Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Some of the more bizarre Catholic saints

I keep reading on my daily bathroom calendar about patron saints for the most unlikely of groups or aspects of life, which led me to research some of the more bizarre patron saints the venerable Catholic Church has seen fit to canonize over the centuries.
There really is a saint for almost anything you can think of, and some of the patronage designations seem quite random, or, sometimes, in poor taste. And some of the back-stories are really quite bizarre (although bear in mind that many of these are more in the way of legends than histories).
Here are a small selection of what I found, from a variety of different sources, including Cracked, Aggie Catholic Blog, Listverse, Top 10, Weird Worm, Neatorama, etc, and of course Wikipedia:
  • Saint Adrian of Nicomedia, patron saint of arms dealers, soldiers, guards and butchers - once a member of the prestigious Herculian Guard of the Roman Emperor Galerius Maximian, Adrian came to admire the Christians he saw being persecuted and joined them, although he was arrested, tortured and burned before he could even be baptised.
  • Saint Albinus of Angers, patron saint against pirate attacks - a 6th century French abbot who used church money to free hostages from pirates on the Loire river.
  • Saint Agatha of Sicily, patron saint of breast cancer sufferers - a beautiful woman who rejected the advances of a powerful judge, Agatha was sent to live out her days in a brothel. When she continued to reject men, she was tortured mercilessly, including having her breasts cut off.
  • Saint Apollonia, patron saint of dentists - Apollonia was beaten by an Alexandria mob for her Christian beliefs, and had all her teeth knocked out or pulled out in the process. Rather than be tortured in a fire, she unexpectedly jumped into the fire and so died with out renouncing her faith.
  • Saint Arnulf of Metz, patron saint of beer and brewers - his patronage supposedly arose when the people of Metz went to reclaim Arnulf's body on a hot day, and a small remnant of beer miraculously multiplied to quench the thirsts of all.
  • Saint Barbara, patron saint of thunderstorms, sudden deaths, firemen and fireworks - when Barbara converted to Christianity, her heathen father had her tortured and executed, but he was then himself struck down by lightning and consumed with flames.
  • Saint Bartholemew, patron saint of leather and skin workers - Bartholemew was killed by being skinned alive (and then, rather redundantly, crucified upside-down) by the pagans of Armenia. The connection between skin and leather-workers was an interesting leap of association by someone.
  • Saint Benedict of Nursia, patron saint of spelunkers and students - Benedict overcame poisoning attempts and seduction by prostitutes to found the Benedictine Order of monasteries.
  • Saint Bibiana, patron saint of hangovers, headaches and mental illnesses - forced into prostitution and then into a mad house, Bibiana was eventually flogged to death on the order of Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate. After her death, headache-curing herbs grew around her grave.
  • Saint Brendan the Navigator, patron saint of whales and sailors - Brendan, a 6th century Irish monk, travelled the high seas of the Atlantic evangelizing to the people of the islands (and possibly reaching the Americas according to some stories). At one point, he stopped on a small island and lit a fire to celebrate Easter Mass, but the island turned out to be an enormous whale!
  • Saint Christopher, patron saint of travellers and bachelors - hailing from a part of North Africa that many Europeans believed to be inhabited by dog-headed people, Christopher was often depicted with a dog's head.
  • Saint Clare of Assisi, patron saint of needle-workers, laundry workers and television - founder of the monastic Order of Poor Ladies, Clare was designated as the patron saint of television in 1958, on the basis that, when she was too ill to attend mass, she had reportedly been able to see and hear it on the wall of her room.
  • Saint Columbanus, patron saint of motorcyclists - the 6th century Irish monk Columbanus did most of his missionary work in the Alps and northern Italy, which is considered a prime area for motorcycle tours.
  • Saint Cornelius, patron saint of twitching, epilepsy and earaches - Cornelius was Pope for just two years in the 3rd century before being executed by the Roman authorities.
  • Saint Cyprian of Antioch, patron saint of occultists - originally a pagan sorceror, Cyprian was converted to Christianity through the love of a good woman, Justina. For some reason, it was Cyprian, not Justina, who became the saint.
  • Saint Denis, patron saint of headaches and possessed people - a 3rd century Bishop of Paris, Denis was decapitated by pagans, but he reportedly picked up his head and walked a further six miles, preaching all the while.
