Friday, December 31, 2010

St. Peter the Apostle (c.1 to c.67)

   "I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."   (Matthew 16:17-20)

   Since I've visited St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City three times in my life, the final resting place of St. Peter the Apostle, I like to think it increases my chances of getting into Heaven since he holds the keys. Therefore, symbolically, I consider him the most appropriate saint to conclude my blog with.
   St. Peter the Apostle was born Simon in Bethsaida c.1. He was a fisherman by trade and a disciple of Jesus who renamed him Peter meaning "rock" since he would be the foundation on which the church would be built. His brother was St. Andrew the Apostle.
  Tradition says St. Peter the Apostle caught so many fish that he fell down in front of Jesus who told him not to be afraid because "from now on you will be catching men."
   To Roman Catholics, St. Peter the Apostle was the first Bishop of Rome, Italy and first Pope from c.30 to c.64. He was with Jesus during the Transfiguration, the Last Supper, and the Passion. And, the Risen Christ appeared to him first.
  When St. Peter the Apostle was crucified c.67 in Rome, he asked that it be done head downward because he felt he was not worthy of the same death as Jesus. His feast day is celebrated with St. Paul the Apostle on June 29 as the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Our Lady of Perpetual Help


   My cousin Anthony, age 51, recently informed me that he doesn't believe in everlasting life. Since he is one of the smartest people I've ever known, his disbelief in Heaven made me perk up and listen.
Did he feel this way because we grew up in a dysfunctional family? Was I a fool for believing? Afterall, someone I hold in the highest regard was saying there's nothing after we die.
  Anthony gave me this explanation:
  "Many people, and maybe you are one of them, need to believe that everything happens for a reason - that everything is part of the grand plan of some benevolent being...and that even the terrible things that befall us, would make sense if we only knew God's plan, which of course, we never will. I understand why people want to believe this and how comforting it would be to think there is a good reason for horrible things - I just don't believe it."
  My cousin continued:
  "I don't take many things on faith. I believe in evolution and I think man created religion and God to control other men - what better way to do that than telling people the meek shall inherit the Earth or your reward will come in the next life? That's how you get folks to behave and keep the 'have-nots' from massacre-ing the 'haves.' If poor people thought that this life was all there is, do you think they'd accept their poverty? I think not."
  Anthony said animals live and die: some live long lives, some get hit by cars as babies, and some get eaten by predators. That we don't have to believe all those early deaths happen for a reason. We accept they're animals and that is their fate. So he asks why can't we accept that we are animals too, and things happen to us just as randomly, good or bad?
  "The fact that our brains are of a higher order, doesn't change what happens when we die as opposed to all other animals, at least not in my mind," he concluded. "And the fact that we can imagine there is a God, doesn't mean there is one."
  Maybe I would have agreed with Anthony many years ago, but as I've said earlier, when I saw the robe and sandals of St. Francis of Assisi, at age 26, that all changed. I know there is everlasting life.
Since Anthony lives in New Hampshire, I felt I should write about the state's patron saint, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
  I didn't realize the significance of it at the time, but when I was just 27-years-old, I wandered into the Church of St. Alphonsus in Rome, Italy, and my eyes met the amazing icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. It is there under the care of the Redemptorist Fathers.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, with a solemn expression, wears the traditional blue veil and mantle. The baby Jesus hugs her.
  Our Lady of Perpetual Help's message is "You can come to me."
  The Byzantine icon is thought to have been painted in the 13th century although the artist is unknown and many historians feel it was made in Crete. To the left, is St. Michael the Archangel, holding the lance and sponge from the Crucifixion, and at right is St. Gabriel the Archangel with a three-bar Cross and nails, respectively.
  The feast day of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is June 27.

  "O Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke thy most powerful name, which is the safeguard of the living and the salvation of the dying. O Purest Mary, O Sweetest Mary, let thy name henceforth be ever on my lips. Delay not, O Blessed Lady, to help me whenever I call on thee, for, in all my needs, in all my temptations I shall never cease to call on thee, ever repeating thy sacred name, Mary, Mary."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

St. Paul the Apostle (c.5 to c.67)

  "Love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in wrong doing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes in all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."
      (St. Paul the Apostle)

  Since I started writing "A Sinner's Guide to the Saints," at the beginning of the year, I've encountered people of all faiths who have expressed an interest in my blog. They want to know what inspired me, ask me specific questions, or are eager to tell their own stories about Roman Catholic saints.
  But, perhaps one of the most interesting things I've noticed is that many lapsed Catholics, who claim they will never go to Mass again and bash the church, are hooked on my blog.
  Since I only have three entries left, I feel compelled to mention a letter I just finishing reading in the local Catholic newspaper by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, my homestate. It's one of the most insightful things I've read all year. In it, Bishop Tobin encourages "inactive Catholics" to return to the church.
  He doesn't say former Catholic because once you're baptized a Catholic, you're one for life (your soul is infused with Catholic DNA). And, forget fallen Catholic. Bishop Tobin states it reminds him of someone falling out of a tree or off a fence.
  Next, he states four reasons that people are inactive Catholics, myself included. I think I fall under #4. (#1 doesn't apply to me because I tend to make my own rules.)
  1. You disagree with the teachings and practices of the church. (Matters of faith and morals aren't negotiable. They can't be changed. They were given to us by Christ.  He encourages readers to understand what the church teaches and why.)
  2. You found it boring and didn't get anything out of it. (He agrees that sometimes church leaders haven't fed the flock very well, haven't provided sound and challenging teaching and preaching, and haven't very kind or welcoming. He also apologizes, then says it's not all about us. It's about God and we should go to Mass to ask forgiveness, thank him, pray for others, and to receive the Body and Blood of Christ adding you can't do that anywhere else.)
 3. You left the church because another member of the church offended or disappointed you. (He says that bishops and priests included are completely human and often make statements that are unacceptable or even immoral. We belong to a community of sinners and that the virtue of forgiveness is an essential part of Christian life. He suggests we give it another try.)
 4. You left the church because of your own spiritual laziness. (The ball's in our court. We must think about our relationship with God and understand how important the church is in helping us fulfill our God-given potential. It was founded by Christ and is guided by the Holy Spirit. He says that the church has much to offer and if we feel it's imperfect in serving its mission, in serving the Lord, and caring for one another, perhaps we can help it to do better.)
   Bishop Tobin concludes by saying that inactive Catholics should return to the church and if there's an issue or problem to contact our local parish or him. Again, his letter was brilliant.
  St. Paul the Apostle is a patron saint of many things including the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island and evangelists. He was born c.5 in Tarsus, Turkey.
  St. Paul the Apostle was known as Saul the Jew and persecuted Christians. On his way to Syria one day between the years 33 and 36, he was struck to the ground and blinded by a heavenly light. The message was that by persecuting Christians, he was persecuting Christ.
  He then changed his ways. St. Paul the Apostle was baptized a Christian and spent the rest of his life teaching the words of Christ. Thirteen of his epistles are in the New Testament. He was beheaded in Rome, Italy c.67.
  St. Paul the Apostle shares his feast day, June 29, with St. Peter as the Solemnity of  Saints Peter and St. Paul.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

St. Demetrius of Sermium (2nd century)

"Anyone who does not believe in the Devil does not believe in the Gospel."     (Pope John Paul II)

