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ST. VERONICA GIULIANI, V.
The following account is an abridgment of her Life, written by P. M. Salvatori, the promoter of the Cause in the process of her Canonization. His work was published in Rome in 1803, entitled Vita della B. Veronica Giuliana.
SUPPLEMENT TO SADLIER’S ILLUSTRATED EDITION OF BUTLER’S LIVES OF THE SAINTS
A. D., 1727.
WE earnestly beseech the devout reader, whilst he is reading the life of her whose wonderful history we are about to relate, not to decide upon its merits, until he shall have carefully considered, not only the events themselves, but how, in every case, the graces which the servant of God received, are not only remarkable signs of Divine favor, but ever produced in her heart deeper humility, more ardent charity, and a wish to conceal them from the eyes of men;—that they were particularly communicated to her during prayer;—and that, to the desire of suffering for the sake of Jesus Christ, she added the most rigorous mortification of her flesh; all which the immortal pontiff, Benedict XIV., has laid down as criterions whereby to determine the reality of such supernatural gifts. In order to glorify his servant, it pleased God, during her lifetime, to make known her virtues and the graces which he had conferred upon her, to many of her companions, and to no less than four bishops of the city wherein she lived, and thirteen religious men o. various orders, who were her directors, by whom an exact and faithful record of all her actions has been handed down to us. From their attestations, and other authentic accounts, the following narrative has been formed of actions and virtues which many volumes would not be sufficient to detail.
Saint Veronica Giuliani was born on the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, in 1660. at Mercatello, in the States of the Church. She received in baptism the name of Ursula, for God destined her, like that holy martyr, to be a virgin and the leader of many other virgins to the kingdom of heaven. In her very infancy her future sanctity was foreshadowed; for, on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, which the Church keeps as days of penance, she would never take nourishment, save a small quantity in the morning and the evening: and before she was six months old, seeing a picture representing the most Blessed Trinity, in whose honor that day was dedicated (12th June, 1661), she left her mother’s arms of her own accord, and, without any assistance whatever, walked to it, and with many signs of reverence, remained as if enchanted before it;* and being carried, at the age of a year and a half, to a shop, by a servant who wanted some soil, in selling which the shopkeeper used a false measure, her tongue was loosed, and she cried out, in a clear voice, “Act fairly, for God sees you.” At the age of three years, these seeds of virtue began to develope themselves still more. They produced in her those extraordinary feelings of love and affection towards Our Blessed Saviour and his Virgin Mother, which have only been communicated to the most favored souls. When she was about four years of age, her mother fell so dangerously ill, that the Viaticum was brought to her. The moment the priest entered the house, Ursula saw such a bright light surrounding him, that she ran to him, and earnestly begged to receive the blessed sacrament. To keep her quiet, she was told that there were no more particles left; but she at once answered, that he might safely break a portion off that intended for her mother, because, as the mirror, when broken, does not cease to reflect the images that it represented when entire, so is Jesus equally present in the smallest fragment as well as in the entire host from which it has been separated. As soon as her mother had communicated, she sprang upon the bed, exclaiming, “O what sweet things you have had!” And coming near her mouth, she said, “O what a sweet scent!” Nor could the attendants succeed in making her leave her mother in peace. Before her death, she called her five children to her bed-side, and recommended each of them to one of the five wounds of the passion. To Ursula she gave that in our Saviour’s side; to which the devotion of her after-life was directed, and through it she received those many graces of which we shall afterwards speak. On the night following her mother’s death, she refused to go to bed, until the servants placed a picture of Our Lady and Jesus upon the bed, when she immediately lay down and slept peacefully.
