Patron Saint of purse makers – Saint Brioc

Saint Brioc died was a 5th-century Welsh holy man who became the first abbot of Saint-Brieuc in Brittany. He is one of the seven founder saints of Brittany.
He came from Ceredigion where the church was dedicated to him. He received his education in Ireland and he spent time in Scotland. He most likely returned to France early in 431, accompanied by Saint Illtud. 

In 480, he founded a monastery at Landebaeron. He then established an oratory at St Brieuc-des-Vaux, where he became the abbot.

He likely died in 502, in his own monastery at St. Brieuc-des-Vaux.  He is considered the patron saint of purse makers.

Patron saint for sailors and swimmers and drowning victims – Saint Adjutor

Saint Adjutor was born in France on July 24, 1073.  He was a knight in the First Crusade.  Stories are told of how he was captured by Muslims during the First Crusade.  They tried to make him give up his faith.  He refused.   Angels freed Adjutor from his prisoners.  He is said to have thrown Holy water into a whirlpool.  The chains he wore fell into that whirlpool.  He made the sign of the cross and escaped by swimming all the way back to France.  Once there he entered the Abbey of Trio.  He became a recluse and hermit until he died on April 30, 1131.

Patron Saint against fevers – Hugh of Cluny

Hugh was sometimes called Hugh the Great or Hugh of Semur, and was the Abbot of Cluny from 1049 until his death. He was one of the most influential leaders of the monastic orders from the Middle Ages.  Hugh came from the noblest families in Burgundy. He was the oldest son of Seigneur Dalmas I of Semur and Aremberge of Vergy, daughter of Henry I, Duke of Burgundy born May 13, 1024.  His father wanted him to be a knight. But when he was fifteen, he took monastic vows and later became an abbot.
Abbot Hugh built the third abbey church at Cluny.  It was the largest building in Europe for many centuries.  It was funded by Ferdinand I of León. Hugh was the driving force behind the Cluniac monastic movement during the last quarter of the 11th century, which had priories throughout southern France and northern Spain.
Pope Urban II made Hugh one of the most powerful and influential figures of the late 11th century.  He was also the godfather of the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV.  He tried to mediate conflict between Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV, but he was not successful. He was also diplomat to Germany and Hungary for the church. He died on  April 28, 1109. Many of his relics were pillaged or destroyed by the Huguenots in 1575.

His feast day is April 29.

Saints Vitalis and Valeria of Milan

Saint Vitalis of Milan was an early Christian martyr and saint.  Legend says Vitalis was a wealthy citizen of Milan, maybe a soldier. He was married to Valeria of Milan. They are supposed to have been the parents of Saints Gervasius and Protasius. Vitalis was an officer who went with the judge Paulinus from Milan to Ravenna. He encouraged Saint Ursicinus of Ravenna to be faithful at his execution.  He gave Ursicinus an honorable burial. Vitalis was discovered to be a Christian. Paulinus ordered Vitalis to be racked and then thrown into a deep pit and covered with stones and earth.  He was buried alive. The exact date of his martyrdom is unknown.  Some sources say that he was a victim of Nero, others of Marcus Aurelius. He was martyred in Ravenna

Valeria was from a noble family.  She was baptized at an early age.  Her family was some of the first converts to Christianity in the city of Milan. The reigning Pope commanded the priests of the area to organize nine groups, each consisting of five men and five virgins. Their duty was to gather the corpses of Christians who had been martyred in the Coliseum –  Flavian Amphitheatre –  and other places of martyrdom the day before.  She was martyred for burying Christian martyrs and then refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods.  After terrible tortures, Valeria was beheaded in the Coliseum with several other martyrs. Her remains were gathered by other Christians and were deposited in the Catacombs of Saint Sebastian.

Canon Charles M. Ménard pastor of St. Joseph Church, now Co-Cathedral, in Thibodaux, Louisiana, made a pilgrimage to Rome in 1867, to remember the anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Peter the Apostle. He wanted to bring back an important relic for the veneration of his parishioners.  He asked to meet with Cardinal Costantino Patrizi Naro. Patrizi had two relics, one of Saint Prosper, as well as part of the arm bone of Saint Valeria. The Cardinal agreed to relinquish the relic of Saint Valeria.  The relic was placed in a pasteboard box and sealed with Cardinal Patrizi’s coat of arms. The relic was then sealed in a waxen statue which represented a young woman. It was dressed in a robe of silk embroidered with gold and a crimson, velvet tunic with gold fringe. It was laid in a coffin-like reliquary of oak and glass from The Netherlands and decorated with gilded copper.  On April 18, 1868, the steamboat Nina Simmes arrived from New Orleans, by way of Bayou Lafourche, with the reliquary of Saint Valeria. It was placed on the altar of St. Joseph Church, with solemn ceremonies attended by more than four thousand people.  Since then, Valeria has been known as the Patroness of Thibodaux and is especially invoked for protection from storms and floods.