   Just before my grandfather passed away in 1979, he told the family that he only wanted to be in the funeral parlor for the shortest time possible because it gave him the creeps. This was an educated man who was a registered architect.
  My grandfather was always afraid of the dead. So, to honor his wish, his wake was one night instead of two which was the tradition in those days.
  My grandmother would tell me stories about how she'd have to accompany him to the basement of the centuries-old house they lived in during the 1940s, when the boiler went out. And, once it was fixed, my grandfather would run upstairs and leave her behind.
  I've heard people say that if you're afraid, to make the Sign of the Cross and you'll be safe. As a child, we always had a crucifix in each bedroom and rosary beads had to be blessed before they could be brought into the house.
  Evil spirits or ghosts creep people out for a variety of reasons. I wouldn't want to see a ghost because I'd be afraid it would hurt me or the simple fact that it would be startling.
  But, many people fear seeing one because they think it means their own death is soon to follow. I recently read an account where one woman felt the ghost of her dead mother was keeping her from finding a husband. And, I have to draw the line at this one, but another woman was afraid she'd be impregnated by a ghost. (Could this be from watching "Rosemary's Baby" too many times?)
  Christians believe that evil spirits are fallen angels and the Roman Catholic Church says that angels and demons are real beings.
  We all have our own superstitions about evil spirits. And, back in 2nd century, people were no different.  That is when St. Demetrius of Sermium, the patron saint against evil spirits, lived. He was raised by rich Christian parents in Thessalonia.
  St. Demetrius of Sermium was a soldier and a deacon. Then, when it was discovered he was a Christian, he was imprisoned in a bathhouse (sounds like fun to me). Eventually, he was martyred.
  St. Demetrius of Sermium had a bit of a revival 300 years after his death when he appeared to soldiers during a battle in 586. His feast day is Oct. 8.

Monday, December 27, 2010

St. Guy of Anderlecht (c.950 to 1012)

  "Be the living expression of God's kindness, kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness."             
                (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta)

   We were hit by a blizzard during the night. And, as much as I enjoyed listening to the wind howling wildly from the confines of my loft bedroom, I knew there was a chance that the power might go out. I kept watching the lights on the Christmas tree twinkle all the while hoping that work would be cancelled in the morning. Then, I fell asleep.
  Today, I awoke to the disaster of more than a foot of drifted snow. I drive a small sporty car, so forget four-wheel drive. I had my work cut out for me with at least three feet of snow between where I was parked and the street. But, I didn't panic.
  It has been said that timing is everything and I lucked out. A town worker was driving by in a snowplow just as I was about to dig my car out. I waved him over and he gave me the thumbs up sign.
  Without hesitating, he plowed me out and went on his way. Someone I didn't even know took the time to help me. And, that kindness stayed with me throughout the day.
   St. Guy of Anderlecht is a patron saint of laborers. He was born into a life of poverty in Aderlecht, Belgium c.950. All that he knew was poverty and he spent his time helping others less fortunate.
  During the day, St. Guy of Anderlecht tended the fields and, oftentimes, his guardian angel would work the plow so that he could pray.
  He spent so much time at church that his parish priest named him the sacristan. St. Guy of Anderlecht began investing in a trading venture, but when that fell through, he felt he was being punished. So, he went to Rome, Italy for penance. Then, he travelled to Jerusalem to work as a guide for pilgrims.
  St. Guy of Anderlecht died on his way back to Belgium in 1012. He is also a patron saint of convulsive children and horned animals. His feast day is September 12.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

St. Odilo of Cluny (c.962 to c.1048)

   "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."
                                                                    (Matthew 12:36-37)

  If getting out of Purgatory isn't hard enough, we Roman Catholics believe that when Jesus comes again at the end of the world, everybody who ever lived will be judged. So, that's two times. Or is it?
  What most concerns me, is who will be on this planet when Jesus returns? And, if the Last Judgment takes place in eternity, where there is no sense of time, is there a chance that the two judgments might take place simultaneously?
  It's not something that I care to think about at this point in my life because the possibilities of what it could mean are endless. For now, I'll let St. Odilo of Cluny take care of it, as he is the patron saint of the souls in Purgatory.
  He was born in France in c.692 and became an abbot at the monastery in Cluny at age 32.  St. Odilo of Cluny is credited with establishing the feast of All Souls Day on November 2.
  To help feed the poor, it is said that he sold riches that were found within the monastery. St. Odilo of Cluny died in Souvigny c.1048.
  Within a day or two of my family members dying (in particular, my maternal grandmother and my mother), I felt an overwhelming sense that they were in Heaven. It's not something that I was even thinking about at the time which makes it even more remarkable.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day

  "She wrapped him in clothes and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."                     (Luke 2:7)

  Many people I encountered this month said they weren't in the spirit of the season, it didn't feel like Christmas, or they were depressed about the holiday. Why did they feel this way?
  No matter what happens to me throughout the year, as soon as Advent comes along, I am ready to put up a Christmas tree, decorate the house, send cards, do more baking, and listen to Christmas carols. All of these things are a comfort to me at a time that can be sad or stressful.
  We remember our loved ones who are no longer with us to celebrate and worry about not having enough money to buy presents. My deceased family members would want me to recall happy times, not cry about them. And, as far as money, if I plan wisely during the year, I'm debt free when it comes time for holiday shopping.
  I am definitely a kid at heart and although I never force others to be happy at Christmas, I try to bring a little bit of joy to people I know are hurting.
  It's the middle of the night right now which is thought to be the time of Christ's birth. Tradition says he was born in a stable with farm animals. St. Francis of Assisi is recognized for creating the first living nativity.
  In 1223, he was in the tiny hill town of Grecio, Italy about to celebrate Midnight Mass and discovered that the chapel in the Franciscan hermitage was too small to fit everyone. So, St. Francis of Assisi received permission from the sovereign Pontiff to create an outdoor altar and manger. He gathered hay, an ox, an ass, and sheep to commemorate the nativity of the Infant Jesus.
  In "St. Francis and the Christmas Creche" by Rev. William Saunders, he writes that "although the story is long old the message is clear to us... May we never forget to see in our hearts the Little Babe of Bethlehem, who came to save us from sin."
  Merry Christmas!

(The image above is by James Christensen.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

  "The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory." (John 1:14)

   The magic of Christmas is still with me as an adult. Long before DVDs were invented, my dad would record A Charlie Brown Christmas television special so that my older brother and I could listen to the audio over and over and over during the month of December.
   I loved to go outside and look at the bright, twinkling lights that decorated the houses and yards of our neighbors. And, I will never forget the trips to LaSalette Shrine in Attleboro, Mass. to view the annual Christmas lights and burn colorful prayer candles.
   I was thrilled as a child to get our Christmas tree. It would have to stay on the porch overnight so that the branches opened up. My dad would not budge when I'd ask each year that we decorate it that night.
  But, the most important part of Christmas Eve was the Feast of the Seven Fishes at my grandparent's home, a commemoration of the wait for the birth of Jesus. I hate seafood, however being half Italian-American, I could not escape it. My mother would have to cook her contribution of fish at my grandmother's house because I did not want it to smell up our house or my hair.
  There was always plenty of pizza and broccoli rabe available for me and my 13 cousins, if we didn't want to each the fish or spaghetti and clam sauce that was readily available.
   As this blog will come to a close on Dec. 31, 2010, I would like to say that Christmas Eve stands out as one of the most important days for me as a Roman Catholic. We always went to Mass at 5:15 p.m. at St. Michael's Church in Georgiaville. When I got older, I would walk with my cousins Dorothy, Melanie, and Isabel to St. Lawrence Church in Centredale. And, Christmas caroling would follow.
  Most important, tonight I remember the words of St. Luke: "Suddenly a great company of heavenly host appeared, with the angel praising God and saying "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

St. Victoria (? to 250)

   "Behold, I make all things new."  (Book of Revelation 21:5)

