Brian O’Neel on the Saints of February
Date: February 8th, 2015

With February 14 just around the corner, our attention turns to St. Valentine and the other saints of this month with one of our favorite Catholic writers and journalists, Brian O’Neel, now the director of communications at the Diocese of Santa Rosa.  We start with a little commiserating with respect to our favorite football teams and Tony wonders whether there is a patron saint for poor play calling.  We also discuss what Brian’s new job entails at the diocese and how he ended up there.  Brian also gives us a quick primer on the difference between a saint and a “blessed,” and how one moves up the ranks to eventual sainthood in the Catholic Church.  (A more complete discussion of this can be found at his earlier podcasts and his books, linked below.)

It is then off to 3rd century Rome where we find out that there is not just one St. Valentine, but possibly two.  Brian briefs us on both individuals, one a bishop in Tierney, Italy and another “just” a priest, each of whom suffered persecution at the hands of the Emperor Claudius for openly professing their faith.  He talks about some of the activities each of these individuals performed, including marrying Roman soldiers (and whether or not that was a controversy) and curing a blind girl named Julia and then signing a note to her that said “Your Valentine.”  Brian also notes that the first “Valentine’s Day Card” can be traced back to the 15th century.

The next saintly individual to be examined, and one that is also celebrated on Feb. 14,  is Blessed Vicente Vilar David, an average, ordinary guy who lived a life similar to George Bailey’s in the story Its A Wonderful Life.  Although he designed airports, he never fully was able to fulfill his life’s dreams and was executed by the communists in Valencia, Spain after refusing to practice his faith.  It is interesting to note how most of the Catholic saints represent ordinary folks doing extraordinary things in challenging times based upon their enormous faith.

Our next two extraordinary individuals are women, including the patron saint of miserable marriages — Bl. Elisabetta Canori Mora — and the “ugly” St. Joan de Valois.  The former suffered at the hands of an abusive and unfaithful husband and is forced to take on tasks that were below her social status (a major taboo in 17th century Italy).  However, despite much suffering and praying, she is able to turn her husband to the priesthood after her death.   St. Joan de Valois had the great disadvantage of being born “ugly” into a French royal family in the late 1400s. As the only offspring of King Louis XI, she was married by the man who would become King Louis XII, who then has the marriage annulled right after his coronation.  This leads to St. Joan to found the Order of the Annunciation and promote an alternative  vision of what God’s beauty entails.  Brian reads us a rather moving quote from St. Joan that sounds remarkably poignant for today’s society that is obsessed with body image.

Our journey through February takes to the world’s first cowboy, Bl. Sebastian of Aparicio, whom we have talked about in an early podcast, and two women of African descent who made a spiritual difference on three different continents — Africa, Europe, and North America.  We first hear the story of St. Josephine Bakhitat, whose last name stands for “lucky” in Arabic.  While enslaved for a substantial portion of her life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, she eventually lands with the Canossian Sisters where her love of God and daily hug of the baptismal font becomes legendary.  In North America, Servant of God Elizabeth Lange, a member of the Haitian diaspora of the mid-19th century becomes inspired by the work of Mennonites and takes up the cause of ministering to slaves and freed blacks, and sets up the first African-American convent in the United States – the Oblate Sisters of Providence.   We also learn what the designation of “Servant of God” means in the sainthood process.

Our last February saint (and by no means is this an exhaustive list) is Bl. Fray Leopoldo de Alpandeire, a man who started out as a simple goat herder who was moved by the death of a child he was with during a herding expedition.  Following this tragedy, Leopoldo joins the Capuchins and becomes revered for his ability to do all things with great gusto, always serving God gracefully and with passion in even the most minor of tasks.  This brings Tony to ask about another “zestful” Catholic that has been making news headlines recently — Pope Francis.  Brian shares some of his thoughts about the new pontiff, including the ways in which His Holiness inspires him and drives him crazy at times.  His thoughts resonate well with other guests we’ve had on the program.  Recorded: February 2, 2015.



Brian O’Neel on Facebook and his most recent blog.

150 North American Martyrs You Should Know, by Brian O’Neel.

Saint Who? 39 Holy Unknowns, by Brian O’Neel.

39 New Saints You Should Know, by Brian O’Neel.

Diocese of Santa Rosa, CA.

The Son Rise Morning Show with Brian Patrick,” on EWTN (where Brian is a frequent commentator).


Brian O’Neel on the Saints of January.

Brian O’Neel on Saint Who?  Some Holy Unknowns.

Adam English on the Real Santa Claus, St. Nicholaus of Myra.

R.R. Reno on Pop(e) Francis.

James Felak on Picking Pontiffs and Pope Francis.


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