Today, Saturday 10 July 2021, is the feast day of St Veronica Giuliani. Who was this great mystic of the Church, which the Holy Spirit’s holiness in her, gave her all the requirements to be declared Doctor of the Church?
In her Diary, which she wrote at the age of 33, and was completed by her in 1727, Jesus wanted Veronica to write these writings would be of great benefit to many souls; and that he wanted it to be for the whole of Christianity. Moreover, Jesus affirmed: I inform you that I want to give special graces to whomever will trouble himself with this work. And I want everything revealed. These are My works, My gifts, they are My singular graces, and all shall be for My glory.
Veronica was born in 1660 in Mercatello, a small village in Central Italy (Marche), into a middle class family. She was the last of seven children. Baptized with the name Ursola, she received a profoundly religious education made of frequent prayers and exercises in self-denial. At the age of 3 or 4, she would see the child Jesus in the garden while picking flowers. He told her, “I am the true flower” and then disappeared. This left her with a longing for heavenly things. Veronica showed great compassion for the poor. Her mother, Benedetta Mancini, a deeply religious woman, used to read the lives of saints and martyrs to her as well as to her 4 sisters. This led her to start doing some harsh penances and instilled in her the desire to suffer out of love for Jesus at an early age following the example of St. Rose of Lima. Her mom died (39 yrs old) when she was 7 yrs old. Before her mom died, she consecrated each of her five children to each of the Five Holy Wounds of Jesus. Ursula was consecrated to the wound of Jesus’ side (Heart). This act by her mother certainly marked Ursula’s life. In fact she cultivated a great devotion to the Holy Wounds.
In her Diary Veronica speaks of her first Holy Communion at the age of 10. She writes: … It seemed to me that at that act I felt outside of myself. … I felt such a great heat that flared up inside of me, especially, my heart was burning…I felt that the Lord had really come to me, and with my whole heart I told him, “My God, it is now time to take complete possession of me. I give myself only to You and it is only You I want.” I seem to remember that He answered, “You are Mine and I am all yours.” When she went home afterwards, she felt different, transformed, and she realized she had a vocation to the consecrated life.“Oh God! What joy! …I was left with an ardent longing to become a nun, and that I could not wait for the moment to marry God.
At the age of 17, Veronica entered the cloistered Capuchin Convent at Citta di Castello in Umbria. Bishop Sebastiani, who conducted the ceremony, told the nuns, Keep this girl as a precious treasure because she will become a great saint. On the day of her clothing as a religious she wrote in her Diary:
After a long battle between human nature and the spirit, I suddenly seemed to experience something or other-I don’t know if it was recollection or rapture-which took me out of my own senses. But I was unable to understand what it was. At that very moment I think I had a vision of the Lord, who was leading me; I think he had hold of my hand. I could hear harmonious sounds and angelic singing-in fact I think I was in heaven. ….. Then I saw a multitude of men and women saints. I think I also saw the Blessed Virgin. I remember that the Lord gave me a great welcome. He was saying to everyone: ‘This one is ours now’, and then he turned to me and said: ‘Tell me what you want’. I asked Him for the grace to love Him ….. Several times He asked me what I was longing for. Now I can remember asking Him for three favors. One was that I should live up to the state of life I had undertaken; the second, that I should never depart from His holy will; and the third was that He would always keep me on the Cross with Him. He promised to grant me everything. And He said to me: ‘I have chosen you for great things, but you will have to suffer much for love of Me.’
Veronica felt a pain in her heart where in Communion her heart had burned for love of Christ. She writes in her Diary: One occasion, when I was dry and desolate and longing for the Lord but unable to find Him, I would come out of myself and run from one place to another. I called for Him out loud, using all kinds of magnificent names, repeating them several times. At times, I seemed to hear Him, but in a way I cannot explain… I felt as though I were on fire, especially around the heart.