  My former landlord, Phil, an older bachelor, died unexpectedly at the end of October from a heart attack. He was a self-proclaimed collector of junk, so it took his family several weeks to empty out his house and storage unit.
  I saw his niece, Amanda, today and she was still devastated and in shock over the loss of her uncle. I told her I understood because when I was teenager, my Uncle Vinnie dropped dead from a heart attack at age 44. When someone close to you dies, they stay with you for the rest of your life.
  Amanda told me that Phil was cremated and it got me to thinking about how as a Roman Catholic, it's against the rules. In part, it goes back to the times of the early Christian martyrs. Roman emperors scattered their ashes to ridicule Christian belief in the Resurrection.
  Nowadays, it is required that, in most cases, the body of the deceased be brought in the church for the Mass of Christian Burial.
  Can you rise to Heaven in a destroyed body? I suppose a cremated person has just as much a chance as a decomposed body. Because St. Thomas the Apostle (Doubting Thomas) felt the wounds of Jesus after he was resurrected, he is convinced that we will all rise to Heaven in the perfect body.
  I recall my dad telling me that we will be around age 33 in Heaven, the age Jesus was when he died. This is considered the best possible age of our life. But, how can we all be the same age?
  It is said that we will have an identity with those we had in earthly life, although we may not be immediately recognized as was the case when St. Thomas the Apostle encountered Jesus.
  For now, I'd like to forget about the whole thing and think happy thoughts. But, I would like to remember St. Victoria whose feast day is today. She was martyred, so there is the possibility her ashes were scattered.
  St. Victoria refused to marry a nobleman so was thrown in prison and starved. (Imagine if that happened today? Half the male population would be behind bars.) She refused to sacrifice herself to pagan gods and was eventually stabbed through the heart at Monteleone Sabino, Italy in 250.

 (The image above is from saintscards.com)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

St. Deochar (8th century)

  "...and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see."           
(Charles Dickens)

   My friend, Nancy, is an artist who specializes in intricate bead work and is a well known member of a local Indian tribe. Her art requires excellent vision, so three years ago, when she was almost legally blind as a result of an intestinal disease, she was devastated.
  Her friend is an acupunturist to international celebrities and lives in Paris, France. And Nancy thought she had nothing to lose by seeing her (excuse the pun) for treatment, although she was apprehensive about the whole idea of it.  
   "I thought God was playing tricks on me," Nancy said after the treatment. "I could see again and wasn't even wearing my glasses."
  When she returned to her doctor in the United States, he was baffled. He had never seen anything like it. She was cured.
  What Nancy experienced was a miracle. And, sometimes, miracles happen to those who don't believe. Her faith was restored although she's not sure if it was the acupunture or God that helped her.
  There are many patron saints of eye disease, blind people, and eye patients, with St. Lucy being the most notable. It doesn't matter who you invoke, they will work just the same.
  St. Deochar was born in 8th century Bavaria. He found peace living alone in the forests. A Benedictine monk and the first abbot of Herriedon Abbey, he is responsible for healing a young boy's blindness. St. Deochar is a patron saint of blind people and eye patients. He died in 847 and his feast day is July 7.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

St. Boniface (c.672 to June 5, 754)

  "On a lonely winter evening, when the frost Has wrought a silence."    (John Keats)

  On this Winter Solstice, let us celebrate peace and light. Many traditions, both pagan and religious, are celebrated today and on the days surrounding the longest night of the year. One of my favorites is the legend of St. Boniface and the Donar Oak.
   He was a bishop who was born in Devonshire, England c.672. One day, in 725, St. Boniface decided to chop down a sacred and massive Donar Oak in Geismar, Germany. As the tree hit the ground, out popped a young fir tree.
  "This is indeed a symbol of the Christ child," he told the townspeople. "Forever more, bring the evergreen into your homes at Christmastime and decorate it as a reminder of  peace, joy, and love."
  St. Boniface died in what is modern day Netherlands on June 5, 754. His feast day is June 5.

   If  you don't want to freeze at a bonfire tonight, stay indoors and enjoy A Hermit's Soup from "Twelve Months of Monastery Soups" by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette. It makes 1-2 servings.

    1 potato, 1 turnip, half a small cabbage, 2 carrots, 1 onion, 3 tablespoons oil of choice, 1/3 cup rice,  
 2 quarts water, salt and a pinch of thyme to taste

   1. Wash and trim the vegetables. Cut and slice all of them into tiny pieces.
   2. Pour oil into a soup pot, add the vegetables, and saute them for a few minutes. Add the rice and water. Stir well. Keeping the pot covered, cook over low heat for one hour. Add the salt and thyme just before serving. Stir well and serve hot.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Blessed Francis Patrizzi (1266 to May 26, 1328)

  "Snowy nights and Christmas lights, Icy windowpanes,
   Make me wish that we could be together again
   And the windy winter avenues just don't seem the same
   And the Christmas carols sound like blues,
   But the choir is not to blame."
                                    (Jim Croce)

   My great grandmother would wait until Palm Sunday each year to reconcile with family or friends she may have had a fallen out with. By simply handing someone palms was a gesture that meant things were forgiven.
   How many of us have cut ties with a person this year and would we really want them in our lives again? It seems that at Christmas, we often forget the real reason we've parted ways. Why not start small? Invite one person back into your life. I'll do the same and begin with my own family.
   Blessed Francis Patrizzi is the patron of reconciliation. He was born in Siena in 1266 and became a member of the Servites after hearing a speech by Blessed Ambrose Sansedoni.
   Blessed Francis Patrizzi could solve any kind of problem through meditation. He died on May 26, 1328 and is buried in the Church of Santa Maria de Servi in Siena. He was beatified in 1743.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

St. Lufthild (? to c.850)

   And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
 (Matthew 8:20)

  It was brutally cold tonight. The ground was frozen, the tree limbs bare, and the bird feeders empty. Still, there was something quite beautiful about the moon above, the Christmas lights twinkling from nearby houses, and the chilly silence.
 What are homeless people doing right now? Why is it, I wonder, that I only seem to think of them on the coldest nights that are close to Christmas?
  Now my mind is preoccupied with people who need a place to sleep and a warm meal. I'm not about to rattle of homelessness statistics. I'm going to be more sensitive to the needs of other people even if it means having a less for myself.
  In the words of Charles Dickens, "I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."
    St. Lufthild is a patron saint of homeless people. She was born in the 9th century and was abused by her stepmother for sharing the family's food with the poor. Tired of being beaten up, but unwilling to stop giving to the needy, St. Lufthild ran away and lived as a homeless hermit.
  She died c.850 and miracles continue to happen in her name. St. Lufthild's feast day is Jan. 23.

Blessed Helen of Udine (1396 to April 23, 1458)

  While I was enjoying a drink at a crowded Christmas caroling party tonight, a friend quietly told me for the past 30 or so years she's been a spiritualist. Intrigued by what that meant, I asked her a few questions then later did my own research into it.
  Some of the principles are a belief in spirit communication, that the soul lives on after the physical body dies, and that after death it's possible for the soul to learn and improve. (I thought lessons were learned in this life and the choices we make while alive determine how long we wait in purgatory.)
  Further, my friend, who's a gifted artist and intelligent woman, told me she was a medium and used to attend a Spiritualist Church where seances are held. It's for people who are intuitive and want to communicate with the dead.
  I'm intuitive and I wish I knew where my dead relatives were, but that wouldn't make me a Spiritualist or want to join such a church. Still, I'm interested in what type of people are drawn to the concept.
  And, personally, I don't think it sounds any stranger that the behavior of  Blessed Helen of Udine. She was born Helen Valentini in Italy in 1396 and was so in love with her husband that when he died unexpectedly after 27 years of marriage, she cut off all her hair and buried it along with her best jewelry in her husband's grave.
  Blessed Helen of Udine, a widowed mother of six, became a Augustinian tertiary performing charitable deeds. Then, she took a vow of silence and would only speak once a year on Christmas night. She had ecstatic trances brought on by a battle with worldy temptation.
  For the last three years of her life, Blessed Helen of Udine was confined (by her wishes) to a bed of stone and straw.
  Many people would think she sounds a bit eccentric or crazy, so why would my belief in saints such as Blessed Helen of Udine, sound more normal than a Spiritualist's belief in communication with the dead? In fact, it doesn't.
  We may "try" different religions as we go through life and, after coming full circle, we are drawn to the one that feels most comfortable. Whether or not we attend a Mass or service, truly doesn't matter. It's how we conduct our lives and treat others that counts.
  Blessed Helen of Udine, who had the gift of healing, died on April 23, 1458. She was beatified in 1848 (that's a long time to be waiting for sainthood) and her feast day is April 23.

