Saturday, July 31, 2010

St. Petronilla (1st century)

I can hear my cousin Freddie's exact words that July when we boarded the overnight train from Geneva, Switzerland to Venice, Italy:
"Sis, don't worry about validating your Eurail pass. It will be the middle of the night. No one is going to check"
Being my first trip to Europe, I wasn't about to argue with him. However, a few hours later when the train stopped in the Alps and I was removed from it by French- speaking officials and brought to a small room at the police station, I wished I had obeyed the law.
Freddie's girlfriend, Tina (who's now his wife), came along with me because she could speak some French.
"You're not French!" the officer yelled from behind his desk.
"The last time I checked, I was," I replied, pointing to the surname on my passport.
Next thing I knew, he slammed the door shut and Tina and I were standing in the office with three policemen, over a foolish Eurail Pass. They laughed amongst themselves, calling us stupid American girls, and after some deliberation, said they'd validate my pass and let me go for $100 in U.S. money.
So, I took out some of the money I had budgeted for the vacation (I'd only been there two days), paid up, and they sent Tina and I on our way.
What a wonderful introduction to the Alps! Next time, I'll bring a St. Petronilla medal. She is the patron saint of travellers in the mountains and thought to be a Roman citizen born in the 1st century.
Legend says she was the daughter of St. Peter and was so drop-dead gorgeous that she had to be locked away from suitors. Several centuries later, it was decided she was either a relative or his maid.
Other accounts state that St. Pertonilla either refused to marry one guy and starved herself to death or was martyred.
Either way, she is buried at St. Peter,s in the Vatican, Chapel #20 to be exact. Her feast day is May 31.

Friday, July 30, 2010

St. Leonard of Noblac (? to 559)

After writing five articles about convenience store robberies for the daily newspaper that I worked at, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I called the police department, identified myself, and affirmed, "I know when and where the burglar is going to strike next."
The detective-lieutenant on the other end of the line laughed it off.
Then, I said, "If you don't listen to me, I'm going to put the confidential information that you told me not to print in the newspaper."
In order to help the police find the thief, I refrained from identifying his clothing such as a team baseball cap and a hooded sweatshirt which were visible on each store's security cameras.
Although I'm not a detective or private investigator, I had figured out the modus operandi of the guy and it followed a specific pattern. It was always on the same night of the week between midnight and 2 a.m., the clerk was a female, and he would make his approach after going to the milk cooler.
Since I had an excellent rapport with the police including having a reputation for being the most accurate journalist ever, the detective-lieutenant agreed to have an officer available to make the arrest at the place and time I indictated.
Thankfully, I helped solved the crime. But, still, once in a while when I am in a convenience store late at night, I think I might see a guy in the same baseball cap and hooded sweatshirt.
And although St. Leonard of Noblac never set foot in a Cumberland Farms or Piggly Wiggly convenience store, he is the patron saint against robbers, robberies, and burglaries.
He was a French courtier who became a convert of St. Remigius. St. Leonard of Noblac lived as an abbot and hermit.
After moving to Limoges, he was given land by the royal court on which he founded the Noblac Abbey. St. Leonard of Noblac died in 559 and his feast day is Nov. 6.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

St. Vitus (c.290 to c.303)

I only use an alarm clock if I have an early morning flight and I want to be 100 percent sure that I'll wake up on time. I haven't used one in years, since a family friend (who is also a medical doctor) told me that all I have to do is just before bed tell myself what time I want to wake up.
It sounded ridiculous to me, being a teenager at the time and not wanting to be late for class. So, I waited until the weekend to test it out. Incredibly, the mental alarm clock worked and it has yet to fail (sounds like the prayer to St. Jude).
Still, if for some reason you don't have access to an alarm clock and must wake up at a specific time, I know someone who can help. St. Vitus, the patron saint against oversleeping, is your man!
He was born in Sicily c.290 and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers of the Roman Catholic Church. His father was a pagan senator who had St. Vitus thrown in prison when he converted to Christianity at age 12, with the help of St. Modestus and St. Crescentia.
St. Vitus was martyred c.303 in Luciana, Italy under Diocletian by being boiled in oil. A rooster was thrown in the pot with him as a sacrifice. Since the animal was an early riser that is the reason St. Vitus is called the patron saint against oversleeping.
On his feast day (June 15), during the Middle Ages, worshippers danced around his statue. It evolved into the term "St. Vitus Dance" given to chorea, a neurological disorder. He is also a patron saint of dance and entertainment.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

St. Lydia Purpuraria (1st century)

"And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, did hear: whose heart the Lord opened to attend to those things which were said by Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying: If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us."
(Acts 16:14-15)

I've liked shades of purple since my first grade teacher handed me a lilac colored piece of construction paper. This carried on through my freshman year in college, when most of my clothing was purple: shirts, tank tops, dresses, underwear (thongs to be exact), and a vest with zippers as a birthday present from my cousin, Melanie. I even had purple stripes on my Nike sneakers.
The color has been a sign of wealth and royalty since the first century when the purple dye, made from a mollusc, was something that only rich people could afford.
St. Lydia Purpuraria, who lived in Thyatira, was a merchant of purple cloth, the most expensive of its kind. She is said to be the first convert of St. Paul. St. Lydia of Purpuraria's feast day is Aug. 3.
Priests also wear purple vestments during Lent and Advent representing solemnity and penitence.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

St. Expeditus (? to 303)

I'm awaiting positive news about a fun project that I've been working on this year. And although I know the outcome, I've asked St. Expeditus to intercede for me with some type of confirmation. He is the patron saint of prompt solutions.
I thought it was a joke at first, too. Probably because of, the travel reservation website. But, since I need his help fast, I called upon St. Expeditus this morning.
He was thought to be born in Melitene, Armenia although there are also accounts of a St. Expeditus from Rome, Italy or Acireale, Sicily. The whole story "took off" when some Parisian nuns received a package from Rome with the remains of a martyred saint and a statue (now said to be in New Orleans, Louisiana). It was marked "spedito" which they translated as the Latin name Expeditus or today's equivalent of priority mail.
Word quickly spread about the martyr. He is usually depicted as a soldier but perhaps we'd recognize him today in brown shorts. There are illustrations of what he looked like from Germany and he has a cult following on Reunion, a French island. St. Expeditus died in 303 and his feast day is April 19.
He's been with me all day. When I filled out my passport renewal form it said if I want to receive a new passport within 2 to 3 weeks, to mark "expedite" on the envelope!