The spirituality of St Veronica is christological and a spousal one. As a matter of fact Veronica experienced being loved by Christ, her Bridegroom. In front of such love she simply wished to respond with an ever more involved and passionate love. Veronica managed to interpret everything in the Key of Love. In everything she was one with Christ, for love of him, and with the joy of being able to show him all the love of which a creature is capable of doing.
We can succintly say that Veronica’s vocation what that of being a mediator between God and sinners, and a mediator and a helper for the poor souls of Purgatory. In her consecrated heart she openly embraced all “the needs of the Holy Church”, living the desire for the salvation of “the whole world.” Veronica offered her prayers and sacrifices for the Pope, for her Bishop, for priests and for all those in need, including the souls in Purgatory.
In her Diary she writes her mystical experiences as a novice: Most nights I spent crying, but I did not know what I was crying about. It seems that thinking about the offenses committed against God and thinking about His Passion moved me to tears; but I don’t remember well the reason for crying so frequently. I seem to remember that I felt that there was an obstinate sinner that did not want to be converted to God and this pained me so much that I could not rest day or night, and I would tell the Lord, ‘My God, here I am ready for any suffering as long as you convert all those who offend you.’…Sometimes when I was going to rest, I heard like a real voice telling me, ‘It is not time to rest but to suffer.’ I would get up immediately and kneel in front of the crucifix saying, ‘My God, I ask you for souls. Let these Your Wounds be voices for me and say with me: O souls redeemed by the Blood of Christ, come to this source of love. I am calling you and these Holy Wounds speak for me, but all of you come.” “Lord, I won’t leave you until I feel that you want to convert a soul. Yes, my God, since my voice is not efficacious, let Your Holy Wounds speak for me.” Suddenly I felt something new, as if I were outside myself. It seems to me that I understood that praying for sinners was so pleasing to the Lord. I showed off as if I was a mediator between God and sinners, but afterwards I felt it was presumptuous. I went to His feet to ask forgiveness.” “I seem to remember that one time this crucifix told me with an audible voice: ‘My spouse, I am pleased with the charity you show towards those who are in my disgrace, that is why I confirm you as a mediator, something for which you have been longing.’” …
She was gazing at the crucifix there and begging Jesus for the conversion of sinners when she experienced this: He detached His arm from the cross and signaled me to come close to His Holy Side. Then,… I found myself hugged by the crucifix and He told me: ‘All this that I am now doing to you, I do it for you to know how pleased I am with your prayers.’ This experience left an imprint of the sorrows and sufferings of the passion in her, that she would often do the Way of the Cross carrying a heavy cross around the garden under all sorts of harsh weather.
Veronica lived deep participation in the suffering love of Jesus, certain that to suffer with joy is the key to love. She emphasizes that Jesus suffers for humanity’s sins, but also for the suffering that his faithful servants would have to endure down the centuries. This has also been the experience of the Apostle Paul himself when he says: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church (Col 1:24). In the most magnificent of ways, Veronica epitomized her contemplative mission: We cannot go about the world preaching to convert souls but are bound to pray ceaselessly for all those souls who are offending God… particularly with our sufferings, that is, with a principle of crucified life.
In his great unfathomable mercy, God allowed her to see, hell and purgatory.. often visited purgatory… Go on to Heaven, I will remain here in order to atone for your sins. Among the souls she atoned for are the souls of her father, Pope Clement XI… confessors ….and sisters like Sr. Angelica.
Obviously, Veronica was tormented by the Tempter and visions of Hell. This vision led Veronica to offer herself as a victim of Divine Justice. She said: My Lord, I offer myself to stand here as a doorway, so that no one may enter down there and lose You.
