Sunday, January 8, 2017


I’m a pretty good Catholic. I go to mass every Sunday and on holy days of obligation (well, almost all of the time), I send my kids to Catholic school, and I try to give up something for Lent (emphasis on “try” here.).

One of my favorite parts about being Catholic is the saints. I still remember the Lives of the Saints I had when I was a kid. It was a little, burgundy-colored, faux-leather-bound book with gilt edges. In fact, I even remember some of the illustrations, including this exact one:

That’s St. Roch by the way

I guess what I always liked about the saints is that they were so concrete. Here were real, live people who were trying to live good lives. Not only were they role models, but they almost seemed like friends. 

Part of what made that last bit so effective was that there are so darn many of them (over 10,000, according to There’s bound to be some saint out there that anyone could identify with.

For example, I love the outdoors. So, you can probably guess who my favorite saint is. Yup, St. Francis of Assisi. I also take my role as a father pretty seriously, so another of my favorites is St. Joseph. I’ve also always admired Joseph’s humility and down-to-earth quality, something that also seems apparent in another favorite of mine, St. Peter.

And all that’s not even to mention patron saints. Now, these are the saints who have some particular little niche officially carved out for them. For example, I was really into sports when I was kid. So, St. Sebastian was the saint for me. I’ve been pretty active in Scouting as an adult, so that would be St. George. And I’m a banker by trade, so that’s St. Matthew.

The Calling of St. Matthew
Hendrick Terbrugghen

And here’s where we get into the funny part of this blog … In addition to patron saints for pretty standard things like basic medical conditions (e.g., blindness), or common occupations (nurses, say), and hobbies, countries, cities, and the like, we’ve also got patrons for stuff like:
  • Plumbers
  • Roller skaters
  • Hoboes
  • The Internet
  • Oversleeping 
  • Italian prison guards
  • Salmon
  • Struma
  • Soap boilers
Lydwina of Schiedam

In addition to patronages, there’s also representations. This really just means how saints are typically depicted. This might be something from their life (a bishop’s crozier, say), their martyrdom (St. Sebastian’s arrows), or something more poetical (like an ox for St. Luke). Of course, this also means some pretty weird stuff as well:
  • Young man in an oven
  • Abbess with mice
  • Bishop with an axe in his head
  • Pope with geese surrounding him
  • Man with his limbs chopped off
  • Young priest with a spider
  • Naked young woman hanging by her hair

Gertrude of Nivelles

Finally, each saint of course has a name. Once again, these might be boring things like John, and James, and Anne. But, then again, you might also get:
  • Frodulphus
  • John of the Grating
  • Trudpert of Munstertal 
  • Swithburt the Younger
  • Sabas the Goth of Rome
  • Florian of Lorch
  • Symforian Ducki 
  • Tortgith of Barking
  • Moloc of Mortlach 
  • Vimin of Holywood 
Moloc of Mortlach

Now, one question you might have at this point is whether this blog isn’t a teensy bit sacrilegious. And my answer to that, is “yeah, probably.” If I’m making fun a little here, though, it’s really because I think the saints are fun. What I’m really hoping is that, if I can get someone, Catholic or no, to think about these wonderful, very human, people just a little bit, maybe I’ll have done some good. And it never hurts to have a good laugh.

This blog will look at each week of the calendar, featuring 10 saints whose feast days fall within that week ... and whose names, representations, and/or patronages are just pretty darn strange.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dec. 22-30

Well, I probably don’t need to tell you what the biggie is this week. Interestingly, there are a couple of important saints whose feast days also fall on this week – saints whose feast days tend to get pretty well overlooked. I’m talking, in particular, about John the Apostle, Stephen, and Thomas a Becket. There are also some pretty obscure saints as well – saints that honestly ought to be overlooked. Saints like these …

#10  Odoardo Focherini (Dec 27)

Hard to believe, but this guy with the super weird name also just so happens to be a very modern saint. He was, in fact, martyred during WWII – for helping Jews escape the Nazis (and would himself die in a concentration camp). He would later be recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. Focherini was very much the layman – an insurance company employee and journalist, he was also married with 7 children.

By the way, Odoardo is just an Italian version of Edward.

#9  John the Apostle (Dec 27)
Patronage: compositors

Why people who composite, of course.

This is actually just one of those professions that really don’t exist anymore. It’s really just a fancy term for a typesetter.

Why is John their patron? I honestly don’t know. He is very popular with folks in publishing – authors, publishers, editors, engravers, bookbinders, papermakers … Actually, all of that probably comes from his extensive writings, which include the fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and possibly the Book of Revelation.

Other than that, John was a fisherman, the brother of James the Greater, and possibly Jesus’s favorite (he’s referred to in the Gospels as the “Beloved Disciple”). He was also the only apostle not to deny Jesus, was the first to reach the tomb after the Resurrection, was the first to recognize the risen Jesus, did considerable missionary work, and was the last apostle living (and the only one not to die a martyr’s death).

