Showing posts from 2020

St. Denis of Paris

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, he set up a smal…

St. Francis of Assisi

This post is a special bonus minifig - there's still another saint coming for October! As such, I'm not going to do a hagiography for St. Francis of Assisi, but I couldn't pass up the chance to get some photos of him.
St. Francis is one of the most well-known Catholic saints, and even secular garden shops are likely to carry a statue of him with some animals. He's also gotten more popular in recent years, as Pope Francis took his name as his papal title upon assuming the office of pope, in part because of his connection to ecology.
Because of a few legends associated with St. Francis, he is the patron saint of animals and pets, and therefore is among those saints who intercession is sought most often.
Lifetime: 1182 to 1226
Region: Umbria, Italy
Patronages: Animals; Ecology; the Franciscan order
Iconograpy: Birds; Franciscan habit; Stigmata
Feast Day: October 4 Prayer of St. Francis(note: no longer believed to be composed by St. Francis, but still an appropriate reflection of …

St. Therese of Lisieux

Despite her short life, dying at the age of 24, St. Therese is one of only four women Doctors of the Church (alongside Teresa of Avila, Hildegard von Bingen, and Catherine of Siena). Her famous "Little Way" has gone on to inspire many in the century since her death.
Therese also once wrote and performed in a play about Joan of Arc. During Joan's execution by burning at the stake, the set caught on fire, nearly igniting Therese's costume. I don't have anything extra to add about that, it's just a neat story I wanted to share.

Lifetime: January 2, 1873 to September 30, 1897
Region: France
Patronages: Missionaries; France; Florists
Iconograpy: Roses; Crucifix; Habit
Feast Day: October 1
Therese (born Marie Francois-Therese Martin) belonged to an extremely devout family. Her mother had hoped to become a nun, but was discouraged, and her father had similarly tried to join a religious order but was refused as he did not know Latin. After marrying, they went on to have nin…

St. Michael the Archangel

When I first converted to the Catholic faith, I was very uncomfortable with the prayer to St. Michael. In my mind, there was something strange (or rather, even stranger) about praying for the intercession of an angel over the intercession of the saints. Initially, I refused to participate in the prayer, which at my parish is said at the end of each Mass.
Eventually, though, I opted to take a childlike submission to the church's teachings for a short while, and that humility was greatly rewarded. Now, the prayer to St. Michael is one of the most commonly used tools in my arsenal against sin, and I have come to realize the power of his special place as one of the protectors of humanity.

Lifetime: Eternity
Region: Heaven & Earth
Patronages: Grocers; Mariners; Police; Soldiers
Iconograpy: Angel with a sword; Defeating Lucifer / a dragon; Scales
Feast Day: September 29 (with other Archangels)
Michael is one of only three named angels in scripture, and accordingly, along with the archangel…

St. Simeon the Stylite

St. Simeon the Stylite demonstrates a dedication to reliance on God to the extreme -- he spent most of his life atop a pillar, without shelter from the elements or any possessions. His unusual approach to asceticism was so inspiring that it kicked off a centuries-long trend of "pillar saints" following in his footsteps.
Lifetime: 390-459
Region: Syria
Patronages: Shepherds; Those who have left the church
Iconograpy: Atop a pillar; Habit; Long unkempt hair and beard
Feast Day: September 1 (Eastern Catholic & Orthodox) / January 5 (Roman Catholic) Young Simeon became enamored with the Christian faith when he was 13, after hearing a gospel reading of the Beatitudes ("Blessed are the meek", etc.). He joined a monastery before he was 16 and began pursuing an ascetic life immediately, giving away everything he could and restricting his niceties far beyond that which his fellow monks required -- or even found appropriate. It wasn't long before Simeon was asked to leave …

