Wednesday, June 30, 2010

St. Denis (? to c.250)

A lot of what is known as miracles seems to defy all logic and science. One of the best examples I can think of is St. Denis.
He was born in Italy in the third century and was the first bishop of Paris, France. After encountering pagan priests who were not happy with his conversions, St. Denis was beheaded in c.250 in the modern day Montmartre section of Paris.
Once his head was chopped off, he picked it up and walked with it for six miles, preaching the entire way. Then, St. Denis handed his head to a religious woman and collapsed. A basilica was built in his honor on that very site in what is now called Saint-Denis in the northern part of Paris.
This is probably hard for most people to believe. And who can blame them? Even with his vocal chords severed and lungs no longer attached to his mouth, St. Denis continued to talk.
I'd like to know, why things like that don't happen today. St. Denis is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers (those saints whose intercession helps against specific diseases). He is the patron saint of possessed people and those with headaches. His feast day is Oct. 9.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

Of all the cities I've visited in my travels, I cannot think of a place more spectacular than Rome, Italy. There's more to it than world renowned architecture and art, high fashion, and five-star cuisine.
From the moment I arrived there on a train one midnight in August, and as I've mentioned throughout this blog, the Eternal City has been dear to me. It holds memories of a carefree youth, finding my faith, and learning more about my ethnic heritage.
There is so much that impressed me on my three trips to Rome. And, one of the things was June 29, a holiday in the city that honors the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. It is a liturgical feast which recognizes their martrydom. It was chosen because it was either the day they died or the day of translation of their relics (It was never determined since it happened so long ago).
St. Peter was born in 1 AD in Galilee and St. Paul in c.5 in Tarsus. They were Apostles of Christ who were martyred c.67.
Instead of writing about their lives, which most people know, there's something new and exciting I'd like to share. Just last week it was announced that the first icons of Saints Peter and Paul were discovered in a catacomb in Rome. They are in an underground burial chamber beneath an eight-story contemporary office building.
The icons were made in the second half of the fourth century and the images were uncovered through the use of a new laser technique that allows restorers to burn off centuries of thick white calcium carbonate deposits without destroying the brilliant dark colors of the original paintings underneath.

Monday, June 28, 2010

St. Lillian (? to 852)

"I have something to tell you," my coworker and friend, Kim, said with a smile at my desk this morning.
Before she could show me a ultrasound photo on her iPhone, I said, "Lily is pregnant."
Sure enough, I was right. Lily is a mutual friend and former coworker.
Nearly 18 months ago, we went to a Mexican mystic named Maria for psychic readings in Providence that Kim had told us about. While Lily was in a dark, candlelit room with Maria, I looked through religious products like Our Lady of Guadalupe body wash, St. Barbara dishwashing liquid, and St. Francis of Assisi air freshener in the main store. Everything was written in Spanish, but it was easy enough to figure out and good for a laugh or two.
When Lily's reading was done, she told me all about it (one outlandish thing after another) and concluded with Maria telling her she would have a baby and with whom. But, because the mystic was so religious and had one of the most extensive collections of Roman Catholic memorabilia I'd ever seen, I told Lily it would probably happen.
And, it did. Which opens up the discussion as to why some people can tap into things or have a keen intuition. Should we believe or shouldn't we? Is it a sin to go to religious psychics?
All I know is that we all have the ability to foresee things and that some people are a little more sensitive to it.
Lily's real name is Lillian. There was a St. Lillian (also known as St. Liliosa) who was a laywoman that lived amongst Muslims. She kept her faith to herself for a time, but eventually lived openly as a Christian. This led to her being martyred with her husband St. Felix in Cordoba, Spain in 852.
Her feast day is July 27.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

St. Maelruain (? to 792)

