Blessed Villana de’Botti
The saint of the day for February 28 is Blessed Villana de’Botti, a wife and a Third Order Dominican.
The daughter of a Florentine merchant, Villana was born in 1332. When she was thirteen she ran away from home to enter a convent but her attempts were unsuccessful and she was forced to return.
To prevent her from running away again, her father gave her in marriage to Rosso di Piero. The rejection at the convent and the marriage seemed to change Villana. She became lazy and worldly, concerned only with pleasure.
One day, as she was about to go out for entertainment, dressed in a gorgeous gown adorned with pearls and precious stones, she looked at herself in a mirror. To her dismay, the reflection that met her eyes was that of a hideous demon. A second and a third mirror showed the same ugly form.
Thoroughly alarmed and recognizing in the reflection the image of herself as her sinful soul, she tore off her beautiful clothes and put on in the simplest clothes she could find. Weeping, she ran to the Dominican Fathers at Santa Maria Novella to make a full confession and to ask absolution and help. This proved the turning point of her life, and she never again fell away.
Before long Villana was admitted to the Third Order of St. Dominic, and after this she advanced rapidly in the spiritual life. Fulfilling all her duties as a married woman, she spent all her available time in prayer and reading. She particularly loved to read St. Paul’s Epistles and the lives of the saints.
So completely did she give herself up to God that she often went into ecstasy during Mass or at spiritual conferences, but she became the object of much ridicule and slander. Her soul was also purified by strong pain and by great bodily weakness. However, she passed unscathed through all these trials and was rewarded with wonderful visions the Blessed Virgin Mary and other saints and was also blessed with the gift of prophecy.
As she lay on her deathbed, she asked that the Passion be read to her, and at the words “He bowed His head and gave up the ghost”, she crossed her hands on her breast and passed away. Her bereaved husband used to say that, when he felt discouraged and depressed, he found strength by visiting the room in which his beloved wife had died.
She died in 1361 of natural causes at the age of 30. Her body was taken to the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, which was under the care of the Dominican Fathers. The priests were unable to bury her for a month due to the constant crowd of mourners. She was beatified by Pope Leo XII in 1824.
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.