Blessed Oveco of Valcavado

Oveco or Obeco was a monk of the monastery of Valcavado, in Palencia, Spain. He lived several generations after St. Beatus of Liébana. As a scribe and limner, he was assigned to make a copy of Beatus’ Commentary on the Apocalypse, along with a text on the Visions in the Book of Daniel.

A note on the manuscript says that Oveco started work on June 8, 970, and finished by Sept. 8, 970 (the feast of the Virgin Mary’s birthday). That is a truly incredible pace, and yet it’s very clear that the entire manuscript was copied in a single hand.

We know the names of the people involved in the project because Oveco told us: “Hoc opus ut fieret praedicatus abba Sempronius instantia egit, cui ego Oveco indignus mente obediens devoto depinxi.”

After his death, Oveco began to be revered as a saint because of his holy life. His monastery duly transferred some of his relics to the shrine of the Virgen del Valle in Saldaña, (one of Palencia, Spain’s important cities), and the relics are still there. Fittingly, it’s a reliquary for his right hand and forearm. The goldsmith seems to have put a fair amount of effort into sculpting an individual-looking hand, so it seems safe to say that he was working from Oveco’s actual hand.

I have to say that Bl. Oveco sounds like a good patron for those of us wanting to get projects finished!

The Beatus of Valcavado is at the Biblioteca de la University of Valladolid. It contains various marginal notes both by Oveco and by later users of the book. One reader even scribbled an entire cantiga (medieval Spanish song) in the margins!

The Virgen del Valle (Our Lady of the Valley) is actually a title used for Mary in many places in Spain and South America, as well as being the patron saint of Eastern Venezuela. Here’s a page about Saldaña’s shrine. The shrine was established by King Alfonso I in 754, in thanks for capturing the castle from Muslim forces. Her feast day is September the 8th, which may explain why Blessed Oveco’s arm was felt to belong there. There’s also a big feast day celebration on Sept. 9 for St. Isidore the Farmworker‘s wife, St. Maria “de la Cabeza” (“of the Head”) (her maiden name was Maria Torribia). She’s another pre-conciliar saint, just like her husband San Isidro Labrador, so it’s pretty silly that the Wikipedia page is going on about her not being canonized yet. However, the picture was clouded by the fact that after being venerated for centuries in Spain, Pope Paul V and Pope Gregory XV decided to beatify and canonize San Isidro. (Whereas it would have been more logical just to put him in the saint list of the Martyrologium Romanum, since he was already on the Spanish bishops’ calendars.) But the actual rule is that preconciliar saints are also saints. Period. If you’re listed on a preconciliar calendar or in a preconciliar martyrology as a saint, you’re a saint.

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Okay, Why Isn’t Baen Publishing This Guy?

Along with his Gate series, Takumi Yanai put out another novel. It’s called Hyoufuu no Kolkkaa: Yuki no Yousei to Shiroi Shinigami. [Icewind Kolkkaa: The Snowfairy and the White Deathbringer-god]. It’s set in Finland during the Winter War, and brings Kolkkaa (a fictional girl sniper) together with Simo Hayha, the real-life guy whom they called “The White Death.” Basically it’s the story of Kolkkaa growing up and becoming a better sniper, and then having to face two Soviet female snipers.

I don’t know if there’s any sf/f content in this one, or if it’s just historical fiction. But other than that, it sounds very Baen-ish.

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Early Christian Cicadas!

Roger Pearse has been looking into various early Christian writers called Asterius. Asterius of Amasea is the famous bishop. Asterius the Sophist was some kind of Arian, but apparently there was another Asterius who was more orthodox in his writings.

He wrote a sermon talking about cicadas!

Here in Ohio and in most parts of Japan, cicadas come out in the summer, when things really start getting hot. But the trigger for cicadas coming out of their holes is ground temperature, so more southerly areas have cicadas in April or May.

And wherever orthodox-guy Asterius was from, the cicadas came out at Eastertime. Israel and Asia Minor’s early grape harvest was also in late May or early June:

“O Lord, Our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Christ, Who is the divine Vine, the Vine before all ages, has sprouted in the tomb and born fruit in the newly baptised, like clusters of grapes in this church… the vine has been harvested, and, like a wine-press, the church is full of grapes. Operators of the wine-press, pickers at the harvest, cicadas perched on the trees: by their songs we are again shown today the paradise of the Church, shining with grace…

Who are the cicadas? The newly baptised who, soaked with dew as they arise from the font, sit on the Cross like a tree, warmed by the Sun of Justice, bathed in the light of the Spirit, echoing the words of the Spirit: “O Lord, Our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!”

They are beautiful with their white wings, the eloquent cicadas, surrounding the font. Yes, their wings are white because they are endowed with speech. The cicadas feed on dew; the newly baptised are strengthened by the Word; what the dew is to the former, the celestial Word is to the latter.

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Happy Independence Day, Everybody!

…. In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

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The Italian Assassin/Terrorist Who Survived Little Big Horn

Some people go to the French Foreign Legion to live down a criminal past, but Italian aristocrat “Charles DeRudio” went to the US Cavalry to fight in the Civil War.

This was after he fought for Italian independence in 1848 as a teenager, fled to the UK, tried to blow up Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, got caught and convicted, and escaped Devil’s Island.

He stayed in the Army after the Civil War and ended up serving in Custer’s 7th Cavalry. He survived Little Big Horn because Custer didn’t like “Count No-Account,” thought he had too big of an ego, and didn’t want him around. But he didn’t miss all the excitement; he fought under Reno, got unhorsed, and had to sneak back to the US forces with another unhorsed man. He didn’t retire from the army until 1896.