Two days ago, I thought I'd stop writing this blog simply because a wave of doubt came over me. I felt like maybe there is nothing after we die and I'm wasting my time.
Perhaps my small contribution of promoting the saints is something that no one cares about, so why bother. That was on Friday.
This morning, I was at my friend Kathleen's and I noticed in a very subtle way that she had some of the religious items that I own. An old St. Francis statue in the yard, a special calendar of the saints and a Brigid Cross, made by our mutual friend, Laura, in the kitchen, and palms twisted into crosses hanging on a door.
Sure, anyone could have these things in their home but, with Kathleen, it meant something to me. Three years ago her husband died unexpectedly, when she was just 41. She could have given up then easily. Yet, her she is still running the family business, playing music, taking care of her house and gardens, and continuing to live a life filled with faith.
So, now I've decided to at least give it one more try. I will believe.
There is no St. Kathleen, but there are many saints with feast days on my friend's birthday, July 7. Kathleen was born in England to Irish parents, so I've chosen St. Maelruain (St. Maolruain), an abbot founder of Ireland.
He was a leader in the monastic movement and is responsible for creating a mythology of Tallaght (County Dublin) where he established a monastery. St. Maelruain died in 792 and is the patron saint of Tallaght.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

St. Gertrude of Nivelles (626 to March 17, 659)

I'm extremely fortunate to have a good paying full-time job. But, sometimes, when things gets stressful, I imagine I work for myself.
After sleeping for as long as I want, I awaken as an herbalist. I have a breakfast parfait of nonfat strawberry yogurt, fresh fruit, and granola, and an iced coffee, Then I begin my day.
My gardens have the herbs that I need to supply my store. It's just like the one that Sandra Bullock works at in the movie "Practical Magic." And, I spend my days in a gratifying job helping appreciative people who do not scream at me to approve their work when they have not met their deadlines.
Now, I come back to reality.
St. Gertrude of Nivelles is the patron saint of herbalists. She was born in 626 in Landen, Belgium. St. Gertrude was a Benedictine abbess at a monastery in Nivelles.
There were many saints in her family including St. Itta (mother), St. Begga (sister), and St. Gudula (cousin).
When the son of a duke asked to marry St. Gertrude of Nivelles, she replied that only Jesus would be her bridegroom.
She died on March 17, 659 and her feast day is March 17.

Try this delicious ice cold limeade with mint in honor of St. Gertrude of Nivelles. It's green, of course, because of her feast day.

6 cups water, divided
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
1 cup fresh lime juice (about 12 limes)
10 mint sprigs and 10 lime slices (for garnish)

Combine 2 cups water, sugar, and chopped mint in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook until sugar dissolves, stir frequently. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a bowl and discard solids.

Combine the remaining 4 cups water, sugar syrup, and lime juice in a large pitcher, stirring well. Serve over ice; garnish with mint sprigs and lime slices, if you'd like.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Virgin of Copacabana

The Virgin of Copacabana is a four foot tall statue of the Madonna created by Francisco Tito Yupanqui to help promote Christianity in the town in Bolivia (not to be mistaken for the thong-clad place in Rio de Janeiro). It was made from maguey wood and wears a wig and gold leaf clothing. It holds a straw basket and baton.
The Virgin of Copacabana, the patron saint of Bolivia, is responsible for many miracles. In 1949, the statue received a crown and the 16th century Spanish colonial shrine where its housed was named a basilica. The feast day is Aug. 5.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

St. John the Baptist (c.6-2 BC to c. 36)

"On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, 'Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.'" (Matthew 13:6-8)

If you've ever wondered why the medicinal herb used to treat depression is called St. John's wort, it's because the plant is in full bloom on June 24, St. John's feast day.
The Gospel of Luke says that the birth of St. John the Baptist was foretold to Zachariah (his father) by Gabriel the Archangel.
He was born in Judaea six months before his cousin, Jesus, to Zachariah and Elizabeth, who was beyond childbearing years. St. John the Baptist began his ministry at age 27. He baptized Jesus and converted many people.
What I find the most amazing thing about St. John the Baptist is that he stepped aside with his own career to let Jesus lead the way.
Salome made the above comment which ended St. John the Baptist's life c.36. He is the patron saint of French Canada.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

St. Drogo (1105 to 1185)

