Wednesday, March 31, 2010

St. Gemma Galgani (March 12, 1878 to April 11, 1903)

St. Gemma Galgani, born on March 12, 1878 in Camigliano, Italy, was a beautiful modern day saint. Her family moved to Lucca one month later. St. Gemma Galgani studied at St. Zita School. She was a mystic who received the stigmata. She contracted spinal meningitis at age 20 and was cured through the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
St. Gemma Galgani died from tuberculosis on Holy Saturday, April 11, 1903 at age 25. Her remains are in the Passionist Monastery in Lucca. She is the patron saint of pharmacists and her feast day is April 11. Canonized: 1940
Her incredible story is told in depth on this Web site.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

St. Zosimus of Siracusa (c. 570 to 660)

Long before everyone you met called themselves a bard, one of my friends, Alberto, would say "I'm a poet," when asked his occupation.
This was nearly 20 years ago. He had a degree in English and worked the night shift for a pharmaceutical company. The whole thing sounded funny at the time. Maybe because he was from Italy (Siracusa, Sicily) and I could picture a Giancarlo Giannini-type character in some wacky movie.
"You have to experience excruciating pain in order to be a good writer, Marilyn," he would say to me.
Well, I didn't agree with him, but I let him do his "poet speak" thing anyway.
That was until the day he read me his piece about menstruation. Then, I decided he'd make a better acquaintance than friend.
One of my biggest regrets about my three vacations to Italy, is that I never made it to Sicily. I was warned that I'd be mugged or attacked because I was a female travelling alone. I heard the same thing about Naples but I went anyway. It would have taken a long time to get to Sicily which is the only reason I didn't go.
St. Zosimus served as the bishop of Siracusa in 649. He was born in Sicily in c.570. At age seven, he was taken from the family farm to live at the monastery of Saint Lucy (Santa Lucia). While there his job was to guard saint's tomb.
In his years before becoming bishop, St. Zosimus was a monk then an abbot. His mission was to teach and help the poor.
St. Zosimus died in 660. His feast day is March 30.

Monday, March 29, 2010

St. Mark the Apostle (1st century AD to April 25, 68)

One of the most exciting times in Italy for me was when I arrived in Piazza di San Marco in Venice, Italy to see Basilica di San Marco.
It was built around 829 as a temporary place to hold the relics of St. Mark the Apostle (also called the Evangelist). The basilica in its present form was built in 1063 and consecrated in 1094.
St. Mark the Apostle was born in the 1st century AD in Judea and is the author of the second Gospel in the New Testament. St. Mark's writings focused on the ministry of Jesus from his baptism to the Resurrection and, most importantly, the last two weeks of his life.
St. Mark died on April 25, 68 in Alexandria, Egypt. Around 829, two Venetian merchants took his relics from Alexandria to Venice. They covered them in pork to prevent Muslims from stealing them. To this day, the relics are in Basilica di San Marco. St. Mark's feast day is April 25.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

St. Alkelda (? to March 28, c.800)

St. Alkelda is the stuff of legends. She may have been a princess or was it a nun? Either way, she was born in Yorkshire, England. St. Alkelda was strangled by pagan Viking women. It is said she died in a Danish raid on March 28, c.800.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

St. Rupert (c.660 to March 27, 710)

St. Rupert founded the city of Salzburg, Austria and started salt mining there. In artwork, he is often shown holding a vessel of it.
St. Rupert was born c.660 to a noble Frankish family. He became the bishop of Worms, Germany and helped spread the Roman Catholic faith throughout the country.
He is called the Apostle of Bavaria and Austria. St Rupert founded St. Peter's Church and Abbey and Nonnburg convent in Salzburg. He died on March 27, 710. His feast day is March 27 and he is the patron saint of salt miners.