Monday, July 26, 2010

St. Dunstan (c.909 to May 19, 988)

"The water is wide; I cannot cross o'er,
Neither have I wings to fly. Give me a boat that can carry two,
And both shall row, my love and I."
(The Water is Wide)

At the Irish music session at a local pub, I was given a CD called "Another Door Opens."
I remember being upset about a troubled relationship or the loss of a loved one and my cousin, Cindy, saying it would be okay: that when one door closes, another door opens.
The CD's title was enough to make we want to listen (although I'm not fond of Irish music) and I found many of the tunes and instrumentals on it quite popular in the Irish music circuit including the traditional song "The Water is Wide" and the reel "The Merry Blacksmith."
Today's saint is the patron of blacksmiths.
St. Dunstan was born in Baltonsborough, England c.909. As a young man, he was educated by Irish monks and appointed to the court of King Athelstan. But, because St. Dunstan was a favorite of the king, jealous members of the court accused him of being into witchcraft, so he was ordered to leave. His enemies threw him in a cesspool.
St. Dunstan escaped and then the bishop suggested he become a monk. He didn't think he could lead a life of celibacy, but after tumors thought to be leprosy appeared on his skin (it was actually caused by being thrown in a cesspool), he felt it was a sign to live a religious life.
St. Dunstan took Holy Orders in 943 and lived as a hermit in Glastonbury. When he was playing the harp one day in his tiny cell, legend says he was tempted by the devil. St. Dunstan just happened to have his blacksmith tongs handy and used them on the demon.
St. Dunstan was a musician and artist who worked to restore monastic life in England. He later became the Archbishop of Canterbury. St. Dunstan died on May 19, 988 and his feast day is May 19.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

St. Patricia (? to c.665)

I was picking flowers this morning in the backyard of the home I rent for the summer and discovered a pathway which lead to a hidden raspberry grove. The sun-ripened fruit was everywhere, so I ran back into the house and grabbed a huge plastic container which I filled in less than 20 minutes.
I didn't mind being scratched by the prickly leaves or having the scorching sun beat down on me. It was like finding treasure: sweet, delicious jewels. And I was reminded of my childhood being four-years-old in my great-grandmother's garden.
Her name was Crescenza (Clara for short) and she had the most remarkable fruit trees that grew in North Providence soil. It was hardly the climate that would produce plump Italian plums and juicy peaches, but my great-grandmother knew how to do it.
One day when we on our way to her house, I asked my mother, if the reason that I didn't always understand what my great-grandmother was saying was because she was old.
My mother explained to me that she was speaking in Italian. She was born in Castelpizzuto, Abruzzo, Italy in 1885. My great-grandfather, Vincenzo, came to the United States first, then my great-grandmother followed with their four children including my grandfather, Anthony.
They left from Naples and the story goes that a man stole her handbag and she chased him down the street and grabbed it back before getting on the ship.
We visited her every week and when we got in the car to go home my mother would cry and say that it might be the last time we'd see her. This went on for years.
My great-grandmother lived to be 89-years-old.
When she couldn't go to church any more, she'd watch Mass on television.
I asked my parents if I could watch it on television, too, and they told me "no," that it wouldn't count (whatever that meant).
I was told that when my great-grandmother was young, long before beauty products were easy to come by, she created her own eye makeup and rouge with flowers. Her skin, which she washed with Pond's cold cream, was flawless. And she even colored her hair well into her eighties.
And she was funny, too. She was very religious, but also believed in spirits and she'd say that my great-grandfather, Vincenzo, kept her up all night. But, Vincenzo died in 1944. I guess she felt he was in the house opening doors or cupboards and walking around.
When she died on Feb. 12, 1974, my dad picked me up from school that day and said that my mother was very sad and that I had to be quiet when I got home.
I remember like it was only yesterday. She was strong and determined, and if it weren't for her, my grandfather may never have come to this country.
St. Patricia (St. Patrizia) was shipwrecked on the very shores that my great-grandmother left Naples from. She was born in Constantinople of noble birth. When her parents arranged for her marriage, St. Patricia took off to Rome and became a nun.
Upon her father's death, she returned to Constantinople. Then, she set out on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. St. Patricia ended up shipwrecked on the coast of Naples and lived in a hermitage on the island Castel dell'Ovo.
She died a virgin and martyr c.665. Her relics are in gold, jeweled urn in San Gregorio Armeno Monastery in Naples. It is said that every Tuesday morning and on her feast day, Aug. 25, a vial of her blood liquefies.
St. Patricia is a patron saint of Naples.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

St. Genesius of Rome (? to 286/303)

