Saturday, October 8, 2016

Oct. 8-14

There’s only one really interesting saint this week, and that’s John XXIII. And the thing that might be most interesting about him is that he was pope when I was born. And I’m not that old! As a very liberal Catholic, I also count him as one of my favorite saints as well.

#10  Colman of Stockerau (Oct 13)
Patronage:  horned cattle

No horns? Forget it then. You’re just gonna have to find somebody else.

In addition to that rather odd patronage, we’ve also got Colman down for:
  • Horses
  • Plague
  • Gout
  • Hanging
That last bit pertains directly to poor Colman’s form of martyrdom. I’ll let explain:

While on a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands, Colman was stopped by the Viennese on suspicion of being a Moravian spy; there was continual fighting between Austria, Moravia and Bohemia, and a stranger who spoke no German was immediately suspect. With no evidence other than being a stranger, he was convicted of espionage, tortured, and hanged with two thieves.

What happened next, though, is probably how Colman became a saint however:

In the tradition of the time, the bodies were left to rot as a warning to others. Colman’s body hung there for 18 months, incorrupt, and untouched by animals. Miracles were reported at the site, including the scaffolding taking root and putting out branches.

If you’re ever in the Benedictine abbey at Melk (Austria), 
you can touch part of the stone that Colman was martyred on

#9  Francis Borgia (Oct 10)
Representation:  skull crowned with an emperor's diadem

There’s a story behind this, I just know it.

Unfortunately, though, it’s a pretty common one. The skull may simply represent a memento mori, a classic reminder of the brevity of life. It’s particularly associated with the Jesuits, who Francis joined. The crown may represent a martyr’s crown, or simply reflect Francis’s illustrious background.

Alas, poor Francis …

Indeed. Francis was a Duke, the grandson of a pope, and was raised at the court of Charles V. The emperor took a particular liking to him, making him a Marquess and Vicerory.

When Francis’s wife died, though, he renounced everything and became a simple Jesuit priest. Though exceedingly humble, Francis would go on to found numerous colleges and be made the Jesuits’ Superior General.

All this happened in 16th Century Spain.

#8  Maximilian of Celeia (Oct 12)
Patronage:  Habsburg family

Well, that's a little particular, isn’t it?  I mean, how many Habsburgs do you know?

Interestingly, though, Maximillian was not a member of that family. In fact, he lived in the 3rd Century, long before the Habsburgs were around. They did, however, adopt him. In fact, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I was probably named after him. It would be a name that would run through the Habsburg family for the next 500 years.

As for the saint, there really isn’t that much on him. We do know he was a missionary and a subsequent martyr. He also founded the church of Lorch (remember Florian?), which makes him Maximilian of Lorch as well.

#7  Eulampia / Eulampius (Oct 10)

They gotta be twins, right?

Well, we do know they were brother and sister. Not so sure about the twin thing.

The two were martyred during the 300s (not a good time to be a Christian, BTW) in the city of Nicomedia (modern-day Turkey). Seems Eulampius (the brother) was arrested for buying supplies for Christians hiding in caves in the local mountains. When he was whipped, Eulampia disclosed herself by coming to his aid. They would then both be executed – along with 200 soldiers who were so impressed by the siblings’ courage that they converted en masse.

The two are very popular in Orthodox churches, but are recognized by the Catholic Church as well.

Why am I not surprised?

#6  Pelagia the Penitent (Oct 8)

I understand she was from Pennsylvania, and had quite the parental pedigree.

Actually, Pelagia was from Antioch (again, in modern-day Turkey), and lived around the year 300. She was actually a very attractive dancing girl / prostitute who was converted by St. Nonnus. And that’s how she got her other appellation, the wonderful Pelagia the Harlot.

