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

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