Eating While Sleeping
Last Tuesday the New York Times had an article about a Sleep-eating disorder among some users of Ambien. The report reminded me of the story of Saint Veronica (Orsola) Giuliani (1660-1727), about whom I first read in Holy Anorexia by Rudolph M. Bell.
Saint Veronica practiced various forms of extreme asceticism her whole life and at one point miraculously fasted for five years. During this period, the devil was occasionally seen to take Sister Veronica’s form late at night and pretty much raid the icebox, or whatever the seventeenth-century-icebox-equivalent was, at the Capuchin convent of Città di Castello.
I have often wondered what to make of this detail of Saint Veronica’s biography. It seems likeliest that she had some kind hybrid sleeping and eating disorder very similar to what many folks are suffering now. On the other hand, it may have been that this extraordinarily accomplished and ambitious leader was one of a number of sincere believers who feel that a certain amount of deception is excusable, and even necessary, for the sake of the greater truth.
And on the third hand, maybe it really was the devil.
This site has a painting of a seventeenth century Italian kitchen, which may somewhat resemble the scene of the controversy.
Bell, Rudolph M. Holy Anorexia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.