Monday, August 15, 2016

August 15-21

This week features a holy day of obligation, the Assumption. That’s when Mary was bodily taken up into heaven, much like Jesus (and the only two – that I know of at least – to have done that). 

#10  Helena (Aug 18)
Patronage:  nail smiths

I don’t know about you, but I really can’t recall ever knowing any real nail smiths.

Helena was a Roman empress during the 3rd and 4th Century. In fact, she was the mother of Constantine, the first Christian emperor. It’s not certain how much influence she had on him though.

Her biggest claim to fame appears to be finding the True Cross on a pilgrimage she made to the Holy Land. And that’s what’s behind that rather odd patronage.

Helena has been the namesake for a remote island in the Atlantic (where Napoleon was held), an Evelyn Waugh novel, and a Napa Valley winery.

In case your Latin’s a little rusty, that’s her head

#9  Bernard of Clairvaux (Aug 20)
Patronage:  wax melters

Can’t recall knowing any wax melters either, for that matter.

Bernard’s another fairly well-known saint. He was a monastic reformer, advisor to kings, crusade organizer, schism ender, Albigensian fighter, papal advisor, and Doctor of the Church. He was also born a French noble, and was in fact the brother of Humbelline of Jully (remember her?).

Oh, the wax bit? That probably comes from Bernard’s being a beekeeper. 

Not that that helps to explain what a wax melter is though. Now, when I Google that particular phrase, I do get plenty of hits for a machine that candle makers use. The patronage, however, seems to imply some sort of occupation. Interestingly, I get only one hit that combines “wax melter” and “occupation” – and that’s the page where I got that odd patronage from in the first place!
The dog is actually not named after him, but after St. Bernard Pass, in the Alps
(That quote is from Bernard, though, and basically means, “Love me, love my dog.”)

#8  Louis of Toulouse (Aug 19)
Representation:  boy bishop

Ditto for boy bishops.

Well, if you consider someone who’s 23 years old a boy, that is. Yup, that’s when Louis was made bishop. Interestingly, his episcopacy would only last 6 months, with the young lad passing away most likely of typhus. 

This is as boyish as I could find

Prior to his being made bishop, Louis was born a royal and actually would have become king. (He renounced all claims to the House of Anjou when he became a Franciscan.)  He also spent 6 of his short 23 years as a hostage.

After sainthood, he became the namesake of San Luis Obispo, CA (obispo means “bishop” en espanol).

#7  Zacchaeus the Publican (Aug 20)

Likewise on the publicans. Wait a minute … Isn’t that just a fancy way to say “barkeep”?

Actually, it is. In our case, however, we’re going to have to go with definition 2: “(in ancient Roman and biblical times) a collector of taxes” (

Zacchaeus’s is actually one of my favorite New Testament stories. He was the little guy who climbed a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus. The crowd was shocked (tax collectors were as unpopular then as they are now) when Jesus stopped, addressed Zacchaeus, and invited himself to Zacchaeus’s house. Note that that’s Zacchaeus’s house, and not his pub.


#6  Drithelm (Aug 17)

Nor have I made the acquaintance of any Drithelms over the years.

Drithlem may have been the first recorded instance of the life after death phenomenon. Here’s how describes it:

Drithelm, of Northumbria, England, was living a virtuous life as a husband and father when he fell gravely ill. On the morning after he was thought to have died, as his family mourned beside his bed, Drithelm suddenly sat up, alive and well. Most of those present fled in terror, but his wife, "who loved him more dearly," remained. To her he declared that he had been returned to life to live thereafter very differently.

Drithelm divulged that before coming back to life he had experienced a vision of purgatory and the gates of heaven and hell. His account of the souls in purgatory that were nearly ready to enter heaven (as retold by Saint Bede) is particularly heartening. They appeared as joyful young people, clothed in white robes, sitting in a "very broad and pleasant meadow" flooded with light and fragrant with "the scent of spring flowers."

Drithelm would subsequently enter a monastery, where he lived as a hermit and was famous for many extreme forms of penance.

"Detmold is a flaxen-haired, taciturn mage from Ban Ard. He and his brother, Drithelm, were in the service of King Esterad of Kovir. During the Thanedd coup, ..." (The Official Wicher Wiki)

#5  Bruno Zembol (Aug 21)

Okay, this one is just funny.

The name, I mean. Bruno’s story is not funny at all. He was one of many Catholic clergy who were sent by the Nazis to the concentration camps during WWII. He was a Polish monk.

#4  Agapitus the Martyr (Aug 18)
Representation:  young man hanging upside down over a fire

Now, those are some pretty imaginative torturers, let me tell ya.

Interestingly, though, Agapitus wasn’t the only saint to go this way. We’ve also got Venantius of Camerino.

Agapitus lived in Rome during the 3rd Century. Found out as a Christian, he was scourged, starved, thrown to wild animals (they ignored him), had  live coals dumped on top of his head, was hung upside down over a fire, had boiling water poured on him, had his teeth knocked out, and – finally – was beheaded. Oh, and he was only 15.

#3  Roch (Aug 16)
Representation:  pilgrim with a dog carrying a loaf of bread in its mouth

Nor is Roch the first saint to have a dog fetch him stuff. In fact, I’ve got St. Benedict down for having his pooch carry a torch for him (in a literal way, mind you).

Roch was born the son of the governor of the French town of Montpelier, at the start of the 14th Century. He came into this world with a very distinct cross-shaped birthmark.

When his parents died when Roch was 20, he gave everything to the poor, and became a penniless pilgrim to Rome. Along the way, he came to a town that was experiencing an epidemic of the plague, stopping his pilgrimage to minister to the many plague victims.

Not too surprisingly, Roch contracted the plague himself, and was then unceremoniously banned from the town. He went off to die in the forest, but was kept alive by a spring that miraculously sprang up, as well as dog that brought him food.

He miraculously survived the plague, then set about to return to Montpellier. There, he was falsely arrested as a spy, was too humble to claim his noble lineage, and subsequently died in captivity. Upon his death, however, he was identified by his birthmark. At that point, he was venerated by the townsfolk and miracles attributable to him started happening right and left.

He’s usually depicted showing off a little leg
(and typically pointing to some of his plague sores)

#2  Jacobo Kyushei Gorobioye Tomonaga (Aug 17)

So, we’ve got Italian for the first name, Japanese for the second, Ethiopian for the third, and Samoan for the fourth?

Jacobo was actually Japanese. After travelling to the Philippines to become ordained, he returned to Japan, was found out, and was tortured and killed. 

From the very odd site

By the way, he’s also known as Jacobo Kyushei Gorobioye Tomonaga de Santa Maria. That’s 42 characters – possibly a new world record!

#1  Mamas (Aug 17)

He was a real mama’s boy!

Sorry. He actually was a boy though. Also known as Mammes of Caesarea, Mamas was – like Agapitus – only 15 when he was martyred. 

Mamas’s semi-legendary status has him variously down for:
  • Being tortured personally by the Emperor Aurelian
  • Being freed from jail by an angel
  • Hiding in a cave in Israel / Cyprus
  • Befriending / riding a lion
  • Being killed by being stabbed with a trident / eaten by lions

That has to be the worst depiction of a lion I’ve ever seen

Honorable Mention
  • Myron of Cyzicus
  • Amor of Amorbach
  • Firminus of Metz
  • Gobert of Apremont
  • Anastasius Cornicularius
  • Hyacinth Odrovaz
  • Euprepius of Verona
  • Frambaldo
  • Porphyrius of Palestrina
  • Burchard of Worms

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