Archive for June, 2008

The Obscure Saint Blogging is trickier than you think. It’s a challenge to find an appropriate saint–obscure, yet interesting, enough information to write a good post, but not so much that it could take me a week to read it all. This week I realized, halfway through, that there are two Saint Maximinuses. One killed a dragon, and one was an opponent of the Arian heresy.

This is about the one that killed a dragon. Someday I’ll talk about the Arian heresy, since it was important, but not nearly as interesting as the word “heresy” might have you think.

Maximinus lived around 520 CE, and was the first abbot at the monastery of Micy, in modern France (Gaul at the time). My main source–okay, the only source I could find–was the Life of St. Maximinus of Micy, written in the mid 9th century by Bertholdus of Micy.

On a hill nearby Micy, there was a huge dragon, “depriving people and animals far and wide access to those lands.” Well, I would imagine. Maxminus, with God as his wingman, marches up and kills the dragon in its underground lair. Bert the Biographer manages to reall spare the details here, but another source called him a “thaumaturge,” so I like to think there was some flashy magic-type stuff. Then he declared the hill holy and marched back down.

This page says that he also multiplied wine and grain, healed some blind people, and delivered some possessed people. Great! He died from a fever a few years later, on December 15, which is when you should punch a stuffed dragon, I guess. He was buried on the hill where he killed the dragon.

My favorite part, though, is another text called the Miracle of St. Maximinus of Micy. Its protagonist, a young man named Henry, is in some sort of physical distress and has a vision during which he hears a voice telling him to visit the tomb of St. Maximinus.

And so then he gets confused over the exact same thing I did! He heads to Trier, which is where the Arian Heresy Maximinus is buried. Again he hears the voice, this time saying, “Dude, wrong one. Try again!” though it’s not exactly clear why THAT Maximinus couldn’t just help him. Guy made an honest effort.

Then Henry packs us his bedroll and distress and goes to Tours after asking a bunch of people. When he gets there, of course it turns out that the Max saint there is actually Maximus. Uh, whoops. He hears the voice again, surely getting annoyed by now, and which gives him a hint: GO TO ORLEANS, FOOL.

So he goes to Micy–which is near Orleans–and gets there just in time for December 15, Max’s saint day. He hangs out with the monks for a while, and after lots of prayer sees St. Maximinus walk in the door. St. Max then says, “Where are you going, fool?” and slaps him.

And Henry is cured. The end!

Life of St. Maximinus of Micy

The Miracle of St. Maximinus of Micy

Another Life

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Like the rest of the world, I was sad to hear that George Carlin had died. I have a copy of Brain Droppings which was read so heavily it barely survived. Pages are falling out left and right. My dad rented one of his HBO specials when I was thirteen or so, and it felt like a rite of passage. Countless writers better than me explaining why he was important, or why he was so damn funny. I’ll settle for sharing a personal story.

I was in high school. My friends asked if I wanted to go to the Brentwood Country Mart for lunch. Sure! I got in the car. I had a class at 1. We’ll be back by then, right? Nope. Disappointed, I got out of the car and ate lunch alone.

A few hours later, after I got out of my 1 o’clock class, I saw my friends again. Here’s my best attempt at a transcript (six or seven years after the fact) of what my friend Ben told me.

We’re sitting at a table in the food court, and I see George Carlin come in. He’s going to a table on the other side, so he’s heading our way. I whisper “That’s George Carlin!”, and as he goes by he says “Quit whispering, it’s not working.”

For the record, my friend Ben is very loud, even when whispering. He also did his best impression of George Carlin’s angry voice when George Carlin spoke. Back to the story.

So we finish eating, and we’re just hanging out there. Eventually, we see George Carlin get up from his table, and start walking out, so he’s walking past us again. This time, because we all know that he knows that we recognized him, we just kind of smile at him as he goes by. He leans over, and says “Why don’t you kids quit gossiping about celebrities, and DO YOUR FUCKING HOMEWORK!”

So there you go. The day I ate lunch alone, when I could have gotten cursed at by George Carlin. All because I didn’t want to be late for class.

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This past Monday, California became an even better place than it already was, because gays and lesbians started getting married legally. So, in honor of that fact, this week we’re talking about Saints Sergius and Bacchus, officially the patron saints of Christian nomads, and unofficially the patron saints of gay marriage and military gays.

I, for one, am super-excited this week because my usually shoddy research methods are a bit better than usual. That’s right: I found a really old translation of the Greek “Passion of Sergius and Bacchus.” It’s public domain, bitches! Yeah!