#8  Stephen the Martyr (Dec 24)
Representation:  deacon with rocks on his head

Note that that’s on his head, by the way. Not in his head.

This representation may actually be a polite way to show that Stephen was stoned to death. In fact, Stephen was the first martyr.

Surprisingly, we don’t know that much more about him. We do know that he was a Greek-speaking Jew. Upon conversion, he was made a deacon, in charge of distributing food and aid to the poor. The martyrdom happened in Jerusalem, in the year 33. It’s featured in the Acts of the Apostles.

#7  Theophylact of Ohrid (Dec 31)

I’m assuming that last bit’s so as not to confuse this guy with all the other Theophylacts out there.

Well, it looks like there’s actually only one other – Theophylact of Nicomedia. If you’re like me, though, you still probably get the two of them confused all the time anyway.

Our Theophylact was actually fairly well known. He was an archbishop in Ohrid, part of the Byzantine Empire and in what is now Macedonia. He was active in the 11th and 12th Centuries.

His main claim to fame, though, was his writing. He wrote a biography, the more secular The Education of Princes, extensive letters, homilies, and numerous biblical commentaries – much of which survives to this day. He was also famous for helping introduce Christianity to the Slavs and in supporting the Orthodox side against the Roman Catholics during the Great Schism.

#6  Dagobert II of Austrasia (Dec 23)

No, I didn’t spell that last bit wrong. That “s” should not be an “l.”

Austrasia was part of the Merovingian kingdom, which occupied a good deal of Europe during the 5th through 9th Centuries, and was also the basis of the later Holy Roman Empire. Austrasia was the heartland of the kingdom, and occupied bits of the Netherlands, Germany, and France, as well as all of Belgium.

Oh, Dagobert? He was an Austrasian king (hence the “II”). He ascended the throne as a child, was then exiled, returned to reclaim the throne, and then was martyred not too soon after.

His death involved getting lanced through the eye by his own godson while the two were on a hunting trip. It would also mark the end of the Merovingians and the beginning of the Capetians, the royal line of France up to the 19th Century.

#5  Hanno of Worms (Dec 24)

Famous for his well-known diet.

And if you got that last bit, you probably know your church history. The Diet of Worms was basically where Martin Luther defied the Catholic Church. Though the name can be readily explained (a Diet is a political assembly, with this particular one held in the German city of Worms), it also sounds really, really funny.

Oh, Hanno? All I could find (in English at least) that he was a monk, abbot, and bishop who lived in 10th Century Germany. Using Google Translate, though, I was also able to find out that:

13 years later (950) Hanno was at the behest of the emperor and his appointment the 15th Bishop of Worms . 952 he took the Holy. Ulrich at the Synod of Augsburg in part. be held 964 Bishop Hanno in Rome on; in Engelweihbulle concerning the Swiss Benedictine Maria Einsiedeln , called him Pope Leo VIII. 11 November of the year among the prelates, who came from Germany to Rome and were drawn by him in this matter for advice. 970 stayed Hanno again in Italy, where he on 29 March, to Ravenna , next to the Empress and Crown Prince Otto appears as a witness an act of Emperor Otto I for the Trier monastery of St. Maximin. 976 gave him Emperor Otto II  the Benedictine Mosbach .

None of which, unfortunately, I could understand.

Google Images gives me no Hannos
... but lotsa worms

#4  Hryhorii Khomyshyn (Dec 28)

I’m thinking if you played either of these names in Scrabble, you’d be clearing at least 100 points easy.

This guy (I ain’t gonna type that in again) is another 20th Century saint. Unlike Odoardo, though, Hryhorii (on the other hand, thank God for cut and paste) died during the Soviet occupation after WWII. And that makes him one of the Martyrs Killed Under Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe. HK (let’s just keep it simple, shall we?) was a Greek Catholic, and a bishop in what is now Ukraine.

BTW, if that name wasn’t bad enough for you, how about one of the following alternatives:
  • Gregory Khomyshyn
  • Gregory Chomyshyn
  • Gregor Khomysyn
  • Grzegorz Chomyszyn
  • Hryhory Khomysyn
  • Hryhory Khomyshyn
  • Hryhorij Khomysyn
  • Hryhorij Khomyshyn

#3  Zoticus of Constantinople (Dec 31)

So as not to be confused with all the other Zoticuses out there.

And, this time, we’ve got quite a few. In addition to our guy, we’ve also got them from Africa, Egypt, Comana, Nyon, and Nicomedia. We also have some who were Martyrs and Philosophers as well. In sum, that’s 8 Zotici.

