The Solemnity of Corpus Christi, The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Madonna della Lettera / Our Lady of the Letter (Messina, Sicily, Italy) 1693 – Patron of Messina, Palmi (Reggio Calabria) and of Finale (Palermo) – 3 June and 9 January:
According to tradition, Saint Paul arrived in Messina to preach the Gospel and the population welcomed him with enthusiasm, thus obtaining many conversions. In 42, when Paul was about to return to Palestine, some Messinesi asked to accompany him in order to get to know Our Lady in person. So a delegation of Messinesi went to Palestine with a missive, in which many fellow citizens converted to the faith of Christ, professed their faith and asked for the protection of Mary.
Mary welcomed them and, in response to the letter, sent back a letter of her, written in Hebrew, rolled up and tied with a lock of her hair. The delegation returned to Messina on 8 September 42 carrying the important letter. In it, Mary praised their faith, mentioning that their devotion pleased her and assured them of her perpetual prayers and protection.
The lock of hair is kept in the Cathedral of Messina and exposed on the day of Corpus Christi set in the tree of a small galleon built in silver, which represents one of the examples of the protection of the Lady for Messina. (see image below)
The cult of Our Lady of the Letter, however, only became established in 1716, the year in which the Monk Gregorio Arena brought a translation of the letter of Mary from Arabic into Messina. Since then, the City of Messina has celebrated the festival on 3 June with a crowded procession of the silvery litter of Our Lady. The tradition of the names Letterio and Letteria (abbreviations, respectively Lillo and Lilla) derives from the cult of Our Lady of the Letter, spread above all in Messina and the Province.
The text of the letter delivered to the Messina delegation reads:
“Most humble servant of God, Mother of Jesus crucified, of the tribe of Judah, of the lineage of David, good health to all the Messinese and Blessing of God the Father Almighty. It is clear to us, through public instrument, that all of you with great faith, have sent Legates and Ambassadors, confessing that Our Son, begotten of God, is God and man and that after his Resurrection, ascended into heave. Having known the way of truth through the preaching of Paul, the chosen Apostle for whom we bless you and your city and, of which, we want to be its perpetual protector.
(From Jerusalem 3 June year 42 of Our Son. Indiction 1 moon XXVII) “
The phrase VOS ET IPSAM CIVITATEM BENEDICIMUS (“We bless you and your City”) is now written in large letters at the base of the Statue of Our Lady on the extreme arm of the Port of Messina. It should be noted that the text of the letter has an inconsistency in the date, since at that time Christian dating did not yet exist.
The devotion in Palmi (Reggio Calabria): – In 1575 an epidemic of plague broke out in Messina which caused the death of over 40,000 people. The citizens of Palmi welcomed those who fled the Peloritan City and also, through its sailors, sent aid of various kinds of food and oil. After the calamity, the City of Messina wanted to donate one of the hairs of Our Lady that were brought to the Sicilian City to the ecclesial authorities of Palmi, as a sign of gratitude for the help given.
In 1582 a reliquary containing a Holy Hair of the Virgin arrived at the Marina di Palmi. From that moment, veneration towards Our Lady with the title “of the Holy Letter” began also in the people of Palmese and her Effigy carved in dark wood and enclosed in a silver mantle, similar to that venerated in the Peloritan City, was adopted.
Martyrs of Uganda (Memorial) – 22 saints: Twenty-two (22) young Ugandan converts martyred in the persecutions of King Mwanga. They are –
• Achileo Kiwanuka • Adolofu Mukasa Ludigo
• Ambrosio Kibuuka • Anatoli Kiriggwajjo
• Anderea Kaggwa • Antanansio Bazzekuketta
• Bruno Sserunkuuma • Charles Lwanga
• Denis Ssebuggwawo • Gonzaga Gonza
• Gyavire • James Buzabaliao
• John Maria Muzeyi • Joseph Mukasa
• Kizito • Lukka Baanabakintu
• Matiya Mulumba • Mbaga Tuzinde
• Mugagga • Mukasa Kiriwawanvu
• Nowa Mawaggali • Ponsiano Ngondwe
They were Canonised on 18 October 1964 by Pope Paul VI at Rome, Italy.
The Lives and Martyrdom of the Ugandan Martyrs:
Bl Adam of Guglionesi
St Albert of Como
St Athanasius of Traiannos
St Auditus of Braga
Bl Beatrice Bicchieri
St Caecilius of Carthage
St Charles Lwanga & Companions (see the Martyrs of Uganda above)
Bl Charles-René Collas du Bignon
St Clotilde of France
St Conus of Lucania
St Cronan the Tanner
St Davinus of Lucca
Bl Diego Oddi
Bl Francis Ingleby
St Gausmarus of Savigny
St Genesius of Clermont
St Hilary of Carcassone
St Isaac of Córdoba
St Juan Grande Román OH (1546-1600) Religious of the Hospitallers of Saint John of God whi adopted the name “John the Sinner”
St Kevin of Glendalough (c 498-618) Priest
St Laurentinus of Arezzo
St Liphardus of Orléans
St Morand of Cluny
St Moses of Arabia
St Oliva of Anagni
St Paula of Nicomedia
St Pergentinus of Arezzo
St Phaolô Vu Van Duong
Dominicans Martyred in China
Martyrs of Africa – 156 saints: 156 Christians martyred together in Africa, date unknown; the only other information to survive are some of their names –
• Abidianus• Demetria• Donatus• Gagus• Januaria• Juliana• Nepor• Papocinicus• Quirinus• Quirus
Martyrs of Byzantium – 5 saints: A group of Christians, possibly related by marriage, who were martyred together. They were –
• Claudius• Dionysius• Hypatius• Lucillian• Paul
They were Martyred in 273 in Byzantium.
Martyrs of Rome – 8 saints: A group of Christians martyred together. We know nothing else about them but the names –
• Amasius• Emerita• Erasmus• Lucianus• Orasus• Satuaucnus• Septiminus• Servulus
They were Martyred in Rome, Italy, date unknown.
Martyrs of Rome – 86 saints: 85+ Christians martyred together in Rome, Italy, date unknown. The only details that have survived are some of their names –
• Apinus • Apronus • Aurelius • Avidus • Cassianus • Criscens • Cyprus • Domitius • Donata • Donatus • Emeritus • Extricatus • Exuperia • Faustina • Felicitas • Felix • Flavia • Florus • Fortunata • Fortunatus • Fructus • Gagia • Gagus • Gallicia • Gorgonia • Honorata • Januaria • Januarius • Justa • Justus • Libosus • Luca • Lucia • Matrona • Matura • Mesomus • Metuana • Nabor • Neptunalis • Obercus • Paula • Peter • Pompanus • Possemus • Prisca • Procula • Publius • Quintus • Rogatian • Romanus • Rufina • Saturnin • Saturnus • Secundus • Severa • Severus • Sextus • Silvana • Silvanus • Sinereus • Tertula • Titonia • Toga • Urban • Valeria • Veneria • Veranus • Victor • Victoria • Victorinus • Victuria • Victurina • Virianus • Weneria • Zetula.
They were Martyred in Rome date unknown.