  • Saint Dominic Savio, patron saint of juvenile delinquents - one of ten children, Dominic seems to have been the opposite of a juvenile delinquent, becoming an altar boy at 5 and training for the priesthood at 12. But his health was poor, and he died at the age of 15.
  • Saint Drausinus, patron saint of invincible people - wait, what?
  • Saint Drogo, patron saint of unattractive people, mutes and broken bones, not to mention midwives, cattle and coffee houses - Drogo was a keen self-flagillant, as he tried to atone for his mother's death while giving birth to him, and he was rumoured to be able to appear in two different places at the same time. He contracted a hideously deforming disease while on a pilgrimage (and coffee houses? not sure where that came from...)
  • Saint Dymphna, patron saint of incest victims and the mentally ill - young Dymphna's father wanted to marry her because she was the only woman as beautiful as his recently-deceased wife. When she repeatedly refused, her father summarily beheaded her.
  • Saint Eligius, patron saint of metalsmiths, jewellers, horses and (more recently) gas station workers - a 7th century French metalsmith himself, Eligius discovered a skill in designing and making reliquaries (and even finding the relics that went in them).
  • Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, patron saint of bakers, nurses and brides - best known for the miracle of turning bread into roses (and how useful is that!)
  • Saint Expeditus (or Elpidius), patron saint against procrastination and for expeditious solutions - a 3rd century Armenian martyr who is reported to have been thinking of converting to Christianity when the devil appeared to him in the form of a crow, telling him that he could always wait until tomorrow to convert. Expeditus stamped the crow under his feet, and insisted that he would act that very day rather than wait.
  • Saint Fiacre, patron saint of sufferers from venereal and other sexually-transmitted diseases (as well as gardeners and cab-drivers!) - Fiacre established a hospice deep in the woods of France in the 7th century, where he is said to have miraculously healed blindness, leprosy, tumours and STDs, although he steadfastly refused to treat any women or girls.

  • Saint Friard, patron saint of those who fear wasps - when Friard was being tormented for his faith, a swarm of wasps appeared to sting his tormentors.
  • Saint Genesius of Rome, patron saint of actors and comedians - after converting to Christianity while on stage acting in a play, Genesius was tortured and beheaded by the notably anti-Christian Emperor Diocletian.
  • Saint George, patron saint of agricultural workers, archers, armourers, boy scouts, butchers, cavalry, Crusaders, equestrians, farmhands, farmers, field workers, Freemasonry, horsemen, husbandry, knights, riders, Rover Scouts, saddle-makers, scouts, shepherds, soldiers, Teutonic Knights, Canada, England, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Montenegro, Ethiopia, Aragon, Catalonia and Moscow - enough said!
  • Saint Germaine Cousin, patron saint of girls from rural areas and abandoned people - a poor 16th century French woman, Germaine is credited with many miracles and famed for her extreme austerity.
  • Saint Gertrude of Nivelles, patron saint of cats, suriphobes (the fear of mice and rats) and the recently dead - Gertrude died young after a life of extreme abstinence, fasting and prayer.
  • Saint Giles, (male) patron saint of breast-feeding, breast cancer, cripples and beggars - after giving all his money to the poor, the once-wealthy Giles lived a hermit's life in a cave in southern France, where he miraculously cured many illnesses. He was killed by the king on a hunting trip, by an arrow intended for the deer which was Giles' constant companion (and which sustained Giles for years by allowing him to suckle its milk).
  • Saint Hubert of Liège, patron saint of rabid dogs, hunting dogs, furriers, trappers and those who fear werewolves - once a passionate hunter, Hubert renounced all his worldly positions and wealth after his wife died following a stag hunt in which he received a vision.
  • Saint Isidore of Seville, patron saint of students, schoolchildren, computer users and the Internet - once an underachieving student, Isidore became a renowned 6th century scholar after turning to God. The patronage of computers and the Internet are, obviously, more recent designations.
  • Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, patron saint of in-law problems, orphans and forgotten people - Jane was raised by a single father after her mother died early in her life, and she was widowed at the age of 28 and forced to live with her unbearable father-in-law.
  • Saint Joseph of Arimathea, patron saint of undertakers, morticians and pall-bearers - a secret disciple of Jesus, it was Joseph that got permission to take down and bury the body of the crucified Jesus.
  • Saint Joseph of Cupertino, patron saint of air travellers, pilots, astronauts and the mentally handicapped - Joseph was a 17th century Italian friar with a learning disability, who was prone to ecstatic visions during which he would apparently miraculously levitate (hence the connection with pilots, etc).