Our guy was a Roman who moved to Constantinople when it became the imperial capital (during the 4th Century). There, he became a priest, giving away his fortune (and part of Constantine’s) to the poor. When the Arian emperor Constantius came to power, some fellow Arians contrived to have Zoticus put to death for embezzlement. Here’s how it all played out (according to one random website out there):

The heartless Emperor ordered that Zoticus be tied behind wild mules and dragged until dead. The mules ran down the hill, breaking the Saint's body upon the rocks and brush. Then, of their own accord, they returned to the top of the hill, still dragging the body, and, like Balaam's ass, spoke and proclaimed that the Martyr must be buried on that hill. The astonished and repentant Emperor ordered the Martyr buried with honor, and commanded that a hospital for lepers be built there, staffed by the best physicians and caretakers.

Our guy is also known as Zotico and Feeder of Orphans. Actually, put those two together, and we’ve got a possible early Christian superhero on our hands – Zotico, Feeder of Orphans!

#2  Zeno of Nicomedia (Dec 22)

Not to be confused with Zoticus of Nicomedia.

Or Zeno of Gaza, or Zeno of Rome, or Zeno of Verona, or Zeno of Armenia, or Zeno of Philadelphia. Or Zenone of Nicomedia, for that matter. Yup, they’re all real.

Like Zoticus, our Zeno was also a Roman – a soldier, in fact. He lived a century before Zoticus, during the reign of the evil Diocletian.

In fact, Zeno’s story starts with his being present when Diocletian happened to be performing a sacrifice to the goddess Ceres. No biggie there – unless, like Zeno, you happened to burst out laughing. And that’s how Zeno of Nicomedia became a martyr. Sorry, not much out there on him other than totally awesome story.

#1  Ebrulf of Ouche (Dec 29)

Isn’t this the sound you make when you cough and sneeze at the same time?

Ebrulf was a courtier in Merovingian France (remember them?). He and his wife gave it all up, however, to become monk and nun.

Ebrulf would later ditch the monastery for the wild forest of Ouche, in his native Normandy. There, though, he would become surrounded by admirers, including a band of robbers he converted, causing him to start his own monastery. He also founded a number of other monasteries as well.

Honorable Mention
  • Secundus Pollo
  • Quartillosa of Carthage
  • Amaswinthus of Málaga
  • Athernaise of Fife
  • Thorlac Thorhallsson
  • Wisinto of Kremsmünster
  • Adelheidis of Tennenbach
  • Frithbert of Hexham
  • Walto of Wessobrunn
  • Simon the Myroblite

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dec. 15-21

It seems like this is a week for obscure saints. Honestly, Peter Canisius, on the 21st, is the only one I can come up with (and that's only an "optional memorial"). Do you think they just started running out of 'em? 

#10  Bodagisil of Aquitaine  (Dec 18)

No, Google, I did not mean Vagisil.

This fellow was a man of many names however. lists:
  • Bodagisil of St-Avold
  • Bodagisil of Metz
  • Bada of….
  • Baudgise of….
  • Bodagisle of….
  • Bodegisel of….
  • Bodogisilus of….
  • Bodogisil of….
  • Bogie of….
  • Buêle of….

And, yes, we’re talking about a guy. Bo (I’m sure that’s what all his friends called him) was a 6th Century Frankish noble and courtier. He also had a spiritual side, founding an abbey and becoming the abbot there. He also fathered a saint, Arnulf of Metz. I guess you could say that’s kind of half secular and half saintly.

#9  Bogumila Noiszewska (Dec 19)

Interestingly, Google did not try to correct me on this one. Spell Check did, however, want me to change it to “beguile.”

BTW, we’re talking about a girl this time. Poor thing.

Bogumila was a Polish nun who was martyred during WWII for helping to hide Jews. She was beatified by JPII in 1999 (and has not yet been canonized).

A surprising number of Slavic names begin with “bog.” That’s actually how you say “God” in several of these languages. Bogumila actually means “favored by God.” Remembering that this is a girl’s name, I’m finding that a tad ironic.

#8  Sturmi of Fulda  (Dec 17)

So, no corrections from Google, but Spell Check does give me the obvious “stormy,” as well as the much less obvious “struma.”

Well, we’re back to the guys with this one. (I know, pretty impossible to tell with the names so far this week.) Sturmi was an 8th Century German priest, hermit, missionary, and abbot. He’s also known as Sturm and Sturmius, as well as the Apostle of the Saxons and the Apostle of Germany.

#7  Filip Siphong Onphithakt (Dec 16)

Okay, I think I recognize that first one ...

Filip is our second 20th Century saint. A Thai convert, he was a simple catechist. After protesting police persecution of Catholics, he was ambushed, tortured, and martyred. He’s known as one of the Seven Martyrs of Songkhon. Others include:
  • Agnes Phila
  • Maria Phon
  • Lucie Khambang
  • Cecilia Butsi
  • Bibiana Khamphai
  • Agata Phutta Bi (which sounds an awful lot like a fraternity)

Oh, BTW, Spell Check wants me to change the 2nd name to “siphon,” and just plain gave up on the 3rd.