"You're not Kevin Costner," I said to a man in the lobby of a Bath, Maine hotel in 1998. "Kevin Costner is good looking."
But, after the unidentified man handed me his driver's license, I discovered it was indeed the famous actor. This was during the filming of "Message in a Bottle" and I had been hired as a stand-in for Robin Wright Penn for scenes filmed in Pemaquid Point.
Still, what did I know? I was 34-years-old and new to the film business. I had previously worked as an extra (or background artist as Stephen Spielberg liked to say) in "Amistad" and "Meet Joe Black."
They say the camera likes some people. That must be the case with Kevin Costner and Brad Pitt. However, in my opinion, Matthew McConaughey rocks in person but not on screen.
In 2000, I joined the Screen Actors Guild and appeared in "What Lies Beneath" and "Mystic River." It is a wonderful hobby with fantastic perks. I get to be on movie sets, vote for the SAG Awards (and get free DVDs and movie passes because of it), make good money, and meet interesting people.
The hurry up and wait aspect of the job is not glamorous, but the hair and makeup part definitely is.
Records prove that the first documented acting performance took place in 534 BC when Thespis of Icaria, a Greek actor, appeared in the play. Yet, the patron saint of actors did not come on the scene until sometime in the third century.
St. Genesius of Rome was a lead actor in a theater company. One day, while he was performing in a satirical play about Christian baptism, he had an epiphany which made him convert to Christianity.
Diocletian would have none of it so turned St. Genesius of Rome over to Prefect Plautian. He had him tortured and beheaded.
St. Genesius of Rome is buried at St. Hippolytus Cemetery in the Eternal City and his feast day is Aug. 25.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Four Crowned Martyrs (3rd century)

"Here, here I will remain with worms that are they chamber-maids;
O, here I will set up thy everlasting rest,"
(Romeo and Juliet, Act 5)

My grandfather, Anthony, told me when he picked out the family burial site at St. Francis Cemetery in Pawtucket, he made sure it was up front by the gate so he'd be first in line when Jesus came to get him.
All joking aside, it is in a convenient spot because when I drive down Smithfield Avenue, I can see it from my car. My grandfather was a registered architect who was born in Italy and became a U.S. citizen. He designed the gravestone which has stone masonry tools on it in honor of his father, Vincenzo.
The gravesite has caused many arguments over the years. There are only 12 plots which was not enough for everyone in the family. If there was a fight someone would say that this one or that one wasn't going to be buried there.
My grandmother, Isabel, went so far as to ask my cousin, Anthony, to make sure that when she died she was buried there. So, as promised, he stood at the grave until the last spade of dirt was shoveled.
The Four Crowned Martyrs were gifted stone carvers who lived in the 3rd century. Their names are St. Castorus, St. Nicrostratus, St. Claudius, and St. Simpronian.
When they refused to carve a statue of Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine, they were drowned in the Sava River. Their feast day is Nov. 8 and they are patron saints of stone masons, stone cutters, and sculptors.
I saw the statue pictured above at Orsanmichele Church in Florence, Italy.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

St. Francis Caracciolo (Oct. 13, 1563 to June 4, 1608)

"You may have the universe if I may have Italy."
(Giuseppe Verdi)

I just finished reading "Giada At Home: Family Recipes from Italy and California" by Giada De Laurentiis. It's such a classy cookbook in the way it's written and presented. She puts a whole new twist on how to make the delicious foods that I ate growing up in a household with an Italian-American mother.
People that have said negative things about Giada are plainly jealous because she's successful, smart, pretty, and has gorgeous clothing.
Growing up in Rhode Island, I've heard enough jokes about movies like "Goodfellas," "My Cousin Vinnie," and "The Godfather" and derogatory terms such as "guinea." It would be easy to say that someone who speaks that way to describe an Italian is uneducated or ignorant. However, most people, no matter what background, have their own biases or prejudices. It's just that some people keep their thoughts to themselves.
As I've mentioned throughout this blog, I am particularly proud of my ethnic heritage and being half Italian. I experienced so many wonderful things on my trips to Italy including an unexpected spiritual awakening at age 26 (which I've tried repeatedly to run away from, but can't) and, of course, the food.
St. Francis Caracciolo is the patron saint of chefs and cooks. He was born Ascanio Pisquizio in Villa Santa Maria, Abruzzo, Italy on Oct. 13, 1563. At age 22, he was cured of leprosy so decided to become a priest which he did in 1587.
St. Francis Caracciolo co-founded the Congregation of Minor Clerics Regular with Venerable John Augustine Adorno. He was a related to St. Thomas Aquinas. He died on June 4, 1608 and his feast day is June 4.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Our Lady, Star of the Sea

"If the winds of temptation arise; If you are driven upon the rocks of tribulation look to the star, call on Mary; If you are tossed upon the waves of pride, of ambition, of envy, of rivalry, look to the star, call on Mary. Should anger, or avarice, or fleshly desire violently assail the frail vessel of your soul, look at the star, call upon Mary." (St. Bernard of Clairvaux)

Although written in the 12th century, St. Bernard of Clairvaux's words read like contemporary lyrics to a beautiful song. And as I looked out the windows of The Towers in Narragansett last night, from my seat at the Rhode Island Songwriter's Association annual showcase, I could see the moonlit waves hitting rocks and feel the warm, salty breeze.
Then, Ronnee Ringquist's tune put me in an ethereal mood: "I heard a wise man say in life we all long for love in the spirit of the heart."
We are surrounded by the ocean here. The local Roman Catholic Church is St. Mary Star of the Sea and Stella Maris, Latin for Our Lady, Star of the Sea, is a religious store in neighboring South Kingstown.
Our Lady, Star of the Sea is the Virgin Mary as a guide and protector of those who travel or work on the ocean. She represents hope and is a guiding star for those in need.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

St. Aquilina (281 to June 13, 293)

When my friend Dano was running a sailboat around Point Retreat, near Juneau, Alaska, he saw a catamaran tour boat called "St. Aqualina" (St. Aquilina). At first I thought aqua=water, of course. Upon further examination, I believe the boat was given that name knowing that she can withstand anything!
St. Aquilina was born in Byblos in 281. At age 12, she decided it was time to spread the word of Jesus through teaching. She converted so many people, especially pagan teenagers. And because of this, St. Aquilina was taken to Magistrate Volusian.
After refusing to deny Christ, she was flogged. Given a second chance she stated that neither Magistrate Volusian or the devil could put upon her pain that was stronger than her strength to sustain Christ.
St. Aquilina's body was then torn apart with rakes as sharp as spears and her eardrums were punctured with burning rods. In turn, her brain popped out through her nose.
At this point Magistrate Volusian assumed she was dead, so had her body thrown beyond the city's walls. But, with the help of an angel, St. Aquilina was revived. She went before Magistrate Volusian who ordered her imprisoned and decapitated.
She died on June 13, 293 and feast day is June 13.