"Your looks will only get you so far," my mom would tell me when I was a teenager. "You'll see what I mean some day."
Maybe she was right, but I like to take care of myself, maybe just not to the point of vanity.
Sometimes, I can't imagine what it would be like to live without small luxuries, although, I understand why St. Francis of Assisi gave up his worldly possessions. So, if need be, I could do it.
As far as being ugly, you'd think that only in fairytales the grotesque would be hidden away in a cave or other type of dwelling. But, for St. Drogo, it was a reality.
He was born in Flanders, France in 1105. His mother died in childbirth and he blamed it on himself.
St. Drogo was orphaned as a teen, worked for a time as a shepherd, and made many pilgrimages to Rome, Italy. He was able to bilocate, being in two places at one time.
When he was in his twenties, St. Drogo received unsightly bodily affliction which caused him to be so ugly that he terrified anyone who laid eyes on him. He had to be locked away in a cell for the rest of his life.
St. Drogo lived by a church and was brought the Eucharist and a small amount of food each day which he received through a tiny window. He died in Sebourg in 1185 and his feast day is April 16.
St. Drogo is the patron saint of repulsive and unattractive people.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Our Lady of Loreto

On one of my trips to Italy, I was told that the house in which the Virgin Mary was born was carried by angels from the Holy Land and dropped at its final resting place in Loreto (there were stops in modern day Croatia and Recanati, Italy along the way) around 1295 on the Adriatic coast. The Holy House of Loreto is also where the Annunciation happened.
Angels must abound in Italy because there's a family story that one day when my maternal great grandmother, Crescenza, was a young girl working and singing in the fields in Lazio her future husband, Vincenzo (my great grandfather), stopped in his tracks because she sounded so beautitul he thought it was the voice of an angel.
The Holy House of Loreto has been a popular pilgrimage site for Roman Catholics since the 15th century. It remains sacred to all faiths. The feast of Our Lady of Loreto is Dec. 10.

Monday, June 21, 2010

St. Columbanus (540 to Nov. 23, 615)

"Get your motor runnin'
Head out on the highway
Lookin' for adventure
And whatever comes our way." (Mars Bonfire)

I was told, when I was five-years-old, that I'd be going to the doctor's office and it wasn't going to hurt. After having a boil lanced off my tiny butt cheek, I left the doctor's office in Providence and ran across a main intersection.
An 18-year-old motorcyclist, who had the right of way, just missed killing me. He pulled over to the side of the road, shaken and in tears, as my mother and grandmother caught up with me.
I can barely remember the incident and it was only time my grandmother ever yelled at me. I was given a spanking.
St. Columbanus is the patron saint of motorcyclists. He was born in West Leinster, Ireland in 540. It is said he was so striking in looks that he had to resist the temptation of being with scores of women. He was an Irish missionary who founded monasteries throughout Europe. His writings are included in the Monastic Rule of St. Columbanus.
In art, St. Columbanus is often shown taming a bear. He died in Bobbio, Italy on Nov. 23, 615. His feast day is Nov. 23.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Blessed Columba of Rieti (Feb. 2, 1467 to May 20, 1501)

Growing up in an Italian-American family, hearing about the malocchio (the evil eye) or how to prevent it, was a natural part of life. My grandfather's sister, Vera, was considered the mystic of the family.
She was a devout Roman Catholic who read playing cards to predict the future and could tell if someone was about to or had put malocchio on a person.
Aunt Vera would drop olive oil in a bowl of water. It was three drops on top of each other. If they stayed together you were fine; if they separated, someone had cast a spell.
I didn't know what was going on at the time, but I remember being told it was just a game and not to believe any of it, the playing cards included. So, I didn't. And, when Aunt Vera was diagnosed with cancer in her later years, the "magic" went away, too. But, the devotion to Jesus, Mary, and the saints continued. There were always religious candles burning and Mother Angelica on the television.
Blessed Columba of Rieti, a mystic, is the patroness against sorcery. She was born Angelella Guardagnoli in Rieti, Italy on Feb. 2, 1467. On that day, it is said that angels surrounded her house.
When she was baptized a dove flew down to the font, so she was called Columba (the dove). Her family was extremely poor and she spent her time sewing clothing for the Dominicans.
Blessed Columba of Rieti became a Dominican tertiary. She died on May 20, 1501. Her feast day is celebrated on May 20. She was beatified in 1625.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Blessed Angela of Foligno (1248 to Jan. 4, 1309)