Friday, March 26, 2010

St. Margaret Clitherow (1556 to March 25, 1586)

St. Margaret Clitherow was born Margaret Middleton in York, England to Protestant parents in 1556. She married John Clitherow in 1571 and had three children. At age 18, she became a Roman Catholic and held Masses at home. She was arrested for sheltering priests there and refused to plead the case.
St. Margaret Clitherow was crushed to death on Good Friday (March 25), 1586. Her right hand was taken as a relic and is in the Bar Convent in York. She is one of the Forty Martyrs of England. Her feast day is March 26 and she is the patron saint of converts. Canonized: 1970.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Annunciation (March 25)

"Can you imagine today a 15-year-old girl from Fox Point telling her parents that she was pregnant but didn't have sex? And, that she was pregnant with the Son of God?" Father McCaffrey asked us one Saturday afternoon during Mass at St. Joseph's Church in Providence.
It was the Annunciation, a Feast of Solemnity in the Roman Catholic Church. And, I think it was supposed to get us thinking about how Mary must have felt telling her parents that she had a visit from an angel.
March 25 was when the Gabriel the Archangel appeared to Mary and told her she would give birth to the Son of God and to name the baby Jesus.
"The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."
According to the Bible, this happened during the sixth month of pregnancy of Mary's cousin Elizabeth who was carrying John the Baptist.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

St. Catherine of Sweden (c.1330 to March 24, 1381)

When I was 34-years-old, I found myself in the unfortunate situation of being unwed and pregnant. It happened either just before a breakup with a long-term boyfriend or at the beginning of a relationship with a new guy.
At the same time, out of nowhere, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. So, my priority was taking care of my mother and coming to terms with her death.
Since I had no idea when I conceived, I had to make a choice. I'm not happy to write about this and it took a very long time to before I could face the results of my decision. All I can say is that I could not have provided a child with a proper upbringing as a single mother.
After the procedure (I had to go through it twice, because it didn't work the first time), I went to my gynecologist for a follow-up exam. He told me that I should be on the birth control pill to which I replied, "I'm never going to have sex again."
Dr. Fink said that because I was young and good looking, he guaranteed that I'd change my mind since I'd most naturally meet someone and fall in love.
Dr. Fink was a few years younger than myself and I found it odd that whenever he examined me, he'd get embarrassed and his face would turn red. Afterall, his job was working with female anatomy.
But, the strangest thing was that when he finished his residency at Brown and was going to set up practice in Florida that he invited me along. Although he was physically attractive in an odd sort of way, I declined the offer.
My mother was diagnosed with "non-life-threatening cancer," yet my instincts told me it was terminal. She saiid it was minor and that she'd have the chemotherapy where she wouldn't lose her hair. I didn't believe it and cried hysterically. My brothers tried to console me and my and dad did, too.
I said it only once, "Mom, it's not true; you're going to die!"
I had a premonition. However, for the next year, until her very last day in this world, I acted like everything was fine.
Right after I had the abortion, someone still unknown to me today, called my mother and asked her if she knew where I was on such and such a day. The woman said I had done something terrible and she wanted my mother to know, although never told her what it was.
My mother confronted me, concerned I had worked in a porno film.
"I'm in the Screen Actors Guild," was my response. "I'm not an adult film star."
She was not convinced and after several days of nagging me about it, I finally told her what happened. I also asked if she could get me special help from God when she got to the other side, since I had committed a serious sine in the Roman Catholic Church.
"What? That's it?," she said. "That's nothing, At least you're not dying from cancer."
I guess an abortion was minor in comparison to what my mom was going through. I spoke with a professional a few times about both situations and she miraculously guided me through it. I'm not even sure what she said to me but whatever it was it made me strong and resilient. I got through my mother's death and with my own dilemma found peace.
St. Catherine of Sweden was born c. 1330. Her mother was St. Bridget of Sweden. At age 13, she married Lord Eggert van Kyran and they took a vow of chastity. In 1349, she joined her mother on a trip to Rome and immediately thereafter her husband died.
Together the mother and daughter made pilgrimages and helped the poor. St. Catherine of Sweden became the head of the Brigittine convent at Vadstena Abbey in Sweden that her mother founded.
She died on March 24, 1381 and is the patron saint against abortion and against miscarriage. St. Catherine of Sweden's feast day is March 24.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

St. Thomas the Apostle (1st century AD to Dec. 21, 72)

