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St Juliana Falconieri
Virgin and Foundress (entered heaven on 12 June 1341)
I can feel the joy pulsating through your last note. I am so glad that you are finally able to spend a summer doing what you’ve always wanted to do. I hope it goes well. As your faithful uncle, however, I have to remind you that theatre people in general, and summer theatre people in particular, tend to be rather, well, how shall I put it – more emotional than moral. The schedule is sure to be daunting, so you’ll need to work hard to fit some regular time for prayer each day. The best thing would be if you could find a place for daily Mass and a daily chat with our Lord in the Eucharist. That should arm you against the temptations that are sure to increase in intensity as you increase in exhaustion. The Eucharist is a great gift, as well as a great weapon, as today’s saint demonstrates.
Juliana was the only child of an older, wealthy Florentine couple who were also generous and devout. Her dad died when she was just a girl, and her holy uncle (St Alexis, one of the Founders of the Servite Order) took her and her mother under his wing.
When she was 14 her mother began arranging a marriage for her. As soon as she found out, she objected. She explained that she wanted to consecrate her life to Christ. Her mother resisted, but Juliana’s vocation was undeniable – in fact, it had been clear for years. So she took the habit as a Third Order Servite and lived at home in prayer, penance, and service for the next 18 years. Her mother not only accepted the daughter’s vocation, but eventually even put herself under Juliana’s direction until her death, after which Juliana moved to another house and helped found the Third Order of Servite nuns, dedicated to prayer and serving the sick.
The Congregation flourished under her leadership, and even though she hadn’t been the first to join the Order, she was elected its general, and given the task of writing up their constitutions.
Throughout all the years of her taxing religious life, she would receive Holy Communion three times a week – an unheard of frequency for that epoch. But towards the end of her life her chronic gastric problems were exacerbated by other sicknesses, and even when she was on her deathbed she was unable to receive Communion due to fits of vomiting.
Knowing that her last hour had come, however, she longed to receive our Lord. So she asked the priest to lay a corporal (the white cloth put on top of the altar for the liturgy of the Eucharist) on her chest and place the Host on top of it. This the priest did. No sooner had the Eucharist been laid over her heart than it disappeared, being miraculously consumed directly into her body. If fact, when she died soon after, they found the sign of the cross that had been on the host marked on her breast. Ever since, the Servites have emblazoned an image of a shining host on the left breast of their habits.
So now you can see why I think staying close to the Eucharist is the surest way to turn this exciting summer into a time of deep spiritual and personal growth, not just artistic development. Our Lord is a strong defense, if we stay close to Him.
Your loving uncle,