I've seen it happen too many times. Marriages and relationships breaking up because someone had an affair. And, in most cases, the person who strayed was smitten by someone who ended up being a jerk.
So, before you admire someone else's wife because every time you run into her, she's so charming and funny, wake up! As they say, "All the world's a stage."
I knew a married man who had a beautiful wife and two children. He was having an affair with a married woman. They met on a business trip, and continued to see each other through work, because their jobs required travel. Whenever they were together it was party time. No spouses. No children. And, most of the business trips were in vacation spots like Aruba, Key West, or the South Pacific.
The cheaters ended up marrying each another. But, since they were no longer sneaking off to exotic locales, and were, instead, living together, the honeymoon was over in less than a year. They've since divorced.
Blessed Angela of Foligno, a mystic, was born near Assisi, Italy in 1248. And just like people today, she married young and lived a wild, scandalous, and adulterous life.
Her wake-up call came after everyone in her family died. Blessed Angela of Foligno prayed to St. Francis of Assisi, who appeared to her in a dream and offered guidance.
With the help of Arnoldo, a Franciscan friar, she got her act together. Her conversion is told in "The Book of Visions and Instructions." Blessed Angela of Foligno joined the Third Order of St. Francis to which she established a community of sisters who added to the Rule of the Order.
She died on Jan. 4, 1309 and is buried at St. Francis Church in Foligno. Many miracles took place in Blessed Angela of Foligno's name and she was beatified in 1693. She is the patron saint of those afflicted with sexual temptation.

Friday, June 18, 2010

St. Joseph of Arimathea (1st century)

"Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council, had not consented to their plan of action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the kingdom of God." (Luke:50-51)

You might think a funeral director/embalmer would find it hard to get a date, but according to one I interviewed when I was a journalist, it's quite the opposite.
"Women find me very attractive because what I do is so interesting," explained an embalmer who worked in East Providence, Rhode Island.
"Maybe if you're Morticia Addams," I joked.
As a way to relax families during the loss of a loved one, many local funeral homes have been "upgrading" with a choice of music in the viewing rooms, comfortable furniture, and coffee and pastries. What's next? Wine and cheese?
But, the strangest thing I ever encountered was when we were planning my mother's funeral, and the director, Rudy, spun a revolving wall and took us into a casket showroom, quite similar to walking into a car dealership.
Bright lights, shiny coffins, and fancy displays.
"Would you like the 200-year warranty or perhaps the 500?" Rudy asked pointing out the latest models.
What I felt like saying was that we just wanted the funeral to be over with, but of course, we had to be gracious so looked at 20 caskets within our price range. I also did not feel like thinking about my mother's body decomposing like in Franco Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet." And, I recall my mother saying she was very upset the first winter after her cousin, Pat, had passed away because she thought about him buried beneath the snow.
As they say, death is a part of life. And the very person that gave up his tomb for Christ's burial is the patron saint of funeral directors and undertakers.
St. Joseph of Arimathea was born in the 1st century. His story is told in the Four Gospels. Along with Nicodemus, he took the body of Jesus down from the Cross, wrapped it in fine linen, and annointed it.
St. Joseph of Arimathea is depicted in legends of the Holy Grail. His feast day is March 17.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

St. Clotilde (475 to 545)

"What do you mean Maria was adopted?" I asked my mother about my very best childhood friend when I was 8-years-old. "Why would someone give her away?"
During the day, Maria and I were playing in my yard with our dolls and we were pretending they were our "babies." Her aunt, who lived next door, overheard the conversation. A few hours later, she called my parents and said that she heard me say something to Maria about when she was a baby.
My mother told Maria's aunt that I didn't know she was adopted, however I learned about it that night. My mother must have thought it was the appropriate time to tell me.
I was so young that the topic was hard for me to grasp.
To me, Maria's adoptive parents were her real parents and it was never discussed again.
The one thing that sticks out in my mind was the first day of fifth grade. Our teacher, Mr. Thomas, asked if anyone in our class was adopted. Maria raised her hand and said she was.
"Maria, you're very special because your parents chose you," he said.
I've heard stories about adopted children having problems. Whether that's true, it was not the case with Maria. She excelled in school and became a pharmacist.
St. Clotilde is the patron saint of adopted children. She was born in Lyon, France in 475 to King Chilperic II of Burgundy and his wife Caretena. In 493, she married Clovis, King of the Franks and they had several children.
After becoming a widow, St. Clotilde spent the rest of her years caring for the sick and poor. She died in 545 at Tours and her feast day is June 3.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

