Sunday, July 3, 2016

July 1-7

The big day this week is the feast of St. Thomas. You know, one of the Apostles, the doubter, the namesake of that Caribbean Island …

#10  Swithun (July 2)

Swithin lived in 9th Century England. He was a royal chaplain & tutor, and then bishop of Winchester Cathedral:

Winchester Cathedral
You're bringing me down
You stood and you watched as
My baby left town

St. Swithin is mostly known as one of those saintly meteorologists (others include Medard and Protase). For Swithin, whatever the weather is like on his feast day, you’ll get more of the same for 40 more:

St Swithun's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mare

Interestingly, St. Swithin’s Day is actually July 15. That’s the day that Swithin’s relics were transferred from outside the cathedral to inside. For some reason, that’s a big deal. His actual feast day is still the 2nd though.

#9  Monegundis (July 2)

Geez, what an unattractive name. To make matters worse, though, would you believe Monegundis was a girl? Yup, poor thing.

Monegundis lived in 6th Century France. She started out fairly secular – getting married and having two kids.

When her children died, though, Monegundis experienced a deep depression. To climb out of it, she subsequently got religion. With her husband’s permission, Monegundis became a hermit, attracted some followers, and started a convent.

I’m kind of surprised she’s not a patron saint for depression sufferers or parents who have lost children. Maybe I’ll write a letter about it to Pope Francis.

#8  Ulric of Augsburg (July 4)
Representation:  against moles

Now, are these the kind on your face, or the ones beneath your lawn?

Ulric was born in Switzerland at the very end of the 9th Century. His noble family offered him to the church at birth, and he was subsequently raised in a monastery. He later toyed with becoming a courtier, but ended up as bishop of the German city of Augsburg. Overall, he seems to have been more on the political than the spiritual side.

Ulric was the first saint to be canonized. Back in Ulric’s day, this simply meant being vetted by the pope (up until to that time, there really wasn’t any process). Today, canonization involves evidence; trials; the religious equivalents of briefs, defense attorneys, and prosecutors – all the trappings of a legal proceeding. 

For some reason, one of his representations is “with fish”

Oh, those moles are the furry kind, by the way. You’ll be interested to know that you can also invoke Ulrich against mouse troubles as well. Not sure about any other vermin though.

#7  Willibald of Eichstatt (July 7)
Representation:  monk with a crown at his feet as he talks to a man cutting down a tree

Hmm, that's pretty detailed.  I wonder what they were talking about though.

Willibald and Ulric actually have a surprising number of commonalities. Willibald was also dedicated to God by his parents early in life. Willibald’s parents, however, were royals. Willibald was also made a bishop, and of a German city as well (Eichstatt, in Willibald’s case). Though both were active in the Middle Ages, Willibald predated Ulric by about 100 years.

That’s Willibald on the left, Walburga on the right, and Mary in the middle

By the way, that representation above is not the only odd one for this saint. also has him down for:
  • Bishop overseeing construction of a church
  • Pilgrim with Saint Richard the King and Saint Winnebald of Heidenheim
  • Monk or bishop with the words fides, spes, and charitas on his cloak or arm
  • Bishop holding two arrows
  • Bishop with a broken glass

#6  Nazju Falzon (July 1)

I’m not sure how many saints there are from Malta. I’m pretty sure of at least one though – and that’s this guy. 

Nazju is a more contemporary saint, having lived and died in the 19th Century. He made a name for himself teaching catechism to children, ministering to British servicemen, writing tracts and a book, and generally tending to his flock and doing good works.

Skużani! Mhux qiegħed nifhem bil-Malti
(Maltese for “Sorry!  I don’t speak any Maltese.”
Well, except for that. And I only got that from this cool site.)

Nazju is actually only a beatus, I’m afraid. And his beatification only happened back in 2001.

I could only find one other Maltese saint, one Publius of Malta. He was the first bishop of Malta, back in the 2nd Century, and actually knew St. Paul. Oh, he was also a real, live saint too. Of course, he doesn’t have the cool name that Nazju has. 

#5  Athanasius the Athonite (July 5)

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what the heck an Athonite is. It’s actually a pretty interesting story …

Have you ever heard of Mount Athos? It’s an Orthodox monastery on the top of the Greek mountain of the same name. It’s been around for over 1000 years, houses almost 2,000 monks, and is particularly well-known for its inaccessibility. 

Well, guess what? Athanasius was its founder. 

Looks like something from The Lord of the Rings, but it’s actually real

#4  Zoe of Rome (July 5)
Representation: woman hanging by her hair in a tree

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

Sure enough, this just so happens to represent the particularly gruesome form of Zoe’s martyrdom. Let me explain …

First, the bad guys tied Zoe to a tree limb by her long, flowing hair. Next, they built a fire under her. Finally, Zoe did her bit by inhaling the smoke and dying. 

All this happened in 3rd Century Rome, during the persecutions of Diocletian.

#3  Goar of Aquitaine (July 6)
Representations: man hanging his hat on a sunbeam

I think I like this one better than Zoe’s.

Turns out there’s a story behind this one as well. Unfortunately, none of the explanations I could find make all that much sense.

Nor do I know what’s behind these other rather interesting representations:
  • Hermit being given milk by hinds
  • Hermit with the devil on his shoulder
  • Hermit with the devil under his feet

I do know, though, that Goar was a hermit who, though born in France, made his hermitage in Germany, in the area of Trier. 

He was also a particularly hospitable hermit, which explains his patronage of innkeepers. He’s also a patron saint for potters and vine growers. The story behind those last two? Not too surprisingly, I have no idea at all.

#2  Peter To Rot (July 7)

There’s just no getting around the fact that this guy’s last name sounds just like “toe rot.” Right?

Possibly the weirdest holy card I’ve ever seen

Peter’s a rather an interesting saint (he’s actually only a Blessed). One, he’s from the 20th Century. Two, he’s from the rather obscure country of Papua New Guinea. Here’s his story … 

When the Japanese invaded his village during WWII, Peter was asked by the village priest to take over the village’s spiritual needs when the priest was sent off to prison camp. Though only a catechist (i.e., a religious instructor), Peter did a bang-up job.

Unfortunately, some of the locals turned Peter in to the Japanese. Peter was then beaten, tortured, and sent off to a prison camp himself, where he would in turn be murdered.

After doing a little research, I’m happy to report that Peter’s last name is actually pronounced “toe rote.” Whew!

#1  Bertha of Blangy (July 4)

Too bad she isn’t a beata. That would make her Blessed Bertha of Blangy. Blimey!

Alas, she’s a saint. She also just so happened to be a princess, the daughter of the King of Kent. Like Monegundis, Bertha started out married with children. When she subsequently became a widow, she retired to a convent she had built, along with two of her daughters.

By the by, Bertha also goes by the much more mellifluous titles of Bertha of Artois and Bertha of France.
Whatever you do, though, don’t confuse her with Bertha of Bingen 

Honorable Mention
  • Namphanion the Archmartyr
  • Marie-Gabrielle-Françoise-Suzanne de Gaillard de Lavaldène
  • Ailill of Cloonown
  • Daughters of Cathbadh
  • Cyrilla of Cyrene
  • Byblig
  • Guthagon
  • Mucian of Mesia
  • Juthware
  • Veep

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