Sergius and Bacchus were high-ranking Roman soldiers, probably upperclass, during the reign of Maximian and Diocletian (there were two emperors for this period until Constantine took over, so some sources talk about Diolcletian, some about Maximian. Don’t get confused, it’s all cool). They were buddies with Maximian, and also secretly Christian, knowing the official policy about being Christian at that time. (Hint: there are a shitload of martyrs from around 300 CE.)

These two were really close, which is of course why people speculate about whether or not they were lovers. They were apparently fond of saying, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” which is maybe a little gay. In any case, someone else, possibly jealous of their status, found out about their secret. The Christianity, not the possible homosexuality.

This leads to one of my favorite quotes in the Passion. Apparently the guy who reported them to Maximian said, “…they worship Christ, whom those called Jews executed, crucifying him as a criminal…” Way to anachronize, later Roman Catholic Church!

The standard test for Christianness at this point was, “Will they sacrifice?” so it was diligently applied to Sergius and Bacchus. They were asked to accompany Maximian to a temple, and when they avoided going inside, they were dragged in by other soldiers and told to offer something to Jupiter or pay the price. Guess which one they chose.

First, they were bound with heavy chains, dressed in women’s clothing, and made to parade through town. It didn’t work. The next day they reported to another officer, who ordered that Bacchus be severely beaten with chains and whips, while Sergius be chained in solitary confinement for the day. Bacchus died from his wounds–the Passion offers the delightful detail that his stomach and liver were ruptured.

That night, he appeared in angelic form to Sergius, still in solitary, saying don’t give up, bro! The next morning, the prison guards gave Sergius some new shoes, with nails pointing upwards through the soles. Then he got to run eighteen miles in them, and I wondered if that was in any way related to the original Little Mermaid story.

At that point the Romans got bored, and decided to just execute him already. He was beheaded and his body thrown to the wild animals, though a flock of birds kept watch until nightfall, when a conveniently close colony of desert monks could come bury the body. This was in Rasafa, Syria, and in the late 400’s–long after the entire empire was officially Christian–a church to Sergius and Bacchus was built on the site of Sergius’ grave.

Though as always my opinions should be taken with a grain of salt, I don’t think it’s all that likely that they were actually lovers. Early Christians, broadly speaking, were really into brotherhood and the family of Christ being your new family and all that. Plus, they were also in the Roman army, which was another extremely fraternal organization, and one that frowned pretty strongly on its soldiers committing homosexual acts. And, to top it all off, most societies had different ideas about what was appropriate in friendship than ours do now.

I would love to do a bit more wild speculating, but that’s all I’ve got. I found this tantalizing nugget saying that maybe they actually lived under Julian, since he was more into humiliation, but you have to subscribe to get the rest of the article, and we all know my position on doing real research.

But, in conclusion, it is still way cool that gays and lesbians can get married in CA now. If you’re in the state, vote against the constitutional amendment in November, give money to equal marriage organizations if you feel like it, and plan your big gay wedding on Oct. 7.

The Passion of Saints Sergius and Bacchu


Catholic Encyclopedia

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Probably almost everyone reading this has already heard about YouveBeenLeftBehind.com. It’s about the rapture–you know, that special time in a Christian’s life when the End Times come and he or she gets whisked on up to heaven. This fancy little website will email your friends and family after the Rapture has taken place, so they still have time to repent before the Second Coming.

All this for the low, low price of $40 / year!

I love this. Ever since I was a kid and I saw a bumper sticker that said, “In case of Rapture, this car will be unmanned,” I’ve been fascinated. Of course, as a kid I thought those bumper stickers were a little prideful, something my fundamentalist Christian fifth-grade teacher taught me all about. I still think they are, though in a different way–I would totally like to see the rapture happen, and then all those people with the bumper sticker get out of their cars, confused, and just start kicking the bumper.

The site actually works on a similar principle–there are five “Christian” employees, and if any three of the five don’t log in for six days, the email goes out. What if they just go on a really hard bender, though? I would love to see that email: “Dear Subscribers, we apologize for sending out a false Rapture email…” Of course, there would be lots of pissed Christians worrying for days that the rapture hadn’t taken them.

So, I kind of applaud this website for finding a new way to separate the gullible from their money. Everyone else: read Revelations. When the rapture happens, you will know about it.


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Since I’m at my parents’ house right now, in lovely Spotsylvania, Virginia where I grew up, I thought I’d do a Southern-type saint. There’s no patron saint of the Civil War that I can find. I did, however, see someone call the Civil War the “War of Southern Liberation” for the first time in my short life. I’ve heard it called the War of Northern Aggression–yes, for real–but this one is new.

