January 13: St. Veronica, the Illiterate

St. Veronica of Milan lived in the latter half of the 15th century. She grew up poor and never learned to read or write. Her parents were pious, and Butler reports that Veronica herself became so pious as to seem to have no discernible will of her own.

A time came when Veronica felt drawn to join herself to Christ through becoming a nun. She was, however, expected to be literate. Veronica, however, had no funds for a tutor and no access to education by day as she worked out in the fields along with other neighboring peasants.

One night, as she struggled over a seemingly impossible alphabet, the Blessed Mother appeared to Veronica and told her that there were only three letters that Veronica need learn:

“The first, purity of the affections, by placing her whole heart on God alone, loving no creature but in [God] and through [God];

the second, never to murmur, or be impatient at the sins, or any behaviour of others, but to bear them with interior peace and patience, and humbly to pray for them;

the third, to set apart some time every day to meditate on the passion of Christ.”

These insights, presented to Veronica through her own communion with the unnamed Blessed Mother, are poignant. I am challenged personally by the second letter Veronica was taught as I live out these days as an American citizen, in a country where the divides grow deeper and the rhetoric more smugly hateful. Could I actually NEVER murmur or be impatient about the sins of others? What would it take for me to find “interior peace and patience” in the face of references to any entire continent as a shithole? Could I pray HUMBLY rather than self-righteously for these with whom I disagree and who I feel are making this a more hateful world?



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