Monday, July 19, 2010

St. Justa and St. Rufina (3rd century)

St. Justa (St. Justus) and St. Rufina, were sisters from Seville, Spain who made earthenware pottery for a living. St. Justa, born in 268, and St. Rufina, born in 270, took pride in their work and refused to sell their vessels for pagan use.
That didn't sit well with the locals so they broke and smashed all their pottery. In retaliation, the virgins broke a statue of the goddess, Venus. So Diogenianus, the prefect, ordered St. Justa and St. Rufina imprisoned.
They were stretched out on racks and had their sides torn open with hooks. Although they were given an opportunity to offer a sacrifice to an idol and then be released, the sisters refused.
St. Justa died on the rack and St. Rufina was strangled. Together their bodies were burned. They died in 287 and their feast day is today.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

St. Radegunde (518 to Aug. 13, 587)

I'm asked quite often to define a patron saint. To me, it's a protector or guardian of specific things who lives in Heaven and has special powers. They intercede in prayers to Jesus when he doesn't have time.
There are saints that might be mere legends (St. George and the Dragon) or ones who were alive in the 1960s and have children close to my age (St. Gianna Beretta Molla).
And as much as we like to laugh about it, they do come in handy if you are afraid to fly (St. Joseph of Cupertino) or lose a contact lens (St. Anthony of Padua). I hate to admit it, but I actually summoned St. Anthony once while I was in the bathroom trying to locate a feminine hygiene product.
Unfortunately, the saints have no control over what they'll be the patrons of. Currently, it's the job of the Pope.
So as much as I'm sure St. Radegunde is excited that she was canonized, I wonder what she thinks about being the patron saint against scabs.
She was a princess who was born in Erfurt, Germany in 518. Her father, a pagan king, was murdered by his brother.
St. Radegunde was given as a hostage to Clotaire I, who conquered her father's army when she was 12. She converted to Christianity and was forced, against her will, to marry Clotaire I in 540. He was a complete jerk who mistreated and abused her.
Clotaire I had St. Radegunde's brother murdered. She left him in 555 and founded the Convent of the Holy Cross in Poiters, France. St. Radegunde died on Aug. 13, 587 and her feast day is Aug. 13.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (Sept. 27, 1696 to Aug. 1, 1787)

My blog is much like a French film: I rarely draw a conclusion at the end of an entry. What I write about are simply thoughts that occur on a given day.
I write "A Sinner's Guide to the Saints" when I have free time, as a way to relax. This is not the traditional type of storytelling that people in Western World are accustomed to. These entries might be considered slices out of time, not parables or moralistic stories.
This evening, in Newport, I joined some friends, Ben and Jean-Francois, at a picnic table outside a closed bakery. While the latter drank beer, we talked about travelling around Europe and corporate jobs.
Jean-Francois, who was raised in Morocco, said he summered in a town near Lourdes, France, and every Friday, the family took a pilgrimage to the grotto and basilica made famous by St. Bernadette.
Jean-Francois said that over of course of time he became less than reverential about going there and seeing the "sweaty-palmed priests collecting money and dispensing false hope" to people who had gone here looking for a miracle. He said he remembers a sea of crutches and how absolutely creepy it was.
Ben, on the other hand, was a hippie in the 1960s with a fondness for St. Francis, who made a special trip to Assisi, Italy where he camped for two weeks with friends.
Ben said he thought St. Francis and St. Clare were romantically involved having sex with each other, but because they were becoming too close he "bugged out on her."
I put in my two cents about what I thought and what was supposed to be a 10-minute hello turned into a two-hour conversation.
But, it did get me to thinking about what I'd like to do with my life at this point in time. And I think it should be something that I enjoy.
St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori is the patron saint of vocations. He was born in Marianella, Italy on Sept. 27, 1696.
St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori was a bishop and spirtual writer who founded the Redemptorists Order. He was a noted theologian who was named a Doctor of the Church. He died in Nocera on Aug. 1, 1787 and his feast day is Aug. 1.
If you pray to St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, you will have a clearer focus.

Friday, July 16, 2010

St. Agnes of Assisi (1197 to Nov. 16, 1253)

A tiny child with large eyes, an oversized dress, and dirty cheeks held her grandmother's hand as she walked down the cobblestone streets of Assisi, Italy. She had just left a bakery and in her other hand was a bun with white frosting.
The little girl was so adorable so I asked her grandmother "posso prendere la sua foto?"
She smiled and nodded "yes."
When I returned to the States and developed the film, that photo was the only one that did not come out. It happened so that the precious girl with blondish hair is more vivid in my mind nearly two decades later.
She is a symbol of Assisi for me because she walks the same streets that St. Francis and St. Clare did each day. At first glance, the child looked extremely poor, what most people would describe as a street urchin. But, her life is richer than mine. She still has her innonence and is with her loving grandmother in a place where I long to be.
I spent time at Eremo dell Carceri, the hermitage above Assisi where St. Francis preached to the animals and then I followed the path of St. Clare which led me to her sister, St. Agnes of Assisi, who had an equally remarkable life.
She was born Caterina Offreduccio in 1197. On April 3, 1212, sixteen days after St. Clare left home to follow St. Francis, St. Agnes moved into a monastery determined to live a life of penance and poverty.
Their father was so upset with them for leaving that he had his brother, Monaldo, and armed men force St. Agnes to return home. When Monaldo pulled his sword on his niece, his arm went limp. His followers yanked at St. Agnes's hair and dragged her out of the monastery.
Her body became so heavy that she was dropped in a meadow and the family believed that it was a sign of divine intervention so let the sisters follow their profession.
St. Francis cut off St. Agnes's locks and gave her the habit of Poverty. She became the abbess of the Poor Ladies (better known as the Poor Clares), the order founded by her sister.
In 1219, St. Agnes went to Florence to govern a Poor Ladies group at Monticelli. She also established the order in other communities throughout Italy.
St. Agnes cared for St. Clare who became ill and died on August 11, 1253. St. Agnes died three months later on Nov. 16, 1253. The sisters are buried at the Basilica di Santa Chiara in Assisi where I visited.
St. Agnes's feast day is Nov. 16.