"Don't ever forget what your grandfather went through to get to this country." Those were my mother's last words to me before she passed away on Aug. 2, 1999. It wasn't "I love you or I'll see you again someday." It meant something to her that I remember her dad.
I heard stories about him being in steerage on the boat trip from Italy to the United States when he was 5 or 6-years-old around 1909. He worked as a stone mason and studied by candlelight. It paid off. My grandfather, who became an American citizen, graduated from the architecture program at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1926, something I consider amazing for that time.
He was a registered architect and my younger brother followed in his footsteps going to the same college and getting the same degree.
St. Thomas the Apostle, also known as Doubting Thomas, is the patron saint of architects. He was born in Galilee in the 1st century AD. He was a follower of Jesus and did not believe the Apostles who had seen the risen Christ on Easter Sunday.
Eight days later, that changed. St. Thomas the Apostle saw the second apparition of Jesus. He put his fingers into the open wounds and said "My Lord and my God."
When you find it hard to believe, think of St. Thomas but also know that believing is seeing. The Apostle was stabbed to death on Dec. 21, 72. His relics are in Ortona, Italy and his feast day is July 3.

Monday, March 22, 2010

St. Katharine Drexel (Nov. 26, 1858 to March 3, 1955)

St. Katharine Drexel devoted her life to helping Native Americans and African Americans. She was born on Nov. 26, 1858 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a well-to-do family. She founded what was originially called Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People. (It is now called Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament). In 1915, St. Katharine Drexel founded Xavier University in New Orleans, Lousiana.
She died on March 3, 1955 and is the patron saint of racial justice. Canonized: 2000. Her feast day is March 3.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

St. Enda of Aran (? to c.530/535)

St. Enda took one look at the dead body of his bride-to-be and it was too much for him to handle. So, he made a pilgrimage to Rome, Italy and was ordained into priesthood. If that were today, many guys would be in bed with another woman the next night not take a vow of chastity.
He was a warrior and the King of Oriel. The legend is that St. Enda promised his sister St. Fanchea that he would put down his weapons if she found him a young girl from her convent to be his wife. He never met the girl who was selected because she died suddenly. All he saw was a corpse.
St. Enda built churches in Drogheda and the monastery of Killeaney on Aran Mor. He is considered to be on of the founders of monasticism in Ireland.
He said of the Aran Islands "as a necklace of pearls, God has set upon the bosom of the sea." He is the patron saint of Aran Mor.
St. Enda died c.530/535 by the sea. His feast day is March 21.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

St. Dismas (? to c.33)

"Today you will be with me in Paradise."
Jesus said those words to St. Dismas (or St. Dysmas) who was at his right hand, being Crucified at the same time on Calvary, and because of it, the man known as the Good Thief became a saint.
St. Dismas (who was given this name in the 4th century) is mentioned in the Gospel of Luke. He asked Jesus to remember him in his Kingdom. The thief to the left was called Gestas.
Many other saints have written about St. Dismas. St. John Chrysostom said "he dwelt in the desert and robbed or murdered anyone unfortunate enough to cross his path."
It didn't matter what he did in life. He was a repentant thief and Jesus forgave him.
Hopefully, today's criminals will learn from such an amazing story.
St. Dismas is the patron saint of prisoners and repentant thieves. He died c.33 and his feast day is March 25 (the Annunciation).

Friday, March 19, 2010

St. Joseph (1st century AD)

St. Joseph is the father of Jesus and the patron saint of the Universal Church. He lived during the 1st century AD. It is believed he died in Nazareth before Jesus began his public ministry since there is no mention of St. Joseph during that time or at the Crucifixion or the Resurrection.
He was a descendent of David, the King of Israel. St. Joseph was a carpenter and is known as the patron saint of house sellers (bury a statue of him upside down in your front lawn and watch what happens), travellers, and against doubt and hesitation (who wouldn't be after being told that their son was conceived by the Holy Spirit).
St. Joseph's feast day is March 19. The tradition of zeppole or St. Joseph's Day cakes began in Italy. It's a cream-filled pastry.
One of my favorite things about today is a story my third grade teacher told our class about the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano.
You can learn about it here. When I finally was old enough to travel on my own, I made a trip to California and visited the Mission.
Any mention of March 19 would not be complete without saying it's my cousin Cindy's birthday.
When I almost lost my life in a car accident in 2006, Cindy and my dad were the two people whose images flashed in front of me. That's the best way to describe how much my cousin means to me. Our lives have paralleled in so many ways and I believe it will continue for as long as we are here on Earth.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

St. Fridianus (? to 588)

