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St. Catherine of Siena

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St. Catherine of Siena is one of the most famous Dominican saints, one of 36 Doctors of the Church , and an influential mystic and author. Nearly 400 letters, 26 prayers, and a treatise penned by Catherine are known today, even though she didn't learn to write until she was 30 (though many of her letters were dictated to scribes). Some of her letters were later carried by soldiers as a sort of good luck charm during battle. Lifetime:  March 25, 1347 to April 29 1380 Region:  Alexandria, Egypt Patronages:  Fire; Miscarriages; Illness; Italy Iconograpy:  Crown of thorns; Lilies; Dominican habit Feast Day: April 29 Catherine was the 23rd child born to her mother, though half of her older siblings had died young. Catherine was a joyful and pious child, earning the Greek word for "joy" as a family nickname, having her first vision of  Jesus at five or six, and declaring at seven her intention to dedicate her life to God. When Catherine was 16, one of her older, married sisters

St. Mark the Evangelist

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St. Mark the Evangelist is most famous for authoring the Gospel book that bears his name, but there are actually three to four different accounts of relevant people named "Mark" in the early church. Besides the gospel author, there is also a man referred to as "John Mark" in the book of Acts, and a Mark who is the cousin of Barnabas in the Epistles. Finally, Mark is mentioned alongside Luke in 2 Timothy. These Marks could be anywhere from all one person to four different people, but the two main traditions either interpret them as one or two individuals. The Catholic church distinguishes between Mark the Evangelist, and John Mark as two separate people. Lifetime:  5 to 68 Region:  Alexandria, Egypt Patronages:  Barristers; Venice; Egypt Iconograpy:  Writing in a scroll or book; Winged lion Feast Day: April  25 As with many saints of the very early church, not much is known about Mark's life. Instead, I'll focus on how he is depicted in iconography, some of t

St. Dismas, the Penitent Thief

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Did you know there was a saint canonized by Jesus Christ himself? It's in the Gospel of Luke! St. Dismas is the traditional name given to the penitent thief, the one who is being crucified alongside Jesus and asks Jesus to remember him when he enters the Kingdom. Jesus then promises that Dismas will see him in Paradise, thus making the executed criminal the first saint canonized by the church.  Though he is unnamed in Luke's gospel, the name Dismas comes from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. A few other non-canonical sources provide other names for him. Lifetime:  1st Century Region:  Galilee Patronages:  Prisoners; Funeral directors; Repentant thieves Iconograpy:  Being crucified; Often contorted Feast Day: March 25 Not much is known about Dismas, including whether that is even his name. That makes it kind of hard to write a bio about him, so instead I'll write some interesting information about the Penitent Thief here. Iconography The Penitent Thief is usually portraye

St. Gertrude of Nivelles

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  St. Gertrude of Nivelles shares her feast day with the much more well-known St. Patrick on March 17, but any fans of cats will be interested to learn about her, as that is one of the areas over which she is a patron. She is also a patron of several Belgian and Dutch towns, as well as the Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross, a religious order more commonly known as the Croziers. Lifetime: 628-659 Region:  Austrasia (modern Belgium and Netherlands) Patronages:  Cats; Travellers; Gardeners; Mental illness Iconograpy:  Cat or mice/rats; Flowers; Benedictine habit Feast Day: March 17 In a pattern that should sound familiar to anyone who knows the history of many early women saints, Gertrude was born to a noble family and grew up surrounded by wealth and politics. When she was ten, her father held a party where the king offered her to be betrothed to a duke. She lost her temper and refused, vowing even at such a young age that she would marry only Christ. Before her father could

St. Peter Damian

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St. Peter Damian is one of the thirty (at time of writing) Doctors of the Church . He was a major reformer against the scandals of the church in his day, and was an influence on Dante Alighieri and St. Francis of Assisi .  Lifetime: 988 to 1072 Region:  Northern Italy Patronages:  Faenza and Font-Avellano, Italy; Insomniacs Iconograpy:  Quill and book; Knotted rope; Grey robes Feast Day: February 21 Peter was the last born to a large noble family who was, despite their titles, rather poor. He became an orphan at a young age, and was adopted by an older brother. Unfortunately, this brother didn't seem to take in young Peter out of the kindness of his heart; Peter was treated like a slave, underfed and forced to care for the brother's pigs. One of Peter's other brothers, who was a priest, eventually took pity on Peter and gave him money to go to school. This brother's name was Damian, and Peter was so moved by his sibling's kindness that he added the brother's na

St. Josephine Bakhita

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So first of all, I need to say that our favorite Danish brick toy company has a severe shortage of women of color, especially those without glowing eyes or alien face paint. St. Bakhita's later forgiveness for -- nay, appreciation of  -- her captors truly demonstrates the power of God to forgive all things. Lifetime: 1868 to 1947 Region:  Sudan; Italy Patronages:  Sudan; Victims of human trafficking Iconograpy:  Simple habit and head wrap; Broken chain Feast Day: February 8 Bakhita forgot the name she was born with. That's because, when she was 7 or 8, she was enslaved by slavers and the trauma of her capture caused her to lose that memory. Her captors are the ones who gave her the name Bahkita, which means "lucky". They also made her convert to their religion. Before she was taken, Bakhita was part of a loving family, with three brothers and three sisters. Her uncle was the chief of her village. A year before Bakhita's enslavement, one of her older sisters was t

St. Felix of Nola

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When I was converting to the Catholic faith, St. Felix was one of the first saints I learned about. Mostly because, as a horror writer and bug lover, I was Googling things like "spookiest Catholic saints".  Nonetheless, the scant details of St. Felix's life are an inspiration today, and a lesson about facing our fears and trusting in God. And it's just cool that there's a patron saint of spiders. Lifetime: ~200 to ~250 Region:  Nola, Campania, Italy Patronages:  Spiders; Against eye disease; Nola, Italy Iconograpy:  Spider or spider web; Prison chains; Grapes  Feast Day: January 14  Felix, in a refrain that is very common among early church saints, grew up wealthy, but sold off his estate and gave his money and possessions to the poor. He soon became the assistant to the local bishop Maximus (who himself would go on to be canonized as well). I don't want to gloss over that, though, just because it was common among the canon. Could you imagine growing up in a