Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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

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

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

Monday, November 29, 2010

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

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

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Servant of God, Brother Juniper (? to 1258)

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

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

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

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

Friday, November 26, 2010

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

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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

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

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

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

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

St. Victor of Marseilles (? to c.290)

   Personally, I'm not fond of Facebook because many people use it to contact exes or to make themselves look intriguing when in actuality, it's not who they are. I've found the only positive thing about it is connecting with family or friends who I haven't seen in years.
   So, this summer when I was contacted by a high school classmate, "Karen," who married my cousin, "Jeff," I became "friends" with them right away. But, when I started looking at photos of Jeff, I noticed that he looked sick. Like perhaps he had been through treatment for cancer.
  This week, I found out that Jeff is terminally ill, although he's not the one who told me. When I got home, I had a Facebook message from him asking me what I'd been up to and to say "Happy Thanksgiving." I would love to see him and rather than think about how sad it would be for me, I should think about how Jeff feels.
We are in our forties, which is very young in today's world.
  I want to tell him that miracles do happen and that's what helps canonize saints. I will when I see him.
  The feast day of today's saint is July 21, Jeff's birthday. St. Victor of Marseilles was born in France in the third century. He was thought to be a Roman army officer. Because he was against idol worship, he was eventually brought before Emperor Maximian.
  St. Victor of Marseilles was beaten, dragged through the streets, and thrown in prison. He converted three prisoners to Christianity who later became saints. When St. Victor of Marseilles refused to offer incense to the Roman god, Jupiter, (Emperor Maximian is pictured doing so in the painting above) he was crushed in a millstone and beheaded. He died c.290. Today, on the site where he died in the south of  France, is the Abbey of St. Victor
  St. Victor of Marseilles is a patron saint of torture victims, sick children, and cabinetmakers.

 (This is an update. I found out on Nov. 26, that it's not Jeff who is terminal, but his brother Jim. It's still upsetting and I will leave this blog entry as is because it will document what it's like to hear that someone is dying and it ends up being someone else.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Martyrs of Paraguay (17th century)

  At the Native Arts Festival, at the Towers in Narragansett yesterday, I enjoyed a late afternoon lunch of blueberry jonnycakes and succotash at a communal table with several couples. Even though I was having a roast beef dinner two hours later with friends, I couldn't miss out on some good Narragansett Indian food.
  One of the woman sitting with me said she was Jewish and that someone told her Native Americans don't like Jewish people.
  "That's ridiculous," I said. "They are a peaceful people."
  The woman apparently had a problem. It was a beautiful event with interesting music, art, and quahog jewelry, and she had to bring up something negative that made no sense.
  She continued to say that there were a lot of similarities between Native Americans and Jewish people because they were both persecuted tribal people. I felt like telling her that the French and Acadians, the Armenians, and probably every group except for the English were all slaughtered at one time or another.
  In many American cities there are Holocaust monuments for people who died in Eastern Europe, but nowhere in this country are there equivalent monuments for Native American people.
  In the spirit of my blog, I thought about how there are several saints who were born Jewish (and of course later converted) and the Pope will not canonize Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks, who would be the first Native American saint.
  When the woman was leaving, she said she hoped that one day all religions and nationalities could live together in harmony. Finally, something I could agree with.
  Although there is no Native American saint, the Martyrs of Paraguay are the patron saints of native traditions.  St. Alonso Rodriguez, St. Juan de Castillo, and St. Roque Gonzalez (born in Paraguay in 1576) were Jesuit priests who helped establish about 40 settlements called reductions for Christian Indians. The missionaries were guardians/trustess of native people and their traditions.
  The trio converted numerous people to Christianity in Paraguay and Brazil. St. Alonso Rodriguez and St. Roque Gonzalez were murdered on Nov. 15, 1628 and St. Juan de Castillo was murdered two days later, all in Brazil. They were canonized in 1988 and their feast day is Nov. 17.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

               "All generations to come shall call me blessed." (Luke 1:48)

