I am an avid reader. I love sharing books I’m reading and getting recommendations from others. In fact, I’m going to have a book section on this website. Hopefully it will be up next week so you can have some fresh ideas for your summer reading.
Right now, I’m in-between “serious” books. Historic fiction and mysteries are always my fall-back genres. Currently, I’m reading Linda Fairstein’s The Bone Vault. Linda Fairstein is a former New York County District Attorney prosecutor and leading expert on crimes of violence against women and children. Her Alex Cooper heroine shadows her experience as Chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit which she headed for 25 years.
All this to introduce two saints that are mentioned in the early pages of the book. The lead detective and medical examiner are discussing the incorrupt body of the young woman found in an Egyptian sarcophagus from the Metropolitan Museum. In other words, she is very well preserved for having been dead about a year, a lot like mummies (or saints) of old who were embalmed and in airtight coffins.
OK. Enough grossness. Let’s look at the saint of domestic servants, homemakers, lost keys, people ridiculed for their piety, rape victims, single laywomen, waiters, and waitresses. (How do they decide what groups get put under patronage?!?).
Zita lived in the 13th century in a village outside Tuscany. She became a servant in a wealthy household at the age of 12. As to be expected, she was over-worked, under-appreaciated, beaten, and all of the other run-of-the-mill experiences of a lowly servant. Her inner peace, humility, and self-restraint eventually lead her employers to a religious awakening. She died in 1272 and was exhumed in 1580. At that time her body was found to be incorrupt. She was canonized in 1696. Her body has been mummified and is currently available for public veneration in the Basilica di San Frediano in Lucca, Italy.
The other saint mentioned is Margaret of Cortona. She had quite the worldly 13th century life before joining the Third Order of St. Francis Assisi. To escape her wicked step-mother, Margaret ran away with her boyfriend when she was 17. They had a child together and he, of course, never followed through on his promise to marry her. When he didn’t return home one night, she found him murdered in the forest. Margaret was shocked into a life of prayer and penance (Who would have guessed someone could be shocked into a life of prayer!). She took on the life of poverty, with her son, ultimately established a link to nuns caring for the sick and poor. Her patronage is against temptations, falsely accused people, hobos, the homeless, insanity, loss of parents, mental illness, mentally ill people, midwives, penitent women, single mothers, people ridiculed for their piety, reformed prostitutes, sexual temptation, single laywomen, third children, and tramps. Just about everyone is covered under Margaret of Cortona!
What I want to know is how people remembered the details of miracles attributed to these individuals. The gritty details of someone’s life wasn’t preserved and passed on through the internet and Twitter! Plus, several centuries elapsed before each of these women were canonized. Goes to show that a good story will last through the centuries!
The picture is a medieval painting of Saint Zita.