At the age of seven she was admitted to the sacrament of Confirmation and, during the ceremony, her godmother saw her guardian angel by her side. Similar visions, which occurred in the seventh or eighth year of her age, we have recorded in her own words:—“I remember,” she says, “that when I was about seven or eight years old, twice during the Holy Week, Jesus appeared to me covered with wounds, and telling me to be devout to His most holy passion, instantly disappeared. I wept bitterly, and every time that I heard speak of the torments and sufferings of Our Lord, I felt something at my heart; and everything that I undertook I offered up in honor of His passion. A desire came into my head of asking my confessor for some mortification, but I did not yield to it. Still I made sufferings for myself, but all without my confessor’s leave; such as the discipline, walking on my bare knees, piercing myself with a pin, and beating myself with thistles. If I heard of the works of penance performed by others, I went to the image of my Saviour, and said, ‘Lord, if I had their instruments of mortification, I would do the same; but since I have them not, I offer Thee my desire.’ He has often let me know and remember that He made me (at that age) affectionate invitations. Thus, for example, when I had determined on taking some recreation, and could never find time to do so, I heard Jesus in my interior, asking me, ‘What dost thou seek, what dost thou desire? I am thy real contentment;’ and I at once replied, ‘Lord, for Thy sake I will deprive myself of the pleasure which I sought.’ How these answers were uttered, I know not; but this I know, that I did make them. . . . Sometimes, whilst I was gazing at the crucifix, Jesus spoke to my heart, and said, ‘I will be Thy guide and spouse;’ and I stretched out my arms, and exclaimed, ‘I will be Thy spouse, and no one shall move me from it. I promise it with all my heart; grant that I may never separate myself from Thee.’ ”
Her father having obtained a lucrative situation at Placentia, removed thither with his family. In that city, Ursula, who was about ten years old, made her first communion, on the feast of the Purification, in 1670. When she had received Our Lord, she felt an unusual fire burning within her breast, which continued after her return home; so that thinking it to be an ordinary effect in all communicants, she, in her innocent way, asked her sisters how long it generally lasted. But perceiving, from their surprise, that it was a special grace imparted by her Saviour, she did not again speak of it, but endeavored to receive the holy sacrament of love as frequently as possible.
At this time the gift of mental prayer was communicated to her. In what manner she received it, the following account, which she wrote afterwards, by the command of her directors, will explain:—“When I was about twelve years of age, I think, a desire frequently came into my mind, of placing myself in mental prayer; but I did not know how to set about it. It seemed mere folly to ask my confessor to instruct me in it, because he knew my wickedness; and I thought that none ought to apply to it except the good and those who are really inclined to virtue; but in myself there was nothing but inconstancy, and want of perseverance. I went on making my altars, although, while I was making them, I felt at times an application of my mind to prayer. As soon as I had finished, I knelt down before them, and remained on my knees for a long time; but what I did I know not, for I was, so to speak, out of myself. I felt such pleasure, that I should not have cared to eat or do anything else. I desired that all creatures should love and honor God. I ran to ask my sisters to come and sing with me. They did so, and I felt great comfort therein. As soon as my father returned home, I led him to my altar, and induced him to say some prayers with me. When the Nativity drew near, I could not contain myself for joy; and several times, whilst I was looking at the representation of Our Lord in the crib, I think I saw Him surrounded with glory; He drew me to a union with Himself, but I know not how. Of this I spoke to no one, nor did I derive any profit therefrom, for I soon returned to my usual childish follies. On the day of communion, all my delight was to be about my altar. Although I knew not how to pray mentally, my mind became all recollected in God. I seemed to feel my Lord in a special manner within my heart. I placed myself in prayer; and the longer I was employed therein the longer I wished to remain. I had a certain interior light that showed me the inconstancy of worldly things, and I was inclined to abandon everything. I knew no other good but God. These considerations strengthened my desire of becoming a religious. The desire of suffering, I think, I had from my infancy, and afterwards; but, alas! it profited me in nothing. I had no sooner left the altar, than I set about annoying some one or other.
“Although I sought amusement in worldly diversions, I felt my mind wholly turned to God. As well as I can remember, the passion of my Redeemer moved me very much; at times even to tears. The more I exercised myself in mental prayer, the more tedious I found the things of the world. At times, I had some particular insight into myself; but this I did not mention to my confessor. It is true that such lights made me advance farther than ever in the way of prayer; and, in order that I might not be observed, I told the servant to call me early in the morning; she did so, and I rose at once. I remained in prayer for several hours, but what I did I cannot relate. I know that I was out of myself, and felt a willingness and desire to be employed in all the work of the house, but this was forbidden, lest it should injure me. I seldom rose up from prayer, before I had been told by the Lord that I was to be His spouse. Still I remained steadfast in my desire of entering a religious order, and this desire increased daily. When a festival occurred, I felt a flame in my heart, which set my whole soul on fire. I could not remain quiet, I ran about the house as if I were mad, and made people laugh at me. Sometimes all my delight was in making altars; and although, in my uncle’s house, this was not so easy as at home, I never left off making them. For work I had not much inclination, but I could do as much in an hour as another in a day. I did not care to learn anything, but whatever I saw done, I found myself able to do, and succeeded when I set about it. I was the torment of everybody, and yet all wished me well, and liked me better than my sisters. When I thought of this, it surprised me beyond measure. No one spoke harshly to me; and yet I performed all sorts of naughty tricks. I was naturally hasty, and whenever I was vexed, I stamped and beat the ground like a horse; and believe me, I did so through mere wickedness, for no one ever provoked me to it. At times I took a thing into my head, and wished it to turn out as I desired. I felt an internal reproach for not mortifying myself, but I paid no attention to it. It seemed to me, that whenever I placed myself in prayer, God gave me to understand what he wished me to do; but I thought it was a mere fancy of my own, although the same light returned to my soul. It improved me much in virtue, and I began to accustom myself to silence, which enabled me to apply better to prayer; and although I did not mortify myself, I was encouraged to do so. Thus, by degrees, I became more and more in love with suffering. Oftentimes I rose during the night, and spent a short time an prayer; I had a peculiar affection for it, which led to application, but not to recollections.* In the manner here described I spent the last two years that I remained in the world, that is, the fourteenth and fifteenth of my age. Still I gave way to many vanities, and often felt satisfaction in them; but, at the same time, I felt the internal reproach, which did not let me rest until I had withdrawn from many amusements which I was used to seek.”