  As I organize boxes of Christmas decorations this weekend and pick through beach finds that I will make into ornaments, I'm excited about the coming holiday season. Little by little I'll ease into the merriment. I've been playing my Sheryl Crow "Home for Christmas" CD and pulling out festive winter clothing from last year that's been packed away. I also bought two dressy camisoles that will be perfect for upcoming parties.
  Today is the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, far more important than my preparing for the company masquerade party at the Biltmore Hotel or the annual wreath making morning with friends in Perryville.
  For a time, Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne could not conceive a child. Then, they received a heavenly message that they would indeed have a daughter. Tradition says that when the Blessed Virgin Mary was three-years-old, her parents took her to the Temple of Jerusalem to be consecrated to God. She was left there for some 10 years and then handed over to Joseph, her future husband, as her guardian.
  The Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a time to remember the importance of the holiness bestowed upon Mary from the time of her conception throughout her life and beyond.
  In the words of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, "Always stay close to this Heavenly Mother because she is the sea to be crossed to reach the shores of Eternal Splendour."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

St. Moses the Black (330 to 405)

   Each November, I check out a local Salvation Army store to find interesting things like old Christmas bulbs, holiday cards in different languages, and items that I remember seeing in stores when I was a child. And just recently when I was there, I was happy to see that many families are able to buy enough clothing to get their children through the winter. It most certainly is not a place to be shunned. There are lots of nice things to be found there.
  Furthermore, this weekend, I watched a documentary called "T-Shirt Travels" that showed how second-hand clothing in New Jersey finds its way to Zambia, Africa. Sometimes the Salvation Army doesn't even unpack it but sells it directly to companies.
  It was funny in that it showed the exportation of America culture. Children who have no idea who Kurt Cobain or ACDC or the Detroit Pistons are can be seen playing outdoors and wearing t-shirts with such images. To me, they didn't look any different than African American kids running around on basketball courts or in playgrounds in New York City.
  I think most people who donate items to the Salvation Army would be surprised to see where they might end up.
  St. Moses the Black, the patron saint of Africa, had just as interesting a story. He was born in Egypt in 330. He was a gang leader and a slave to a government official who dismissed him from theft and a possible murder.
  St. Moses the Black was described as being a tall, powerful man who terrorized people in the Nile Valley. One day, after committing a crime, he hid out with some monks. After being there for several days, he was so touched by their peaceful and calm ways that he converted to Christianity. Although at first St. Moses the Black found it hard to live a life of serenity, being a former wild man, he soon accepted it fully and became a priest.
  Whenever St. Moses the Black was about to be attacked by robbers, he'd bring them back to the monastery and convert them. However, it finally caught up with him when he placed so much trust in a group of bandits and they ended up martyring St. Moses the Black and several other monks in 405.
  His feast day is Aug. 28.

Friday, November 19, 2010

St. Margaret the Barefooted (1325 to 1395)

    When you're in a relationship with someone and they tell you it's not their job to pay attention to you, that can truly hurt. And, even worse, if they give you the silent treatment to teach you a lesson, that is abuse.
  But, St. Margaret the Barefooted encountered such behavior most of her married life. She was born in San Severino, Italy in 1325. At age 15 she got married. Her husband verbally abused her for many reasons including her love for the Roman Catholic Church and because she took care of the sick and poor.
  In order to better relate to the people she helped, St. Margaret the Barefooted dressed like a beggar and went shoeless. She died a widow in 1395. Her feast day is Aug. 27 and she is the patron saint of victims of abuse and difficult marriages.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

St. Bibiana (? to 361)

                    "To sleep, perchance to dream." (William Shakespeare)

   If you are reading this right now and feel depressed or suicidal, please get help. Talk to a friend, a family member, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). I write this today because many people who are seeking help online often find themselves reading my blog.
  They search for a saint that will keep them from jumping off a bridge or some such thing. Although I believe the saints will help, if a person is that far along, they need quick intervention. For the sake of happiness, please read my blog for fun, too.
  St. Bibiana is a patron saint against depression and mental illness. She was born in Rome, Italy in the 4th century. When St. Bibiana was a teenager, a local woman tried to force into prostitution. This went on for many months and the young girl continued to refuse, so she was locked away in a mental institution and beaten to death in 361. St. Bibiana's feast day is Dec. 2.
  It's not every day, you get the chance to travel to Rome. I'm fortunate to have made the trip three times. There's a small church there dedicated to St. Bibiana which includes her remains . It is located at 154 Via Giovanni Giolitti.  Although it was originally a 5th century structure, in the 17th century it was rebuilt and designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, when he was just 26 years old. He sculpted the beautiful statue of St. Bibiana pictured above.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

