Some More Saints

I was interested to discover a new saint in San Antonio – the namesake of the San Juan Capistrano Mission:


Note the “Oriental” head underfoot.

From a plaque nearby (given by the San Antonio Hungarian Association):

Giovanni di Capistrano [Italy] (1386-1456), lawyer, public official, Franciscan priest, teacher, and missionary, participated in the Battle of Nandorfehervar (now Belgrade), Hungary. Sent by the Vatican as spiritual advisor to the defense forces led by General Janos Hunyady, the fearless friar, confronted by a serious emergency, accepted command of a large contingent of the Christian army. Before the battle actually began, Pope Calixtus III, on June 29, 1456, ordered church bells rung at noon throughout Christendom to encourage the defenders of Nandorfehervar to persevere.

A few months later, to the great relief of Europe, in halting the Turkish invaders at the southern frontier of Hungary, the Christian warriors safeguarded the rest of the continent from further assault. To the Hungarians, the daily ringing of church bells represented the victory at Nandorfehervar, a commemoration later taught to all school children.

Shortly after the battle, General Hunyady and Fray Capistrano died, victims of a scourging plague. A grateful nation promptly acknowledged Janos Hunyady as a Hungarian hero. Two centuries later, in 1690, the Vatican canonized Juan De Capistrano. At Mission San Juan Capistrano, loose strands of cultural history have intertwined in thoughtful reflection.

There is no indication why the Franciscans named it after St. John Capistrano in the first place. The mission was originally named San José de los Nazonis when it was established elsewhere in 1716, but when it moved to San Antonio in 1731 they renamed it after St. John Capistrano, since there was already a mission in San Antonio named after San José. Obviously the fact that St. John was a Franciscan mattered to them, but why they picked such a crusading saint (as opposed to a preaching one, for a mission) I do not know.

In the gift shop, I acquired some prayer cards for my collection:


The back of this card features a “Prayer for a Safe Delivery” and is addressed to St. Gerard, whom I reckon is Gerard Majella (1726-1755), an Italian Redemptorist canonized in 1904. According to Wikipedia, his intercession is sought, among other things, “for children, unborn children, women in childbirth, mothers, expectant mothers, [and] motherhood.” Nothing in his biography suggests a specific connection to these things, however, and it’s surprising how an eighteenth-century saint (and a male one!) could come to exercise such competence, as those concerns have always been with us. Were the older saints no longer doing their jobs? His miracles, while alive, include reviving a boy who had fallen from a cliff, multiplying a poor family’s store of wheat so that it lasted until the next harvest, and walking on water to lead a boatload of fishermen through a storm to the safety – indicating that Enlightenment values were not universal in the eighteenth century. 


This is St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus – or in this case, St. Joseph the Worker, “model of all those who are devoted to labor.” A good and necessary patron!


This is St. Padre Pio (1887-1968), Italian Capuchin Friar, who was canonized 2002. Padre Pio famously received the stigmata – here covered by fingerless gloves.


St. Peregrine Laziosi (c. 1260-1345), Italian Servite friar, canonized 1726. Like St. Roch, he is depicted with a sore on his leg. St. Peregrine’s sore developed because he always stood when he could sit. On the night before his leg was to be amputated, Jesus came down and healed it. St. Peregrine is therefore invoked against cancer, AIDS, and other maladies.


St. Rita of Cascia (1371-1447), Italian widow and Augustinian nun, canonized 1900. Note the wound on her forehead, and the crown of thorns:

When St. Rita was approximately sixty years of age, she was meditating before an image of Christ crucified. Suddenly, a small wound appeared on her forehead, as though a thorn from the crown that encircled Christ’s head had loosened itself and penetrated her own flesh. For the next fifteen years she bore this external sign of stigmatization and union with Christ.

Note also the rose:

It is said that near the end of her life Rita was bedridden at the convent. While visiting her, a cousin asked if she desired anything from her old home. Rita responded by asking for a rose from the garden. It was January, and her cousin did not expect to find one due to the season. However, when her relative went to the house, a single blooming rose was found in the garden, and her cousin brought it back to Rita at the convent.

(Both quotations from Wikipedia).