Saint Veronica Giuliani


A very Practical Mystic

Feast Day : 10 July


What a Long, Long Diary She Wrote! 

Although Veronica Giuliani was a mystic who bore in her body the Stigmata of Jesus, she remained a very practical woman and a diary writer whose literary activities were truly remarkable. A look at her 'Diary' of some 220,000 pages clearly reveals her insights into contemplative life and mystical theology. Because of this there are many who claim that she should be recognized as a Doctor of the Church.

In the Diary she tells directly of her dramatic and intense experience of her journey towards God. She states that she wrote these things down 'with mortification and embarrassment … for the sake of simple obedience'. And in fact, it is said that she was readily deprived herself of sleep, while deep into the night she too labours to pen those lengthy writings. The Diary, comprised five special tracts, includes an account of her childhood. It continues right up until the 5th of March 1727 and describes the course of her 67 year long life. According to her, Our Lady told her on that day that it was "Time for a full stop!" And there and then she laid aside her pen for ever.  


Born into a Happy and Devout Family

Saint Veronica was born on the 27th of December 1660 in Mercatello sul Metauro and the very next day she was baptized 'Ursula'. Her father 'Francis Giuliani' was an ensign who commanded the town's garrison. Veronica's mother, 'Benedicta Mancini', gave birth to seven daughters, two of whom died as infants. The Giulianis were a family renowned for their committed faith life due to their practice of praying together, their harmony and their charitable activities. At the time of Veronica's process of canonization, one witness said that "In the Giuliani household they read the life of a saint every evening." 


The Baby Jesus was her Childhood Playmate!

Thus, together with her four older sisters, Ursula, the youngest child, grew up in a devout family environment. From an early age she would converse with the Child Jesus portrayed in holy pictures. "Dear Jesus, I am all Yours and You are all mine." she would say, and the Child Jesus would reply "You are all mine and I am all yours." Once when Ursula was an infant gathering flowers in the garden the Child Jesus appeared to her and said "I am your True Flower." After that He disappeared and Ursula spent a quite long time going around the house and garden looking for Him. 

On the 28th of April 1667 when her most devout, refined and tenderhearted mother passed away in her early forties, Ursula was left an orphan. Just before she died, Benedicta called her daughters to her and, pointing to the Crucifix, she entrusted each daughter to one of Jesus's five wounds. Ursuala was entrusted to the wound in Jesus's side. When afterwards their father was hired as a tax officer for the Duke of Parma and had to move to Piacenza, the girls followed him ther, where they continued to lead an exemplary Christian life. 

Veronica later portrayed the happiness of those times as a youth full of pranks and a time when kind people surrounded her, a time of deep devotion to Our Lady and the Child Jesus. She also tells of the first stirrings of attraction towards the religious life and of her father's infuriating and determined opposition to her religious vocation. 


Overcoming her Father's Fierce Opposition to Join the Capuchin Poor Clares

Francis Giuliani readily agreed to his four older daughters' entering the convent but he had no intention of agreeing to the his youngest daughter Ursula's entering, for he cherished her above all. Since he loved his exceptionally intelligent Ursula so much, he wished to marry her off so as keep her by him always. But Ursula had already decided to become a Capuchin Poor Clare nun when she was nine years old and she had no intention of changing her mind. In the face of his daughter's implacable will, her father has to eventually give way and on the 28th of October 1677 Urusla, who had not yet turned seventeen, was donned the nun's habit at Città di Castello Castello's Capuchin Poor Clare Monastery. 

There she received the deeply meaningful religious name of 'Veronica'. which means 'True Image(Vera Icona)'. Having become a Capuchin Poor Clare Novice, Sister Veronica from the very beginning unhesitatingly and totally enthusiastically made up her mind to become a faithful image of the Crucified Christ.


The 'Baby' of the Monastery

Sister Veronica, the youngest in the Monastery, was known by the nickname 'la Bambina' meaning 'the Baby' or 'the Youngest Girl', and in accordance with her nickname she was always filled with a lively zeal. From the moment she entered religious life, she was richly endowed with a unique innocence, an habitual prayer life, unbounded zeal and earnestness. She took as her models the saints whom she had been close to since childhood and was unyielding in her determination to reach religious perfection, no matter what obstacle might stand in her way. Sister Veronica from the very beginning decided to strive for heroic holiness and, in that monastery which was a training ground for saints, she made up her mind to doggedly follow along the path which those saints had already trod, by way of contemplative living, of mortification and of penance. Even after twenty years of living religious life she never forgot her original resolve to succeed but remained undaunted in the face of many difficulties or misunderstandings. Life in the monastery was one monotonous day to day continuum but Sister Veronica diligently trod her own unique way to God, reaching various remarkable and special milestones along the way.


Milestones along Her Mystical Way of the Cross

On the 1st of December 1678 she made her perpetual profession and in the 4th of April 1681 Jesus appeared to her and crowned her head with His Crown of Thorns. Between 1688 and 1691, she carried out the duties of Novice Mistress and on the 12th of December 1693, she began writing her Diary. From 1694 to 1698, she once more served as Mistress of Novices and, on Good Friday, the 5th of April 1697, she received the Stigmata. (Embarrassed by the Stigmata, Veronica raised up prayers of entreaty to the Lord so that by the 1700 the bleeding in her hands and feet had come to an end. Ye blood continued to flow regularly from her side right up until the day she died.) In 1697, she was denounced to the tribunal of the Holy Office (today's Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) and, because of this, she was deprived of her active and passive voice (i. e. her right to vote and be elected) two years later. 
  
