November is the month in which we remember those who have come before us in faith, beginning with All Saints Day, on which we honor all the members of the Church Triumphant. In keeping with this ancient tradition, Thomas Aquinas College is marking the month by displaying some of its most sacred treasures — 14 framed letters from great saints throughout the last 500 years.
“We are very, very happy to have these letters on display,” says Viltis Jatulis, the College’s head librarian. “The students love to see them, and so do our visitors.”
The display, which currently stands in the foyer of St. Bernardine of Siena Library, features hand-written, signed correspondence from various saints and beatified men and women. Among those included are St. Charles Borromeo, St. Frances Cabrini, Bl. Mother Teresa, and St. Pius X, to name just a few. Accompanying each letter is a portrait of the saint as well as an English translation of the text.
While most of the correspondence is personal in nature, some of it is more ecclesiastical. The letter from St. Ignatius of Loyola, for example, is addressed to Spain’s Prince Philip II, lamenting the poor quality of a seminary in Barcelona. Two pages from Bl. Junipero Serra appear to come from a parish register of sorts, documenting recent first Holy Communions and marriages.
The framed letters were a gift from a late friend of the College, John Cohn of Montecito, Calif. “He came to see the campus many times, and we became rather good friends,” says Mrs. Jatulis. Acquiring and collecting the saintly letters, which formerly lined the walls of his home, was his “lifetime interest,” she notes.
In his later years, Mr. Cohn looked for a worthy institution to which he could will the missives, and providentially, he selected Thomas Aquinas College. The College community now seeks the intercession of each of the saints the collection contains, offering prayers for Mr. Cohn’s eternal rest.
Observing that each letter is a second-class relic, Mrs. Jatulis remarks, “We are very honored to have so many right here.” The College also maintains a collection of numerous other, unframed letters in its rare books room. “They are always available for anyone who would like to see them,” says Mrs. Jatulis.
The display will run through the week. Then the letters will return to the rare books room, which is controlled for temperature and moisture, where they will be available by request only. Mrs. Jatulis does, however, plan to display them again on various special occasions, including, of course, the first week of next November.
Librarian Viltis Jatulis with a letter from Bl. Junipero Serra