by Father Mark Goldasich
OK, warm up those singing voices. Ready? Please join me on Oct. 13 in a rousing “Happy Birthday.” Our honoree is Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, who is celebrating her 258th birthday.
Don’t know Mary? Really? Born in Trenton, N.J., she accompanied her husband to the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. Mary brought drinking water to the artillerymen there. Remember her now? Oh, you probably know her better under the nickname she got that day: Molly Pitcher. Surely you haven’t forgotten her heroics during that battle. When her husband collapsed because of the heat, she took over his gun and became a fighting heroine of the American Revolution. (Found in “Complete Speaker’s Almanac” by Leonard and Thelma Spinrad.)
Good ol’ Molly Pitcher.
Let’s be honest: You, like me, probably never heard of her before today . . . and you don’t think you were missing anything all that important.
I feel the same way each week when I proofread the listing of daily Mass readings and feast days on the left side of this page. You might not notice the subtle difference in the typefaces, but it’s important. The names of major saints, like Luke on Oct. 18, are in all capital letters; other famous or important saints, like Ignatius of Antioch (Oct. 17) are in regular type. And then there are the “lowlier” saints, like Hedwig (Oct. 16) or Paul of the Cross (Oct. 20), shown in italics.
The italics means that the feast days of these saints are optional memorials, meaning the celebrant of the Mass can celebrate them . . . or not. So far in the month of October, we’ve had optional memorials for St. Bruno, Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher, St. Denis and companions, and St. John Leonardi. I usually opt out of celebrating these memorials since these are not household names for most of us. Because I do feel a pang of guilt, however, in not caring more about the optional memorials, I’m committed to learning a little more about these “lesser known” holy women and men as part of my archdiocesan Faith Initiative.
For example, Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher, celebrated on Oct. 6, was born as Eulalie in 1811. She did not play a mean shortstop for the Chicago Cubs as I believed, but was a dedicated teacher of religious education to the many Catholics — especially children — spread throughout the vast rural areas of Canada in the 1840s. She founded the religious congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary who now serve in the United States, South America, Africa and Japan. Who knew?
When in Paris many years ago, I visited Montmartre (the “Hill of Martyrs”), but had no idea that someone named St. Denis was killed there around the year 258. Denis was probably an Italian who was sent to Gaul (an old name for France) after many Christians were killed there in persecutions. He went to encourage those who had survived and to spread the Gospel. Eventually, he was beheaded, along with a priest and a deacon who ministered with him. A few centuries later, a great church named after Denis was built over the site of his tomb. This became the burial place of the kings of France, who wanted to be buried close to their country’s patron and hero.
Wow! I discovered I was missing out on a lot by “opting out” of knowing these “lesser” saints. If you’d like to make some new saintly friends, head to the website at: www.americancatholic. org and click on the “Saint of the Day” button. You can even sign up to receive it in your daily email.
I’m especially looking forward to learning about St. Hedwig on Oct. 16. Want to bet she won’t have anything at all to do with artificial hairpieces?