June 19, 2020: ST. JULIANA FALCONIERI
June 19, 2020: COMMEMORATION OF ST. JULIANA FALCONIERI, VIRGIN
To serve Mary, was the only nobility that had any attraction in thine eyes, O Juliana! to share her Dolours, was the only recompense which thy generous soul in its lowliness, could ambition. Thy desires were granted: but from that lofty Throne where She reigns as Queen of Angels and of men, She who confessed Herself the Handmaid of the Lord and beheld God to have regard to her humility,—was also pleased to exalt thee, like herself, above all the mighty ones.
O God, who didst vouchsafe to refresh, after a wonderful manner, blessed Juliana, thy Virgin, in her last moments, with the precious body of thy Son: grant, we beseech thee, through her merits and intercession, that we also may, in our last conflict, be so refreshed and strengthened with the same, as to be brought to our heavenly country. Thro’ the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Whilst thou dost, Juliana, claim
The nuptials of the heavenly lamb,
Thou dost thy Father’s house forsake,
And care of Virgins undertake.
And whilst with deepest sorrows pierced,
Nor day, nor night thy groans e’er ceas’d,
For thy dear spouse nail’d on a tree,
His sacred image was in thee.
And wounded sevenfold, thou dost weep,
And at God’s mother’s feet dost keep:
Whilst tears thy ardent love proclaim,
Thy tender heart is on a flame.
And hence when painful death drew near,
God took of thee unusual care;
His sacred body he bestows,
And puts an end to all thy woes.
To God the Father and the Son
And Holy Spirit, Three in One,
Be endless Glory, as before,
The world began, so evermore. Amen.
This day witnesses the close of the pilgrimage of one, who was miraculously supplied with the divine Viaticum: Juliana presents herself at heaven's gate, showing upon her heart, the impress of the Sacred Host. The lily emblazoned on the city escutcheon of Florence, glistens with fresh radiance to-day, for it was she gave birth to our Saint, as well as to so many others, some of whom have already beamed across our path, and some are about to follow,—all of them brilliant in sublime virtues practised within the ancient walls of this “City of flowers,” under the delighted glance and the urging influence of the Spirit of Love. But what shall we say of the glory of yonder mountains, that nobly crown this fair city,—a diadem lovely in men's eyes and still more so, to Angels' gaze? What, of Vallombrosa, and further in the blue distance, of Camaldoli, of Alberno?—all sacred fortresses, at whose foot hell trembling howls,—all sacred reservoirs of choicest grace, guarded by Seraphim, whence flow in gushing streams more abundant and more pure than Arno's tide, living waters of salvation on all the smiling land around!
In 1233, just thirty seven years previous to Juliana's birth, Florence seemed destined to be, under the holy influence of such a neighbourhood, a very paradise of sanctity; so common did the higher Christian life become,—of such every-day occurrence were supernatural prodigies. The Mother of Divine Grace was then multiplying her gifts. Once on a certain festival of the Assumption, seven of the citizens the most distinguished for nobility of blood, fortune, and public offices of trust, were suddenly inflamed by a heavenly desire to consecrate themselves unreservedly to the service of Our Lady. Presently, as these men passed along, bidding adieu to the world, babes at the breast cried out, all over the city: “Behold the Servants of the Virgin Mary!” Among the innocents whose tongue was thus unloosed to announce divine mysteries, was the new-born son of the illustrious family of Benizii, he was named Philip and had first seen the light on the very feast of the Assumption, whereon Mary had just founded for her glory and that of her Divine Son, the Order of the Servites.
We shall have to return to this child, who was to be the chief propagator of the new order; for holy Church celebrates his birthday into heaven, on the morrow of the [feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary]. He was destined to be Juliana's spiritual father. In the meanwhile, the Seven invited by Mary to the festival of penitence, who all persevering faithful unto death, are inscribed on the catalogue of the Saints,—had retired three leagues from Florence to the desert of Monte Senario. There Our Lady, during seven years, formed them to the great work, of which they were the predestined though unwitting instruments. According to His wont, the Holy Ghost, during all this preparatory season, though of long duration,—kept from them every idea save that of their own santification, employing them in the mortification of the senses, and in a spirit of exclusive contemplation of the sufferings of Our Lord and those of His divine Mother. Two amongst them, daily came down to the city to beg bread for themselves and their companions. One of these illustrious mendicants was Alexius Falconieri, the most eager for humiliations, amongst all the seven. His brother who, still continuing in the world, held one of the highest positions amongst the citizens, was in every way worthy of this blessed man, and paid homage to his heroic self-abasement. He likewise took an honourable share in the united gift bestowed, with the concurrence of all classes of these religious citizens, upon the solitaries of Monte Senario, whereby a magnificent Church was added to the poor retreat, they had been induced to accept, for greater convenience, at the gates of Florence.
