St. Hyacinth and the Tree of Life Print
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 23 May 2011 07:50

The modesty of the Dominicans I’ve been working with all these years astounds me.  It turns out that working miracles and raising the dead is an OP thang.

Or so says the author of Saints Who Raise the Dead who wrote a chapter dedicated to three Dominican missionaries who are credited with a hundred miracles of raising the dead between them: St. Hyacinth, St. Vincent Ferrar, and St. Louis Betrand.

I have to admit that, in the past, I’ve had to suppress a giggle when I’ve met Dominicans who have taken some version of the name Hyacinth.  It sounds much better in Spanish – San Jacinto – and towns all over the Spanish speaking world have been named for our wonder-working saint.  But Hyacinth?  How did we get there from the Polish: Jacek Odrow???  Good thing he is too busy enjoying the Beatific Vision to worry about such small humiliations.

However lame his name in English, St. Hyacinth was anything but lame in real life.  He began briskly enough by witnessing St. Dominican raising a dead man in Rome (the nephew of Cardinal Stephen) and then received the habit from the saint’s hands.  Hyacinth then began his missionary journeys and brought the Order to Poland and Kiev where he was regarded as the Polish St. Dominic.  The papal bull of his canonization (1594) declared that the miracles he worked were "almost countless".

1240 was a bad year to be in Kiev, then one of the largest cities in Europe.  The Mongol-Tartar army besieged and then destroyed Kiev.  One of Hyacinth’s most famous miracles is connected with the attack on a Kievian monastery. Hyacinth was about to save a Monstrance (or possibly a Ciborium it is unknown exactly which one) containing the Blessed Sacrament when he heard the voice of the Blessed Virgin Mary asking him to take her too. So he decided to take also the statue of the Holy Virgin. Despite the fact that it weighed far more than he could normally lift, it became miraculously weightless. Thus he saved both the Blessed Sacrament and the statue of Our Lady. For that reason the saint is usually shown holding these two items.

I was blessed to spend a few days in Gdansk, Poland last summer with my friends, the Curps.  It turned out that we were there during the annual feast of St. Dominic which is celebrated city-wide.  The local Dominican Church was showing the relics of St. Hyacinth including what is believed to be the statue of Our Lady that Hyacinth carried out of burning Kiev.  I had long talks with a local Dominican, who spoke English, and who was clearly skeptical.   Whatever the history of the statue, I was enchanted and got some a great picture.  (But the great picture insists on being transfered to the blog upside down.  So here's the not so great picture.  The mysterious things behind are a reflection of the church, the arm of St. Hyacinth from a painting behind the relics, and my own shadow as I took the picture.)

The statue shows a small but adult Jesus hanging on the tree of life (not a cross) and handing a fruit – the salvific fruit of his redemptive self-giving – to another Jesus, who is clearly Lord of the Universe and who is being held by a much larger, gracefully draped Virgin.   What a fantastic image of the cosmos-altering power of Resurrection that we celebrate during the Easter season!