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, May 31, 2012

May 31 -- Feast of Saint Vitalis of Monte Subasio

...or if you prefer, Saint Vitalis of Assisi.

€3500 worth of Vitalis, but not of Assisi
Vitalis was born in Bastia Umbria some time around 1295.  He spent a lot of time on pilgrimages all over Europe trying to atone for youthful indiscretions.  I guess licentious does not overstate the fun he had as a young man, so devout cannot fully capture his penitential behavior.

When he was done with his pilgrimages, he settled down at the monastery of Monte Subasio, in the general neighborhood of both his hometown and Assisi.  Sometime after that, he became a hermit in Santa Maria di Viole, though he was still under the direction of his former monastery's abbot.  He lived with no possessions except a cup he used for drinking water from a nearby spring.

Those suffering from bladder infections, urinary tract infections, and sexually transmitted diseases experienced miraculous cures after venerating his relics and drinking from his spring.  He became the patron saint of those suffering venereal disease; there has been speculation that his particular patronage goes back to his licentious youth.

Last year, just two days before Vitalis' feast, a skull was auctioned in County Meath, Ireland for the surprisingly high price of €3500.  The case in which the skull was housed bore a name plate: Vitalis M[artyr].    Since the Monk of Monte Subasio was not a martyr, the skull could not have been his, but that did not stop titillated reporters from confusing him with whoever's head was on the block.  After all, the sale of a saint's skull is a fun story, but the sale of the patron saint of STDs is so much better.  "VD = Vitalis' dome"... and all that sort of thing.

The Late Billy Jamieson and his late friends
The part that didn't get reported as much as it should have is the Creepy Curse of Saint Vitalis.  Or maybe it is just the Coincidental Curse.  Or just a coincidence.  But whatever you want to call it, the purchaser died on the same day that his check arrived to pay for the relic.  Contrary to the first reports of the auction, the skull was not purchased by a Hollywood actor who wanted it for shock value.  Instead, it was bought by a Canadian collector of the macabre named Billy Jamieson.  He had been featured on the show Headhunters and had consulted with the National Geographic Society about human sacrifice, cannibalism, and shrunken heads.  He prevailed in the auction on May 29 and sent his check along in June.  It arrived at the auction house on July 3, the same day he died.  (Cue the spooky music.)

A woman named Barbara reassured an Irish blogger named Father John Hogan OCDS that the relics of Saint Vitus of Assisi are still safely stowed in St. Vitale, Italy, not far from Assisi.  You can read Father John's indignation at the sale and Barbara's reassurance at this site