To honour the mystery wherein their Sovereign Lady declared herself to be the humble servant of the Lord,—this church and monastery of the Servites of Mary received the title of the “Annunziata.” Among the marvels which wealth and art, in succeeding ages, have lavished upon its interior, the principal treasure which puts all the rest in the shade, is a primitive fresco of the angelical salutation, dating from the life-time of the founders,—the painter whereof, more devout to Mary, than skilful with his pencil, deserved to be aided by the hands of Angels. Signal favours obtained without interruption, from this sacred picture, still attract flocks of devout visitors. If the city of the Medici and of the Tuscan Grand-Dukes, though swallowed up by the universal brigandage of the house of Savoy, has preserved better than many others, the lively piety of better days,—she owes it to this her ancient Madonna, as well as to her numerous saints, who seem gathered within her walls, to serve as a cortège of honour for Our Lady.
These details seem necessary to throw light on the abridged account given in the Liturgy, regarding our Saint. Juliana, born of a sterile mother and of a father advanced in years, was the reward of the zeal displayed for the Annunziata, by her father, Carissimo Falconieri. Beside this picture of the Madonna was she to spend her life and to yield up her last breath; close by, her sacred relics now repose. Educated by her uncle, Saint Alexius, in the love of Mary and of humility, she devoted herself from her very youth to the Order founded by Our Lady; ambitioning no title save one, that of Oblate, which would entail upon her the serving, in the lowest rank, the Servites of God's Mother: for this reason, she was later on, acknowledged to be the foundress of the Third Order of the Servites, and was Superioress of the first community of these female tertiaries, surnamed “Mantellatӕ.” But her influence extended further still, so that the whole Order, both the men and the women, alike hail her as their Mother; for it was indeed she who put the finishing stroke to the work of its foundation, and gave it the stability it has been possesed of for centuries.
The Order which had become marvellously extended during forty years of miraculous existence and under the government of Saint Philip Benizi, was at that moment passing through a dangerous crisis, the more to be feared because the storm had taken rise in Rome itself. There was question of everywhere carrying into effect, the canons of the Councils of Lateran and Lyons, prohibiting the introduction of new Orders into the Church; now, the institute of the Servites being posterior to the first of these Councils, Innocent V was resolved on its suppression. The superiors had already been forbidden to receive any novice to Profession or to Clothing; and whilst awaiting the definitive sentence, the goods of the Order were considered, beforehand, as already devolved on the Holy See. Philip Benizi was about to die, and Juliana was but fifteen years of age. Nevertheless, enlightened from on high, the Saint hesitated not: he confided the Order to Juliana's hands, and so slept in the peace of our Lord. The event justified his hopes: after various catastrophes which it were long to relate, Benedict XI, in 1304, gave to the Servites, the definitive sanction of the Church. So true is it, that in the Counsels of Divine Providence, nor rank, nor age, nor sex, count for aught! The simplicity of a soul that has wounded the Heart of the Spouse, is stronger in her humble submission, than highest authority; and her unknown prayer prevails over powers established by God Himself.
Juliana, of the noble family of Falconieri, was daughter of that illustrious nobleman who founded and built the church of Our Lady of the Annunciation, still to be seen in Florence. When she was born, in the year 1270, both he and Reguarda his wife were already advanced in years and up to this, quite childless. From her very cradle, she gave tokens of the holiness of life to which she afterwards attained. And from the lisping of her baby lips was caught the sweet sound of the names of Jesus and Mary. As she entered on her girlhood, she delivered herself up entirely to the pursuit of Christian virtues, and so excellently shone therein that her uncle, the blessed Alexius, scrupled not to tell her mother that she had given birth to an Angel rather than to a woman. So modest, indeed, was her countenance, and so pure her soul from the slightest speck of indiscretion, that she never in her whole life raised her eyes to a man's face, and that the very mention of sin made her shiver; and when the story of a grievous crime was told her, she dropped down fainting and almost lifeless. Before she had completed her fifteenth year, she renounced her inheritance, although a rich one, and all prospect of earthly marriage, solemnly making to God a vow of virginity, in the hands of St. Philip Benizi, from whom she was the first to receive the religious habit of what are called the “Mantellatӕ.”
