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WORK AND PRAY

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Saint Veronica Giuliani

Many saints have had to contend with opposition during their lives but few have had to face as many internal struggles and trials as Saint Veronica Giuliani.

Born in Italy in 1660, the youngest of seven children, her family was very devout. Four of her sisters had already become nuns when she entered the convent of the Capuchin Poor Clares at Citta di Castello, taking the name Veronica. She made her profession of vows in 1678, when she was 18 years old.

She embarked on the religious life with great dedication and enthusiasm for contemplative meditation. Manual labour and service of others were for her a form of asceticism and penance. She spent long hours looking after the sick, often without even pausing to eat. All her life she struggled to reconcile the contemplative and the active aspects of her vocation. At times she felt torn between a desire to be involved in community life and her longing to withdraw into private prayer.

When 28 years old Veronica was elected Novice Mistress, and five years later she began writing a journal describing the difficulties and trials of her spiritual life. Then, when she was 37, she suddenly found herself faced with a new and unexpected ordeal: she received the stigmata having been chosen to bear the marks of the crown of thorns and of Christ's wounds because of her great love and devotion to the Cross. When this phenomenon came to the attention of the Holy Office, Veronica was immediately denounced and suspended from all her duties. Nevertheless her sisters thought so highly of her that they re-elected her as Novice Mistress the following year.

At the age of 57 Veronica was elected Abbess and held that office until her death. It was during this time that the active side of her personality came to the fore. She proved herself to be a very practical woman, a good organizer and a hard worker, and she made several improvements to the convent. She managed her sisters very efficiently by observing their individual personalities and talents and using each one to the best advantage. At the same time, she believed that physical work within the community should take second place to prayer, and she spent most of her time in meditation. She regarded the stigmata as a gift and a privilege, and she offered up all her personal sufferings and hardships to God on behalf of sinners. She died on 9 July 1727, aged 67, and was canonized in 1839.

Veronica accepted her external wounds and her internal conflict with great patience and courage. We too from time to time have our problems and Veronica can teach us to bear ours for the benefit of others, for example, the Holy Souls in purgatory or missionaries.

Veronica was a woman of great prayer. She made time for prayer every day. If we believed that prayer is the act of loving and talking to God, our first and greatest love, would we not do the same as her?

Saint Veronica was also a wise and tactful woman who knew how to persuade people to work together happily and effectively. Most of us have to work with other people and often there are difficulties. If we happen to be in charge of people, let us ask Veronica to obtain for us the gift of organising them so that all can work harmoniously together. From her place in Heaven we ask her to look down on us lovingly and to pray for us.