(Happy Birthday, St. Clare: July 16, 1194 and
Happy Birthday, Mom: July 16, 1935. R.I.P. wherever you may be.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

St. Giles (c.650 to c.710)

Before I knew about being "politically correct," the kids in my neighborhood and at school used the word retarded to describe something or someone who was dumb or stupid. It might be the outcome of a baseball game, a new kind of candy, or a song by Queen or Kiss. If we didn't like something, it was retarded.
I never really thought about it much until I was at my grandmother Isabel's house with my cousins and her friend, Mary, would be coming over for lunch.
"Please, whatever you do, kids, don't use that word," Grandma would remind us.
Mary's grandson, who was my age, was born mentally retarded. He couldn't speak and could barely walk. We were children and had no idea that we were offending Mary. I never said the word, but once in a while my cousins did and Mary would sit them down and tell them they were terrible and then explain her grandson's illness.
This wasn't the only time I was exposed to the mentally challenged.
Before my mom went back to work full-time as a elementary school teacher, she would substitute teach and take me with her. Once in a while she'd work in the special education classroom.
I could read and knew my numbers when I was three-years-old. So, when my mom would tell the class to turn to page 20, I did it on my own. Some of the children were 10 or 12-years-old and couldn't count.
They would ask how I knew what to do, and not knowing they were any different (I'm glad that my mom never said anything to me), I would sit right next to them and show them.
St. Giles is a patron saint of mental illness and disabled people. He was born in Athens, Greece c.650. He was a hermit who lived in solitude in a forest in France and spoke to God. St. Giles had one companion. It was a deer. Legend says that the animal was his only source of sustenance because it provided milk.
St. Giles performed many miracles and his popularity spread throughout France. Eventually, he founded a monastery. He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers and died c.710 in Languedoc, France. The feast day of St. Giles is Sept. 1.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blessed Hildegard of Bingen (1098 to Sept, 17, 1179)

"God has composed the world out of its elements for the glory of his name. He has strengthened it with the winds, bound and illuminated it with the stars, and filled it with the other creatures." (Blessed Hildegard of Bingen)

Like many second grade girls, I went through a phase where I did not want to brush my hair. It was long and curly, so it had a dreadlock look to it after a few days. My mother tried everything, but I wouldn't even let her touch my hair.
The only solution was that once a week, a teenage girl named Lisa Harrison (our mother's were friends), who lived on the East Side of Providence, would drive to my house in Smithfield and brush the knots out of my hair and make it shiny and smooth.
I thought Lisa was the coolest person around. She was really pretty with long hair, had three sisters of her own, and was a hippie chick. I'd get to go to her house, too, and she'd play games with me, we'd do hair and makeup, and I got to go along when she went out with friends.
One day, when we were on a nature walk, we found a tiny bird on the sidewalk. Lisa explained that it was injured and since its mother wasn't going to come back, we would have to nurture it back to health.
So, she put it in her coat pocket and took it home. In the summer, Lisa got to sleep on her screened front porch and the baby bird would be able to get fresh air at the same time.
Unfortunately, it didn't live very long. But, it was one of my first encounters with a small creature and I remembered it today as I was reading a book called "Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen."
It was by Blessed Hildegard of Bingen who was born in Germany in 1098. She was ahead of her time in that she wrote about and studied things when few women did. Blessed Hildegard of Bingen was a poet and a liturgical songwriter, but what caught my eye was that she administered the curative powers of natural objects for healing and described the medicinal uses of plants, animals, and trees.
The commentary by Matthew Fox said, "Clearly if one is looking for a spiritual guide or a patron saint of the needed ecological awakening of our time, we could do no better in searching the pantheon of Western Christianity than to nominate Hildegard of Bingen."
Being that she was a Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, and leading visionary with a cult-like following, I'm surprised that she is waiting in "beatified limbo" to become a saint with Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, whose feast day happens to be today.
Had I even an ounce of Blessed Hildegard of Bingen's healing powers, I could have saved the small bird's life.
She died on Sept. 17, 1179 in Germany and her feast day is Sept. 17.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

St. Adelaide of Burgundy (c.931 to Dec.16, 999)