St. Giuseppe Moscati (July 25, 1880 to April 12, 1927)

   "Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."  (William James)

   My friend Melissa's husband went into the hospital Sunday with breathing problems from asthma. He's been hooked up to oxygen for several days. They are a young couple with an 18-month-old daughter. Melissa works long hours and with all that's going she still remains calm and positive.
  Unfortunately, sometimes we have to see another person's problems in order to put our own lives into perspective. Then, we can be thankful for what we have.  But, it shouldn't be that way.
  Melissa said she's confident that the doctors know what they're doing and that her husband is in good hands.  All she can do now is pray.
  For me, it brings to mind St. Giuseppe Moscati, a medical doctor who also performed miracles.He was the first modern day physician to be canonized a saint in 1987.
  St. Giuseppe Moscati was born in Benevento, Italy on July 25, 1880 to a wealthy family. He was one of the first doctors to experiment with the use of insulin for diabetics. He also was known for giving his money to the poor to help people that couldn't afford health care.
  St. Giuseppe Moscati's piety and love for humankind would seem unimaginable today. Hard economic times or not, doctors just don't do that today. Some won't even see you unless you have health insurance.
  St. Giuseppe Moscati was also a professor. He died on April 12, 1927 and is a patron saint of physicians. His feast day is Nov. 16.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

St. Lidwina of Schiedam (March 18, 1380 to April 14, 1433)

  The media has made such a big deal that a former speedskater, Kirstin Holum, who participated in the 1998 Winter Olympics, is now a Franciscan nun.  Could it be that nuns aren't exactly known for doing cool things?
  From what I've read over the years, numerous Roman Catholic clergy members have lived some pretty amazing lives and the saints, well that's a whole other story. Just read my blog starting with January 2010 and you'll find that it's hip to be saint. At least in my book it is.
  St. Lidwina of Schiedam is the patron saint of skaters. She was born on March 18, 1380 in the Netherlands.  And, unlike the fictitious Hans Brinker, she was a real person who lived long before he made it into print.
  St. Lidwina of Schiedam was injured in an ice skating accident at age 16 and remained paralyzed for the rest of her life. Her only intake was the Eucharist and she was prone to visions. Many miracles are said to have happened in her name.
 St. Lidwina of Schiedam died on April 14, 1433 and her feast day is April 14.

Monday, November 15, 2010

St. Alphonsa (Aug. 19, 1910 to July 28, 1946)

                      "Yoga is bodily gospel."  (Reaven Fields)
  The global company where I work offers one-hour yoga classes during lunch break. It's convenient because I no longer have time in the evening to go to the yoga studio in my town.  It's a fun way to relax in the middle of a busy day.  And with so many people stressed out these days, it's no wonder the teacher is in demand all week long and travels to businesses across the state.
  And although yoga has really taken off as the "in" thing to do (especially during the past decade), it's been around at least 5,000 years.
  Since there is no patron saint of yoga, I will acknowledge the first person canonized a Roman Catholic saint from the country of India, where the practice originated. St. Alphonsa (also known as St. Alphonsa Muttathupadathu) was born on Aug. 19, 1910 in Kudamaloor, Palai.
  Her mother died when she was young and she was raised by her aunt. St. Alphonsa was badly burned in an accident which left her disfigured.
  She was a member of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation and received her religious habit in 1930. St. Alphonsa was frequently ill throughout her life and it kept her from teaching. She died on July 28, 1946. She was canonized in 2008 and is invoked as the patron saint against illness. Her feast day is July 28.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

St. Peter the Exorcist (? to 304)

