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Is Barbara a saint?

By BARBARA GONZALEZ- VENTURA, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 05, 2021 5:00 am

December began with my mother’s birthday. She was born on Dec. 1. When I was a little girl I would be so excited because it meant the beginning of a season of festivities.

Next would be Mommy’s mother, my grandmother’s birthday, which was Dec. 4, but she never celebrated it on the day that was then the feast of St. Barbara.

Lola preferred to celebrate her birthday on Dec. 8, to celebrate her bigger feast day. Her name was Concepcion Barbara. The feast of the Immaculate Conception was more important to her than the feast of St. Barbara. I was named after my grandmother.

She was believed to protect people from thunderstorms, the patron saint of artillerymen, architects and stonemasons. But apparently that’s not true, my other grandmother said. Barbara is not a saint’s name.

My classmates from the grades until high school know me as Concepcion. But when I was in fourth year high school, my mother decided to send me to finishing school in Switzerland.

She hired a French tutor for me. Her name, if I remember correctly, was Madame Magalie Holzer. She knew me by my nickname, Tweetums. She asked my mother what my real name was. Mommy said, “Concepcion.”

Madame Holzer went into a state of shock. She told my mother Switzerland was not largely Catholic. Concepcion to them meant conception, which was not a good name for a young girl to carry.

She recommended we get my passport in the name of Barbara. That was in 1961, when the world was totally square.

Cathedral of St. Barbara

I liked Barbara much better than Concepcion, which felt rock-heavy to me. I didn’t look like a Concepcion; I looked and felt more like a Barbara.

Another grandmother once told me that the Catholic Church had declared St. Christopher, who carried the Baby Jesus on his shoulder across a river and was declared a martyr, was now declared not a saint but more of a legend. Also, she stated knowingly, St. Barbara had been dropped as a real saint.

She was believed to protect people from thunderstorms, the patron saint of artillerymen, architects and stonemasons. But apparently that’s not true, my other grandmother said. Barbara is not a saint’s name.

I was very young then, didn’t have an inkling about the kind of woman I would grow up to be. I thought that was good news.

If St. Barbara was no longer a saint, that meant I had the opportunity to replace her. Maybe years after I died, the Church would discover what a wonderful, prayerful martyr I had been and I would be named a saint. I would become the next St. Barbara.

Rosaries should be designed with life and color in them, with hearts and roses for the Blessed Virgin.

Sorry you couldn’t hear me laugh out loud. Now I know that dream will never come true. I have had such a daring past that maybe I should just convert the whole thing into a pulp novel. I would make a lot of money but it wouldn’t buy me sainthood.

Of course, now in my 70s, I make rosaries. Will that earn me a halo? Of course not.

I make them believing that rosaries should be designed with life and color in them, with hearts and roses for the Blessed Virgin, who owns the original concept and design of the rosary.

I want people to experience joy when they open the little bag that holds my rosary. My rosaries are joyful. Maybe I will get young people interested in saying the rosary again. That could buy me a few brownie points that might get me squeezed into heaven. But it will never give me sainthood.

It strikes me as strange that St. Christopher, who carried little children across a river — one of those children designed as Baby Jesus by the creators of his magnetic medals — has been declared not a saint but you still see magnetic St. Christopher medals in most cars.

How many boys are born and named Christopher? Still a lot, indicating that St. Christopher has not lost his glory.

He is still believed to protect travelers, whether you travel by car, ship, or plane. Maybe the immigrants who swim across the Rio Grande should wear St. Christopher medals as well.

St. Christopher and the Infant Christ

How many girls these days are named Barbara? Many more than when I was in high school. Then, when I was Concepcion, the only girl in school named Barbara was an American.

I read a legend about St. Barbara that said she was very beautiful so her father locked her up in a tower to prevent young men from seeing her. One day he asked if she wanted to marry. She said no. She had become a Christian.

He got so upset he brought her to the governor who ordered that she be beheaded. The father was so angry that he beheaded her himself. When he walked home after killing his own daughter, he got caught in a thunderstorm, was hit by lightning and died on the spot. That is why St. Barbara is considered protection against thunderstorms.

Does that make sense? Anyway, I’m happy to be Barbara, whether or not she’s a saint. It’s still a good name, isn’t it?