The prayer book that I take with me to Mass every Sunday has stories of saints throughout each volume. There is generally some sort of theme to the saints that are presented each month. For example, this month features saints that have some sort of connection to the medical field.
Each month I eagerly read the stories of the saints. You see, I am a saintophile. I must confess that I made up that word, but it seems important to illustrate just how much I love to read about saints. It seems that adding a –phile to the word accurately presents the necessary psycho edge to my predilection.
I, for example, own the entire 4-set Butler’s Lives of the Saints in hardback, featuring every saint that ever lived, at least up to the copyright of the books. Since I bought them at an auction when a Denver Catholic elementary school was closing, the copyright is likely something like 1950. Several new saints since then, no doubt.
I owe my love of saint stories to my third grade teacher, Sister Palladia. Sister Palladia was somewhere around 90 years old when she taught me, and I learned at one of my high school class reunions (1987?) that she was still living. Perhaps my perception of her age was somewhat skewed by my own youth. Or perhaps she actually lived to be 110.
I don’t recall whether or not Sister Palladia was a good teacher. I recall exactly three things about her: 1) she was about 4’5” tall, and round as a fire extinguisher; 2) she wasn’t mean like Sr. Callista who used to punish wrong-doers by using a hairbrush on their butts; and 3) she told amazing and often macabre stories to her 8-year-old students.
But for every story about a young girl who disobeyed her mother and stayed out past curfew and subsequently was hacked to pieces by a crazed miscreant, she had an equally fascinating and far less disturbing story about a saint.
St. Dominic Savio was perhaps my favorite. At age 5, Dominic would arise at the crack of dawn and walk to the church to serve at Mass. If the doors were not yet unlocked, he would kneel on the bare ground until the priest opened the doors. He was studying for the priesthood when, at age 14, he died of pleurisy. Probably from all of that kneeling outdoors in the cold, but hey, who am I to judge?
Then there was St. Maria Goretto, who at age 15 was stabbed 14 times after refusing to allow a man to have his way with her. It seems many of the best saints were Italian now that I think about it. A few good holy representatives from France too. Young St. Joan of Arc, and of course St. Therese of Lisieux, the little Rose.
I loved hearing about them all.
But the saint I read about yesterday before Mass started was St. Giuseppe Moscati, a relatively contemporary saint who died in 1927. Giuseppe earned his degree in Medicine from the University of Naples, and then was awarded a post at the Hospital of the Incurables.
Yes, you read that correctly. I said the Hospital of the Incurables.
Can you just imagine going to the doctor for a sore throat. The doctor — perhaps even Dr. Giuseppe Moscati — tells you to say ahhhh, looks at your tonsils, says “tsk, tsk, tsk,” and tells you he’s going to send you to the Hospital of the Incurables.
“Whaaaaaat? you say. “Please, can’t I just go to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Medical Center?”
I think the Hospital of the Incurables needed a different marketing director.
And just to clear up a common misunderstanding about Catholics, let me make it perfectly clear. We DO NOT WORSHIP SAINTS. We merely ask them to pray for us. Just like I ask my siblings and/or friends to pray for me or my family in times of need. I can’t tell you how often I ask my mother to pray for me, though last I heard, she wasn’t being considered for sainthood yet.
And just say no to a stint at the Hospital of the Incurables.