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.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

January 18 -- Feast of Blessed Beatrice d'Este II

Let's start with a couple of verses from the Bible.  First, Acts 19:11-12.
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.
 Now let's look at 2 Kings 13:20-21.  
Elisha died and was buried.  Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

 Where, you may rightly ask, is this going?  Among the Reformist criticisms of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches is the complaint that veneration of holy relics is pagan idolatry of the coarsest kind.  If so, then apparently the first Christians practiced such.  Moreover, there's Old Testament evidence of belief in the wonder-working powers of relics.  

With that in mind, I want to praise the ingenuity of the Benedictine sisters who held the relics of Blessed Beatrice d"Este II.  Born of a noble family (and niece of a beata -- see below), Beatrice was pledged to marry into another noble family and bear many noble children, but her intended's untimely death in battle prevented that.  Although both nobility and nubility (see what I did there?) were on her side, she withdrew from the court to the island of San Lorenzo where she started a new convent.  There's not a lot to be said about her time there, except that she was a model abbess in every respect and was venerated upon her death.  In fact, the very water that was used to wash her corpse was saved as a miracle-working holy fluid.  Her bones also oozed miraculous, sweet-smelling liquid for many years.  When the relics were finally dry, the sisters would wash them periodically, saving the water from the cleansing to replenish their supply.  After 1512, when the monastery folded and Blessed Beatrice was interred, condensation from the walls of her tomb was collected.  The tomb is still a site for pilgrims, many of whom seek to collect the dew as a third class relic. 

Beatrice non beata, sed pulchra est.
Last summer, a friend taught me about the classification of relics.  A third class relic is something that has directly touched a first or second degree relic.  Thus, water used to wash the bones, or even water that formed on the tomb, can be a third class relic.  A second class relic is an object that a saint wore or used.  Shirts, caps, rings, croziers, cups, crucifixes, rosaries, breviaries, and perhaps even dentures would all be included.  A first class relic is either a body (or part thereof) of a saint, or an object of great significance in the central narrative of the Bible.  Thus, the manger in which the Holy Infant was lain, the nails used to hang him on the Cross, and even the Cross itself would be first class relics.  So too are the bodies, bones, and genuine teeth of the saints and beati. 

NB.  There are at least two other women named Beatrice d'Este, one of whom was also a beata.  The earlier Blessed Beatrice d'Este was a beautiful and fashionable (not to say vain) young girl who was the object of nine courtly love poems by a troubadour named Rambertino Buvalelli.  Since Beatrice entered a Benedictine monastery at age fourteen, we can assume that Rambertino was writing about her when she was younger than that.  Creep.  Anyway, the feast of that Beatrice is May 10 and she died in 1226.  

The other Beatrice married Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, in the fifteenth century.  She was reputed to be one of the most beautiful and fashionable (not to say vain) women of her age.  It ran in the family.