About Saint Veronica Giuliani
Saint Veronica Giuliani, Feast Day — July 19
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 she should be recognized as a Doctor of the Church.
In her Diary, she tells directly of her dramatic and intense experience of her journey towards God. She states she wrote these things down "with mortification and embarrassment ... for the sake of simple obedience." And in fact, it is said she readily deprived herself of sleep, while deep into the night, she labored to pen these lengthy writings. The Diary, comprised of five special tracts, includes an account of her childhood. It continues right up until March 5, 1727, and describes the course of her 67-year-long life. According to her, Our Lady told her on that day it was "time for a full stop!" And there and then she laid aside her pen forever.
Born into a Happy and Devout Family
Saint Veronica was born on December 27, 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 commitment to faith 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, "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 quite a long time going around the house and garden looking for Him.
On April 28, 1667, when her most devout, refined, and tenderhearted mother passed away in her early 40s, 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. Ursula was entrusted to the wound in Jesus's side. Later, when their father was hired as a tax officer for the Duke of Parma and had to move to Piacenza, the girls followed him there, 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 approving 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 to always keep her by his side. But Ursula had already decided to become a Capuchin Poor Clare nun when she was 9 years old, and she had no intention of changing her mind. In the face of his daughter's implacable will, her father eventually gave in, and on October 28, 1677, Ursula, who had not yet turned 17, was donned the nun's habit at the 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, a habitual prayer life, and 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 20 years of living a 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 December 1, 1678, she made her perpetual profession, and on April 4, 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 December 12, 1693, she began writing her Diary. From 1694 to 1698, she once more served as Mistress of Novices and, on Good Friday, April 5, 1697, she received the Stigmata. (Embarrassed by the Stigmata, Veronica raised up prayers of entreaty to the Lord so that by 1700, the bleeding in her hands and feet had come to an end. The 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 she had to endure for 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 she 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."
Mary's Choice and Martha's Choice
Sister Veronica naturally inclined more towards Mary's choice than towards Martha's choice (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. A repugnance for menial manual labor 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 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 practice 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 101 different concerns. She herself followed this practical rule of thumb until her dying day and convincingly instilled it in her fellow Sisters.
A Prudent Novice Mistress
This was a lesson 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 34 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.
A Mother Abbess Who Extended the Monastery's Facilities
On March 7, 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 until the day she died. Her 14-year-long term as Abbess was 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 June 6, 1727, her sufferings grew more severe. Over 30 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 July 9, 1727, in the Poor Clare Monastery of Città di Castello the Abbess, Mother Veronica Giuliani quietly breathed her last breath 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 35 years later, in 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