St. Juliana Falconieri, Virgin
The Roman Martyrology, enlarged by Benedict XIV., announces today the festival of St. Juliana, in the following words: “At Florence, the memory of St. Juliana Falconieri, foundress of the order of Servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Florence in Italy, is the place where St. Juliana was born, in 1270. Her parents were of the illustrious house of Falconieri, and were long without issue; until, at last, the fruit of many prayers, this holy daughter was given to them. It was looked upon as a sign of her future holiness, that Juliana, when an innocent child, pronounced the two blessed names of Jesus and Mary, without having been taught by any one to utter them. Even in her childhood, she endeavored so earnestly to attain Christian virtues, that her uncle, St. Alexius, of the Order of Servites, who was her instructor, hesitated not to say to her mother that she had not given birth to a mortal maiden, but to an Angel.
And in truth, Juliana’s conduct was such, that she resembled an angel rather than a human being. Never was it seen that she raised her eyes to look at the face of any man, much less that she ever regarded the other sex with boldness. Her horror of sin was innate, so that she trembled when she only heard the name of it, nay, she was seen to sink to the ground, as one dead, when a crime was only mentioned. Regardless of her temporal wealth, and of many advantageous offers of marriage, she made a vow, in presence of St. Philip Beniti, by which she consecrated her virginity to God, when she was not yet fifteen years of age. She was the first of her sex who entered the Order of the Servites. Many of the highest nobility followed her example. Juliana prescribed certain rules for them, in the composition of which she showed extraordinary wisdom and holiness. Hence she is justly recognized and honored as the foundress of the Sisterhood of the Servants of Mary.
St. Philip Beniti, who not only enlarged the order of the Servites, but also guided those who belonged to it in a most exemplary manner, was so thoroughly convinced of the virtues of Juliana, that he said, before his death, that there was no one more fit to be entrusted with the government of the whole Order–men as well as women–than Juliana. She, however, had quite a different opinion of herself, and although she was appointed to guide others, she performed, with the utmost willingness, the most menial services for those under her. She was so deeply devoted to prayer, that she continued whole days in this exercise, during which time she often fell into ecstasies, and was favored with divine apparitions. The time unoccupied by work and prayer, she usually spent in reconciling hostile minds, for which kind office she was peculiarly qualified; and also in converting sinners, many of whom her persuasions brought to the knowledge of their faults; or in nursing the sick, to whom she was devoted with a mother’s love. Anxious to conquer herself, she more than once sucked the putrid matter from the ulcers of the sick; and God, in consideration of such heroic self-abnegation, instantly restored them to health. She was as severe to herself as she was tender towards others. The rest, which she took at night on the bare floor, was very short; as she occupied the greater part of the night in prayer. She chastised her innocent body with scourges and chains of wire. She fasted every Saturday on water and bread. Two days of every week she lived almost without earthly nourishment, as she then received the bread of angels, the Blessed Eucharist. On other days, she partook of food, but only of very little, and that of the most ordinary kind, as otherwise she refused to touch it. This continual rigor eventually impaired her health and caused her most severe pains which at last, in the 70th year of her age, ended her life. She had suffered, in this manner, for many years, with the most cheerful and edifying patience. Only one thing pained her exceedingly in her last days: which was, that, as she could not retain any food, the priest could not give her the Blessed Sacrament, for which she longed so ardently. Flying for refuge to God, she prayed that He would not permit her to die without this great consolation. Soon after, as if convinced that God would bestow upon her an extraordinary grace, she requested the priest to bring the holy Eucharist, at least to her room and hold it to her breast. The priest consented to her request, but no sooner had the Blessed Sacrament been placed near her breast, than it suddenly disappeared; and at the same time the countenance of Juliana expressed a great interior satisfaction and happiness. Whilst the priest strove to recover from his surprise, the servant of God, miraculously fed with the bread of life, expired without a struggle. After her death, they found on the left side of her breast, the form of the Host, bearing the image of the crucified Saviour, like a seal pressed into the flesh. This led to the belief that the holy virgin had been, in an unprecedented way, comforted in her last hour with the Blessed Eucharist. The fame of this miracle, and of many others with which God honored her after her death, won for Juliana the esteem of the whole Christian world. Her holy body was buried in the magnificent Church which her father had built in honor of the Blessed Virgin and in memory of the Annunciation.
St. Juliana had, in her last sickness, the most intense desire to receive holy communion. How agreeable this was to the Almighty, He made manifest by the miracle related in her life. It is a great favor when, before we depart from this life, we worthily receive the Blessed Eucharist; as it imparts peculiar strength against the temptations of the devil. The Christians of olden times were wont to strengthen themselves, by receiving holy Communion, before they were led to be tortured, in order to oppose the tyrants fearlessly, and to suffer the impending martyrdom with heroism. At present, we have more to fight against the Evil One than against tyrants, and if we have not to suffer martyrdom, we still are tormented by anguish and sorrow. The holy Communion is most efficacious in imparting strength and endurance. Pray today, and pray frequently that the Almighty may not permit you to die without having devoutly received this Bread of Life. To become more worthy of this grace, endeavor, while you enjoy health, to receive Holy Communion often and with due reverence and purity. It is our duty to entertain a fervent desire to do so. If our faith in the presence of Christ is deeply rooted, our desire, our longing after him will be fervent: and the more fervent it is, the more graces we may promise ourselves to receive through the Holy Communion. The words of the Divine Mother will also in this instance become true: “He has filled the hungry with good things.” (Luke i.) ” Hence let us advance with ardent desire and receive the holy body of our crucified Lord,” says St. John of Damascus.
Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.