Since St. Patrick's Day was yesterday, I thought it would be nice to celebrate a saint who was born in Ireland but is rarely heard of.
St. Fridianus (also known as Frediano) was an Irish prince who took a long pilgrimage to Rome, Italy. He ended up staying in that country and making his home at a hermitage on Mount Pisano which I am certain that I could see from the train when I went to Lucca.
The pope named him a bishop and it is thought that St. Fridianus founded a group of eremitical canons, meaning reclusive priests.
In the above painting by Fra Filippo Lippi, St. Fridianus is on the left and St. Augustine on the right.
St. Fridianus died in 588 and is buried in the church of Saints Frediano and Vincenzo in Lucca. His feast day is March 18.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick (c.387 to March 17, 461)

When I was a child, I always knew my birth month had arrived, when I turned the calendar page to find leprechauns, shamrocks, and all things Emerald Isle. And, it didn't matter that I wasn't Irish. I was Roman Catholic and could celebrate St. Patrick, too!
He was born c.387 in Bonaven Taberniae, Kilpatrick, Scotland to parents Calpurnus and Conchessa who were Romans.
At age 16, St. Patrick was seized from his father's farm by Irish raiders who sold him into pagan slavery in Ireland. He lived there until he was 22 then escaped and returned to his family. St. Patrick went back to Ireland after he was an ordained bishop.
Legend says that he banished the snakes from Ireland and taught the Irish about the Trinity using a shamrock. He is one of the most beloved saints of all time.
St. Patrick died at Saul on Strangford Lough on March 17, 461. It is thought that he was buried at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick along with St. Brigid and St. Columba. The trio are the patron saints of Ireland.
His feast day, as we all know, is March 17.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Our Lady of Fatima

My Aunt Violet and Uncle Frank will celebrate their 88th birthdays this year, but when they were younger, they were world travelers like myself. Many years ago, Aunt Vi told me about their visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima in Fatima, Portugal. And, recently, she gave me some of the beautiful photos she and Uncle Frank took while there.
The story of Our Lady is so well known. Three young children, Lucia Santos (the oldest at age 10) and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto (now both Blesseds) were tending their sheep in Cova da Iria near Fatima. Our Lady appeared to the young shepherd children on the thirteenth day of six consecutive months from May 13 to Oct. 13, 1917.
Lucia described the Virgin Mary as "a woman brighter than the sun shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal ball filled with the most sparkling water."
Francisco died from influenza in 1919 and Jacinta followed in 1920. Lucia, who became a Roman Catholic Discalced Carmelite nun, lived to an old age just a month short of her 98th birthday in 2005.
Their story is one of faith and hope even in the darkest of days. Our Lady of Fatima feast day is May 13.

Monday, March 15, 2010

St. Aloysius Gonzaga (March 9, 1568 to June 21, 1591)

The first time I heard the name St. Aloysius, we were driving down Austin Avenue in Greenville, Rhode Island.
"If you kids don't behave, I'm going to leave you at St. Aloysius School," my mother said on more than one occasion.
I knew I was safe because it was a home for unwanted boys but still it made me wonder who St. Aloysius was and wish that the children left there would have happy lives.
The saint was on Earth an unbelievably short amount of time, dying at age 23. But, he made his mark and is still thought of centuries later.
He was born on March 9, 1568 at his family's castle in Castiglione delle Stiviere, northern Italy. At age 10, he took a vow of chastity.
St. Aloysius helped the sick and the poor, and contracted the plague which eventually took his life on June 21, 1591. He was given his last sacraments by St. Robert Bellarmine. He was buried in the Church of the Most Holy Annunciation in Rome. It is now called the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola.
St. Aloysius is the patron saint of children and youth. Canonized: Dec. 31, 1726

Sunday, March 14, 2010

St. Cecilia (? to c.180)

After a weekend filled with music, it reminded me of a trip I made to the Trastevere section of Rome, Italy to the Basilica of St. Cecilia. It's absolutely gorgeous and was built around the 5th century to commemorate the patroness of musicians and luthiers.
St. Cecilia was born in the Italy in the 2nd century AD. Much of the information about her is conflicting. She was thought to be a noblewoman of Rome who converted her husband, Valerian. But, it is almost certain that she was martyred under Marcus Aurelius in Sicily c.180.
She lives on in art and writing (including mention in one of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales) and is often shown playing the organ or with a harp or violin.
Her skull is kept as a relic at a church at Torcello in Venice.
If you can't make it to Italy to honor her, you can always take in a Mass at St. Cecilia's Church in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Her feast day is Nov. 22.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

