Saint Denis

Today is the Feast Day of St. Denis. He is the patron Saint of Paris and France and headache sufferers.

I’ve always been happy to have Denis as my saint’s name because he’s kind of a maverick and a tough guy. According to legend Denis was Bishop of Paris in the third century and was martyred by beheading. He is said to have picked up his own head and walked six miles, preaching a sermon the entire way. Also Denis is the patron saint of headache sufferers, frenzy and strife. This is not surprising considering that six mile trek while carrying his own severed head!

St. Denis - Outside the Madeline in Paris (depicted with head intact)

St. Denis – Outside the Madeleine in Paris  (depicted with head intact)

Of course I admire the “saintly” saints who prayed and fasted and gave up all worldly possessions to follow Jesus’ call. We all love the saints who lived simple lives and made tremendous sacrifices for their faith but there’s something about a guy that’s got Denis’ spunk. I mean even the biggies like Francis and Theresa and Patrick and Clare didn’t carry around their own heads post mortem. So in my book Denis is a saint to emulate. Not only was he tough but he was cool. Let’s call it grace under pressure – extreme pressure.

 

St. Denis

Our grandson as St. Denis last year during All Saints’ week at school

Last year our grandson Noah chose to be St. Denis for the All Saints’ celebration at school. This morning he’s doing one of the readings at mass. Holy Noah (AKA St. Denis).

My Aunt Gene used to send me a ‘Saints Day’ card on Denis’ feat day and I will miss that again this year. When Alzheimer’s took it’s grip she forgot about Saint Denis and was sometimes a little fuzzy about who I was, too. But she’s the one who first introduced me to the saint who shares my name. And I have always taken a certain amount of pride (is that a sin?) in the fact that my patron saint was a badass who defied his Roman persecutors!

I’d like to think that Aunt Gene and Denis are in heaven having a conversation about that fateful day in Paris so many centuries ago…

Peace,

Denis

Saints and saints

Today our Church celebrates All Saints Day. Yesterday was All Saints Eve or All Hallow’s Eve which in turn has become Halloween. Tradition tells us that many years ago folks dressed up to honor their patron saints. That may well indeed be the origin of Halloween costumes. Most European towns and many American cities have Patron Saints. Many towns and cities are even named after saints – Saint Louis, Saint Paul, San Francisco, to name a few. Even today most Catholics of a certain age bear a saint’s name. There are also patron saints of occupations, afflictions, animals, hobbies, students, mothers, fathers, soldiers, even pawnbrokers.

Why this obsession and fascination with saints? Maybe it’s just hero-worship but I suspect it’s something more. Saints give us an example to live by. Saints give us hope. Saints remind us that we can be “saintly” too. Some saints weren’t always so saintly – Paul for instance or Augustine. Some were poor and simple – San Juan Diego and some were rich and powerful – King Louis of France. But all saints followed the call of Christ. Each in their own way. We can too.

IMG_8629Of course the Church has officially recognized thousands of Saints but what of those who have passed before us that we know in our hearts to be saints? Many of us have beloved parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and cousins who have walked with Jesus and have been a shining example of His love. Catholic tradition tells us that we can (and should) ask the saints to pray for us; to intercede on our behalf. I find tremendous comfort in knowing that a loving aunt or grandparent might pray for me; might actually be in the presence of God and speak my name.

I honor the Saints today – my patron Denis and Joseph the patron of fathers but mostly I ask the saints with whom I’ve shared my life; those whom I’ve loved; to remember me on this day and every day.

This week our granddaughter’s first grade class held a special prayer service in honor of All Saints Day. Anna was Saint Anne, mother of Mary, grandmother of Jesus. Watching her process down the aisle with all the other “saints” in her class was nothing short of miraculous – a beautiful reminder of the bounty of love and faith in our midst. And once again I was blessed…

Peace,

Denis

Saints Be Praised! (well, Saint Denis anyway…)

Today is the Feast Day of St. Denis. He is the patron Saint of Paris and France and headache sufferers.

