Sunday, January 3, 2010

St. John Nepomuk (c.1345 to March 20, 1393)

   Where there's a bridge, people will jump. And, two of the most popular in Rhode Island are the Newport and the Jamestown (as the locals call them).
   There was a man my dad used to call the "Bridge Priest." Joe was my mom's ex-boyfriend whom she met when she was a camp counselor at the CYO. He was in the seminary and later became a priest.
   My mom would ask Joe questions like "do you think Jesus was the Son of God?" To which he'd reply, "if he wasn't, then he was a madman."
   She said what really scared her was when Joe's mother died and he cried inconsolably for weeks saying that he'd never see her again. How's that for life everlasting?
   My parents got married, 10 years after their first date. The only mention of Joe was when someone jumped or attempted to jump off the Jamestown bridge, in the town where he was pastor at a Roman Catholic church.
   "Joe had to climb the bridge again," my dad would say.
It always seemed that there were female jumpers whenever Joe was called to assist. And my dad said maybe it was because of him.
    There are more cases of bridge jumping than what is reported in the news. I learned that while working at the Standard-Times in North Kingstown.
   When I'd hear on the scanner that someone had climbed the Jamestown bridge, my editor would yell from his office, "Wait until they jump before you start writing an article."
  The average amount of people that followed through were 9 to 12 a year.
  "The Bridge" (2006) is a documentary I watched about people jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. If only these people had known about St. John Nepomuk (also known as St. John Nepomucene), the patron saint of bridges, maybe they could have prayed to him in their desperation and been saved.
   He is so popular in Europe that bridges are named for him or have statues of him including the Ponte Milvio in northern Rome.  He was born c.1345 in Nepomuk, Bohemia.
   St. John Nepomuk is called the first martyr of the Seal of the Confessional. He died on March 20, 1393 in Prague, Czechoslovakia when he drowned after being thrown off a bridge into the Vltava River.  He is usually shown with a five-star halo in honor of the five stars that appeared over the river the night he died.
   St. John Nepomuk is buried at St. Vitus Chapel in Prague and is also the patron saint of the Czech Republic. Canonized: 1729.  His feast day is May 16.

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