Princess Turned Poor Clare Nun to Be Canonized

Blessed Camilla Battista da Varano Answered Vocational Call

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By Carmen Elena Villa

ROME, OCT. 13, 2010 ( On Sunday, Benedict XVI will canonize Camilla da Varano, who left the life of a princess and multiple marriage proposals to become a Poor Clare nun at age 23.

The Pope will canonize her in St. Peter’s Square together with five others.
Camilla was born in 1458 in a small city in central Italy, which today has around 40,000 inhabitants. Her father, Giulio Cesare de Varano, was the prince of Camerino. Thus she was introduced to, and educated in, the splendor of the court.
The postulator for her cause of canonization, Franciscan Father Giovangiuseppe Califano, explained to ZENIT that «in the Renaissance period lordly palaces were the center of politics, also of culture and mercantilism,» and thus Camilla spent her youth in celebrations, dances and social life. She studied Latin, law, painting, dancing, and horseback riding.
Almost five centuries have gone by since her death. In fact, Camilla’s cause for canonization was halted for 100 years because of problems related to the choice of her postulator.

Father Califano noted, however, that «these years of apparent silence were very fruitful for the systematic investigation and critical publication of the blessed’s writings.»

On Good Friday, when she was 9 years old, Camilla heard a homily in which Brother Domenico da Leonessa asked those present to shed at least one tear every Friday out of love for Jesus. The young girl accepted his suggestion, which she followed every subsequent Friday for the rest of her life.
«Through the gift of these tears, shed with a child’s commitment, contemplation of the Lord’s Passion became the agreeable and spontaneous means that oriented her whole spiritual life,» said her postulator.

Following Christ

As a youth she felt strongly attracted to what the court offered her, but at the same time she felt the call to give it all up to follow Christ.

Mother Chiara Laura Seroboli, abbess of the convent of St. Clare of Camerino, which was founded by Camilla later in her life, said, «Initially, as many of us, she was unable to choose and did not hesitate to lead a double life.»

The abbess explained: «On one hand were the dances, songs and distractions that the court offered her. On the other, recollection and the struggle in which God drew her absorbed her wholly.»

It was during Lent of 1479, while the princess listened to the preaching of Brother Francesco de Urbino, that she perceived the interior light to understand the gift of consecrated virginity.

Her postulator said, «It was faithfulness to her commitment to prayer and spiritual direction that opened a gap for the spirit.»
Camilla entered the monastery of St. Clare of Urbino in 1481. «Lord, with my life make me always praise, bless and glorify you and edify my brothers,» she said in one of her writings.

She made her religious professions two years later and took the name Sister Battista.

Spiritual battle

Camilla faced a strong spiritual battle. For five years she lived through a dark night of the spirit.

Mother Seroboli said, «From the intensity of spiritual graces that had accompanied her in the first phase of her falling in love, Camilla now seemed abandoned in a sacrificing and raw essentialness.»
Yet she did not let herself be defeated by this event. The abbess noted, «Emerging with greater frequency in her writings is recourse to the images of the Song of Songs, to the teaching of her Beloved on the part of the loved one, subject of understandable anguish due to the perceived abandonment.»
In 1502 Sister Battista’s father and brothers were killed and her family attacked, events which «‘crucified’ her with Christ and enabled her to be silent «where words do not suffice to explain the injustice of Calvary,» said Mother Seroboli.

Sister Battista was forced to seek refuge in the city of Atri, a small locality in Abruzzi, the southern region of Italy.
Another event that caused her great sorrow and many hours of prayer was when she found out in 1517 that in Germany, the Augustinian monk Martin Luther announced his separation from the Roman Church.
The future saint had various mystical experiences, which are reflected in her numerous writings. In these writing she also reveals her love of the crucified Christ.

Mother Seroboli described them as «a precious and very narrow way,» that enabled her to reread «her own life in the light of the Paschal Mystery.»

Sister Battista died on May 31, 1524 during the plague. She wrote, «You have resurrected me in You, true life who gives life to every living being.»

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