September 4 – Moses the Prophet; Rosalia of Palermo

Moses the Prophet (XIV–XIII cent. BC(E)) is the premier prophet of the Hebrew people, the putative author of the first five books of the Bible (Jewish OR Christian edition), and arguably Charlton Heston’s greatest role. Born when the Children of Israel™ were in captivity in Egypt, he was hidden by his mother in the rushes fringing the Nile, to save him from the decree of Pharaoh that all firstborn Hebrew children must be killed. (Well, all firstborn male children. This is one of those rare instances where pro-male bias actually worked in the girls’ favor.) He was found by Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him and unknowingly hired his own mother as wet nurse.

Some years later, Moses killed an Egyptian he found beating a Hebrew slave, broke up a fight between two Hebrews, was condemned to death by Pharaoh, fled to Midian, got a green card, married a native, and looked to have been happily settled in, until a bush that burned “but was not consumed” yelled at him to go to Egypt and command Pharaoh to let the Hebrews (whom the bush, or rather the LORD God using the bush as a clever disguise, called “my people”) go[1]. Moses made every excuse he could think of to get out of this mission, but to no avail. His brother Aaron joined him, and together they headed out for Egypt.

Pharaoh of course repeatedly refused to let God’s people go, so Moses called down various plagues (frogs, locusts, hail, stale doughnuts, etc.) on the land of Egypt. To make a long story short, God instituted the Passover Feast to prevent the Angel of Death from killing Hebrews in the Plague of the Firstborn (kind of a “backatcha” for the law that resulted in Moses’ adoption), and the Hebrews walked through the Red Sea as if on dry land, which took everything Paramount’s special effects team could give, and looked pretty darned cool for 1956.

This was followed by a bunch of camping, tête-a-têtes with God to receive the Ten Commandments (twice, since Mo broke the first set out of anger at a golden bovine his brother made (the tail was waaaay too long)), holding up a bronze snake as a sort of visual antivenom, and many other exciting events that Cecil B. DeMille passed over to keep the film under four hours (no movies are that long these days, although some definitely feel like it).

In the end, Moses was denied entrance into the Promised Land (for reasons we won’t go into), so he wandered off and was never seen again[2]. Joshua (Sep 1) took over leading the Hebrews, and went on to fit the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho. But Moses remains THE prophet extraordinaire for the Jewish people, and he’s also rather highly thought of by Christians and Muslims. Buddhists have never really taken a shine to him.

Rosalia of Palermo (ca. 1130–ca. 1160) was born into the Sicilian (or maybe Norman) nobility, and, seeking an eremitic life, was led by angels to a cave high above Palermo. There she prayed and wrote graffiti, including, “I, Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of Roses, and Quisquina, have taken the resolution to live in this cave for the love of my Lord, Jesus Christ.” She died some time after workers unwittingly caused a collapse that sealed off her cave.

In 1624 (or 1625), plague hit the town, and Rosalia in an apparition told a hunter to go to such-and-such a spot on the mountain, disinter her bones, and process around the town with them. Not otherwise busy that day, he did so, and poof! No more plague. Rosalia was hailed as Palermo’s patron saint, and a sanctuary was built on the site of her cave. She has also been proposed by one naturalist as the patroness of evolutionary studies, after he studied water bugs in a pool near her cave.


[1]Apologies to my tenth-grade English teacher for the horrific run-on sentence.
[2]Except at the Transfiguration (Aug 6), but you knew what I meant, smarty-pants.