There’s no way around it, I am hooked on Saint Du Jour.
“The Saint of the Day” appears as a small daily column in the free Paris metro newsrag, Direct Matin Plus–and is just short enough and easy enough for me to read in transit between Place Victor Hugo and Etoile metro stops on my way to work. Not a bad way to start the day, in fact, pondering these hagiographic tales of virtue and martyrdom.
Take as an example this past Tuesday, September 15, dedicated to Bienheureux Roland (that is, “Blessed” Roland de Medici, who is one step up from “Venerable” and one step short of “Saint” in the canonization process):
“In 1386, in the north of Italy, some hunters discovered our poor hero, more dead than alive, dressed only in an old goat skin, shells, and foliage, and dying of hunger…. It was Roland de Medici who, 30 years earlier, had made a vow to retreat alone to the forest. Nourishing himself only with grasses and wild fruits, he passed the hours in meditation, standing on one leg. He said that he saw the face of Jesus in the sun during his prayers. When Princess Pallavicini heard about this, she sent him her confessor, who, after listening to Roland for 2 hours, declared that after so many years of wandering and of a solitary life, Roland was ‘pure of all sin, even those of omission.’ The confessor took him under his care–AND MADE HIM A BOUILLON OF HEN TO DRINK THAT PROLONGED HIS LIFE FOR 26 DAYS. Roland only died on September 15 when he saw St. Michael and some angels had arrived to conduct him to paradise.”
Other sources elaborate: Born in Florence, he was the scion of the famous de Medici family who renounced his inheritance and appeared one day, dressed in black, in the forests of Parma. Only when his clothes rotted away did he substitute the goatskin. Which is how the Princess found him during that day of hunting, flat on his back in rotting leaves and at the point of death. He refused by signs to go to her castle and only agreed to break his lifetime vow of silence to the Carmelite confessor who was administering last sacraments.
Forgive me, but I can’t help but note that the miracle of chicken soup is part of this story. I stopped at the store on the way home and bought a poule. I cut it up and chopped the bones. I put it in a pot of ice cold water with some fresh-pulled little onions and greens and, at a snail’s pace, brought it to a simmer over low heat, to extract every morsel of goodness. I let it bubble for 6 hours. To make an appropriate offering to this pious man, I meant to clarify the broth when it was done–so that, as in Louis XIV’s commission to his cooks, I could “see my reflection in it.”
Voila! In the end, the broth was so pure and so concentrated that I only had to skim the fat and pour it into a bowl. Those are my kitchen drapes in the reflection…but I think they look properly inspirational. You just can’t beat chicken soup. If St. Michael and the angels hadn’t shown up, Bienheureux Roland might still be alive today.