St. Francis of Assisi (1181/1182 to Oct. 4, 1226)

"Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love." 
(St. Francis of Assisi)

    The best part about my trip to Assisi, Italy was that I had no intention of going. Having read so much about it as a place filled with crazed pilgrims on a quest to find St. Francis and of streets lined with souvenirs made it not so appealing. Still, my curiosity prevailed.
    I knew St. Francis was a great man who chose to live a simple life. He said, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace," and was the subject of Franco Zefferilli's film "Brother Sun, Sister Moon," which my parents forced me to see at eight years of age.
   My journey began o nthe local train to the medieval town. I sat beside a group of nuns. They spoke no English and I knew minimal Italian, but we still managed to communicate.
   The long, rope-tied robes they wore this very hot day had been part of their attire for more than 20 years. Many times throughout our conversation, Sister Maria suggested I join the Franciscan Missionaries di Gesu Bambino. But, tot he agreement of of some Italan guys nearby, lively Sister Evangelista said I was too pretty to be a nun.
  The spirited women, concerned whether I had eaten, gave me a bag of freshly picked plums. The nuns invited me to stay at the convent, and I probably would have, but my reservation was already set at the Hotel Subasio.
   When it came time to leave, they kissed me goodbye and handed me prayer cards with their names and addresses should I ever decide to join their order.
   I was now at the entrance to Assisi, at the base of a high hill where cobblestone streets and alleyways curved every which way. And to my astonishment, I immediately felt the presence of St. Francis. It was not in the material things but rather in the nature that surrounded me.
   I could practically touch the Basilicia di San Francesco from my terrace at Hotel Subasio. I went directly there in the aftenoon.
   I walked everywhere until, quite by accident, I found myself in a room that is only open select hours each week and was off limits to the public that day.
   Inside a glass case, I saw a rock, a pair of worn sandals, and a familiar brown cloak that was shabby with patches. Before I realized the importance of what I was looking at, a guard began yelling from behind me in Italian to get out. I wasn't supposed to be there.
   When I turned around and faced him, he saw that I was upset.
   "What is this?" I asked pointing toward the items.
  The guard said that they were relics: St. Francis used the rock as a pillow, and. as I figured, right there in front of me were his sandals and robe from the 13th century.
  I stood there for a long time, finding it hard to believe what was before me. Suddenly, St. Francis became a very real person to me.
 "And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life," finally made sense to me. I know that there is something after we die. No one can convince me otherwise.

  The next day, I visited the Eremo delle Carceri (Hermitage of Cells), located 3 km up from the town. WIth the temperature at a near 96 degrees, the hotel manager looked at me quizzically when I asked for directions. I never was good with the metric system, so 3 km up a very steep hill didn't seem like much.
  I could have taken a bus or taxi as most people do but I wanted to walk as St. Francis so often did to the very special place of retreat. I wanted to sweat it out and feel some discomfort before the finale that would be well worth it.
  Cars and mopeds whizzed by, missing what Assisi is all about, a long trek up a road of serenity, save for a small eating establishment along the way. Each time I was offered a ride, the language barrier became a game of charades. I'd ask how much longer to the hermitage and the answers would range from 10 to 90 minutes.
  And at one point, I heard a noise coming from some bushes. It was a small, wandering donkey. Maybe he was nodding his approval that the best way to truly experience the wonders of Assisi is the simple, peaceful way. I think St. Francis would agree.

  Since most people are familiar with St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order, I will be brief. He was born to a wealthy cloth merchant in 1181/82. His father was Italian and his mother was French (the same ethnicity as myself).  
  "All praise to you, Oh Lord, for these brother and sister creatures," he said. As we all know, he loved animals and they loved him.
   St. Francis met his dear friend St. Clare of Assisi around 1209. He received the stigmata. He died on Oct. 4, 1226. Canonized: July 16, 1228. He is the patron saint of animals and the environment, and is credited with creating the first nativity. Feast day: Oct. 4.