#6  William of Fenoli (Dec 10)
Representation:  holding a donkey’s leg

But why? Why was he holding a donkey’s leg?

Ask and ye shall receive. explains it all:

One day when coming in from the fields, William was attacked by thieves, and defended himself by tearing the leg off his donkey and using it as a club to drive off the attackers; afterwards he re-attached the leg, and the pair continued home.

Other than that, we really don’t know much about this guy. We do know he was a simple hermit and monk and live in the 11th and 12th Centuries in Italy. He was beatified only in 1860 (and has still not been canonized).

#5  John of Matha (Dec 17)
Representation:  purse

Patron saint of crossdressers?

John was born a noble in 11th century France. Ditching the courtly for the spiritual life, he would become a hermit; then earn a PhD in theology; then found an order, the Trinitarians. The Trinitarians, whose specialty was ransoming Christian captives from Muslims, is still around today (not sure how much ransoming they’re doing though).

A Trinitarian

By the way, John is the namesake of DeMatha High School. If you’re a college basketball fan, you’ve probably heard of them. They arguably have the best high school hoops program in the country, claiming alumni such as Adrian Dantley, Danny Ferry, Sydney Lowe, and Adrian Branch.

The purse? Couldn’t find much, but I assume it’s a money purse, highlighting his ransoming activities.

#4  Maximinus of Micy (Dec 15)

Weird names are always so much better when they’re alliterative, don’t you think?

We know very little about this guy other than when he lived (6th Century), where he lived (France), and what he did for a living (monk and abbot). There are some great pious legends out there however.

In one, Max chased a dragon out of a cave and then claimed it for a hermitage. In another, Max, long dead, sent a vision to one Henry, the sufferer of some unknown affliction, telling him to come pay him a visit. Henry first went to the wrong Maximinus (in Trier), then to the shrine of Maximus (in Tours), then finally found his way to Micy. There, an apparition of the correct Maximinus appeared, slapped Henry and declared, “Where are you going, fool?” And that might be my all-time favorite pious legend.

#3  Auxentius of Mopsuestia  (Dec 18)

No, it’s not alliterative. It is pretty weird and unpronounceable though.

All we know about Auxentius was that he was a 3rd Century Roman army officer, who refused to offer grapes to Bacchus (gasp!). Whether that led to his martyrdom or not is not recorded.

We do know that Mopsuestia  was a large city in the ancient world, in what is now Turkey. All that’s left of it now, however, is the small town of Yakapınar (formerly, Misis).

By the way, there are actually several Ss. Auxentius out there. So, don’t get this guy confused with the Auxentii of Milan, Durostorum, and Bithynia.

Or this one from Constantinople

#2  Baudacarius of Bobbio  (Dec 21)

Ah, back to alliteration.

By the by, Baudacarius was also a Benedictine. He lived in the 7th Century, in Italy.

He also has a great pious legend as well:

Legend says that once he ran nearly out of food to feed [his 30 brothers], but prayed for help and was able to feed them all from a single cooked duck.

For some strange reason, this is the 3rd image that comes up 
on Google Images when you type in "baudacarius of bobbio"

#1  Briarch of Bourbriac (Dec 17)

Alliteration and a tongue twister.

Briarch, who lived in the 6th and 7th Centuries, was an Irish noble, a monk in Wales, a pilgrim to Rome, and the founder of a monastery in France. In other words, quite the medieval jet setter. The only other things I could find out about him were that he was a friend of St. Tudwal and is invoked against mental illness.

Briarch is indeed a pretty obscure figure. I actually got less than 300 hits on him in Google, probably the fewest I’ve ever got for any saint.

... and this is the 2nd image when you type in "briarch of bourbriac" (?!?!)

Honorable Mention
  • Martyrs of Eleutheropolis
  • Nicholas Chrysoberges
  • Tydecho
  • Beornwald of Bampton
  • Samthann of Clonbroney
  • Winebald of Heidenheim
  • Theotimus of Laodicea
  • Bean of Lough Derg
  • Flavito
  • Freoch of Cloon

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Dec. 8-14

Busy week … and we’re not even into the Christmas stuff yet. The biggies this week are the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Some of the “smallies” are listed below.

#10  Vicelin of Oldenburg (Dec 12)
Representation: bishop with a church sitting on his left arm

Man, that’s gotta hurt, right?

Vicelin lived in the 11th and 12th Centuries, mostly in Germany. From a noble family, he was orphaned at an early age. He would later become a teacher; priest (including Pastor of Wippenthorp); bishop; founder of monasteries; and missionary to the Obotrites, Polabian Slavs, and Wagrian Wends. He was also known as Witzel, as well as the Apostle of Holstein.

