Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 20, 1971 when parishioners settled on a site for the new St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Oxford.
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MsgrLiptak_TNQ. I recall that you once made an interesting connection between a Saint and the French name for a taxi, but I don’t have a clear recollection. Would you revisit this subject some time? Are there other examples like it?

A. I suspect that the question here pertains to a French word for taxicab; namely fiacre. The Hotel St. Fiacre in Paris was the location at which hackney coaches were first available for hire. (See The Random House Dictionary.) In popular usage the name of the hotel was transferred to the coaches. (The German word is der Fiaker; I recall seeing these cabs lined up before St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna.)

St. Fiacre (seventh century) comes down to us through medieval Irish chronicles; his memorial was once celebrated in France on 1 September. Curiously, he is venerated here in America as a patron of gardeners, many of whom have a small statue of him in their backyard plots of flowers or vegetables. (One legend relates that Fiacre, a hermit, having traveled from Ireland to France, was gifted with as much acreage as he could plow in a day. The acreage he plowed eventually included a hermitage, a chapel, as well as an inn and a village.)

A comparable example of how St. Fiacre’s name affected language is that of St. Martin of Tours. The word "chapel" derives from his military cloak, which was displayed in a small sanctuary following his death. According to legends, St. Martin, a military officer, was once approached by a beggar at the gates of Amiens on a frigid day. Martin cut his cloak in half with his campaign sword, and gave one half to the beggar. In a dream afterward, Martin said he heard Christ say to him, "Martin, yet a catechumen, has covered me with this garment."

The Old French word for "cloak" was chapele. (See The Oxford Dictionary.) Originally the sanctuary was called "the place of the chapele"; eventually, it came to be called the chapele itself.

Another example in this context is St. Valentine, a name that occurs several times in the Roman Martyrology. Our contemporary world has deleted the prefix, "St." from his name, for secular, materialistic, or other reasons. But the legends all converge on the fact that the day was originally dedicated to praise God in the name of one of God’s special friends; namely, a saint – for a good reason. Incidentally, all the foregoing is known quite well by Catholics who were schooled from childhood in their Faith, but such references sound strangely of another planet to those who lack even scarce knowledge of our rich 2,000-year history.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.