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.

Monday, January 14, 2013

January 14 -- Feast of Blessed Odoric of Pordenone

Assonance:  the repetition of vowel sounds. 

Blessed Odoric before the Great Khan
Marco Polo is not the best example, since it doesn't create a smooth rhyme, but it does explain why he gets a popular children's game and a Swedish-German clothing company (Marc O'Polo) named after him while Odoric of Pordenone is virtually forgotten.  Hint:  If you are an explorer or missionary and desire eternal fame, change your name to something that doesn't sound like an industrial air freshener company. 

Odoric was a Czech, born and raised in Italy, who became a Franciscan friar.  In 1316 he headed east; he returned sometime around 1329 or 1330.  The assertion that he visited the Philippines is disputed, but there's no argument that he crossed India, visited China, Mongolia, and Sumatra.  He gathered the bones of some Franciscan martyrs in the vicinity of Mumbai, India, and carried them with him.  These he left at a monastery he founded in Xiamen, known in the West as Amoy, on the Chinese side of the Strait of Taiwan.  He visited Yesün Temür, the Great Khan, a diplomatically important call since the Europeans were eager for the Mongols to advance no further west. 

Green out, red back home: The travels of Odoric
Marco Polo neglected to mention a few interesting details about Chinese culture that Odoric picked up on.  Foot-binding is one example.  Using cormorants to fish is another, and the remarkably long fingernails of men of leisure is yet another.  Moreover, he demonstrated remarkable insight in observing that paper currency in China united the vast empire.  The supply of paper money, he noted, allowed the government to control debt throughout the nation.  Followers of Ron Paul have been trying to explain that to American voters for more than twenty years with little success, but Friar Odoric picked right up on it. 

Blessed Odoric's Shrine
In his own time, Odoric was quite a celebrity.  After his death, the Franciscans were ready to shovel the dirt over him and call it a day, but the civil authorities insisted on a public funeral.  Folks who had heard fantastic tales of his travels to the Orient flocked to see his casket, and then of course miracles were reported by those who visited his grave.  An opportunist with the pen name Jehan de Mandeville wrote a fraudulent book about his own travels east based on Odoric's detailed account of his journey.  Mandeville's book, a bestseller in its day, was one of the sources on which Columbus based his plans for a westward journey to China. 

If you feel heroically successful and overwhelmingly under appreciated, Blessed Odoric may well understand.  Perhaps today, acknowledging his achievement, will tilt the universe a little more toward a just distribution of credit. 

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