Before the movie "He's Just Not that into You" came out, I had a conversation with my friend, Cindy, at a peach festival in Massachusetts.
"My relationship with Tom isn't going to go anywhere," she said. "But, I really like hanging out with you."
Being 15 years younger, the only words of advice I could give were, "You can't force someone into marriage. If he really wanted to, he would have done it by now."
We talked about how most guys know if you're "the one" in the first four months of dating. It's funny because I know many women who were on their best behavior in the early stages of dating and managed to sucker the guy into marriage within one year. Then, they ended up divorced after the guy realized what he had gotten himself into.
I told Cindy she could use strategies from the "Bitch" books by Sherry Argow, but was Tom really worth it?
"Somewhere there's a guy who will appreciate all the wonderful things about you," I offered, and then, like magic, I mentioned I had gone sailing with my friend, Joe, a few days earlier.
Turns out, Cindy dated Joe back in 1964. So, for the next several months, I became the messenger, much like Cupid, exchanging their phone numbers, delivering poems and short stories, and being a good listener to both parties.
Of course you hear it all the time, that high school sweethearts reunite. But, these were junior high school sweethearts. My take on it is that it makes old people feel young again. Personally, for me, when it's over, it's over. I never want to see anyone from my past.
I've heard people say they are still friends with exes because obviously they had interests that brought them together. Being a realist, I see it as, there's a reason why we broke up and that's reason enough to not want to be friends.
Before Joe's "first" date with Cindy, I told him they were going to get married.
"I just know if you go on this date, that will be it," I prophesized.
Joe looked at me in disbelief, especially since he vowed to live as a monk earlier that year. Then, he reminisced about when he first laid eyes on Cindy when he was an altar boy at St. Teresa Church in Pawtucket.
Joe married for a second time when he wed Cindy in October 2006, and they lived happily ever after. When Tom found out, he was shocked. But, he's the one who let her go.
Second marriages can be successful! If you are divorced, hoping to find the right person, and don't have time to wait, St. Adelaide of Burgundy, the patron saint of second marriages, can help. She was a princess, and later empress, who was born in Burgundy, France c.931
She was selected for an arranged marriage at age two and wed Lothair of Italy, a future king, at around age 16. Then, she was widowed while still a teen.
In 951, St. Adelaide of Burgundy married Otto of Pavia, who became Emperor of Rome the following year. After being widowed a second time, in 973, she used her power to help the poor and build, repair, or restore churches and monasteries.
St. Adelaide of Burgundy died on Dec. 16, 999.

Monday, July 12, 2010

St. Madron (? to c.545)

I could have sworn it was real. When I looked in the mirror something strange and horrifying was happening. Spots of blood had burst and were dripping from my eyes.
Then I awoke this morning in the hobbit house, to a cool breeze with dew drops on the daisies and "Willie," the neighbor's dog, wandering by the clothesline.
What did my dream mean? It's not like I watched a Stephen King movie before I went to bed. Why was it so vivid?
I'd loaned or given away my dream interpretation books since it can be subjective. So, I decided to look online at and discovered:
"To dream that your eyes are bleeding, symbolizes the sacrifices you have made and the difficulties you have endured. Alternatively, the dream signifies some very deep pain or internal conflict within your soul. Although you may not feel any physical pain, you are hurting inside. Perhaps you have been hiding the pain for so long that you forgot what pain feels like. There is some unrest or uneasiness within which needs to be addressed and resolved immediately."
It is said that Pisces is the eyes into the soul and with a sun and moon in that sign, maybe I was feeling what millions of people on this planet experience each day.
There is a legendary well in Cornwall, England where the water has miraculous pain-healing powers. Pilgrims clip a piece of their clothing and leave it at St. Madron Well (pictured above). As their pain subsides or disappears, the material is said to disintegrate. People still believe in this sacred Celtic site.
St. Madron (St. Madern) was a monk and hermit who was born in Cornwall. While on earth he was known to cure pain and this gift carried on after his death in c.545. His feast day is May 17 and he is the patron saint against pain.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blessed Lojze Grozde (May 27, 1923 to Jan. 1, 1943)

Even though I have a bachelor's degree in English and work in a field that requires excellent command of the language, I often find myself lazy about the way I speak or write.
So, I was thrilled to spend time at a beach party last night, with an older woman visiting from Slovenia who has been learning to speak English. Beata said she takes classes a couple of times a week and her teacher is also Slovenian, so it is a challenge to find other people to converse with.
Since I saw Beata last summer her language skills have improved even more and it makes me wish I had learned French or Italian when I was younger.
On June 13, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI beatified Lojze Grozde. He was born in Zgorne Vodale, Slovenia on May 27, 1923.
He was an illegitimate child whose stepfather tried to keep him from seeing his mother. Blessed Lojze Grozde was raised by his aunt. In his teens he joined Catholic Action and the Marian Congregation. He was martyred by Communist partisans on Jan. 1, 1943 and is a patron of Slovenia.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

St. Eulalia of Merida (c.290 to c.304)

After a bumpy start to the ferry ride from Point Judith to Block Island this morning, I were greeted by a rainbow as the boat entered the harbor. After lunch, a torrential downpour made it so hot and humid, I wished it was December and I could jump into my friend's hot tub and then roll around naked in the snow to cool down.
Today's blog picture is a painting called "Eulalia" by John William Waterhouse from 1885. The subject lies naked and is about to be covered in a blanket of snow, but for a different reason.
St. Eulalia of Merida was born c.290 in Merida, Spain. When she was martyred, the soldiers stripped her down and began the torture with hooks and torches. She succumbed to smoke inhalation while being burned at the stake c.304. At the moment of her death a dove flew from her mouth scaring away her killers.
Legend says a miraculous snow fell upon the body of St. Eulalia of Merida which meant that the whiteness represented her sainthood. She is the patron saint of runaways and torture victims and her feast day is Dec. 10.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels

"For I say to you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven." (St. Matthew 12:10)

Today, as little children frolic in the surf, build sandcastles topped with seashells, and eat scoops of strawberry ice cream, my friend is dealing with the devastating loss of her two-week-old nephew.
Why did this baby boy who brought so much joy to his family die? Why do some people live well into their nineties?
"It was God's will," just doesn't cut it for me.
I haven't spoken with my friend since this happened and I'm not sure what I will say when I do.
The Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels is celebrated on Oct. 2. It is said that a guardian angel is with us at birth, follows us through life, comforts us at death, and carries us to the afterlife. I know mine was with me when I walked away from a horrible car crash without a scratch on my body four years ago.
As St. Augustine said, "Go where we will. Our angels will always be with us."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

St. Omobono (c. 1120 to Nov. 13, 1197)

