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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

St. Francis of Assisi

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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 appro

St. Therese of Lisieux

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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 we

St. Michael the Archangel

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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

St. Simeon the Stylite

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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

St. Moses the Strong

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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 o

St. Maximilian Kolbe

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 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 a

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

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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 attacke

St. Benedict of Nursia

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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 w

Ven. Augustus Tolton

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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.

St. Peter and St. Paul

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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

St. Kevin of Glendalough

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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.

St. Joan of Arc

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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

St. Brendan the Navigator

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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

St. George the Dragon Slayer

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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 r