These were the beginnings of those high gifts of prayer and contemplation to which she afterwards attained; but it must not be supposed that the exercise of them was at all times attended with comfort and delight to her soul; for her writings mention the violent repugnance of the flesh, the strong temptations, the obscurity of mind, and dryness of affection, with which she had to contend in the struggle between the world and grace.
Besides these interior trials, her perseverance and constancy to her Virgin Spouse were put to the most severe test, in the endeavors made by her father and other relations to induce her to join in the vain and idle occupations of others in her state of life, and to yield to their repeated arguments and even snares, to induce her to enter the married state. “Our father wished,” she writes, “that I should be more finely dressed than others, and one day I wore one vanity, and another day another. He was so fond of me, that, when at home, he would always have me beside him. All this I complied with. But I began to perceive that he was not willing that I should become a nun, and he told me I must marry, and that as long as he lived I must not leave him. But this news filled me with sorrow, because every time he spoke in this manner, I felt a stronger desire of being a nun. I told others so, but no one would believe me, and everybody was against my intention, especially my father, who even shed tears, and told me positively that he would never consent; and in order to drive the thought out of my head, he brought other gentlemen into the house and then called me. In their presence, he promised me all sorts of pleasures and amusements, and they did the same. They talked about the things of the world, in order to persuade me to set my fancy upon them, but their discourses led me to a contrary desire. At that moment, worldly things appeared so disgusting, that I could not hear them mentioned; and more than once I told these persons that they must not speak again on such subjects, because the more I heard, the more my soul was withdrawn from them. But all that I said, availed me nothing; every day my martyrdom was renewed. I had patience for some time; but at last, I declared in their presence that such discourses disgusted me, and before them all, I expressed my deep commiseration for the wretchedness of the unfortunate persons who are attached to worldly things. I spoke as little as possible, because I knew that my father took great delight in hearing me talk, and I did everything in my power to diminish his attachment, by avoiding all those actions in which he took delight; but all to no purpose; his affections seemed to increase daily. At times, he said to me, ‘I wish to content you in everything; the only thing I beg of you is, that you will not turn nun.’ With these words, he wept through affection. I said to him, ‘If you wish to content me, I do not want any other favor from you, except that you would put me in a convent; all my desires are there. Content me in this, and you will content me in everything else, and depend upon it, it will be a source of comfort to yourself afterwards.’ ”
Her father, finding all his efforts unsuccessful, sent her to live with her uncle, whom he secretly instructed to use all his influence and artifice to dissuade her from her design. Here she had an illness, for which the physicians could discover no remedy; until some of her attendants, perceiving that she grew sensibly better, whenever they talked of nuns and convents, informed her father, who thereupon gave up his opposition to her entreaties, and, as soon as he had allowed her to choose the convent in which she would be professed, she rose from her bed, and all symptoms of sickness immediately disappeared.
She then begged him to allow her to enter the rigorous convent of capuchine nuns at Città di Castello, and was conducted by her uncle to the bishop of the diocese, to obtain his permission. He told them that all the places in the convent were filled up, and they left him, to return home. But Ursula besought her uncle to return with her to his presence, where, falling on her knees, she prayed him in such earnest accents to comfort her by granting her request, that he was inclined to make an exception in her favor. He put several questions to her, and asked her amongst the rest, if she knew Latin. Her uncle at once replied in the negative, but Ursula, full of confidence in God’s aid, took up the breviary, and read it with the most correct pronunciation; and although she had never studied Latin, she was able, during the rest of her life, to quote the texts of Scripture with perfect aptness and propriety. The bishop accordingly granted her leave to enter the convent, into which she was admitted on the 17th of July, 1677, and was vested on the Feast of SS. Simon and Jude, in the same year. The devil sought to weaken her love of her new state, by representing it as one leading to despair: at one time, he filled her imagination with the remembrance of the many proposals of marriage and the young men that she had rejected; at another, he made the time of prayer tedious and disgusting to her. “It seems,” she says, “as if all hell were let loose against me, but I heeded it not. When I felt more than usually agitated by their attacks, I went alone into my cell, and there poured out my soul in prayer to God, and represented my necessities to him. Sometimes I offered up acts of prayer, and besought Him not to desert me; and said to him, full of faith, ‘My God, Thou knowest that I am Thy spouse, grant, therefore, that I may never be separated from Thee. Now, for ever, I place myself in Thy hands; I am ready for whatever Thou shalt command. I am Thine, I am Thine, that is enough.’ ” God did not fail to strengthen her, by saying to her heart, “Fear not, thou art mine. It is my will that thou shouldst suffer and combat; fear not.” At her reception, she took the name of Veronica, by which we shall henceforth call her.
