Saint Villana Pray for Us

Yesterday I paid a princely sum of money for a hand built Italian bicycle. Not an easy thing to do for a recovering Catholic that still struggles to overcome the guilt of having nice things. Which got me into reminscing upon the Italian ancestry of the 20Prospect clan, as detailed in this old post from March 29, 2011.

In reading through the old blog posts from those days I recalled that one of the commenters, a fellow De Bottis, shared some geneology research about our “de Botti” ancestry in Italy.

One of the tidbits was that there is a Saint in our family tree. So I introduce you to Saint Villana de Botti. One of the many nuts on our beloved family tree.

from a Dominican wiki on Saints…

February 28.

Blessed Villana de Botti


St. Villana de’ Botti

(Died A.D. 1360) – Feast Day February 28th

Villana was a member of the noble family De Botti and was born at Florence. Her childhood was spent in acts of astonishing devotion and in the exercise of austerities such as are rarely practised even by persons advanced in age and virtue. She ardently desired to embrace the religious life; but, over-persuaded by her parents, she at length consented to marry and her nuptials were celebrated with the utmost magnificence. Possibly her early piety may have had in it some tinge of pride, which necessarily led to a fall. Be this as it may, immediately on her marriage she abandoned all her exercises of prayer and penance and gave herself up to a life of heartless and sinful dissipation. How long this lasted we are not told; but God, who had chosen her for Himself, at length recalled her to better things in a wonderful manner.

One night Villana was preparing for an entertainment of unwonted splendour. She was dressed with all the sumptuous extravagance of the times; jewels sparkled in her hair, on her arms, on her very shoes. Before leaving her room, she went to cast one parting glance at the mirror. But, instead of the dazzling image of her own beauty, a horrible spectacle met her eyes. God had permitted that the deformity of the soul within should become visible on the outward person. Her hair, bound with gold and jewelled chains, she beheld transformed into a mass of coiled and venomous serpents; her fair face was darkened into that of a hideous negro; her eyes were red and fiery, and, instead of her beautiful mouth and ivory teeth, there grinned the open jaws of a monster of hell. Then Villana’s heart opened to know where and whence she had fallen. She tore the jewels from her hair and left her palace, not for the gay entertainment that awaited her, but for the neighbouring church of the Dominicans, where, flinging herself at the feet of a holy Friar, she made, amidst tears of contrition, the confession of her life.

She returned home to enter upon a rigorous course of penance, which continued until her death. To atone for her past vanity and to honour the poverty of her Divine Master, she thenceforth wore only poor and shabby garments, and she divided her time between exercises of prayer and austerity and the care of the indigent. She earnestly desired to retire to a hermitage; her confessor, however, would not permit her to do this, but he gave her the habit of the Third Order. Trampling under foot all human respect, she wished to go from door to door begging alms for her beloved poor, and she only relinquished this intention in obedience to the will of her husband. She had thoroughly realised the presence of Our Lord in the person of His poor; and this truth was yet more vividly brought home to her by a miraculous incident. One day, as she was returning from church, she found a poor sick beggar lying in a miserable condition in the street. Taking him in her arms and gathering superhuman strength from her charity, Villana carried him to one of the public hospitals and laid him on a bed, whilst she went to seek the necessary remedies. On her return, the bed was empty, and the most careful inquiries failed to discover any traces of the sick beggar, who was always believed to have been our Divine Lord Himself.

On one occasion, when she had had a fierce encounter with the devil, Saint Catharine the Martyr appeared to her with a beautiful crown in her hand, saying, “Be constant, my daughter, and behold the magnificent reward which awaits thee in heaven.” This vision was regarded by Villana as a presage of her approaching death. From that time her sufferings and maladies increased and with them her thirst to endure yet more for the Beloved of her soul. “No, Lord,” she once exclaimed when she felt better, “I do not ask for any alleviation of my sufferings but rather that they may be increased.”

Having received the Last Sacraments with great devotion, she begged to have the Passion of Our Lord read to her, and at the words, “Bowing His head He gave up the ghost,” she placidly expired, A.D. 1360. When the Sisters of the Third Order prepared the body for burial it became resplendent with beauty, and emitted such dazzling rays of light that they could not fix their eyes upon it. To satisfy the devotion of the people it was left unburied for the space of thirty-seven days, and was still perfectly incorrupt when laid in the tomb. Villana appeared after her death to some holy women who were spending the night in prayer, and, in answer to their inquiries, she said, “Call me no longer Villana; now that I am in heaven I am called Margaret or the Pearl.” She was beatified by Leo XII., A.D. 1829.

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