Friday, December 17, 2010

St. Ezequiel Moreno y Diaz (April 9, 1848 to Aug. 19, 1906)

   There's no smoking in my house or car. Nothing annoys me more than someone lighting up a cigarette after I've just finished washing my hair. Besides, it's absolutely disgusting to inhale secondhand smoke.
  It's my personal taste not to want to smell like an ashtray. I want my clothes to smell clean. And, the odd thing is, many people who smoke, just don't get it. They think the world is against them. They take it personally if a nonsmoker doesn't want to be around them.
  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies secondhand smoke as a known human carcinogen. If you do smoke, I'm not saying I dislike you. I'm saying have some respect for the people around you.
  St. Ezequiel Moreno y Diaz is a patron saint against cancer. He was born on April 9, 1848 in Navarra, Spain. He served as a missionary to the Philippines and was later bishop of Pinara, Colombia.
  St. Ezequiel Moreno y Diaz was known for his charity work. He died on Aug. 19, 1906. Canonized: 1992. His feast day is Aug. 19.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

St. Bega (7th century)

 "In the bleak mid-winter frosty wind made moan
  Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
  Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
  Snow on snow, in the bleak mid-winter, long ago.

  Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him,
  Nor earth sustain;
  Heaven and earth shall flee away
  When he comes to reign:
  In the bleak mid-winter
  A stable-place sufficed
  The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ."
                                (Christina Rossetti, 1872)

 
    In recent years, A Celtic Christmas Sojourn with Brian O'Donovan has become a holiday tradition for me. It's a fun night in Providence where I can dress festively and celebrate all things Irish in a month other than March.
   Being raised in an French/Italian American family this is all new to me although I remember my mother saying that her best friends were all Irish. She respected the faith they had in the Roman Catholic Church and would often ask Wini, Cynthia, Marie, or Joyce why good people die young.
  "Marilyn," Marie said. "Sometimes, God takes people before their time because if they had lived longer they may have done something that couldn't be forgiven."
  My mother loved having dinner at Joyce's because they would say the rosary in the evening which was unheard of at her house.
  So, in my own life, I enjoy experiencing the music and traditions of other ethnicities like I did tonight at A Celtic Christmas Sojourn. "Mrs. Fogarty's Christmas Cake" and "All On a Christmas Morning" were my favorites and there were also traditional carols like "The Bleak Midwinter" and "Silent Night."
  Among the hundreds of saints who were from Ireland is St. Bega (also known as St. Bee) who lived in the 7th century. She was an Irish princess, who instead of marrying a Norwegian prince, fled the Irish sea to England.
  There St. Bega, a virgin, became a nun and founded St. Bee's Monastery. She lived for a time as a hermitess. Her feast day is Oct. 31.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

St. Maria Crocifissa di Rosa (Nov. 6, 1813 to 1855)

   I got an e-mail this week from a guy in Switzerland whose heart was broken when his girlfriend left him in order to become a nun. What prompted him to contact me was that he'd read a previous blog entry where I mentioned that I like sex too much or I'd move to Assisi, Italy and become a Franciscan nun
  "What? You should see what it's like to be cuckolded by God," he wrote.
  I'm not quite sure what he means. Still, I hope he finds peace. In the meantime, today is the feast day of St. Maria Crocifissa di Rosa. She was a nun who didn't break any man's heart.
  She was born Nov. 6, 1813 in Brescia, Italy. When she was 17-years-old, her mother died and she took care of her father. During the cholera epidemic, St. Maria Crocifissa di Rosa worked in a hospital.
  She was a mother superior. In 1839, she founded of the Handmaids of Charity in Brescia. St. Maria Crocifissa di Rosa helped women and young girls who were exploited, sick, needy, or blind. She died in 1855.  Canonized: 1954.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

St. Augustine of Hippo (Nov. 13, 354 to Aug. 28, 430)

  "It is this one Spirit who makes it possible for an infant to be regenerated... when that infant is brought to baptism; and it is through this one Spirit that the infant so presented is reborn."
                                                                             (St. Augustine of Hippo)

   It's been more than 11 years since my mother passed away and equally as long that I spoke with her best friend, my godmother, Joyce.  But, today, that all changed when I got a phone call from Joyce. She'd just received a Christmas package I sent to her earlier this week filled with a colorful Blessed Virgin Mary wall calendar for 2011, a nativity from South America, a Christmas novena booklet, and her favorite chocolates.
   Joyce is dear to me, of course, because she's my godmother. She met my mother when they were 12-years-old and she'll be 75 next month. And, for the first time, I noticed something a little different about her.
  Throughout our conversation, Joyce seemed forgetful. She couldn't remember her age or how many grandchildren she had. Then, she'd asked her husband, my godfather, whose voice I could hear in the background and repeat the answers back to me.
  It made me feel upset because it seems like she has a form of Alzheimer's disease like her mother did. Still, Joyce laughed it off  by saying that she's older now and, as we age, we tend to forget things. She's right. Just some people do so a little bit faster.
  In the Roman Catholic Church, baptism is very important, so I'm glad Joyce was chosen as my godmother. When I was born in the mid 1960s, women stayed in the hospital for several days after a birth. My mother told me I went home on March 19, six days after I was born.
  Back then, it was almost mandatory that a baby be baptized immediately. You weren't supposed to go driving around with a newborn. If, God forbid, they died, they could be stuck in limbo forever.
  I couldn't be baptized right away because two days after I went home was Palm Sunday and the following Sunday was Easter.
  In the decades that followed, I remained close to Joyce. Her parish was St. Augustine Church in Providence, so I will write about him today.
  St. Augustine of Hippo was a Doctor of the Church and one of the most influential saints of all time. He was born Nov. 13, 354 in what is now Algeria. His mother was St. Monica.
  St. Augustine of Hippo was said to be a wild man who enjoyed partying and drinking. His sins of impurity blocked his mind from the Divine Truth. However, his mother continued to pray for him. Then one day, St. Augustine of Hippo snapped out of it and decided to live a life similar to Jesus.
  He was a bishop and a prolific writer. St. Augustine of Hippo died on Aug. 28, 430 and his feast day is Aug. 28.