My brother told me one time he was having dinner at a friend's house and after slicing a piece of Italian bread, he stuck the knife into the loaf. It may not sound like something astounding, but his friend's mother exclaimed that it was the Body of Christ and he should not have done that.
The woman was born in Sicily and I think she may have meant the loaf of bread was a symbol of the Body of Christ and perhaps my brother had stabbed it. Whatever her reason, he was shocked by the ordeal.
And this leads me to the other day when my friend, Peter, now in his 60s, said as a young Roman Catholic Portuguese kid, he often skipped Mass and with his buddies gave out white Necco wafer candies as Communion on a street corner in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
My own cousins would "play" church in their basement acting as priests and giving out the Holy Eucharist of fruit punch and Nilla wafer cookies. I remember my father telling me that Communion was to be taken seriously and I was forbidden to go to "Mass" at my cousin's house or conduct my own at home, although I don't recall ever wanting to.
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, more commonly known as the Feast of Corpus Christi, honors the Eucharist and is a moveable feast celebrated the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. It falls between May 21 and June 24, each year.
A doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church explains that transubstantiation is the changing of the elements of bread and wine, when they are consecrated in the Eucharist, as the Body and Blood of Christ.
The feast of Corpus Christi (a mandatory feast in the Roman Catholic Church since 1312), was promoted as early as 1208 by St. Juliana of Liege, an Augustinian nun.

"Lord Jesus Christ, You gave us the Eucharist
as the memorial of Your suffering and death.
May our worship of this sacrament of Your Body and Blood
help us to experience the salvation You won for us
and the peace of the kingdom
where you live with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

St. Alice (1204 to June 11, 1250)

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." (Helen Keller)

Most people who hear the name St. Damien of Molokai immediately think about his work with lepers. But, there is a lesser known saint who actually was a leper.
St. Alice was born in Shaerbeck, Belgium in 1204. At age seven, she entered a Cistercian convent. St. Alice contracted leprosy and had to be isolated. She became blind and paralyzed, and was known for her visions and humility.
St. Alice received the Holy Eucharist but was not allowed to drink from the cup because of contamination. Jesus appeared to her and told her not to worry that he was in the body and blood.
St. Alice was a founder of the Order of Canonesses of Our Lady. She died on June 11, 1250. She is the patron saint of the blind and paralyzed. Her feast day is June 15.

Monday, June 14, 2010

St. Blandina (? to June 2, 177)

People have described me as exotic, on more than one occasion, but today I was described in a way I'd never heard before: a pessimist. I think they meant a realist.
St. Blandina (also known as St. Blandine) is a patron saint of the falsely accused. She was born in Lyon, France and was a slave. During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, St. Blandina and several friends were arrested and convicted of the crime of Christianity.
St. Blandina was thrown to a bull and burned to death. Her ashes were dumped in a river.
She died on June 2, 177 and is also recognized with the Martyrs of Lyon. Her feast day is June 2.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

St. Andrew Avellino (1521 to Nov. 10, 1608)

I knew that my landlord and his wife were going to Pennsylvania for the weekend to a Mini Cooper auto show and would be back Sunday evening. So, by Tuesday afternoon, when their car wasn't in the driveway, I wondered if something might be wrong.
No sooner had I had that thought when a young man, who introduced himself as the landlord's son, knocked on my door.  He told me that his mother had suffered a stroke Sunday and was in a hospital in Pennsylvania. She was 59 and in good health.
It stopped me in my tracks since it was a reminder that anything can happen at any time. I learned this firsthand many years ago when my dad had a stroke the day my mother died and my world was turned upside down. But, as I mentioned before, my dad fully recovered and earned a master's degree in theology at age 75.
This afternoon I found out that my landlord's wife is in a local rehabilitation center and is going to be there for a while. It will take time and I pray for her quick recovery to St. Andrew Avellino, the patron saint of stroke victims.
He was born Lorenzo Avellino in Castronuovo, Sicily in 1521. He was ordained at age 26 and worked as a lawyer for the ecclesiastical court in Venice, Italy. After committing perjury, St. Andrew Avellino chose a life of penance and was big on abstinence. He was a close friend of St. Charles Borromeo.
He changed his name to Andrew in honor of the Apostle.
St. Andrew Avellino died of a stroke on Nov. 10, 1608 while celebrating Mass. Canonized: 1712. His feast day is Nov. 10 and he is also the patron saint against strokes.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

St. Marina (8th century)