Juliana's example was followed by many young women of noble families, and even her own mother put herself under her daughter's instructions. Thus in a little while, their number increased, and she became foundress of the Order of the Mantellatӕ, to whom she gave a rule of life, full of wisdom and holiness. St. Philip Benizi having thorough knowledge of her virtues, being at the point of death, thought that to none better than to her, could he leave the care not only of the women but of the whole Order of Servites, of which he was the propagator and head; yet of herself she ever deemed most lowly; even when she was the mistress of others, ministering to her sisters in the meanest offices of the household work. She passed whole days in incessant prayer, and was often rapt in spirit; and the remainder of her time, she toiled to make peace among the citizens, who were at variance amongst themselves; to recall sinners from evil courses; and to nurse the sick, to cure whom she would sometimes use even her tongue to remove the matter that ran from their sores, and so healed them. It was her custom to afflict her body with whips, knotted cords, iron girdles, watching, and sleeping upon the bare ground. Upon four days in the week, she ate very sparingly, and that only of the coarsest food; on the other two she contented herself with the Bread of Angels alone, except Saturday whereon she took only bread and water.
This hardship of life caused her to fall ill of a stomach complaint, which increasing, brought her to the point of death, when she was seventy years of age. She bore the daily sufferings of this long illness with a smiling face and a brave heart; the only thing of which she was heard to complain being, that her stomach was so weak, that unable to retain food, she was withheld, by reverence for the holy Sacrament, from the Eucharistic Table. Finding herself in these straits she begged the Priest to bring her the Divine Bread, and as she dared not take It into her mouth, to put It as near as possible to her heart exteriorly. The Priest did as she wished, and to the amazement of all present, the Divine Bread at once disappeared from sight, and at the same instant, a smile of joyous peace crossed the face of Juliana, and she gave up the ghost. This matter seemed beyond all belief, until the virginal body was being laid out in the accustomed manner; for then there was found, upon the left side of the bosom, a mark like the stamp of a seal, reproducing the form of the Sacred Host, the mould of which was one of those that bear a figure of Christ crucified. The report of this and of other wonders procured for Juliana a reverence not only from Florence, but from all parts of the Christian world, which reverence so increased through the course of four hundred years, that Pope Benedict XIII commanded a proper Office in her honour to be celebrated by the whole Order of Servites of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Clement XII the munificent Protector of the same Order, finding new signs and wonders shedding lustre upon her glory every day, inscribed the name of Juliana upon the catalogue of holy Virgins.
Another account of St. Juliana Falconieri
The illustrious family of Falconieri in Italy received great honour from the sanctity of this holy virgin. Her father, Charissimus Falconieri, and his pious lady, Reguardata, were both advanced in years, and seemed to have lost all hopes of issue, when in 1270 they were wonderfully blessed with the birth of our saint. Devoting themselves afterwards solely to the exercises of religion, they built and founded at their own expense the stately church of the Annunciation of our Lady in Florence, which for riches and the elegance of the structure, may at this day be ranked among the wonders of the world. B. Alexius Falconieri, the only brother of Charissimus, and uncle of our saint, was with St. Philip Beniti, one of the seven first propagators and pillars of the Order of Servites, or persons devoted to the service of God under the special patronage of the Virgin Mary. Juliana in her infancy seemed almost to anticipate the ordinary course of nature in the use of reason, by her early piety; and the first words she learned to pronounce were the sacred names, Jesu, Maria. Fervent prayer and mortification chiefly took up her attention at an age which seems usually scarcely capable of any thing serious. Such was her angelical modesty, that she never durst lift up her eyes to look any man in the face; and so great was her horror of sin that the very name of it made her almost fall into a swoon.
In the sixteenth year of her age, despising whatever seemed not conducive to virtue, she bid adieu to all worldly thoughts and pleasures, renounced her great estate and fortune, and the better to seek the inestimable jewel of the gospel, she consecrated her virginity to God, and received from the hands of St. Philip Beniti the religious veil of the Mantellatӕ. The religious men among the Servites are called the first Order. St. Philip Beniti constituted his second Order, which is that of the nuns, in favour of certain devout ladies. The Mantellatӕ are a third Order of the Servites, and take their name from a particular kind of short sleeves which they wear, as fittest for their work. They were instituted to serve the sick, and for other offices of charity, and at the beginning were not obliged to strict inclosure. Of this third Order St. Juliana was, under the direction of St. Philip, the first plant; and as she grew up, the great reputation of her prudence and sanctity drawing to her many devout ladies, who desired to follow the same institute, she was obliged to accept the charge of prioress. Though she was the spiritual mother of the rest, she made it her delight and study to serve all her sisters. She often spent whole days in prayer, and frequently received great heavenly favours. She never let slip any opportunity of performing offices of charity towards her neighbours, especially of reconciling enemies, reclaiming sinners, and serving the sick. She sucked the most nauseous ulcers of scorbutic patients and lepers; by which means the sores are cleansed without the knife, or painful pressure of the surgeon's hand, and a cure rendered more easy. By an imitation of this mortification and charity, do many pious religious persons, who attend the hospitals of the poor, gain an heroic victory over themselves. Saint Juliana practised incredible austerities. In her old age she was afflicted with various painful distempers, which she bore with inexpressible cheerfulness and joy. One thing afflicted her in her last sickness, that she was deprived of the comfort and happiness of uniting her soul with her divine Spouse in the sacrament of the altar, which she was not able to receive by reason that her stomach, by continually vomiting, could not retain any food. The sacred host however was brought into her cell, and there suddenly disappeared out of the hands of the priest. After her death the figure of the host was found imprinted on the left side of her breast; by which prodigy it was judged that Christ had miraculously satisfied her languishing holy desire. She died in her convent at Florence in the year 1340, of her age seventy. Miracles have been frequently effected through her intercession, among which several have been juridically proved. Pope Benedict XIII enrolled her name among the blessed in 1729. His successor, Clement XII put the last hand to her canonization. Her Order is propagated in Italy and Austria.
