The month of Mary: A Marian Month
Saint of the day:
Patron Saint of Invoked for protection from plagues, droughts and storms
Saint Cataldus' Story
The monk Catald taught at Ireland's monastic school of Lismore. But aspiring to a life of greater solitude, he resigned from his teaching office and embarked upon a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. His return journey from the Holy Land brought him to the Italian city of Taranto, where the populace pressed him to become their bishop. Following his episcopal consecration, Catald proved to be an exceptional prelate. Miracles attributed to his intercession attested to his holiness.
Church of San Cataldo (Chiesa San Cataldo)
Piazza Bellini, 1, 90133 Palermo PA, Italy
THE FEAST OF SAN CATALDO
On 10th May Massa Lubrense celebrates the festival of San Cataldo (ca. 615-685) the Irish-born saint who is invoked for protection against epilepsy, paralysis and visual impairments, as well as plagues, droughts and terrible storms.
Cataldo (Latin: Cathaldus or Cataldus) is not an Irish but a Lombard name and although he is honoured throughout Italy, Malta, and France, he has almost no recognition in his homeland.
His Irish origins were discovered only two or three centuries after his death, when, during the renovation of the cathedral of Taranto, a stick carved from Irish oak and a small 7th or 8th century Celtic Cross was discovered in his coffin. Further investigations identified Cataldo with a 7th century monk who taught at Lismore and the Celtic Cross with the inscription with the inscription CATHALDUS RACHAU became the Holy man’s emblem.
Whilst awaiting her son’s birth in the family’s castle on a hill now known as Rathkormak his mother, Aclena (who died in childbirth), had a vision of a great light over the roof-tops a sign, it was said, that her child would honour the True Faith.
Cathal attended the monastic school at Lismore (County Waterford) which had been founded in 590 by St Carthag Abbot of Rachan and after the abbot’s death Cathal became the school’s headmaster and Bishop of Rachan and in 670 he was ordained Bishop of Rachan and around ten years later he set off on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
According to legend, on a visit to the Holy Sepulchre, Christ appeared to him and instructed him to go to Taranto and to re-evangelize the town which had reverted to paganism. Bishop Cataldo and his followers set out on their long journey on a Greek ship bound for Italy but were caught up in a violent storm which washed them ashore 11 miles from Lecce (Apulia in the heel of Italy) at Porto Adriano now known as Marina di San Cataldo.
The legend continues that the pilgrims only survived the shipwreck because Bishop Cataldo blessed his pastoral ring and threw it into the rough water. Since that day the waters here have remained calm in the choppiest of seas and the area is known as the Anello di San Cataldo: an inexplicable ‘ring’ of fresh water.
In Taranto Catello broke down the pagan temples, preached the gospel and tended to those in need before visiting Bari, where, it is said, he liberated the city from the plague. Miracles were soon attributed to the Irishman: he gave sight to a blind child; made a dumb shepherd boy speak. The now Christian community made him their bishop. He remained in southern Italy and exhorted the people to build a new church in honour of the Immaculate Heart of the Madonna and the Saviour.
To encourage them he helped dig the foundations himself but one morning a mason was crushed by falling stones. Barely alive he was pulled from the rubble but after a blessing from Bishop Cataldo his wounds were healed. He died in Taranto on 8th March 685 and was buried in the church of San Giovanni in Galilea, then the city’s cathedral and his body was all but forgotten
In 927, the cathedral was sacked by Saracen pirates and in 1094 during its reconstruction the saint’s body was discovered in the ruins. As his relics were moved to the newly built cathedral four remarkable cures occurred and veneration to Cataldo quickly spread. His cult in Southern Italy today is equal to, if not greater than, the popularity of St. Patrick in Ireland.
There is a town named San Cataldo (Caltanissetta,) in Sicily and another on the southeast coast of Italy and the Cathedral-Basilica in Taranto proudly bears his name. He is patron saint of the Norman settlement of Corato (Bari); the ancient town of Gangi (Palermo); Gagliano Castelferrato (Enna, Sicily); Cirò Marina (Calabria); Giuliano Teatino (Chieti) and many other places including Massa Lubrense where in the parish church (Santa Maria delle Grazie) the Cappella di San Cataldo can be found at the end of the left aisle.
The silver reliquary bust of San Cataldo created in 1892 by the Neapolitan silversmith Vincenzo Catello perhaps the most famous of a dynasty of artisans in the great Neapolitan silverware tradition which included his son Eugenio and more recently, Elio and Corrado.
Part of the saint’s femur was brought here from Taranto by the Jesuit father Pietro D'Onofrio and is enclosed in a glass box set into the chest. On the night of 1st December 1983 the statue was stolen but later recovered.