An 18th century saint and mystic recently became known in the Middle East, astonishing all those reading her story.
Her treasured twenty-two-thousand-page handwritten diary was re-discovered by a new generation and is gaining popularity.
With July 9 marking the feast day of this extraordinary mystic, victim soul and stigmatist, St. Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727), let us reflect on her incredible witness and great devotion to the Passion of Christ.
Orsola Giuliani (young St. Veronica) was born in Mercatello, Italy, on December 27, 1660 to Francesco Giuliani and Benedetta Macini.
As St. Veronica’s mother was dying, she consecrated each of her five living daughters to the Five Wounds of Jesus.
To St Veronica, her mother said, “You, dear Orsolina, still so young, will reside in the Wound of the side. I leave you in the Heart of God, where you will not only find protection but also learn what it is to love.”
From a very young age, Orsola courageously endured small and great daily sufferings and encountered Christ through acts of charity. She saw Christ crucified in everyone, especially the poor.
She once met an old beggar in dire need of charity. With barely anything to offer him, she gave him her favorite pair of shoes.
Years later, St. Veronica noted in her Diary: “This poor man seemed more beautiful to me than any other living being I had seen.”
And one day as she prayed, Christ appeared to her and gave her a pair of golden shoes, saying, “These are the shoes you gave Me when you were a child: I was that poor beggar.”
At the age of 17, Orsola entered the cloistered monastery of the Capuchin Poor Clares in Città di Castello and took the name of Sister Veronica.
From the moment that Sr. Veronica walked through the convent doors until her death at 3:30 am on July 9, 1727 – thirty-three years after Christ’s secret wounding of her heart – those very same doors from which she entered never opened again for her.
She never left the convent and lived an enclosed life. Even after death, her body lies on display in that very same convent.
Devotion to the Passion of Christ
Our Lord told St Veronica, “I have chosen you for great things, but you will have to suffer much for love of Me.”
A reflection on the spirituality and personality of St Veronica reveals the beauty of her entire life devoted to contemplating the mystery of Christ, crucified and risen.
St. Veronica’s message to us is simple: If Christ suffered for every soul, so too must we suffer.
In a world where the importance of selfless love and sacrifice are slowly forgotten, it is important to remember that true peace and happiness can only be attained by doing Christ’s will and living in the light of His love.
Through deep contemplation of the life of Christ crucified, St Veronica realized that she too wanted to participate in His suffering through a continuous martyrdom of love.
As a young girl, she said: “My Lord, what a joy it would be for me to receive the blessing of dying crucified with you, in holy martyrdom, as so many saints.”
Both the writings and phenomenal witness of St. Veronica are a testament to the five virtues exercised by Christ during His Passion – deep humility, ardent charity, obedience, patience and resignation –virtues that we must seek to imitate.
Amongst many extraordinary facets of her life lived in union with Jesus crucified was St Veronica’s receiving the Crown of Thorns.
While praying on the night of April 3, 1694, Christ appeared to her wearing a crown of thorns on His Head, a sight which overwhelmed her and filled her with terrible sorrow.
She wrote in her Diary, “I understood His infinite love and felt my own ingratitude. ‘My Lord,’ I said, ‘grant me this crown so that the punctures of its thorns may become voices enabling me to tell You how much I want to love you.’”
And in an instant, Christ took off His Crown and placed it on her head.
Another testament to her powerful devotion to the Passion of Christ was the mystical wounding of her heart.
She told her close confidante that symbols of Christ’s passion and the letters representing the vows she took were etched on her heart.
On the day of St Veronica’s death, her heart was dissected during a post-mortem investigation.
To the astonishment of the physician and surgeon Giovanni Francesco Gentili, and the Bishop, mayor, medical experts and other witnesses present during the autopsy – these sacred symbols, a cross and the letters she had spoken of were engraved in her right ventricle.
The various letters denoted the names of St. Veronica’s virtues: “C” for charity, “O” for obedience, “F” for faithfulness to God and Mary, “P” for patience and “U” for humility.
The two flames represented love for God and neighbor, and the seven swords signified Mary’s sorrows. These markings are not mere symbols, but models of what it means to live a virtuous life.
On Good Friday of April 1697, she received the stigmata, and Christ told her, “Prepare yourself for great suffering.”
As such, St. Veronica constantly united daily acts of suffering and heavy penances with the sacrifice of Christ.
Throughout her life, she performed the Way of the Cross by carrying a heavy wooden cross around the convent garden.
St. Veronica was deeply devoted to the Passion of Christ and immersed in a sea of divine virtue.
She wrote in her Diary:
“If the Cross is the key to love, I want more and more of it. Suffering is my refuge, my relief, my help, my delight, my relief during the pains of love and I live dying so as not to die of love.”
Christ showed St. Veronica His heart and engraved on it were the golden letters ‘Veronica of Jesus and Mary’; she was completely wrapped in God’s burning love.
In a world where many seek happiness by living for the moment and focusing on worldly pleasures, many have forgotten that the true road to enduring happiness is through a complete participation in the Passion of Christ; for with the Cross is the glorious Resurrection.
If we are chained to addictions and live as though God is dead, we will never know true freedom, for true liberation is love in and through self-sacrifice.
In the words of St Veronica, Christ is the treasure that encloses every other treasure, and “the cross is the happiness that we can have in this life. A soul that really lives on the cross has the possession of every good.”