St. Moses the Strong

Moses the Strong, also called Moses the Black and Moses the Ethiopian, is a story of one of the greatest conversions of heart. Moses turning from his life of murder and robbery to an advocate for non-violence and humility shows that no matter what our struggles, there is hope for us all.
Lifetime: 330-405
Region: Ethiopia; Egypt
Patronages: Africa; Nonviolence
Iconograpy: Walking stick; parable scroll; leaking sack of sand
Feast Day: August 28 Little is known about Moses' early life, but he is believed to have been born in Ethiopia. In his youth, he became a slave or servant of an Egyptian governmental official, where his notoriety began. Moses' master found Moses too dishonest and violent, and after Moses was accused of murder, he was thrown out and exiled.Moses quickly turned his violent energy and large body to crime, joining a band of robbers. As a bandit, Moses regularly assaulted travelers, stole their belongings, and may well have committed additional murders and other wicked…

St. Maximilian Kolbe

Maxmilian Kolbe is one of the most inspirational modern saints. He was referred to by Pope St. John Paul II as "the patron saint of our difficult century" in reference to the 1900s. Often, many of us wonder what we would do if we faced a difficult situation, such as taking on risk for declaring our faith, or offering our own life for another's. Maxmilian Kolbe faced the Nazi threat in his occupied country of Poland and stood up for what is right, at the cost of his own life.
Lifetime: January 8, 1894 - August 14, 1941
Region: Poland
Patronages: Prisoners; Journalists; Families
Iconograpy: Franciscan robes; Nazi concentration camp prisoner uniform; Blue Knight of The Immaculate magazine
Feast Day: August 14
Born Rajmund Kolbe in the Kingdom of Poland, Maximilian received his better-known religious name upon joining the Minorite branch of the Franciscan order.In his monastery, Maximilian founded an evangelization movement which is now a global organization known as the Militia …

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

St. Kateri Tekakwitha was the first Native American canonized by the church. Her life was tragically short and filled with suffering, but the Lily of the Mohawks, as she is sometimes called, brought devotion that astounded those around her.

Lifetime: 1656-1680
Region: New York, USA; Kahnawake (near Montreal), Canada
Patronages: The environment; Native Americans; People in exile
Iconograpy: Lily; Turtle; Wooden cross
Feast Day: July 14
When Kateri was only 4, both her parents and her brother were killed by smallpox. Kateri herself also suffered from the disease, but survived, though her face bore permanent scars from it and her vision was damaged. She was sent to live with her aunt and uncle in another Mohawk village. 
Kateri was ostracized in her new village for her scars, and though her new family took care of her and helped her learn the skills expected of women in their village, Kateri had few friends and spent much of her time alone.
At 10, Kateri's new village was attacked by French …

St. Benedict of Nursia

When I was joining the Catholic church, I was torn between choosing as my confirmation saint either Benedict or Brigid. Each appealed to a different side of me: Brigid to hospitality, creativity, and love of nature, and Benedict to scholarship, work, and my desire for clear rules. I ended up choosing Brigid, but Saint Benedict is still very special to me. 

Lifetime: 480-543
Region: Roman empire (modern Italy)
Patronages: Students; Europe; Against poison
Iconograpy: Black robes; Book of the Rule; Raven
Feast Day: July 11
Like many saints, especially those in the early church, Benedict grew up wealthy and learned young that the things of the world couldn't bring lasting fulfillment. According to tradition, Benedict also had a twin sister, Saint Scholastica, though there is some debate as to whether they were actual twins or it was used more abstractly, as in "spiritual twins". 
While studying in the Roman equivalent of college, Benedict began to see the error of the ways he was b…

Ven. Augustus Tolton

In light of recent events, I wanted to add an extra bonus minifig this month. July 9 will be, if he becomes canonized, the feast day of Venerable Augustus Tolton, the first Black American to become a Catholic priest.

Lifetime: 1851-1897
Region: Chicago, Illinois
Patronages (presumed): Black Americans; Against racism; Freed slaves
Iconograpy: Broken chain; Cassock; Biretta
Feast Day: July 9
Augustus Tolton grew up a slave in Missouri. During the Civil War, his family escaped across the Mississippi River, making them all free people. However, that did not mean their lives would be free of the effects of racism. Quite the contrary; his entire life would be plagued by injustice because of the color of his skin. 