Veronica was united with Jesus’ passion in the most special way. In 1681 she received the crown of thorns. She writes in her Diary: On Good Friday, I seemed to have a vision…the Lord showed himself to me all wounded and crowned with thorns…I felt the sorrow of sorrows that the Lord felt and at the same time I felt a deep sorrow for my sins and the offenses that I had committed. I was between two points: His infinite Love and my ungratefulness. And it seems that I was telling Him: ‘My Lord, no more ingratitude or sins. Now I want to start to love you…Lord, come to me and give me that crown so that the pricks of the thorns be voices for me to tell you how much I long to love you.’ While I was saying this, it seems that the Lord came closer to me…and I knew that He wanted to grant me the grace that I was asking Him… I was anxious for this suffering when He took the crown from his head and told me something that I don’t remember. He put this crown on my head and I seemed to have felt the thorns pierce through into the inside of my mouth, ears, all my head, my eyes, my temples, and my brain. It was so much suffering; I fell on the ground as if dead. The Lord lifted me up and told me: ‘You will feel these pains as long as you are alive, more or less according to my wish.’ Again, I fell down and the Lord lifted me. I fell for a third time. Oh God! I cannot describe what the Lord communicated to me about His sufferings: I know very well that in a certain way he left an imprint of His Passion in my heart that I have never forgotten.”
Veroncia experienced her engagement and mystical espousal with Jesus. In fact, just before the beginning of Lent in 1694, she had a vision of Jesus and St. Catherine of Siena on a beautiful throne circled by angels. Here is Catherine, my beloved spouse; I assign her to you as a companion so that she may be an intercessor between you and Me. Then Jesus taking St. Catherine’s hand showed Veronica the beautiful ring on her finger.
On Easter Sunday, as she went to receive Holy Communion, she could hear the choirs of angels singing, Come, spouse of Christ. Immediately after she went into ecstasy and saw Jesus in all His glory with His Holy Wounds all shinning. She saw Jesus like this, “He was so beautiful that I cannot describe it…His hands, feet and side, that is, His Wounds, were so resplendent that it seems to me that instead of wounds, they were beautiful precious stones. Only the wound of the side seemed to be open and from it came out rays of sun…it seems that inside this holy wound was the ring that I was to wear…At this time it seems that the Lord raised his right hand as if to bless me and said: ‘Come spouse of Christ.’ The Virgin Mary, together with all who were present said, ‘Accept the crown which God prepared for you from all eternity.’
It is interesting to have a look at the prayers St Veronica used to pray. Her spontaneous prayers often invoked the Wounds of Christ: My God, I ask you for souls. Let these Your Wounds be voices for me and say with me: O souls redeemed by the Blood of Christ, come to this source of love. I am calling you and these Holy Wounds speak for me, but all of you come. This great mystic of Città di Castello, tries to encompass all creation in her praise and hence multiply the intention of her prayer: O stars, o sky, help me. I would like to have as many tongues as there are stars in order to praise God and to invite the whole world to love Him. And on another occasion she prayed: My Lord, I intend to call you as many times as there are plants and leaves in the whole world; and I would like to have as many hearts, as many tongues, as there are grains of sand in the ocean, as there are grains of dirt in the whole world. Veronica was also very concerned with the conversion of non-Christians.
Veronica also experienced her mystical union with Jesus thanks to the stigmata of her heart and her reception of the stigmata. She received the wound in her heart, also known as transverberation, on Christmas Eve of 1696. She writes in her Diary: I only remember that the child Jesus had like a bow and arrow in his hands, and it seemed that he sent it to my heart. I felt great pain. ….. I only remember that I experienced an intimate union with Him and He made me understand that this wound was nothing compared to the wound He would inflict on me soon. Like St Pio, this wound would remain open and bleeding for several days and then it would close. She describes that she felt pain all the time and like a flame inside the wound. The wound would reopen at times and remain open for several days again. Veronica would offer the pain of this wound in union to the sufferings and wounds of Jesus for the conversion of sinners.
It was the wound Jesus would inflict on her soon, precisely on March 8, 1697, before a crucifix. Veronica gives the following desciption of the event: Being in front of Him, very close, it seemed that He detached His right arm and with that great nail that He held in his hand, He wounded my heart. I felt great pain, and quickly returned to myself.
