I like Mary Alice a lot better now. Now we’re really getting to be buddy buddies again. Betty Jo went with me to the bridal shower tonight. She is having one for Sharon, she just got married you know. I don’t especially feel like going, but I guess I will have to because these girls will get mad at me. That Sharon wasn’t even a virgin when she got married. Rocky the other guy she was going with before she met Kenny has already made her. She was going to marry Rocky though, but they broke up. She can drop dead for all I care about her.
I got another letter from Charles today, and man that guy is sure serious.
Tuesday, February 26, 1952
Well, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. I am going to go to Mass every lunch hour from now on at the St. Vibiana’s Cathedral in L.A. on Main Street. I am going to give up cigarettes, tapioca pudding, candy, going to eat only soup for lunch at least 3 times a week, ice cream, no dessert for supper…. oh brother I hope I will keep these things. I’m going to do it because I have to improve my willpower anyway.
2. Tapioca pudding
4. Ice cream
5. Dessert for supper
6. Soup 3 times a week
Wednesday, February 27, 1952
Went to Mass this noon at the St. Vibiana’s Cathedral and received ashes. That place was really packed, no lie, but I got a seat anyhow. So far my willpower has been holding out. I had Cream of Tomato soup for lunch today and no candy, ice cream, dessert or smokes.
I am going to write back to Charles tonight. I told him I prayed for him every night, but I just thought about it when I received the letter. Man, I have to remember to pray for that guy, since after all he is in Korea fighting for us.
Thursday February 28, 1952
Bryan, that guy I picked up Feb 19th came down tonight with a buddy of his. What a jerk. The way he was sitting with his tight Levi’s and his legs open, you could see every outline of his crotch. And the dumb nuts didn’t even make any jokes or make me laugh or anything. They are all right, but I will wait for stormy weather before I think twice of either one of them.
Sticking it out as a Comptometer Operator, Vilma was a young working woman in the daily grind of Downtown L.A. city life. Lent was just beginning, the holy season of inner reflection, 40 days before we commemorate the passion and death of our Lord and celebrate the glory of Easter. During this time, Vilma, like so many others, made her way to Main Street and 2nd to what was originally the heart and soul of L.A., the historic and architecturally magnificent St. Vibiana’s Cathedral.
The Cathedral was originally built in 1876 under the direction of Bishop Thaddeus Amat. If you’re a resident of California, you probably know the name Bishop Amat. He was ordained the Bishop of Los Angeles in 1855, when the city had fewer than 9,000 residents. Although Los Angeles was largely underdeveloped dirt fields, he had the foresight of the growth potential for the city. The good Bishop was instrumental in establishing St. Vibiana’s and the first schools in Los Angeles, some of which bear his name to this very day! He was even the catalyst for creating the first ever institution of higher learning in Southern California: Loyola Marymount University.
Almost nothing is known about a young girl named Vibiana, except that she is a maiden martyr who died in the third century, a time of great prosecution for Christians. Her bones were discovered in Rome in 1853 during an excavation of Catacombs at the Appian Way. A simple tomb was there which contained a marble tablet with the inscription:
"To the soul of the innocent and pure Vibiana, laid away the day before the kalends of September".
At the end of the inscription was a laurel wreath, an early Christian symbol for martyrdom. Inside the grave were the bones of a young woman, the nature of the body suggesting a violent death, and a rose-colored vial containing dried blood.
Every Catholic Church must contain a relic of a saint hidden within her altars. While in Rome, Bishop Amat successfully petitioned to use Vibiana’s relics for the new Cathedral. He personally transported her bones from Rome to California, and dedicated her the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. To bear great honor upon her, Vibiana’s bones were encased in a wax cast of a young girl, then dressed in fine silk garments, which were interred in a glass sarcophagus above the cathedral's main altar.
Vibiana is often referred to as the Patron Saint of Nobodies, for at once she is someone and nobody. Someone, because her name is famous throughout the city, yet she remains anonymous, like most of us. It is not necessary for us to know her story really, only that she died for her faith. I think it’s fitting that the Archdiocese of L.A. has St. Vibiana as her patron saint, for her life serves as a contradiction to so many people obsessed with seeking fame, power and fortune.
For over 100 years, St. Vibiana’s Cathedral served her people proudly. At one time it was a thriving and active parish, but the city was literally built around it. What were once dirt roads became major thoroughfares, large industrial buildings sprung up around St. Vibiana’s and families moved out to the suburbs.
The original St. Vibiana’s was no longer in a suitable location, the building and city deteriorating around her, parishioners had soon vanished. Partially damaged by the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the church was set to be torn down. It was rescued by preservationists and decommissioned as a sacred space. In 2005, it was re-invented as an event space that is simply called “Vibiana”.
The new cathedral location was moved to the corner of Temple and Hill streets in 2002, and has become Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral. The good news is that the original stained glass windows, light fixtures and original baroque altar were salvaged and were incorporated into the new cathedral.
Now encased in a solid marble block tomb bathed in light from above, St. Vibiana humbly lies in the far reaches of the bottom crypts of Our Lady of the Angels, in her very own St. Vibiana’s Chapel. It is a quiet and solemn place for reflection. If you are in L.A. one day, stop by and see her… and thank her for being a nobody.