Friday, October 06, 2006

Paging Pardulphus

Well, I got to thinking -- if October 4th was the feast day of Saint Francis, whose day was October 6th? Plenty of saints for today, according to Roman Catholic sources -
St. Faith
St. Bruno
St. Aurea
St. Sagar
St. Ceollach
St. Epiphania
St. Francis Trung
St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds of Christ
St. Magnus
St. Mummolinus
St. Maria Francesca Gallo
St. Nicetas
Marytrs of Trier
St. Pardulphus

The information about some of the above is sketchy, some even the sources say have 'unreliable' stories. Some are cited just as having been bishops or abbesses with no special story attached to their lives to indicate what had made them saints.

When I was a child in the Roman Catholic Church, we all had our own Daily Missals. Mine was called The St Joseph Daily Missal and was a small black book that had everything in it that one would need to function as a good Catholic. All the prayers, the liturgy in Latin and English, the rules (known then as "the church commandments", and on and on). But in the back was my favorite section -- it was a day by day commentary on the Lives of the Saints. If memory serves, one or two saints a day were pulled out of the many, and some discussion was made of their life and sacrifice. The Latin mass would drone on and I would sit quietly reading the lives of the saints -- how St Barbara had her breasts cut off rather than renounce her faith, or Saint Polycarp who was burned alive for his faith -- other saints who were torn apart by dogs or lions or burned on braziers, starved, dismembered, ridiculed, made to suffer unimaginable horror for their faith.

On the one hand, for a little girl at the age of 10 or 12, this was like an adventure comic book brimming with the vivid drama of superheros. On the other hand it played into typically RCC romantic fantasies about enduring anything for the sake of our great love of God. But it wasn't one thing -- to a little girl sitting in a pew in western Massachusetts wearing her pretty blue dress, white socks with black patent leather shoes, a pretty flowered hat and immaculate white gloves -- it wasn't real.

And now, centuries later, the names of those who have given all for their faith have largely collapsed into obscurity. I don't know who the saints are on today's list.

So I picked one out at random, Saint Pardulphus. How long has it been since anyone asked him for help? I learned a bit about him. He died in 728. Originally from Limoges, France, he became a Benedictine monk, and then abbot in Gueret, France. Pardulphus remained behind and alone in the monastery during an onslaught of Arabs across southern France, winning the safety of the monastery through his assiduous prayer.

I imagined him in heaven, busy with his heavenly life -- maybe gardening or inscribing beautiful illuminated manuscripts -- or hanging out with the choirs. He is a saint, but except for All Saint's Day, he is not in demand the way St. Anthony or St. Jude are. They are the saintly rock stars, the magicians of the cosmic realms.

Then today, about 2pm a bell starts ringing somewhere near his celestial abode. It is my prayer greeting him, asking for intercession (privately between the good saint and me). I suspect he was surprised to hear from me. But I did remember to wish him a happy name day. It may have been a while since anyone not in the formal ranks of the Catholic clergy did.

Should you have a moment free to thank a saint, I'm sure the good and loyal abbot Saint Pardulphus would be delighted to hear from you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another terrific post! This one prompted me to take out Butler's "Lives of the Saints". There is so much to be learned from the Saints.

9:53 AM  

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