I’ve always been happy to have Denis as my saint’s name because he’s kind of a maverick and a tough guy. According to legend Denis was Bishop of Paris in the third century and was martyred by beheading. He is said to have picked up his own head and walked six miles, preaching a sermon the entire way. Also Denis is the patron saint of headache sufferers, frenzy and strife. This is not surprising considering that six mile trek while carrying his own severed head!

St. Denis - Outside the Madeline in Paris (depicted with head intact)

St. Denis – Outside the Madeleine in Paris  (depicted with head intact)

Of course I admire the “saintly” saints who prayed and fasted and gave up all worldly possessions to follow Jesus’ call. We all love the saints who lived simple lives and made tremendous sacrifices for their faith but there’s something about a guy that’s got Denis’s spunk. I mean even the biggies like Francis and Theresa and Patrick and Clare didn’t carry around their own heads post mortem. So in my book Denis is a saint to emulate. Not only was he tough but he was cool. Let’s call it grace under pressure – extreme pressure.

My Aunt Gene used to send me a ‘Saints Day’ card on Denis’s feat day and I will miss that again this year. When Alzheimer’s took it’s grip she forgot about Saint Denis and was sometimes a little fuzzy about who I was, too. But she’s the one who first introduced me to the saint who shares my name. And I have always taken a certain amount of pride (is that a sin?) in the fact that my patron saint was a badass who defied his Roman persecutors!

I’d like to think that Aunt Gene and Denis are in heaven having a conversation about that fateful day in Paris so many centuries ago…

Peace,

Denis

Saint Isidore and Other Miraculous Interventions

Saint Isidore is considered by many in the Catholic Church to be the Patron Saint of Technology and the Internet. Which is interesting since he died in 636? I guess he wrote a bunch of stuff and people read it, therefore he was an information provider; hence the connection to the World Wide Web of information. Whatever the rationale, I am grateful for the internet and not opposed to praying for his intervention.

Having grandkids in America whilst we’re here in England is at times heartbreaking and has evoked more than a few tears – I miss you Charlise, Anna and Noah! But we have been blessed to have ‘Skyped’ and ‘Facetimed’ and talked each week (sometimes multiple times in one week). And I think of the generations that have gone before me that left home and family to build a new life or fight in foreign wars with little more than the hope of a letter from home. A letter that could take months to reach a loved one and months more to receive a reply. How they must have cherished those missives.

Even though technology makes leaps and bounds every day, the human heart and soul remains unchanged. We need one another. We need to love and be loved. And we are connected spiritually even if we’re not always connected physically or electronically. Don’t get me wrong – I love the Internet, e-mail, Wi-Fi, and all the other stuff that I don’t really understand the workings of (and don’t want to) but that I use daily. After all, I’m even able to post my blog and reach my friends, family and followers almost magically.

But it’s not just technology that keeps us connected. It’s the bond that we create with the ones that we love that allows us to feel their joy and their pain even when we’re worlds apart. It’s the shared experiences and memories that keep them in our hearts always.

“It has a spot on it”

I have a silly game (sort of) that I play with my granddaughters. It goes like this: If they’re wearing polka-dots, I will say “I like your shirt (pants, dress, etc.) but it has a spot on it!” – this is particularly funny when you’re a little girl who likes to indulge her grandfather. I always say it; and they always feign annoyance (their giggles giving away their true delight in our little joke). It’s just our thing.

Recently my younger granddaughter, Anna, asked her Daddy to pretend to be Pawpaw and to tell her that she had a spot on her shirt. That moment to me was better than any Skype or Facetime or Internet connection. It was Anna connecting to me and my son-in-law being generous enough to be my proxy in ‘our game’. So I think I’ll thank St. Joseph (the patron saint of fathers) for that intervention, too. And send hugs and kisses to Anna and Daddy Travis…

Peace,

Denis