A lot of possibilities for names for alt-rock bands here:
  • Obotrites
  • Polabian Slavs
  • Apostles of Holstein
  • Wagrian Wends
  • Pastors of Wippenthorp

#9  Patapius (Dec 8)

Patron saint of platypuses.

Patapius was a 4th Century hermit. He hung out in the Egyptian desert (he’s also known as Patapius of Thebes) as well as in Constantinople. I’m not sure how he managed the latter, as Constantinople was the largest city in Europe at the time. You can still visit his relics there, some of which are still incorrupt. Pat (surely his friends called him that) is particularly popular in the Eastern, or Orthodox, church.

Patapius is also a bug genus

#8  Bruno of Rommersdorf (Dec 10)

Often confused with Rommer of Brunosdorf.

Bruno was a 12th Century German knight. He gave up worldly things, though, to become a Premonstratensian. He would later become an abbot with them.

By the way, that rather interestingly named order simply comes from the village of Premontre, in France. They also are sometimes called the equally odd Norbertines and White Canons.

Some of that Premo style

#7  Severin Ott (Dec 11)

Hey, another Premonsteranian … I mean, Premisaterian … No, Premonstrositeranian … Uh, one of those guys.

Not a lot out there on this dude. He basically lived in 17th Century Germany and was a … er … Norbertine.

Interestingly, the name also seems to be shared by a Swiss BASE jumper (they fly off mountain tops and things and then glide down with wingsuits) who died just a couple of years ago.

Our saint was not known for levitation
(I'm thinking this might be the other guy)

#6  Gunthildis of Ohrdruf (Dec 8)

Patron saint of dandruff.

Another pretty obscure medieval saint, poor Gunthildis was actually a girl. Born in England, she would later move to Germany, where she would become an abbess. She also goes by the equally awful name of Cunihilt.

#5  Eulalia of Merida (Dec 10)
Representation: naked young woman lying in the snow

I want to see the holy card for this one.

Eulalia was a virgin martyr, active in Spain during the 3rd or 4th Centuries. Eulalia was one of those sassy martyrs. When arrested and asked to worship the pagan gods, she threw down an idol, stamped on the sacrifice that they put together for her to offer, and spat at the judge.

Not too surprisingly, she was then stripped, tortured, and burned. When she died, a dove was seen to fly out of her mouth. And when her body was thrown in the street, a miraculous snow then “covered her nakedness.”

According to Wikipedia, “For this reason she is regarded among Catholic school children and teachers alike as the patron saint of snow (inclement weather) days.” Gotta love it.

#4  Corentius of Quimper (Dec 12)

Couldn’t just be John, or James, or Thomas, now, could we? Had to go and add something like Corentius to the already risible Quimper, didn’t we?

Well, we’re back to medieval obscurity again here. All we really know about Corentius is that he lived in the 400s, was born in Britain, moved later to France, and was a hermit and bishop.

#3  Juan Diego Cuautlatoatzin (Dec 9)

Patron saint of people with unpronounceable names.

You may already know that this is the guy who saw the Virgin of Guadalupe. That happened in 1531, within the current confines of Mexico City. The basilica that was built on the site includes the cloak Juan was wearing and on which an image of the Virgin was impressed. The basilica is now the number one pilgrimage site in the world. And you’ve probably seen that image in pretty much any place where Spanish speakers gather in the Western hemisphere. 

Born a poor Indian, Juan was baptized later in life. In addition to seeing the Virgin, he also led a very holy life, lived celibately with his wife, and tended the Virgin’s shrine for his last 20-some years. Though the cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe was officially recognized in the 17th Century, Juan was canonized only in 2002.


#2  Lucy (eyes on a dish) (Dec 13)

And, yes, those are indeed Lucy’s.

Lucy was martyred in 304, in Syracuse (that’s Sicily, by the way, not New York). A mere 21, she was your classic virgin martyr. Betrayed by a fiancé whom she spurned, Lucy defied several tortures before finally being stabbed to death.

The eyes? Well, we’ve got a couple of stories for that. In one, having her eyes gouged out was simply a part of her torture. In the second, Lucy did the deed herself, as part of  an effort to cool the ardor of her suitor. Given all that, the connection is probably just linguistic. “Lucy” simply means “light.”

In addition to patronages for everything eye- and sight-related, she is some also invoked against dysentery and for lawyers, weavers, peasants, and penitent prostitutes. She has no less than 40-some patronages.

Indeed, Lucy is a very popular saint. Her relics are scattered about Europe, she appears in Dante, her feast is very popular (especially in Scandinavia), and she’s even got a country named after (St. Lucia, in the Caribbean).

And you thought I was making that up, didn't you?

#1  Gorgonia (Dec 9)

Patron saint of gorgonzola makers.

When you Google Gorgonia, make sure you put “st” before your search. If you don’t, all you’ll get is references to a bunch of sea fans (order Gorgonia, family Gorgoniidae).