  There are only a handful of exorcists in the United States these days so the response to the growing demand prompted the Conference on the Liturgical and Pastoral Practice of Exorcism this weekend. It attracted 66 priests and more than 55 bishops.
  There is a canon law that states that priests can perform exorcisms with the permission of their bishop and with proper training. I'm concerned as to what's going on in this country. Why are more and more people possessed by demons?
  Some bishops are saying not to worry because even though there are more requests for exorcists many of the people in question do not need one. It is thought that the sacrament of penance can help more.
  Reports state that especially in Europe exorcisms are common. It's the influence of Hollywood movies in this country that scares the hell out of people.
  Holy water, a crucifix, and relics of saints are some of the items used in an exorcism and the person it is being performed on goes through a psychological exam. But, as in the movies, the victims speak in tongues, scratch and bite, and freak out around holy water.
  Still, exorcisms are nothing new. St. Peter the Exorcist, who was born in the third century, performed many of them. He lived in Rome, Italy and many of the people he converted to the Roman Catholic faith became saints.
  St. Peter the Exorcist died in 304 and his feast day is June 2.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

St. Clelia Barbieri (Feb. 13, 1847 to July 13, 1870)

    St. Clelia Barbieri was the youngest person to establish a Roman Catholic Order (May 1, 1868). It's called the Sisters Mimins of Our Lady of Sorrows (the Congregation of Suore Minime dell' Addolorata).
    She was born on Feb. 13 1847. Her parents were poor hemp farmers. In 1855, her father died and she helped her mother in the fields. She also became extremely religious and worked as a teacher when she was only 14-years-old.
  St. Clelia Barbieri was absolutely gorgeous and by age 17, had turned away many marriage offers. She just wanted to live a religious life without men or sex. (I love sex so much that you'd never believe at one point in my life, I considered moving to Italy to join the Poor Clares in Assisi).
  Through the Sisters Minims of Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Clelia Barbieri helped the sick, aged, hungry, and poor.
  She died on July 13, 1870 at age 23 from tuberculosis. To this day, a strange phenomenom occurs. St. Clelia Barbieri's voice is heard singing in a chorus in houses and churches where she visited when she was alive.
  She was canonized on April 9, 1989 and her feast day is July 13. St. Clelia Barbieri is the patron saint of people ridiculed for their piety.

Friday, November 12, 2010

St. Ralph Sherwin (Oct. 19, 1550 to Dec 1, 1581)

  Two days ago, a young woman was searching my blog because her ex-boyfriend became a priest and she wants to forget him. My response to her is to "count your blessings. It's not like he left you for another woman. He left because he had a calling from God. How cool is that?"
  Still, becoming a priest doesn't always have a happy ending. St. Ralph Sherwin was born on Oct. 19, 1550 in Derbyshire, England. He was a classical scholar who earned a master of arts degree from Exeter College in Oxford.
  St. Ralph Sherwin converted to Catholicism and was ordained a priest in France in 1577. He studied in Rome, Italy then went back to England to convert other people to Catholicism. In 1580, he was arrested for the crime of priesthood and taken to Marshalsea prison.
  St. Ralph Sherwin continued to try and convert people while there and a month later was imprisoned in the Tower of London, tortured on the rack, and thrown in the snow. Queen Elizabeth told him she'd make him a bishop if he left the Roman Catholic Church. He wouldn't and remained in prison one more year then was hanged, drawn, and quartered on Dec. 1, 1581.
  St. Ralph Sherwin is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales who was canonized in 1970 along with St. Anne Line and his feast day is Dec. 1.
  (The image above is from englishcollegerome.org)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

St. Maria Bertilla Boscardin (Oct. 6, 1888 to Oct. 20, 1922)

