September 7 – Sozon of Cilicia; Eugenia Picco

Sozon of Cilicia (d. 304) was a literate shepherd (which is a miracle right there given the century) who read the Holy Scriptures “attentively” (which is by far the best way to read them—if you’re just going to daydream and look out the windows, read George R. R. Martin or something). Presumably he read them at church; this was long before Borders went into business, let alone out, and mail order was unheard-of. He loved to share what he learned with his fellow shepherds, who not only put up with it; many converted to Christianity as a result.

One night he had a vision of his own martyrdom. Not one to sit and wait for things to happen to him, he headed into town, arriving with some luck on the day of some pagan festival or other. He snuck (yes, I said “snuck,” keep your hair on) into the temple and broke an arm off a golden idol (I will leave the logistics of this to our chemistry (or is that physics?) majors), then pieced out said arm to the poor.

The officials caught wind of the theft, and started waterboarding the usual suspects to get them to confess. Sozon wasn’t the sort to let others suffer on his behalf, so when he heard about this, he turned himself in. To the emperor, of course. (Hey, why not go to the top?) The emperor flew into a rage (he always had one handy for just such exigencies), and ordered Sozon tortured “mercilessly” (which is many times worse than being tortured mercifully), including being made to march with shoes nailed to the bottom of his feet. After suffering this and many other torments, Sozon’s spirit fled his body, and he died, and passed away, and gave up the ghost. The torturers tried to light a fire to burn his body, but a freak storm (complete with son et lumiere) swept in and rained on their parade. Sorry, fire. Rained on their fire. Christians came by night and buried his body. Many were healed when they visited the church that later sprang up at the site of his vision.

Blessed* Eugenia Picco (1867–1921) was the daughter of famous violinist Giuseppe Picco (I’m sure you’ve heard of him) and his wife Anna. Joe and Anna were always on tour, so little Eugenia was raised by her grandparents, until the fateful day when her mother returned Giuseppe-less, and gave Eugenia to believe that her father had died. Eugenia then lived with her mother in rather “irreligious and morally corrupt” surroundings. Each day however she escaped to the Basilica of St. Ambrose, where she prayed to a God she felt she hardly knew. One day she felt a call to holiness, and at age 20 she decided to both seek Jesus and be holy (not a bad combination). She went to the local Ursulines, who commended her to Agostino Chieppi, founder of the Congregation of the Little Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. She ran away from home, and within a year was starting her novitiate, and within six making her profession.

Not content to sit in a cell, she became (among other things) a novice mistress, archivist, general secretary, council member, and Superior General. To say she was destined for great things is accurate. Yet through it all she was humbly devoted to caring for the poor, and her love and concern for the downtrodden was only increased during the horrible World War. Through it all she was fortified by her love for Christ, which was especially present to her in the Holy Eucharist (as of course it is to all of us; she just apparently felt it more than most of us).

Sadly, Eugenia was subject to a(n unspecified) degenerative bone condition, and in 1919 had to have part or all of her right leg removed. She took all of this with good grace, still tireless in her work and in her love for Christ and her fellow man (and woman). She was beatified in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.