Today's saint is kind of quirky. St. Marina lived in 8th century Bithynia. She disguised herself as a male and worked as a monk for 17 years. She was known for being meek and patient.
There are several legends and conflicting stories about St. Marina. It was said that her father wanted to keep her with him at a monastery so dressed her as a boy. Another account mentions a local innkeeper's daughter, who was unwed and pregnant, and chose to blame it on St. Marina (thinking she was a guy).
St. Marina was thrown out of the monastery. She kept quiet and did not reveal her identity. She was later allowed to return to the monastery with the child and was given lowly jobs until her death.
When St. Marina died her relics were taken from Constantinople to Venice, Italy. A church there is named in her honor. Her feast day is June 18.

Friday, June 11, 2010

St. Urban of Langres (327 to c.390)

Smack dab in the middle of New Bedford, Mass., I encountered the unexpected. A Chardonnay grape winery called Travessia. It was my first wine tasting and sales manager walked me through it smoothly as I tried six samples. By the fourth one, I was wine-induced silly.
"I write a blog called A Sinner's Guide to the Saints," I explained. "I'll mention this place tomorrow."
The white wine was amazing (made only with Bay State grapes).
And with so many patron saints of vine-growers, vine-dressers, and vintners, who would I choose? St. Urban of Langres, of course. I was in an urban winery!
He encompasses all of the wine industry, perhaps because his story is unique. St. Urban of Langres was born in France in 327. The legend is that he hid from his persecuters in a vineyard. And, the vine-dressers who concealed him later converted to Roman Catholicism.
St. Urban of Langres, who was a bishop, died c.390. He is also the patron saint against blight and alcoholism. His feast day is April 2.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

St. Eustace (? to 118)

  "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."
                          (Galatians 6:7)

   It happens each day. A person intentionally hurts someone or knowingly commits a wrongdoing and, in return, something bad happens to them. It's inevitable. It could occur an hour or 20 years later. We all know there are consequences for our actions.
  But, what about youngsters? My friend "Ally" confided in me a deep, dark family secret. When she was in second grade, her brother "Scott," who was two years older and had already reached puberty, sexually molested her. He would kiss her and have her fondle him. Sometimes it was in the family bathroom. Other times, it was when they were in the woods behind their backyard.
  When Ally reached adulthood, she spoke to a psychologist who explained that her situation was not uncommon. Many children at that age experiment. Ally felt some relief because it explained much of her behavior growing up and her brother's continued animosity toward her, all characteristics of being molested as child.
  Ally talked it through with her doctor, forgave Scott, and basically forgot about the whole situation. Now, 38 years after the incidents occurred, the topic resurfaced. A family dispute with Jeff prompted Ally to bring up what happened to her as a child for the first time. Scott denied it wholeheartedly and even told his pregnant wife of the accusation. The family is now in turmoil.
  St. Eustace is the patron saint of difficult situations. He was a general in the Roman Army. He had a premonition that he would suffer for Christ and then witnessed a glowing crucifix appeared between the antlers of a deer. This caused St. Eustace to immediately convert to Christianity. He was martyred for his beliefs being cooked to death in a bronze bull in Rome, Italy in 188.
  St. Eustace's feast day is Sept. 20.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

St. Columba (Dec. 7, 521 to June 9, 597)

When Rhode Island was slammed with flooding at the end of March 2010, in my part of the state, the Jonnycake Center Thrift Store in Peace Dale was hit hard by the Saugatucket River. For days, buckets of water were carried out and most of the items for sale were soaked or no longer in sellable condition. I like to buy things there because I know the proceeds go to a good cause.
Part of the Center's mission is help individuals and families who need assistance with food, clothing, and household items. So as much as I feel for all the families in Rhode Island who suffered devastation from the flooding, I was particularly saddened to see what happened to a place like the Jonnycake Center.
St. Columba is the patron saint against flooding. He was born in Gartan, County Donegal, Ireland on Dec. 7, 521. He studied with St. Finian and was one of his 12 students who became the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.
St. Columba was instrumental in revitalizing monasticism and he founded numerous monasteries throughout Ireland.
He died on June 9, 597 in Iona, Scotland. Legend says that he was buried with St. Patrick and St. Brigid in Downpatrick or in a Saul Church with them near Downpatrick. St. Columba is also the patron saint of bookbinders and his feast day is June 9.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