   If you think positive thoughts and follow your intuition. beautiful things will happen. So, if someone tells you that you're crazy if you feel certain something is true, trust yourself. I find the answers to questions just by putting them out into the universe.
  There are cases where a premonition will be bad. When I was a teenager, I had a dream that my Uncle Vinnie, who was just 44 and in good health, was going to die. It was more of a nightmare. When I awoke, I told my mother. She said that maybe I had a cold and to go back to bed.
  Then, three nights later, he died unexpectedly. From that moment, I learned to trust my instincts. When I'd have a feeling about something, it would happen and this pattern has continued for nearly 30 years. It has nothing to do with being born on the day of fateful predictions (March 13). It has to do with intuition. We all have it. We all can learn from it.
  This afternoon, a question was on my mind about someone I had run into by chance in town. Then, a few hours later, when I was outside hanging clothes by moonlight, the answer came to me. It was more like a flash. I saw that person today because for two years, I wondered what their connection was to someone I know although, personally, I never thought there as anything notable or even attractive about them.
  As this blog comes to a close in December, so too will things that have been on my mind.  I will find the answers I've been looking for.
  I was told by someone that I ask too many questions. I took it as an insult mainly because I'm a very quiet person. Most people ask questions. How else would you hold a conversion? It could be that the person has something against me and, therefore, although I ask just as many questions as the next person, they only see that as an annoyance from me. Perhaps it could be my years of  being a journalist.
  But, back to the topic of intuition and drawing things to yourself. I wanted to write about a saint that has a connection to World War I and on my first attempt I found one.
  St. Maria Bertilla Boscardin was born Anna Francesca Boscardin on Oct. 6, 1888 in Veneto, Italy. Her father was an insulting drunk and she was only allowed to attend school sporadically. St. Maria Bertilla Boscardin was a peasant girl who worked in the fields.
  She joined the order of the Teachers of St. Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Heart in Vicenza in 1904. St. Maria Bertilla Boscardin trained as a nurse and cared for children with diphtheria in a hospital ward.
  Then, during the Battle of Caporetto, the military took over the hospital, and she took care of the wounded during the air raids and bombings.
  St. Maria Bertilla Boscardin died from a tumor Oct. 20, 1922. She was canonized on May 11, 1961 and her feast day is Oct. 20.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

St. Ada (7th century)

    "Come, pensive nun, devout and pure, sober steadfast, and demure, all in a robe of darkest grain, flowing with majestic train."                      (John Milton)

   When people make of fun Roman Catholics, nuns are always a favorite subject. Even last night, when I went to see "The Town," starring Ben Affleck, in one of the biggest car chase scenes, the robbers were dressed like nuns. The masks were scary and the guys wore the traditional habits and robes.
  If the actors dressed up like Hitler, it certainly wouldn't be okay and the movie would probably be banned from theaters.  But, I like that many nuns have a sense of humor and the ones who did see "The Town" probably got a kick out of the costumes.
  One of the world's most beautiful nuns is one of my favorite saints, St. Clare of Assisi. It's more than the fact that I visited her basilica in Italy. I love her teachings. However, this entry is about St. Ada, the patron saint of nuns.
  She was born in 7th century France, working first as a nun at Soissons and later becoming the abbess of  St. Julien de Pres Abbey in Le Mans. St. Ada remained a virgin devouted to her faith. She is also the patron saint of all religious woman. Her feast day is Dec. 4.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blessed Ambrose Sansedoni of Siena (April 16, 1220 to March 20, 1287)

   "Why one man rather than another? It was odd. You find yourself involved with one fellow for life just because he was the one that you met when you were nineteen."   (Simeone de Beauvoir)

  Is it possible that your high school sweetheart is your one true love? The man or woman you were destined to be with? Although in several cases such marriages or relationships have lastest past the golden anniversary, the answer is probably not. There are how many people on this planet, so what's the chance that you'd find your one and only on the first or second shot?
  However, I believe in predestination, so even if a person is in a relationship with someone or marries and gets divorced, it was all mapped out prior to meeting them. There is a reason for everything.
  So, logically speaking, it's unlikely that you'd meet the right mate in your teens, but intuitively I believe you can. Why do such things happen? I call them premonitions.
  Today's blog entry is about a mystic who is a patron of betrothed and engaged couples. Blessed Ambrose Sansedoni of Siena was born on April 16, 1220 to a noble family. He was so horribly deformed that his mother didn't keep him around and handed him over to a nurse.
  Blessed Ambrose Sansedoni of Siena was only a baby, but whenever he was a the local Dominican church with the nurse he perked up and was happy. One day, as she was about to cover his face, a parishioner told her not to. That the baby would be the glory of Siena. Within days, Blessed Ambrose of Sansedoni was no longer deformed.
  He joined the Dominicans at age 17 and studied in France and Germany with several saints including St. Thomas Aquinas. And although Blessed Ambrose Sansedoni of Siena wanted to be a writer, he felt he could not match the work of St. Thomas Aquinas so took to preaching.
  Blessed Ambrose Sansedoni of Siena died on March 20, 1287. He was beatified on Oct. 8, 1622 and his feast day is Oct. 8.

