Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Saint Patricia's Weekly Miracle

Nook of Naples:  This morning, I attended mass at the San Gregorio Armeno Church in the historic center of Naples.  I came for a very special reason -- Saint Patricia's blood is said to liquefy each Tuesday after the 9:30 am service.

Saint Patricia's remains as well as a tooth and a wax imitation of her body lie inside a coffin at a side altar:

In addition, her blood hangs on the left side of the front altar and is covered with a cloth.

Not much is known about Saint Patricia, her deeds transferred only orally throughout the centuries.  Purportedly, she was born rich and noble in Constantinople during the seventh century.   She was also a descendant of the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great.  Wanting to lead a life of celibacy, she fled to Rome to avoid an arranged marriage.  When her father died, Saint Patricia returned to Constantinople and gave all her inherited wealth to the poor.  Thereafter, she embarked on a ship back to Rome, but a furious storm drove the vessel to the Gulf of Naples, where she took shelter at the Castel dell'Ovo.  With her friends, she decided to establish a prayer community in Naples and spent her life helping the needy of the city until her death in 665.

Further legend has it that her body was venerated for several centuries until, between 1198 and 1214, a knight wanted a memento from Saint Patricia and plucked out her tooth.  An outpouring of blood came from the empty cavity, thereafter flowing at different periods of time.  Calling it a miracle, nuns preserved some of this blood in two bulbous vials that look like Byzantine perfume bottles.

At San Gregorio Armeno Church, the 'Sisters of Saint Patricia' help with the mass, take care of the cloister, and continue to venerate Saint Patricia's remains.  Many of them, interestingly, come from the Philippines.  

After this morning's Eucharist, the priest lifted Saint Patricia's blood from the hook, brought it to the middle of the altar, and worshippers stood in a line to kiss the receptacle.  Once the mass ended, I approached a nun tidying up the altar and asked if I could see the blood once more.  She didn't hesitate.  She immediately brought the silver receptacle over to me and I kissed the glass in the middle.  Inside it, one opaque vial had a discernible syrupy dark liquid.  The sister moved the receptacle, reciting a prayer, while I watched the liquid ooze back and forth inside the vial.  I felt a strong agape toward this kind Sister who was so willing to share this with me.

On a more tongue and cheek note, I've already written about the patron saint of Naples, San Gennaro, whose vial of blood is located at the National Cathedral (Il Duomo).  His blood liquifies every September 19th as well as the Saturday before the first Sunday in May.  The blood of Saint Patricia -- the patroness saint of Naples -- liquifies on her saint's day of August 25th and each Tuesday after the morning mass.  This means Saint Patricia performs her miracle 53 times a year.  All this definitively proves to me, once again, without a shadow of a doubt that women work harder than men.

Getting There:  San Gregorio Armeno Church is located on San Gregorio Armeno Street, also colloquially known as Christmas Alley.  The opulent Baroque Church is right in the middle of the precepe shops.  After a little shopping for Neapolitan originals like pulcinella, precepe pieces, and the napoletana macchinetta, don't forget to go around the corner to visit the spectacular cloister attached to the church.

Precepe Along Christmas Alley

Pulcinella Along Christmas Alley

1 comment:

Gil said...

What totally amazed me was looking at the artisans creating such beautiful and delicate precepe pieces with the crudest of equipment.