Being the son of a theologian sometimes has its advantages, one of them being that I was confirmed before I was fully able to say the name John Chrysosystum. (still can’t). You might be surprised to find out that my brother and I never attended any parish CCD classes or Faith formation events, which is very likely the reason why we’re still Catholic.
No, my dad had the hookups. He just called up Father Nahdir from the local Maronite rite parish, asked if we could get confirmed at mass on Saturday, and promptly informed my brother and I of Father’s affirmative response. So began our weeklong preparations. Being already well aware of the all important fact that God loves everyone, these preparations mostly involved combing through saint books for pictures of the coolest looking Saints. We were on a singular and exciting mission to decide which saints were to receive the particular honor of being our newest patrons. We would decide this not by prayer and “discernment,” but simply by asking the question: “does this saint look bad ass enough to be my patron saint.”
Such is the outlook of a 12 year old boy. Say what you will, but while none of my classmates even remember their confirmation Saint, I STILL ask for St Michael’s intercession every time I’m about to do something epic.
Turns out, asking “How bad ass was this dude/dudette?” was a far more effective discernment tool than what is currently used by parish faith formation programs. They tend to use what I like to call the “The Hobby Saint/Resume Builder” method. In this American way of doing things, instead of choosing a saint because that saint is “bad ass” or “awesome,” one instead is encouraged to choose a saint based on one’s future occupation. “Oh! Johnny, you want to go into politics? Well then, St Thomas Moore is the patron saint of lawyers, so you should pick him!” If that youth is too immature at the ripe old age of fourteen to plan out his or her entire life, then one settles on a hobby instead: “Well Jensen, you play violin and St Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians, so you should pick her.” Thus, no one must take up the dull and laborious task of reading any actual saint stories.
Well. We here at The Crossroads Pursuit have solved this problem for you.
Because we believe that the AWESOME factor is still the best discernment tool for choosing a saint, we’ve decided to introduce to you 10 crazy saints you may not have heard of before. We will start off by outlining 6 saints today, then we’ll feature one more in depth every Tuesday for the next four weeks. Get ready to have your mind blown and your heart swell with pride at the hero’s of our tradition. We also wouldn’t be disappointed if you felt a twinge of regret that this blog wasn’t around when you were choosing for yourself.
Without further adue – Nate Gutman, everyone.
6 SAINTS YOU SHOULD NAME YOUR BABIES AFTER
I’m sure you’re familiar with at least a few saints; St. Francis, the loveable Dr. Doolittle-esque hermit, St. Stephen, the first martyr, and, of course, the patron saint of green beer and terrible t-shirts himself, St. PADDY.
But what you may not know is that many saints were complete and total beasts on John McClain’s tier, but still, you know, super holy. Here’s six of them.
ST. LOUIS IX
Becoming king of France at a time when most of us were just beginning to think it might be cool to kiss girls, Louis IX wasn’t your ordinary whippersnapper. Of course, like all whippersnappers, he grew up, and that’s when his penchant for badassery began. Despite his nobility, Louis’ mother, Blanche of Castile, always instructed him in proper Christian virtue. She frequently told him:
“I love you, my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child; but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should ever commit a mortal sin.”
So that’s kind of intense. Let’s hope she cuddled him and kissed his booboos too, but we’re not crossing our fingers. In any case, Louis did everything possible to avoid battling with his Christian neighbors, a pastime common among medieval kings of the period. Instead, he took up hosting feasts for local beggars where he would wash the feet of the poor. He was particularly fond of the dangerous ministry of caring for lepers. Every day he fed over one hundred poor people. As if this wasn’t enough, he was inspired by the justice of Christ and decided to reform the entire French justice system. His most important contributions were ending trial by ordeal, where one’s guilt or innocence was determined by one’s ability to survive some life or death scenario, and re-introducing the concept of the plaintiff’s presumed innocence. Yes. You read correctly folks, it was a Catholic Saint who began liberalizing France, not Robespierre.
After being miraculously healed of a fatal disease, he left his comfortable life, took up the crusader’s cross, and focused on a goal worthy of the size of his testes: the defense of Christendom from Muslim invaders. He fought in both the 7th and 8th crusades, where he rode into battle alongside his French army.