St. Brendan the Navigator (c.484 to c.577)

Through literature and songs, the story of St. Brendan the Navigator continues to fascinate. He was born in Ciarraighe Luachra, County Kerry, Munster, Ireland c.484. He studied with St. Ita (often referred to as the St. Brigid of Munster) and was ordained a priest by his teacher St. Erc in 512.
For the next 18 years, St. Brendan the Navigator built monastic cells at the base of Mount Brandon, Shanakeel, and at Ardfert. Then, he made his famous seven-year voyage to the Isle of the Blessed, which was immortalized in the ninth century "Voyage of St. Brendan the Navigator."
Varying accounts say he set sail on the Atlantic with 14 pilgrims or 60 pilgrims and three Doubting Thomases who joined at the last second.
He is said to have travelled with St. Malo and St. Columba. They witnessed the lush vegetation of St. Brendan's Island and the hilarious adventure of landing on an island which turned out to be a sea monster or whale's back. The tale is thought to have inspired Pinocchio and Sinbad the Sailor.
Some people say St. Brendan the Navigator's story is allegory; others firmly believe it was based on actual facts.
The saint's final days were spent at his monastery at Annaghdown, County Galway, Connacht, Ireland, where he died c.577. His feast day is May 16 and he is the patron saint of many things including mariners, sailors, and whales.
St. Brendan the Navigator is one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.

Monday, June 7, 2010

St. Gotteschalk (? to June 7, 1066)

On what seemed to be an ordinary day, I was in my friend's SUV drinking an iced coffee, making cell phone calls, and doing paperwork while he was getting equipment out of his storage unit.
Then, I stepped out of the vehicle and there he was. I mean, it was. A very large, very green, very regal looking frog. It was like it leapt out of a picture book, minus the crown, and the perfect time for a photo op.
My friend scooped him up and I grabbed the camera.
"Do you know what this means?" I asked as I snapped photos.
"That you've kissed a lot of frogs," he answered.
"It means, that one day I will find my prince," I explained. Symbolism appears in the most exciting ways.
Today just happens to be the feast day of the patron saint of princes. St. Gotteschalk (or Gottschalk) was the son of Udo, the prince of Abrodites. St. Gotteschalk, known as the martyred Prince of Wends, was sent away to the monastic school of St. Michael in Lenzen, Pomerania. He was murdered in that town along with 29 other missionaries on June 7, 1066.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

St. Damien of Molokai (Jan. 3, 1840 to April 15, 1889)

In popular culture, books (and movies) like "The Exorcist" and "The Omen" have made the name Damien symbolic with the devil. Having been a child in the 1970s, for me, characters like Father Damien Karras and Damien Thorn, conjure up thoughts of Satan and being horrified to be home alone at night.
So, it's no accident that I've decided to write this on June 6, the birthday of the son of Satan in "The Omen," who was born at 6 a.m. It's time to overcome my association of the name Damien with the devil forevermore and to shine a light on St. Damien of Molokai, who was canonized on Oct. 11, 2009.
He is immediately recognized as Father Damien who took care of the lepers on Molokai, when it was in the Kingdom of Hawaii.
St. Damien of Molokai was born Jozef De Veuster on Jan. 3, 1840 in Tremelo, Belgium. He was a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary.
He originally went to Honolulu as a missionary. Then, on May 10, 1873, he volunteered to go to the Hawaiian island to care for 816 lepers (although there were many more), who were there under government-sanctioned quarantine. St. Damien of Molokai established St. Philomenia parish for the lepers, dressed their wounds, built homes, and also dug graves and made coffins.
On April 15, 1889, 16 years after taking care of lepers on the island, St. Damien of Molokai died from the disease. He is the patron saint of people with leprosy, HIV, and Aids. His feast day is May 10.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

St. Millburga (? to 715/727)

When I go jogging, I find all kinds of things. Sometimes it's jewelry (a butterfly pendant) or money (a $20 bill) but today, I found an even better treasure. The gift of half a robin's egg to match the one on my kitchen windowsill. A beautiful, blue candy-like shell.
What was the newborn creature thinking when it popped out? St. Millburga (St. Mildburh) would know. She communicatead with birds and they listened. She was born in Shropshire, England, to a King (Merewalh) and a saint (Ermenburga).
St. Millburga told birds to stay away from crops and they did. But, she also had special powers over people. As a nun at Wenlock Abbey, she was known as a miracle worker who cured the sick. She died on Feb. 23 between 715 and 727.
St. Millburga's feast day is Feb. 23 and she is a patron saint of birds.
The robin as an animal totem is a giver of love and joy.

