Cathedrals of California, A Virtual Pilgrimage

Saint Vibiana, the Patron of Nobodies

We know next to nothing about Saint Vibiana. Yet for nearly 120 years her name was attached to the Catholic cathedral in Los Angeles, and today her tomb is in the crypt of the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

When I was young, I remember my grandmother taking me to the cathedral downtown. I distinctly recall the effigy of Saint Vibiana, at that time enshrined above the cathedral altar. It was a wax cast of a young girl that covered those bones unearthed a century before in Rome, encased in glass trimmed with gilt filigree. She appeared to be asleep, and she was dressed in fine silk garments.

High Altar of St. Vibiana Cathedral

Casket of St. Vibiana above the cathedral altar in a 1940 photo

Who was she? She is an enigma. She is nobody and everybody. Her feast is celebrated only by us here in Los Angeles. Because we don’t know the details of her life, in one way it is difficult to ascribe to her particular virtues we can imitate. Yet in another way. this makes it easier for us to identify with her.

All we know about her is that she was a martyr. And that is enough. She stands for all of us, the insignificant ones who will never be written about in history books. We follow Jesus as best we can, in ways unknown to others. Yet we too can be like Vibiana, faithful disciples of the Lord. Our lives may not be widely known, but they are known to God, who has called us each by name from before the beginning of time.

When we stand before the Tomb of Saint Vibiana, let us imagine our parents, our grandparents and great-grandparents who sacrificed so much to pass on to us the Faith. In many ways, they are like Vibiana, unknown to the world but beloved by God. To a world obsessed with celebrity, they are nobodies; but in the eyes of God, they are precious beyond all imagining.

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3 Responses to “Saint Vibiana, the Patron of Nobodies”

  1. mr robin basdeo jr Says:

    Awesome write up, I am enjoying the site, I am a new volunteer to OLA and was wondering who this Saint was, thanx…

  2. Gail Nichols Says:

    born and raised in california, i grew up in OC in the ’60s, going to Mass at San Juan Capistrano untill Msgr Vincent Lloyd Russell died there mid ’70s. my parents used to come to LA to the Old Plaza church, to help out in many ways, till the powers that be tore down the old cloister and most of the original church that faced the plaza in front of Olivera Street. it tears my heart, living in exile here in kansas, to see all the beautiful old churches destroyed, and my beautiful Vivana is now locked in an ugly rock box, in a room that looks like its unfinished concrete building slabs. poor sweet little girl….some one take her out, and let her be venerated and viewed as once she was. we need her

  3. Terri Lynn Says:

    Yes… it is a shame many old churches are coming down. In this case however, I personally feel it is a good thing. Think about where she was found… it seems to me that perhaps St. Vibiana had a hand in the inspiration.

    For those who have not been able to visit… it is much like walking into a beautiful cave. It’s warm and cool at the same time. And, so very peaceful.

    To me it seems as if they have created the perfect place for her. One she would be very pleased with. Much closer to her original home.

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