As if whirling headlong into danger for the glory of God wasn’t enough, he also wore a hair shirt and scourged himself in-between battles, because throwing himself into and battle for the glory of God apparently wasn’t enough mortification for the guy. I’m not super into self-flagellation, but still, dang. That’s pretty crazy.
ST. SIMEON STYLITES
St. Simeon Stylites decided that he was too awesome for the rest of the world and climbed up a pillar so we wouldn’t keep being such a major drag to him. He was born the son of a shepherd around the year 390, way back before the rest of us posers were around. He entered a monastery before his sweet sixteen and was kicked out for being too austere. Too austere for monks, he was. After being kicked out, he lived in a hut in the wilderness for a year and a half and went an entire Lent without eating or drinking because he took that whole imitating Jesus thing seriously.
This earned him quite a fan base. People flocked to him for spiritual guidance. Simeon gave it, but he wasn’t one for fans. This is the part where the pillar comes in.
A pillar (told you) that had survived among some ruins in modern day Syria offered the perfect escape. He climbed atop it and declared it his home…for 37 years, eating only scraps of flat bread and goats milk that some of the village boys gave him.
This only increased the people’s ardor for him, and he eventually moved up to taller and taller pillars, evidently in an effort to recreate the houses from the Jetsons.
The monks from his previous order tried to test him. They wanted to see if he was doing his insane balancing act for the sweet, sweet press, or out of humble, genuine austerity. They asked him to come down, thinking that, if he refused, he was just doing it for the street cred. When he humbly obeyed their command, they let him go back. Which he did, until he died on September 2nd, 459.
A disciple found his body stooped over in prayer, and they buried him not far from the pillar because of course they did.
ST. MOSES THE BLACK
Judging from his surname, you might think St. Moses the Black was a pirate. He wasn’t, but don’t worry. All his other monikers are equally awesome. He’s also known as Abba Moses the Robber and St. Moses the Strong, probably because he was a robber and, later, beat a robber to a pulp with his strength.
Moses was born a slave of a government official in Egypt around the year 330. He was dismissed for theft and suspected murder, and he apparently took the reputation to heart in the worst way possible. He led a bandit gang that roamed the Nile Valley and spread destruction and fear wherever they went. So I guess he was kind of a pirate.
When a potential victim’s barking dog prevented him from fulfilling his robbing desires, Moses swore vengeance. He swam across a river with a knife in his mouth. When the owner, again, was warned, Moses opted for slaughtering some of the man’s sheep instead of the man himself. The locals now alerted to his presence, he sought shelter with some monks in the desert near Alexandria. They impressed him deeply with their virtue and quiet contemplation, and he gave up his life of plunder, was baptized a Christian, and joined the monastic order there.
Oh, I said he also beat up robbers. Once some attacked him in his cell at the monastery. He quickly overpowered them and dragged them into the chapel where the rest of the brothers were (hopefully by their ears). They repented and joined the monastery too.
St. Quiteria is deeply steeped in legend–guerrilla warfare waging, prisoner freeing, leading a band of nine of your sisters in rebellion against your father and the greatest civilization in history, kind of legend.
She was born in Minho, one of the historical provinces of Portugal, to a prominent Roman officer. Unfortunately for her, she shared that honor with her eight other sisters, which wouldn’t be a big deal except that they were all born at the same time. Their mother viewed herself as no better than an animal for having such an honestly impressive brood, so naturally she arranged to have all nine of them drowned secretly. The handmaid that she entrusted for the job, however, was actually a human being, and took offense at drowning a litter of infants. She pawned them off on a few of the local townswomen.
When the nine nonuplet sisters (seriously, that’s what they’re called) grew up, they converted to the upstart Christian religion. They were eventually brought to their father, who recognized them as his own. He wanted them to marry prominent Roman officials and, when they refused, he locked them in his dungeon. There they proceeded to break out and free the rest of the prisoners there, forming a guerilla warrior band that fought against the Roman Empire from the mountains.
Eventually she was caught. They beheaded her and threw her into the see, where as legend has it, she rose to the surface holding her head high above her shoulders. So there’s that.
Despite being pretty well known already and looking like a Scooby-Doo character, St. Lawrence is just too awesome to leave off the list. He went everywhere, man. He’s associated with the Holy Grail, apparently spiriting it away to Huesca in Spain before it disappeared for a few centuries.