Example - St. Juliana Falconieri
The following was extracted from: "The Fairest Flower of Paradise; Considerations on the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, Enriched with Examples Drawn from the Lives of the Saints", by Fr. Alexis M. Lepicier O.S.M., p. 68-70, 1922, Imprimatur
One of those souls who applied themselves especially to imitate the spotless purity of the Mother of God, was without doubt the illustrious Foundress of the Mantellate Sisters of the Servants of Mary, St. Juliana, a descendant of the powerful
Falconieri family of Florence, born in the second half of the thirteenth century.
During her childhood, her whole personality breathed forth such candor and modesty, that her uncle St. Alexis, one of the Seven Holy Founders of the Order of the Servants of Mary, used to say to her mother that she had given birth to an angel rather than to a child. So great was her horror of sin, that at its bare mention she trembled from head to foot, and one day when she heard tell of some offense against God, she fell down in a swoon.
When only fourteen, she made a vow of perpetual virginity
before the miraculous picture of the Santissima Annunziata in Florence. In order to keep herself always pure and spotless, she afflicted her body with disciplines and hairshirts, so much so, that these latter became embedded in her flesh. Such virtues could
not but arouse the hatred of the infernal enemy, who attacked her with all manner of fierce temptations, but the holy servant of Mary used to repeat: "My Jesus, cast me into hell, but do not permit me to offend Thee!"
So great was the sanctity of Juliana, that, as we read in the Bull of her Canonization, she did not commit any deliberate venial sin throughout her whole life. The secret of such holiness is to be found in her ardent devotion to the sorrows of Mary. Every day she recited a thousand Hail Marys before Our Lady's altar. From this devotion there grew in her heart a deep love for Jesus Crucified. She was wont to exclaim: "Let no one ever take away from me my Loved One Crucified."
No doubt it was owing to this great devotion, that Juliana merited the singular grace which crowned her life. In her last extremity, she desired to receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, but not being able to do this on account of an excessive weakness caused by fasting, she begged the priest at least to place the Sacred Host on a linen cloth over her heart. Her wish was complied with, and lo! as soon as the Sacred Host was placed near to that furnace of divine love, It disappeared and Juliana gave up her soul into the hands of her Lord, exclaiming: "O my Jesus!" This remarkable death took place on the nineteenth of June, 1341.
O Mary, Mother of Our Redeemer, Immaculate Virgin, temple of God, and sanctuary of the Holy Ghost, thou art the sole creature who in such a manner wast pleasing to Jesus Christ, that He associated thee in the work of our ransom. Grant me, I beseech thee, to flee sin, and never to seek anything but the good pleasure of God. Amen.
An indulgenced prayer to St. Juliana Falconieri.
His Holiness, Leo XIII, by a rescript of the S. Congr. of Indulgences, dated July 20, 1889, granted to the faithful who shall say the above prayer AN INDULGENCE OF TWO HUNDRED DAYS, once a day.
O faithful Spouse of Jesus Christ and most humble Servant of the Sorrowful Virgin, glorious S. Juliana, when nearing the term of a life all spent in the practice of the most heroic virtues, you felt but the one grief of being prevented by sickness from receiving in viaticum your Beloved; but this grief proved to be so pleasing to your heavenly Spouse Jesus Christ that he deigned himself to reward it by an extraordinary prodigy, when, behold, at your supplications, the Divine Sacrament having been placed on your virginal breast, it instantly penetrated the same, leaving the image of the Crucified visibly impressed thereon, whilst your soul, with a sweet smile, expired in his sacred embrace. O great Saint, and my special Patroness, obtain for us from God, we pray, the grace to live a holy life like to yours, that we may die a holy death; and in particular that, prepared for this last voyage, provided with the Holy Sacrament, and strengthened with God’s grace, I may deserve a holy demise and escape eternal death.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Time After Pentecost, Vol. III, Dublin, Edition 1890;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. VI, 1866;
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Juliana Falconieri, pray for us.