Be aware that you may still get sea fans,
even when you put in the "st"

St. Gorgonia came from quite the saintly family. She was the daughter of two saints – Gregory the Elder and Nonna – and the sister of two others. She herself married, and is often cited as an exemplar of a married saint. She was active in the Middle East, during the 4th Century.

Honorable Mention
  • Fidweten
  • Carpophorus
  • Pribyslava
  • Anastasia of Pomerania
  • Therapon of Monzja
  • Ludolf van Craeywinckel
  • Romaric of Remiremont
  • Polydore Plasden
  • Protasi Cubells Minguell
  • John Bread-and-Water

Friday, December 2, 2016

Dec. 1-7

Santa Claus is who we celebrate this week. Seriously! He was a real guy. His real name is St. Nicholas of Myra. He got associated with Santa Claus because he gifted some impoverished girls with dowries, and is the patron saint of children as well.

#10  Lucius (Dec 3)
Representation:  plowing with a bear and cattle

I don’t know …  I’ve always been partial to oxen myself.

Poor Lucius. No less a source than the usually up-for-anything calls him an “inadvertent pious fiction.”

According to the “fiction,” Lucius was a British ruler who requested missionaries from Rome in the 2nd Century. Turns out he didn’t even exist, though there was a king Lucius of Edessa (in the mid-East) who requested missionaries for a region in his kingdom called Britium (but, otherwise, never did anything else particularly holy in his life). Oops! Wrong guy. Never mind.

Is this his mug shot?

#9  Barbara (Dec 4)
Patronage:  fireworks, saltpeter workers, against mine collapse, death by artillery, storms, vermin, brewers, construction workers, firemen, gravediggers, hatmakers, dying people, warehouses, Santa Barbara CA …

Yup, Barb may well be the most popular patroness out there. lists no less than 34 different patronages!

Where did they all come from? Well, her pious legend (yup, she probably didn’t really exist either) has her locked up in a tower (prisoners, fortifications, construction workers …), from which she escapes. She is then recaptured, then put to death by her own father (dying people), who is then immediately struck by lightning (storms, fireworks, death by artillery …). None of which, of course, explains vermin, brewers, hatmakers, boatmen, mathematicians …

Did we get it all in?

#8  Sabbas of Mar Saba (Dec 5)

Or, if you prefer, Sabbas the Sanctified of Mutalaska. And, yes, Mar Saba is indeed named after him. It’s also referred to as the Holy Lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified. So, if Sabbas of Mar Saba isn’t bad enough, how would you feel about:

Sabbas the Sanctified of Mutalaska of the Holy Lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified

I didn’t think so.

Mar Saba today

Who was he? Sabbas was a monk, priest, and hermit who lived around the year 500, in the Middle East. His hermitage would later become the site of Mar Saba … or the Holy Lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified, if you prefer. Sabbas would also found several other monasteries, write a monastic rule, and become involved in the many theological controversies of the era.

#7  Aper of Sens (Dec 5)

Sounds like the title for a They Must Be Giants song.

Not a lot out there on this oddly named fellow. We do know that he was a priest and hermit who lived in France in the 7th Century. (the only real source for any info on Aper) also shares the following interesting little tidbits:

  • He’s also known as Apre, Aprus, Avre, Epvre, and Evre
  • “After years of bickering among his parishioners and slander from every corner, he retired to live as a hermit .”
  • “Built a cell for private prayers, and a nursing home to care for the poor. Spiritual director of a man later known as Aprunculus (little wild boar).”

Too bad there isn’t a St. Aprunculus. He probably could have made #1 for this week.

Hey, looks like there is!
(St. Aprunculus of Trier)

#6  Ambrose of Milan (Dec 7)
Representation:  baby with bees on his mouth

There’s a story here. I just know it.

And indeed there is. Here, I’ll let Wikipedia describe it:

There is a legend that as an infant, a swarm of bees settled on his face while he lay in his cradle, leaving behind a drop of honey. His father considered this a sign of his future eloquence and honeyed tongue. [He would eventually be known as the “Honey-Tongued Doctor.”]

A 5th Century bishop, Ambrose was actually a fairly important figure. Among his many accomplishments, we have:

  • Fighting Arianism
  • Championing the antiphonal chant
  • Converting St. Augustine
  • Chairing several councils
  • Becoming one of the first Doctors of the Church

You probably won’t be too surprised that Ambrose is the patron of beekeepers and candlemakers and so on. Where the following come from, though, are totally beyond me:

  • Geese
  • Livestock
  • Police officers
  • Starlings
  • French Commissariat

Yoiks! Yup, that's him.

#5  Narcyz Putz (Dec 5)

I really hesitated putting this guy in here (yes, he’s a guy). After all, he died in Dachau. It was a surprisingly common fate for Polish priests in WWII.

