Saint of the Day – 9 January – Blessed Julia of CertaldoOSA (1319-1367) Laywoman, Third Order Augustinian, Recluse, Ascetic, Mystic living a life of prayer and penance. Born in 1319 at Certaldo, Italy as Giulia and died on 9 January 1367 of natural causes. Patronages – of the City and Diocese of Certaldo, Augustinian tertiaries, Against the plague, Against infections. Also known as – Giulia della Rena da Certaldo, Julia della Rena.
The Roman Martyrology states of her today: “In Certaldo in Tuscany, Blessed Giulia della Rena, of the Third Order of Saint Augustine, who lived alone for God in a narrow cell next to the Church.“
Julia was born in Tuscany, near Certaldo, in 1319, of a family of noble origin. After being orphaned at a young age, she entered the service of the Tinolfi family in nearby Florence, There, having come into contact with the Augustinians and their spirituality, she took on the habit of the secular Third Order Augustinians when she was not yet twenty. She was professed in 1388 at the Church of the Holy Spirit.
But the tumult in Florence caused her to return home to Certaldo where she rescued a child from a burning building. This act of charity and heroism brought her unwanted fame and attention. Julia, feeling drawn to a more radical and austere vocation, decided to take refuge in a small room attached to the Augustinian Church of Sts Michael and James. She had little in her small cell save for a two little windows and a Crucifix. The windows opened, one into the Church to attend the sacred mysteries, the other towards the outside, to receive the food that popular piety would send her.
Julia would never leave her little “hermitage.” She lived there, segregated from the world for thirty years, following the long path of asceticism and mysticism to the end. Penance and prayer filled her day, as she sought daily to unite herself to Christ and to do penance and mortification, for all the sins of the world.
The people of Certaldo and the surrounding area, were devoted to this holy woman and took it upon themselves to assist her material existence with victuals and whatever she needed. The popular tradition tells, that even the children ran to her aid in large numbers, bringing her something to eat and that Julia, grateful and smiling, reciprocated with beautiful fresh flowers in any season of the year, even when the ground was covered with snow!
Nothing more is known about Julia, except that she was greatly revered by her fellow citizens for the life of piety she lived . It was as if she “belonged” to them as family.
Julia died around the year 1367. Her cult developed immediately after her passing, since the dedication of an Altar in the same Church where she had lived and where her body had been interred dates to 1372. Since 1506, the Certaldese Municipality contributed to the feast in honour of the Blessed, whose intercessory protection was attributed, several times, for the liberation from contagions diseases and the plague.
His mortal remains are venerated in Certaldo in the Church of Sts James and Philip, which once belonged to the Augustinians and where her Feast is celebrated with great honour each year, as the Patron of the region.
Her cult from time immemorial, was confirmed by Pope Pius VII on 18 May 1819 raising her to the Altars as Blessed Julia of Certaldo and inserting her name in the Roman Martyrology.
To celebrate the Bicentennial of the death of Blessed Julia, on 9 January 2019, the Bishop, Monsignor Andrea Migliavacca, launched a year of devotion to the protector of Certaldo, with a solemn Procession and Holy Mass to pay homage to Blessed Julia, Supported by the Municipality of Certaldo, a full year of exhibitionsm devotions and events began.
During the celebration, the new silver Reliquary, made for the occasion thanks to the gift of silver by the people of Certaldo and the new banner of the Opera Beata Giulia Apostolate was inaugurated and blessed. In addition, a votive lamp was lit, which burnt next to the Altar of the Blessed Julia, for the whole of 2019.