Blessed Jane of Signa
(Beata Jane di Signa)
Feast Day – November 17
Jane was born in 1244 near Signa, not far from Florence. Her parents were poor and devout peasants, and from her earliest years Jane tended her father’s sheep. Prayer and meditation were her favorite pastime during the long solitary hours in meadow and wood. If she sought the company of other shepherds, it was not fro boredom, but rather to pray with her associates or to show them how to serve God, avoid sin, and practice virtue. How pleasing this conduct was in the eys of God was shown in the following incident.
A terrible storm broke out. Jane fled with her flock to the tree where she was accustomed to hold her pious gatherings, and lo, while a hailstorm and cloudburst raged all about, not a drop of water fell on Jane and her flock. Noticing this, the other shepherds sought out Jane with their flocks when a storm arose, and always they experienced the same wonderful protection. “Jane’s tree,” a giant oak measuring over fourteen feet in circumference, was alive at the time of this writing, and was religiously preserved by the people of the country in memory of the miracle.
At other times, the waters of the Arno were swollen by rain or melting snow and made an impassible barrier between Jane and her home. Full of confidence in God, Jane would then spread her cloak on the waters, and kneeling on it, she would reach the opposite shore in safety.
Led by curiosity and devotion, the people began to seek out the virgin and her flock. This wounded her humility as well as her love of recollection. So Blessed Jane of Signa laid aside her shepherd’s staff, and sought her dearly loved solitude in another state of life.
About an hours distance from her native town was the Franciscan convent of Carmignano. There Jane received the habit of the Third Order at the age of twenty-three, and then had herself shut up in a cell which she had constructed on the bank of the Arno. There Blessed Jane of Signa lived in great austerity and intimate union with God for forty years. At the same time she never wearied of comforting and assisting the poor, the sick, and the sorrowful who came to her. God bestowed on her extraordinary graces, and at her intercession granted miraculous assistance to many. A blind man received his sight again; a dear child was restored to life.
Her earthly sojourn ended on November 9, 1307, when she was sixty-three years old. A miraculous ringing of bells at the time attracted the townsfolk to her hermitage. As there was no door to the cell, the wall was broken down, and Blessed Jane of Signa was found lying dead on the floor, with a bundle of fagots under her head as a pillow, like a person asleep.
Her virginal remains repose in the parish church of St John the Baptist, in a side chapel built for the purpose; and to this day her body is incorrupt. Her cell, too, has been preserved, although it has since been converted into a chapel. Because of the many miracles wrought at her tomb, especially during epidemics and floods, Pope Pius VI, on September 7, 1798, approved the continued veneration given to Blessed Jane, and permitted the celebration of her feast.
From: The Franciscan Book of Saints, Marion A. Habig, OFM
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