BTW, Narcyz is the Polish form of Narcissus. And, yes, Narcissus is a guy’ name. Would you believe there are also some guy Hyacinths out there as well?

#4  Mór of Pécs (Dec 4)

I’m tempted to make some really lame joke about his cousin Les of Abs, but … Oh shoot! I guess I already did.

AKA Maurus and Mauricio, this guy managed to accomplish quite a bunch as well (though he’s nowhere near as famous as Ambrose). Living in 11th Century Hungary, Mor was a priest and bishop. He also was BFF with St. Stephen (Hungary’s patron saint), wrote the first book on Hungarian saints, was the first first prelate in Hungary, and was active in his country’s politics as well (serving primarily as a peace-maker).

Yeah, just what I was afraid of
(thanks, anyway, Google Images!)

#3  Eligius of Noyon (Dec 1)
Representation:  man holding a horse's leg, which he detached from the horse in order to shoe it more easily

Now, there’s a handy trick.

It sounds like Eligius was a metalsmith, as well as doing some more basic smithing on the side. Quite the social climber, Eligius would eventually parlay his smithery into titles such as master of the mint, treasurer, and chief counsellor to the French king. He would also later become a priest and bishop, found several monasteries, and build a couple of churches.

Last but not least, Eligius also stands out for his many aliases:

  • Alar
  • Elaere
  • Elar
  • Elard
  • Eler
  • Eloi
  • Eloy
  • Iler
  • Loy

… and for his many patronages as well. As for the latter, lists about 80, including these genuine oddities:

  • Against boils
  • Basket makers
  • Boilermakers
  • Peasants
  • Livestock
  • Jockeys
  • Cab drivers
  • Scissors grinders
  • Coin collectors
  • Farriers
  • Gas station workers
  • Computer scientists

#2  Ansanus the Baptizer (Dec 1)
Representation:  young man holding a heart and liver

Please tell me these aren’t his.  Please …

Ansanus is the patron saint of Siena, where he lived around the year 300. Coming from a noble Roman family, he was secretly brought up as a Christian by his nurse. Ansanus came out of the closet at age 19, managed to baptize a number of Sienese, but was then quickly martyred.

Ansanus is also a man of many representations. also has him down for:

  • baptizing
  • beheaded
  • boiled in oil
  • cross
  • dates
  • heart with the letters IHS on it
  • palm with dates
  • palm
  • towers in the background
  • man holding towers in his hand
  • richly-dressed young man
  • with a palm and banner
  • young man holding a liver
  • young man holding a cluster of dates

Unfortunately, I have no idea where any of these come from.

#1  Bibiana (Dec 2)
Patronage:  against hangovers

Now, there’s a practical patronage.

Bibiana is actually a tad on the obscure side. All we really know about her was that she was a virgin martyr in 4th Century Rome. Now, there are – of course – a couple of pious legends out there with a few more details.

Oh, my aching head!

Interestingly, though, none of these mention hangovers. The patronage most likely comes from the closeness between Bibiana’s name and the Latin verb for drinking, bibere. Yup, that’s all there is to it. Sorry.

Honorable Mention

  • Simon Yempo
  • Agnofleta
  • Johann Nepomuk von Tschiderer
  • Natalia of Nicomedia
  • Mamas
  • Cawrdaf of Fferreg
  • Pelinus of Confinium
  • Buithe of Monasterboice
  • Nilus of Stolbensk
  • Grwst

Monday, November 21, 2016

Nov. 11-30

Thanksgiving week! BTW, Thanksgiving is not a holy day of obligation. Just in case you were wondering.

#10  Conrad of Constance (Nov 26)
Representation:  bishop holding a chalice with a spider above or in it

You know, there’s a big difference between “above” and “in,” right?

Conrad was a very well-connected individual who somehow managed to avoid politics in a very political time and place (the Holy Roman Empire, during the 10th Century). Bishop of Constance (in current-day Switzerland), Conrad made several pilgrimages to Jerusalem, founded a number of churches, and was known for his charity to the poor.

The spider? Sounds like “in” would have been a much more accurate representation:

This refers to a story that once when he was celebrating mass a spider fell into the chalice. Spiders were believed at that time to be deadly poisonous, but Conrad nevertheless drank the Blood of Christ, which had been transubstantiated from wine, with the spider in it, as a token of faith. (Wikipedia)

#9  Catherine Laboure (Nov 28)
Patronage:  pigeon fanciers

Catherine Laboure is a pretty well-known saint. Living in 19th Century France as a simple Sister of Charity, she had several visions of the Virgin Mary, visions which would lead to the issuing of the Miraculous Medal, arguably the most popular religious medal out there.

The pigeons? Turns out Catherine took care of the family’s pigeons as a young girl. I must admit, though, I honestly thought it had to do with Catherine’s wimple. If Sister Bertrille could get airborne with hers, I’m sure it would be easy for Cathy.