After her conversion, Pelagia went to the Mount of Olives, where she lived a very ascetic life as a bit of a transgender monk. Yup, she dressed like a man and passed herself off as the eunuch Pelagius. The standard story is that she did that so she could hide her beauty and pray without being bothered. As a NC native, I do have to wonder, though, exactly what bathroom she used.

#5  Callistus (Oct 14)
Representation:  pope with a millstone on him or nearby

You know there’s a big difference between those two, right?

Callistus was indeed an early pope, ruling in the 200s. His martyrdom also prominently featured a millstone, with said object tied around Callistus’s neck as he was thrown down a well or off a bridge into the Tiber.

Unfortunately for Callistus, the only record we have of his life came from two of his enemies, one of whom would become the first anti-pope. Amid all the calumny, it sounds like Callistus was born a slave, was exiled for his faith, was the sextant for one of Rome’s more famous catacombs, and was rather liberal during his short papacy (his critics seem to have been just the opposite).

This is actually not his mug shot – 
just something I found on the web

#4  Canice (Oct 11)
Representation:  man ordering birds to stop singing / man ordering mice to leave

Why? What did they do?

Also, did they leave, or did they just ignore him? Curious minds want to know.

Well, it sounds like they did pay attention. He’s famous for stopping those noisy birds from interrupting mass, and for doing a St. Patrick on the mice of the Irish island of Ubdain.

Yup, that’s him

Canice was an Irish monk, priest, and missionary who lived during the 6th Century. He’s one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. The town – and county – of Kilkenny is named after him (with kil meaning “church” in Gaelic). He’s also known as Kenneth, especially in Scotland, where he was a missionary.

#3  Cerbonius of Populonia (Oct 10)
Representation: bishop with a bear licking his feet

Okay, these are starting to get weird.

Cerbonius lived at the same time as Canice, but much further south. He may have been born in North Africa, fleeing to Italy to avoid invading barbarians.

Barbarians caught up him with there, though, where the story behind that wonderful representation played out. Turns out one of the barbarian kings ordered Cerbonius to be tied to a stake and set a wild bear upon him. You can guess the rest.

There’s another excellent story about Cerbonius that involves him saying mass too early, being hauled to Rome by his parishoners, performing some miracles along the way, and eventually getting absolved by the pope. Along the way, he tamed some wild geese, which followed him the rest of way. And that’s what’s behind another popular representation of his – “with geese.”

Couldn’t find any bears – 
these gees will have to do

#2  Denis of Paris (Oct 9)
Representation:  beheaded bishop carrying his severed head – the head sometimes wears its mitre, and there is often a vine growing over his neck

What is this, weird week?

St. Denis is actually pretty well known. He was the first bishop of Paris, and was indeed a martyr. He’s also the patron saint of Paris, and is also known as The Apostle of France. The French were so devoted to him that St. Denis, in Paris, is where all the French royalty are buried. Finally, the traditional French battle cry is, “Montjoie! St. Denis!”

As for the head bit, there’s actually quite a saintly tradition of that. In addition to Denis, this blog also features Alban of Mainz and Solange of Bourges. There are so many of these saints that they actually have their own name, cephalophores (from the Greek for “head-carrier”). Like Denis, these folks often walk long ways, preaching all the while.

#1  Abraham the Patriarch (Oct 9)
Representation:  bearded old man holding a blanket containing small people representing the souls of all believers saved since his first reaction to God

Sure, why the heck not?

This guy probably needs no introduction. You know, the guy who wandered around the Mideast? Canaan, Hebron, Egypt? Father of Jacob and Ishmael? Husband of Sarah and Hagar? Promised land? That covenant thing? You know, that guy.

Yup, that’s him

Honorable Mention
  • Lubenzio
  • Lupulo of Capua
  • Sabinus of the Lavedan
  • Ethelburgh of Barking
  • Domnina of Anazarbus
  • Monas of Milan
  • Fulk of Fontenelle
  • Guiadenzio of Gniezno
  • Malo the Martyr
  • Anastasius the Apocrisarius

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