Saint Rocco ~ My Son’s Namesake

Saint Rocco
Saint Rocco

I never realized what a negative association many Americans had with the name Rocco until I began receiving looks of horror and disgust from people when they heard my son’s name.  I will admit that it did not fit him when he was an infant, but by some of the expressions, you would have thought I told people his name was Adolph Hitler.  I do not live in an area with a large Italian population, so I had never met anyone named Rocco. We have a Rocco’s Pizza in town though, as well as restaurants named Dario’s, Stefano’s, Gianni’s, and Fabrizio’s. My first association with all of those names was great Italian food. Mafia thugs never crossed my mind. Apparently, the character, Rocco Lampone, from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather left quite a negative impression on the minds of many Americans. I wondered about the other Godfather characters like Michael, Anthony, Vincent, Sonny, Paulie, Joe, and Carlo. Perhaps those are common enough that people have made many other associations with them. What about the name Luca? My son has a sister named Luca.  She was 13 years old when Rocco was born. Neither name is very common, but both were in the top 500 the year Rocco was born. I was curious as to why no one associated it with the character Luca Brasi, described as ruthless, brutish, slow-witted, and the only man feared by Vito Corleone, with a reputation as a savage killer. In general, people love that name, so what happened with Rocco? I simply do not accept that The Godfather had such a powerful influence over people’s opinions of a name. Rocco is a perfectly good name that’s been around since at least the 14th century. It has very special meaning to me, and I am writing this to share my personal reasons for naming my son Rocco.

My son is not named for a movie character, and mobster movies were the furthest thing on my mind when I chose the name. Rocco is named for a Catholic saint.  Saint Rocco was French, although the name is Italian.  My son’s paternal grandmother was French (LeBlanc) and his paternal grandfather was Italian (DeTora).  It was great to have an Italian name with a French connection for our son.  In 1998, I took a religious education class about the Catholic saints and wrote a report on Saint Rocco. I learned everything known about his life and works.  He became my favorite saint and I decided if I ever had another son and the name flowed with his surname, he would be called Rocco.

The life of Saint Rocco was very interesting to me.  He was born into a wealthy family about 1340 A.D. in Montpellier, France. At birth, he had a red cross shaped birthmark on the left side of his chest. From a very young age, Rocco was very devoted to God and the Blessed Mother, Mary. He was quite young when his parents died and was left in the care of his uncle, the Duke of Montpellier. As a very young man, Rocco took a vow of poverty and gave all of his money to the poor.

Dressed in the clothes of a pilgrim, he went to Rome. On his journey, he traveled through Aquapendente, Cesena, and other neighboring cities before reaching Rome. These cities were stricken by the plague. Rocco devoted himself to these plague victims and healed them with prayer and the sign of the cross. Legend has it that everywhere Rocco visited, his miraculous power healed entire cities. After leaving Rome, he traveled through Mantua, Modena, and Parma, all with the same amazing results.

During this time, Rocco contracted the plague, which was evident by a sore on his right leg. This caused him to be banished from the city. He took refuge in a cave, sleeping on leaves and drinking from a stream. Legend has it that a dog owned by a lord refused to eat and would faithfully bring Rocco bread each day.  Out of curiosity, the lord followed his dog one day and discovered Rocco in the cave. Taking pity on him, he brought Rocco back to his castle where he was healed.

Rocco continued to travel through northern Italy for about three more years. When he returned to his birthplace in France, he was very ill and unrecognizable to the townspeople. He was thrown into prison.  He had been imprisoned for five years when a guard found him near death and his cell illuminated with a blue light radiating from his body. His uncle, the governor heard of this, went to the jail cell, and demanded to know his identity.  When asked, he replied “I am your nephew, Rocco.” When the governor saw the birthmark on his chest, he knew this to be true. Rocco passed away on that day, the 16th of August in 1378. After his passing, those present in his cell heard a voice announcing that the soul of Saint Rocco had merited immortal glory in Heaven.

Saint Rocco continued to perform miracles after his death. He is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as the protector of the plague and all contagious diseases. His image is very unique because of his pose and that he is depicted pointing to a sore on his leg. It is extremely rare for images of saints to expose any afflictions or handicaps. The body of Saint Rocco is enclosed in a glass tomb in Saint Rocco Catholic Church in Venice, Italy. He is remembered each year on the 16th of August. Saint Rocco is greatly venerated throughout Italy, but especially in Southern Italy and Sicily.  He is my son’s namesake.

Thanks for reading ~ Sid

Published in: on February 2, 2009 at 10:20 pm  Comments (9)  
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Advanced Maternal Age

Eating Healthy ~ Living Well

When I first heard those words, “advanced maternal age,” I felt sick to my stomach.  What a truly offensive and vulgar term to use for a vibrant, healthy, fit woman in her thirties!  It was May 2006, and I was sitting in the office of a new obstetrician.  I was eight weeks pregnant and had just seen my little duck on an ultrasound for the first time, beating heart and all.  What a crushing blow to such an amazing experience to listen to this woman.  She went on to lecture me about genetic testing and recommended a very long list of tests.  When I declined without hesitation, she looked at me as if I were the most irresponsible, idiot on the planet and did not deserve to have a healthy baby.  She then had the audacity to tell me that my eggs were old and that I should not be taking this so lightly.  I was really rattled by this experience.  I never saw her again.  I continued my prenatal care with a different doctor whom respected my choices.  I kept telling myself that I was much healthier than I had been eighteen years earlier with my first child.  I was walking five miles every single day on hiking trails that gave me a great cardiovascular workout.  I started taking prenatal vitamins a full year before I became pregnant.  I had also lost about thirty pounds two years earlier and kept it off.  I really had never felt better and was taking great care of myself.  I understand that our eggs are older than we are, and that the majority of them are damaged.  I read that a perfectly healthy 25-year-old woman only has a 20% of conceiving each month because four out of five of her eggs are already unsuitable for fertilization.  Well, I got pregnant too quickly and too easily, but that is a story for another time.  I chose to have a positive attitude and tell myself that my healthy egg was fertilized because it was perfect and that my baby would be fine.  He would be healthy and I did not need any of those tests.  After reading about the odds of miscarriage from the invasive tests, there was no doubt in my mind that I was making the best decision.  Although not invasive or dangerous, I declined the maternal serum screening, which is just a blood test, and the nuchal translucency.  It simply tells you if there is an increased chance that your baby has a problem.  Because I was unwilling to do the invasive tests, including the chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or the amniocentisis, the blood test results would only cause me more worry and stress if anything negative was indicated.  I was not going to consider aborting, so why risk miscarriage?

Looking back on my pregnancy, I had nothing to worry about.  If only I’d had a crystal ball.  I worked full-time in a physically demanding job up until the night before I gave birth.  I continued walking five miles a day up until I delivered.  I never had heartburn.  I never had aches and pains.  I never had swollen ankles.  I passed the glucose test for gestational diabetes with flying colors.  I never went into premature labor.  I had a painful, but very fast labor and delivery with no epidural or pain medication.  I was up and ready to leave the hospital the same day I gave birth.  In one day, I shed every pound I had gained during the pregnancy and wore my pre-pregnancy jeans home from the hospital.

In the end, my Christmas baby boy was born several days early and could not have been healthier.  I did the best I could, kept a positive attitude, and the outcome could not have been better.

Thanks for reading ~ Sid

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 10:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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