St. Julia Falconieri
Juliana's father was known as Chiarissimo and her mother's name was Riguardata. Chiarissimo had been a cloth merchant for a long time and he had become a very rich man. During his life he did a very great deed, by building the Church of the Annunciation, in Carfaggio. The years passed by and when he reached the age of seventy, he still did not have any children.
Rigurardata was about the same age, and though they had prayed for many years, their prayers for children had never been answered. But one day in 1270, the good God answered their prayers, and Juliana was born. Even before she had the use of reason, Juliana pronounced the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. From a very young age Juliana loved to pray. She was a very intelligent child and enjoyed hearing the things about God. She never cared for the things that amused other girls, but loved to spend her time in prayer and in Church.
The little girl was more like angel than a human being. When someone would mention Sill, she would shudder and tremble! Once when she heard about a terrible scandal, she fainted from shock. Juliana was very modest and humble, and never used a mirror to look at herself.
Juliana's father died when she was very young. Her Uncle, St. Alexius, who was also her Godfather made sure that she received a good religious upbringing. Alexius encouraged Juliana throughout her childhood, to practice Christian perfection and to love the religious life. He also made sure that she had a good education. In school, she learned languages, and some of the sciences. Juliana could read and understand Latin, and could sew and embroider.
St. Alexius was one of the Founders of the "Servites of Mary." The Order started in a very miraculous manner! On the Feast of the Assumption, in 1233, seven men from Florence, Italy were meditating and praying in church. Suddenly the Virgin Mary, surrounded by Angels, appeared to each of the men. She told them, "1 would like you to leave the world and later I will tell you what I want you to do."
All these men did as Our Lady wished, but it was not an easy sacrifice. They were all rich men, some of them had important jobs, and some of them were married.
The oldest man told his vision to the others, and they all stated that they were also blessed with the same type of vision. They gladly obeyed and settled their worldly affairs quickly. On September 8, the Feast of the Nativity (birth) of Our Lady, they went with their Confessor to the little village of Carmozia, near Florence, Italy. Here they waited for Our Lady to come and tell them what to do.
These men did not want to start a religious order. They only wanted to become saints by doing penance and prayer. Like monks, they went from door to door in begging for food. They became so popular, that crowds of people came to Carmozia, to be near these holy men.
One day Our Lady appeared to them again, "It is my wish that go to the wilderness of Monte Senario, a place of forests and caves and grottoes." Here they built a little chapel and a few huts to live in. They prayed, fasted, and did much penance, just like the Fathers of the desert had done hundreds of years before.
In 1239, exactly six years after the first apparition, Our Lady appeared saying, "I would like you to found the Order of Servites, (Servants of Mary). I wish that this order would have a great devotion to me, and a special remembrance of my sorrows, for I truly am the Mother of Sorrows."
The Order was started, and other men joined the Servites. The next year in 1240, six of the founders were ordained to the priesthood. But Alexius Falconieri could never be persuaded to become a priest.
Now we return to the story of St. Juliana. Before she was fourteen, Juliana met with another holy person as well. This was St. Philip Benizi, who later became the head of the Servite Order. On seeing Juliana, he knew that she was a child of grace, marked by God. He gave good advice to her, and guided her well in the spiritual life.
In her early teens, Juliana was beautiful, tall and graceful. She did not realize that she was beautiful and dressed very plainly. Her mother often scolded Juliana, because she was not interested in the social life.
Riguardata insisted that Juliana dress in beautiful clothes, and get interested in the social life. In reality, Juliana's mother wanted her to get married to a fine young gentleman some day.
Juliana obeyed her mother and dressed in fashionable clothes. But she did great penance by putting needles in her head. She then arranged her hair in a special way to hide the needles, so that nobody could see them. They caused a lot of pain, but Juliana continued to keep a smile on her face.
Juliana knew that there were dangers out in the world, so she did extra penances to strengthen herself against these dangers. She met many young men who were interested in her, but she was more interested in the religious life.
One day a young noble from Florence asked to mary Juliana. Her mother was delighted and gave her consent to the marriage. But the girl gently, yet firmly refused, "Mother, I will not marry this man, nor will I marry any man!"
Riguardata thought it was just a girlish idea. She begged her daughter, to change her mind but Juliana continued to refuse. Her mother was furious and hit the poor girl. Juliana did not want to offend her mother and went to her Uncle Alexis for advice. He encouraged her, "Bear this trial for the love of Christ and continue to pray with all your heart." Juliana took his advice and returned home.