These dates and events clearly indicate Sister Veronica's mysterious interior life.  To these mystical phenomena taking place within her, many of her sister companions reacted with religious trust and admiration but on the other hand because of the negative reaction of other Sisters, Veronica had to endure all kinds of deprivation, humiliation and hardship to the detriment of her 'poor humanity'.  The sufferings that she had to endure f개m others as well as those she imposed upon herself were rather merciless.  In fact people of this day and age would find it hard to understand such actions. And after having gone through this extreme degree of asceticism, Sister Veronica herself finally came to critique such actions as "crazy things love made me do." Since the time she received the Stigmata, these "crazy things" began to gradually decrease and by 1699 they had totally disappeared. Only then was did she come to be satisfied with "suffering the difficulties and torments that she saw and knew to be given her directly by the hand of God in order to purify her still more."


A Prudent Novice Mistress

This was a lesson that Sister Veronica wanted at all costs to pass on as a golden rule to her junior Sisters, in order "to moderate their desire to do penance." In her thirty four years as Mistress of Novices, Sister Veronica never let her novices read books about mystical theology - something that clearly shows her care and prudence with regards to mysticism. 


Mary's Choice and Martha's

Sister Veronica naturally inclined more towards Mary's 'choice' than towards Martha's (cf. Lk 10:38-42). During her first few years in the monastery she sated her thirst for perfection by immersing herself in contemplation and meditation. Besides a repugnance for menial manual labour and for lowly service contributed all the more to this inclination. For her manual work was a kind of ascetic exercise and for that reason it engendered in her a certain feeling of revulsion. That is because she thought that there could be nothing as useful or as selfless as contemplation and mortification. (She came to change her mind about this after 1690.) Nevertheless Sister Veronica often wondered if contemplation could resolve the core moral problems of life and in the end would question herself about which was spiritually better - the active life or the contemplative life. She would say to herself "you could have remained in the world to do good and you would have been even more useful to others." Yet while on the one hand she came to the conclusion that she could do better by remaining in the monastery, she also wrote like this about her life hidden with God: "I have to do this in prayer, in the things that happen, everywhere; it is not by withdrawing into the cell but in the midst of the entire community that I have to practise solitude with Jesus … It seems to me that what God requires of me becomes evident through works." Veronica gained the practical insight that the most efficient way to find and adore God consists in seeking Him with sincerity in the midst of a hundred and one different concerns. She herself followed this practical rule of thumb until her dying day and convincingly instilled it in her Sisters.


A Mother Abbess who Extended the Monastery's Facilities

On the 7th of March 1716 the Holy Office removed the punitive sanctions Sister Veronica had incurred. She was able once more to exercise her active and passive voice and participate in the monastery's elections. A few weeks later the Sisters elected Sister Veronica as their superior and she became Mother Abbess, Mother Veronica fulfilled this ministry the until the day she died. Her fourteen year long term as Abbess were years filled with the Blessings of God and a time bathed in the light of miracles. While Sister Veronica was a mystic who endured many a hard day due to the pains of her martyrdom of love(and especially that of the wound in her side), nevertheless as a very practical woman she also managed during this time to extend the monastery buildings and improve its rather cumbersome waterworks. 


"Love has let himself be found!"

On the 6th of June 1727, her sufferings grew more severe.  Over thirty days Sister Veronica passed through the threefold purgatory of body, heart and soul.  But as one can read in the Process of her Canonization, after this she called her novices and young Sisters to her sickbed and said to them. "Come here, for Love has let himself be found: this is the cause of my suffering. Tell the others, tell them all." She then asked them to sing for her a hymn in praise of the Incarnation of the Word,  While listening to the singing, she could no longer restrain her weeping and cried out "Who among you would not weep at such Love?" At daybreak on the 9th of July 1727 in the Poor Clare Monastery of Città di Castello the Abbess, Mother Veronica Giuliani quietly breathed her last after expressing a final act of obedience to her confessor.    


Like Mother, like Daughter!

Five months later, the Diocesan Bishop, Bishop Alexander Francis Codebò, began the diocesan process for her canonization. And so her beatification took place in 1804 and thirty five years later in the year 1839 she was canonized by Pope Gregory XIV.  Saint Veronica's incorrupt body lies enshrined in the Capuchin Poor Clare Monastery of Città di Castello. Remarkably, due to a life of heroic holiness, Saint Veronica's immediate successor as Abbess, Sister Florida Cervoli has also been beatified and now awaits her own canonization.  Spiritually speaking, this is surely a case of like Mother, like daughter!  



"My God, I ask You for nothing other than the salvation of poor sinners. Convert them all to You. all of them to You. …Set me as a go-between between You and sinners. Let torments come. Love will endure everything. Love has conquered, and Love Himself has been conquered. For the soul feels Him inside her in a manner I cannot describe." -  Saint Veronica Giuliani


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