DevotionRadicalia, chapter 2 of 5
The most complete text on Saints and Blesseds venerated by the Catholic Church, the Martyrologium Romanum, lists about ten thousand saints, whilst seventeen-volume encyclopedia Bibliotheca Sanctorum includes over twenty thousand entries. In the book of the Apocalypse, Saint John altogether dispenses with the feat of counting them.To aspire to sanctity, men and women must give proof of their faith through martyrdom, modelling their lives on that of Christ to the point where after death the Pope certifies their presence in Paradise before God. But besides official liturgy, the canonical procedure for sanctification has deep ties to popular religion: it is necessary that a group of devouts gather evidence of the exceptional life conduct of a servant of God for this person to aspire to canonisation. Then upon their death, the people will continue to venerate them, recount their story, dedicate ex votos, songs and poems to them; they will name their newborns after them, and undertake pilgrimages and processions in their honour.Every Italian city has its own saint, a sort of local embodiment of the supernatural. Worship may take on radical and obsessive forms, in which devouts embrace life choices comparable to those of the saints they venerate to the point where the lives of the saints end up being inseparable from those of the devouts who tell them.
Saint Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947)She was born in a small village in the region of Darfur and, still a child, was kidnapped by slave merchants and eventually given away to the Italian Consul in Sudan to care for his daughter. In Venice, Bakhita and the girl were put up in a religious institution ran by Canossian nuns. Later Bakhita was ordained and moved to Schio, where during the First World War she took on a number of humble jobs: portress, cook, and assistant nurse.
Devotion to the black Saint has extended to the new generations of migrants. In the photo, a young boy from the Ghanaian community of Schio attends the English language Sunday holy mass.
Saint Leopold Mandić (1866-1942)
Born and raised on the Dalmatian coast, he was ordained aged 18 and became a Capuchin friar. Of feeble constitution, he could not dedicate himself to preaching because of a speech defect. A dedicated scholar of the holy scriptures, he was of sophisticated intellect and great humanity, and dedicated his whole life to the Sacrament of Penance. From his cell in Padua, he welcomed penitents up until his very last day, becoming a martyr of the confessional.
Two middle-aged devouts to Saint Leopold at the Capuchin Convent in Padua. The Saint's cell and confessional survived intact the 19 May 1944 bombing that completely destroyed the rest of the church.
Saint Anthony of Padua (1195-1231)
Born to an aristocratic family in Lisbon, he was ordained and became first an Augustinian and later a Franciscan friar. He moved to Padua, and after Francis' death he became one of the heads of the Franciscan order. He is said to be the most venerated saint in the world. In iconography, he is always depicted with a lily, the symbol of purity, or with the Bible, symbolising his profound religious culture. He is the patron saint of travellers, the poor and the oppressed.
A devout to Saint Anthony belonging to the order of the Little Brothers of Jesus. He arrived in Padua on 13 June to venerate the Saint, having walked from Assisi. His order's rules in fact forbid the handling of money and they allow to travel only on foot unless a lift is offered by a fellow traveller.
Saint Verdiana (1182-1242)Born to a noble yet somewhat impoverished Tuscan family, after completing the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, she was admitted into the third Franciscan order by Francis of Assisi himself. Verdiana consacrated her life to the solitude of prayer: she lived in reclusion and isolation for 34 years until she died in her cell on the banks of the river Elsa. Her story inspired directors Luis Buñuel's film Viridiana.
Devouts of the Saint Verdiana Centuria on occasion of the religious festival consecrated to the Saint which takes place in Castelfiorentino every year on 1 February.
Saint Gemma Galgani (1878-1903)
Raised in a bourgeois family fallen into disgrace, she tried to enter various monasteries without ever succeeding. She then fell ill with meningitis and started living mystical experiences during which, according to devotional tradition, she sweated blood whilst being crowned in thorns, flagellated, derided and insulted by the demon. According to her testimony, she received stigmata on 8 June 1899; this was questioned however by her own confessor.
Saint Gemma devout at the Lucca sanctuary.
Saint Agatha (235-251)
Born to a rich Sicilian family, she converted to Christianity. The island's Roman Proconsul, enamoured with the girl, tried to make her abjure by assigning her to the care of a brothel keeper. Following her refusal, she was imprisoned and tortured: devotional tradition says her breasts were cut off with pliers and she was tortured with burning coals. The yearly festival the city of Catania dedicates to her is the biggest religious festival in Italy.
Devout Catania residents during the procession that carries the reliquary bust of Saint Agatha through the streets. The costume they wear, called the ʻSack of Saint Agathaʼ, is made of a white tunic, a pair of white gloves, a black beret and a white handkerchief.
Mother Schiavona Holy icon of Mary depicted with amber-coloured skin, kept in the sanctuary of Montevergine. Devotional legend has it that around the mid thirteenth century, she saved the lives of two homosexual boys who had been tied up and abandoned to their fate. From then on, the image of Our Lady of Montevergine is thought to be protector of the femminielli (homosexual males with feminine gender expressions traditional to Neapolitan culture), and more recently of the entire Italian LGBT community. Every year on 2 February, a noisy and colourful procession clambers up the slopes of Montevergine to venerate her.
Antonia Monopoli, LGBT rights activist and devout of Mother Schiavona.
Saints Victor and Corona (II century AD)
Victor was a Christian soldier who died as a martyr in Syria in the year 171, during the persecution of Marcus Aurelius. Denounced before the tribunal of the Roman commander Sebastian and brutally tortured, Victor upholds his faith with serenity and valour. Corona was the young wife of one of his brothers-in-arms who witnessed the torture. Moved by the young soldier’s display of faith, she declares she is also a Christian. For this she is arrested and, after a brief interrogation, she is punished by having her feet tied to the top of two bent palm trees that tear her in half as the trunks spring back to their full height. Victor, meanwhile, is beheaded.
Worshipper praying in the sanctuary of Feltre, where the two martyrs are patron saints.