Seriously, go read the details. It’s quite a life story.

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St. Therese’s Mom and Dad’s Canonization Approved

Yay! Modern Catholicism’s most famous parents of saints will soon themselves be put onto the official list of saints! Here’s the story of the miracle accepted for their canonization, including an English translation.

The Vatican has announced that they will be the first saints canonized together as husband and wife. Um… sorta.

Look, there are tons of husband and wife martyrs and saints. The difference is that post-conciliar saints who received formal modern canonizations were pretty much all canonized as part of large groups of martyrs (“N and companions” is how it usually reads). But we know of a lot of husband and wife saints, starting with the ones mentioned in St. Paul’s letters, like Ss. Aquila and Priscilla and Ss. Philemon and Appia (which tells us the traditional happy ending of Onesimus’ story). There were tons of pre-conciliar husband and wife pairs of martyrs who shared a feastday (for example, Ss. Orentius and Patientia; Ss. Marius and Martha), as well as pairs of non-martyr saints who have their own feastdays all by themselves because they died on different days. (Like St. Paulinus of Nola [Jun. 22] and his wife, St. Therasia [Mar. 5].) If one spouse was martyred and the other just lived a holy life, however, they can also share a feastday if local custom had it that way. (For example, St. Julian the martyr and his wife St. Basilissa; and St. Adrian the martyr and his wife St. Natalia.) Whole families of saints, like St. Basil’s, are also reasonably common.

For those of you playing the home game, the Martins have an unusual story!

Marie-Azelie (“Zelie”) Guerin and Louis Martin were devout single Catholics who weren’t able to pursue religious life, as they each had planned. So they both had their own lucrative businesses (Zelie was a lacemaker, Louis a watchmaker) and did a lot of good works. It used to be thought that they had met through friends’ matchmaking and got together through sheer practicality of it being cheaper to live together. But it turns out that that they actually saw each other first while passing on a bridge, at which time Zelie heard a inner voice (“locution”) from the Virgin Mary* tell her, “This is he whom I have prepared for you.”

They fell in love and decided they could each keep pursuing their religious lives by living together in a marriage without sex. They had a quiet marriage at midnight on July 13th, 1858. (It was at midnight so that they could receive Communion without a long fast. It was on a Tuesday because people used to get married on all sorts of days of the week. There’s a romance anthology called “Married at Midnight,” but it’s not for any cool reason like Communion.) Here’s Louis’ wedding present to Zelie. It’s a picture of Tobias meeting Sarah (and Tobias’ dog).

When they got married, Zelie was considered middle aged at the time (Zelie was already 27), so nobody would be surprised that they didn’t have kids. A friend with financial problems and too many kids asked them to foster his youngest son, a five year old, and they were happy to do it.

But then, they both got strong messages from God (after strong advice from a priest friend) that, while their previous practice had been okay, God now wanted them to consummate the marriage and had kids. Obviously this was ridiculous as Zelie was getting on, but they decided to try. At which point they had seven daughters and two sons, including the future St. Therese of Lisieux. (Two of the little girls and both of the boys died young from enteritis.) They delighted in their kids, and also continued to do good works along with their kids. Zelie’s business was going so good that she brought Louis into her business to work for her as a manager, and he sold his watchmaking business to a nephew.

They had a lot of fun and love as a family. I can’t emphasize this enough. The Martins were very serious and religious, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t play games, tell stories, paint and draw, and do all sorts of fun things. People remembered them all as lively and loving (even the bratty ones, like St. Therese and the Servant of God Leonie).

Then Zelie’s eyes started to give out, which she knew would soon be the end of her lacemaking career. Then she got sick with breast cancer and ended up dying while many of the kids were still young. Louis was heartbroken, but he worked hard to both support the kids and be an extremely loving father to his girls, trying to be both father and mother to them. St. Therese’s writings are full of her loving relationship with her dad, and the thoughtful things he did to help her grow and to learn discipline of her strong feelings and strong will. Louis was also fully supportive of all his girls’ intellectual development, just as he had been proud of his smart and enterprising wife.

As Louis grew older, all his daughters ended up moving away from home and joining convents. He felt that God was calling him to start suffering more seriously, and so he started offering up everything to the Lord for his girls’ success in the convent. As you would expect from someone called to this, his health began to go, and finally he started to suffer from Alzheimers’ of some kind. He continued to be an example of faith until his death, and his wisdom continued to guide his daughters’ lives.

People were tough back in the day. We need to learn to be as resolute as the Martins.

Lots of biographical info links here, including some videos!

UPDATE: I corrected some factual errors in the original post, which I did a little too much from (faulty) memory.

* Zelie had previously received another locution from the Virgin Mary. After being refused entrance to the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul because of her health, she had prayed a novena for direction on what to do with her life to Our Lady. The nine days of the novena ended on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, on December 8, 1851. That day, as she knelt in church, she clearly heard, “Have point d’Alencon [lace] made.” She had previously considered becoming a lacemaker, but took this as a sign that she should become an assembler for other women’s lace; and that’s why she started her own lace business.

It’s also interesting to note that Zelie’s first sight of Louis Martin, and her second message received from Mary, happened during that same spring of 1858 when Our Lady started appearing to St. Bernadette Soubirous down south in Lourdes. Our Lady was working overtime for the Lord!

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“Exit” Escher Video

Stick with it all the way as Our Hero searches for an exit. You’ll like the end.

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