12 May 2010

Blessed Jane of Portugal

12 MAY 2010. Timely for the Holy Father's visit to Portugal, today we celebrate the feast day (optional memorial) of Blessed Jane (Joan or Joana) of Portugal, a Dominican nun and virgin.

Blessed Jane was born on 16 February 1451 at Aveiro, Portugal, heiress to the throne of her father, King Alphonsus V, at a time when Spain and Portugal divided the colonial wealth and power of the globe between them. Blessed Jane's mother died while she was young, but as a child she developed a deep prayer life, nonetheless, with the assistance of a pious nurse who cared for her. Although she had a brother to secure her family's hold of the monarchy, there were nevertheless many attempts by Blessed Jane's father to marry her for the family's own political and worldly advancement.

Blessed Jane, on the other hand, had a vocation to enter the convent which was flatly denied by her father for many years, until he finally relented after his family's succession to the throne was guaranteed.

Blessed Jane was Regent of Portugal when her father and brother went to war against the Moors, and after their successful military campaign, her father, flush from victory, agreed to permit Blessed Jane to enter the convent. However, all was not as Blessed Jane had hoped. While she and one of her ladies-in-waiting wanted very much to enter the Dominican convent in Aveiro, known for its strict observance, her father instead insisted that Jane enter the royal abbey of the Benedictines at Odivellas. There, Blessed Jane was beseiged by the whining women of her family that were concerned mostly for the world. So, after a short period of mental and spiritual torture at the royal abbey, Blessed Jane returned to her father's royal court.

The rest of Blessed Jane's life story is one of patient endurance of a continual litany of trials. Her brother was jealous of her and she suffered from medical maladies. Often the doctors' treatment of her maladies was worse than the affliction itself. Her father seemed scarcely able to make a decision, and some bishops once for their own political designs required her to sign a piece of paper promising that she would never take religious vows. However, after all these trials and 12 years of waiting, in A.D. 1485, Blessed Jane finally took the Dominican habit and entered the convent at Aveiro.

In the convent, Blessed Jane dedicatd herself to doing the most menial tasks and graciously served her fellow nuns. Blessed Jane's special devotion was to the Crown of Thorns, which she had added to her personal heraldic achievement. Her family, however, would not leave her in peace in the convent, and continued to call her back to the royal court for affairs of state.

During one of these trips back to the royal court, Blessed Jane was poisoned by a woman that she had previously rebuked for living a sinful life. After several months of illness and painful suffering, Blessed Jane died on 12 May 1490, surrounded by her Dominican community.

Blessed Jane was beatified (cultus confirmed) on 31 December 1692 by Pope Innocent XII.


O God,
in the midst of the royal court
you strengthened Blessed Jane with purity of heart.
By her prayers may your faithful turn from the things of earth
and seek after the things of heaven.
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.


No comments:

Post a Comment