St. Juliana was born to a wealthy Florentine family during one of the city’s most turbulent times.
Two parties, the Guelfs (supporters of the papacy) and the Ghibellines (supporters of the emperor) were in constant political and physical conflict. Having lost her father at an early age, Juliana was raised by her widowed mother and an uncle Alessio, one of the founders of the Servants of Mary (the Servites).
Though considered a great beauty, Juliana refused to marry, preferring to dedicate herself to the Lord’s work. She and some other women formed the female branch of the Servants of Mary, donning dark cloaks, rather than the sumptuous gowns of the other wealthy girls.
They became known as the “Mantellate (cloak-covered ones). Together they served the poor and destitute, fasting completely on Wednesdays and Fridays and on Saturdays only taking bread and water. They became known also as the “pacemakers” of the city rife with vendettas.
Long suffering from digestive disease, Juliana eventually was unable to eat. Her last request was to be covered with a corporal with a host placed on top, as she was unable to ingest it. It is said that the host miraculously vanished and when her fellow sisters prepared her body for burial, they found the imprint of the Cross, like the one on the host, on her flesh. Thereafter, the Sisters of the order have included this symbol on their habit. St, Juliana was canonized in 1737 by Pope Clement XII.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini from www.franciscanmedia.org