On May 25, 1916, a fire began in the sacristy of St. Joseph’s, and within minutes it was realized the church would not be saved. People cried “Save Saint Valérie! Save Saint Valérie!” The reliquary was one of the few objects saved from the fire.  The reliquary was then brought to the Mount Carmel Convent Chapel until the new church was built, where it was installed with due reverence.  The British Museum has a reliquary sometimes misidentified as that of St. Valeria of Milan, but it is actually Valerie of Limoges, a different saint.

Saint Zita

Zita is sometimes also called Sitha or Citha is an Italian saint.  She is often confused with St. Osyth or Ositha an important EnglishSaint with a town named after her.

Zita became a maid when she was twelve.  She served the same family for nearly 50 years.  She became a trusted and valued servant. She spent her days doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.
Zita was known for her kindness and generosity to the poor.  She was born in Tuscany in 1212.  Her uncle, Graziano, was a hermit who dwelt on a neighboring mountain where he had built a church and a shelter for travelers. Her oldest sister became a Cistercian nun.

When she was twelve, she became a servant in the household of the Fatinellis, a well-to-do family of silk merchants. Signora Fatinelli allowed Zita to attend school for a year and then put her to be trained under an older maid. Seeing how fond everyone was of Zita, the older maid was jealous and told everyone she was negligent and lazy. Zita never attempted to defend herself. The other servants thought her piety was to get attention.  

She was meek and humble.  She practiced self-restraint.  It was noticed by her other servants.  They had no reason for their anger.  She gave one-third of her wages to her parents, kept a third, and gave the rest to the poor. The mistress of the house placed Zita in charge of the household charitable giving and allowed her to visit the sick poor in their own homes and tend to their needs. A small room away from the rest of the house was made available to Zita.  She would go out in the evenings and invite some poor homeless woman to supper. The room had a bed and was offered as a safe shelter for the night.

Zita always rose several hours before the rest of the family so she could hear Mass. every morning before she began work. She worked diligently, and with diligence and fidelity,  She learned what needed to be done and tried to make sure it was done before it was needed. . It was Signora Fatinelli’s dying wish that Zita is placed in charge of the household. Zita continued to serve the Fatinellis after the death of Guglielmo Fatinelli in 1260 when his son Pagano became the head of the family.

There is a story about Zita carrying bread in her cloak to bring to the poor. Jealous servants reported this to the master, who confronted Zita. When she opened the cloak it was full of flowers.  This same story is told of Elizabeth of Hungary.  Another story is of Zita giving away her own food during a famine, and then that of her master. When he grew angry with her for depleting the family’s own resources, they found the pantry fully stocked. Another morning, Zita left her chore of baking bread either to tend to someone in need or was deep in prayer in her room. She returned to find in the kneading the loaves all ready set and prepared, or already baked. Neither the servants nor the mistress knew who made the bread, it was commonly attributed to angels. Another time, Zita was returning from distributing alms when she encountered a beggar. Having nothing left to give him, she went with him to the village well to draw him a cool drink. She let a copper jug down into the well, and holding it out to him, made the sign of the cross over the water, praying that this drink might be blessed to the poor beggar. As he drank, he found that the water had turned into wine.

Zita died peacefully in the Fatinelli house on April 27, 1272. A star appeared above the attic where she slept at the moment of her death. She was 60 years old and had served the family for 48 years. By the time of her death, she had become practically venerated by the family. After 150 miracles had been attributed to Zita’s intercession and recognized by the church, she was canonized in 1696.

Her body was exhumed in 1580, and discovered to be incorrupt. Saint Zita’s body is currently on display for public veneration in the Basilica di San Frediano in Lucca.

Zita is the patron saint of domestic workers, housekeepers, waitresses, and household chores. Her feast day is April 27. To this day, families bake a loaf of bread in celebration of Saint Zita’s feast day.