#8  Fergus the Pict (Nov 27)

Not too surprisingly, Fergus was a Scot, active during the 7th and 8th Centuries. He was a bishop, founded a number of churches, and attended a council in Rome. Looks like you can also hire him for your next kids party as well:

#7  Amphilochius of Iconium (Nov 23)

Hmm, I might be spelling that wrong. Indeed, my spell check suggests Aphidlocus of Zirconium.

Amphiliochius was active during the 4th and 5th Centuries, in what is now Turkey. He started out as a lawyer, ditched it all to become a hermit, and then was made a bishop. He was very active in the numerous theological debates that went on in this era. In particular, he was known for fighting the Macedonians, Arians, Messalonians, Green Bay Packers, and Sonny Liston. (Okay, not those last two.)

#6  Tudwal of Treguier (Nov 30)
Representation:  bishop using his stole as a leash on a dragon


Tudwal was a Breton monk who loved in the 6th Century. He was born in Brittany (the son of a king), studied in Ireland, was a hermit in Wales, and then returned to Brittany to found a monastery.

He was also a man of many names. In addition to Tudwal, I’ve also got him down for Tudgual, Tugdual, Tugual, Tugdualus, Tual, Pabu, and Papu. I think someone might just be having fun with me for those last two.

Though I could find a number of sites that cited that rather interesting representation, I could not find any explanations. I’m  assuming Tudwal was probably just a St. George type who just so happened to be fond of animals.

#5  Alypius Stylites (Nov 26)
Representation:  an old man on a pillar holding a baby

There’s a story behind this.  I just know there is.

What that is, though, we may never know. Once again, all I get are citations of this particular (and particularly weird) representation. Nobody seems to want to come forward and explain what it all means. And this time, I certainly don’t feel comfortable speculating.

Oh, I can explain why he’s on a pillar though. Hard to believe, but playing hermit on the top of a pillar in the middle of the desert was all the rage in the Byzantine Empire around the 5th Century. There were usually called “stylites,” from the Greek word for “pillar,” stylos.

Sorry, no baby

#4  James of the Marches (Nov 28)
Representation:  Franciscan with a staff, castanets at his girdle, pointing to HIS

The castanets are bad enough. But what’s with the girdle?

Born James Gangala in 15th Century Italy, this saint would become a lawyer and a Franciscan. He would become involved heavily in the Inquisition, then have the tables turned on him in the last few years of his life.

An alternative representation for him is 
"priest holding in his right hand a chalice from which a snake is escaping"

#3  Barlaam (Nov 27)
Representation:  man in a tree, which is being gnawed by a mouse, grabbing a beehive while hanging over a dragon in a pit

Forget the story. I’m having a hard time even picturing this.

Barlaam was a Christian hermit in - of all places - India. He converted the king's son, Josaphat, who would later join him as a hermit as well. This legend probably derives from the life of the Buddha. Infact, "Josaphat" is robably derived from "Bodhisattva," one of the Buddha's titles.

Surprisingly, there are multiple St. Barlaams out there, including ones in Russia and what is now modern-day Turkey.

That's it! (though I have no idea what it could possibly mean)

#2  Ekbert of Muensterschwarzach (Nov 25)

I’m thinking that last bit might have something to do with monsters. Or maybe cheese.

Wouldn’t you know, though …  “Muenster” is actually German for “monastery.” “Schwarzach”? It’s a river in Bavaria. So, basically, that whole big long mess simply equates to “the monastery on the Schwarzach River.”

Ekbert? He was a monk at – and later, abott of – said monastery. We’re talking the 11th Century here, by the way. Other than that those scant facts, however, all we’re really left with here is that wonderful whopper of a name.

#1  Dimbalac Oghlou Wartavar (Nov 22)

Known to his friends as “Dim” …

Well, it looks like this guy has a lot in common Ekbert. First, we’ve got that mouthful of a name. Second, we’ve got almost next to nothing for a bio. About all I could squeeze out of the Interwebs for this guy was that he was a “a Franciscan and a Martyr of Armenia.”

Actually, a little more digging tells me that Dimbalac was actually part of the Armenian Genocide. They were beatified by JPII in 1982. Some of “companions” include:

  • Geremia Oghlou Boghos
  • Khodianin Oghlou Kadir
  • Baldji Oghlou Ohannes
  • Kouradji Oghlou Tzeroum
  • David Oghlou David

(If you’re wondering about that “Oghlou,” it just means “son of.”)

Not sure who's who,
but the head honcho in the middle is Salvatore Lilli

Honorable Mention

  • Egelwine of Athelney
  • Sosthenes of Colophon
  • Paphnutius of Heracleopolis
  • Simeon the Logothete
  • Pompea of Langoat
  • Ferran Llovera Pulgsech
  • Banban of Lethglenn
  • Sisinius of Cyzicus
  • Zosimus the Wonder Worker