29 January 2010

Blessed Villana de'Botti

29 JANUARY 2010. Today we celebrate the feast day (optional memorial) of Blessed Villana de'Botti, a fourteenth century Italian wife and mother, contemplative, worker among the poor, and Third Order Dominican.

Blessed Villana was born in Florence in A.D. 1332, the daughter of the merchant Andrew de'Botti. Blessed Villana was a very pious child and at the age of 13 ran away to join a convent. However, the convent refused her admission and she returned home. To avoid her again fleeing to the convent, Blessed Villana's  father gave her in marriage to Rosso di Piero.

After her marriage, Blessed Villana's life changed--she became lazy and lived an entirely worldly life, seeking out only pleasure. This lifestyle continued for some time until, one day, while on the way out of her home in a beautiful, jewel encrusted dress, Blessed Villana saw her reflection in the mirror as a hideous demon. Recognizing the reflection of herself as a true reflection of her sin stained soul, Blessed Villana changed into the simplest clothes she had and went to the Dominican Fathers at Santa Maria Novella where she made a full confession and received absolution and guidance. This point was the pivotal turning around of her life.

Not long after her conversion Blessed Villana was admitted to the Third Order of Saint Dominic. Blessed Villana quickly advanced in her spiritual life, and while remaining focused on her vocation to married life, she spent all of her free time praying and reading. Her favorite reading was the Epistles of Saint Paul and the lives of the saints. Blessed Villana also worked tirelessly for the poor and, at one point, would have begun begging from door to door had her husband and family not intervened. Often given to religious ecstasies, especially during mass, Blessed Villana also had to suffer through a period of persecution. She became at one point the subject of much ridicule and slander, but even her fiercest opponents eventually came to consider her to be a living saint.

Although her health suffered, Blessed Villana had visions of Our Lady and the Saints.

Blessed Villana de'Botti died of natural causes on 29 January 136 at the age of 30. Her body was taken to the Dominican Fathers at Santa Maria Novella, but they had to wait more than a month to bury her because of the constant stream of mourners. People fought to obtain a shred of her clothing and she was venerated as a saint from the moment of her death. Pope Leo XII beatified Villana de'Botti (cultus confirmed) in A.D. 1824.

Although her general feast day is celebrated on 28 February, the Dominican community celebrates Blessed Villana's optional memorial today, 29 January.


O God, our merciful Father, 
you called Blessed Villana back from the emptiness of the world
and aroused in her a spirit of humility and true penitence.
Recreate in our hearts the power of your love and,
filled by that same spirit, may we serve you in newness of life.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


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