Reaching Out: Our Call To Minister: Resource 3: The Life of Saint Juliana the Merciful

Many   years ago, when Ivan the Terrible was tsar, deep in Russia there lived a little   girl called Juliana. It was hard to live in Russia at that time; there were   many wars and many people were killed while others suffered from hunger and   disease; schools were scarce and even the churches were so few and far away   that Juliana and her family could not go to them often. When she was still a   child, her mother and father died, and Juliana went to live with her aunt and   cousins. Even as a little girl she amazed everyone with her devoutness and her   kindness to the ill and the poor.

  Juliana had a special way of helping the poor. She was good at sewing, and often   she would sew beautiful things at night when everyone thought she was asleep.   She would sell these things secretly, and with the money she received, she would   buy food and clothing for those in need. No one knew how much she helped others,   but those she helped loved her. She not only gave them the food and clothes   and money they needed, but they felt that she loved t hem and sympathized with   them.

Juliana   never used to show off to her friends and family or brag about her piety. Although   everyone liked her, she would find some excuse not to join in wild games and   empty pleasures. Instead she would go off by herself and thing and pray. Although   she never went to school and never learned to read and write, she amazed people   with her wisdom and her thoughtful answers to their questions.

‘Juliana   does not need any teacher,’ they used to say, ‘because the saints themselves   are her teachers.’

When   Juliana was sixteen, her family decided it was time for her to marry. She was   not particularly glad, because she knew that she would no longer be able to   have as much time for her spiritual life and her good works. SHe wanted to become   a nun and to devote her life to God entirely. She did not oppose her family,   however, because she knew that it was not the outward form, but her inner life,   which showed whether she was good or bad

Juliana   married a very good and very rich husband and had to manage a big household,   with many servants and peasants. She never scolded the servants but taught them   by love and if they did not do their work properly, she would quietly finish   what they had not done. She would never let the servants wait on her, saying,   ‘Who am I, that people such as myself should wait on me? Did not God create   them too?’

She   knew that all people were equal in the sight of God, even though some where   rich masters and others were poor servants. ‘She treated her servants like children,’   her son write, ‘she was a mother to them and not a boss.’

Not   only the poor loved Juliana. Her husband and his family loved her very much,   and they begged her to take care of herself, but she went on eating very little,   fasting and praying often, while secretly helping the poor at night. The more   she helped others, the brighter and more joyful she became, and more everyone   loved her.

She   had many children, and she loved them all and taught them what she knew. However   busy she was with her big household and her work for the poor, she surrounded   her children with love and wisdom. They admired and loved her, speaking and   writing about her goodness and love as if she were someone extraordinary.

There   were many new diseases in those days and several of her little children died.   Although she was sure they were with God in heaven, she missed them terribly   and when her eldest two sons were killed accidentally, she was so overcome with   sadness, she wished to go to a convent so that she could spend the rest of her   life in prayer and devotion to God. Feeling that she could no longer go on living   as she had, she begged her husband to let her go.

‘But   who will take care of the other children?’ he asked her. ‘I would be very lonely   without you too. Please stay with us for we need you and love you.’ She agreed   to stay and continued her care for her family and household and the poor who   came to her door.

The   there came a famine, and the people were very hungry. Juliana gave away all   the food she had and taught the servants to make bread out of ground-up weeds   or bark instead of flour. This bread became famous; people came from far away   to taste it.

‘Why   is Juliana’s bread so sweet and good? her neighbors wondered. But the peasants   used to say it was so good because of the love she put into making it and distributing   it to the poor. ‘She loves in God’s way,’ they would say of Juliana.

After   many years her husband died. Juliana became still more tireless in her service   to others and her prayers to God. She hardly slept at all, and gave away all   she had to help others. She never forgot that there was something more to be   done for someone else, or that she could devote still more of herself to God   and His works. She never thought of her own comfort. Her children loved her   very much and they used to beg her to take better care of herself, but she would   answer, ‘What good would it be to save my body and lose my soul?’ She went on   living in God’s way, with no thought for her own comfort.

While   she lay dying, surrounded by those who loved her, her children were overcome   with grief. All the poor beggars and servants as well as those who had known   her were sad to hear she was dying. Her love for others and her sympathetic   help had won her many friends. For her, the love for others meant as much as   life itself, and it made her more and more happy as her life progressed. Because   so many people loved her, stories were spread about her, making her famous,   although she lifted quietly as a simple homemaker, a dutiful wife and mother.

Those   who were with her as she lay dying, marveled at the joy and peace with which   she greeted death. After she had died the saw a bright halo around her head,   the same halo as we see around the heads of saints in the icons.

Many   years later, the Church recognized her great goodness and deep faith, and proclaimed   her a saint. The simple people who had known her considered her a saint even   in her lifetime, and they thought of her whenever they heard, ‘Blessed are the   merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’

Taken   from They   Walked With God: the Lives of Saints for Children by Lydia Kesich [out of   print].