were murdered by Caesare Borgia in 1502 though her mother and youngest brother escaped.

She is said to have experienced visions. According to St. Alphonsus Liguori, in his "Discourse IX of the Dolors of Mary", Passino writes that Jesus Christ Himself one day, speaking to blessed Baptista Varani of Camerino, assured her that when on the cross, so great was His affliction at seeing His Mother at His feet in such bitter anguish, that compassion for her caused Him to die without consolation; so much so, that the blessed Baptista, being supernaturally enlightened as to the greatness of this suffering of Jesus, exclaimed, "O Lord, tell me no more of this Thy sorrow, for I can no longer bear it." 

She founded the monasteries of the Poor Clares both in Fermo (1505-1506) and in St. Severino Marche (1521-1522).

Baptista died on the feast of Corpus Christi, and was buried in the choir of her monastery.

She wrote with equal facility in Latin and Italian, and who was accounted one of the most accomplished scholars of her day. She is best known for her work, “The Mental Sufferings of Jesus in his Passion” (1488). Her works include the: "Recordationes et instructiones spirituales novem", which she wrote about 1491; "Opus de doloribus mentalibus D.N.J.C.", written during 1488-91 and first published at Camerino in 1630; "Liber suae conversionis", a story of her life, written in 1491, and first published at Macerata in 1624. These works have been edited by the Bollandists in connection with some of Baptista's letters. But most of her "Epistolae spirituales ad devotas personas" as well as her "Carmina pleraque latina et vulgaria" are still unpublished.

As a whole the writings of Baptista are remarkable for originality of thought, spirituality, and vivid language. Br. José Rodríguez Carballo, ofm, Minister General of the Friars Minor quotes Camilla Baptista:

O Most Clement God, if you were to reveal to me all the secrets of your Sacred Heart and everyday were to show me the Angelic Hierarchies; if everyday I could raise the dead, it would not be because of these things that you love me with an infinite love. Rather, it would be because I have done good to the one who has wronged me, said good things of and praise the one who has spoken ill of me and wronged me unjustly.

Both Saint Philip Neri and St. Alphonsus Liguori recorded their admiration for her.

On April 8, 1821, Pope Leo XIII approved the acts of the process for her canonization. On April 7, 1843, Pope Gregory XVI recognized the public cult that has been given to her for a long time and declared her Blessed. On Feb. 4, 1893, her writings were also approved. Then, on October 17, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI declared her a saint.

Her feast was originally kept in the Franciscan Order on 2 June, but is more recently commemorated on May 30.

St. Baptista Varani is depicted in a stained glass window in the church of St. Thomas of Canterbury, Woodford Green, Essex.

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