  • Saint Jude the Apostle (Judas Thaddeus), patron saint of lost and forgotten causes and desperate situations - Jude may or may not have been Jesus' brother, and he may or may not have acquired the patronage of lost causes because few people wanted to pray to him for fear of accidentally praying to Judas Iscariot, Christ's betrayer, so he became eager to take on even the most undesirable of causes.

  • Saint Julian the Hospitaller, patron saint of wandering musicians, clowns, carnival workers and murderers - while his parents were visiting him and staying in his own room, Julian "accidentally" killed them, thinking he had caught his own wife being unfaithful to him.
  • Saint Lidwina, patron saint of ice-skaters - Lidwina fell and broke a rib while ice skating the age of 15, and as a result remained disabled for the rest of her life (she may have suffered from multiple sclerosis).
  • Saint Lucy, patron saint of blindness and eye problems - when Lucy rejected a suitor in order to follow Christ, the jilted suitor reported her to the pagan authorities, who saw fit to torture her, including gouging out her eyes, before killing her.
  • Saint Magnus of Füssen, patron saint of caterpillars and crop protection - a little-known German saint from the 7th or 8th century, Magnus apparently spent much of his time trying to protect crops from destruction by caterpillars. He also is supposed to have a dispatched several dragons, and even kept one as a pet.
  • Saint Margaret of Antioch, patron saint of childbirth - jailed for her beliefs, she is said to have been swallowed by the Devil in the form of a dragon. After she clawed her way out of its belly (although only to be later beheaded), she became associated with childbirth.
  • Saint Monica, patron saint of alcoholics, difficult marriages and disappointing children - a reformed alcoholic herself, Monica (mother of the famous Saint Augustine of Hippo, who was a wayward son until his conversion to Christianity later in life) was given in marriage to a bad-tempered pagan called Patricius.
  • Saint Patrick, patron saint of ophidiophobes (those who fear snakes) - Patrick was a 5th century Irish missionary who supposedly banished all snakes from Ireland (in fact, Ireland has never had any snakes).
  • Saint Polycarp of Smyrna, patron saint of dysentery and earache sufferers - in the 2nd century, Polycarp was sentenced to be burned alive for his Christian beliefs, but when the fire did not seem to touch him, he had to be first stabbed to death and then burned. Dysentery was apparently a common complaint in the region where he was wont to preach.
  • Saint René Goupil, patron saint of anesthesiologists - a 17th century Jesuit missionary in the Americas, René was captured and tortured by the Iroquois for making the sign of the cross over a child’s head. He became the first North American martyr when he died of a tomahawk wound in the head, which somehow led to his patronage of people who work with or receive anesthesia.
  • Saint Roch, patron saint of dogs, epidemics and surgeons - Roch was a wealthy noble who gave up his position to work with and heal plague victims. When he himself contracted the plague he was befriended by a dog who licked his wounds and miraculously healed him. Once again, it was the man, not the dog, who was canonized as a saint.
  • Saint Scholastica, patron saint of convulsive children, storms and nuns - Scholastica was the twin sister of Saint Benedict and founded the women's branch of Benedictine monasticism. She once called up a rainstorm to prevent her brother from leaving for home, so that they could finish their conversation.
  • Saint Simeon Stylites, patron saint of shepherds - Simeon was a 5th century Syrian ascetic who supposedly lived for 47 years at the top of a tall pillar, from where he preached and performed miracles.
  • Saint Theodore of Sykeon, patron saint both for and against rain - Theodore lived in Galatia (modern-day Turkey) in the 7th century, and was the son of parents who performed acrobatic feats on camels. He was known as a miracle worker and once warded off a plague of insects by prayer.
  • Saint Vitus, patron saint of oversleeping, dancing and entertaining - Vitus was supposed to have been thrown (along with a rooster) into a cauldron of boiling tar, but miraculously escaped unscathed. The neurological disorder Sydenham's chorea is known as St. Vitus Dance after the dancing celebrations of the saint performed in medieval Germany and Latvia.
And, finally, an honorable mention goes to:
  • Saint Guinefort, a 13th century French dog who once saved his master's baby (although he was mistakenly killed for his pains), and who has supposedly been responsible for several miracles after his death. As a dog, though, he is not officially recognized by the Catholic Church.

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