Saturday, September 23, 2006

Saint Brendan the Navigator

Saint Brendan is primarily known for the seven year voyage he took into the Atlantic with 60 followers. According to a 9th century manuscript The Voyage of Saint Brendan the Navigator he set off to search for the Garden of Eden. This probably occurred around 530 AD, before he traveled from Ireland to the island of Britain.

On his journey Brendan is said to have seen an island covered in vegetation, which he believed to be Paradise. Some claim that he may have discovered North America in his travels. He also encountered a sea monster (probably a whale) Christopher Columbus used the legends told of St Brendan as part of his argument that it was possible to travel to Asia by crossing the Atlantic.

Later, he traveled to Wales and the holy island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland. Upon his return to Ireland, he founded a bishopric at Annaghdown, where he spent the rest of his days. He was recognized as a saint by the Irish church, and his feast day is May 16.

Saint Brendan also is one of the few saints to be featured as a comic book character. In Dr. Strange III #11/2 (December 1989) he was summoned by Merlin and it took their combined power to contain the Darkhold and trap Mordred in a special crypt. More about Saint Brendan the Marvel comic book character can be found Here.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Saint Januarius

Saint Januarius, or San Gennaro, was the Bishop of Benevento. Sources claim that he died in 305 during the persecution of Diocletian near in the sulfur mines, where he was visiting imprisoned deacons. He was beheaded along with many other companions. His body was later taken to Naples Italy, where he is now the patron saint.

His feast Day is September 10th, and he remains extremely popular, despite very limited information about his life and works.This is primarily due to the miracle that occurs annually... The liquefaction of his blood.

In small round glass globes in an ornate reliquary there is kept the dried blood of the saint. On his feast day or on the first Sunday in May, the dried "blood" becomes liquid after being handled by a priest during the service and ceremony.

Some scientists suggest that it is not blood but instead a gel like hydrated iron oxide. Such a concotion would solidify until shaken or otherwise moved. This would also explain why the blood liquified during an earthquake.

The first recorded reference to the "miracle of the blood" was in 1389.

More: The Blood of Saint Januarius

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Saint Margaret of Antioch

Saint Margaret, also known as Margaret of Antioch was the daughter of a pagan priest named Aedesius. Naturally, she was rejected by her father for her faith, and lived in the country with a foster-mother as a shepardess.

A man named Olybrius offered her marriage if she renounced Christianity. Her refusal led to her being cruelly tortured, first by being burned and then they attempted to boil her alive. She was then fed to Satan who was in the shape of a dragon, from which she also escaped alive. Finally, Saint Margaret was put to death by beheading in A.D. 304.

Some historians believe that the group of legends that Saint Margaret is connected with are derived from a transformation of the pagan divinity Aphrodite into a Christian saint. In art, she is usually pictured escaping from the dragon. Saint Margaret was immensely popular in England with over 200 churches dedicated to her. She is also one of the Saints who reportedly appeared to Joan of Arc.

Some say that if Margaret was a historical person, an explanation for the "dragon" could be a rock python. It was a well known animal to the Romans, and often used in circuses. Rock pythons are known to have attacked and even swallowed humans, the snake could well have devoured her whole and later vomited her out.

Saint Lucia/Lucy

After a fairly typical childhood (by early female saint standards) with the usual fanatical religious devotion and an absent parent, Lucy's mother arranged a marriage for her with a pagan groom.

Naturally, Lucy refused and urged that the dowry be spent on alms so that she might retain her virginity. News that the patrimony and jewels were being distributed to the poor came to the ears of Lucy's betrothed, who heard it from a talkative nurse that Lucy had found a suitor of noble stature to replace him.

As revenge, her rejected pagan groom ratted out Lucy as a Christian to the magistrate, who ordered her to burn a sacrifice to the Emperor's image. Lucy replied that she had nothing left to give; "I offer to him myself, let him do with his offering as it pleaseth him." So she was entenced to be defiled in a brothel.