We pass over the numerous instances of suffering and obedience which she gave during her novitiate; at the end of which she was admitted to make her profession on All Saints’ day, 1678. Her writings contain many allusions to the joy which she derived from the recurrence of this day of solemn renunciation of the world and dedication of herself to her Heavenly Spouse. The first years she passed in the order were distinguished by the most extraordinary marks of Divine grace; all of which produced in her, compunction and sorrow for her sins, and love of mortification, and the cross of Christ. One of her raptures she thus describes: “The first time that I had these recollections with a vision, it seemed to me that I saw, on a sudden, Our Lord with a heavy cross on His shoulders, when He invited me to take a part in that precious treasure. This invitation was given by communication rather than by words. At that instant I felt a strong desire of sufferings, and it seemed that the Lord planted the cross in my heart, giving me to understand the value of suffering. This understanding I received in the following manner. It appeared as if all sorts of torments were represented to me, and, at the same moment, I saw them transformed into jewels and precious stones, all of which were made in the figure of the cross. During this time, I was given to know that God wished pure suffering in me; and then the vision disappeared. When I came to myself, I felt a violent pain in my head, which has never since left me, and so eager was my desire of suffering, that I would willingly have faced every torment that can be conceived. From that moment I have ever had in my mouth these words, ‘The cross and sufferings are jewels and joys,’ ” From this account it may be collected, that, on this occasion, Jesus impressed that visible mark of the cross upon her heart, which was seen, after her death, by several persons, when her body was opened for that purpose.
Veronica was successively appointed to fill every office of the community, in all of which she displayed the same wonderful examples of virtue, and love of obedience and suffering; and many signs of Divine favor proved to her sisters how pleasing her actions were to Almighty God. She was appointed Mistress of the Novices, in her thirty-fourth year, and continued for twenty two years in that office, until she was chosen abbess, in 1716; and even then, so extraordinary had been the efficacy of her prayers, and zeal in the discharge of it, that her sisters forced her, contrary to the usual order, to retain it during the eleven years she was abbess. More than once, to free them from sickness, and other inconveniences, she obtained of God, that she might suffer in their stead; and some of them were relieved by her, in their anxiety and trouble of mind, which had been supernaturally made known to her. On one occasion was revealed to her the severe judgment which God will make of superiors and directors of religious communities, by whose fault any relaxation of fervor creeps amongst those committed to their care. On the 9th of November, she fell dangerously ill, and during the agony which succeeded, was carried in spirit before the throne of the Divine Judge. She beheld Christ, with a severe countenance, seated on a throne of majesty, surrounded by angels; Our blessed Lady on one side, and her patron saints on the other. When her good angel presented her to the awful judgment, she expected to be condemned to hell,—so severe, she tells us, were the reproaches of the Judge, and so unprovided was she with good works; but so earnest were the prayers of Mary, and of her holy advocates, that the divine countenance of Christ at last grew calm; and, after giving her various salutary admonitions, He dismissed her.
On the morning after her agony, she called her novices; and, having obtained leave from her confessor to speak to them respecting their failings, and her own negligence in correcting them, which had been revealed to her during her vision of judgment, she whispered to them with such earnestness, that they burst into a flood of tears, and, at the end, she said to them, “Do not learn of me, who have been the scandal of all in all my conduct; for in the observance of the rules, as well as in obedience, love and charity, I have been ever proud and devoid of humility.” The nuns interrupted her with tears and sobs, charging themselves with the fault, in not having followed her instructions, but she rejoined, “take heed of little things, for, before God, things are very different from what we suppose.”