Friday, June 4, 2010

St. Neot (? to July 31, 877)

Astrologically speaking, my sun and moon are in Pisces, the sign of the fishes, which might explain why friends describe me as intuitive, dreamy, and mystical or shy and impractical.
So, as much as I like to look at fish, whether they are swimming in circles around my feet in Key West or lying still in Long Pond, I don't like to eat them having been traumatized at three-years-old. I was at a tuna tournament in Snug Harbor, Rhode Island and I saw tunas sliced open and hanging all pink and gooey.
"What is that?" I asked my parents to which they replied, "It's tuna like you eat in your sandwich."
And just as fish can be intriguing to look at with their often striking colors and unusual forms, so too is their patron saint, according to documentation.
St. Neot, who was a monk and hermit at Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset, England, stood just four feet tall and was called the pygmy saint. He later moved to Cornwall.
St. Neot's passion was to perform miracles on birds and animals of all kinds. He died on July 31, 877. His feast day is July 31.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

St. Kevin of Glendalough (498 to June 3, 618)

"And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so

One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
and Lays in it and settles down to nest." (Seamus Heaney)

St. Francis of Assisi is known for his communication with animals, love of nature, and using a rock as a pillow, but more than 700 years earlier, there lived a saint with the same attributes.
St. Kevin (Coemgen) of Glendalough was born in Ireland in 498 and lived as a hermit at Disert-Coemgen. Legend says an angel brought him to the spot where his bed was a doleman.
He was the founder of Glendalough and its first abbot. Although St. Kevin of Glendalough spoke to all creatures and they understood him, he is most often depicted with a blackbird or crow.
He died on June 3, 618 and is the patron saint of Dublin and crows. St. Kevin of Glendalough's feast day is June 3.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

St. Adjutor (? to April 30, 1131)

When I was a freshman in high school, my classmate drowned. He was supposed to be in school, but it was a hot day in May, so he bunked with a friend and went swimming in Georgiaville Pond.
At Confirmation class that week, we were told that we would attend his wake. Like most 15-year-olds, I'd never seen a dead body let alone someone my age.
I knelt at the casket and started to cry. Somehow the priest's words comforted us.
St. Adjutor is the patron saint against drowning and of drowning victims. He was born in Normandy, France and was a knight in the First Crusade. Legend says that he escaped the Muslims by swimming back to France.
St. Adjutor died on April 30, 1131. His feast day is April 30.
The week after my classmate died, I learned my grandfather had terminal cancer and four months to live. He told me he had lived a full life and that my friend's death was much more devastating because he was a young boy.
"I'm 75-years-old," my grandfather said from his favorite chair in the living room. "Now, you'll be ready for when I pass away."
Then he pointed to the flower garden outside the picture window. "And, I'll be lying in a bed of roses."
Despite what my grandfather said, it doesn't matter how old a person is, the people left behind are never fully prepared when death happens.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

St. Rose of Lima (April 20, 1586 to August 24, 1617)

"What is so rare as a day in June?" (James Russell Lowell)

The summertime smell of beach roses is everywhere. When I roll door the car windows on my way to work it provides a welcoming jolt that is healthier than coffee. As I walk along the dunes at Moonstone Beach it reminds me that the piping plovers have returned. At night, their smell is as soothing as lavender mixed in with a cool breeze.
St. Rose of Lima was said to be as beautiful as the flower. She was born Isabel Flores de Oliva on April 20, 1586 in Peru. Not only was she gorgeous but St. Rose of Lima had temptations from the devil. She continued to pray and she overcame them.
St. Rose of Lima died on Aug. 24, 1617. Canonized: 1671 as the first Catholic saint of the Americas.Her feast day is Aug. 23.
It's been said if she hears your prayers a rose will appear to you in one form or another out of nowhere. I was slightly hesitant about believing that until the other day while I thought about her as I was opening my backpack.
When I unzippered a compartment, inside was a brand new rose-shaped votive candle. Funny thing is, I never put it there.