Monday, November 8, 2010

St. Eulogius of Cordoba (? to March 11, 859)

   At a consignment shop this week, I was immediately drawn to a pendant like the one pictured above (from crosscrucifix.com). It was pinned to a mannequin and hanging from an old chain.
  When I got home, I examined it closer and found that it was a dogwood flower made from copper. I put it on a leather cord and haven't taken it off since. The beauty of it is not only visual, but in the legend of the dogwood tree.
  It was thought that the Cross that Jesus died on was made from its wood. At the time, the dogwood tree grew tall and wide. To paraphrase the story, the tree was sad, so Jesus made sure its blossoms were a reminder of the Crucifixion. They have two long and two short petals and what looks like nail holes. Also, bits of red color representing the blood can be found on them. Yet, they are also a beautiful color. And so that the tree would never be used as a crucifix again, the branches became thin and delicate.
  St. Eulogius of Cordoba is the patron saint of coppersmiths. He was born in Cordoba, Spain to wealthy parents. He worked as a priest and helped survivors during Islamic persecutions. Several times St. Eulogius of Cordoba was jailed for his religious beliefs, but he used his time wisely and wrote a book called "Exhortation to Martyrdom."
  He was beheaded on March 11, 859 and is recognized as one of the martyrs of Cordoba. His feast day is March 11.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

St. Gebetrude (? to 675)

  "Maybe I just want to fly, I want to live, I don't want to die. Maybe I just want to breathe, maybe I just don't believe, maybe you're the same as me, we see things they'll never see, You and I are gonna live forever."              (from Live Forever by Noel Thomas Gallagher)

  Most people at one time or another think about what dying will be like. Will they be in pain? Will they know? And I've heard many a conversation where someone says they want to live forever. But, seriously, if you really could, would you want to? All your family and friends would be gone, you probably couldn't get around easily, and who knows what you'd look like.
  This week, the oldest person in the world died at age 114.  Eugenie Blanchard was a French nun who was born on the Caribbean island of St. Barthelemy (St. Barts) in February 1896.  For most of her life, Eugenie's home was in a convent in Curacao. Then, for the past 30 years, she lived in a hospital in St. Barts.
  I don't think I'd want to live in a hospital for three decades just to be alive. Reports say that she appeared in good health yet could not speak. I would be afraid to hear people's voices and not be able to respond.
  I dedicate today's post to the memory of Eugenie since Nov. 7 is the feast day of another French nun. St. Gebetrude was born in the late 6th/early 7th century in France. Little is known about her. St. Gebetrude lived in the Benedictine Abbey of Remiremont. She died in 675.  
  The painting above is called "A Nun," by Boris Kustodiev, 1901.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

St. Kiara (? to c.680)

   Trinity College in Dublin recently announced the results of a study of more than 500 women in 12 counties in the Irish Republic which revealed that Irish Catholic women feel a lack of respect from the church. That was 74 percent of participants did not feel appreciated.
   Big deal, one might say. However, when compared to the 6.3 of Protestant women who feel a similar way, what is this saying about the Roman Catholic Church?
  A priest at an Irish parish in Dublin said he would ban the newspaper, "The Irish Catholic," that released the originial article from his church because it upset parishioners.
  The survey has caused many people to speak up including one man who said if you go to church to feel appreciated, you'd better rethink the basics of Catholicism.  But, the priest insists that the survey represented just a handful of people, not all Irish Catholic women in his country.
  It seems like boisterous priests are everywhere this week. Yesterday, when I was at the local religious store dropping off some instrumental Christmas CDs, a priest from the church down the street stopped in to see if the books he ordered were ready. The proprietor told him they weren't and that he didn't realize they were a "rush" order.
  The priest, speaking in a loud voice so everyone could hear, said that he could have bought them on Amazon and was trying to give the store business. He left in a huff.
  The proprietor seemed a bit shaken that a priest had spoken to him that way. He said he planned to order the books with his weekly shipment.
  "Don't let it ruin your day," I said. "His behavior was an example of why so many people are turned off by the church."
  Yes. Apparently something needs to be done, if people don't feel comfortable at Mass. Yet, aren't we supposed to make our own happiness? There are things that should be overlooked. I'd say that the actions of one or two or even three clergy people shouldn't rule how we feel about church.
  If you don't like the particular teachings of one priest, go to Mass when another priest is there or maybe to a neighboring parish.
  And if the Irish Catholic survey made women feel left out by the church, imagine how it was in the days of St. Kiara (also known as St. Kiara of Kilkeary)?
  She was born near Nenagh, County Tipperary, Ireland in the 7th century. The little that is known about her states that she could be a combination of many women. What is known is that St. Kiara was a virgin maiden who studied religion with St. Finian.  She died c.680 and the Benedictine monks named the town Kilkeary for her.
  St. Kiara's feast day is Oct. 13. The painting of her above is by Yoshihiko Wada.

