Posts Tagged ‘Saints’

My Catholic school background leaves me baffled.

Memories come and go, but feelings remain and for me, boredom was predominant. Memorizing prayers and counting bricks in the building across the street filled my days, punctuated by feelings of humiliation. Nuns stood guard over desks with arms folded under their cassocks. They were prepared to smack a ruler behind a girl’s knee for chewing gum, or pull the small hairs at the back of a boy’s head for launching paper airplanes. Once I had to stand in a corner, with my back to the class, for speaking to a boy.

It’s no wonder when the time came to pick out my very own saint’s name for Confirmation, I chose Dolores – Our Lady of Sorrows, patron saint of the suffering.

But this isn’t a story about me… This week Bob, my newly-discovered-retired MD-social butterfly, attended a ceremony outside Germantown’s Catholic Church to dedicate its newly restored steeple. The Assumption Church, built in 1845, was severely damaged during the March 2020 tornado; it lost many stained glass windows and roofs and needed major structural repairs. Since then, every time I drive by the church and the rectory, I’m struck by another glittery new copper gutter or roofline.

Finally the repairs have been completed! Rising many stories above the red brick, Southern Victorian homes of our neighborhood, the steeple was replaced to the sound of cheers and bagpipes. Most surprising to Bob, everybody got down on their knees in the street to pray!

“The steeple exists to point to God to remind us, you know, God is in his heavens. And then really the purpose of a steeple is to support a cross. And the cross now is going back up over Germantown and so that for us is very important.”


“Do you know anything about relics?” Bob asked me when he returned.

I tried to look knowledgable. “Sure,” I said. “It’s like a toenail of a saint.” Of course it might be a piece of cloth the saint actually wore too. Then Bob was happy to report that there is a third level of reliquary – something the saint touched!

“Like the bed Washington may have slept in?” I chimed.

It turns out that the cross that was hoisted above the church’s new steeple holds a First Class relic from St Roch! It’s a piece of his bone! Now if that didn’t get my old Catholic juices churning. I’d never heard of this Roch, and so some digging googling was required. Born in Montpelier, France (1348 – 1379), St Roch is the patron Saint of many things, but first and foremost it’s PLAGUES!!!

The story goes that he was born into money, the son of a governor, but set out for Rome as a poor confessor during an epidemic of the Bubonic Plague. Supposedly, he would make the sign of the cross over people suffering and they would miraculously recover. He survived the “Black Death” himself and went into prisons and public hospitals to minister to the sick; Roch was known to casually lift his pants leg up to show his scarred “buboes.” Which is why some of his statues look vaguely naughty…

And even though Roch is also the patron of dogs and Single Men, I refuse to think the worst! Just as we are ready to bid adieu to Covid, Omicron sweeps in during this festive season. Just as our children and Grands are being vaccinated, we are warned of a January surge in cases and deaths. I don’t know about you, but if praying to a piece of bone in a cross up the street might help end this pandemic, I’m all in.

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Happy St David’s Day!

I know, I’d never heard of Saint David either, until this morning. It seems he is the Patron Saint of Wales and March 1st is his day to celebrate everything Welsh. Of course due to Covid restrictions, there will be no annual Dragon Parade, or religious services. And the Ras Dewi Sant marathon has been postponed as well. Darn. But you can still celebrate #GwylDewi remotely on Twitter http://@WalesDotCom or Facebook http://Facebook.com/WalesDotCom or even on Instagram: http://Instagram.com/WalesDotCom.

Why this sudden interest in Wales one might ask? It seems that my DNA Ancestry profile has changed; I’m no longer 99.8% Irish.

…a new twist to my ethnicity investigation popped up when Ancestry announced that it had developed new algorithms “to analyze longer segments of genetic information,” said an Ancestry spokesman, “and better distinguish between adjacent regions.” It also added 13,000 more reference samples.”


Break out the daffodils and leeks, I found out rather abruptly that my ethnicity is 18% Welsh! So maybe the family story I’d heard for years is actually true – my maternal grandfather was a Welshman. This explains so much about the Flapper, and also why I’ve always put leeks in stews. Wales, as soon as we can travel again, I’m heading your way.

Even as a child, I loved reading about saints, in particular women saints. Their stories rivaled any Stephen King novel; if they didn’t marry and give birth to a saint, they were pilloried or burned for not wanting to marry. These saintly women were large and in charge. So in honor of Women’s History Month, I thought we could go way back in time.

Did you know there was a Saint Melania, born in 383? Her life is a lesson in irony.

Born to a wealthy Roman senator, she was married off at the young age of 14. She lost her first two children soon after their births, and convinced her husband to lead a life of “…continency and religious dedication.” In other words, they stopped having sex and gave all of her money away to the Catholic Church. Now that’s a bit bossy, no? As a widow, St Melania settled in Jerusalem and started her own abbey. According to the Church, “...The life of St. Melania reminds us of the fleeting character of earthly wealth. We should strive to emulate her use of wealth as well as talents to further the cause of Christ.”

I wonder if Melania T knows the “fleeting” character of wealth?

Move over Melania, another woman born to nobility is St Patricia of Naples. She absolutely wanted to stay a virgin and become a nun, escaping an impending marriage and her home in Constantinople. She distributed all her wealth to the poor, and it’s said that her blood liquifies on her feast day in August…. and also on Tuesday mornings. Not quite sure how they preserved her blood, but it’s pretty sensational.

There’s a certain pattern here – devote your life to the church and give away all your money. If you happened to be a poor girl, your father might want to stretch you on a wheel, or try drowning you if you refused to marry. But aristocracy had its perks then, as it does now. Wealthy women didn’t get burned at the stake, yet they still managed to become saintly.

Fast forward to Victorian times, and misbehaving women could simply be committed to a Lunacy Asylum by any of their male relatives! Makes you miss the Joan of Arc days. I had never heard of the feminist Edith Lanchester, but her story is compelling. Her father was not happy when his upper-crust daughter informed him she wanted to live, without the benefit of marriage, with her lover a working class Irishman.

“In 1895, Edith’s father and three brothers, along with the services of Dr. George Fielding Blandford, entered Edith’s lodgings. The five men questioned Edith. Dr George Fielding Blandford diagnosed Edith as insane when she argued marriage was immoral, because she’d lose her independence if she married. Edith tried to fight off the men, but her father accosted her and handcuffed her. She was then tied up, hauled into a carriage, and taken to the Priory Hospital in Roehampton, England. Her certificate in the asylum stated her reason for insanity was “over-education.”


Here’s to all our “over-educated” girls. Here’s to “Saint Dolly” Parton, who figured out in the 1950s that the only way for her to claim her authority and independence in country music was to marry young, and then promptly hide her husband out of sight. We here in Nashville love Dolly for giving her money to Vanderbilt for Covid vaccine research and sending each new baby born in TN a book a month. I know she has her own theme park, but how about her statue replacing a Confederate one? I’d light a candle and put flowers at her little stone feet!

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