Friday, March 12, 2010

St. Mary Magdalene (1st century AD)

Was she Jesus' wife or a whore? It seems that for milleniums people have been more concerned that Mary of Magdala was a sinner rather than a saint. To me, St. Mary Magdalene is unfairly represented since most of what we know comes from legends.
She was born in the 1st century AD in Magdala, Galilee. She is considered to be one of the first disciples of Jesus and his dearest friend. He cleansed her of seven devils.
St. Mary Magdalene was one of the few people who saw Jesus crucified and laid in his tomb. According to the four gospels, she was the first person to see him resurrected.
"Many sins are forgiven her, because she loved so very much," Jesus once said.
It is uncertain as to exactly what St. Mary Magdalene did after his death, but one of the more popular stories is that she spent the end of her life in a cave in France. Her daily intake was the Holy Eucharist administered by angels.
Just before she passed away, she was miraculously transported to the chapel of Maximin. Her estimated age of death was 72 in the 1st century AD.
She is the patron saint of many things such as apothecaries, sexual temptation, and reformed prostitutes. St. Mary Magdalene's feast day is July 22.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Holy Ghost

Every year in my hometown, during the last weekend of July, is the Holy Ghost Festival.
"You can kiss the Holy Ghost in a few minutes," my parents would tell me as we walked down the hill to the Portuguese-American Club. Before we could go on the rides or eat cotton candy or try to win prizes, the main event (the religious part) took place. It consisted of going into the club building and waiting quietly in line until it was your turn. Then, after a short prayer, I would kiss the Holy Ghost which was on a wand.
We were given a pin to wear and then it was outside into the twilight on a warm, summer night filled with colorful carnival lights and live music.
What would I get for my prize? My favorite was always a piece of jewelry like a ring. I was only little, so my dad held my hand and we'd walk around and say "hi" to friends we sometimes saw only once a year.
Every Sunday of the Holy Ghost Festival there would be a parade we'd watch across the street from the town hall on Farnum Pike. And, every year I would cry because I wanted to be the princess in the parade, my dad would explain that the only reason I couldn't was because I wasn't Portuguese.
When I got a tattoo of a dove on my lower back thirty years later, it didn't occur to me as to why I chose that design. I know now that it's because of my love of the Holy Ghost as a child. It is represented in other symbols including water, wind, and fire.
Legend says that Queen Isabel (also known as Elizabeth) of Portugal helped originate the Feast of the Holy Ghost in the 14th century. She offered to give her crown to the Church of the Holy Ghost in Lisbon if God would end the drought responsible for causing deaths from famine and disease in that country.
Her prayers were answered so each year after that she held a Holy Ghost Feast to honor the poor. The queen, herself, later became a saint. The people of the Azores, in particular, love the feast.
The Holy Ghost is the spirit of God and the third person in the Trinity. Roman Catholics believe that his work is through the church. The feast is usually celebrated in July.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

St. Gianna Beretta Molla (Oct. 4, 1922 to April 28, 1962)

This morning, when I was sitting in a waiting room, I was surrounded by many mothers and pregnant women all of whom, like myself, put their trust in our doctor. It made me want to write about St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a patron saint of mothers, physicians, and unborn children.
She even has children who are alive today. St. Gianna was born on Oct. 4 (Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi), 1922 in Magenta, Italy. She received a medical degree from the University of Pavia in 1949 and married Pietro Molla in 1955.
St. Gianna had four children. During her fourth pregnancy she was diagnosed with a large fibroma (benign tumor) in her uterus. She told her husband if he had to choose, that he should chose the baby. They had a daughter, Gianna Emanuela, born on April 21, 1962. St. Gianna contracted a high fever and stomach pains caused by septic peritonitis. She died on April 28, 1962 in Monza, Italy. Canonized: May 16, 2004. Her feast day is April 28.
Here is a wonderful Web site about St. Gianna Beretta Molla where you can learn her prayer and read about her family, miracles, shrine, and much more.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

St. Catherine of Bologna (Sept. 8, 1413 to March 9, 1463)

All three times I visited Bologna, Italy, I made it a point not to go to the church of Chiesa della Santa. As much as I enjoy the basilicas and chapels of Europe and viewing relics of the saints, I simply did not want to come face to face with St. Catherine of Bologna whose mummified body is displayed in a golden throne. There she sits holding a gold cross and a bible. I am content to think of her as lovely saint who once walked this Earth and now lives on.
Her life was one of beauty as an artist and musician. She was born on Sept. 8 (the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary), 1413 to a diplomatic agent of the Marquis of Ferrara. St. Catherine had the opportunity to live a life of royalty but chose her passion, the church.
At age 14, she became a Franciscan tertiary and was later a part of the Poor Clares. She had visions of Jesus and the devil. St. Catherine was a gifted painter and violinist. When she died on March 9, 1463, and was buried without a coffin, miracles happened in her name and a sweet scent came from her grave. Almost three weeks later, her body was exhumed. It was incorrupt.
Canonized: 1712. Her feast day is March 9.

