Posts Tagged ‘douchebags in the name of God’

Here’s a fun author factoid: my parents almost named me Alexis, but for the character of the same name in Dynasty, which was super popular around the time I was born. (Video hint: it gets great around 1:50. Alexis Carrington Colby, in case you are my age or younger, is in the white pantsuit-thing.)

I got the second-choice name, so St. Alexis of Rome, also known as Alexius or Alexios, isn’t my namesake but it’s close. He was born to a wealthy Christian family in Rome sometime in the 5th century CE. He was an only child and into Christianity from a young age. His parents, on the other hand, wanted their only kid to have a normal secular life rather than one devoted to the church. As he was agonizing over these decisions, he had a vision of St. Paul, who quoted Jesus the Gospel of Matthew and told him, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37, KJV) Christ: no so much a family man.

Alexis did something that’s always a good idea and ignored what Paul had said in his vision, agreeing to a marriage with a young woman from a wealthy family despite his numerous misgivings. The versions I’ve read differ slightly on what happened next: according to one, immediately after the church marriage ceremony, he looked up at the statue of Christ above the altar and walked out of the church without saying a word to anyone. In others, he left “on his wedding night,” in one explaining his disappearance to his wife. Either way, he’s getting a “douchebag in the name of God” tag.

He escaped off to Edessa, selling his possessions along the way and giving the proceeds to the poor, keeping only enough for himself. He either joined an ascetic monastery or became a beggar right next to a monastery, giving away his earnings to the poor and keeping only enough for himself to stay alive. His poor parents sent many people looking for him, including his former servants, but none recognized him and he even begged money from his own servants, which sounds too New-Testament-feel-good to be true.

He carried on this way for seventeen or eighteen years, news of his holiness spreading ever farther. The head of the monastery he was living in / in front of had a vision of Mary, Mother of God in which she singled out Alexis as a “Man of God,” a big holy deal. Not enjoying the attention, he set sail for Tarsus, birthplace of St. Paul.* On the way, a storm blew the ship far to the west, so they decided to head for Rome, and Alexis would stay with his family.

Meanwhile in Rome, his family had grieved over his loss for seventeen years, including his wife who was now living with his parents. The modern retellings want this to be because of how much she loved him, but I for one am skeptical. Arranged marriage, people. Instead I spent an hour looking around the internet for info on divorce laws in the late Roman Empire. I couldn’t find anything exact, but it looks like the Christian emperors made divorces pretty hard to get, especially if you were a woman. She might have stayed with his parents more out of necessity than anything–being jilted at the altar couldn’t have been good for your reputation back then.

When he arrived, nobody recognized him, but they granted him a cell in the courtyard where he continued to do holy stuff for a while. Before he died–I guess asceticism shortens your lifespan–he wrote a note to his family, telling them who he was. The bishop of Rome at the time interred him in St. Peter’s, and the family home became a church.

Along with OG obscure saint Wilgefortis, Alexis was taken off the worldwide saint roster in 1969, because his legend is weird, confused, and doesn’t show up in the West until the tenth century. There’s a church in Rome, on the Aventine, named after him, and my best guess is that he was originally a Syriac ascetic who someone decided was actually Roman after his church there went up.

I recommend running away BEFORE the wedding on March 17.

*No, the geography does not really make any sense. Some version say he was in a Syrian monastery, which would be ok, but Edessa is landlocked. I gave up.


Catholic Encyclopedia

Orthodox Wiki

The Orthodox Church in America

Matthew 10

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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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