About

Four elderly women look at a laptop computerWhy this series? This series is an updated version of a series of blog posts that grew out of a series of Facebook posts that started on December 26, 2012, which was primarily done to emphasize the fact that the Twelve Days of Christmas (Sneezy, Happy, Dopey, Doc, Grumpy, Bashful, Fili, Kili, Boris, Gleb, Anastasios, and Boutros) start, and do not end, on Christmas. By the time January 1, 2013, rolled around, it had morphed into a “Saint of the Day” feature, which I published in The Onion Dome.

Why Orthodox and Catholic saints? It was my intention from the start to daily publish something about both a saint from the eastern (or “Orthodox”) calendar, and a saint from the western (or “Catholic”) calendar[1]. I fully realize that Orthodoxen don’t consider all the Catholic saints saints, and Catholics don’t consider all the Orthodox saints saints. I was able to sleep at night knowing this. Readers who can’t abide the thought of reading a blog post with those guys’ saints in it are advised to read some other blog. Make a famous sentence using these words: behind, don’t, door, hit, in, let, the, the, you.

There are Calendars, and there are Calendars. Orthodoxen will note that the saints herein are assigned to days as per the “New and Improved!” (as opposed to “Old and Still the Best!”) calendar[2]. This for three reasons: (1) that’s what calendar my parish is on; (2) it makes for more days where the Orthodox and Catholic saints are co-commemorated. (3) Okay that’s two reasons.

Make up your mind. Stories of the saints come from various sources (see the References page), and they don’t always all agree about the dates or events of a saint’s life. Throughout the year you will see saints with various dates given for their birth or death (or other events in their lives), and I will mention multiple possibilities, usually mutually incompatible, for their occupations, places of birth, modes of death, and so on. I can’t help that. As I say repeatedly, it’s above my pay grade to try to figure out which source (if any) is definitive. Do I look like a Bollandist*?

What’s with the dagger and asterisk? The dagger means “just kidding.” Words with an asterisk are defined (admittedly sometimes pretty sketchily) in the glossary.

That’s not a real word. There are words in this book that do not exist in the wild. They were carefully grown under exacting laboratory conditions, and contain no GMOs, no artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavorings, and no empty carbs. They may be safely read without fear of bodily harm.

Why does this day only have one saint? That would be because that saint is on both calendars on the same day. I’m embarrassed for you that you even had to ask that.

Patron Saint of what? Compared to the East, the West has a much more developed “system” (if that’s the right word) of Patron Saints for various occupations, animals, places, objects, body parts (I kid you not), and so on. Most of the time when I say so-and-so is the patron saint of such-and-such, it’s according to the system of the West. Note that saints can be patrons not just of people, places, and things, but also against certain things, especially diseases or other maladies (such as oldies stations playing shortened versions of your favorite songs) (okay maybe not that). Readers are also advised that when I say that so-and-so is the patron saint of such-and-such, chances are there are between two and ten patron saints of such-and-such, and so-and-so is one among the many. SQPN has the best list of patronages I have found; see the References section.

That’s not a saint! You’re correct. Some days have, in lieu of saints, an icon, feast, apparition of Mary, event, or something like that. Our churches’ calendars have a number of these wonderfully interesting things in them, for our edification. I like them. I hope you do, too.

No, I mean that’s not a saint. Oh yeah. Some of the Catholic saints are actually beati*, a category not found in the Orthodox world, due to the lack of formal apparatus for saintmaking. Although the East does have the category “of blessed memory” which can sometimes mean something like, “Okay, this person is not a saint yet, but they will be, mark my words.”

Why is “St.” sometimes in parentheses? This indicates they were declared saints after they died, but weren’t yet dead and hence weren’t yet saints at the time of the event described.

I’m not finding myself edified. I want my money back. This series is presented with no warranty, express or implicit, so if you’re not edified by something herein, you should not expect a refund.

