Procter/Dominican Saints/Bl. Benvenuta Bojani
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John Procter, O.P.
Blessed Benvenuta Bojani, Virgin
BLESSED BENVENUTA was born at Cividale, in the province of Friuli, in the Austrian dominions, about A.D. 1254. The family already consisted of six daughters, and the father earnestly desired a son. Those who were present at the child's birth were, therefore, afraid to tell him that his hopes were again disappointed; but he guessed the truth from their silence, and exclaimed: "She too shall be welcome!" Hence the little one received the beautiful Italian name of Benvenuta (welcome). From her earliest childhood she gave evidence of singular piety. When only seven years old, she was in the habit of daily reciting a hundred Paters and Aves in honour of the adorable Trinity and a thousand Aves in honour of our Blessed Lady. On Saturdays she doubled her devotions, and on the festival of the Annunciation, which was specially dear to her, she was accustomed to salute her Heavenly Mother with as many as three thousand Aves. A married sister, who was tenderly attached to Benvenuta, strove to induce her to wear costly attire and to accompany her to dances and other festivities; but the saintly child would tear the ornaments from her hair, and, wrapping herself in a coarse veil, seek a hiding-place in a wood at the back of the house, whence she could see a church dedicated to our Blessed Lady, which stood on the summit of a neighbouring hill. The grass, which all around grew rank and thick, was here worn away by her continual genuflections and prostrations.
To the constant exercise of prayer she soon learnt to add that of severe bodily austerities. When she was twelve years old she began to wear a hair-shirt and girded herself with a rope, which, as she grew, became buried in the flesh, causing her intense pain. Fearing that, if she disclosed the circumstance to her parents, they would oblige her to submit to a surgical operation, for which she felt extreme repugnance, she had recourse to prayer, and presently beheld the rope lying unbroken on the ground before her. For this reason she is generally represented with a rope in her hand. She chose our Blessed Lady as her Mother and Mistress, and made a vow of virginity in her hands. She also placed herself in a special manner under the patronage of Saint Dominic by entering the Third Order, and she did her best to imitate the penitential life of the holy Patriarch. She spent the greater part of the night in watching; and, when she felt herself overcome by sleep, she would rub her eyes with vinegar, thus rendering it impossible for her to close them. Thrice every night she took a severe discipline with an iron chain; she practised much fasting and abstinence, denied herself the use of wine, and took her scanty rest lying on the bare ground, with a stone for her pillow. By these austerities, for which in her fervour and simplicity she had not deemed it necessary to ask the permission of her Confessor, she reduced herself to a state of extreme weakness and suffering. Then Saint Dominic appeared to her and bade her manifest all her penitential practices and their consequences to her spiritual father. Benvenuta felt great repugnance to obey this command, and it was not until it had been thrice repeated with some severity that she at length yielded. Thenceforth she was compelled by obedience somewhat to mitigate the extreme austerity of her life and to undertake no penitential practices without express permission.
Satan early made this holy virgin the object of his malignant attacks both in soul and body. He was constantly appearing to her under various forms; and, finding himself unable to lead her into sin, he strove at least to terrify her and to shake her confidence in God; but Benvenuta, whose courage in all these encounters was heroic, so humbled the proud spirit as to compel him to confess that he should be ashamed to appear before his companions after being thus reviled and baffled by a girl. These temptations and struggles, joined to her fasts and vigils and her continual prostrations and prayers, so exhausted her strength, that at last she fell ill and continued in a state of very great suffering for five years, unable to retain any food and living on nothing but water. At length, having made a vow to go on pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Dominic at Bologna if her health were restored, she was miraculously cured.
Many souls were delivered from Purgatory through the prayers and penances of Blessed Benvenuta, and appeared to her to thank her for their release. Amongst these were her own father and brother. The visions and supernatural favours abundantly bestowed on this humble and faithful servant of God were of singular beauty. The following are the only examples which can be quoted in this brief narrative. One day, when she was praying in a church near her house, she beheld a poor child of exquisite beauty, and, calling him to her, she inquired if he could say the Hail Mary. "Can you say it?" asked the child. Benvenuta immediately began to recite it; and, when she came to the words: "Blessed is the fruit of thy womb," the child said: "And I am He," and then disappeared. Having once prepared herself with special devotion to celebrate the festival of our Lord's Nativity, as she was praying in the church on Christmas night and begging the Blessed Virgin to allow her to behold the Divine Babe, she suddenly saw a lady bearing an infant in her arms and accompanied by an old man who carried a stick. The lady bade her return home, telling her she would there see what she desired. Benvenuta obeyed; and, when she reached the house, the same vision was again vouchsafed to her, and the Blessed Virgin laid the Divine Infant in her arms and permitted her to caress Him for more than an hour.
Before the death of Blessed Benvenuta, which happened when she was in her thirty-eighth year, Our Lady revealed to her that the devil would appear to her under a most horrible form, striving to tempt her with vain fears; but her Heavenly Mother promised that she would herself hasten to her assistance, as indeed came to pass. The servant of God, after a short but terrible conflict with the evil one, departed this life in great peace and joy on the 30th of October, A.D. 1292. Her sanctity was attested by many miracles, and she was beatified by Clement X.
Pour out upon us, O Lord, the grace of penance,prayer, and humility, that, in imitation of the Blessed Virgin Benvenuta, we may be enabled, through mortification of the flesh, to live in the spirit, and by continual meditation on heavenly things and contempt of ourselves, to find rest and glory in Thee, who alone art God. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.