(Happy Birthday, Grandma Denise: Dec. 14, 1895 to Feb. 2, 1972)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Our Lady of Banneux

   At a news conference today at the Vatican, an Italian edition of a Dictionary of Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary revealed some startling news.  Of the 2,400 claims of people seeing her throughout the centuries, only 15 have been recognized by the Roman Catholic Church.
   We are all familiar with Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Our Lady of Fatima, to name a few. But, according to one of the co-authors of the book, Father Rene Lauretin, apparitions are considered the most controversial of all theological subjects and the least scientifically studied.
  I, for one, believe that if a logical, intelligent person or even a small child believes they have seen the Blessed Virgin Mary, that there's a strong chance that it's true. Why would anyone make up such a thing?
  Our Lady of Banneux proved to be a definite apparition in 1949.  From Jan. 15 to March 2, 1933, a 12-year-old girl named Mariette Beco (pictured on the left above) saw the Blessed Virgin Mary in Banneux, Belgium.
  Common to many apparitions, the young girl told her priest and family that a beautiful woman in white encouraged her to drink from a small spring that would heal and help all nations. The spring is said to now produce 2,000 gallons of water a day.
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, who called herself the Virgin of the Poor, asked that a chapel be built on the site.
  "I come to relieve suffering and believe in me and I will believe in you," she said.
  The feast day of Our Lady of Banneux is Jan. 15.

(Happy Feast of St. Lucy!)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

St. Abra (c.343 to c.360)

   "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor..."  (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4)

   A person who was doing a Google search that St. Jude Thaddeus didn't help them, found their way to my blog this week. Hopefully, after reading the entry, they understand that sometimes things aren't meant to be. At least my dad told me that.
  Still, I find it disturbing when you ask for help through saintly intervention and it doesn't work. I went the St. Jude Thaddeus (patron of hopeless cases) route many times and drew my own conclusions afterward. You can read about it by clicking on the blue link in the above paragraph.
  I listened to my dad quite a bit growing up because he gave good advice. However, if I had been St. Abra, whose father was St. Hilary of Poitiers, that wouldn't be the case.
  St. Abra was born c.343 in Poitiers, France. Her father made the suggestion that she take her vows as a consecrated virgin and nun.  She did and devoted her time to doing charitable deeds. That was only for a short time since she died c.360 at age 18. Her feast day is today.

(Happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

St. Sperandia (1216 to Sept. 11, 1276)

   I read in the newspaper today that a Roman Catholic nun, who's a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph and vice president of finance at Iona College in New York City, embezzled more than $850,000. The thing I find most unusual is that Sister Marie Thornton spent the money on gifts for herself. I'm intrigued by what the 62-year-old may have bought since the majority of nuns take a vow of poverty.
  As much as I love luxurious bath and beauty products, stylish clothing, Italian leather shoes, and exotic vacations, even I couldn't treat myself to lavish gifts that amount to that total. I'm pleased that Sister Marie Thornton is receiving emotional and spiritual support although her activities are being restricted.
  St. Sperandia would never have behaved in such a manner. She was a Benedictine nun who was born in 1216 in Gubbio, Italy. She was a cousin of St. Ubaldo of Gubbio and became the abbess at a convent in Cingoli.
  St. Sperandia received mystic visions, the most noted that she was told her to wear a tanned pig skin with its bristles against her skin (maybe that's why she's incorrupt after all these years). St. Sperandia was a miracle worker and one legend is told that she could produce delicious cherries to feed hungry laborers in the middle of January.
  St. Sperandia died on Sept. 11, 1276. Her body, which is still incorrupt and exudes a sweet fragrance, has been exhumed eight times. It is on display in a sanctuary dedicated to her in Cingoli. St. Sperandia's feast day is Sept. 11.

(The lovely photo above is from the Standing on My Head blog by Father Dwight Longenecker.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

St. Dominic of Silos (1000 to Dec. 20, 1073)

   I am surrounded by pregnant friends and coworkers in their twenties and thirties all day long, but today I learned of something short of a miracle. My older brother's wife, who will be 47 in February, is pregnant with their first child. The baby is due in June. No egg donor and no in vitro fertilization. Something to regulate ovulation? I'm not going to ask.
  "It happened the natural way," my younger brother said.
  I'm so happy because this child will grow up in a loving household with devoted parents. And now, when I hear people say it's impossible for them to get pregnant if they are in their forties, I can say there is hope.
  (I was also thrilled to hear the good news on Dec. 10 because for the past 42 years, it's been a solemn day in my family. I was 4-years-old when my second cousin, a police officer, froze to death while trying to save a child who fell through the ice while skating on a pond.)
  St. Dominic of Silos, the founder of the Order of Preachers, is one of many patron saints of pregnant women. He was born to peasant parents in La Rioja, Spain in 1000.
  St. Dominic of Silos worked as a shepherd then became a Benedictine monk. He founded a monastery which because a place for charity, book design, and gold and silver work.
  St. Dominic of Silos died on Dec. 20, 1073. His feast day is Dec. 20.

(R.I.P. Norman:  Dec. 8, 1930 to Dec. 10, 1968)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

St. Ubaldo of Gubbio (c.1084 to 1160)

   I just finished flipping through a book about vacationing solo. It was written by a woman who is a travel writer and doesn't have to pay to go anywhere. Luckily, it only cost me a dollar at a used book sale.
  She basically name dropped all the places she's been to and talked about her two husbands and boyfriends. What really turned me off was her lack of knowledge about Italy. I've been there several times and it's affordable and the people are friendly.
  As a newly divorced 26-year-old in the early 1990s, I learned that if I wanted to get out and see the world, I'd have to do it on my own. I had plenty of friends and yet they either didn't have the money or the vacation time to travel. It would have been easy for me to say the same, but if a person really wants to do something, they will make the money and find the time.
   Belgium, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and France were all within my reach, because as humans, we all have the ability to manifest our desires. And so began a series of journeys that would provide we with comfort, guidance, and hope in the years to follow, although at the time, I had no idea.
  As I travelled from province to province in Italy, I discovered that each tiny town had its own traditions be it food or music or art or a patron saint. St. Ubaldo of Gubbio is one such person who still has a following. He was born c.1084 to noble parents. His father died when he was young and his mother had a neurological disorder.
  St. Ubaldo of Gubbio was a cousin of St. Sperandia. He was a monk and later a bishop. St. Ubaldo of Gubbio was responsible for many miracles and was known for helping the poor. He died in 1160.
  To this day, St. Ubaldo of Gubbio is so popular that it is said in Gubbio, at least one person in every family there is named Ubaldo. And, on his May 16 feast day, religious and civil processions (pictured above) take place in his honor. He is the patron saint of obsessive compulsive disorder.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

St. Hubertus (c.656 to May 30, 727)

   Like out of a children's picture book, I pulled up to my house last night and there on the lawn was the most majestic deer with the largest antlers I'd ever seen. It looked like a reindeer you'd see with Santa Claus and it walked quietly across the street to eat some apples that had fall from a tree.
   This was exciting since I'd just finished Christmas shopping and the carols that were playing in the department store were still in my head. It was a magical moment to spot a creature that represents the "lure to adventures."
  "Move gently into new areas. Practical pursuits bring surprising rewards," read a blurb in my animal symbolism book.
  St. Hubertus is often shown as a huntsmen adoring a deer with a crucifix between its antlers. He was born in Toulouse, France c.656.
  St. Hubertus loved to hunt and the legend is that as he was chasing a deer on Good Friday morning, he saw a vision of a crucifix between its antlers. Then, a voice cried out that if St. Hubertus didn't turn to God and live a holy life, he'd go to hell.
  So, when his wife died giving birth to their son, St. Hubertus gave the baby to his brother and entered the priesthood. He was the first bishop of Liege and his friend and spiritual advisor was St. Lambert.
  St. Hubertus died in Tervuren, Belgium on May 30, 727.  He is the patron saint of hunters and his feast day is Nov. 3. 

(Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

St. Philip Howard (June 28, 1557 to Oct. 19, 1595)

  "The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It's called being human."
                                          (Elizabeth Edwards)

  Elizabeth Edwards, an attorney and best-selling author, died today at age 61 from breast cancer. We all know she was the estranged wife of John Edwards, the former U.S. Senator from North Carolina, who will receive no other recognize in my blog for what he did to his wife while she was alive.
  Elizabeth was an intelligent woman and wonderful mother who will be remembered for the numerous contributions she made to our country.
  In her last entry on Facebook she said, "I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious."
  St. Philip Howard is a patron saint of betrayal victims and separated spouses. He was born in Norfolk, England on June 28, 1557. A nobleman (second cousin of Queen Elizabeth I), he married his foster sister at age 14. They had one son who was born after St. Philip Howard was imprisoned in the Tower of London for being a Catholic and trying to leave England without permission.
  He was in the tower beginning on April 25, 1585 and, as he lay dying a decade later, asked the queen if he could see his wife and child. She said he could, if he became a Protestant. St. Philip Howard refused and died on Oct. 19, 1595.
   He was canonized in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. His feast day is Oct. 25. St. Philip Howard's tomb was moved to the Catholic Arundel Cathedral in 1971.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Blessed Imelda Lambertini (1322 to May 12, 1333)

  At a Christmas bazaar yesterday, I found an unusual ceramic ornament made by the monks at St. Andrew Priory, a Benedictine monastery in the desert in Valyermo, California. It was a First Communion angel girl with large brown eyes and a friendly face.
  The ornament had a previous owner because a handwritten note on its original tag read "Grandpa spoke at a meeting with these monks in 1986." I learned that it was designed by Fr. Maur van Doorslaer.  
  Although I have no need for a First Communion ornament, I consider it a tiny treasure at a cost of just 25 cents.
  Blessed Imelda Lambertini is the patron of first communicants. She was born in Bologna, Italy in 1322. As a small child, she wanted desperately to receive the Most Holy Eucharist. But, being too young (the age back then was 14) she was told she had to wait.
  Blessed Imelda Lambertini thought that if she became a nun she'd be able to receive it sooner. So, at age 9, she joined a cloistered Dominican group. Again, she was not allowed to receive the Body of Christ.
  Finally, at age 11, Blessed Imelda Lambertini's wish came true on the vigil of the Ascension. The Light of the Host appeared around her head while she was praying. It was witnessed by the sacristan and a priest who was convinced she was worthy of receiving the Most Holy Eucharist.
  After receiving Jesus on May 12, 1333, she went into ecstasy, collapsed on the floor, and died. Blessed Imelda Lambertini was beatified in 1826. Her body, pictured above, remains incorrupt. Her feast day is May 12.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

St. David Lewis (1616 to Aug. 27, 1679)

   It seems every time I wish for a second that I was a religion other than Roman Catholic, something happens to make me thankful that I am.
  This morning I helped my friend sell his jewelry and deer antler nativity sets at a holiday bazaar at a Congregational Church on the East Side of Providence. My guess it that we were the only Roman Catholic vendors (that would be non-practicing).
   Inside was aglow with fresh evergreens, tasty baked goods, and live choir music. Sunday school students skipped happily around dressed in adorable Christmas clothing while others held their parents hands and pointed at the toys and books that they wanted on their wish lists.
  "Wow," I thought. "These Protestant families seem to have it all."
  To occupy my time during the shopping lull, I bid on gifts baskets in the silent auction. The three I chose were Italian foods, pedicure/aromatherapy, and cupcake baking. I knew I had a good chance of getting all three, but my favorite was the cupcake-themed one. It had a fancy cupcake stand, all the mix, sprinkles, frosting, and baking liners you'd ever need and a set of pans. It came in a huge, colorful handwoven basket.
  Basically, I kept going over to the bidding area and upping my amount each time someone made a new bid. I was finally at $65, it was the end of the event, and I figured it would be mine.
  However, next thing I knew, the cupcake basket was gone while the two dozen others remained in place. I could see the silent auction coordinator gathering bid papers, so I went up and asked her what happened to the cupcake basket.
  She said that it went to someone who bid $75 and they took it and left.
  "Generally, I announce the end of the silent auction and say there's a chance to bid one last time," she explained. "This year I forgot."
  I gathered my thoughts and responded, "You conveniently forgot because your friend wanted the basket. That's unfair. I would have bid $80."
  Actually, I wouldn't have bid that much money for something I could buy at Marshall's department store for under $30. Still, I wasn't surprised at all by the behavior of the stodgy woman. I was in a Protestant church, afterall. Say what you want, but this never would have happened at a bazaar at a Roman Catholic Church.
  I can guarantee that St. David Lewis wasn't turned off by the Protestant church over a silent auction, but he did convert Catholicism at age 16, when he was living in Paris, France. He was born in 1616 in Monmouthshire, England.
  St. David Lewis studied for the priesthood in Rome, Italy and was ordained in 1642. Thirty six years later, he was arrested for being a Jesuit priest and saying Mass. He was accused of being an accessory to the Popish Plot.
  St. David Lewis was hanged on Aug. 27, 1679. He was canonized in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. His feast day is Oct. 25.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Blessed Maria Fortunata Viti (Feb. 10, 1827 to Nov. 20, 1922)

  "A mother holds her children's hands for a while, their hearts forever." (Author unknown)

  As I was falling asleep last night, I could hear my mother's cheerful voice in the distance like she was in the next room. It was a comfort knowing she was nearby, although I was too tired to get up and speak with her.
  But, just a few minutes later, she came into my room to say goodnight.
  "Where are you?" I asked her although I could see her beside my bed.
  "I'm right here with you," she answered.
  "No. I mean, where are you, really?" I asked, again.
  I was a bit confused because my mother died more than 11 years ago. Yet, I could see her and hear her familiar voice while I was in a semi-dream state. I wanted her to say she was in Heaven or give me some type of clue about the afterlife.
  When I awoke the today, my eyes were puffy like I'd been crying. I thought about last night and tried to piece together what it all had meant. It could be that my mother was trying to tell me she was with me unconditionally. To paraphase, Matthew 28:20: "I am with you always, even until the end of the world."
  Before my mother died from cancer, I tried to get her to take milk thistle as an alternative to chemotherapy once it had spread from her colon to her liver. She took her doctor's advise like she should have but, just weeks before her death, my mother said, "I should have listened to you. Maybe the milk thistle would have worked. I just didn't want to take something that might make me feel sick."
  My mother trusted her doctors, although they admitted to giving her the wrong treatment during a major operation and wanted us (the family) to file a law suit, which we didn't.
  I assured my mother that she was going to get stronger and, when she did, we would try an alternative treatment.
  Now, more than a decade after her death and the day after my strange "dream," I went into the local coffee shop and looked in the beverage cooler. The first thing that jumped out at me was a line of drinks called RESCUE (by the makers of Arizona iced teas). Right on the bottle, it said milk thistle in big letters. Why was I being reminded of this? Was it a subtle hint from my mother that she could really see me? Was I making something out of nothing because I wanted to believe?
  The mystery continued tonight.
  Two months ago, I lost a cuff bracelet made from silver, shell, and turquoise. The more time has gone by, the more I thought I'd never see it again.
  I knew it was in my house, although I had searched every corner of it. I checked every inch of my car and even called a local clothing store to see if I had left it in the dressing room.
  So, tonight, I decided to play a little game. I had nothing to lose, since the bracelet was already missing.
  I said in a quiet voice in my bedroom loft, "Mom, if you really can see me, then tell me where my cuff bracelet is."
  All of a sudden, the energy in my body made me go over to my bed and kneel down on the floor. I had already looked there numerous times before, but now I was drawn to the head of the bed. I looked underneath and didn't see a thing.
  Then, I squinted and just beneath the radiator was what looked like the ends of the silver bracelet. It gave me chills.
   Skeptics might say that I forced myself to concentrate and that's how I located the bracelet. But, that's not the case here. I was drawn to the most unlikely place in the house. How did it get there in the first place?
  My mother used to say she'd give anything just to see her late father for one day. I didn't know what she meant until I lost her.
  My aunt told me that before my mother died she said to her, "Betty, I'm going to miss my children."
  What did she mean? How will she miss us when she's dead?
  Then, I think about St. Francis of Assisi (he's my only reason I believe that there is something after we die) and his famous quote: "It is in dying that we are born to eternal life."
  Blessed Maria Fortunata Viti is a patron against the loss of parents. She was born in Veroli, Frosinone, Italy on Feb. 10, 1827. Her father was a heavy drinker and gambler and her mother died when she was a teenager.
  Blessed Maria Fortunata Viti worked as a domestic servant to support her eight siblings. She joined the Benedictines at age 24 and remained with them for more than 70 years. She was devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and lived as a humble and hardworking person.
  After her death on Nov. 20, 1922, numerous miracles happened in her name. Blessed Maria Fortunata Viti was beatified on Oct. 8, 1967. Her feast day is Nov. 20.

