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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

St. Seraphim of Sarov

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Though St. Seraphim lived well after the schism between the Catholic and Orthodox churches, he is recognized by both, with Pope St. John Paul II referring to him as a saint in 1995. St. Seraphim is also one of the few saints to leave the Earth, as  in 2016, cosmonaut Sergei Zalyotin carried a relic of St. Seraphim on his 155 day journey aboard the International Space Station. Lifetime:  July 30, 1754 to January 14, 1833 Region:  Sarov, Russian Empire Patronages:  Nuclear weapons Iconograpy:  Peasant clothes; Bear Feast Day: January 2  Seraphim was born with the name Prochor, named after one of the first seven deacons mentioned in the books of Acts and a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, Prochorus. At the age of 10, Seraphim fell, but was healed after a vision of Mary promised to cure him and his mother lifted him up to an icon of the Theotokos during a procession. From then on the young Seraphim loved to spend time in prayer, attend church, and read about the saints in between shif

St. Lucy of Syracuse

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Not much is known for sure about St. Lucy (also known as St. Lucia), but there is plenty of legend around her as one of the saints that the early church venerated greatly. St. Lucy's Day is always celebrated during Advent, and was originally on the shortest day of the year, a nod to Lucy's name meaning "light", and points ahead to the light of Christ entering the world on Christmas Day. Lifetime:  283 to 304 Region:  Syracuse, Sicily, Italy Patronages:  The blind; Martyrs; Throat infections; Writers Iconograpy:  Candle wreath on head; Platter of eyes; Sword; Quill Feast Day:  December 13 Lucy was born to noble parents, her father Roman and her mother Greek, but her father died when she was only five. When Lucy was a little older, her mother contracted a deadly disease, which she suffered from for four years before Lucy heard a liturgy in Catania and the story of St. Agatha of Palermo.  This liturgy referenced the gospel story of a woman dying of the same disease as Lu

St. Ambrose of Milan

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St. Ambrose is a doctor of the church, one of the many saints who combatted Arianism , and is well-known for encouraging the use of antiphonal chant. Because of his connection to bees and to chant (I am a beekeeper; my wife is a cantor), my wife and I named our son after St. Ambrose. Ambrose was also the first to speak of Mary as an image of the church. He often preached about how Mary is truly the Mother of God (Theotokos). This distinction was important, because the Arian heresy so prevalent in his days claimed that Jesus was created by God, rather than being one of the persons of God. Lifetime:  340 to 397 Region:  Milan, Italy Patronages:  Beekeepers; Candle Makers; Learning Iconograpy:  Bee or bee hive; Bishop's miter and vestments; Scourge Feast Day:  December 7 According to legend, when Ambrose was a baby, a swarm of bees flew in, buzzing all around his head. However, Ambrose wasn't stung -- instead, a drop of honey was left on his mouth. This was seen as a prophecy that

St. Laurence O'Toole

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St. Laurence O'Toole recently made the news, even though he's been dead for over 800 years. Why? Because of a strange and kind of spooky caper involving the theft of his heart! But Laurence was quite well-known in his own days as well - in fact he was so respected that after his death, his canonization was speed-tracked to appease his many followers. Lifetime:  1128 to 1180 Region:  Ireland Patronages:  Archdiocese of Dublin, Ireland Iconograpy:  Basket of bread; Shield; Dublin architecture Feast Day:  November 14 Laurence O'Toole was known as Lorc├ín Ua Tuathail in Ireland (and St. Laurent in France, which he also visited, and where he died). He was born as a prince, but was the youngest of four sons, meaning he was not likely to inherit the title. When Laurence was 10, he was held hostage for two years by another king opposing his father. He was kept mostly alone and nearly starved. However, eventually the abbot of a nearby monastery intervened to secure Laurence's rel