January 3, 2006: Feasts of Saint Winefride and of the Holy Name of Jesus
Once again, two for the price of one.
And for Winefride alone, I find six different spellings: Winefride, Winifred, Gwenfrewi, Gwenfrewy, Guinevere, and Guinevra. So, this is a really good deal!
I've borrowed the image of Saint Winefride (ca. 600 - November 3, 660) from Two Hearts Design, which provides free clipart for people like me -- and not just "like me" but even for me! Not that I'm mentioned personally...
Despite appearances, Saint Winefride was no giantess and was briefly even shorter by a head:
Winifred was the victim of attempted rape by Prince Caradog. Escaping, Winifred fled towards Beuno's church; but Prince Caradog caught her on the hillside, and cut off her head. Beuno cursed the unrepentant Caradog, who melted away. Then he replaced Winifred's head, prayed over her -- and the girl was restored to life.
Saints don't achieve sainthood without a miracle, and Winefride is no exception:
Where her head fell, legend says, a spring of healing water broke forth. Here, after her resurrection, Winifred sat with Beuno on the stone still called by his name. Here he told her that anyone seeking help through her prayers at that spot would find it. And from that day to this, people have visited St Winifred's holy well on pilgrimage.
As for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, its fixed date has only recently been set, when Pope John Paul II officially decided in 2002 that the feast should be observed on January 3. Prior to that, it was a movable feast held on the Sunday between New Year's Day and the Epiphany except for years with no Sunday between those dates, when January 2 was substituted.
This feast, as one might surmise, commemorates the naming of the baby Jesus. Back when it was still movable, this feast inspired a devout Mexican woman named María Concepción Cabrera de Armida (1862-1937), but called Conchita, to a passionate attachment:
By dint of many a plea, I got my director's permission to engrave the initials on the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, January 14, 1894.... I cut on my bosom in large letters: J.H.S. No sooner had I done this than I felt a supernatural force which threw me, face down, on the floor, my eyes filled with tears and a burning flame within my heart. Vehemently and zealously I then asked the Lord for the salvation of souls: Jesus, Savior of souls, save them, save them!
As her biographer, Marie-Michel Philipon, dryly observes, "Saints are at times more admirable than imitable."
Let's avoid life's sharp edges but raise three glasses for the reluctant Winefride, the infant Jesus, and the passionate Conchita.