In her account, Veronica says that Jesus assigned her to the school of His Holy Wounds, and told her: You should not start any work at all without entering first in these loving Wounds, in order to learn how to do that work…I had willed to imprint these Wounds truly in your heart so that your heart would be all mine. Now it is no longer yours. Furthermore, Jesus showed her how he wounded the heart of St. Teresa of Avila. She writes: Lord made me understand that when she was wounded by love, in that act, she became completely detached from everything, so much so that she did not want to know anything about the world anymore. Detached from everything and everyone, she remained in God alone and did not have any other thought except God and her soul.
It was on April 5, 1697, that Veronica received the stigmata. In fact, she had a vision of Jesus crucified and the Virgin Mary, as Our Lady of Sorrows. She wrote in her Diary: “In an instant, I saw five shining rays shooting out from His Wounds, coming towards me. I watched as they turned into little flames. Four of them contained the nails, and the fifth one contained the lance, golden and all aflame, and it pierced my heart. The nails pierced my hands and feet. I felt great pain but in this same pain I saw myself, I felt myself totally transformed into God (Diary, 1, 897).
The Lord continued to shower Veronica with countless visions and insights. A case in point was the following experience when she received the Eucharist. She writes: The three Divine Persons, present in the most Holy Sacrament revealed themselves to my soul, and my soul received a deep and penetrating understanding of this Divine Mystery…I can only say it was presented to me as a precious joy. Every time we receive Communion, our soul and heart become a temple of the Most Holy Trinity and, with God coming to us, all Paradise comes. In this joy, I saw how God exists, enclosed in the most Holy Host, and this Grace was for me superior to all other Graces, I have ever received in my life.
St Veronica was convinced that she was already participating in the Kingdom of God, but at the same time she invoked all the Saints in the heaven to assist her on the earthly journey of her continual self-giving. Veronica explains the gift of herself to the Church, as the relationship between the pilgrim Church and the heavenly Church.
The saint of Città di Castello had a profound intimacy with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Veronica was one of the saints who emphasized so much the paramount importance of consecrating oneself to the Virgin Mary. On 1715, Veronica experienced the grace of a mystical union with the soul of Mary. She wrote: It seems to me that at this point the Blessed Virgin Mary had transformed herself into me; but I have no way of explaining or recounting this, because my soul has become one with Mary. And Mary told her:“I made you rest on my breast, you were united with my soul, and from it you were taken as in flight to God.
Veronica passed the remaining years of her life in an incessant union with God. She writes: They enjoy God in God: it is a continuous banquet of love with love. On June 6th, at the moment of Holy Communion, she had a stroke. From that time she suffered for 33 days a purgatory on Earth: physical and moral sufferings and temptations from the devil. On July 9,1727 at dawn, she went to her eternal abode. Veronica was beatified on June 17, 1804 by Pope Pius VII and canonized on May 26, 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI.
St Veronica teaches us of the need that we are completely bound to the divine will with total trust. She writes:…It seemed to me that I should never again have to be separated from this will of God and I came to myself with these precise words: nothing will be able to separate me from the will of God, neither anxieties, nor sorrows nor toil nor contempt nor temptation nor creatures nor demons nor darkness, not even death itself, because, in life and in death, I want all, and in all things, the will of God (Diary, IV, 272). Veronica shows us that death is not the last word, we are fixed in God’s will, hence, truly, in eternal life.
As a courageous witness of Crucified Love she interpreted everything in a Key of Love. Veronica’s spiritual journey was that of embracing the Crucified One and thus to remain in Christ’s love for others. Her wonderful union with the Church, the Bride of Christ encourages us to pray and work for the Church’s unity. St Veronica also invites us to participate in the suffering love of Jesus Crucified for the salvation of all sinners. She invites us to fix our gaze on Heaven, the destination of our earthly journey, where, one day, we shall live together with so many brothers and sisters the joy of full communion with God. Veronica invites us to nourish ourselves daily with the Word of God, to warm our hearts and give our life the heaven direction. •
Veronica’s last words can be considered the summary of her passionate mystical experience: I have found Love, Love has let himself be seen!
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap