September 1 – Simeon Stylites; Giles

Simeon Stylites the Elder (ca. 390–459), the son of a shepherd, heard the Beatitudes in church one day and was smitten to the core. From that day his heart was filled with the desire to serve God and fast a lot. At eighteen he left his sheep (who were, doubtless, sorry to see him go), was tonsured a monk, and began works of asceticism. When he was found with a palm-frond rope so tight about his waist that he lost consciousness (it had to be soaked for days before it could be removed[1], and he had ulcers underneath it), he was asked to moderate or move out. He chose to move to a local cave. (He moved back once and back out again later).

Seeking to pray away from the flood of looky-loos he was attracting, he found a column in some ruins, affixed a one-square-meter platform atop it, and moved up in the world. (Since the meter wouldn’t be invented for 1400 years, we must assume this is an estimate.) Well-wishers helped him increase the height of the pole, which eventually reached 80 feet. The looky-loo problem was far from solved, however, so fences were built around the “style” to keep them at a distance. But eventually he agreed to preach to them, and the men, at least, were allowed to come close enough to listen. Women were kept out, though—even his mother, to whom he sent word: “If we are worthy, we shall meet in heaven.” “True enough,” she agreed. The patriarch of Antioch sent messengers to order him to come down, but when he meekly agreed, they were satisfied and told him he could stay there.

All told, Simeon spent 37 years up in the air. He tops the Guinness Book of World Records’ pole-sitter category, and also has the record for “longest-held record of any kind by anybody” (at over 1500 years, that will be hard to beat). He is the patron saint of people who have left the church. (I want to add “by way of the steeple” but that’s not in the record.)

Joshua Son of Nun[2] (ca. XII cent. BC(E)) may or may not have existed, if you ask some scholars, but if you ask me, I’d say not to ask them. This is my book, and I’m going to talk about him as if he really existed. If by some chance he didn’t, I’m sure he’ll forgive me.

Joshua succeeded Moses as leader of the Israelites that came up out of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, built and then drank the golden ox, spent 40 years transversing Sinai, and in general being the people talked about in Exodus (book in your Bible—right after Genesis). He appears in said book as Moses’ military recruiter, comrade, spy, and ultimately successor.

When Joshua finally got his own book, he really came into his own. He led the Israelites into Canaan, where booty was swiftly kicked, this being a metaphor for military conquest. (I will not discuss here questions as to the morality of this move, for lack of desire to place myself between a hornets’ nest and a can of worms.) He died at the rich old age of 110, after a life spent leading troops into battle and dispensing advice (gratis) to the leaders of the Israelites.

Joshua’s name means “THE LORD is salvation” (where “THE LORD” is a stand-in for the ineffable name of God which isn’t said aloud or printed outside of holy writ by Jews, for reasons. Anyway, translated into Greek and then translated into English, the name becomes Jesus. Does this mean Joshua was Jesus’ patron saint? Why or why not? Write no more than three pages; due next Friday. I can say that he has both a tree (the Joshua Tree) and a snake (Joshua’s Blind Snake[3]) named after him as well, however I could find no patronage.


[1] One wonders why they didn’t just cut it. Perhaps palm-frond ropes were in short supply.
[2] No, not son of a nun. Son of Nun. That was his dad’s name.
[3] Rock group name, are you feeling me here?