Today in the Latin Calendar we celebrate the Feast Day of S. Juliana of Falconieri, Virgin. A story about this feast day can be found by Clicking Here.
Saint Juliana (b. Giuliana Falconieri) was one of the two glories of the noble Falconieri Family, the other being her uncle, Alexis. Her parents, Chiarissimo and Riguardata, were devout people of great wealth who had built at their own expense the magnificent church of the Annunziata in Florence. They were childless and already well advanced in years when, in 1270, Giuliana was born—the answer to prayer. After the death of her father when she was still a child, her uncle Alexis shared with Riguardata the direction of her upbringing.
Giuliana never cared for the amusements and occupations which interested other girls, but loved to spend her time in prayer in church. Sometimes her mother would remonstrate her, reminding her that unless she applied herself to the spinning wheel and the needle, she would never find a husband. This was no threat to the fifteen-year old Giuliana who had already made her decision never to marry but rather to consecrate herself to God and to renounce the world. Her uncle Alexis, one of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order, instructed her carefully and when he considered her ready, had her invested with the Servite habit of Philip Benizi. Despite her mother's protest, she was professed as a tertiary of the Order a year later.
As a tertiary, Giuliana continued to live at home where she gradually gained her mother's complete approval for her profession. After the death of her mother in 1304, Giuliana moved to another house where she led a community life with a number of women who devoted themselves to prayer and works of mercy. Their habit resembled that of the men of the Servite Order.
Saint JulianaUpon the urging of her contemporaries, although with great reluctance, Giuliana accepted the position of superior. Those who were privileged to live under her guidance testified that she outstripped tem all in her zeal, charity and austerities. Her sympathies extended to all with whom she came into contact and she was especially compassionate and helpful when it was a question of reconciling enemies, reclaiming sinners and relieving the sick.
Saint JulianaShe showed great devotion to the Eucharist in which she found her strength. According to tradition, on the day of her death, being unable to take food, she was deprived of Holy Communion. At her request a Host was place on her chest; it miraculously penetrated her body, enabling her to be nourished with the Sacrament of Christ's body. After she died a short time later the image of the cross that had been on the Host was found on her breast. There is a reference to this in the collect recited on her feast, June 19.
Giuliana Falconieri died in Florence in 1341 in her seventy-first year and was canonized in 1737. Because she authored a code of regulations for the order that was later formally adopted, she is honored as the foundress of the Servants of Mary of the Servite Order. The Servite Sisters look to the Blessed Virgin Mary as their mother in faith and sister in discipleship, and remain active in educational, healing, social and pastoral ministries today.
Also today in the Latin Calendar we commemorate SS. Gervase and Protase, Martyrs. A story about this commemoration can be found by Clicking Here.
Gervasius and Protasius were among the earliest martyrs in Milan. Not much more than that is known of them (Butler, II, 583f).
According to the Golden Legend, a Roman general named Astacius was told the gods would not answer his prayers unless the twin brothers Gervasius and Protasius would sacrifice to them. The twins were sons of St. Vitalis, and being Christian they refused to sacrifice. Consequently Astacius had Gervasius beaten to death with a leaden scourge and then ordered Protasius beheaded.
The Golden Legend adds that two centuries later St. Ambrose was praying when in a vision he saw each saint in a white tunic and mantle (colobio et pallio induti) and wearing short boots (caliculi). They were accompanied by St. Paul, who directed Ambrose to where he could find the bodies of these martyrs (Graesse 355, Ryan 327).
This vision is the source of the painting shown at the top of this page, with Ambrose on his knees, Paul with long beard and balding from the front, and the two youths in white. Their colobia are sleeved, as they would probably not be in Ambrose's time, and the artist has suppressed the boots, but otherwise the image is very faithful to what the Legend reports.
One source of the account of Ambrose's vision is a letter thought to have been written by him to the bishops of Italy. One comment in the letter is of some importance to students of the interactions between hagiography and iconography. The saint says that he recognized St. Paul from having seen his picture (cujus vultum me pictura docuerat, Acta Sanctorum, June vol. 3, 821).
The iconography of these saints is very unsettled, but a few features are relatively constant.
