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Essay

Backstory: There's a Saint for That

In the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the veneration of the saints is a time-honored tradition.  Holy individuals in life, they are considered celestial advocates in death.  And as members of a vast, heavenly bureaucracy, some of them receive some odd assignments.

Isidor of Seville
Patron Saint of the Internet
A passionate, meticulous encyclopedist with a penchant for preserving primary sources that would make Julian Assange proud apparently makes up for the fact that he died over 1300 years before the first email was ever sent.

 
Joseph of Cupertino
Patron Saint of Aviators, Astronauts and Poor Students
A notoriously slow-witted but kind-hearted recluse often found levitating, mouth agape, this 17th century Italian Franciscan friar now receives prayers from some of the worlds smartest . . . and also some of its dumbest.
 
Lidwina
Patron Saint of Ice Skaters
After a fall on the ice from which she never recovered, this medieval Dutch mystic who may have had one of the first documented cases of multiple sclerosis, now protects skaters against a similar fate.
Gertrude of Nivelles
Patron Saint of Cats
A seventh-century Frankish noblewoman became the original cat lady when, after angrily rejecting a politically advantageous marriage to become abbess of a Belgian monastery, she was forced to combat a pernicious rodent invasion with an army of cats.
 
Bernardino of Siena
Patron Saint of Advertising
This silver-tongued evangelist, working to unite the fractious Italian city-states in the early fifteenth century designed one of Catholicism’s enduring symbols – the holy name of Jesus (IHS) before a blazing sun.  If the Mad Men hadn’t been so set in their Protestant ways, they might have learned a thing or two from the original master of branding.
 
Joan of Arc
Patron Saint of Funeral Directors
She led the French to key military victories in the Hundred Years War and was burnt at the stake at the tender age of nineteen.  Though her patronage also covers a number of more relevant fields, for some reason you can also invoke her when you’re running low on embalming fluid.
Clare of Assisi
Patron Saint of Television
While ill and bed-ridden late in life, this disciple and close friend of St. Francis is said to have seen, projected on the wall of her room, visions of the Masses she was unable to attend.  Despite her life-long asceticism, as the first couch potato, she’s who to talk to if you want that new plasma screen.
 
Expeditus
Patron Saint Against Procrastination
Legend has it that this 4th century Roman soldier received the call to convert to Christianity whilst marching.  When the Devil, in the form of a crow, told him to put off his conversion to the next day, he stomped on the bird and declared, “I’ll be a Christian today!”  But really, the name says it all, doesn’t it?
 
Nicholas of Myra
Patron Saint of Prostitutes
This 4th century Greek bishop of Myra has long been the protector of seafarers of all kinds, but we know him best as Santa Claus.  Of course, apparently good St. Nick isn’t as concerned as we've been led to believe with who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.
Barbara
Patron Saint of Servicemen of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces
A third century Greek pagan who converted to Christianity against the wishes of her father was martyred by the town prefect.  After her death, however, Dad got his comeuppance when he was struck by lightening.  Now, her penchant for unleashing fiery death from above has  made her a favorite amongst artillerymen of all sorts.   
 
Fiacre
Patron Saint of Taxi Drivers and Against Hemorrhoids
A cranky 7th century Irish recluse who fled admirers of his healing talents for an isolated spot in France, Fiacre only became associated with taxi drivers and the bane of their behinds when his name became synonymous with the open carriages frequently taken from Paris to the hospice at Saint-Fiacre, Seine-et-Marne.
 
Rene Goupil
Patron Saint of Anesthesiologists
One of the first North American martyrs of the Roman Catholic Church, this 17th century surgeon seems not to have done much anesthetizing, but certainly could have used some himself: Not only was he forced to leave the Jesuit novitiate in Paris due to a mysterious illness, but he died a brutal, prolonged death at the hands of the Iroquois in what is now upstate New York.
     
  

Alec Strum

Associate Literary Manager

 

Information on the lives and veneration of these saints comes from Catholic Online (www.catholic.org), and other sources.