Later when St. Alexius saw Juliana's mother, he begged her to allow Juliana to dedicate herself to God. Time and time again Riguardata refused. Finally one day, seeing that it was useless to go against the Holy Will of God, she allowed Juliana to become a religious. Juliana was delighted! Immediately she cut off her hair and made a vow of virginity.
Because of her great love for Our Lady of Sorrows and Christ Crucified, Juliana desired to join the Servants of Mary. Even though there was no Order of Servite Nuns, St. Philip and St. Alexius believed that Juliana would be the one to found the order for women, at a later time. She was carefully taught by her Uncle Alexius, before joining the Servites as a Tertiary (Third Order member). She was given the Servite habit by St. Philip, in the Church of the Annunciation, and a year later, she made her Profession as a Tertiary.
Juliana continued to live at home, taking care of her mother who was in very bad health. Juliana was allowed to use a part of her mother's house to carry on her religious life. There she lived like a nun, praying and doing penance. She also acted like a missionary and directed the lives of others. Three of her cousins, and some other girls her own age, also followed her way of life and the rule she gave them.
During this time, St. Philip used to visit Juliana to teach her about the monastic ways of life. In this way, she would be ready to set up her order, when it was time to do so. As the days passed by, Riguardata, seeing that her daughter was a holy woman, placed herself under Juliana's spiritual direction.
St. Philip died in 1285. He had been a great help to the little group. Juliana, seeing that the number of tertiaries increased, decided to start up a community. In 1287, St. Alexius told her to move to a house near the Church of the Annunciation. Juliana still had to remain at home with her mother, but she continued to visit and help the community. She also did many works of charity towards others.
St. Juliana spent many hours praying before the Blessed Sacrament. She would often go into ecstasy and remain floating in the air! She would shed tears, because so many people did not love Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Juliana received Holy Communion several times a week and on the days she received, she would not eat any food.
Juliana got all her strength from the Blessed Sacrament. She was an angel of mercy and would often restore peace and help enemies, to become friends, again. Juliana often visited the sick. She gave them much love and comfort and would often bandage their wounds. Juliana also prepared them for the Sacraments and laid out the dead for burial.
However, St. Juliana was very hard on herself. She lived like a hermit of the desert, and ate barely enough to keep her alive. She slept on the bare ground and took only a few hours of sleep. She wore a hair shirt and an iron girdle for penance, and scourged herself everyday.
In this way Juliana lived at home, for twenty-one years. During this time, Riguardata placed herself under her daughter's direction. Juliana's mother died in 1305. Immediately after her death, Juliana gave away the great fortune, which had been left to her. Then she and several tertiaries moved into a house of their own, thus beginning the first Convent of the Sisters of the Third Order of Servites.
Up to this time, the sisters simply followed the rules of the tertiaries in the world. When the Sisters elected Juliana as their Superior, the holy nun was shocked. She burst into tears and begged them not to put this burden upon her, but she finally gave in and became Prioress.
Their habit was a black gown, a leather girdle, and a white veil. They devoted themselves especially to the care of the sick and other works of mercy. Juliana, through her noble works of mercy, gave a great example to all the Sisters. They loved and respected her, and tried to imitate her virtues.
Juliana remained Mother Superior for thirty-five years. By the time she was seventy years old, she was in very poor - health and suffered much from stomach problems. Her stomach had become so weakened from her penances, fasts, iron girdle, and disciplines that she was no longer able to eat any food, and she was always vomiting. Because of her illness she retired from the office as Superior, in 1341. Juliana used this time to pray, do penance, and prepare for death.
Because of her bad health, St. Juliana could no longer receive Holy Communion. She begged Jesus, Mary and her Guardian Angel, to comfort her, because of this heavy cross. Christ appeared to her as a Child and crowned her with flowers. She longed to receive Our Lord and cried out, "0 Good Jesus, is it possible that I must die without being united to You?" Then in one last effort to receive our Lord, she begged her Confessor to let her see the Host and adore It.
Fr. Reggie went to the Chapel and brought the Host in a pyx to her cell. As soon as he entered the room, Juliana got up from her bed, and threw herself on the ground in adoration. Her face became like the face of an Angel. She begged the good priest to let her kiss the Host, but he told her that was impossible. Then Juliana begged the Fr. Reggio, to spread a Corporal upon her breast and lay the Host on it. Suddenly the Host disappeared and St. Juliana joyfully cried out, "0 My Sweet Jesus!" The holy nun remained in ecstasy, and died with great love, in the arms of Jesus on June 12,1341.
St Juliana, Pray for Us!
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