We must now pass to the sublime novitiate and preparation of grace, by which she became, during the last thirty-five years of her life, an exact image of Our crucified Lord. In the year 1693, she beheld, in a vision, a mysterious chalice or cup, which she knew to be the presage of the Divine passion, whereof she was to be a perfect copy. This vision was repeated in various forms during the following years. At one time, the chalice appeared upon a bright cloud, surrounded with glory; at another, without any ornament: sometimes the liquor contained in it, boiled and ran over in great abundance; at other times, it issued from it, drop by drop. Her spirit was ready to quaff it to the bottom, but the flesh shuddered and drew back, as did our Lord’s in the garden; but she subdued it by severe mortifications. “I must not be too confident,” she writes, “because I know that, as yet, it is not dead. The spirit I have always found eager and desirous of drinking it, and willing to taste of such bitterness, in order to fulfil the will of God. At times I felt these desires, and I exclaimed: ‘When will the hour come, O my God, when Thou wilt allow me to drink of Thy cup? I await Thy will, but Thou alone knowest my thirst: I thirst, I thirst, but not for comforts, but for bitterness and sufferings.’ I felt that I could wait no longer. One night, whilst I was in prayer, being quite out of myself, it seems that Our Lord appeared to me, and, holding the cup in His hand, said: ‘This is for thee, and I present it to thee, that thou mayest taste, as much as I have tasted, for thy sake, but not yet. Prepare thyself, for thou also shalt taste it.1 He then disappeared, leaving the remembrance of that chalice so deeply impressed on my mind, that it has ever since remained there.
The anxiety and dread inspired by the constant appearance of this cup before her mind’s eyes, threw her into a violent fever, which was succeeded by such weakness of body, that her superiors forced her to submit to the prescriptions and treatment of physicians, which served only to increase her torments.
But the most sensible torment was, the privation of the light of God. “All these sufferings were a mere nothing in comparison with what I experienced in myself, deserted, abandoned in blackest darkness, at such a distance from God, that I could not even breathe nor sigh to God. . . . O, intolerable agony of the soul! to see herself stript of every support, and utterly separated to a distance from its Sovereign Good. She sighs, but is not heard; she calls her Spouse, but He comes not; she seeks Him, but he flies still farther off; she prays to Him, but he will not hear. . . . My soul was in such torment, that the agony of death cannot, I think, be more bitter. I had no relief, save in seeing the cup approach nearer and nearer. . . . God be praised! for His love, all is little. Welcome the naked cross, welcome pure suffering. I am ready for all things to give delight to my Lord, and to fulfil His divine will.”
God recompensed her readiness to drink the chalice of sufferings, by making her a partaker of the torments of His passion. On the fourth of April, 1694, as near as can be ascertained, He appeared to her, and presented her with His crown of thorns. In obedience to her confessor, she thus describes her vision. “On the fourth of April, whilst I was in prayer during the night, I fell into a recollection, and in it had an intellectual vision, wherein Our Lord appeared to me, with a large crown of thorns upon His head. Immediately I cried out, ‘My spouse, give me a part of these thorns, I deserve them, not Thou, my Sovereign Good!’ I heard him reply, ‘I am now come to crown thee, my beloved;’ and then He took the crown off his head, and placed it upon mine. The pain I suffered, at that instant, was so excessive, that I have never, as far as I can understand, suffered anything like it. But it seemed to me that such suffering was a great joy to me; I felt as if I should die, if I had not some torment to undergo.”
Finding herself unable to go through her ordinary duties, and being anxious, at the same time, to conceal these divine favors from her companions, she prayed to God,—“My God, I beseech Thee, if it be Thy will, to give me strength to perform the work and other duties prescribed for me, and let these Thy graces never be manifest, but always in secret.” We pray the reader to observe how exactly all the prayers of Veronica, and the effects produced in her soul, are conformable to the rules whereby Benedict XIV. teaches us to judge of the truth or falsehood of such supernatural favors as she received. They are always communicated during prayer; they excite in her a more ardent desire of undergoing still greater torments for the sake of God,—they lead above all to humility and anxiety to hide them from the eyes of the world. Let us now see how another of his criterions corresponds with the reality of her visions and other graces: we mean how they inflamed her with burning charity and zeal for the glory of God, and the conversion of sinners. “This pain (of the crown of thorns) inspired me with such compassion for sinners, that, offering to the Eternal Father all the sufferings of Jesus, and all His merits with those of Our Lady for the conversion of sinners, I prayed more earnestly than ever for sufferings, begging Him to sead me more torments. At that instant, I felt a fresh renewal of the crown of thorns, not only round my head, as usual, but all over it: and, for several hours, I remained rejoicing amid thousands of torments. It is only a few days since I had this renewal, and it was signified to me, at the same time, that this was a warning that I was to spend this Lent in continual suffering God be praised! Everything is little for His sake!”
