Friday, July 18, 2008

The Feast of St. Odilia

In thinking about the litany of my patron saints, it seems that I gravitate towards those of the lesser known variety and even the obscure.

Today's feast of St. Odilia probably falls into the obscure category - her feast day isn't even on the liturgical calender and is only celebrated in a handful of places around the United States.

St. Odilia, British by birth, was one of eleven virgins martyred in Cologne around the year 300 - and then forgotten about for roughly one thousand years. In 1287 a Crosier brother, John Novelan discovered her relics in a field near Cologne. Thus, St. Odilia became the patroness of the Order of the Holy Cross (Crosiers).

Because of various wars and revolutions, her relics were moved to a number of different churches throughout Europe until 1949 when they were returned to the Crosier Monastery in Diest, Belgium.

In 1952 a major relic was brought to the Crosier's United States Motherhouse in Onamia, Minnesota. There, a shrine was built in her honer. The windows in the shrine depict the long and storied history of St. Odilia and her order. Letters testifying to prayers answered through her intercession fill the area around her relic. She is especially invoked by those suffering from vision problems.

It was in Onamia that I first encountered St. Odilia. For a time the Crosiers had a monastery in Hastings, Nebraska. (The monastery has been redeveloped into a business park and the chapel is now used by the Hispanic and Vietnamese Catholic communities of Hastings.) My grandparents had become good friends with a number of the priests there, so I wanted to see their American headquarters.

Though the shine is quite simple, there is definitely an aura about it. I didn't have any sort of "religious" or emotional experience there, but I did feel drawn to the place. I said a prayer, grabbed a few pieces of literature and headed off. Once I got home and started reading through the pamphlets, I realized that St. Odilia's feastday is July 18 - my birthday.

All powerful Father, you alone are Holy; without you nothing is good. I come before you, trusting in your love for me and praying to you through the intercession of St. Odilia, Virgin and Martyr. I ask you to help me become the person you have called me to be. I ask this with the same trust that inspired St. Odilia to leave her home in order to follow Christ more closely. Father, increase my confidence in your love for me. I ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

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