originally published November 22, 2013
Having not been raised as a Catholic, I understand very little about the intricacies of the faith and how it differentiates itself from the standard one-size-fits-all Christianity, which I also understand very little about. All the more reason I should probably forego an article about Catholic sainthood and write another piece about film history or 80’s music, I suppose. But I’ve never been one to stick to the rules.
From what I can tell, Catholics have the option to pray to any one of several hundred dishes at the All-Saints Buffet, depending on one’s specific needs. Every saint has a backstory, often ending in an untimely death and occasionally sporting a snazzy miracle or two.
It goes without saying that no offense is meant by today’s piece. I’m counting on that well-established Catholic tradition of self-effacement and good humor to abide my misunderstandings and grotesque goofery.
Wow. I’m not even out of the introduction yet and already I might be in trouble.
Let’s kick this off with one I know. St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes – I think I may have learned that from an old episode of Quantum Leap. But ol’ Jude Thaddaeus is also the patron saint of Clube de Regatas do Flamengo, a Brazilian soccer team. That seems somewhat defeatist to share one’s saint with that of lost causes, doesn’t it? They were national champs in 2006, so I suppose it hasn’t worked against them.
St. Clare of Assisi, the first female monastic leader (13th century girl power!), is the patron saint of television. This comes from a tale in which Clare was too sick to make it to church, but she was able to see and hear the service on her wall. She is also the patron saint of telephones, needlework, laundry and good weather, which tells me that St. Clare became a sort of dumping ground for stuff that needed someone to be its patron saint.
Now we’re getting into some scary hoodoo. St. Expedite is, as his name implies, the patron saint of hurrying the hell up. Procrastination, emergencies, that sort of thing. He’s also the patron saint of computer hackers and – according to the Wall Street Journal – victims of outsourcing. In Haitian Vodou, folks make offerings to St. Expedite. These include glasses of water, flowers and pound cake, all in hopes of conjuring a gambling charm or else cursing one’s enemies. Unless one’s enemy is a computer hacker, I suppose – then you’re screwed.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina is one of the more mainstream saints, covering everything from teenagers to civil defense volunteers to the New Years’ Blues. Pio was a 20th century saint, yet even in this age of debunkery he has a ton of magic tacked under his name. Floral-scented stigmata, curing someone’s blindness… he even “engaged in physical combat with Satan and his minions.” But like I said, St. Pio is pretty mainstream. If you want to be a true Catholic hipster you’ll want to pray to someone a bit more obscure.
Like St. Gummarus, the patron saint of lumberjacks. You know, because he’s… stocky… and looks kind of Quebecois… I don’t know, you’re on your own with this guy.
In addition to her high-profile presence in every movie about Jesus’s life, Mary Magdalene is also the patron saint of hairdressers, glove makers and people who enjoy tanning. She is also the patron saint of sexual temptation, though I’m not totally clear if that means we should pray to her if we have sexual temptation or if we want sexual temptation. And does praying for a good tan actually work? Someone needs to investigate this.
If ever there was a guy who deserved his sainthood, it’d be Maximilian Kolbe. Everyone from drug addicts to pro-lifers gets to throw a salute at St. Max, and even given my heathen, non-believing ways, I’ll still heap a dollop of praise at him. Max was thrown into the hellscape of Auschwitz during the war for having the gall to hide around 2000 Jews in his Polish friary.
After a trio of prisoners had found an escape from the death camp, the Nazis opted to punish those who remained by starving ten men to death in an underground bunker. When one man was arbitrarily chosen, he yelled out, “My wife! My children!”. Max pulled a Katniss and volunteered as a tribute. He spent the next two weeks comforting and encouraging his doomed bunker-mates as they passed away from dehydration and starvation. Perhaps concerned that Max was indestructible, the Nazis injected him with poison.
Who knows – they may have been right. Two weeks is a notch beyond earthly endurance.
In addition to helping me set up a desperate past-pop-culture Golden Girls reference, St. Olaf is also the patron saint of both Norway and bad marriages. So if you’re stuck in a rotten marriage and just happen to live in Oslo, you’ve got a one-stop saint to fix all your woes.
Saint Walter of Pontoise was promoted to sainthood by the Archbishop of Rouen, making him the last saint to have been bumped up the line by anyone who wasn’t a pope. Saint Walter took pity on a prisoner at a monastery and helped him escape, which earmarked him as the patron saint of prisoners. He’s also the patron saint of job-related stress, so maybe you can call upon Saint Walter of Pontoise to do something about that lady in accounting who starts the same damn conversation about the weather every damn day in the elevator. I mean, come on. I know! There’s weather outside! I’m trying to listen to some Kenny friggin’ Loggins here, and your voice sounds like Julie Kavner on helium!
But I digress.
As proven once again last night, Drew Brees is the patron saint of the Saints.
St. Amand is the venerated dude you’ll want to hang out with. He is the patron saint of brewers, wine makers, innkeepers and bartenders. St. Amand is the guy you pray to when you want a killer party. Or also if you’re a Boy Scout. He’s the patron saint of them too.
Lastly there’s St. Francis de Sales, a Geneva-based bishop who – for those who believe in such things – is the guy I should be turning to when struggling for prose. Due to his prolific and influential output, St. Francis is the patron saint of writers. Also, journalists, deaf people, educators, and Wilmington, Delaware.
Somewhere there’s a person who knows all these saints by heart, along with everything they represent. Seems like a lot to keep track of to me, but then my faith doesn’t reach much beyond Jediism. It’d be rather confusing trying to pray for a saint when there are so many to dig through. I suppose it’s nothing short of a miracle that we live in an age where there’s an app for that.