Monday, March 8, 2010

St. Jude Thaddeus (1st century AD)

I thought for sure that novenas I made to St. Jude Thaddeus 15 years ago didn't work. I remember sitting in St. Agnes Church in Providence in nine-week intervals on Tuesday afternoons at 5 (or was it 5:30?) It was quite like a cult. My parents would go along with various aunts and family friends. My dad would tell me that whether my prayers were answered or not I still had to go another nine weeks to give St. Jude thanks.
Why did I have to give him thanks if he didn't help me? "Because it was meant to be," my dad would say.
I honestly do not recall what I was asking for. But after the nine weeks were up I would leave in disappointment. Still, I encouraged friends to go that were feeling sad or confused about things. St. Jude didn't help me, but he might help someone else. I even got my cousin Cindy to go with me one time and she was raised Protestant. (I think that novena was at St. Leo the Great Church in Pawtucket.) She said she had a good feeling afterward.
One of the women that went to the novena had cancer and she ended up dying. Why? Because it was meant to be. I believe in my heart that she found peace and acceptance. My dad was laid off from a job he had for 35 years. And, my mother used to go to the novena and she wasn't even sick. Then five years later she died from cancer. I later figured that these were all things that were predestined.
St. Jude Thaddeus, an Apostle and relative of Jesus, was born in Galilee, Palestine in the 1st century AD. His brother was the Apostle James the Less.
St. Jude was beaten to death in Persia and is usually depicted holding a club. His relics are in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. Yet another place that I had the honor of visiting a couple of times.
Canonized: pre-congregation. His feast day is Oct. 28.
If you can't make it to St. Peter's, there is a beautiful statue of St. Jude at St. Anne's Shrine in Fall River, Mass.
Many long years have gone by since I last sat in St. Agnes Church, and now I realize that it did work. St. Jude did help me. I'm happy and content in so many aspects of my life.
Remember that things don't always happen quickly. Be patient and one day, St. Jude will help you, too.

"Most holy apostle, Saint Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, of things almost despaired of. Pray for me, I am so helpless and alone. Make use I implore you, of that particular privilege given to you, to bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly (here make your request) and that I may praise God with you and all the elect forever. I promise, O blessed Saint Jude, to be mindful of this great favour, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you. Amen."

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ste. Anne de Beaupre

Thousands and thousands of crutches and hundreds of faithful people holding candles in the dark are two of the strongest images I've ever seen as a Roman Catholic who has visited some of the world's most famous churches.
This was Ste. Anne de Beaupre Basilica. When I was not more than 12 years old, we went on vacation to Quebec, Canada. And, we went to Mass there. I remember it was sad to see so many sick people but also hopeful and encouraging to be immersed in it.
Worship of Ste. Anne de Beaupre dates back to 1650 where French settlers set up their homes along the hillside. Ste. Anne is the mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus.
On March 13, 1658, Father Vignal, a missionary, chose the site to build what is now the basilica. Miracle upon miracle happened in the name of Ste. Anne. The old church started in 1676 and was used for 200 years. There have been many renovations and there are also side chapels. In 1876, Ste. Anne was named the patron saint of Quebec. The present basilica was built in 1926.
Thousands of crutches are left at the main entrance of the basilica. These are from people who were healed in her name or have come to ask for her help.
Ste. Anne's relics are her finger bone (brought there in 1670) and wrist bone (brought there in 1892). Her feast day is July 26.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

St. John Chrysostom (c.347 to Sept. 14, 407)

