REGGIO EMILIA, Italy. This industrial town in the north of Italy is getting a sprucing up in anticipation of a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate the canonization of St. Luciana, a young girl who will be named the patron saint of bathroom breaks.
“Luciana, she was the most wonderful little girl we ever had here,” says Sister Mary Agnesita, her first-grade teacher. “She never once aska to go to the bathroom except atta assigned breaks.”
Children in Catholic elementary schools are allowed to leave their classrooms to go to the bathroom at times other than regularly-scheduled breaks with permission from the teacher, but they are assessed a “venial” or minor sin for doing so. “We give the children a choice,” says Sister Mary Joseph Arimathea, principal of St. Rocco’s, which Luciana attended until her death. “We tell them, ‘It’s up to you–you can wait until break, or you can go to the bathroom now and burn in purgatory until the end of time.’ It makes them think twice.”
Pope Benedict is said to be looking forward to the celebration as a pleasant diversion from the routine of the Vatican, where he is buried in paperwork much of the time. “Every now and then when he needs a break he’ll go out on the balcony and practice his Celine Dion imitation,” says His Eminence Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Vatican insider. “He’s got her down cold, even the Canadian pronunciation of ‘love’ as ‘loeurve’.”
Three verified miracles are required in order for a person to achieve sainthood, and in Luciana’s case she had ”more than enough to push her over the top” says Emilio Rossetti, who handicaps sainthood races for L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. “In addition to her remarkable ability to avoid bathroom breaks, she once returned a boy’s Valentine because it had suggestive X’s and O’s on the envelope,” he recalls with pious admiration. “And she used to volunteer to take names when the nuns left the classroom.”
Luciana died at the age of twelve when her sixth grade teacher, Sister Gabriella Marie, left the room to elope with a seminary student and did not return. The young girl was found with a burst bladder in the class cloakroom.