The guards who came to take her away found her rooted to the spot, she had become heavy and stiff. They could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. All the while, she spoke against her persecutors. Even when they stuck a dagger in her throat, she kept talking. Finally they gouged her eyes out, but she was still able to see. In art she is shown holding her eyes on a plate. In the end God restored her eyes and eyesight, apparently before she was executed.

Her patronage includes; authors; Belgium; cutlers; dysentery; epidemics; eye problems; glaziers; hemorraghes; laborers; martyrs; peasants; Perugia, Italy; saddlers; salesmen; sore eyes; sore throats; stained glass workers; Syracuse, Sicily; throat infections; Villa Santa Lucia, Latium, Italy; writers

Saint Denis

Saint Denis was the bishop of paris and is the patron saint of France. He was martyred by beheading around 250 AD, after being sent there from Italy by Pope Fabian to convert the Gauls.

Denis was beheaded by sword on the highest hill near Paris (now called Montmartre.) According to the Golden Legend, after he was beheaded, Saint Denis picked up his head and walked several miles all the while preaching a sermon. The site where he stopped preaching and finally died was made into a shrine that later grew into the Saint Denis Basilica.

In art, Denis is depicted holding his head and taking a stroll.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

St Christopher Cynephoros

The Eastern Orthodox Church has not downgraded Saint Christopher, although his history is almost certainly fiction. He is sometimes depicted in art and iconography as having the head of a dog. According to the Eastern Orthodox, During the reign of the Emperor Decius, a man named Reprebus (or Reprobus) was captured in combat and was assigned to the "Unit of the Marmaritae". He was a giant and a cannibal said to have the head of a dog. Traditional Orthodox iconography depicts him as literally dog-headed. When Reprebus accepted baptism, he lost his dog head and became human in appearance. The governor of Antioch (or in some versions, the Emperor himself) decreed that Reprebus was to be executed for his faith. He miraculously survived many attempts at his life and "allowed" himself to be martyrdom after he had converted thousands of people.

According to the Roman Orthodox tradition, Saint Christopher was a giant whom carried the Christ Child across a river and was baptised by him. He was later beheaded by the local king.

Relics and the head of the Saint are being held on the island of Rab, Croatia. Saint Christopher is the patron of the island of Rab. When Normans tried to invade the islands and besieged the city, its inhabitants placed the saints relics on the city walls. As a miraculous result the winds changed and the bows and ships were blown away from the city.

Today, Saint Christopher has been demoted to a local commemoration (since many question the historical accuracy of his legend)
Despite this, Saint Christopher remains very popular among Roman Catholics. Medallions issued in his name are worn and frequently displayed in automobiles. (Our old Crown Victoria came with one glued to the dashboard.)

He holds patronage of things related to travel and travelers: people who carry things; against lightning; against pestilence; archers; automobile drivers; automobiles; bachelors; boatmen; bookbinders; bus and taxi drivers; epileptics; floods; fruit dealers; fullers; gardeners; hailstorms; holy death; lorry drivers; mariners; market carriers; motorists; porters; sailors; storms; sudden death; surfers; toothache; transportation; transportation workers; travellers, and watermen

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Saint Wilgefortis

Also known as Saint Uncumber

Legend says she was a Christian daughter of a pagan King of Portugal. In order to keep her vow of chastity, she prayed that God would disfigure her body, so she might evade the command of her father to marry a pagan prince. God caused a beard to grow on her chin, whereupon her father had her crucified.

Connected with this legend is the story of a destitute fiddler to whom, when he played before her image (or perhaps before her crucified body), she gave one of her golden boots. Being condemned to death for the theft of the boot, he was granted his request to play before her a second time, and, in presence of all, she kicked off her other boot, which established his innocence.

The legend cannot be traced back further than the fifteenth century. It its believed that it originated from a misinterpretation of the famous "Volto Santo" of Lucca, a representation of the crucified savior, clothed in a long tunic, wearing a crown and looking rather androgynous.

