Wednesday, August 3, 2016

August 1-7

The Catholic Church celebrates two feasts this week, the Dedication of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and the Transfiguration of the Lord. The first one is pretty much what is says. As for the latter, I’ll let Matthew tell the story:

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

#10  Agathangelus Nourry (Aug 7)

Based on my limited knowledge of Greek, I believe this name translates as “good angel.” Which, I must admit, I rather like. The meaning … not the name. That’s just too much of a mouthful.

Agathangelus was a Frenchman who was born at the very end of the 16th Century. He became a Capuchin, taught theology, and then became a missionary. As a missionary, he went to Egypt and then Ethiopia, where he was subsequently martyred. 

And, yes, he does indeed have his own Facebook site. Wait a minute … He has his own Facebook site?

With his martyr BFF Cassian

#9  Margaret the Barefooted (Aug 5)

Well, at least she wasn’t Margaret the Discalced.

Every heard of the Discalced Carmelites? They’re really just another monastic order. The “discalced” part is from when they were formed and went about barefoot (yup, “discalced” is how you say “barefoot” in Latin).

Margaret lived during the 14th Century, in Italy. The victim of an unhappy marriage, Margaret was abused by her husband for her faith and, in particular, for her devotion to the poor. That devotion is actually what led her to go barefoot – to more completely identify with her charges.

There’s actually a book out there all about her.

Is it just me, or does Margaret seem to have a little attitude in this rendering?

#8  Sithney (Aug 1)
Patronage: hydrophobia

Fear of water?

Well, actually, no. Wikipedia tells me that Sithney is also “the patron saint of mad dogs.” Who would have thought that rabid canines have their own patron saint?

I don’t want to call into question anything that I read on such an esteemed source as Wikipedia, but I do have a funny feeling that they might have meant “against mad dogs.” 

Now, how did that rather interesting patronage come about? Well, it gets even better:

A Breton folk story, an adaptation of a tale associated with CiarĂ¡n of Saigir, states that God asked Sithney to be the patron saint of girls seeking husbands, but Sithney said he would rather be the patron saint of mad dogs and get some rest.

Dang, I guess Wikipedia was right after all.

Hydrophobia? It’s just an old-fashioned term for rabies.

#7  Hormisdas (Aug 6)

Do you think his friends called him Hormy?

So, first of all, this guy was a pope – for a little less than 10 years in the 6th Century. His main claim to fame seems to be getting rid of the Acacian schism, another of the many, many schisms that plagued the early church.

"Oh, dear Lord, save me from these Acacians"

Interestingly, Hormisdas was married. In fact, one of his sons, Silverius, would go on to become pope himself. Not something that happens much these days …

If you’re wondering about that odd name, it’s probably from the Persian, from the name Hormizd. 

#6  Etheldritha (Aug 2)

I’m guessing her friends called her Ethel.

Etheldritha was actually a princess. Her father was Offa, King of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. She was also set up to marry Ethelbert, King of East Anglia (and a saint as well). When Ethelbert was killed, though, Etheldritha fled to a monastery, where she became a recluse, dying there 40 years later.

Man, that sure is a lot of ethels.

Etheldritha is also the name of some dopey anime character

#5  Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (Aug 1)
Patronage: against scrupulosity

Wait a minute …  Are you saying there’s something wrong with being “careful, thorough, conscientious, honest, moral, upstanding” …?

Scrupulosity, actually, is something totally different. You can kind of think of it as a combination of faith and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Someone who suffers from scrupulosity likely feels “pathological guilt about moral or religious issues” (Wikipedia). They may get totally caught up in adhering to the exact letter of the law, to the exclusion of all else.

So, Alphonsus did indeed suffer from scrupulosity. At the same time, however, he also was quite the renaissance man. He was an author, composer, musician, artist, poet, lawyer, philosopher, theologian, and lawyer. He was also a bishop and founded the Redemptorist order as well. Recognizing his major contributions, Alphonsus was made a Doctor of the Church in 1871.

#4  Afra of Augsburg (Aug 7)

I think I just like the alliteration on this one.

There’s a little uncertainty about this saint. Different stories have Afra as both a princess and a prostitute. One story has her martyred by beheading, while another has her burned at the stake. One has her dying alone; another has her with some companions. Finally, her story also seems to include details from the life of Venerea, a virgin martyr from the Middle East.

#3  Lydia Purpuraria (Aug 3)

You know this has something to do with the color purple, right?

Sure enough, Lydia’s sobriquet comes from her being a dealer in purple dye. The town she was from, Thyatira, was famous for their dye works, and purple was a very popular color in the ancient world. That’s because it was made from a certain kind of sea shell, was hard to produce, and kept its color exceptionally well. It was, in fact, a real luxury good, and was often reserved for the upper classes.

Lydia was also Paul’s first convert at Philippi (which makes her the first in Europe as well). All of this took place in Greece, in the 1st Century.

#2  Holy Maccabees (Aug 1)

Holy Maccabees, Batman! It’s Antiochus IV Epiphanes!

Let me explain … The Holy Maccabees are also known as the Woman with Seven Sons. They were all martyred in the 2nd Century BC. 

Yup, BC. Further, they were martyred for refusing to eat pork. Not sure how they ever became saints. 

Oh, Antiochus IV Epiphanes? He was the guy in charge – the guy who actually did in the eight of them. 

#1  Oswald of Northumbria (Aug 5) 
Representation:  king in crown, carrying sceptre and orb, ciborium, sword, palm-branch, and/or with his raven

Hey, wait a minute!  I think we forgot the kitchen sink.  (Love the “and/or” part about the reaven.)

Like Etheldritha (#6), Oswald was another royal. Oswald, however, was a king. He ruled the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, for a little less than ten years during the 600s. 

It does, however, sound like he did manage to accomplish quite a bit during his short time on the throne. On the secular side, he reunited the Northumbrian kingdom and was the strongest ruler in Britain. On the sacred side, he helped spread Christianity in northeast England and was also himself very devout. Oswald’s death, at the hands of the pagan Mercian king Penda, is also considered something of a martyrdom.

The raven? Sounds like it has something to do with Oswald’s death:

King Oswald's body was hacked to pieces by the victors and his head and arms stuck on poles. An old legend has one arm taken to his sacred ash tree (Oswald's Tree) by his constant companion, a pet raven. Where it fell, a holy well sprang up.  (

Honorable Mention
  • Gezelin of Schlebusch
  • Maria Imelda of the Eucharistic Jesus
  • Cecilia Cesarini
  • Plegmund
  • Martyrs of the Salarian Way
  • Auspicius of Apt
  • Leodebodo
  • Martyrs of Philadelphia
  • Emerico of Quart
  • Gonzalo Gonzalo y Gonzalo

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