‘Tis Lent, so put that whoopie pie down and pay attention. It’s time to speak of things Lenten, especially the Catholic version. But first, a sidebar about patron saints.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that the current POTUS has a patron saint. Hard to imagine, I know, but it’s true.

No. 45, who occasionally sits in JFK’s old office, might be happy to know that his patron is Adrian of Nicomedia, the patron saint of arms dealers, guards and soldiers.

Adrian, by the way, died on this very day, March 4, in 306. Followers of 45 might want to send him a sympathy card.

Perhaps there is a general patron saint for “world leaders,” but this is a Catholic thing, and that would confuse Kim Jong-Un and Xi Jinping.

If you’re an Evangelical Christian, Muslim or Buddhist, you probably have enough on your plate these days without acquiring any additional celestial baggage, so you may go right to the sports page.

Having grown up in various and intense relationships with Catholics of all sorts, I’m most familiar with the Irish and Italian Catholics of my generation, who are the most complex, jittery and superstitious of all and consider patron saints to be essential.

Catholic boys and girls of my youth always observed Ash Wednesday and certainly St. Blaise Day, when we went to Mass for ashes and to have our throats blessed, respectively. Irish and Italians adore rituals.

FYI: According to the legend, before Blaise was executed by the Romans, he saved a boy who was choking on a fish bone. You may scoff at such stories, but be sure you make the sign of the cross when you do, and avoid catfish. Blaise’s feast day is on Feb. 3. You missed it? I’m not surprised.

My patron saint is Genesius, saint of actors, comedians and dancers. That covers my entire career. I just discovered that Francis de Sales is the patron of writers and journalists. I guess I have to get a new medal.

We might also, at this special time, address the issue of religious jewelry.

Every Catholic girl I dated in my youth, including Rosemary DeBranco, she of the one thousand and one pastel-colored Angora sweaters and simple strand of pearls, wore a diamond-encrusted cross discreetly hidden under those famous sweaters. Sigh.

Most of the others, but for Louise W., who didn’t wear one at all, wore simple gold ones.

My young Italian friends, Mateo and Rocco, wore big, masculine crucifixes around their necks, prominently exposed under open-necked, white-on-white shirts.

Which brings us to, as Mateo would say, “La differenza.” If Jesus is there, it’s a crucifix. If he’s not, it’s just a cross.

My favorite piece of religious finery when I was an altar boy was the mysterious scapular.

FYI: A scapular is comprised of two pieces of cloth featuring a picture of the Blessed Mother Mary. It’s a kind of necklace held together by string. One piece hangs in front; the other hangs in back. They were usually given to us by our nuns or the priest. Not everyone wore them. Paddy Carr, Justin DeNoyer and I did. Why?

As the little folder they came in explained, “According to Catholic tradition, Our Lady gave the scapular to St. Simon Stock, the Father General of the Carmelite order in the thirteenth century. Mary appeared to St. Simon in a vision, held out a scapular and said to him, ‘… He who dies in this will not suffer eternal fire.”

That’s all we needed to know.

Alas, after awhile, one would forget to put it on or simply lose it in the laundry.

In closing, Joya Feldman, my favorite Jewish ballerina, once gave me a set of Star of David cuff links and a mezuzah to put on my apartment door. Her successor from the corps de ballet, Jean Marie De Pass, made me take it down.

OK, you can take a bite of that whoopie pie now. But not until after communion.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.