During lunch today, I drove to Wickford to my favorite shop, Grateful Heart. It doesn't matter how I feel when I walk in the door, because I know when I go inside, I'll be surrounded by my favorite things, and that makes me happy.
I swear by the candles which I mix and match by color depending on the day, whether it be love, passion, protection, manifesting a miracle, or joy. And I like to go from room to room to find books and pretty things to suit my mood and persona. Am I a nun today or a mermaid or a fairy? Do I want to feel solitude, go to the beach, or wander in the woods?
Jennifer, (a co-owner), showed me the new Grateful Heart "annex" which in addition to the upstairs store is located in the former clock shop at street level. We're the same age and have many common interests and even if I don't see her for months at a time, our conversations pick up right where they left off.
Jennifer is so genuine and so kind. And I'm thankful that her store is a place of refuge for me where I know I can relax and always feel at home. But then it was back outside into a 95-degree day.
St. Omobono (St. Homobonus) is a patron saint of business owners. He was born Omobono Tucenghi in Cremona, Italy c.1120. He was a married layman who was certain that God gave him a job and money (a large inheritance from his father) so that he might help poverty stricken people.
St. Omobono received the Holy Eucharist each day and when he died on Nov. 13, 1197 it was during Mass. He simply put his arms out, so that his body looked like a cross, and he collapsed.
He was so popular that he was canonized only 14 months after he died. St. Omobono's feast day is Nov. 13. His head is preserved in St. Giles Church in Cremona.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

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

I didn't plan on writing about this today, but I am doing so because I want to help other people. Please, if you haven't already: get a colonoscopy!
This afternoon while I was at work, I got a phone call from my doctor's office saying that the polyp that was removed last Friday during my colonoscopy was benign and precancerous. For a second, I was shocked. How could this be? I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, I'm skinny yet fit, and I don't smoke.
Then, I calmly asked what it meant.
It was explained that hyperplastic polyps have virtually no chance of becoming cancerous, but an adenoma polyp, like the one I had, do, if not removed. I was told that I should have another colonoscopy in three years. Because my mother died from colorectal cancer at a young age, I asked if I could have the procedure done again in two years and was told that would be fine.
So, now I am making a lifestyle change. No more red meat. I don't care how good a hamburger tastes; it's not worth it.
Today reminded me of the day my mother said she wished she could spend just one day with her late father.
"I'd do anything, to see him again," she said.
I couldn't comprehend it at the time, but now I do. A parent's love is the best comfort.
St. Colette is the patron saint of loss of parents. She was born Nicolette Boylet in Picardy, France on Jan. 13, 1381. St. Colette was orphaned as a teenager and became a Franciscan tertiary. In 1406, she had a dream which encouraged her to create a reformed group of nuns of the Order of St. Clare of Assisi called the Colettine Poor Clares.
St. Colette died on March 6,1447 and her feast day is March 6.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

St. Martin of Tours (316 to Nov. 8, 397)

Tucked into an Easter basket from my parents one year, when I was an adult living on my own, was a paperback book about the significance of age throughout history. It was filled with trivia and tidbits, but what caught my eye was the section that said Mary Shelley wrote "Frankenstein" when she was in her 40s. I was shocked. Not just because I have a degree in English, but because most people know she was 21 when the novel was published.
Not one who's quick to criticize, I thought it best to write to the author and tell him I enjoyed the book despite the major error. A couple of weeks after I mailed the letter, I got a call from a guy who called himself "J.F." and what transpired was a two-year correspondence through letter writing.
I learned that along with writing the book, J.F. loved travelling to Europe (he sent me detailed itineraries from most of his trips), taught at a college in Michigan, had been in several serious relationships, had a best friend named Larry, liked to eat risotto, and took warm baths in "good smelling" gel.
J.F. enjoyed autumn mornings which reminded him of being in elementary school and one of his favorites cities was Stuttgart, Germany. He always sent me notes on lovely museum cards or carefully chosen note paper.
From me, he learned that I once married a Jewish guy outside the Roman Catholic Church, had the marriage blessed, and then went through a divorce and annullment. I had travelled to Europe several times and the Caribbean, was happy to live alone, and that I would never marry again even if Jesus Christ came down from Heaven and asked me.
Then one day, I received a final card from J.F. and a woman named Heather saying they had gotten married.
I never had feelings for J.F. and we never met. It was more like a pen friend thing at a time when there was no e-mailing. I was forced to put my thoughts on paper and express myself concisely like a college writing assignment.
And, it was better than counseling, because the person who read the letter didn't know me and could give sound advice from a distance.
St. Martin of Tours is the patron saint of the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Germany (one of J.F.'s special places). He was born in modern day Hungary in 316. St. Martin was a bishop of Tours, France and because of his connection to Hungary and France is called a spiritual "bridge" throughout Europe.
His biography was written by a contemporary, Sulpicius Severus. St. Martin rescued the young orphan St. Brice of Tours.
St. Martin died on Nov. 8, 397 in France. His feast day is Nov. 11.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Blessed Fra Angelico (c.1395 to Feb. 18, 1455)

In the production department where I work, I've seen four artists fired in the past year. And, if that wasn't enough, each one desperately needed the money. There was a newborn child, car payments, or no savings.
One of the most skilled religious artists, without a doubt, was Blessed Fra Angelico. He was born Guido di Pietro in Rupecanina, Italy c. 1395.
Blessed Fra Angelico was a Dominican friar at a monastery in Fiesole. He reached his height of fame during the early Italian Renaissance. I've seen much of his work during my travels throughout Italy including "The Annunciation" (1450) at the monastery of San Marco and "The Descent from the Cross" (1443) at Museo di San Marco, both in Florence.
Blessed Fra Angelico died on Feb. 18, 1455 in Rome and is the patron of Roman Catholic artists. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 3, 1982.
My co-worker, Audrey, just returned from a solo week in Italy and she said she felt guilty in a way for being in a place so beautiful with no one to share it with.
I had the same thought the first time around. Now I realize, had I been with someone else, my experiences might not have had the same intensity.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