This crowning was renewed several times during the course of her life. Her directors, being informed that it had taken place, commissioned Sister Florida Ceoli to observe if there were any visible marks of it on her head. She deposed, on oath, as follows:—“I visited her, and saw that she had upon her forehead something like a circle, tending to a red color. Sometimes I have observed upon it certain pimples, about the size of a pin-head, in the form of little buttons. At other times she had her forehead sprinkled with marks of a purple color all round, like the figure of thorns which came down towards the eyes; and, in particular, I saw one of these marks, like thorns, come down towards the right eye, and even passed quite under it, filling it with tears; and I saw that the tears were blood, from the veil wherewith she wiped them away; as I have frequently told her confessors who enjoined me to watch her.”
But not content with these observations made by her companions, and wishing fully to ascertain if such effects proceeded from natural or supernatural causes, the bishop of the city caused her to be placed under the care of physicians and surgeons; but, after they had exhausted all the resources of their art, and applied remedies so cruel and so violent that none of the sisterhood would assist at them, but left Veronica herself to hold the heated instruments for them, they abandoned the attempt; and the bishop and her directors were persuaded that He alone, who had imprinted such marks of love upon His servant, was capable of curing them, and that he had thereby wished to render her more and more conformable to Himself.
The sacred Scriptures use the word espousals to denote a more intimate union formed between God and the soul by the most perfect love. In the book of Canticles the Holy Ghost describes the correspondence of a soul with grace, under the figure of two spouses, and in the New Testament, Our Lord speaks of the virgins whom He admits to His heavenly marriage-feast. This spiritual union with certain devout souls God has been pleased to make manifest to them by more sensible signs, accompanied by formalities like those used in ordinary marriages. Of such we read in the life of the ecstatic St. Catharine of Siena. To this exalted dignity God was pleased to raise Veronica, as he revealed to her, during the crowning with thorns, of which we have already spoken.
One of the commands given to Veronica, after her espousals, was that she should increase her fasting; and about a year after that event, she received a direct injunction from God to fast for three whole years upon nothing but bread and water. But Almighty God, wishing at the same time to put her obedience to her superiors to the test, caused them all to refuse her their permission, without which she could not put the Divine command in practice. And, although He continued to repeat His command and even to reproach her for not fulfilling it; and although her stomach rejected every other food but bread, yet her superiors obstinately refused to accede to her petition. “I was full of joy,” she says, “because in this way I suffered much, but I felt that the flesh could bear no more.” At length, after she had undergone the severest torments, from the refusal of her superiors, the weakness of her body, and her sorrow of mind, at not being able to comply with the will of God, from March to September, God was pleased to support her by milk miraculously supplied in the same manner as is related by the Bollandists of the holy virgins, Lidwige, or Lidwina, in Holland, and Geltrude in Belgium.
The most severe trial to which she was exposed, was from desolation and sadness of spirit, and from the bitter malice and fierce assaults of the devi against her purity, during 1696, the year after her mystic espousals.
Under the 17th of October, we read as follows: “Amongst my other tribulations came this also. Whilst I was in prayer, there came upon me such, and so many evil thoughts of impurity and of grievous sins, and they threw me into such anguish, that at one time they covered me with perspiration, and at another made me freeze, with an internal agony, which confused and disturbed my soul. I did not wish to disquiet myself, nor to give myself trouble and pain, but I could not help it; I felt myself so oppressed and sunk in these filthy thoughts, and my mind so completely obscured, that I could do nothing. The demon tempted me, and I seemed to hear a dreadful voice, which continually repeated, ‘See, these are the fruits of praying for sinners. All their sins are crowding upon thy head. Do good now, if thou canst.’ As he spoke these words, the devil seemed to make merry and rejoice. O God, what torment it gave me! As well as I could, I begged of God the salvation of souls, and I said, ‘My sovereign good, Spouse of my soul, I do not offend Thee in will, and therefore I detest and abhor every wicked thought; and now and for ever, I tell Thee, that my will does not wish to entertain them. Rather death, and a thousand deaths, than that I should ever consent to a single thought that can offend Thee.’ As I said this, though with great difficulty, the devil tormented me by suggesting worse thoughts than ever, and telling me that no hope was left me. I replied, ‘Liar that thou art, I will not yield to thy falsehoods. Jesus will I love, Jesus will I serve; I have no other good but Jesus.’ In this struggle I remained for several hours, always with desolation, dryness, and temptations. God be blessed for all!” The like temptations and assaults, both from her flesh and from the devil, are described under December of the same year, but she repeated with the glorious martyr St. Cecily, fiat cormeum et corpus meum immaculatum ut non confundar, “Let my heart and body be immaculate, that I may not be confounded.” On Christmas eve she made an incision upon her heart in the form of a cross, with a pen-knife. With the blood, which issued from it, she wrote a fervent protestation of love, and a dedication of her will to her infant Saviour. Four other writings of the same kind, made during the course of that and the following year, 1697, all breathe the same feelings of consecration of her will to Jesus, and especially of ardent charity and zeal for the salvation of her neighbors, whose mediatrix she had promised to be. In one of them, she writes, “I intend at this moment to confirm all the protestations which I have made with my own blood. Lo! I am ready to give my life and blood for the conversion of sinners, and the confirmation of the Holy Faith. O my God! with your heart, with your love, I make this invitation. O souls redeemed with the blood of Jesus, I speak to you; O sinners, come all to the heart of Jesus, to the fountain, to the boundless sea of His love. Come, all of you, men and women, come all! leave sin; come to Jesus!” Her loving spouse rewarded her constancy and love.
