Bl. Veronica

(1445?-1497)

Many saints have been wealthy enough to renounce their heritage. Blessed Veronica of Binasco did not distribute her property to the poor: poor herself, she had nothing to give. Her farmer father probably could have been more prosperous had he not been so painfully honest. For example, when he was trying to sell his produce, he would always first warn the prospective purchaser about the flaws in the item for sale. Thus, when he was selling a horse, he was so careful not to fall into deceit that he first listed all the faults the animal had. It is easy to understand why he found so few purchasers. Real truthfulness involves the “good news” as well as the “bad news”. But what touching simplicity!

A victim of his own excessive truthfulness, Veronica’s father could not afford to send his daughter to school. But he and his wife did train her in strong faith and love of God. From them also she learned to try to perform her tasks as nearly perfectly as possible. Adopting this priority, in the fields the young woman would keep her distance from her fellow workers so as to be able to pray without distraction while she worked. An early characteristic of her prayer was her tendency to weep, both out of love of God and out of sorrow for sins and sinners. As we shall see, this was not the result of sentimentality; it was a gift of spiritual compassion.

Veronica felt called to join a poor convent of Augustinian nuns in Milan. Because reading and writing were required of entrants, she now had to labor long and hard to learn those skills. Our Lady encouraged her, but said that only three goals are essential: 1) purity of affections (loving God with the whole heart); 2) patience with the faults of others; and 3) daily meditation on the passion of Christ. At length Veronica became sufficiently literate to be accepted by the convent. For the rest of her life she devoted herself, as we might expect of such a punctilious person, to the perfect fulfillment of the community rule.

Even though as a nun she suffered from a lingering illness, Sister Veronica never used her sickness as an excuse to skip her duties. “I must work,” she said, “while I have time.” Although she cultivated silence very diligently, she was always at the ready service of others. God granted her many visions, particularly regarding the details of Jesus’ life on earth.

But the gift of tears remained her most characteristic charism. Meditating on the passion of Christ and the hardness of human hearts, she would weep tears literally by the dishful. So strong was her sense of the need of repentance by sinners that she was able to persuade a number of supposedly unrepentant wrongdoers to make their peace with God.

Blessed Veronica of Binasco died in 1497, at the precise hour she foretold she would. Her legacy was this same “gift of tears”. Like other charismatic gifts, this grace is given to an individual, but for the benefit of others.

Tears are a natural sign of sorrow. In every age, unfortunately (not least of all our own), some people let them selves become case-hardened to how their evil ways offend the good God. Now if they do not make amends to Him by their own sorrow, who, then, will console Him for their waywardness? Who will make up for the service they have not rendered to Him?

The tears of Blessed Veronica do us a double service. First, they remind us that we need to make reparation to God for our own failure to serve Him totally. Second, they remind us that we can also make amends to Him for the coldness of others by the warmth of our own love.

In other words, Blessed Veronica was already doing that which would be enjoined in 1917 on the three children of Fatima: offering prayers and “sacrifices” for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for their sins. This is a true exemplification of love of neighbor.

–Father Robert F. McNamara

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