Juliana Falconieri grew up among saints. Her uncle, St.
Alexis Falconieri, was one of the seven founders of the
Servite Order. The priest who taught Juliana as a child and
deepened her love of God as she developed into a young woman
was St. Philip Benizi, one of the early superiors of the
Servites. Inspired by the holiness she saw around her,
Juliana decided to affiliate herself with the Servites as a
nun. Her friend and spiritual director, St. Benizi, heard her
vows and gave her the habit of a Servite sister.
Although her parents have never been canonized, Juliana's
mother and father were very devout. They were also very
wealthy. As the Servites were a new religious order, they had
no church of their own, so the Falconieris built them one.
You can visit it today in Florence - the Church of the
Santissima Annunziata, the Most Holy Annunciation.
Now that they had a nun - Juliana - the Servites also needed
a convent. Once again, the Falconieris came to the rescue:
Juliana's mother purchased a small palace near Santissima
Annunziata, and that became the first Servite convent.
Shortly after Juliana moved in, several women joined her -
they were the beginning of what would become a thriving
community of nuns.
Through what we would call parish missions, the Servite
priests and brothers sought to promote devotion to the
Blessed Virgin Mary and to encourage Catholics to repent
their sins and increase their commitment to the Faith.
Juliana added works of charity to the Servite way of life by
going out into the streets of Florence to help the sick, the
helpless and the abandoned. It was hard, often dirty work; to
keep their hands and arms unencumbered Juliana and the women
who joined her modified their habit by shortening the
An active apostolate outside the convent walls was virtually
unheard of in the Middle Ages. Nuns might tend the sick in a
hospital attached to their convent, or teach girls who
boarded at their convent, but they almost never were seen in
public, least of all in the poor neighborhoods. Juliana's
vision for Servite nuns was innovative: fixed periods of
prayer and meditation, and time outside the convent, serving
the sick and the poor. Many women in Florence and the
surrounding area found this combination of the contemplative
and the active life appealing, so they joined Juliana in her
St. Juliana is the patron of people who suffer from any type
of chronic illness because during the last years of her life
she was plagued by an undiagnosed stomach ailment. She never
knew when an attack of nausea or severe cramps would
incapacitate her. Eventually the illness proved fatal. As she
was dying she was seized by such a severe bout of vomiting
that the priest who came to anoint her felt she could not
receive holy Communion. Instead, at Juliana's request, he
covered her chest with a corporal and laid the host over her
heart. According to the story, a few moments later the host
Craughwell is the author of This Saint Will Change Your
Life (Quirk, 2011) and Saints Behaving Badly (Doubleday,