The name Wilgefortis is said to derive from the phrase Hilge Vartz (Vartz, Fratz, face), "Holy Face". The old English name Saint Uncumber, and the equivalents in other languages, rose from the popular belief that every one who invokes the saint in the hour of death will die without anxiety or regret.

Her feast was celebrated on 20 July. The Roman Catholic Church removed her commemoration in the liturgical reform of 1969. She is usually represented nailed to a cross: as a girl of ten or twelve years, frequently with a beard, or as throwing her golden boot to a musician playing before her, sometimes also with one foot bare.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Saint Erasmus of Formiae

Martyrdom: around 330 AD

Patronage: Sailors

Saint Erasmus, also known as Saint Elmo, might have been a hermit on Mount Lebanon, or a bishop in Formia.

According to the legend, he was called before the judges during the persecuting under the Emperor Diocletian, and found guilty of being a Christian. He was beaten and spat upon, then beaten again with lead mauls until the veins in his body broke and burst. Erasmus was then thrown into a pit of snakes, and boiling oil and sulfur was poured on top of him; but "he lay therein as he had lain in cold water, thanking and loving God". According to the Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine. During his tortures, thunder and lightning struck, killing everyone around except the Saint. Diocletian then had him thrown into another pit, but an angel came and slew all the snakes. He was subsequently released.

After the emperor Diocletian came the Emperor Maximus. Maximus is said to be "worse than Diocletian". Since Saint Erasmus had not learned from the past tortures and was still preaching and spreading the word of god, Maximus had him put into a pan boiling with rosin, pitch, brimstone lead, and oil and had it poured into his mouth. Saint Erasmus still did not stop. Maximus then had him fitted into a searing hot cloak of metal, to no effect. The emperor then took Saint Erasmus to the pagan temple and forced him to sacrifice to the roman gods there, but they crumbled to dust. This enraged Maximus, so he put Saint Erasmus into a barrel protruding with spikes and rolled him down a hill. Erasmus came out unharmed. According to the Golden Legend, the Saint was then subjected to the following tortures:
"His teeth were plucked out of his head with iron pincers. And after that they bound him to a pillar and carded his skin with iron cards, and then they roasted him upon a gridiron...And did smite sharp nails of iron in his fingers, and after, they put out his eyes of his head with their fingers, and after that they laid this holy bishop upon the ground naked and stretched him with strong whites bound to horses about his blessed neck, arms, and legs, so that all his veins and sinews that he had in his body burst."

It is not clear how Erasmus escaped these tortures, but he ended up on Mount Lebanon as a hermit, and was fed by ravens. He was recaptured, beaten and whipped again, then coated in pitch and set alight. Finally, after Maximus threw him into prison with the intent of starving him to death, Erasmus managed to escape again.

He was recaptured,in the Roman province of Illyrcium, where he was martyred by having his stomach slit open and his entrails wound around a windlass (depicted above by Nicolas Poussin 1628). The use of this tool is how sailors took him as their patron saint.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Saint Agatha

martyrdom: c.250 at Catania, Sicily

Patronage: Ali, Sicily; bell-founders; breast cancer; breast disease; Catania, Sicily; against fire; earthquakes; eruptions of Mount Etna; fire; fire prevention; jewelers; martyrs; natural disasters; nurses; Palermo, Sicily; rape victims; single laywomen; sterility; torture victims; volcanic eruptions; wet-nurses; Zamarramala, Spain

Not much is known about the martyr, Saint Agatha, who has been honored since the dawn of Christianity. According to legend, she was beautiful, young and rich, and had consecrated her life to God. When the Roman emperor Decius announced the edicts against the Christians, the magistrate Quinctianus tried to blackmail her for sex in exchange for not charging her. She refused. Agatha was handed over to a brothel, where she refused to accept customers. After rejecting Quinctianus's advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, and her breasts were cut off. Imprisoned again, then rolled in live coals, she was near death when an earthquake struck the region. In the destruction, the magistrate's friend was crushed and the magistrate himself fled. Agatha thanked god for an end to her pain, and died.

