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, April 26, 2012

April 26 -- Feast of Saint Rafael Arnaiz Baron

If I were dying of virulent diabetes, I don't imagine I'd be writing this:  “It is a pity that David [the psalmist] didn’t know the Most Holy Virgin! What marvelous things he would have said about her! A heart as big as his would certainly have been full of love for Mary!”  But I suppose that's why Rafael has been canonized and I am -- well, I'm writing about him.

As a kid, growing up in Spain in the early twentieth century, he showed equal promise in intellectual, artistic, and spiritual pursuits.  And he had a sailor suit.  And yet, he was not unpopular or bullied by other kids.  It was a pretty good childhood.  Then he spent the summer with an aunt and uncle near Avila and visited a Trappist Abbey.  His call to serve God wasn't as ecstatic as Teresa of Avila's (fortunately), but it was very clear.  After finishing school, Rafael entered the monastery as a Cistercian novice. 

Sartorial Sidenote:  Lest you look at the photo to the left and wonder why he joined the KKK, be advised that the Cistercians wear white robes and their hoods can be very pointy.  If you have ever enjoyed a jar of Trappist preserves, you probably noticed that the label looks like Klansman tending a cauldron.  The brothers' order goes back to 1098; the KKK only goes back to 1865. 

Anyway, he wasn't in very long before he fell ill with the diabetes and was sent home to recuperate.  He returned, fell ill again, then returned again.  He got a draft notice to serve in the Nationalist Army during the height of the Spanish Civil War, but for better or worse (probably better), he was too sick to be inducted. 

The fourth time he returned to the monastery, he was entered as a regular oblate rather than a novice.  In other words, he was a not a full brother, nor even a brother in training, but he would still be welcome to stay and serve as he could.  This was, of course, disappointing as his vocation was clearly to be a monk, and the progress of his disease showed that would never happen.  For his courage -- his heroic virtue, to use the phrase in his canonization -- and good cheer in the face of both failure and death, he was venerated and beatified by Pope John Paul II and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI. 

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