I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, but on a mysterious, almost cellular level, I am inexorably drawn to Catholicism’s rituals, pageantry and panoply of saints. Last fall, during a magical vacation to the Bay Area, my now-husband and I strolled through San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood and stumbled upon the St. Francis of Assisi National Shrine. Breathing deeply the scent of incense, we made our way to the gift shop, where I immediately purchased a pocket-sized book called “Lives of the Saints.”
I’ve always liked the idea of asking a saint to intercede on one’s behalf, and believe me when I tell you that there is a patron saint for every ailment, profession, and body part you can imagine. Tomorrow, August 10, is the feast day for San Lorenzo of Rome. In the year 258, San Lorenzo defied the prefect of Rome and was roasted over a slow fire. He made jokes as he burned, telling his torturers, “Turn me over…I’m done on this side,” thereby making him the patron saint of cooks.
Perhaps there’s some underlying cosmic order to the timing of San Lorenzo’s feast day, which falls smack dab in the middle of the dog days of summer. Appetites can wane beneath the relentless August sun, but late summer is prime time for backyard grilling (how I envy you people with yards and grills!), vibrant tomatoes, and pungent basil pesto.
I won’t be at Mass this weekend; for this cultural Catholic, the most satisfying communion takes place at the dinner table. I will raise a glass to San Lorenzo tomorrow, though, and thank him for reminding me that even in the dog days of summer, there is much cooking–and eating!–to be done.