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June 10


Saint of the day:
Saint Olivia of Palermo

Patron Saint of the Sicilian towns of: Palermo; Monte San Giuliano; Termini Imerese; Alcamo; Pettineo; Cefalù.

Saint Olivia of Palermo's Story

Olivia was the daughter of a noble family living near Palermo, Sicily. At age 13 she was known for her beauty but announced that she wanted to give her life to God and her wealth to the poor and live a consecrated life.

But then, the east German Vandal tribe started to expand into the Mediterranean. Vandal King Genseric took Palermo, and many Christians were martyred.

Olivia was kidnapped and taken to the city of Tunis in Northern Africa. She faced down her captors, strengthened the faith of her fellow Christian prisoners and performed miracles that converted pagan prisoners to the Christian faith.

Enraged, but careful about the popular maiden, the city’s governor had her expelled from the city to be a hermitess, where he hoped she would starve or be killed by wild beasts. She was found alive by hunters who at first tried to take advantage of her. She not only stopped them but converted their hearts.

They brought her back to civilization, where she continued to convert pagans.

The governor tried again. He threw her in prison to try to force her to apostatize. He had her scourged, stripped, and submerged in a cauldron of boiling oil. Her body and her faith remained unscathed. He sentenced her to be burned alive, but that didn’t work, either.

Finally, he had her beheaded.

It’s only recently that more complete scholarship reveals why her life story was not believed: Early records of her life are missing, and her story is too close to the popular saint stories of her day. If someone were to make up a saint, this is the kind of story they would tell, the thinking went.


On the other side is some fairly significant evidence that she was real. An early Christian basilica was built on the site of her tomb and later a mosque was built that took its name from her and honored her relics. The the Mosque of Olive and the current church built over her tomb are pictured, below; the Tunis basilica is also named for St. Olivia, along with St. Vincent de Paul. Her statue in Palermo’s cathedral is pictured to the right.

One scholar points out that Muslims destroyed all early Christian records in the area, so the lack of Olivia’s records is hardly a mark against her. Instead, her memory has been kept alive by devotees for years.






The Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul and Saint Olivia, in Tunis.

Al-Zaytuna Mosque (Mosque of Olive), in Tunis.


The Palermo Cathedral

Via Vittorio Emanuele, 90134 Palermo PA, Italy (Sicily)



Tunisian Chicken and Vegetable Couscous
Tunisian Couscous is their version of a stew, it is traditionally made in a couscoussier.  The meat and vegetables are cooked in the bottom pot with all the spices and the couscous is steamed on top.



  • 1 (4 pound) chicken, cut into pieces (or skinless boneless chicken or lamb)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 yellow onion diced

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 oz. tomato paste

  • 2 cups water or more if needed

  • 2 tablespoons harissa (or more to taste)

  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes

  • 1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas

  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3” pieces, then halved if large

  • 4 cups cubed butternut squash

  • 2 zucchini sliced 1/2 “ thick then quartered

  • 1 cup golden raisins

  • 10 oz. plain couscous, (micro pearls) uncooked



  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Brown chicken in batches (if necessary), return chicken to the pot.  Add the diced onions and all the spices.  Stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the onions start to sweat and the spices become very fragrant.  Add the garlic, stir and cook for another 30 seconds.

  2. Add tomato paste and 1 cup of water, stirring to deglaze the pan.  Add just enough extra water to cover the chicken.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover.  Simmer 30 minutes, adding more water if necessary.

  3. Add carrots and cook 15 more minutes.  Add harissa, potatoes and butternut squash, cook for 10 minutes.  Finally add the zucchini, chickpeas and golden raisins.  Cook until the butternut squash and zucchini are tender about 10 more minutes.

  4. During the last leg of cooking, prepare the couscous according to package directions.  Place couscous in a large bowl, stir in one cup of the cooking liquid from the stew.  Stir well to mix.  Make a well in the center of the couscous and add the chicken and vegetable stew.

  5. Serve with extra cooking liquid and harissa on the side.

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