St. Zeno of Verona (c.300 to April 12, 371)

At the beach this afternoon, one of my friends said Linda Greenlaw mentioned in her new book that there were six patron saints of fishermen.
I'm no swordfish captain, but I know there are plenty more than a half dozen patron saints of fishermen. Still, I was too engrossed in deeper thoughts, having just read a pocket guide to animal totems.
We had gone on a three-hour sail this morning, so now I was relaxing on the slightly sandy, slighty rocky beach. Just as I was about to nod off, I noticed a handful of starfish in a cluster near the shoreline. I was eager to hike the cliffs back to the car to look up what it meant in my book, but my friends encouraged me to relax and enjoy the sound of the surf, which I did. And, which makes me wonder what it would be like to exist on an island, if only for a year.
Back at the car, I discovered that picking up a starfish is a sign to follow your own path, no matter how rigid, and you will be rewarded. I was ecstatic since I found seven.
So as not to be greedy, I took only three starfish, a spray of unique, dried seaweed, a smooth blue and white pottery piece, and a large periwinkle.
And, when I got home, I confirmed that there are numerous Roman Catholic patron saints of fishermen. St. Zeno of Verona was born in North Africa in c.300. A myth relates that he was abducted at birth and replaced with a demonic changeling.
He moved to Verona, Italy and served as bishop. St. Zeno of Verona died on April 12, 362. His feast day is April 12 and he is a patron saint of fishermen.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

St. Rose of Viterbo (1235 to March 6, 1252)

When I was 15-years-old, my mother took me aside and told me that her friend and co-worker, Virginia, said that I looked wild when I walked into a room. She made the observation when she saw me enter a funeral parlor for a family friend the night before.
"From now on, you're going to have to tie back your hair." my mother ordered.
It didn't matter to me what I looked like. I covered my body with sweaters in the summer and I didn't go to my high school prom. Although I had plenty of male friends, I went on my first date as an 18-year-old college student and ended up the marrying guy.
So, all these years later, as I was watching a Fourth of July parade and listening to older folks complain about the bikini-clad girls with their male suitors, drinking liquor at 8 a.m., I was reminded of what older people thought of me when I was that age.
How dare people have preconceived notions that these were slutty girls looking for a good time. They were, in fact, Boston College graduates (I overheard a conversation), enjoying themselves. Since I've already written about St. Maria Goretti, the patron saint of youth, the closest saint I could find was the vibrant Rose of Viterbo, who died at 17-years-old.
She was born in Viterbo, Italy in 1235. Her parents were poor and at a young age was taken ill and cured by the Blessed Virgin Mother, who then asked her to join the Third Order of the Franciscans.
St. Rose of Viterbo, a virgin, died on March 6, 1252. She was canonized in 1457 and her feast day is Sept. 4. Nearly 750 years after her death, it was announced on June 11, 2010 that she died from Cantrell's syndrome. She is the patron saint of people in exile and people rejected by religious orders.

Friday, July 2, 2010

St. Brice of Tours (c.370 to 444)

I made a promise to my mother on her deathbed that I would have regular colonoscopies for the rest of my life. She told me that her colorectal cancer could have been prevented if she hadn't waited five years (at the suggestion of her doctor) to have a colonoscopy and that if her death saved another person's life then it wasn't a waste.
"From when you were a little girl, you always had faith," she recalled. "Don't give it up because of what happened to me."
My mom died on a 90-degree August afternoon. I was sitting on her bed with my cousin, Dorothy, and her baby daughter, Maia. Dorothy told my mom in a gentle voice that it okay to leave us. So, she took her last three breaths and that was it.
There was no horrible death rattle that the hospice book had warned us about. It was not frightening.
It felt like her spirit rose up above as a calm, serene feeling enveloped us. I looked out the window at the apple tree that my mom so loved, one last time, and after Dorothy and I left the bedroom, we never mentioned what happened that day ever again.
(I just found a recent article about five common deathbed experiences. To read it click here.)
As my mom was taken from the house in a black body bag, I thought about what my friend, Carl, told me about death. He said that once we die our bodies are only a shell that we've discarded. That the spirit lives on.
So as I drank a 64-ounce mixture of Miralax with Crystal Light last night to cleanse my system for today's colonoscopy, I thought about how brave my mom was and because of her I have a chance for a longer life.
St. Brice of Tours is the patron saint against intestinal diseases. He was born c.370 and as a young orphan was rescued by St. Martin of Tours and raised in a monastery at Marmoutiers, France. St. Brice succeeded St. Martin as the fourth bishop of Tours.
Legend says that after a nun in his household gave birth to a child rumored to belong to him, St. Brice carried hot coals in his coat to the grave of St. Martin showing the unburned garmet as proof of his innocence. But, the people of Tours did not believe it, so St. Brice travelled to Vatican City to have his sins removed by the Pope.
He returned to Tours seven years later and died in 444. His feast day is Nov. 13.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Aug. 26, 1910 to Sept. 5, 1997)

"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta)

As I prepare for a colonoscopy tomorrow, I am ashamed to complain about the hunger I'll experience during the next day and a half.
Yet, there is something that comes to mind.
My dad never told me much about his childhood, however my mom made it a point to let me know he went to bed hungry at night. I'm not sure why she told me, but it made me feel afraid and sad.
My paternal grandparents were French Canadian immigrants. As I see it, being poor has nothing to do with how much faith a person has.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa of Calcutta) was born Agnese Gonxhe Bojaxhiu on Aug. 26, 1910 in the Republic of Macedonia. She was of Albanian heritage and founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, India in 1950. Today, there are 4,500 sisters in 133 countries.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta worked with the poor, sick, dying, and orphaned winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She retired as head of the Missionaries of Charity on March 13, 1997 and died six months later on Sept. 5.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was canonized on Oct. 19, 2003. Her feast day is Sept. 5 and her patronage is World Youth Day.