As Augustus grew up in Illinois, he joined the Catholic church through the school he attended. During his time in school, Augustus discerned a call to the priesthood. However, he was met with a huge barrier: no seminary in the United States would admit him because of his race. 
Instead, A…

St. Peter and St. Paul

Honestly, what could I say about saints Peter and Paul to fit in a blog post? Libraries already exist about each of them, and I'm nowhere near qualified to contribute anything noteworthy to that canon. 
Instead, I'd like to share Pope Francis' homily from today, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. (Translation by Catholic News Agency)

Lifetime: First century
Region: Rome, Roman empire
Patronages: Fishers; Gentiles; Theologians; The Papacy
Iconograpy: Peter: keys to the kingdom; Paul: book or scroll of epistles; Together: lifting up a church building
Feast Day: June 29

On the feast of the two Apostles of this city, I would like to share with you two key words: unity and prophecy.

Unity. We celebrate together two very different individuals: Peter, a fisherman who spent his days amid boats and nets, and Paul, a learned Pharisee who taught in synagogues. When they went forth on mission, Peter spoke to Jews, and Paul to pagans. And when their paths crossed, they could argue heatedl…

St. Kevin of Glendalough

After this, I promise I'm going to take a break from Irish saints for a few months. I'm so drawn to their stories of unabashed hyperbole, oneness with nature, and deep, childlike faith. But the rest of the world has some awesome saints too, and they deserve a spotlight as well!
Anyway, today's saint is St. Kevin of Glendalough. As is often the case with Irish stories of the saints, his story stretches the limits of believability while making up for it by being just so heartwarming.

Lifetime: 500s
Region: Glendalough, Ireland
Patronages: Blackbirds; Dublin
Iconograpy: Blackbird in hand; Unkempt hair and beard
Feast Day: June 3
Kevin was born to a wealthy noble family, but after converting, gave away his wealth and became a hermit.
Kevin went out into the wilderness, the most remote area he could find, which turned out to be a cave tucked away on a cliff, which was too small to even stand in., Oh, and it was an ancient burial tomb, to add in a little extra creepy factor.
The reason t…

St. Joan of Arc

St. Joan of Arc is one of the most well-known martyrs in the Catholic faith, and is an image of bravery and confidence.
Historians, military buffs, and Francophiles are as fascinated by her as hagiographers and those who seek to follow her example as a woman of faith, against enemy combatants as much as the political trial held against her. 

Lifetime: 1412-1431
Region: Normandy, France
Patronages: France; Martyr; Soldiers
Iconograpy: Armor; Sword; Flag
Feast Day: May 30
Young Joan was famously pious even as a child, but it was when she was thirteen that her faith reached a new level. At that age, she began to receive visions from St. Michael, St. Catherine, St. Margaret, and others. Joan didn't tell many about these visions, but it slowly became clear to her that through them God was calling her to defend her country. She took a vow dedicating her whole life to God, and at 17 managed to convince her prince to grant her an army and send her to battle.
While leading the troops in war agains…

St. Brendan the Navigator

St. Brendan of Clonfert, AKA St. Brendan the Voyager, AKA St. Brendan the Navigator, AKA St. Brendan the Abbot is famous for his legendary evangelical journey to the West.
There's a lot of speculation as to whether Brendan may have reached the Americas 400 years before the Vikings did, and a thousand years before any other noteworthy Europeans (there may even be some evidence).

Bur regardless whether his voyage made him the first European in the New World, the narrative of St. Brendan is a fascinating tale rife with that famous Irish hyberbole that brings us saints like Muirgen the Mermaid.

Lifetime: ~500
Region: Tralee, Ireland
Patronages: Sailors; Divers; Whales
Iconograpy: Boat; Whale; Preaching to fish
Feast Day: May 16
St. Brendan was fostered to St. Ita of Kileedy (the Brigid of Munster) when he was a year old. They became close friends and Brendan would visit her frequently between his travels throughout his life.
He set up numerous monasteries throughout Ireland, as well as in Scot…

St. George the Dragon Slayer

As I mentioned in my post on Muirgen, the mermaid saint, I have a particular affinity for the more mythical side of the saints' stories. Perhaps it's just because I'm a fan of fantasy, but I like to think it's because myth has a way of sneaking deeper truths around our defenses.

For an excellent example of the mythologized side of St. George, I highly recommend Margaret Hodges and Trina Schart Hyman's beautiful and moving St. George and the Dragon.

