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January 24 Saints of the Day – Xenia of Petersburg and Francis de Sales

Xenia of PetersburgOn this day in 1908, Lord Baden-Powell of England organized the first boy scout troop out of frustration that earlier in the week his mother couldn’t find anyone to help her across the street.

Today our Orthodox saint is Xenia of Petersburg (ca. 1731 – 1803), one of the most famous and popular saints in Russia. Xenia married a dashing army officer (who was also an Orthodox reader, yo!), and when he died suddenly and young, she was distraught. Fearing that he might have had unconfessed sins, she put on his clothes, called herself by his name, and went about doing good deeds. This fooled nearly 10% of the most severely nearsighted people in town, until she opened her mouth. But she was so kind, nobody cared. Except her husband’s family, who tried to get her declared incompetent on the grounds that selling all you have and giving it to the poor is crazy. Thus she is called “fool for Christ.” I suppose they really thought she was a nutjob for Christ, but that’s not a Russian word and hadn’t been invented yet, anyway.

She spent her days wandering the streets with the homeless, and her nights praying at the Smolensk cemetery. (I’m assuming she slept crepuscularly.) Before long, workers building a church in the cemetery would come to the building in the morning to find hundreds of bricks already atop the scaffolding. Knowing that the rats in that part of Petersburg, although large, were incapable of such a feat, two of them lay in wait one night to spy on the site. Crazy, huh? You’ll never guess who was moving the bricks up the ladder. Go on. Guess.

One day it is said she walked through the streets calling, “Blini! Blini tomorrow! All of Russia will bake blini tomorrow!” Blini are associated with funerals and mourning in Russia. And sure enough the next day Empress Catherine II died, and all Russia mourned (except the people who didn’t like her) and baked blini (except the people who didn’t like them). Her prayers are invoked by those needing jobs or spouses (or a spouse with a job), those who fear or suffer loss by fire, and those who misplace their kids. She was officially recognized a saint in 1988.

Francis de SalesOur Roman Catholic saint today is Francis de Sales (1567-1622), bishop of Geneva. Born into a noble family and sent to all the best schools, Francis had an existential crisis one day arising from a discussion about theology (back when people actually cared enough about theology that it could do that). The crisis ended when he prayed to Mary at the Church of St. Étienne de Grès in Paris, and in short order he became a tertiary (lay associate) of the Minim Order (friars measuring 1/60th of a dram).

He obtained a double PhD in law and religion from Padua, and his father had already lined up a position and a wealthy heiress for him, but he became a priest instead, and ultimately the Bishop of Geneva. At the time Geneva had been taken over by Calvinists in much the same way that Haight-Ashbury was taken over by hippies in 1967, and the see was in exile in Savoy. He evangelized among the Protestants, and obtained a reputation as a spellbinding preacher (in my experience an oxymoron but, hey, he was a saint), as a friend of the poor, as a mystic, and as “something of” an ascetic, whatever exactly that means. (Wore hairshirts on Wednesdays and Fridays? Carried one link of a heavy chain?)

A ton of schools are named after him as well as an atoll in the Seychelles (and how cool is that?), and he is the patron of confessors, deaf people, any number of dioceses, and Champdepraz, Italy (q.v.). He also wrote a number of books, treatises, and letters, and is thus reasonably the patron of authors, educators, journalists, teachers, writers, and the Catholic press, all of whom by all accounts could certainly use a good patron saint.

January 24 (Wikipedia)
St. Xenia of Petersburg (Russian Crafts)
Xenia of St. Petersburg (Orthodox Wiki)
Xenia of Saint Petersburg (Wikipedia)
Life of St. Xenia of St. Petersburg (Firebird Videos)
Life Of St. Blessed Xenia of Petersburg (Serfes.Org)
Francis de Sales (Wikipedia)
St. François Atoll (Wikipedia)
Third order (Wikipedia)
Minim (religious order) (Wikipedia)
Saint Francis de Sales (SQPN)
Champdepraz (Bing Images)
Blintz (Wikipedia)

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

One comment on “January 24 Saints of the Day – Xenia of Petersburg and Francis de Sales

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