Friday, November 5, 2010

St. Genevieve (422 to 512)

   How can people have so much admiration for Mark Twain when he said so many horrible things about the French? It's disgusting that he'll always be remembered as one of the greatest American writers when he could speak that way about a country and its people.
  It could be that I'm half French and I don't want to hear negative things about my heritage. I also work for a French company. So, I've been thinking about France quite a bit lately and would love to return there for a visit.
  Since this blog will come to an end on December 31, it wouldn't be complete without mention of St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris.
  She was born a poor peasant girl in Nanterre, France in 422. When St. Genevieve was a young child, St. Germaine of Auxerre visited her neighborhood. She told him she wished to live a spiritual life devoted to God and he encouraged her to become a nun. At age 15, St. Genevieve took her vows.
  She helped the poor through charitable acts. St. Genevieve was a vegetarian and ate just two meals a week. Her days included communicating with people in the afterlife and also experiencing visions and prophecies.
  Many people made fun of her for this behavior. However, that stopped when Attila the Hun was about to invade Paris and St. Genevieve told them to fast and pray. Through divine intervention, he changed his course.
  St. Genevieve died in 512 and her feast day is Jan. 3.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Blessed Anna Maria Taigi (May 29, 1769 to June 9, 1837)

  When I arrived in Siena, Italy, it was late at night and all the hotels were booked in the walled city. And since I had taken a bus there, it's not like I could easily move on to the next city or town. So, the later it became, panic set in. And then, just around midnight, a kind concierge found me a room. It was sparse, but it was better than sleeping outdoors.
  The following night, I had a choice of hotels and a chance to explore the city's beauty and learn more about its patron, St. Catherine.
  Since Siena is a place frozen in medieval times, I was surprised to find that lesser known Blessed Anna Maria (Giannetti) Taigi, who was born there on May 29, 1769, lived much like the women of today.
  She was absolutely beautiful. Yet, she was always concerned about her appearance and clothing. Perhaps it was because her husband, Dominico Taigi, was verbally abusive. Since she was so appealing, he may have figured he'd better put her down and make her feel insecure. That way, she'd stay with him. And she did. They were married for 48 years and had seven children.
  But, that didn't stop Blessed Anna Maria Taigi from having an extramarital affair. From my point of view, I can feel her pain. Maybe her husband paid no attention to her, so she figured he wouldn't care if she cheated on him. But, he continued to verbally abuse her for what happened, rather than think about how she only wanted to feel loved. He's the one who drove her away.
  Then one day, while Blessed Anna Maria Taigi was at St. Peter's at the Vatican, a feeling came over her like the Holy Ghost was present. At that moment, she decided that worldly matters were no longer important. This woman who had cheated on her husband was now closer to God. Like many modern men, Dominic Taigi probably continued to taunt her.
  The more spiritually she lived, the more intuitive she became. Blessed Anna Maria Taigi was a mystic. Her clairvoyance was spectacular. So, even though she helped the sick and poor, her neighbors would gossip about her. Who was this woman who could predict the future? Why did she walk amongst them?
  At age five, Blessed Anna Maria Taigi moved to Rome with her parents who had lost their apothecary business. She was just 20-years-old when she married Dominico Taigi.
  Blessed Anna Maria Taigi died on June 9, 1837. Her body is incorrupt. She was beatified on May 30, 1920. She is a patron of mothers, housewives, and victims of verbal and spousal abuse.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