The clean, red sand, warm ocean water, and unspoiled farmland made me wonder why my grandmother Denise left her homeland of Prince Edward Island. But, my dad explained she and her family needed jobs and those were in the mills in New England.
So, at age 18, the Acadian village where she grew up became a memory. She was from the area of Egmont Bay/St. Chrysostom. I went there as a preteen on the ferry and then years later in 2007 after the bridge was built.
The island is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I found it interesting that a place in the Acadian part of Prince Edward Island would be named St. Chrysostom.
He was a bishop born in Antioch c.347. The named means golden-mouthed and St. John Chrysostom was known as a great orator. He died at Commana in Pontius on Sept. 14, 407. He is the patron saint of preachers.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Our Lady of Czestochowa

"Take these home with you, put them in the oven for 45 minutes, and they'll be delicious," an older parishioner at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church in Coventry, Rhode Island said as she handed me a package of homemade pierogis.
I was there as a journalist to cover the church festival in honor of Our Lady. It was my first taste, literally, of Polish food and culture. The event drew hundreds of people from throughout the state and it gave me a chance to witness the devotion.
It is said that the image that is now Our Lady of Czestochowa was painted by St. Luke. She later appeared as a vision in Czestochowa, Poland. Her feast day is celebrated on Aug. 26.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sacred Heart of Jesus

When I hear the name the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I think of my Grandpa Fred. No matter where he lived, he always brought his two and a half foot tall statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with him. He was of French Canadian descent and a very religious man. He never missed Mass even if there was a blizzard.
My grandfather died when I was 12 years old and one of his younger sisters asked for the  Sacred Heart of Jesus statue.
My great aunts have long since gone but wherever the statue may be, I hope its owner is bestowed with the long life and loving family and friends that my grandfather had. May they also have the attributes that made him one of my favorite people.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a devotion to the physical heart of Jesus which represents his Divine Love for Humanity. In the Roman Catholic Church, the acts of devotion, reparation, and consecration were introduced with the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This year it is celebrated on June 11.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

St. Clare of Assisi (July 16, 1194 to Aug. 11, 1253)

With the snip of a scissors, her long, flowing blonde hair became a short bob. This was my introduction to St. Clare of Assisi as a small child when I saw the movie "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" which was directed by Franco Zeffirelli (1972).
St. Clare chopped off her hair and threw away her worldly possessions to follow in the footsteps of her dear friend St. Francis of Assisi. Their story is magnificent. When I went to Assisi, Italy seeing St. Clare's Basilica was part of my experience. The fields were a palette of wildflowers and the medieval town looked much like it did in her time.
St. Clare was born in Assisi on July 16 (Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel), 1194. She was one of the very first followers of St. Francis. She founded the Order of the Poor Ladies which would become the Poor Clares after her death. St. Clare died on Aug. 11, 1253. She is the patron saint of clairvoyance and good weather. Canonization: Sept. 26, 1255

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

St. Matthew the Apostle (First Century Judea)

"Can you come to this telephone booth with me?" a young man in Salerno, Italy asked me as I walked down the street. "I want to call my friend and have you say hello to him. He'll never believe there's someone here from America."
I wondered how he knew I where I was from then looked down at my feet. I was wearing sneakers. Since then, I've worn black sandals every time I've been to Italy. And, I actually did say hello to the guy but not without first getting directions to the Basilica of San Matteo the Apostle.
This time the rosary would be for my Aunt Betty who named my cousin Matthew.
Matthew the Apostle, originally called Levi, wrote the first Gospel. He collected taxes from the Hebrews. His symbol is an angel and feast day is Sept. 21. Canonization: Pre-congregation.

Monday, March 1, 2010

St. Andrew Dung-Lac (1795 to Dec. 21, 1839)

I was only three or four-years-old at the time, so I didn't hear the Homily, but one day Father Lyons, our parish priest, said he supported the Vietnam War and if people didn't agree with him, they could move to Russia.
My mom waited for Mass to let out, and then confronted Father Lyons. She told him that those young men shouldn't be sent off to fight. That if he thought it was so wonderful, then he should go to Vietnam.
After that day in the late 1960s, I think my mom felt kind of uneasy around the priest but she also believed it was her duty to express her opinion, not just agree with Father Lyons because he was a member of the clergy.
I don't remember anything about the war, but in recent years, I learned that there are Vietnamese Roman Catholic saints, in particular, St. Andrew Dung-Lac who was born there in 1795.
He was a priest who was beheaded on Dec. 21, 1839. St. Andrew Dung-Lac is recognized with the Martyrs of Vietnam (1625 to 1886). Their feast day is celebrated on Nov. 24.