Usually the twins are portrayed as handsome young men. In the letter attributed to Ambrose he calls them iuvenes ephebos – that is, youths of about 18-20 years old (ibid.). The Golden Legend (ibid.) calls them pulcherrimi iuvenes – "most beautiful" youths. In another instance of the art influencing the hagiography, the adjective may have been influenced by the way the two had already been pictured. In the 6th-century mosaics at right, for example, they are shown as handsome and beardless young men. They are also beardless, if perhaps less handsome, in the 11th-century book cover at right and in most later portraits. A few images from later times do give them beards. In this one they also have swords and military garb, as does Protasius in this painting from the 16th century. Neither the Legend nor the Ambrosian letter says that they were soldiers, but their father Vitalis was an officer and a nobleman, so the assumption may have been that they had once followed in his footsteps, or simply that the profession of arms was appropriate for men of their age and status. The short boots, characteristic of soldiers, may also have supported such an assumption.
In portraits without the military garb, the saints' attributes are a scourge for Gervasius and a sword for Protasius (example). In one curious case Gervasius holds both a whip and a sword, as if he had been beheaded after the whipping. A statuary group in Milan also seems to assume that both were beheaded, as they have identical swords as their attributes.
Another attribute used occasionally is the hand cross, as in the book cover at right and in this mosaic in Sant'Ambrogio in Milan.
The white tunic and mantle specified in the Legend are perhaps the most common attributes both in portraits and in narrative images, as in the painting at the top of this page and this painting of their arrest.
In the Middle Ages the words colobium and pallium referred to liturgical vestments, which seems to be the reason that Gervasius and Protasius are sometimes dressed as deacons (example).
After a wasted youth, Romuald saw his father kill a relative in a duel over property. In horror he fled to a monastery near Ravenna in Italy. After three years some of the monks found him to be uncomfortably holy and eased him out.
He spent the next 30 years going about Italy, founding monasteries and hermitages. He longed to give his life to Christ in martyrdom, and got the pope’s permission to preach the gospel in Hungary. But he was struck with illness as soon as he arrived, and the illness recurred as often as he tried to proceed.
During another period of his life, he suffered great spiritual dryness. One day as he was praying Psalm 31 (“I will give you understanding and I will instruct you”), he was given an extraordinary light and spirit which never left him.
At the next monastery where he stayed, he was accused of a scandalous crime by a young nobleman he had rebuked for a dissolute life. Amazingly, his fellow monks believed the accusation. He was given a severe penance, forbidden to offer Mass and excommunicated, an unjust sentence he endured in silence for six months.
The most famous of the monasteries he founded was that of the Camaldoli (Campus Maldoli, name of the owner) in Tuscany. Here he founded the Order of the Camaldolese Benedictines, uniting a monastic and hermit life.
His father later became a monk, wavered and was kept faithful by the encouragement of his son.
A Polish duke had a son in the monastery where Romuald was living. On behalf of his father, the son presented Romuald with a fine horse. Romuald exchanged it for a donkey, saying that he felt closer to Jesus Christ on such a mount.
Christ is a gentle leader, but he calls us to total holiness. Now and then men and women are raised up to challenge us by the absoluteness of their dedication, the vigor of their spirit, the depth of their conversion. The fact that we cannot duplicate their lives does not change the call to us to be totally open to God in our own particular circumstances.
Offer It Up:
Offer your concerns to Jesus, and let Him take the wheel. God is faithful; we need to allow Him to show us that.
Quote by S. Padre Pio:
When it seems that you are alone and abandoned, do not complain that you are without a friend to whom you can open your heart to and confide your woes. For goodness' sake, do not forget this invisible companion who is always there to listen to you, always ready to console you (your guardian angel).
The greater the knowledge, the stronger the love
(St. Faustina's Diary entry on 22 February 1937)
Today, there began in our chapel a retreat for the hospital attendants, although anyone who wishes may take part in it. There is one conference a day. Father Bonaventure speaks for a whole hour, and he speaks directly to souls. I took part in this retreat, as I very much desire to know God more deeply and to love Him more ardently, for I have understood that the greater the knowledge, the stronger the love. - (Diary No. 974)