Friday, December 3, 2010

St. Lorenzo Giustiniani (July 1, 1381 to Jan. 8, 1456)

   The Christmas party at the company where I work had a masquerade theme this year which made it all the more reason to go. I chose to wear a simple black dress which was sleeveless with glittery trim and a festive red scarf.  The mask would be my main accessory.
  When we got to the Biltmore Hotel in Providence, there was such an array that I tried on four before making my selection. It was black with red trim around the eyes and feathers of which three protruded from the top. My friend's choice was easy: plain and black to go with his Lone Ranger hat.
  Once I put on my mask, I didn't remove it all night for it was the perfect opportunity to pretend I was back in Venice. Not during my last trip there in 1992, but around 1436, when the mask was a staple in Venetian culture. And yet, it was not always that way.
  The Roman Catholic Church banned masks in the 14th century at least three times with the exception that they could be worn from Christmas until Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday which was the start of Lent. This was during the time when St. Lorenzo Giustiniani, a miracle worker, lived in Venice. He was the city's bishop and first patriarch.
  Against his mother's wishes (she wanted him to have a wife), St. Lorenzo Giustiniani was ordained in 1406. He spent much of his time begging for the poor and working as a teacher. He was known for writing about mystical contemplation.
  St. Lorenzo Giustiniani died on Jan. 8, 1456. His feast day is Jan. 8.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

St. Elizabeth (1st century)

  "And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month."                       (Luke 1:36)

  Why is that that some women are able to have children so easily and others either have a miscarriage or encounter complications ? My friend, who lost her two-week-old son early this summer, is now five months pregnant and must have surgery next week to save her unborn child. Although there's a 70 percent chance of success, she is terrified that something will go terribly wrong.
  This is where I question the phrase "God only gives you as much as you can handle." She's experienced enough trauma this year. I'm giving her a copy of "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne on audio so that she can permanently manifest positive thoughts.
  St. Elizabeth is a patron saint of pregnant women. She was born and died in the 1st century. The quote above is St. Gabriel the Archangel telling the Blessed Virgin Mary that St. Elizabeth, her cousin, was pregnant with St. John the Baptist. The painting for this blog entry is by Rubens and depicts the Holy Family with St. Elizabeth and her baby.
  It was a miracle that she had her child at such a late age. Many religious scholars believe she may have been in her fifties at the time.  St. Elizabeth's feast day is Oct. 5. I know that if my friend believes in miracles she, too, will have a healthy baby.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

St. Faustina (Aug. 25, 1905 to Oct. 5, 1938)

   Now that it's December, I am so ready for Christmas. That's why I couldn't miss the Annual Holiday Stroll & Luminaria in Westerly tonight. Well, with the heavy rain, it was less of a stroll and more of a run from building to building.
  Highlights included a stop at Zoe & Company, a lingerie superstore, where even the mannequins have implants and a tarot reading at an indoor flea market by a woman named Stephany. I like that she didn't approach me as so many psychics do when they see a prospective customer. Instead, I saw a small poster than said readings were available.
  "You will write a series of successful books. There is passion in your writing," she said in a knowing voice. "In the first book, you tell anecdotal stories. Some so heart-wrenching."
  By the time my fifteen minutes were up, I left content and with the promise to recognize the real reason for Christmas.
  Stephany is the equivalent of what some call mystics. Numerous Roman Catholic saints had that gift and one was canonized in 2000.
  St. Faustina was born Helena Kowalska on Aug. 25, 1905 in Glogowiec, Russia. She joined the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy and became a nun at age 20. As an offering to God, she asked to experience the sufferings of huge sinners and the dying.
  St. Faustina wrote about seeing Jesus in Purgatory and later speaking with Jesus and Mary. She wanted to establish a religious order, but her superiors wouldn't give her time off. They thought she suffered from mental illness. However they were wrong. One of the visions St. Faustina had in 1935 is now called of Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
  She died from tuberculosis on Oct. 5, 1938 in Krakow, Poland and her feast day is Oct. 5.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio (Jan. 20, 1502 to Feb. 25, 1600)

    "Give, and it will be given to you... For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
                                                                                                        (Luke 6:38)

   In October, when I was on Block Island helping unload my friend's car for a crafts guild show, another participant, "Emma," opened her vehicle door against it.  Then, she walked away leaving her car unattended. Next thing I knew, my friend drove away and, in the process, ended up scraping Emma's car.
   Obviously, she was at fault and also admitted her vehicle door was previously damaged in another accident and her mother hoped that she would get it fixed. My friend offered to help Emma bang out the dent, which he did. In a couple of days, she would be driving home to Los Angeles and told him not to worry about it. Funny thing is, it should have been the other way around.
  Now, two months later, Emma's insurance company contacted my friend saying that she was making a claim against him. She failed to tell what really happened, so my friend did.
  The point being, there are a lot of deceitful people in this world. They say one thing and turn around and do another. Yet, there are just as many honest people.
  I would say, if you're not going to file a police report for any kind of accident, make sure the other person puts what they say in writing.
  And I wouldn't want to be Emma because whether you do something kind or evil, it's guaranteed, you'll get the same in return.
  Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio is a patron saint of automobile drivers. He was born in Orense, Spain on Jan. 20, 1502. He moved to Mexico to work in the fields and subsequently began to build roads to help agricultural trade and commerce.
  It took Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio a decade, but he built a 466-mile road from Mexico City to Zacatecas. He went from being a peasant to an extremely wealthy rancher.
  When he was in his sixties, Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio married for the first time to a young virgin. Some people thought she married him for his money, while he wanted to provide for his wife because she had no savings. It ends up, she died.
  So, Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio married another young virgin and she died, too. This prompted him to give away all his riches to the poor and become a Franciscan at age 72. He lived to be 98-years-old and because of his dedication to charity he was nicknamed "Angel of Mexico."
  He died on Feb. 25, 1600. Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio is responsible for hundreds of miracles and he was beatified in 1789. His feast day is Feb. 25 and he remains incorrupt.

