Saint Juliana Falconieri – The miracle on her death
Type of spiritual experience
Friar Herbert Thurston was a Catholic priest, a member of the Jesuit order and an historian. He wrote extensively on Catholic mysticism and psychic phenomena and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research. He was also widely read on this subject. He is described as ‘an honest skeptic’., and once said ‘the role of Devil’s advocate is a thankless one and does not make for popularity’.
Friar Thurston’s comment at the end should be taken note of, but we have added the possibility of apporting as the means by which it disappeared.
A description of the experience
Friar Herbert Thurston - The Physical Phenomenon of Mysticism
It may be worth while now to devote rather more space to the discussion of a particular eucharistic miracle which is somewhat different in character from those to which I have just been alluding, but which is widely known, first because it is recounted in one of the lessons of the Roman Breviary, and secondly, because its memory is perpetuated in the device which adorns the habit of the "Mantellate" or nuns of the Third Order of Servites. The prodigy is connected with the last moments of Saint Juliana Falconieri, the foundress of the Mantellate, who died on June 19, 1341. l cannot do better than quote the Breviary lesson just referred to.
The self-inflicted hardships of her life brought upon her a disease of the stomach, whereby, when she was seventy years of age, she was brought to the point of death. She bore the daily sufferings of her illness with a smiling face and a brave heart. The only thing of which she was heard to complain was that her stomach being so weak that she could not keep down any food, she was withheld by reverence for the Sacrament from drawing near to the Lord's Table.
Finding herself in these straits she begged the priest to bring the Bread of God, and as she dared not take It into her mouth, to put It as near as possible to her heart. 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.
All were confounded until the virgin body was being laid out after death in the accustomed manner. 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.
This is the story which is told in the Breviary in accord with the various published Lives of the saintly foundress and the miracle is regarded by the Bollandists and others as peculiarly well authenticated because a document is in existence, said to have been drawn up in Latin eighteen days later, giving an account of what had happened. I reproduce with a few slight modifications the translation of it which is furnished by Father Soulier, O.S.M.
Let it be placed on record how eighteen days ago our Sister Juliana died and flew to heaven with her spouse Jesus; and it was in this manner.
Being more than seventy years old, her stomach had become so weakened from her voluntary sharp penances, from fasts, from chains, from an iron girdle, disciplines, nightly vigils and spare diet, that she was no longer able to take or retain food. When she knew that because of this she must be deprived of the Viaticum of the most sacred Body of Christ, no one could believe how much she grieved and wept, so much so that they were afraid she would die from the vehemence of her sorrow.
She, therefore, most humbly begged Father James de Campo Regio that at least he would bring the most Holy Sacrament in a pyx and set it before her, and this was done. But when the priest appeared carrying the Body of our Lord, she straightaway prostrated herself upon the ground in the form of a cross and adored her Master.
Then her face became like the face of an angel. She desired, since she was not allowed to unite herself to Jesus, at least to kiss Him, but this the priest refused. She then begged piteously that over the burning furnace of her breast they would spread a veil upon which they might put the Host. This was granted her. But -O wonderful prodigy!-scarcely had the Host touched this loving heart than it was lost to sight and never more was found.
Then Juliana when the Host had disappeared, with a tender and joyous face, as if she were rapt in ecstasy, died in the Kiss of her Lord, to the amazement and admiration of those who were present-to wit, of Sister Johanna, Sister Mary, Sister Elizabeth, Father James and others of the house.
One would deeply regret to disturb the reader's faith in so pretty a story. But we must not shut our eyes to two rather serious difficulties. In the first place, it is surely a very curious fact that in this quasi-official memorandum nothing whatever is said concerning "the mark like the stamp of a seal reproducing the form of the Sacred Host " which was found “on the left side of her bosom." They can hardly have forgotten the circumstance in eighteen days, and this was after all the only conclusive evidence that so stupendous a miracle had taken place. The month was June, the place Florence, it is hardly likely that the windows would have been kept closed in the room where the Saint was breathing her last.
Consequently a slight puff of air or some convulsive movement of the invalid might easily have accounted for the disappearance of a Host so insecurely resting upon her breast.
The source of the experience
Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image
Observation contributed by: Francis Keeble