You must really hate the saints to make fun of them. I’m sorry you feel that way, but you are wrong. I do not hate the saints, and I do not consider what I do to be making fun of them. I am trying to introduce people to the saints with a touch of humor, hoping people will learn about saints who otherwise mightn’t have. I found my love of the saints strengthened and multiplied many times over over the year I first wrote this series, and in revising it for this series, and many readers wrote to say something similar (not that they wrote the series, of course; that would be silly). If you find reading these hagiographettes does not help you, don’t read them. But please do not judge others whose faith they do strengthen. I understand this kind of humor isn’t for everybody. Let us all treat one another with charity, out of love for the saints that we all hold dear. Unless you don’t hold the saints dear, in which case do it for some other noble reason.

All Christians are saints. This “official saints” business is not biblical. Hello, Mr. or Ms. Protestant! I’m happy you have picked up my little book. Please allow that Catholics, Orthodoxen, and Christians from certain other traditions believe that the Church rightly calls certain people “saints” and holds them up for our consideration and emulation. Please know that none of our churches consider the official canon of the saints to be exhaustive; this is why we have certain days in the year, called “All Saints” days, on which we commemorate not just the named saints, but all the saints whose saintyness is known only to God, or has not been (and may never be) recognized officially by the Church. At any rate, I hope you can find something in the stories in this book that strengthens your faith, and helps you in your walk with God.

How trustworthy are these stories? The Catholic Church has a group called the Bollandists* whose job it is to decide which of the (old[3]) saints’ stories we have really refer to real people and events, and which are pious fictions or legends. (I should add that the Orthodox have no such body; draw your own conclusions.) I haven’t spoken to these people, but if I did, I would certainly say, “You do your job, and I’ll do mine.” My job is to retell the stories of the saints, not to decide how real or historical they are. If you must know, I am a thoroughgoing supernaturalist, which is to say I do believe that miracles happen. It seems likely to me, however, that some of the miracles described in this series didn’t quite go down as recorded. Nevertheless it’s not my job to say which are which (although once or twice I do, in the interest of storytelling). I did not select for this volume the saints whose stories I thought most (or least) reliable, but those I found the most interesting and inspiring.

Are you kidding me? Most of the things I say in these hagiographies are actually found in the sources, although some of them are things I made up for the humor value. These often occur at the ends of lists or in glosses of names. Things that are impossible (tenth century saints watching television, say) are obviously not in my sources. But a lot of very strange (to folks nowadays) things are in those sources. Some of the really surprising ones, I label with “I kid you not” or “seriously” or “literally” (which I know how to use properly) or “you can’t make this stuff up.” The past is a strange country, and the hagiographical past even more so. For ones in between, I include the dagger, which should be read as, “just kidding.”

You’re editorializing again. Some of my opinions about life, the universe, and everything seep into the hagiographies. This is true, of course, of all hagiographers, but I’m man enough to admit it, and sometimes even point it out as it’s happening. See if you get that from Gregory of Tours (Nov 17) or the Venerable Bede*!

What is your one wish for readers of this book? Don’t let this be the last thing you read about these wonderful people. See the References section in the back for my sources, but find your own as well. Read about the saints. Pray for their help and guidance. Make them a regular part of your life. God, we are told, is glorified in his saints. Let us glorify Him by honoring them.

You keep using the same jokes over and over. Deerfield (1987) demonstrated that there are only 217 jokes in existence (218 if you count “The Traveling Salesman” twice). In writing 366 days’ worth of hagiographies, mostly two per day, I ended up reusing a lot of the same jokes. Plus I could only use the clean ones (mostly), so “The Traveling Salesman” didn’t even get a look in (serves him right).


[1] I realize Byzantine Catholics also use the “eastern or Orthodox” calendar, so these labels are at best imperfect. I hope my readers will see that my heart is as pure as gold (say, 12k), and overlook the size 13 EEE pedal extremity in my ingestatory orifice.

[2] Non-Orthodoxen may need to be told that the two calendars differ by 13 days, so that when it’s January 7 on the New Calendar, it’s still only December 25 on the Old Calendar. They may also need to be told why the Orthodoxen celebrate their feasts according to two different calendars, but they will need to be told that by somebody else.

[3] New saints (since 1588) are vetted by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints*.