Saturday evening, I learned that Sainte Barbe is the Patroness of les Sapeurs-Pompiers. I had never heard of her before, but I have to believe that her spirit and presence were everywhere that night of the fire at the Chatette.
As I've said before, I'm not an organized religion person but I have always been intrigued by the saints and am a regular candle lighter in ancient churches in France. My focus has always been on gratefulness and small things with St. Therese of Lisieux, but I've now added Sainte Barbe to my list.
Actually, I now believe she was there all along and I didn't even know it.
Sainte Barbe would have lived in the middle of the third century. Legend has it that there was a man her father wanted her to marry, but she refused. Her father locked her in a tower as punishment. During that time, she converted to Christianity and was baptized. Her father was furious so he set the tower on fire, but she managed to escape. A shepherd found her and turned her in to the authorities, where she refused to denounce her faith. Her sentence was to be decapitated, by her father. During her decapitation, her father was struck down by lightening.
Saint Barbe was very quickly recognized as the patroness of all professions related to fire, lightening, explosions and digging in the ground. Her worship took off in the 13th century and again during the Third Republic. She is usually depicted as a young girl with a wreath, palme and a book, and is also associated with conviviality.
The obvious fire connection is important, but the real aha for me about Sainte Barbe's presence was that her worship took off in the13th century (the age of parts of the Chatette) and that she is also the Patron Sainte for miners and diggers.
The Wikipedia article used the words "tunnel penetration!" With all the digging I've been doing at the Chatette over all these years in the tunnel, in the barn, on the lower terrace, and beside the train tracks...I like to think that Sainte Barbe has been with us all along. She was already there and ready that night when the Sapeurs-Pompiers du Lot-Cajarc and I needed her.
And for that, "we" are eternally grateful!
The images of Sainte Barbe and the information I provided came from Wikipedia and I want to be sure to credit it here.