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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

St. Hubert of Liege

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St. Hubert is best known as the patron saint of hunters, but his hagiography, and his cult thereafter, have plenty of points of interest as well. For many years, an item called St. Hubert's Key was used to prevent rabies. And it actually worked! At the time, the cause of rabies was unknown, but the key was a small, metal nail-like object that would be heated and applied to the the bite while invoking the intercession of St. Hubert. It turns out that applying heated metal to a fresh bite wound actually cauterized the wound and sterilized the rabies virus, thus preventing the recipient from contract rabies themselves. Because of this connection to dog bites, St. Hubert has also been invoked as the patron saint of and against Werewolves. (Here I must resist the temptation to derail this post further by going into the Hounds of God, but we must save that for another day...)   Lifetime:  ~656 to ~727 Region:  Toulouse, France Patronages:  Hunters; Mathematicians; Metalworkers Iconograp

St. Denis of Paris

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A perfect hagiography for the month that includes Halloween, St. Denis of Paris is often depicted carrying his own severed head, in reference to a legend that he preached a sermon after being beheaded. Denis was the first bishop of Paris, sent to convert the Gauls to Christianity (it didn't go well). He is also one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers , a group of saints whose intercession began to be sought collectively against the Black Death.   Lifetime:  ~200 to ~250 Region:  Montmartre, Gaul (modern Paris, France) Patronages:  Headaches; Paris; Rabies Iconograpy:  Martyr holding his own severed head; Bishop's mitre and crosier Feast Day:  October 9 Denis (called Dionysus in his time) is considered the first Bishop of Paris. Though Paris wasn't yet established as a city, he was sent to the area that is now called Paris to preach to the people of Gaul, an area where the early church had once thrived, but had since waned after persecution by the Roman emperor. Upon arriving, h