I eventually settled on St. Vincent de Paul. I’m not sure he’s quite obscure, since he’s a bigger deal than any other saint I’ve talked about here, but I’d never heard of him so it counts. He’s the patron saint of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, which is the airport I fly into and was the capital of the Confederacy.

And then, dear readers, I wrote an entire post about this man. And then WordPress ate it.

Since I am a little bit lazy, and also since it’s two days late, here are the highlights.

Born 1581 in France. Became a priest; preached in Toulouse; went to Marseilles for some reason. Went back to Toulouse via the sea but on the way was captured by Turkish pirates who sold him in Tunis. Bought by a fisherman who sold him to an old Muslim who’d spent fifty years looking for the philosopher’s stone. Aged Muslim died and his nephew got Vincent. The nephew was a former Christian with three wives, one of whom convinced him to return to the faith.

He did, and escaped with Vincent back to France, leaving his wives behind. I considered an “assholes in the name of God” tag.

Vincent did a bunch of charitable good stuff and I commented that it’s nice for a saint to be canonized for helping the poor instead of guarding her virginity at all costs or whatever. He founded the Lazarists and Sisters of Charity amongst others and does secret missions between the Vatican and Henry IV of France.

I puzzled over why he’s the patron saint of Richmond, and considered that late in his life, he became the spiritual advisor and advocate for the galley slaves of Paris, whose lives sucked really bad. He also used donations from his church in Paris to buy Northern African slaves’ freedom, to the tune of 12,000 people.

I looked him up in the Dictionary of Miracles, and his was a miraculous ability to hold his tongue. Don’t say anything if you can’t say something nice September 27.

Catholic Encyclopedia


Butler’s Lives of the Saints

Christian History Institute

Eternal Word Television Network (note: probably suspect)

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Yeah, I’m late this week. Also I haven’t posted anything since the last Obscure Saint Blog.

St. Etheldreda, nicknamed St. Audrey, is one of a great many Anglo-Saxon saints from long long ago whose real names are completely impossible to think about, let alone pronounce: Æthelthryth. Yeah, you try it.

She was one of the Wuffings of East Anglia, meaning she lived in what’s now England at one of those times when most laypeople have no idea who ruled what or who was speaking what language. Probably Stonehengese, right? Her father was King Anna of East Anglia, and her mother was Saewara, who was apparently a devout Christian. Born in 636 CE, from an early age she was really into Jesus and being a nun.

Everything was peachy until her father Anna wanted her to marry for political reasons in 652. Taking a different approach from previous Obscure Saint Aldegundis, she agreed to the union on the condition that she be permitted to keep her virginity and live the life of a nun. Her new husband, Tondberct, chief of the South Gyrvians, agreed and gave her the Isle of Ely as a wedding present. They must have had a hell of a registry.

As a sidenote, apparently the name “Ely” was originally “Eel-y,” as in, “It’s a patch of dirt in the middle of a giant swamp full of eels.” Sadly it is no longer eel-y, since the swamp was drained in the 1700’s.

Tondberct died after three sexless years, though of causes unrelated to the sexlessness–namely, killed in battle. Maybe with eels. Afterwards she retired to the Isle of Ely for five years, once more living the nun’s life meant for her.

But again in 660, she was convinced to marry Ecgfrith, prince of Northumbria. At the time he was all of fourteen, so she ruled in his stead for ten years. In 670, when he finally ascended the throne, all hell broke loose in a complicated and tribal way that I won’t go into much. Basically, the Scots and Picts tried to take Northumbria, and Ecgfrith kicked their asses instead. After all this, the Dictionary of Saintly Women says he “had arrived at the age of passions,” the best phrase ever for hitting puberty, and of course wanted to have sex with his wife.

Since virginity = Godliness in these stories, obviously she refused. When Ecgfrith insisted, she ran away to her own lands of Ely. When the king chased her, God sent a high tide that lasted for seven days separating them–enough time for Ecgfrith to decide to give up and go home.

Once on Ely, she founded a famous double monastery there, which lasted until the Danes burned it down in 870. Did you even know the Danes invaded Britain? I didn’t. She died on quinsy, which is like tonsilitis but worse, there in 679. St. Audrey’s in London is the only pre-Reformation Catholic church in Britain.

Her saint day is June 23, so marry someone you’re not gonna have sex with.

ETYMOLOGICAL BONUS: The English word “tawdry” comes from a shortening of “St. Audrey,” since there was a yearly fair on Ely where cheap, tacky stuff was sold.

Æthelthryth on Wikipedia

Catholic Encyclopedia

A Dictionary of Saintly Women

Life of Saint Aethelthryth (fair warning: this is in Old English, so it’s not so much useful as just kinda neat)

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