Legend says that carrying the reliquary with her veil in procession has averted eruptions of Mount Etna. Her intercession is credited with saving Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Veronica Giuliani

Born: 1660 at Mercatello, Urbio, Italy as Ursula Giuliani
Died : July 9 1727 at Citt' di Castello, Italy

Apparently Saint Veronica got her start early in life. Born to wealthy parents, her first words were said to be "Do justice, God sees you." Growing up some would even report she was a bit stuck up, especially about her families status and towards those who didn't share her religious fervor.

As a teen, when her father presented potential suitors for her to marry she became ill at the thought of not devoting her life to god. With her fathers blessing she joined the Poor Claires at the age of 17.

In 1697 Saint Veronica began showing signs of the Stigmata, starting with the wounds of the crown of thorns on her head and by Good Friday the other 5 wounds on her body and hands. The local bishop eventually decided to study these phenomena himself. In the presence of several nuns, he examined the stigmata and satisfied himself that they were genuine wounds. As a sort of test to ensure no fraud was occuring, he forbade the Veronica to receive Communion, to associate with the other nuns, and to have any communications with the outside world. She was to be under constant observation for a period by a lay sister. Her wounds were to be dressed and bandaged, and her hands clothed in gloves sealed with the bishop's seal. After a long term, the bishop was satisfied that her wounds were not a deception and stopped the experament. There were also reports of her levetation, and that the bleeding from the stigmata would stop with a word of command.
After her death the figure of the cross was found impressed upon her incorrupt heart.

It is interesting to note that that during her 34 years as mistress of novices, she actively discouraged the apprentice nuns from fancying that they were mystics. She knew well that there could be dangerous consequences. When elected abbess eleven years before her death, she showed herself also as a practical administrator. She started an extensive building program, including enlarging the convent quarters and piping in a better water system. She is also the author of a 10 volume diary of her experiences and visions entitled Diary of the Passion.

She succumbed to apoplexy in July of 1727. She was canonized in 1839.

Her bones, encased in wax (photo above) are on display. There was a death mask made so the features are accurate. Her incorrupt heart is kept in a reliquiary in Monastero Santa Veronica Giuliani.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Joseph of Copertino

AKA: Joseph of Copertino; the Gaper; the Flying Friar; Joseph Desa

Patronage:air crews, air travellers, aircraft pilots, astronauts, aviators, paratroopers, flyers, students and test takers.

Memorial: 18th of September

Joseph had a rough start in life. His father died before he was born and his mother was homeless due to debt. He was born in a stable. At age 8 he started having visions that left him staring into space, and earned him the nickname "The Gaper" from his peers.

After joining the Franciscans near Cupertino, his visions intensified. They seemed to be triggered by music, a church bell or images of Mary or even thoughts of heaven. Once he would go into a trance, nothing could wake him. Not even being burnt or pinched. Oftentimes he would levetate or float.
For 35 years he was not allowed to attend choir, go to the common refectory, walk in procession, or say Mass in church. To prevent making a spectacle, he was ordered to remain in his room with a private chapel. He was even brought before the Inquisition at one point.

In September 1663 he died following a sudden fever and is buried in the chapel of the Conception, Ossimo Italy.

Hail Mary...

Now, I've never been nor intend to be a Catholic, but I've long had a fascination with the icons and illuminated manuscripts, etc that are part of the Catholic tradition. I also find the stories of the Saints intriguing as well, especially the more obscure ones.

Therefore, I have decided to make occasional postings featuring some of the lesser known saints, attempting to time the entry for thier Saint Days. Virtually every day on the calendar is dedicated to a saint. Some of these saints have fallen out of popularity, or have been all but forgotten. Some are no longer recognized as official saints by the church. Some are only recognized in a specific region of the world.

I hope someone finds this even remotely educational...