St. Bridget of Sweden (1303 to July 23, 1373)

   There's a chance that I am the only person in the world with an unused ticket for an audience with the Pope. Back when I was in my twenties, I had to obtain permission letters from priests, the bishop, and the head of my diocese and I still could have been rejected. But, I did receive a coveted ticket for a Wednesday morning audience with Pope John Paul II which was scheduled during my second trip to Europe.
  As I mentioned in my blog in April, the night before the event, I was whisked away to Frascati, Italy by a man I had met that evening as I walked down the Via Condotti in Rome (read about it here). I stayed out all night and overslept.
  At the time, I could care less that I missed a Papal blessing. I remember my mother's disappointment when she found out. Now, I often wonder what the experience would have offered.
  Last week, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his audience to St. Bridget of Sweden, in part, for being a pious wife and mother.  She was a mystic born in Sweden in 1303.
  St. Bridget of Sweden married a man named Ulf at age 13 and had eight children including St. Catherine of Sweden.  After her husband's death in 1344, St. Bridget of Sweden devoted the remainder of her life to religion. She founded the Bridgettine Order c.1350 which was open to men and women.
  St. Bridget of Sweden died on July 23, 1373. She is a patron saint of Sweden, Europe, and widows. Her feast day is July 23.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Souls Day

   When I was at gallery night in Providence a couple of weeks ago, my favorite part of the evening was spent at Peaceable Kingdom looking at all the neat folk art items pertaining to the Day of the Dead (Nov. 2 ). What I like about the store is that the owners often go to the countries and purchase the wares directly from the artists.
   I was surprised to find one of the most beautiful pieces of clothing I've ever seen and which I now own: a jacket with the image of Our Lady Guadalupe on the back with milagros (small religious charms found in Latin America) pinned to the front. It's cut like a traditional denim jacket and is made with beautiful dark blue cloth.
  Today is All Souls Day. Although I think of my deceased relatives each and every day (it's hard not to remember the departed who played an important role in my life), Roman Catholics pay respect to the dead on Nov. 2:  those who are in Heaven and the souls of the faithful in Purgatory.
  Seventh century monks are credited with celebrating the first All Souls Day with a Mass on the day after Pentecost for deceased family, friends, and members of the community.
  In the late tenth century, Benedictine monks at the monastery in Cluny, France moved the Mass to Nov. 2, so it would be the day after All Saints Day.
  It may seem morbid to some, but recognizing the deceased is totally acceptable on Memorial Day, so All Souls Day shouldn't be any different.
  Last week, I found a book on the history of the Day of the Dead in Mexico and other countries at a library book sale and now I consider myself more educated on the subject (especially the sugar candy skulls that are used as food offerings to the dead). And I got my five-year-old nephew Eric, whose birthday is Nov. 2, a special Day of the Dead puzzle as a Halloween gift with candy.
  "The day which we fear as our last is the but the birthday of eternity." (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints Day

"I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints..." 
(The Apostles' Creed)
   As a 27-year-old, on my first trip to Europe, I wandered into the Pantheon in Rome, Italy not knowing its significance to All Saints Day.  It was there on May 13, c.609/610 that Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs making it the first Solemnity of All Saints.
  Although I neglected to attend Mass today, as it is a Holy Day of Obligation (and a national holiday in many Roman Catholic countries), I take comfort in knowing that I was at the place of the feast's origins and thus hope that counts for something.
  All Saints Day as we know it celebrated on Nov. 1 is credited to Pope Gregory III (731-741) for the foundation of an oratory in St. Peter's at the Vatican for the relics of the Holy Apostles and all saints, martyrs, and confessors.
  I began writing this blog in January 2010 as a way of offering recognition to Roman Catholic saints (it now includes blesseds and venerables) along with personal anecdotes. So it is my hope that whoever is reading this entry will say one big prayer for all the saints as well their favorites.
  And to those of us who been far from saintly, remember the words of St. Francis of Assisi who said, "I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, he can work through anyone."