On Good Friday, the 5th of April, 1697, she received those rich pledges of love which were vouchsafed to the seraphic St. Francis, St. Catharine, and other saints; for Our Lord, after having previously foretold these graces, and after displaying his mercies in other ways, to her, was pleased to imprint upon her hands and feet, the stigmata or wounds of his most sacred passion. These wounds were afterwards renewed upon several other occasions, and their reality was made known to many persons. For the Tribunal of the Holy Office at Rome, having received information thereof, ordered the bishop of the city to make an inquiry into the truth of the report. He repaired to the grate of the convent, with several other ecclesiastics, who severally saw the wounds which her blessed Spouse had made. Those in the hands and feet, as Florida Ceoli and other sisters attest, were on the upper side round, and about the size of a farthing, but less on the under side, deep and red when open, and covered with a thin cicatrix or crust, when closed. The wound in the left side, above the left breast, was between four and five fingers in length, and about one finger broad in the middle, growing thinner towards the two extremities, exactly like the wound of a lance. Veronica was so alarmed at the thought of undergoing these examinations so dreadful to her virginal modesty, that she told sister Florida Ceoli, in confidence, she should have died of confusion, if God had not deprived her of her senses, during them. And her profound humility suggested to her to beg earnestly of her beloved Saviour to leave her the pain, but hide the marks of these wounds from the eyes of the world, as he had done to St. Catharine 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. So in effect it happened; for after three years, on the 5th of April, 1700, the wounds closed, but not until it had been proved to many that they were indeed the work of divine love. But, although they were closed to the eyes of others, it is attested by several witnesses, that the pain still continued, and that they were renewed after that date upon the greater festivals of the church, the feasts of St. Francis and of his stigmata, and as often as her superiors commanded. She herself mentions their being renewed in 1703, three years after their closing; and her confessor, Father Ranier Guelfi, as late as holy Saturday, the 19th of April, 1726, having been informed by her, that Jesus had renewed her wounds twice upon that same day, commanded her to pray that they might be renewed for the third time. She obeyed, and after remaining in ecstasy at his feet for some time, told him that she had obtained the grace. To his astonishment he beheld the wounds open, and blood issuing from them. To have additional witnesses, he pretended to disbelieve her, and ordered her to show them to two of her companions, who both saw them open and covered with blood, as they testify in the process. Besides the testimony of these and the many others, both ecclesiastics and nuns, who saw these wounds, the reality of their existence was proved by the fact that the most diligent endeavors of surgeons to cure them served only to inflame them still more. But the most undoubted proof is, that she was able in spite of them, to live and perform her duties during a space of thirty years; especially when we reflect that the physician and surgeon, who inspected her body, after her death, agreed that the wound in her left side was enough, at any instant, to have caused her death, so that they considered her very continuance in life a miracle.
Veronica foretold that twenty-four marks would be found engraven upon her heart; and, by the order of her confessor, she described the exact form and disposition of them, by cutting them out in red and white paper; and after her death, they were found to correspond in every particular with the account and picture which she had made of them. They were as follows:—a Latin cross, with a C in the top of the upright piece; the centre of the transverse an F; in the right point of the transverse a V; and in the left an O. Above the cross was, on one side, a crown of thorns; on the left of which was a banner upon a staff, which passed transversely over the cross, and the flag of the banner was divided into two tongues, on the upper of which was a large I, and on the lower an m in running hand. At the top of the banner was a flame, and, lower down, a hammer, a pair of pincers, a lance, and a reed with a sponge represented upon the top. On the right of the cross, beginning from above, was a small garment to represent the seamless vest of Our Lord, another flame, a chalice, two wounds, a column, three nails, a scourge, and seven swords; with the letters P.P.V. on other parts of the heart. All these marks were exactly described by her upon paper, which being compared with her heart, soon after death, were found to agree in every particular. Her confessor attests that the meaning of the above letters and emblems is:—The seven swords are the seven dolors of Mary; the banner, the ensign of her victories over the Devil, the world and herself; the two letters, I (J) and m, Jesus and Mary; C, Charity; F, Faith and Fidelity to God; O, Obedience; the two VV, Humility and the Will of God (Umiltà, and Volontà di Dio), P P, Patience and Suffering (Patire); the two flames, the love of God and her neighbor.