Lifetime: ~300
Region: Cappadocia (modern Turkey)
Patronages: England; Soldiers; Boy Scouts
Iconograpy: Killing a dragon; Shield with red cross; Riding a horse
Feast Day: April 23
Most of the popular story of St. George is not based on history. According to legend, George was a knight in shining armor, battling a vicious dragon on the green hills of Arthurian England to save a princess from certain death.

In actuality, he was most likely an officer in the Roman military who was martyred for refusing to recant his Christian fa…

St. Isidore of Seville

There's a song in Just Dance called Isidora that is going to be in my head for the next 24 hours after writing this.

In a world where the coronavirus has pushed many of our livelihoods and even social lives entirely onto the internet, Isidore of Seville, the patron saint of the internet, is a particularly appropriate intercessor for us to turn to.

Lifetime: 560 to 636
Region: Seville, Spain
Patronages: The internet; Students; Programmers
Iconograpy: Crosier and miter; Book; Bees
Feast Day: April 4
Isidore's parents were doing something right, because every child they raised ended up canonized as a saint. Isidore's brothers St. Leander of Seville and St. Fulgentius of Cartagena, and his sister St. Florentina of Caragena all join him among the Roman (and Eastern Orthodox) canon.

As with St. Nicholas and St. Anthony the Great, St. Isidore was involved in combating the Arian heresy. I'm not sure there's any other movement in history that produced as many saints.

However, w…

St. Oscar Romero

Today's saint is my first modern-era saint, Saint Oscar Romero. If you're interested in the life of Oscar Romero, I highly recommend the film Romero, which was created several years before Oscar Romero was even beatified.

Oscar Romero is a particularly special saint for me personally, because I learned about his life and sacrifice before I converted. With all the ancient saints' many miracles and unbelievable tales, it can sometimes be easy to forget that the saints were real people who lived in a time and a place. But Oscar Romero's martyrdom doesn't let us forget that. His death was the same decade in which I was born. His sacrifice for peace and equality paid off in 1992 when the Salvadoran Civil War ended by the signing of the Chapultepec Peace Accords.

Lifetime: August 15, 1917 to March 24, 1980
Region: El Salvador
Patronages: El Salvador; The Americas; Persecuted Christians
Iconograpy: Black cassock; Amaranth zucchetto and fascia; Glasses
Feast Day: March 24

St. Patrick of Ireland

St. Patrick is one of the most well-known saints in the world, and rightly so. His humility and boldness spurred one of the most amazing conversion stories. The conversion of Ireland occurred without bloodshed or conquest, and happened so rapidly that slavery (which was commonplace at the beginning of Patrick's mission) was completely eradicated in Ireland within his own life.

One of the most well-known legends about Patrick -- chasing the snakes out of Ireland -- probably never happened, but his story is a fascinating tale even without it.

Lifetime: ~386 to 461
Region: Ireland
Patronages: Ireland; Snakes
Iconograpy: Green robe; Miter and crosier; Shamrock; Snakes
Feast Day: March 17
Patrick, known as Patricius in his native Latin, was born in Britain in what was then part of the Roman empire. Patrick's family was somewhat wealthy and Patrick would have experienced little hardship in his early life.

But then, when he was a teenager, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and brough…

St. Modomnoc of Ossory

I recently discvovered that the area where Saint Modomnoc died, Kilkenny, Ireland, is where my own Irish ancestors are from. Sometimes it's those little connections that imbue so much more meaning than even the big, flashy miracles.

I first learned about Saint Modomnoc from a children's book which was recommended to me by Amazon. See, sometimes algorithms can be good! The book is called The Saint and his Bees and it's an adorable story with beautiful illustrations. There's not a lot of existing information on St. Modomnoc, so much of my post today will be inspired by this book. Also, as always, I've taken a few creative liberties of my own.

Lifetime: ~500 to ~550
Region: Ireland & Wales
Patronages: Bees & Beekeepers; Kilkenny, Ireland
Iconograpy: Bees or beehive; Green robe; Red or gray hair & beard
Feast Day: February 13
Modomnoc was named Dominic during his life (putting "Mo" in front was an Irish way of adding familiarity). He was born to the po…