This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 15 -- Feast of Saint Roland de Medici

Medici Coat of Arms
You know the Medicis. The House of Medici in Italy was one of the most famous and powerful dynasties. From it came four popes and two queens of France. It controlled the Grand Duchy of Florence for a few centuries, and perhaps as important, it controlled one of the largest banks in Europe. Machiavelli's The Prince was dedicated to Lorenzo de Medici (not Lorenzo the Magnificient but his grandson, Lorenzo the Swell) in hopes of getting a job. Yeah, those Medicis.

Roland lived in the middle of the fourteenth century, before they hit the real big time. Nonetheless, even as a member of the Milan branch of the family, he lived well. Very well. Right up until age thirty, when he decided to pitch it all and do penance. I don't really know what the penance was for -- maybe just for having lived well without working hard.

He put on a monk's habit and walked into the forest near Salsomaggiore (in Parma), taking a vow of silence. In fact, he avoided all communication with other people, concentrating on prayer as much as possible. When forced to communicate, he did it entirely by signs. When the habit wore out, he patched it with leaves. When the leaves wore out, he got a goatskin to wear.

If folks happened to see him, they figured he was insane and frequently threw rocks or sticks at him to drive him away. He generally tried to keep praying through the barrage, but sometimes was forced to retreat.
John the Baptist is about as close as I can find...

After twenty-six years of living in the wild, eating only leaves and roots and berries, he was discovered in a state of collapse by Antonia Casati, the wife of a local nobleman. She was out falconing and, having discovered him, she ordered her servants to gather him up and carry him to a nearby church. She then asked her confessor, Domenico de Domenicis, to attend to him. Domenico got Roland to break his vow of silence, following which he declared who he was and what he had done. He received the sacraments (penance, communion, and last rites) and gave up the ghost on September 13, 1386. Immediately recognized as a saint by the populace, he was buried behind the main altar at Saint Bart's, where miracles were reported, increasing his cult. A couple of centuries later, through the influence of his cousins from the Florentine branch of the family, he was officially canonized.

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