Growing up in the Aragon region, he got buddy-buddy with the future Pope Sixtus II. When Sixtus became Pope, he took Lawrence with him and made him the Archdeacon of Rome.
The Emperor of Rome at the time, Valerian had decreed that any Christian clergyman must be put to death, and their wealth and property confiscated. When Pope Sixtus was killed under this decree, St. Lawrence was tasked with handing over the church’s property to the Roman prefect. Lawrence asked for three days, during which he gave as much wealth as possible to the poor. On the third day, when asked for the Church’s wealth, Lawrence presented the prefect with all the poor, crippled, and suffering, saying, “These are the true treasures of the Church!” Needless to say, the prefect wasn’t too pleased, and ordered St. Lawrence killed.
This is when his awesomeness skyrockets to eleven. Legend says that the prefect was so angry he arranged for Lawrence to be roasted alive on a spit, like a giant rotisserie chicken. After several minutes and in excruciating pain, Lawrence said, “I’m done on this side. Turn me over!” Bad. Ass. We all know how hard it is for Catholics to get any recognition in history for their awesomeness, so it was pretty amazing when a cracked article ranked this as the 9th most bad ass last words ever uttered in all of recorded history.
Ironically he’s the patron saint of cooks and chefs, because life is funny sometimes.
ST ATHANASIUS, “PILLAR OF THE CHURCH”
There are simply not enough little Athanasius’ out there. If you have a newborn little tike and are still thinking about what you should call him, Athanasius should be the new Catholic go to. But only if you want him to be an obstinate asshole who will never stop fighting with his siblings. On the other hand, he’ll probably also grow up to be a child prodigy. Athanasius got his start as the early church’s version of that young blogger who gets an edge on all the dinosaurs because he understands the internetz better.
Around the ripe young age of 21, when most of us are beginning to finally discover the beauties of sobriety after drinking ourselves blind for three years strait, Athanasius was helping the church articulate the doctrine of the Trinity at the council of Nicaea. He got an invite to this momentous occasion because of the short little article he wrote called On the Incarnation, which is reckoned as one of the great theological classics of all time. He wrote this piece reveling in the mystery of Christ’s two natures, his human nature and his divine nature. He was named a bishop shortly after the council, and just in time to fight the greatest heresy the church has ever faced. Without Athanasius, Christianity might have fallen apart after the council of Nicaea.
Arius, a monk who may or may not have been blond haired and blue eyed, began spreading the word that Jesus was not, in fact, God, but a creature of God just like you and me. His followers were very politically connected and new how to play the game.
They were able to kill off, pay off, blackmail or otherwise silence any clergy that still supported Christ’s divinity, all but our buddy “stubborn as an ass” Athanasius.
He was famous for his uncanny ability to escape the traps the Areans set in order to catch or kill him. One story tells of how they waited till Athanasius was saying mass, locked all the exits, and marched a legion of roman archers into the church. They loosed volley after volley into the congregation, but somehow, despite everyone’s best efforts, Athanasius seemed to vanish out of thin air.
He was caught a few times though. By few, we mean he was exiled a whopping five times by four separate Roman emperors. Yes. Athanasius outlived 4 emperors. When I said he was that annoying sibling that just won’t go away or stop arguing with you, I was not kidding. The last time he was exiled, he wrote just one more frikkin thing about how Jesus was God, and Emperor Julian flew into a rage, screaming all sorts of Latin profanities, presumably flipping over tables while he was at it. He called for Athanasius’ head, calling him“A disturber of the peace and an enemy of the gods.” Athanasius got out of dodge and made it all the way to Egypt before the police caught wind of him. When they did, they started sailing up and down the Nile river in hopes of catching this old curmudgeonly Houdini. Thankfully for Athanasius, his extensive spy network tipped him off that his boat was being tailed, so he pulled a move that put every cheesy 80’s movie chase scene to shame. He waited for a turn in the river, and once he was out of site, he ordered his boat to be turned around and sailed strait for the police vessel. As the two boats passed one another, the police yelled out “Have you seen Athanasius, enemy of the emperor?” Athanasius himself like the bad ass he was shouted back, “Yes he is near. If you row quickly you can overtake him” Athanasius did not live long enough to see the end of the Arian heresy, but he died in his own bed on his own time whenever he was damn well ready, and not a minute before.