Monday, November 29, 2010

St. Colette (Jan. 13, 1381 to March 6, 1447)

  "I thought you were European," said Faye, a woman from China, when she was introduced to me today at a company meeting. "I was surprised when I heard you speak."
  I told Faye that she was right, in a way, since my grandfather was born in Italy and my ethnicity is half  Italian and half French.
  It's not the first time I've been mistaken for a non-American although I was born in Rhode Island. It could be the way I dress or put outfits together (scarves, leather boots and handbags, tailored black coats, and dressy shirts). Maybe Faye noticed a look or a spirit in me that she has seen in Europeans.
  My mom always said the best looking people were a mixture of nationalities. When she'd ask my grandfather who I looked like, he'd say I looked like myself.
  It's funny. As much as I try to break away from my heritage and where I came from, it seems the older I get, I am drawn to things that are like me.
  St. Colette was born Nicolette Boylet in Picardy, France on Jan. 13, 1381. She was orphaned as a teenager and left to the care of Benedictines. Yet, St. Colette was drawn to the Franciscan Order and had dreams that St. Francis of Assisi wanted her to restore the Rule of St. Clare.
  She founded the Colettine Poor Clares and established 17 monasteries. St. Colette and the sisters in her order lived a life of poverty and refused any form of income. She died on March 6, 1447. Canonized: 1807. St. Colette's feast day is March 6.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Servant of God, Brother Juniper (? to 1258)

                 "For it is in giving that we receive." (St. Francis of Assisi)

    As I took two loaves of freshly baked pumpkin bread out of the oven this afternoon (I just cut up my last pumpkin of the season), I thought about how I would like to share them with someone the way St. Francis of Assisi and his companions would have shared their food.
   All year long, I think about ways to help less fortunate people (not just at Thanksgiving or Christmas) and I contribute by donating clothing or books or just doing something kind for someone each day. It's the only way I know as a secular person to emulate a Franciscan way of life without giving up my car, job, clothing, and visits to the salon.
   And today is my first blog entry devoted to a Servant of God who was also a Franciscan. Brother Juniper was a close friend and one of the first followers of St. Francis of Assisi. He had such compassion for the poor that he continually gave away whatever he had including his coat and shirt.
  Brother Juniper joined the Franciscan Order in 1210 and he helped establish monasteries in Viterbo and Gualdo Tadino, Italy. He is depicted in the "Little Flowers of St. Francis" written by an unknown author. Brother Juniper was with St. Clare of Assisi during her final days. He died in 1258 and is buried at Aracoeli Church in Rome.
  Brother Juniper's feast day is Jan. 29.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

St. Francesca Romana (1384 to March 9, 1440)

   As a single woman who has vacationed in Rome, Italy three times, I can honestly say it's one of the safest places to travel alone. So, I was surprised to read an article by an ESPN public relations executive in "Marie Claire" magazine saying she was nearly raped by an artist named Marco on her last night in the Eternal City.
  First off, if anyone is stupid enough to go on a tour of an art studio of a man you've just met, have drinks with him, and then go to his apartment, you're asking for it. She should have brought along the friend that she mentions, if she was really eager to get to know Marco. That's called safety in numbers.
  It seems that many American woman travel to Italy looking for romance with the handsome, well-groomed men that abound. And Italian men sense that about our culture. The public relations executive probably realized she was about to get used, so then decided to leave Marco's apartment. She admits that she hadn't been in a relationship in two years and was hoping something would transpire.
  Speaking from experience, the culture in Rome is often that American women are loose. Believe me, there are enough attractive European women that an Italian guy isn't going to go chasing down an American for a one-night stand.
  I found the article to depict Rome in an unfair way. No place is perfect. Just make wise choices. There are many beautiful places to stay including monasteries and convents.  The Casa di Santa Francesca Romana, at Via dei Vascellari, is where St. Francesca Romana lived and died.
  She was born to a wealthy family in Rome in 1384. She wanted to be a nun and her parents married her off at age 13 to the commander of the papal troops of Rome.
  Although St. Francesca Romana wanted her husband to be Jesus Christ, she stayed happily married for 40 years. She had six children and, along with being a mother, helped the sick and poor. This was not common for a rich person to do. The good thing is, St. Francesca Romana's acts of  kindness rubbed off on other wealthy women who did the same.
  She had what is called the gift of miracles. St. Francesca Romana founded the Olivetan Oblates of  Mary, a hospital, and a convent. She died on March 9, 1440 and is the patron saint of automobile drivers and Benedictine oblates. Her feast day is March 9.

Friday, November 26, 2010

St. Louis IX (April 25, 1214 to Aug. 25, 1270)

   I have platinum blonde curly hair with gold highlights. That was until this afternoon. Every once in a while a hairdresser will tell me that they love my color, but perhaps I might want to add lowlights or tone it down.
  Sometimes it's almost intimidating and I feel forced into doing something I don't want to. So, today, when I didn't have a chance to go to the salon where I usually do, I let someone new touch my hair. The result? A horrible, almost grayish-tinged color at the root and scattered throughout as lowlights.
  I knew something wasn't right, when another hairdresser looked at me like something was wrong. I've been doing interesting things with my hair for 20 years. I also know that only bleach will lift the color of my dark roots.
  But, the new hairdresser insisted that she could lift it with color instead of  bleach. I made the mistake of letting her try and look what happened.
  Since I am going to Block Island tomorrow, I won't be able to visit my usual salon until Tuesday. I know that Danielle will be able to fix it. Still, I will have to walk around looking like I rinsed my hair in dishwater for the next four days. At least tomorrow I will be able to set up my appointment and that will make me feel better.
  This has happened to me several times before and I will not do it again. In the meantime, I will think about how happy my late mother would have been to have hair, no matter what color. She lost her beautiful, natural blonde hair to chemotherapy.
  St. Louis IX is a patron saint of hairdressers. He was born in Poisy, France on April 25, 1214 and was crowned the king at age 12, when his father King Louis VIII passed away.
  St. Louis IX's mother, Blanche of Castile, ruled as a regent until he was 22-years-old. He reigned for 44 years and made many contributions including spreading Christianity throughout France, establishing religious foundations, and was a patron of the arts. He married and had 11 children.
  St. Louis IX died on Aug. 25, 1270 and his feast day is Aug. 25.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

St. Mary of Egypt (c.344 to c.421)

   It's okay for sex workers to use condoms, according to Pope Benedict XVI, but that doesn't mean prostitution is acceptable. This is to prevent the spread of  HIV and AIDS. It's nice to know he's doing it for the greater good.
   The Roman Catholic Church teaches that sex is for married heterosexual couples and artificial contraception is against the rules. In my opinion, Pope Benedict XVI has made a big step in the progress of global health.
   I'm sure St. Mary of Egypt would agree. She is a patron saint of reformed prostitutes. She was born in Egypt c.344 and ran away from home at age 12. Legend states that she was a prostitute and dancer although she didn't always accept money for sexual favors.
  St. Mary of Egypt went to Jerusalem on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, hoping to find customers. She was unable to open the door of the church, overcome with remorse for the way she lived for 17 years. She repented, crossed the River Jordan, and lived as a hermit in the desert for 50 years surviving on berries and whatever else she could find.
  St. Mary of Egypt died in c.421 and her feast day is April 3.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

St. Sergius and St. Bacchus (? to 303)

  Pope Benedict XVI says in his new book, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Sign of the Times," that homosexuality is incompatible with the priesthood.
  Pope Benedict XVI states that it would be extremely dangerous if celibacy became a pretext for bringing men into the priesthood who don't want to get married anyway.
  Still, I have to say I agree with the Pope on this one. If you're gay, there's no place for you in the priesthood. Find something else to do. Homosexuality is truly intolerable in the Roman Catholic Church, so why would you want to be a priest in a faith that is so against it?
  There is not yet a patron saint against homosexuality, but in his book "Marriage of Likeness: Same Sex- Unions in Pre-Modern Europe," the late John Boswell said that St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, third century Roman soldiers, were lovers.
  The saints were indeed close friends and several historians have spoken out against Boswell's claims. When it was discovered that St. Sergius and St. Bacchus were closet Christians (no pun intended), St. Sergius was beheaded and St. Bacchus was tortured to death. They died in Syria in 303 and are the patron saints of Syria and soldiers.
  Their feast day is Oct. 7.