But we have now reached the point towards which all her aspirations were directed; the happy moment when she was to be united to that Spouse, towards whom her soul had hastened, as the thirsty hart flieth to the fountains of living waters. She endured, as she had foretold, in this her last stage of more than mortal agony and bitterness, a three-fold purgatory; first, in the persecutions and harshness of men, on the part of her physicians, and those who attended her, then on the part of the devil, who tempted her to despair; and, lastly, from holy obedience; for, although she had so fervently longed for the moment wherein she was to be dissolved, and to be with Christ, it had been made known to her that she was not to die, without the command of her confessor; that so the obedience, which had been so perfect in life, might be crowned even on earth, by opening for her the gate of heavenly bliss. And, as in her burning charity, and her eager desire and incomparable endurance of suffering, as well as in the pains of His blessed passion, she had so closely copied our Lord, so it pleased Him to make the days of her last illness of the same number as the years of His sojourn in this vale of tears; and on the thirty-third day, to close her life by an agony of three hours, like to his own upon the cross. As she lay motionless and tranquil, her confessor, perceiving that her life was drawing near its term, said, “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, in the peace of the Lord, on Friday, the 9th of July, 1727, in the sixty-seventh year of her age, and the fiftieth of her religious profession.
Of her perfection in the discharge of all the duties of her state of life,—of her faith, hope, and love of God and her neighbor,—of her meekness and humility, which she practised in the most heroic degree,—it is unnecessary here to say more, than that in them she was an exact copy of that virtue which her loving Spouse displayed in His life amongst men. Even upon earth, her sanctity was made manifest by the accomplishment of the events which she had foretold, and by the miracles that she performed; and since her death, the most wonderful favors have been obtained by her intercession. From the many that are recorded in the acts of her beatification, we select only two. The first is that of her confidential companion and friend, sister Mary Magdalen Boscaini, who, in the course of the years 1729–30, was attacked by such a complication of disorders, that she could neither taste food, nor lie down, without considerable difficulty; she was subject to frequent fainting-fits and vomitings, and remained in this state for eleven months, being declared by her physicians to have reached an advanced stage of consumption. At last, on the vigil of St. Matthias, in 1730, eleven months since the beginning of her illness, her confessor exhorted her to place a firm reliance upon Veronica, under whom she had passed her novitiate; and when he had excited her confidence and hope, he gave her to drink some water, in which a relic of the saint had been. She drank it, and instantly sprang out of bed, and ran to see one of her sisters, who was also sick; and afterwards to meet the physician at the door, who was coming to make his usual visit. He carefully examined her; and, after feeling her pulse, pronounced it to be a miracle, as the effect proved, for she lived twelve years longer,—when a second illness attacked her, from which she recovered, in like manner, by the intercession of Veronica; and so lived for twenty-two years more, dying in 1765. The second miracle was the sudden and perfect cure of Maria Pacciarini, of an arthritic rheumatism of long duration; from which she instantaneously and perfectly recovered, by the intercession of Veronica.
Veronica was beatified by Pius VII., in 1804, the Cardinal Duke of York being the reporter of the Cause to the Congregation of Rites. She was solemnly canonized by Gregory XVI., on Trinity Sunday, 26th May, 1839.
“There are often found, in the lives of those who enjoy a reputation for sanctity, certain extraordinary marks, which the profane rashly and foolishly scoff at, as empty and dreamy visions: and the inexperienced multitude, on the other hand, receives as irrefragable proofs of virtue: nor are those wanting, who, misled by a deceitful semblance of prudence and caution, blindly pronounce them the result of artifice and cunning. The prudent man avoids all these extremes; and, whilst he silently admires things beyond the reach of ordinary understandings, inquires into their causes; but, still, not from such effects does he decide upon the virtues of those in whom they are conspicuous, but looks chiefly to the conduct and actions they have produced in them, that from the fruits, as our Divine Master teacheth, the quality of the free may be known.”*